"Sure, some news is bigger news than other news. War is bigger news than a girl having mixed feelings about the way some guy fucked her and didn't cal"Sure, some news is bigger news than other news. War is bigger news than a girl having mixed feelings about the way some guy fucked her and didn't call. But I don't believe in a finite economy of empathy; I happen to think that paying attention yields as much as it taxes. You learn to start seeing."
I did not love every essay in this collection, but the ones I did love, I would give six, seven, or ten stars. I came in as a skeptic: how could this one person, Leslie Jamison, capture the essence of empathy? How could she manage to write about such a mysterious, powerful, and often misconstrued emotion, even with her Harvard degree and her MFA from Iowa? As an aspiring psychologist who values empathy more than anything else, I wanted so much from The Empathy Exams, so much that I curbed my expectations even before starting the book. But I ended the book with only good news: that Jamison delivers, and she does it well.
"Empathy isn't just something that happens to us - a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain - it's also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves. It's made of exertion, that dowdier cousin of impulse. Sometimes we care for another because we know we should, or because it's asked for, but this doesn't make our caring hollow. This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always rise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love. But I believe in intention and I believe in work. I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones."
Jamison delves into empathy across several unique situations: her time as a medical actor, when she got punched in the middle of Nicaragua, a sadistic trial known as the Barkley Marathon, the pain of womanhood as a whole. She analyzes these experiences with a powerful blend of fierce insight and vulnerability. Jamison approaches tough topics - Morgellons disease, imprisonment within the justice system - in a way that shows her intellect while honoring her humanity. The theme of empathy soaks into each of these short essays, the emotion sometimes small, sometimes large, but always there.
"Empathy isn't just remembering to say that must be really hard - it's figuring out how to bring difficulty into the light so it can be seen at all. Empathy isn't just listening, it's asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination. Empathy requires knowing you know nothing."
Even though I did not agree with all of Jamison's ideas (in particular her essay "In Defense of Saccharine"), I clung to her every word, riveted by her logic and her ruthless self-examination. Her last essay about her grand unified theory of female pain blew me away, as it integrated feminism, history, empathy, literature, and so much more into a painful and poignant message of hope. And when she quoted Caroline Knapp, whose memoir about anorexia tops my favorite list, I knew Jamison had her bases covered.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to be a better human, to anyone who wants to read about a woman's attempt to be a better human. I will end this review with the closing lines of the collection, just because I hope the strength of Jamison's conclusion will motivate someone to read the book in its entirety.
"The wounded woman gets called a stereotype and sometimes she is. But sometimes she's just true. I think the possibility of fetishizing pain is no reason to stop representing it. Pain that gets performed is still pain. Pain turned trite is still pain. I think the charges of cliche and performance offer our closed hearts too many alibis, and I want our hearts to be open. I just wrote that. I want our hearts to be open. I mean it."...more
Warning: this review will contain an inappropriate quote. Because Adam has a lot of inappropriate things. Like recreational drug use and explicit sexuWarning: this review will contain an inappropriate quote. Because Adam has a lot of inappropriate things. Like recreational drug use and explicit sexual detail involving pornography. All within the first 20 pages. You have been cautioned.
Seventeen-year-old Adam Freedman has nothing to do over the summer. He decides to stay with his older sister Casey in her apartment in New York City, and right away he finds himself thrust into the lesbian subculture of 2006 - night clubs, trans people, and attractive women abound. Soon he meets Gillian, the redheaded girl of his dreams, and they fall in love - only after Adam pretends to be a trans guy. Adam would rather die than lose his new love interest, so he maintains the facade, but as his relationship with Gillian gets more and more intense, so does the deceit that drains him of his freedom.
Adam delves into the queer community and touches on often overlooked topics, especially trans culture. As a gay guy I like to think that I know a decent amount about lgbtq rights, but Adam still taught me a thing or two. Most importantly, Ariel Schrag creates honest characters - lesbians, straight men, transgender folk - all with real faults and strengths, all with the real, human desire to be loved. Some of Schrag's scenes turned into educational lessons and lost their authenticity as a result, but those moments were minor blips in the grand scheme of the novel.
Adam grew on me as a narrator. His cynical and disenchanted view of the world captured me, and he progressed from a whiny, privileged brat to a sympathetic, likeable young man. At the beginning of the book he had no direction, but that changed the moment he met Gillian, and Schrag pulled off his development well. Here's one of Adam's many interesting thoughts that exemplify how Schrag uses Adam's narrative to reflect on subversive topics in the lgbtq community:
Adam had always wondered about the whole gay masturbation thing. If you have the body parts you're fantasizing about, couldn't you just touch your own and pretend they were someone else's? Like when he sat on his hand to make it numb before jerking off. being attracted to vaginas and having the option to touch one whenever you wanted. He felt wildly jealous. Something about it just much not work.
However, I had two major issues with this book. First, Schrag did not conclude Adam's "pretending to be a trans guy" story arc well. By the end of the book I almost forgave him because he gained empathy through his facade, but he still never faced the consequences of his transgression. (view spoiler)[The fact that Gillian just started to like bio guys and morph her sexuality toward Adam's true gender (hide spoiler)] felt too convenient. On a more minor note, I did not appreciate (view spoiler)[Gillian's reveal about depression. I felt like Schrag used it as a plot device - why is Gillian ignoring Adam? Did she figure out his secret? - instead of grasping its significance or mentioning it in a meaningful way (hide spoiler)].
Overall, a good book, and I would recommend it to those interested in the plot synopsis. Some will love it, some will hate it, and I can see the reasoning behind both ends.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
People often value confidence in potential partners. After reading The Girl with All the Gifts, I think that preference might ring true for b4.5 stars
People often value confidence in potential partners. After reading The Girl with All the Gifts, I think that preference might ring true for books as well. As I read M.R. Carey's novel, I kept admiring the backbone and certainty of his writing: even while crafting a character-driven dystopian/zombie/survivor thriller, his prose maintained an amazing, adrenaline-filled poise.
M.R. Carey's first novel revolves around Melanie, a young girl who goes to class every morning restrained in a wheelchair with a gun pointed to her head. She knows a few things: the room she sleeps in, the classroom, and the hallway that connects them; that the outside world is filled with flesh-eating Hungries; and that her favorite teacher in the whole wide world is Miss Justineau. Certain people aim to keep Melanie in the dark, and Melanie is fine with learning just what her teachers tell her. But when something forces Melanie outside of the world she's always known, she must adapt to an entirely different environment - both outside of herself and within it.
I can't say too much about this book without detracting from its novelty, but I will state that Carey combines several story elements with aplomb. Unlike other authors who use zombies, dystopian settings, or multiple perspectives as "fads," he explores every facet of his fictional world with skill and depth. The smoothness of Carey's writing exists because of all the thought and research put into the back story, and his inventiveness makes itself apparent to any reader after just a few chapters.
The characters in The Girl with All the Gifts shine the most, without a doubt. Melanie, Miss Justineau, Sergeant Parker, Private Gallagher, and Doctor Caldwell all come across as caricatures at first. But Carey gives each of them a unique, developing voice that extends throughout the book. In the hands of another author, having that many perspectives might have over-saturated the story, but Carey makes sure that each point-of-view adds to the plot while fleshing out each individual character. Most importantly, by the end of the book I was rolling around in a puddle of my feelings, which reveals just how much these characters affected me.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone searching for an enthralling, unique work of fiction that spans the dystopia/zombie/thriller/experimental/horror genres. It is a standout novel, in every sense of the word....more
What a twisted, tantalizing story. We Were Liars centers on Cadence Sinclair and her three best friends, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat. The foursom3.5 stars
What a twisted, tantalizing story. We Were Liars centers on Cadence Sinclair and her three best friends, Johnny, Mirren, and Gat. The foursome calls themselves the Liars, and every summer their families get together on Beechwood Island to luxuriate and have fun like a lot of privileged people do.
If you've heard any of the hype about We Were Liars, you know that its trump card comes in its surprise reveal. Although I will not spoil the book - besides confirming that there is quite a shock - I can testify to the strengths of the story overall. Cady was an interesting narrator to follow, especially as she became more aware of her privilege. The writing felt intense and alive, and although purple at times, it still carried the suspense as well as Cady's voice in a consistent and jagged way. Unlike other reviewers, I had no problem reading about "rich people problems" or "white girl problems." People possess problems of different magnitude, and in my opinion we should strive to understand where everyone comes from in order to create compassion and empathy. Otherwise, we'd only be reading books like Night by Elie Wiesel or A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, and more books than those two deal with the human experience in intriguing and complex ways.
I only wish Gat, Mirren, and Johnny received more development as the story went on. Cady always emphasized the importance of the Liars as a group, but their connection never came across 100% to me. Further characterizing the three other Liars would have made the ending even more affecting, and it would have given the novel a more thorough and focused feel, like a target missile instead of a misplaced time bomb.
I recommend We Were Liars to anyone even remotely interested in the synopsis, as well as those searching for a suspenseful, scandalous, and summery YA read. Not in love with the book, but I like it enough to believe that it deserves its praise....more
Theo used to have an eating disorder. When she learned about her best friend's abduction, she used what she ate - and what she did not eat -3.5 stars
Theo used to have an eating disorder. When she learned about her best friend's abduction, she used what she ate - and what she did not eat - to get past the pain. A few years later, Theo has set herself on the right path: she has good grades, spends hours practicing to get into an elite ballet academy, and begins a relationship with a mysterious and attractive guy. But when Donovan, Theo's best friend, comes back home after years of being kidnapped, Theo must face the harsh realities she has hid herself from all along.
I appreciated the honesty and diversity in this book. Theo is a black ballerina who has casual sex and does not feel ashamed. Brandy Colbert did a nice job cultivating Theo's voice; it felt real without coming across as too callous or vulnerable. Despite some of the issues I had with this book, I round my rating up to 4 stars because of Theo's development as a character - my favorite part of this book occurs within the last few pages, in which Colbert indicates Theo's independence and strength in a way that finishes the novel on a high point.
However, Colbert took on too much at times in Pointe. Theo's restricted eating, her relationship with Donovan, her desire to become a ballerina, and a couple of other conflicts all came into play but never merged well enough to flesh out Theo's character. It almost felt like Colbert threw in issues to move the plot forward instead of incorporating dilemmas that would maximize the natural progression of the book. Theo's relationship with Hosea read as the weakest link in the story; Colbert left it at a solid place, but Hosea's part in the story felt superfluous at times.
Overall, recommended to those who have an interest in a YA realistic novel that deals with a character who has an eating disorder or who must face a friend's abduction and return. Not the best book I've read about those topics - perhaps try Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson or Stolen by Lucy Christopher - but a solid effort that reads well....more
disappointment: noun 1) the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one's hopes or expectations. 2) the emotion experienceddisappointment: noun 1) the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one's hopes or expectations. 2) the emotion experienced when you don't like a book that almost all of Goodreads appears to love: "Thomas's read of Something Like Summer was a disappointment"
So many things went wrong with this simple story of two high school boys who fall in love after an unfortunate collision. Ben Bentley, our protagonist, notices an attractive newcomer in his neighborhood right before the school year starts. Tim Wyman, the object of Ben's affection, has a girlfriend: but that and much more changes when Ben and Tim's connection deepens and grows stronger.
I still cannot comprehend the plot of this book. The story spans several decades, and yet I still feel as if nothing of real importance happened - Jay Bell jumps around from one event to another without developing the significance of any scene or storyline. At one point Ben trashes his high school journalism room because the editor of the newspaper removed the gay portion of his poem: Bell resolves that conflict in a couple of pages without Ben really learning anything at all. We never see Tim come to terms with his sexuality because whenever his character grows, Bell hides it behind a convenient time lapse or a "tell, don't show" moment. The entire second part of the book with Ben and Jace had no connection to any other section of the story, and it felt like Bell took the easy way out by including it.
The secondary characters in this book saddened me because they fell so flat. Why does Allison, Ben's best friend, have a life that only revolves around Ben and struggles that are so easily solved whenever Ben shows up? Why is Jace perfect in every way possible? Near the end of the book, Ben thinks to himself that "there was so much more to Tim beneath the surface that others didn't see." Instead of telling us that, I wish Bell showed us Tim's depth instead of having him act like a scary stalker for a solid third of the book. Tim's behavior, while unrealistic and unexplained, also made me think about Bell's disconcerting portrayal of a healthy relationship - because Tim's obsession did cross into a creepy place several times.
I wanted so much more from Ben. His entire character revolved around his romantic relationships with other guys. I wished to see his passions, his hobbies, and his personality expand as the book progressed. Instead, I felt that his perspective stayed the same throughout the entire novel, while only his relationships with those around him changed. If someone asked me to describe Ben's character, I would be unsure of what to say, because I can only think of bland generalities that could apply to almost anyone.
Overall, Something Like Summer required little effort to read, but a lot of dedication to finish. It might make a good beach read for those who want a YA with decent writing and gay characters, though I would not recommend it due to its lack of substance. Still, I find myself in the minority with my opinion, and I am glad that others on Goodreads have enjoyed it....more
Loved this short story - it includes sensual and lush descriptions intermixed with the cutting and painful realities of adolescence. I wish I could reLoved this short story - it includes sensual and lush descriptions intermixed with the cutting and painful realities of adolescence. I wish I could read more about Jake and his challenges, ranging from the repression of his food intake to the suppression of his sexuality. Highly recommended for those who want a unique coming of age story....more