I don't normally read memoirs of celebrities or other people who were made known by public media. I feel that a person’s memoir shouldn’t be read as a...moreI don't normally read memoirs of celebrities or other people who were made known by public media. I feel that a person’s memoir shouldn’t be read as an entertainment, but as something that one could learn a few life lessons from. But, I need to read the newest Scientology Book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief for a group discussion, and figured that this newly published memoir written in a first person account by a previous Scientologist would be a great complement to help my understanding of the organization. I'm so glad I did.
However, as a Chinese American whose parents and Grandparents suffered during the Cultural Revolution and Communist reign in China, it absolutely broke my heart to realize that similar practices could happen right here, right now, in our free and democratic country. Many techniques Jenna and her peers had suffered since young was not news for people who recognize them: Uniform dress code, isolation from the public, chanting/singing, vague and fuzzy ideals/doctrines, lack of privacy, controlled and public punishment, peer evaluation/finger-pointing, controlled diet, forced labor/resulted fatigues, metacommunications, mass gatherings, child/physical/mental abuse, personal and public humiliation, impossible and long work to move up the rank.... I could go on and on and on. It's unbelievable what kind of practice could evolve from the misuse of the First Amendment. Reading this book invoked lots of anger in me that I didn't even realize I have.
Putting my own feelings aside. The book was wonderfully written. Jenna Miscavige is the niece of the leader of Scientology, Dave Miscavige. She was born into a Scientology family. Both sides of her grandparents were devoted Scientologists and her parents were leaders in the Sea Org (where the highest rank and most devoted Scientologists belong) with prominent and important jobs. She was raised a Scientologist since birth and was in a children's camp since a toddler until she voluntarily left the organization in her early 20's after her wedding and a fellow Scientologist. Her narrative voice was down to earth, even child-like...which drew me in right from the beginning. She was able to tell the story quite objectively, just like Jeanette Wall's The Glass Castle, with no self-pity or extreme anger. She laid out all the facts exactly as what they were with no up- or downplaying. Ultimately it's up to each reader to draw his/her own conclusion at the end.(less)
First 70% of book, 5-star. Last quarter, 3.5 stars. Review to come after discussion with book group. This book, especially the writing style and word...more
First 70% of book, 5-star. Last quarter, 3.5 stars. Review to come after discussion with book group. This book, especially the writing style and words that chill you to the bones, deserves one. If I have to choose a best writer of the year, it would be Ivey. Beautiful and lyrical poise. (less)
My middle son is a graphic novels fan. He started reading them before he was reading regular books early in life, like 4 or 5. He has very eccentric t...moreMy middle son is a graphic novels fan. He started reading them before he was reading regular books early in life, like 4 or 5. He has very eccentric tastes as well, and read books like The little Tyrant, Bone, Sardine in Space, Mail Order Ninja, Amulet and Robot Dreams. However, this book was chosen by my younger son, who is 9. He ordered this along with "Cardboard", which is another great read for boys. The same author also wrote Ghostopolis. I think the characters are quite developed in such a short book, and the plot is great with two story lines (past and present). The graphics are nicely done...after all, this is a graphics novel by a well-known pro in this field.
The teenager Reese reluctantly joined his parents and little sister Janie on a boat trip and of course, the ship wrecked and they ended up on a strange island. The setting is Lost-like. They had to start getting used to the life of this strange island with unfamiliar plants and animals...and some very bad creatures.
What is it like to be a Mother, a woman, a working woman, a feminist, a baby boomer...or someone who's aging, who is at the end of their life with lit...moreWhat is it like to be a Mother, a woman, a working woman, a feminist, a baby boomer...or someone who's aging, who is at the end of their life with little options? What is faith, motherhood, marriage, work, being a woman, friendship, love, life, or God forbid, death? What in our life are absolutely not necessary or important?
I used to read Anna Quindlen's column religiously, not because we have a similar life as other readers claimed (her kids are older, her career is more successful, she's happily married...), it's because no one can analyze a complex situation or phenomenon, then is also able to explain it simply yet eloquently with a dash of humor. She can see everyday situation that we encounter in a deeper sense, in which she contributed to the loss of her Mom at a tender age of 19. She explained why mortality is always on her mind:
"But the gift that some of us have been given, in exchange for terrible loss, is the gift of that knowledge."
Being able to see and feel things deeply enables her to write in a language unlike all others. Her word choices are simple although carefully chosen and perfectly arranged. Yet they strike the perfect chord in my heart. Her advices are insightful, brilliant and sad in a way. The life that all of us women have to go through...We thought we had it so perfectly planned, not to avoid mistakes, not to delay anything or miss opportunities...We wanted the perfect job, the perfect husband, kids at the right age, yet the outcome is usually unpredictable. We go through exactly the same cycle, the generation before us, and the generation after us, although many circumstances have changed, most for the better.
"I would tell my twenty-two-year-old self that what lasts are things so ordinary she may not even see them: family dinners, fair fights, phone calls, friends. But of course the young woman I once was cannot hear me, not just because of time and space but because of the language, and the lessons, she has yet to learn. It's a miracle: somehow over time she learned them all just the same, by trial and error."
The whole book is full of insightful and poignant writings like the above, I highlighted all of them so I could go back and re-read them, think about them, ponder about her words, and how similar they are to my own, and many other women in the same stage of their life.
"There comes that moment when we finally know what matters and, perhaps more important, what doesn't, when we see that all the life lessons came not form what we had but from who we loved, and from the failures perhaps more than the successes..."
She also talked about our affinity to possessions, our refusal to retire or acknowledge mortality. She explained what a longer life expectancy and better healthcare has changed our expectation of life...for both better or worse. She explained the wonder of having girlfriends, although they might be different ones in different stages of our life. She indicated that women's movement has bought us great changes, thanks to all the women before us, but we are not yet there...Everything that we encounter or to be encountered in our life as a woman is in this gem of a book. I highly recommend it to all "finely aged" women out there. However, I do think that younger women will find this book useful, if they don't see it as preachy due to their age. Finally, Quindlen said since we don't have an absolute definition of "old", she was going to give it one:
"...OLD is wherever you haven't gotten to yet."
"When I think of that future, I know that my choices will narrow, have been narrowing as surely as a perspective drawing leading the eye to the focal point. I won't be going to medical school and becoming a surgeon. I'm not going to live in Italy or learn Chinese. I may have to become more thrifty and less spontaneous, may be lonelier and needier than I'd like..."
But, as she wrote, drawing is okay, sitting in a big chair with a long book is okay, spending long hours pulling together ingredients for a stew and staying inside all day while its aroma seeps into every corner of the house is okay, eating alone while reading a book is also okay. Life is....to be continued.
I had such a fun time reading this book that I wished it went on forever…
I have no idea Eloisa James was a famous writer before I read the book. Evide...moreI had such a fun time reading this book that I wished it went on forever…
I have no idea Eloisa James was a famous writer before I read the book. Evidently she is a wildly famous historical romance author and an English professor in a University. However, I’m glad that I didn’t know her before I read the book, since I felt like reading the journal entries of a dear friend or the advice giving by another Mother friend with children of the same age. There is no way I could have the same experience if I had known how popular she was.
After recovering from breast cancer, Eloisa took a year off from teaching and her American life, sold her house and car, and moved to Paris for a year. She moved there with her Italian husband, who is also a professor, her teen son and her 10-year old daughter. This book is a collection from her blog and Facebook posts that she had written during that journey. What made this book so fun to read was Eloisa’s wit and humor, and her ability to make every minor detail of her Parisian life interesting.
Here’s one of her passage about skinny Paris women:
“I have discovered at least one secret of thin French women. We were in a restaurant last night, with a chic family seated at the next table. The bread arrived, and a skinny adolescent girl reached for it. Without missing a beat, maman picked up the basket and stowed it on the bookshelf next to the table. I ate more of my bread in sympathy.”
A regular street scene in Paris:
“Archetypal French scene: two boys playing in the street with baguettes were pretending not that they were swords, as I first assumed, but giant penises.”
She also wrote about museums, shops, churches, schools, statues, bridges, parks, French women and men, fashion, people, sights, wonderful Parisian food as well as not-to-miss paintings and pastries. Since I’ve been to Paris before and her detailed and accurate descriptions made me miss the city terribly. Her comparisons of French and American parenting were interesting to read, and quite similar to what Pamela Druckerman wrote about in Bringing up Bebe, another book about France. Her facts about Paris were reliable and accurate; her observations of subtle differences were fun to ponder over. Reading it was like experiencing everything Parisian first hand. Overall, I think it’s a book worth reading, for both people who had been to Paris or not, although it’s kind of short due to the format. (less)
I love the voice of this author, you can tell everything comes directly from her heart. She wrote about her and her family's life, during the communis...moreI love the voice of this author, you can tell everything comes directly from her heart. She wrote about her and her family's life, during the communist rule in Russia. I'm not a stranger to this kind of political system, being Chinese myself. Elena Gorokhova was born in the 1950's in Leningrad and eventually married an American and moved to the US. Even though English is her second language, her characters are described and written in such details that make them practically jump out of the page. The book is structured somewhat chronically with each chapter centered around a specific incident or period in her life, for example: her fascination with English, her sister's struggle to choose a college major in her own will without angering her parents, being a tour guide to a British visitor, her primary and secondary education, why her mom never smiled....
I intentionally slowed down near the last 1/3 of her story, to slowly savour her writing, her word use, her wit and even her humor. How she could inject those sad moments of her life with a sense of hope and fun. This is what she wrote when she was given a tour to a young British student when she was in middle school, and the boy took a picture illegally, pretending his was just playing with the camera:
"He thinks he is a genius, having come up with such a brilliantly distracting maneuver, but in the area of pretense no British student can compete with our decades of daily practice."
and of her own government:
"The rules are simple: they lie to us, we know they’re lying, they know we know they’re lying but they keep lying anyway, and we keep pretending to believe them."
I don't re-read books very often, but I may have to re-read this one someday down the line since I know I sure will find new and insightful meanings in each of her carefully crafted sentence... (less)
Sarah Addison Allen...I love all her previous books, because they usually have a hint of magic, happen in a small neighborhood, have a wonderful love...moreSarah Addison Allen...I love all her previous books, because they usually have a hint of magic, happen in a small neighborhood, have a wonderful love story and make one feel good all over. This one has exactly the same formula. It happened in a small North Carolina town near the forest..one or two love stories..and a secret from 2 generations ago. It's a good read, but it lacks a little magic like her previous books. I do find the main female character quite lovable, though...(less)
Okay....this book reminded me so much of Joan Didion's "A Year of Magical Thinking", and I discovered the similarities in the first few pages of the b...moreOkay....this book reminded me so much of Joan Didion's "A Year of Magical Thinking", and I discovered the similarities in the first few pages of the book. The two are so similar in many ways..they are both authors, they were both married to authors, and they both wrote a book mourning the loss of their husband. The process of writing and publishing their book helped with their grief.
I have never read Oates' fictions, so I have no idea what her writing style is. In Didion's book I found grief, but also strength, lots of selflessness, and persistence. In this book, I found grief, hysteria, helplessness, complaints (all about others, including her dead husband), lots self pity, and too many exclamation marks...(less)
No matter how much one disagrees with her child-rearing practices, no one could deny that she's one talented writer. Her voice is very unique and woul...moreNo matter how much one disagrees with her child-rearing practices, no one could deny that she's one talented writer. Her voice is very unique and would pull you in right away.(less)