It's billed as a memoir, but The Rules Do Not Apply feels more like an exploration of grief, an attempt to make sense of tragedy and loss. And it reIt's billed as a memoir, but The Rules Do Not Apply feels more like an exploration of grief, an attempt to make sense of tragedy and loss. And it reads beautifully. Levy doesn't pull any punches - she hits you right in the gut, baring her wounds in such raw fashion that the reader feels the knife. You know what you are in for from the very beginning - the first sentence rings with loss. Part of me wanted to stop immediately.
Warning, the rest of this review is mildly spoilery.
As a parent, my greatest fear is losing a child. As one of the 33% of women who have suffered miscarriages, I wasn't ready to relive that grief. I'm glad I plodded through, though, because it reminded me that while no one can truly share in the grief of a mourning mother, we truly aren't alone. Miscarriage and infant loss has always been a taboo subject, perhaps because humans want to avoid a topic that brings about feelings of profound despair. I personally find that talking about it and finding that others have been there is cathartic. Everyone grieves differently, but I'm glad that Levy chose to share hers in such a soul-bearing, beautiful way.
Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the advanced reader's copy. ...more
I'll admit it. Along with many Americans, I was skeptical when Trevor Noah took over the reins of The Daily Show from Jon Stewart, an American treasurI'll admit it. Along with many Americans, I was skeptical when Trevor Noah took over the reins of The Daily Show from Jon Stewart, an American treasure. I mean, who is this guy from South Africa and how the hell is he going to understand the nuances of our political system well enough to satirize it at the level of excellence to which we have become accustomed? Luckily, he has proved us all wrong (and I do not readily admit when I'm wrong) and made The Daily Show his own while maintaining the sincerity that we love. Then I stumbled upon his memoir and became an instant 100% true believer in Trevor Noah - skepticism shattered.
Listen to any of Trevor's stand-up, and you will most likely hear him use the phrase "born a crime". His birth was, literally, illegal. He was born during the last few years of apartheid, under which blacks and whites were not allowed to mingle, much less procreate. Trevor is a "colored" person - the term used in South Africa to describe individuals of mixed race. His mother is native South African of the Xhosa tribe, while his father is a white man from Switzerland. Imagine your mother and father having to pretend they don't know you (or each other) in public. That was Trevor Noah's reality for the formative years of his life.
The book is full of tales about growing up in a starkly segregated society, even after the fall of apartheid, descriptions of unbelievable poverty, language barriers, domestic abuse, and feelings of alienation from both races. By the way, Trevor can speak about 10 languages at various levels of fluency - makes you feel ridiculous for blowing off that college Spanish course, huh? What makes this book so enjoyable, and what I believe makes Trevor Noah a great Daily Show host, is his ability to understand and appreciate the myriad of cultural factors and intersections that underlie society's failures, flaws, and yes, successes, because he has witnessed so much of humanity's worst. In one of my favorite passages, he brings up the old adage "give the man a fish, and he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, and he'll eat forever" or something along those lines. He points out that it sure would help if you provided that man with a fishing pole. All the education in the world makes no difference if you don't have the proper tools to succeed.
Although it's Trevor's life laid out on the page, the true star and heroine of the book is Trevor's mom, Patricia. She is there in every story, usually at the forefront but other times as a background presence. Her unwavering love (usually of the tough variety) and support is evident, and Trevor never fails to give his mom the credit she deserves for guiding him in the right direction. She is a feminist in a patriarchal and segregated society refusing from the get-go to conform. The woman even survives a gunshot to the head, thereby cementing her membership in the bad-ass women society.
It's easy to write off celebrity memoirs as sensational self-affirming nonsense meant to amass more money and cement the author's fame. Many (if not most) of the books that fall into this category do fit the stereotype. This book is different, largely because Trevor's story is not the norm. It provides a brief look into a time and place of which most American's have very little knowledge. Along the way we are reminded that our Western-centric view of the world is skewed and narrow. I'm glad that the producers of The Daily Show took a chance on the kid from the other side of the world, and I'm especially glad that I took a chance on this book. I urge others to do the same - you won't be disappointed!
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advanced reader copy through NetGalley. ...more
Interesting book with insights into human evolution. Not groundbreaking, but accessible for the armchair scientist. The title is mildly misleading - oInteresting book with insights into human evolution. Not groundbreaking, but accessible for the armchair scientist. The title is mildly misleading - only the last 3-4 pages touch on the future possibilities for human evolution. I would have liked to have seen more on how modern life (e.g., medicine, diet, etc.) has impacted evolution, and, in many ways, made "survival of the fittest" a bit more complicated. Overall, though, this was a pleasant, informative read and a good introduction for those with a passing interest in evolution and genetics.
Jeez, give a girl a diagram every now and then, huh? I'm not going to lie, I struggled to finish this one. Not because it wasn't interesting or becausJeez, give a girl a diagram every now and then, huh? I'm not going to lie, I struggled to finish this one. Not because it wasn't interesting or because I wasn't able to follow the subject matter. It was just dense and wordy. If you learn better with visuals and charts, etc., then this is not the book for you (Google has ruined me). The author takes what are some complex scientific theories and explains them well and in a relatively short space. I learned way more about plate tectonics and geology than I ever even realized existed. (I would like to have a copy sent to every climate-change-denying congressman. They might learn something, but I digress). Of course, the origin of life did not receive much attention, which makes sense given the minute amount of time life has existed in the billions of years since the Big Bang. Plus, the author is a geologist, not a biologist. If you want to learn about the origins of the universe and the planets, this is a great place to get a good overview. Just, keep your browser open for some good visuals.
Thank you to Yale University Press for providing me with an ARC through NetGalley....more
World religions have always fascinated me - how various cultures make sense of their world and attribute purpose to life. I fall pretty squarely in thWorld religions have always fascinated me - how various cultures make sense of their world and attribute purpose to life. I fall pretty squarely in the agnostic category at this point in my life and have a difficult time with anything that can't be understood scientifically. On the other hand, I recognize that there are aspects of the world that the human mind may be unable to understand (hence the agnostic label), and I can appreciate the comfort and life direction that religion can bring.
Holloway is the former Bishop of Edinburgh who left the church in 2000. He has written about his loss of faith in other books, but in this particular work he remains largely objective, providing factual accounts of the founding and practices of various world religions. He's not afraid to point out the darker side of religion, however, and acknowledges both the good and the bad aspects of major world religions. This is a history book, not an opinion piece, and you won't find much in the way of opinions or theories.
A Little History of Religion is written in a language that makes it appropriate for younger and older readers, although I honestly felt a bit "talked down to" in the opening chapters. On the other hand, he provides entomological background for many commonly used religious words, providing a more comprehensive backdrop for understanding how various religions have started and evolved. Unsurprisingly, a large portion of the book is dedicated to the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), which have been the most influential in Western (and Eastern, to a lesser extent) culture. I still would have liked to have seen a bit more about the Eastern religions, for my own curiosity.
Overall, this is a great overview of world religions that can be enjoyed by those anywhere on the religious spectrum. Holloway does not try to push any religion but does point out its failings, which may anger some of the more fundamental practitioners. If you are fascinated by religion, as I am, this is a good place to start....more
Privilege. That word tends to elicit an emotional response, especially from those who have it but don't want to acknowledge that fact. Since I moved tPrivilege. That word tends to elicit an emotional response, especially from those who have it but don't want to acknowledge that fact. Since I moved to Mississippi 8 years ago, I've had my own privilege stare me in the face multiple times. The stark reality is that thousands of children in Mississippi are severely underprivileged. According to Jackson's Clarion-Ledger, 34% of children in Mississippi live in poverty, and 79% of public school fourth-graders are reading below grade level (compared to the 66% nationally, which is a whole other issue). Our public schools are ridiculously underfunded, and the legislature continues to cut the education budget. Which schools take the hardest hits when it comes to funding? Yep, the Delta, home to the blues, cotton, and paralyzing poverty.
Mike Copperman spent two years teaching in the Delta as part of the Teach for American program, in which new college grads commit to teaching at underprivileged schools around the country. In his memoir, Copperman - a half Japanese, half Jewish athlete from Stanford - describes those two years and his struggle to connect with kids whose backgrounds couldn't be further from his. He has obviously changed the names of the town and likely the children, but the book could have described any number of public schools in the Delta.
Copperman taught not far from Cleveland, MS, which was ordered to desegregate not three months ago. He describes the White football players practicing at the Academy football field, a stark contrast to the overwhelmingly Black students in the public elementary school. He discusses his own experience as a minority among minorities, the stares and jeers toward the "Chinaman". He describes the rundown homes of his students juxtaposed against the large colonials on the other side of town.
I was particularly struck, but not in the least surprised, by the lack of resources the school provided for kids with behavioral or learning disabilities. I have dealt with the public schools before, provided very specific recommendations to help students succeed, and been completely ignored, whether because the school district doesn't have the staff to help, or whether they don't feel that the special accommodations are warranted. I have assessed high school aged children who have an obvious learning disorder but were never diagnosed, instead labeled as "lazy" or "problem child". I've even had a school counselor tell a patient's mother that her child's difficulty in school was due to laziness, not residual impairments caused by his BRAIN INJURY! So, yeah, special education and accommodations for students who need them are severely lacking in Mississippi, and likely Mississippi is not unique in that regard. End rant.
What sets Copperman's book apart from many discussions of inequality is the stories. The stories of children who have grown up with very little, with broken homes, tossed from foster home to foster home, those that endure bullying, those that bully, those that are beyond his ability to help, and those that welcome his help. He vividly portrays the frustration and the feelings of inadequacy in the face of overwhelming obstacles. Amazingly, I don't believe Mr. Copperman ever completely lost hope for these children, and for every child lost to the chaos of their lives and circumstances, there is a story of triumph, of a child that the author was able to reach, even for a brief moment.
I cannot recommend this book enough. I wish I could make every Mississippi lawmaker (hell, every national lawmaker), every person who denies the presence of privilege, every teacher who has lost hope, read it. Yes, there is such a thing as pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, but when those boots are stuck in concrete, that is much, much easier said than done. These kids deserve better. Kudos to the many, many teachers throughout the nation that try to reach these kids, even for that brief moment.
Thank you to the University of Mississippi Press for providing me with an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ...more
The amount of pressure on moms these days is ridiculous. Many of us work full time, are expected to keep ourselves fit, make cute pinterest-worthy favThe amount of pressure on moms these days is ridiculous. Many of us work full time, are expected to keep ourselves fit, make cute pinterest-worthy favors for every school party, play nice with all the other moms at the swimming pool, find new and creative ways to supplement our kid's schoolwork, and somehow manage to raise respectful children without resorting to the television as a babysitter while we squeeze in a much-needed bathroom break. This book points out this ridiculousness and basically says "screw that". There are many laugh-out-loud moments, others that will have you thinking "I can't believe they went there," and even a few digs at anti-vaxxers. If you can't laugh at life or check your proper attitude at the door, this book is not for you. If, on the other hand, you need a break from the crazy world of parenting before you cry from exhaustion, give it a chance.
Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an advanced reader copy through NetGalley. ...more
I was on my predoctoral internship when H.M. died, and I remember watching the brain cutting as it streamed live over the internet. H.M. was one of thI was on my predoctoral internship when H.M. died, and I remember watching the brain cutting as it streamed live over the internet. H.M. was one of the first case studies I learned about in graduate school, and I use him frequently in my own teaching to illustrate basic neuroscience concepts. In my mind, he is a legend, almost mythical in status. Dittrich's book provides another layer to the story of H.M. and the many neuroscientists and neurosurgeons that worked with him. H.M.'s is not the only life chronicled in this fascinating book. We also learn about the work of Dittrich's grandfather - Bill Scoville - who performed H.M.'s surgery but who also served as a controversial figure in the realm of psychosurgery (e.g. lobotomies, etc. used to treat mental illness) and Suzanne Corkin - the MIT professor who spent decades studying H.M. Sadly, Dr. Corkin died as I was reading the book that merely touched on her life's work.
While I went into my reading knowing neuroanatomy and the basics of H.M.'s case, Dittrich's book provided such rich details that I felt I was learning anew. My only criticism is that the narrative does jump around, jarringly at times, and it is obvious that the author's knowledge of neuropsychology is occasionally lacking. Otherwise, a wonderful read. I'm even considering making it required reading for my undergraduate neuropsychology class!...more
I have recently become obsessed with reading translated works from around the world and have had great difficulty finding titles. This guide is a cornI have recently become obsessed with reading translated works from around the world and have had great difficulty finding titles. This guide is a cornucopia of information about world literature. It includes not only recommendations of books to read from each country but includes a brief history of each country's literary works.. For anyone interested in world fiction, this is the go-to guide....more
My take away message: Live your life in such a way that your bad-ass status is not challenged but actually boosted by falling asleep during your boss'My take away message: Live your life in such a way that your bad-ass status is not challenged but actually boosted by falling asleep during your boss's big speech. This woman is so inspirational I've actually been more productive at work since I started reading. ...more