It's usually a safe bet to side with my pastor Tim Keller when it comes to reading material, and I wasn't disappointed in the new insights I gained frIt's usually a safe bet to side with my pastor Tim Keller when it comes to reading material, and I wasn't disappointed in the new insights I gained from reading this book. As our 24-hour news cycle misleads us on so many levels—sensational soundbites, metric-driven media bubbles, spin over substance—and creates a false sense of our "being in the know," it was refreshing to get the inside scoop from an Obama White House staffer. Things are never as they seem from the perspective of our fractured cultural-political lens, and this book offered a rare peephole into the actual inner workings of government. For that reason alone, I recommend this book.
Far from being merely memoir or a study in government, this book is instructive to those trying to navigate the politically polarized landscape we find ourselves in. The last third of the book, the author's treatise on hope and the reclaiming of it, cut to the core of my calloused heart and convicted me of my own armchair politics, in which I, like so many others, have opted out of the binary, two-party system. Registered as an independent, I can remain smugly above it all and protected from potential jeers from either side. Moreover, "independent" is the only label that suits me, that allows me to seek both less government and more equality—and how dare a young millennial tell me what label I can or cannot have? Can't I adopt the millennial mindset, adopt my own political identity, and do what "feels right"? Michael Wear says no, and he has a lot more political experience than I do.
Thanks to his book, I am still processing what that means. I am also holding on to hope—for more civility in our politics, for more care for the marginalized, for more justice for the impoverished, and for greater healing in our nation—since I like Michael Wear believe in the One who will not disappoint our hopefulness. "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" (Romans 12:12). ...more
Waldman serves up a big dish of motherhood help in this book, and I thank her for it. I especially appreciate her stunning analysis of the current staWaldman serves up a big dish of motherhood help in this book, and I thank her for it. I especially appreciate her stunning analysis of the current state of American mothering in which women co-opt the "bad mother" label as a way of accommodating and jeering the "Good Mother" set of perceived judgers. All in all, she is able to relieve the tension between the two labels by giving us first-hand experiences of her own "maternal crimes." Her honesty in admitting some pretty hefty parenting burdens disarms the reader and prompts empathy for the hard choices we mothers make on a regular basis.
One of my key takeaways was her analysis of the feminist struggle when your own marital roles tip toward the side of tradition (pages 83-85). Her insight that men don't struggle with the guilt we so readily heap on ourselves or the feminist angst that pervades our parenting was good medicine. Like her, I take seriously my obligation to prepare my children for an egalitarian world, and what happens when I find myself perpetuating gender role stereotypes through no fault of my own and current freelance at-home employment? Naturally, I resort to shame at not fulfilling this part of my personal feminist-leaning contract. What Waldman points out is that men seldom experience similar angst (well, at least her husband and mine). "Michael feels no counterpoint to my feminist crisis...he doesn't find it emasculating that he hasn't paid a bill..." She concludes that it's the nature of our own marriages and the roles we accept in order to make a marriage work ("sharing the work of survival" as another favorite author so accurately describes it). That has been true for my marriage; I only wish my boys were old enough to remember the reversal of gender roles early in our marriage when my husband was solely responsible for child care.
Another delicious tidbit was her extrapolating her own childhood experiences onto her children and seeking to rescue them from similar struggles (her example being the indignity of the school forcing the "inhuman" game of dodgeball on her children), only to realize they didn't need rescuing, and in fact, quite enjoyed the game. Her wisdom is wonderful: "It's hard to separate your remembered childhood and its emotional legacy from the childhoods being lived out in your house... There are times as a parent when you realize that your job is not to be the parent you always wished you had. Your job is to be the parent your child needs...The worst thing about being so devoted to your expectations is that it blinds you to the wonders of the children you have."
Waldman doesn't shy away from her liberal, Berkeley-dwelling roots, and if you can promise not to be dismayed by her political lean, then you will find this book to be a humor-ridden helpful guide to modern day mothering. ...more
You know those magical sentences that stop you in your tracks and force you to reread them for their exquisite craftsmanship? Well, Anna Quindlen servYou know those magical sentences that stop you in your tracks and force you to reread them for their exquisite craftsmanship? Well, Anna Quindlen serves up sentences like that in every paragraph, turning this coming of age story into a multifaceted gem that you want to analyze and hold on to for a long while. (Of course, reading this while vacationing in the Caribbean in the middle of January made the experience even more delightful!) ...more
Five full stars for this timely masterpiece! Now, I just wish for a follow-up national book club of diverse citizens to read and discuss this powerfulFive full stars for this timely masterpiece! Now, I just wish for a follow-up national book club of diverse citizens to read and discuss this powerful, research-driven book with me. (I also wish I had bought my own copy, because the crisp pages of my NYPL copy indicated my first-in-line reading and suffice it to say, it's being returned with loving earmarks.)
The story begins long before the 2016 election, a good several years before the words "Trump," "Republican" and "presidential candidate" would be considered normal neighboring nouns in a shared sentence. Presciently seeking answers to the angst of conservative America, U.C. Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild began her research forays into the bayous and backyards of Louisiana in 2011 as a way to understand the cultural divide between ardent blue state liberals and staunch red state conservatives. She set out with two main goals: to cultivate real friendships with "the other" by climbing the "empathy wall" and to enter their narrative as efficiently as possible by using one access point. Her chosen access point was environmental protection and what she came to call "the Great Paradox"—the disconnect between hardworking citizens mired in the most polluted state in the country and their stiffnecked opposition to any federal protections against Big Oil which was seriously and irrevocably harming their health, families, and property.
Along the way, Hochschild is able to craft the "deep story" of her new Tea Party friends. This deep story, written out in detail in Chapter 9, is the fulcrum of this book and one of the most helpful guides I've ever read (and the first time I've truly understood the powerful narrative of my Tea Party family members). In sentiment that echoes some of my family's red state angst was this spot-on example of government imposition, which I swear, Dr. Hochschild must have overheard from my mother: "When people spoke indignantly of regulation, it was not abortion clinics and prisons that came to mind, but rather what the government was telling them to buy in stores...the promotion of fluorescent light bulbs: 'The government has no right to regulate the light bulbs we buy.'"
Ensuring that this book should be read by everyone not just coastal liberals trying to access empathy walls in middle America, Hochschild uncovers the back door politics between Louisiana government and petrochemical companies that has allowed both extensive human damage ("Cancer Alley") and environmental destruction of Louisiana coastline (it loses a football field of coastline every hour!). In just one example of research—and what should be a wake-up call to rural and working communities— she found that "California Waste Management Board paid [a consultant] $500,000 to define communities that would not resist 'locally undesirable land use' (LULU)," which resulted in a profile of the "least resistant personalty profile." This profile is one that is now familiar to us, years later, as the prototypical Trump voter: longtime resident of small towns in the South or Midwest, high school only education, uninvolved in social issues, conservative, Republican, and advocates of the free market.
In these uncertain times of political turmoil and cultural divide, I cannot recommend this book enough for thinking Americans of all stripes. There's thorough research for the academic, helpful red-state research for the Southern conservative activist, brilliant Tea Party analysis for the armchair sociologist, a guiding narrative for future policy makers, a wake-up call to climate change naysayers, and fortunately plenty of empathy to go around....more
Overall, from what I read so far, I think this is a helpful book for understanding the complexities of borderline personality disorder. These are my kOverall, from what I read so far, I think this is a helpful book for understanding the complexities of borderline personality disorder. These are my key take-aways from this book:
1. The inchoate diagnosis. "For years, 'borderline' was used as a catchall category for patients who did not fit more established diagnoses...The disorder coexists with and borders on other mental illnesses: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, hypochondriasis...PTSD, etc. In many ways, the borderline syndrome has been to psychiatry what the virus is to general medicine: an inexact term for vague but pernicious illness that is frustrating to treat, difficult to define, and impossible for the doctor to explain adequately to his patient" (pages 6-7).
2. The societal causes. The sociologist in me finds this the most interesting part of the book. Not surprisingly, the increase in BPD follows the corresponding decrease in the wholeness of our social fabric: erosion of family structure, increase in divorce rates and drug and alcohol abuse, economic uncertainty and prolonged recession, frequent moves and geographic mobility. All these factors contributed to what the authors call "social rapprochement," as "contemporary culture interferes with a healthy 'social rapprochement' by obstructing access to comforting anchors" (pages 80-81). These anchors are what's needed for healthy attachment, and "when the accoutrements of custom disappear, they may be replaced by a sense of abandonment, of being adrift in unchartered waters. Our children lack a sense of history and belonging—of an anchored presence in the world."
3. One overarching factor. I found this point, of outlining the marked increase in BPD diagnosis, to be especially intriguing. "Many believe that one factor is our devaluation of the past," by which they mean the loss of historical community that reaches both backward and forward: "devaluation of the past breaks the perpetual link to the future, which becomes a vast unknown" and even fear of catastrophe and nuclear war. But there is also a lack of link to the past, such that one's "cupboard of warm memories is bare" (p. 84-86). This part sent me to the readings of Mary Pipher and her remarkably prescient book "The Shelter of Each Other" and the need to create traditions, cultural and family markers as ballasts in our uncertain, fragmented world....more
Because this is one of my all-time favorite memoirs, I jumped at the chance afforded by my son's summer reading assignment to re-read this book. Of coBecause this is one of my all-time favorite memoirs, I jumped at the chance afforded by my son's summer reading assignment to re-read this book. Of course, I wasn't disappointed at immersing myself in Ms. Wall's magical gift of writing for a few days, and in fact, so completely lost myself in the bizarre antics of her dysfunctional parents that I found myself emerging from my bedroom reading nook to yell at my kids like it's the normal thing to do?!
Coming back into my own 2016 world, though, I found it interesting that I read the hot-off-the-presses "Hillbilly Elegy"and "Glass Castle" back to back this summer. Both memoirs, though pronouncedly different in vintage and tone, are remarkably similar in the tenacious spirit of the authors. Both were children of hillbillies, surrounded by drug-or-drink addicted, welfare-recipient parents and neighbors. Both made it out of these entrenching backgrounds of cyclical poverty to pursue the highest levels of Ivy League education...and both, obviously, possess remarkable gifts of writing memoir!
More importantly, both books highlight a hidden demographic in modern America—white poor.* I've always held a grievance against American media for a seeming disregard and blatant passing over of this not so newsworthy part of the country. J.D. Vance, author of the 2016 Hillbilly Elegy, though, provided a new perspective for me, by demonstrating the mutual distaste for media by the hillbilly demographic. There is a inherent pride, based on family loyalty and hard-working roots, that have resisted both media engagement and any so-called "charity" that would be forthcoming as a result of media exposure.
Although their plight goes often unreported—and often their preference is to keep it that way—I find it of special significance in this election year and a helpful aid in explaining the surprising ascendancy of presidential candidate Donald Trump. What has been a headache for the GOP, a circus for political pundits—more like an all-you-can-eat media buffet—and the bane of anyone seeking world-relevant news has been, for the first time, a political platform for this until-now hidden demographic of white poor America.
*For a more academic, data-based analysis of the bifurcation of White America, I encourage you to read Charles Murray's Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. Written in 2012, it seems especially prescient in 2016....more
I'm staying in a mountain cabin owned by octogenarians, who most likely owned this book when it was first published in 1978! What undoubtedly startedI'm staying in a mountain cabin owned by octogenarians, who most likely owned this book when it was first published in 1978! What undoubtedly started as Page Six tabloid material and may have been questionable journalism back in the day has been verified by subsequent Kennedy-Camelot documents, and proves to give the author credibility.
I found this book absolutely fascinating and can sum it up with this thesis statement: I'm glad I'm not rich or famous! Dear goodness, while we as human beings, especially those coming of age in this new century, seem to naturally idolize fame and fortune as the great achievements of a life well lived, I beg those in that category to read this book. Yes, there are unfathomable mentions of wealth, ungodly amounts of fashionable accoutrements, lavish lifestyles, and football-field sized yachts. And yet the reader gets the distinct understanding that it is utter meaningless...just in case Solomon's Ecclesiastes account of meaninglessness did not adequately do it for you.
In fact, the final blow to Jackie O is that not even your good friends can resist spilling the beans, as indicated by this leaked column by one of her good friends, and which, to me, summarizes much of what I found distasteful about her extravagant, self-indulged life:
"It is outrageous to think that someone will spend $120,000 a year on clothing [remember, this was early 1970s] in a world where so few people have more than the clothes on their back. It is obscene that a woman would have more money in a month to use on applying paste to her face and spray to her hair than the average citizen of Latin America could earn in 100 years." ...more