Comfort Food for Breakups doesn't disappoint. As its title indicates, reading this book is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket while chowing down...moreComfort Food for Breakups doesn't disappoint. As its title indicates, reading this book is like wrapping yourself in a warm blanket while chowing down on a favourite childhood dish. Bociurkiw intermingles memory and food in such savoury language that you really taste her words, smell each described dish, and feel each emotion bubbling up from the pot. I'd recommend picking this up on a lazy, winter day--but not if you're on a diet!(less)
Entertaining and insightful at times, but not spectacular. The Secret Lives of Litterbugs is a collection of memoirs that reminisce on family life, ra...moreEntertaining and insightful at times, but not spectacular. The Secret Lives of Litterbugs is a collection of memoirs that reminisce on family life, raising children, and the day-to-day. Sometimes the collection seems a little thrown together, but it was fun to read about Farrant's uncoventional family, both as she was growing up and when she has children of her own. She seems like a cool lady, someone you'd want to have a drink with.(less)
There is so much to discover within the pages of this book. Although it is a more personal account of Iraq's history and culture, I feel there is a lo...moreThere is so much to discover within the pages of this book. Although it is a more personal account of Iraq's history and culture, I feel there is a lot of truth spoken about what the media does not show us about the war in Iraq.
Leilah Nadir was born to an Iraqui father and British mother. She writes about Iraq from a risky point of view, as she has never set foot on Iraqi soil. In spite of this, she is an important voice for the Iraqi people and the horrors that have ravaged their country since the Iran-Iraq war of the 80s. Through years of correspondence with family members, she paints a vivid portrait of an Iraqi citizen's daily struggle in a war-torn country. However, she does not forget to describe Iraq's prosperous times, its beauty and its history, which is being needlessly destroyed as I write this review. She doesn't mince words--while Iraq's roots are beautiful, her family members are wracked with loss and feel their country will never be the same.
I recently attended an event to hear Nadir read and speak with other memoirists, who discussed that memoir, in itself, tends to be a more subjective truth, a truth where the author has the right to take certain liberties for the sake of an arc. Nadir spoke very firmly about the importance of accuracy for her book, comparing "liberties" to the lies of the Bush administration regarding weapons of mass destruction as a justification for the war in Iraq. She said, loosely, "How could I take such liberties when those very liberties have been used by the US government to justify ruining an entire nation?"
When I approached Nadir after the discussion to have my book signed, I told her I admired the women in her family, who are strong, independent, and far from submissive. I noted this as an important element in the book, as it does much to dispel the idea of Iraqi women "belonging" to their male counterparts, as we so often hear from the media. "You know," she said, "I really wanted that to come across, because I often hear, as another justification for the war, that US troops are attempting to liberate women and save them from oppression. But this argument is absolutely false, because women were never really repressed in the first place, not like in Afghanistan. They are more oppressed now, after this said liberation, than they ever were before."
I think everyone should read this book. While keeping in mind that it is a personal tale, it is an important piece that expresses what the Iraqi people are currently powerless to say.(less)
Butala is a person who will dig, dig, dig until she is satisfied with the level of detail in her narrative. This kind of detail is irritating at first...moreButala is a person who will dig, dig, dig until she is satisfied with the level of detail in her narrative. This kind of detail is irritating at first--if I had to read one more five-page description of the vastness of the prairies in Saskatchewan one more time, I was going to throw the book across the room.
BUT, I've got to say, once you get past the first fifty pages, this book is a gem. It serves to remember a girl who shouldn't be forgotten, who was brutally raped and murdered in 1962--a case that remains unsolved to this day. To truly know this girl, Butala reaches back to a more simple time in a once simple place: post-war Saskatoon, a place where people felt safe enough to sit by the side of the river at night, alone, even if that person is a 23-year-old nurse whose timeless beauty would attract the attention of men of all kinds. At the end of the book (which is truly disturbing, by the way), Butala has managed to paint a crystal-clear portrait of someone who easily could have become just another victim whose violent death will (more than likely) remain unsolved forever.(less)
I admired Diana Athill after I read Stet, her memoir about her fifty years in book publishing. I knew she was quite old now but still kicking, and I w...moreI admired Diana Athill after I read Stet, her memoir about her fifty years in book publishing. I knew she was quite old now but still kicking, and I was pleased to find out that she had written a book about the experience of aging.
While the book was at times a tad unfocused, I didn't mind; I enjoyed where Athill chose to wander off into other topics of discussion, such as examples of death and illness as experienced by family and friends. While the structure of the book may have been questionable at times, the content itself is all relevant to the picture Athill paints of the slow process of marching toward a death that can either be feared or accepted, or both.
I can't say the book is insightful, necessarily; Athill herself admit she has no answers, and that she can only offer her experience as she has lived it. She states things that are of no surprise to me: regrets are present but useless, sex seems to simply die off without much of a shock, and one doesn't necessarily become religious once death seems closer. What I found most fascinating and encouraging, as I did with Stet, is the actual life Athill has led, without marriage and children (which, for a woman born in her time, is surprising). It is encouraging to know that she is not rapt with regret at not having children, as even now, women are born into a society that insists they will indeed regret not producing offspring. I admire Athill's honesty at admitting what she calls a "central selfishness", which she classifies as an innate selfish nature that is neither harmful nor malicious. And at the same time I wish I didn't have to admire this honesty, as that would mean she didn't have to justify her not becoming a mother.
I think her previous memoir, Stet, was more my style, but this one is definitely worth the read as well.(less)
I don't read much political literature, so it seems odd to me that I must comment on Obama's political beliefs in order to comment on the book itself....moreI don't read much political literature, so it seems odd to me that I must comment on Obama's political beliefs in order to comment on the book itself. But I suppose one can't avoid such a thing when it comes to The Audacity of Hope, as the book is basically Obama saying, "Here is a complete guide to where I stand on everything."
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't in awe of this man, that such an eloquent, intelligent person exists in current government. I've heard some people unfairly judge the book as simply "literature against Bush", but I didn't find this at all. In fact, I think Obama makes a conscious effort not to heavily criticize the Bush Administration, and instead chooses a more positive framework for his arguments. What I find most intriguing about him is that he simply has common sense; although he is obviously a Democrat, he doesn't base his stances on the endless battle between Democrats and Republicans (he actually spends an entire chapter discussing how this is largely what's wrong with today's government). Instead he uses well-developed critical thinking skills to determine what makes sense and what doesn't with the way things are currently structured.
What's also amazing is the way he uses his love and understanding of American history to both frame his arguments and make sure historical mistakes aren't repeated. While acknowledging the Constitution as a historical document that was written during an obsolete era, Obama is a staunch believer in the document's fundamental message, which has since been tainted by greed and corruption. While reading the book I was thoroughly impressed with Obama's resolve to restore the "American dream" that fueled the formation of the Constitution while also being able to adapt that resolve to today's standards and circumstances.
I can understand why many might think Obama's beliefs are a little too idealistic for their tastes. At first I was slightly alarmed by just how "in the grey" he might seem, that he's so against the black-and-white thinking that plagues today's American government that he might not be able to pull through on time when it comes to making those tough decisions needed to influence real change. But the more I read the more I felt that America needs a little idealism right now, after years of government corruption.
At the very least, Obama's a real person who's led a very real life, and I feel he's more than earned the chance to represent the real people of the US. As a Canadian, I'm a little jealous he's not our leader, especially with the Bush-esque government we currently have in place with Stephen Harper. After reading The Audacity of Hope, I do believe Obama will do great things for the world, and I'm proud of my southern neighbours for electing him.(less)
I of course found this amusing, considering I was a waitress for three years. Serving supported me through college, and the money was good. Waiter Ran...moreI of course found this amusing, considering I was a waitress for three years. Serving supported me through college, and the money was good. Waiter Rant is an extremely accurate portrayal of the restaurant industry, both in the way the author describes the customers and the staff's reactions to the not-so-great ones. (However, I'm proud to say I've never "crop-dusted" a table.) He didn't really tell me anything I didn't know, though. You don't have to be a server to know they don't like bad tips and rude customers, and sometimes the book did feel very "blog-like" (which some people might like, I don't know). Some of the anecdotes were still funny, though, even if they weren't brilliantly written.
Toward the end of the book, I did find myself rooting for the author. While the writing wasn't all that strong, he did manage to surprise me with a small glimpse into his soul on top of the very candid view of the restaurant business. He was funny and witty, too. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who's ever waited tables, just for kicks. Hell, all my friends who are still serving want to borrow it immediately.(less)
For something that has been coined as a "memoir", it didn't allow me to know the author very well. The whole time I was reading the book, I couldn't p...moreFor something that has been coined as a "memoir", it didn't allow me to know the author very well. The whole time I was reading the book, I couldn't pin down her motivations for certain things because I felt she simply didn't make a case for them. I'm not saying she should have immediately come in on the defense for being a stripper (I didn't judge her for it), but considering she was writing a memoir you would think she would talk a little bit more about why she did things or how she felt when she did them. Even when she did glide over her thoughts/feelings, I didn't feel convinced. It's like even she knew that she's great at writing a good story but weak at delving into herself in relation to that story.
That aside, however, I liked the book for what it was: good, clean entertainment. OK, so maybe it wasn't "clean", but I was thoroughly entertained by the author's perspective on the sex trade industry, and it was rather refreshing to find out that not all strippers are socially maladjusted drug addicts. (I didn't think this before, but it was nice to read the words from someone who worked in the industry.)(less)
Such a tiny little book, yet it packs a lot of truth. This book is an expanded version of Ann Patchett's commencement address at a Sarah Lawrence grad...moreSuch a tiny little book, yet it packs a lot of truth. This book is an expanded version of Ann Patchett's commencement address at a Sarah Lawrence graduation ceremony, which she herself attended years ago as a student. She unpacks the very loaded question "What now?" and its various answers, and how those answers have guided her in life as a novelist. Most importantly, she speaks of how those answers seem to fall on your lap when you least expect it, and that it's important to be aware of "things [you'll:] never need to know and people [you:] don't usually pay attention to."
I've always liked Ann Patchett as a novelist, yet her non-fiction always seems to stir something within me that her fiction does not. I wish she'd write more of it.(less)