Fascinating read about incidents that I knew little about. The Rocky Flats nuclear incidents, and the gov't cover-up along the way, should serve as a...moreFascinating read about incidents that I knew little about. The Rocky Flats nuclear incidents, and the gov't cover-up along the way, should serve as a cautionary tale about the environment, the military-industrial complex, and our willingness to believe what we are told at the cost of our health and the destruction of nature.
At first, I was unsure that Iversen's approach was going to work -- she tells interwoven tales here: one a memoir of growing up in a dysfunctional home in the Rocky Flats area, and another a journalistic expose on the nuclear facility that provided so many in the area the American dream. However, as the book progresses, it becomes clear that this unique approach does indeed work. As Rocky Flats' true blue American facade becomes overtaken by the truths which outgrow the lies, the same happens with her family.
Nothing is as good as it seems from the outside in Rocky Flats. The promise of happiness and the American Dream is often just that: a promise.
It's a beautifully written memoir, and a relentlessly researched expose, at times completely mind-boggling. When reading it, I felt that perhaps something like Rocky Flats can never happen again. But this book teaches us that we can never feel satisfied with the lines we are fed by the government. I justifies the need for independent verification, for skepticism, and for protest. (less)
Margaux Fragoso was robbed of her childhood by Peter Curran, who began a sexually abusing her when she was 8. He robbed her of much more than that, an...moreMargaux Fragoso was robbed of her childhood by Peter Curran, who began a sexually abusing her when she was 8. He robbed her of much more than that, and "Tiger Tiger" heartrendingly and brilliantly illustrates the extent in which childhood sexual abuse affects an individual's life.
As is often the case with sexual abuse, Curran preyed on Margaux partly due to her troubled home life. The daughter of an alcoholic, abusive father, and a mentally ill mother (herself a survivor of abuse), Margaux found in Curran the approval, attention and love that she did not receive at home. And because of her parents' denial (which fueled their own illnesses), Margaux was the perfect victim for Curran, himself a master of denial.
Fragoso's memoir is powerful and brave in its honest portrayal of Curran as something more than just a monster. She brilliantly illustrates the shades of grey that often accompany child abuse: The sad fact that, despite the horrendous predatory acts, Curran was sadly the closest thing Margaux had to a father figure or a friend. Fragoso deftly paints Curran as a complex, sad, pitiful, manipulative, and deceitful man who is perpetuating a long cycle of abuse. There are moments when Fragoso almost makes us feel for him, and it is during these moments that we see how a bright (but needy and lost) child like Margaux could remain in such a horrible 'relationship' for so many years (the Stockholm Syndrome is brought up a few times later in the book, as well), even after she was old enough to begin to understand Curran's sickness and her own exploitation.
This is a brilliant memoir, but it is not easy to take. It is quite graphic, and anyone who has children (or who has been abused) will shudder at many of Fragoso's memories. Ultimately, however, it is a story about denial, manipulation, and mental illness, and is a wake-up call to a society that for too long has not dealt with this problem in any effective way.
towards the end of david dow's 'the autobiography of an execution', he writes:
"The cases I have written about are not unusual. My other cases, every d...moretowards the end of david dow's 'the autobiography of an execution', he writes:
"The cases I have written about are not unusual. My other cases, every death-penalty lawyer's cases, are just like them. What's missing is the proof that what you have just finished reading is mundane. The day after Henry Quaker got put to death, my colleagues and I went back to the office and did it all over again, and all the same things happened."
and this is maddening. this should be enough to convince any rational human being that the death penalty is flawed. one innocent person put to death is one too many.
dow's book is at turns suspenseful, illuminating, morose, maddening, sentimental, hard-boiled, and provocative. it's a book that is not easy to classify. it's more memoir than anything, due to the subject matter -- due to attorney-client privilege, dow has been forced to cobble a true story out of true stories without actually telling the true story. that's pretty much the definition of memoir, but in a book about crime and justice, we usually want facts and dates and names and details. it's a tall order for a writer to win our trust enough to tell a true story that is not actually 'true.' but he succeeds.
at points i did find that dow's home life details intruded on the story that i wanted to hear. i am not so sure how much of that was his fault, and how much of it was that i was interested in reading a different book. i found the juxtaposition of his picture-perfect family and his penchant for expensive whiskeys and cuban cigars against the backdrop of desperate death row inmates who lived in poverty to be a bit distracting and maybe even distasteful. but that is a minor gripe. someone doing the thankful work that dow does surely deserves such little victories in life -- for there are not many to be had in his professional life.
"I'd do exhaustive research, write a powerful legal argument, and then watch no one pay it any heed. The problem with this lawyerly approach is that nobody cares about rules or principles when they're dealing with a murderer. The lawyer says that the Constitution was violated every which way, and the judge says, Yeah, but your client killed somebody, right? For all our so-called progress, the tribal vengefulness that we think of as limited to backward African countries is still how our legal system works. Deuteronomy trumps the Sixth Amendment every time. Prosecutors and judges kowtow to family members of murder victims who demand an eye for an eye, and the lonely lawyer declaiming about proper procedures is a shouting lunatic in the asylum whom people look at curiously and then walk on by."(less)
Do you ever pick up a book and start reading it and realize that you're not reading it at the appropriate time? Nothing's really wrong with the book,...moreDo you ever pick up a book and start reading it and realize that you're not reading it at the appropriate time? Nothing's really wrong with the book, but you're not in the market for whatever the author is serving up at the time.
I like Julian Barnes. I'm just in a place where this book is not really doing anything for me.
we're very fortunate to have this book. i am lame for having waited this long to read it. this is one of those that you hope everyone reads before the...morewe're very fortunate to have this book. i am lame for having waited this long to read it. this is one of those that you hope everyone reads before they die. (less)
this book was the 'hostel', or 'saw IV' of memoirs. i don't really know why i read it. it was free, first of all. and, i guess like any normal human b...morethis book was the 'hostel', or 'saw IV' of memoirs. i don't really know why i read it. it was free, first of all. and, i guess like any normal human being, i cannot look away from a trainwreck.
'a child called it' is not very well written. you walk away with more questions than you do answers. you don't really learn anything. you do, however, come away with having read some very disturbing and disgusting passages that describe in detail a case of horrendous child abuse. i'm not exactly sure what the book's intention is. it doesn't work very well as a memoir. there is no advice that would put this in any sort of self-help category. and if its intention is to provide hope to victim's of abuse, i don't know what the take-away is other than 'if i lived through this, you can live through just about anything'.
i really don't know what to make of this book, as a piece of literary work. it's not much of one -- i don't know if it ever set out to be one. you get little, if any, insight into the dynamics of the brothers. you read one moment that the narrator hates his father, then loves his father, then hates his father. you read that the narrator cannot remember the color of his mother's hair or eyes, yet he describes in great detail many settings, images, etc. you really don't get any insight into the mother's descent into mental illness and alcoholism. one day she's the best, most loving mother in the world, the next she is straight out of a bosch painting. you get a feeling that pelzer is being very selective with what he shares with us. characters are never anything but inherently good or inherently evil. he's either being abused horribly or being embraced lovingly. there seems to be very little grey area in pelzer's book. the grey area is exactly what needs to be illuminated in a book about abuse. we learn far more from a book about becoming an alcoholic than we do from a book about being a drunk. the latter is voyeuristic and exploitive, the former can illuminate and possibly save lives.
there has been quite a bit of controversy surrounding the accuracy of this book. i can't speak to that. there is a blurb about the book being up for the pulitzer at some point -- pelzer submitted it himself, which anyone can do. details like this do nothing but add an aura of snake oil -- the dime-store self-help book jacket design doesn't help matters.
the last thing i'd want to do is come down on a dude who's lived through the type of hellish abuse described here. even if his descriptions were 1/10th true, it would still be more than any human being should have to endure. i am not claiming that this guy did not suffer, but we need more from books than a simple retelling of events. we get that in the newspaper every morning. (less)
i had heard sweeney's other performance, god said ha!, about her experience with cancer (her brother's and her own), and was completely blown away by...morei had heard sweeney's other performance, god said ha!, about her experience with cancer (her brother's and her own), and was completely blown away by that piece. when i had heard that sweeney had another piece about her struggles with faith and her ultimate decision to give up on the idea of a personal god, i knew she would approach the subject with the grace, honesty, humor, and intelligence that she brought to the previous performance.
i was always aware of julia sweeney as an actress, from snl to pulp fiction and whatnot, but never really knew much about her work as a performance/monologist/whatever you call it.
i have read a lot of books/essays/pieces on letting go of faith, and i have had problems with nearly all of them. either they were incredibly snarky and condescending, or they were too cold and sterile -- not touching upon the very real emotions that go along with a journey such as sweeney's.
i was afraid that sweeney's account would be too much about the emotions and not so much about the science or the theology. turns out that, even though this is not a proper book, it is one of the better, and more complete pieces that address the subject. sweeney knows a LOT about the bible, about dogma, and history. she uses very concrete examples, knows her scripture, etc. she also knows a lot about science (although she admits this was her weak spot for many years due to her preconceptions about folks who were interested in science). but most of all, sweeney knows a lot about the intersection of emotion and science. about the wonderful things that religion can offer, and that it does offer, and how to deal with the absence of those things in a secular world.
i am not a softee. but i found myself almost moved to tears by sweeney's performance several times. she is brutally honest, and incredibly candid, exposing her inner most thoughts and neuroses, and the ridiculous fervor for which she sought the truth of the nature of the universe and life.
it is an incredibly uplifting piece of work, one that i believe could be appreciated by believers and secular folks alike. believers will certainly appreciate the thirst for knowledge and her anecdotes of growing up as a self-described 'nunophile' in a catholic family as well as her humorous takes on scripture, curchgoing, and prayer. she is not condescending, and she understands the need for religion. nobody could deny, after hearing this, that she has come to a conclusion that works for her, and you have to admire the thorough nature of her journey.(less)
i'm not sure what it is that draws me to books like this. perhaps it's simply a voyeuristic look into lives turned upside down byrandom violence. it r...morei'm not sure what it is that draws me to books like this. perhaps it's simply a voyeuristic look into lives turned upside down byrandom violence. it reminds us that we are never truly safe and that each moment should be savored. part of the appeal here is surely a basic curiosity about the nature of grief, forgiveness, and loss.
the story is fascinating and harrowing, and moves at a fast clip. i had some problems with the writing -- the book was written by the younger sister of one of the victims. for whatever reason she chose to write the book in the third person, which is certainly odd for a memoir. she tries a little too hard at times, and some of the scenes and dialogue that could not be known by the narrator are clunky at best, but the book was a quick, fascinating read, if you like this kind of thing.
i found myself more interested in the procedural aspect of the story than i thought i might -- and maybe that says a thing or two about the lack of insight into the emotions of those left behind. (less)