I'm inspired to read Sherman Alexie's other books. This is his first book for teens. It's gotta be tough straddling two worlds. Rather than blaming al...moreI'm inspired to read Sherman Alexie's other books. This is his first book for teens. It's gotta be tough straddling two worlds. Rather than blaming all on racism, you get a glimpse of the difference in rules that teens live by that the 'part-time Indian' must navigate.
This is fiction, but fairly autobiographical. I couldn't say it better than Sherman Alexie himself, see this video.
UPDATE: Read it in 2007. Listened to it now in 2009. I loved it so much I immediately wanted to listen again. That's never happened to me before. This book in the author's own voice is amazing and absolutely perfect. He's funny, profound, and able find the compassionate humanity underneath all the gritty dirty mean bits. In fact, in the midst of it all.
Listened to it again in 2010. Still great. I've now read it 3 times, but not quite with the attention character Gordy recommends.
2nd UPDATE: Listened again September 2013. Still absolutely great. (less)
While her website often reads like stream of consciousness poetry, the book was written with the help of her friend Lauren Slater. The thoughts and o...moreWhile her website often reads like stream of consciousness poetry, the book was written with the help of her friend Lauren Slater. The thoughts and occasional gems of wisdom are all Rosie. She understands Celebrity, and the havoc it plays on a person's life. She wrote, "Fame is the ultimate expression of hierarchy. And hierarchy is the ultimate structure on which anger, jealousy, and humiliation hang. How, therefore, could this have been easy? I know what it feels like to feel less than. No matter how great, how reich, how brilliant, how fat, there will always be someone else with more. This, perhaps, is the hurt we humans have never learned how to hold."
The book reads fast, and even though memoir, has a climactic ending. A good reason to buy it? Rosie takes no money. All her profit goes to kids. (less)
Basically the middle of a long book that makes up the trilogy of His Dark Materials. Lyra meets Will. Will meets the Subtle Knife. They travel between...moreBasically the middle of a long book that makes up the trilogy of His Dark Materials. Lyra meets Will. Will meets the Subtle Knife. They travel between worlds. Lyra's mother sometimes seems good, sometimes seems bad. If one reads the first, this one is essential.(less)
Guests gather around the fire on Christmas eve and tell ghost stories. One, Douglas, was not so impressed as the others. He says, "But it's not the fi...moreGuests gather around the fire on Christmas eve and tell ghost stories. One, Douglas, was not so impressed as the others. He says, "But it's not the first occurence of its charming kind that I know to have been concerned with a child. If the child gives the effect of another turn of the screw, what do you say to two children--?"
"We say, of course," somebody exclaimed, "that two children give two turns! Also that we want to hear about them."
Thus in the first page you find out why this title. The narrator claims he must send for the pages about the two children, written by his sister's governess, and dead for twenty years. He claims she was "awfully clever and nice." The story was of her first experience as a governess, and her encounter with ghosts having a strange connection to her two charges.
James referred to Bluebeard as the inspiration of the story.
Debates continue to this day as to whether there were ghosts, or the woman was mad, this due to the fine craft of Henry James. I lean toward the madness angle, but I'm not sure. It's worth reading again, it could depend on the reader's state of mind at the time.
I'm still wondering about the significance of the tale-telling at Christmas time.
Best read over time, pick it up, read, put it down, mull over a poem...a sample....
Homcoming by Wendell Berry
One faith is bondage. Two are free. In the...moreBest read over time, pick it up, read, put it down, mull over a poem...a sample....
Homcoming by Wendell Berry
One faith is bondage. Two are free. In the trust of old love, cultivation shows a dark and graceful wilderness at its heart. Wild in that wilderness, we roam the distance of our faith; safe beyond the bounds of what we know. O love, open. Show me my country. Take me home.(less)
I skimmed through this, curious after a mom recommended it to other moms on an email list I frequent. It looks like a good parenting method, a way to...moreI skimmed through this, curious after a mom recommended it to other moms on an email list I frequent. It looks like a good parenting method, a way to give consistent consequences without emotional baggage. To stop bad behaviors, you count each one, to three. No talking, no escalating.(less)
I've never been to Burning Man, nor am I likely to go. Flipping through this book gave me a glimpse of the creativity and images found there. There's...moreI've never been to Burning Man, nor am I likely to go. Flipping through this book gave me a glimpse of the creativity and images found there. There's a bit of reading too, you can get an overview of the history, some background about the giant artwork. I seriously thought about sending it to my nephews, themselves artists and tinkerers but not yet unbound by Wisconsin.(less)
The Colbert schtick works better on TV, so I skimmed through for the nifty photos, diagrams, stickers, and other things that won't translate to voice....moreThe Colbert schtick works better on TV, so I skimmed through for the nifty photos, diagrams, stickers, and other things that won't translate to voice. Otherwise, I plan to listen to it.(less)
Yang Erche Namu (Treasure Princess) cried a lot when she was a child. In a land where shamanism mixes with Buddhism, her mother was instructed to name...moreYang Erche Namu (Treasure Princess) cried a lot when she was a child. In a land where shamanism mixes with Buddhism, her mother was instructed to name her child by going to a certain place and having the first person that came along name the baby. That person was Lama Gatusa. When she had her name, the baby would stop crying. She didn't, exactly, but she did go far. She became a popular singer in China, and eventually found her way to the US. I especially liked the time she spent with her uncle on the mountain, herding animals, like Heidi with her grandfather. The wild vistas shaped her to be slightly different than her peers, even in her unusual Moso culture.
Someone sometime recommended this book to me as an example of society that practiced non-monogamy. Whereas polyamory today is usually different for different folks, this ancient form has some very prescribed rules. It is in a place so remote, nestled between China and Tibet, the anthropologists are still working on defining the cultural groups. There are many distinct cultures in this area, something I did not know.
Women run the households, with their brothers and uncles sleeping across the hall. Lovers visit the women in their "flower rooms". When communists swept through they wanted the people to live in monogamous marriages (why was that, if they were not religious I wondered). The people tried it, but went back to their old ways. However, Yang Erche Namu resisted accepting a lover in her flower room. She instinctively knew that if she let love happen, she wouldn't leave her small village. Through her singing, she did, eventually winning her way into a prestigious school of music. (less)
Rosie talks about believing things happen for a reason, and how sometimes she just knows things. Other times, not as deep, but profound, she has sping...moreRosie talks about believing things happen for a reason, and how sometimes she just knows things. Other times, not as deep, but profound, she has spingles. Spine tingles. When she recognizes those significant times, she feels compelled to follow up. In Find Me she tells of an obsessive quest to help a young woman. She recognizes a certain narcissism in wanting to be a superhero, sometimes to the detriment of her own family.
All the while reading this, I found myself thinking, but of course you're a bodhisattva! I found myself composing the short emails to her blog, thinking if it was meant to be, she would find me among the thousands of other messages. How I would tell her a bodhisattva is an enlightened codependent. She says several times in the book that she is not easy to love, with this obsessive superhero complex. I have to wonder though, if that has changed, or really, what her love Kelli would say to that.
Rosie transforms some deep scars regarding her mother's death through her obsessive superheroish love. On The View her best friend from the age of 3 said that what people might not know about Rosie is how generous Rosie is. When cohost Joy said, "The world does know," Jackie said, "No, you don't." Rosie shushed her. She doesn't want the world to know what a tremendous superhero giver she is. Another bodhisattva clue, I would say. She sees the selfishness in her love, but she keeps turning it over for the benefit of the world. She doesn't want the accolades for giving, she doesn't do it to feed her narcissist self.(less)
One of my daily email reads is Unshelved, a comic strip about a strip mall library. (I swear they have informants for story lines from my library.) Ev...moreOne of my daily email reads is Unshelved, a comic strip about a strip mall library. (I swear they have informants for story lines from my library.) Every Sunday they have a book review, and this is where I heard about this book. These Sunday strips are really quite good as 'book talks'. The sardonic character Dewey gets a chance to reveal why he's a librarian.
Spy kid adventures, secret underground passages, girl power. The mysterious Kiki Strike, is she a good girl, or bad girl? She seems to have no weaknesses, many secrets, and brings out the best in brainy girls of a certain type. They are the Irregulars. Bonus, the narrator lists bits of knowledge throughout the book (girls like lists) that are useful to have, such as how to trail someone, how to disguise yourself, and what to do in an emergency or if attacked. Her list of things to see in NYC make me wonder if they really do exist. Plague victims buried in Washington park? Stone Street, with buildings from 1835? Underground passages in Chinatown?(less)
It's rare for me to read a book twice, but I'd forgotten I really did read this before. Sadly, my brain is getting more like a sieve and there were ma...moreIt's rare for me to read a book twice, but I'd forgotten I really did read this before. Sadly, my brain is getting more like a sieve and there were many parts I did not remember so I just kept reading. Do not let my leaky brain be a sign of the book's merit, because it is a good book for teens, a bi-girl coming of age story. A prestigious summer school for gifted kids provides the backdrop for all that teen drama. I look forward to reading the sequel. I don't know how this woman does it...works full time as a librarian (and she's a great librarian), writes teen novels, writes zine comics, and keeps a blog.(less)
It makes sense to me that Death would not want to get involved in the lives of humans. He must do his job, be dispassionate. He explains quite careful...moreIt makes sense to me that Death would not want to get involved in the lives of humans. He must do his job, be dispassionate. He explains quite carefully how he finds distractions in the colors, distraction from the ones he leaves behind, the survivors. So why does he choose to tell a story of a girl in Nazi Germany, a book thief?
Death first sees her when her little brother dies. Her mother is leaving her in the care of others, foster parents. Since this is Nazi Germany, I immediately wondered what would become of her. The girl finds her way with these new parents, with her new school, and you learn she can't read. Her foster father begins to teach her, with her first stolen book, "The Grave Digger's Handbook." Perhaps the title is what caught the attention of Death. Is it her innocent spirit that gets his attention? Is it her knack to find color in the world?
Even while a war rages and Nazi political-correctedness hovers over the lives of Liesel and her friends and family like stink over garbage, kids still go to school, compete in games, and find amusements to relieve their boredom. They also have secrets.
The language of the book is beautiful and compelling, and the reader, Allan Corduner, does do it justice. Listening had its pluses and minuses...it made the storytelling compelling...but it's not so easy to backtrack if you think you missed an important bit. Indeed there's at least one drawing in the book that I didn't see while listening. I look forward to reading the book as well, which I will do for my book group in April '09.
At first he resisted the moniker, but as the media that picked up his story wouldn't let it go, Hemant finally embraced being known as the guy who sol...moreAt first he resisted the moniker, but as the media that picked up his story wouldn't let it go, Hemant finally embraced being known as the guy who sold his soul on ebay. While in college, he helped the University of Illinois in Chicago establish its first secular student group, Students WithOut Religious Dogma. As part of his effort to establish respectful dialog with religious people, he sold his time to attend worship service to the highest bidder on ebay. For every $10, he would spend an hour in a church. His time sold for $504. The winner sent him to several churches in several states, and what came out of a was a critique for Christians on how approachable their churches are. I personally would not like the churches he liked for the reasons that he did (entertainment?), but I thought his friendliness quite admirable. This guy is worth watching as a spokesperson for us non-god types.(less)
The scientists know that a giant meteor is going to hit the moon. The media is celebrating it. Kids are given assignments to write about it. What they...moreThe scientists know that a giant meteor is going to hit the moon. The media is celebrating it. Kids are given assignments to write about it. What they don't expect is that it will knock the moon closer to the earth. The first indication that all will not be as it once was, crazy thunderstorms. Then tsunamis. Miranda writes all about it in her diary, just a teen who loves ice skating and sports. Cities are lost,volcanoes come awake, the earth shakes, people starve, but because this is a teen novel, I'm fairly sure Miranda is going to make it through.
The author gets a few digs in at the Bush administration (unnamed) and apocolyptic ministers. I thought the implications that this sporty girl was more likely to survive because she continued to exercise while she was starving was a bit off. Some of it seemed to be a lesson on how to survive such a worldwide calamity, which I find fun.(less)
My favorite author only gets better with age. Her usual sci-fi genre is only hinted at in this more literary work, with one character escaping into th...moreMy favorite author only gets better with age. Her usual sci-fi genre is only hinted at in this more literary work, with one character escaping into the fantasy of an other-worldly hero that needs her help. Each chapter could be read separately as a short story, in fact I read the one about the librarian's affair with the bookseller in a collection of stories about libraries. Each story focusing on a character weaves the history of a town on the coast, a story of women embodied in metaphor. The foam women "lie at the longest reach of the waves, rounded and curded, shaking and trembling, shivering hips and quivering buttocks, torn by the stiff, piercing wind, dispersed to nothing, gone." The rain women "are tall presences of water and light walking the long sands against the darkness of the forest." A person can rest a while, watch the tides, observe the town through the lives of these women. Save time for musing, Ursula is worth it.(less)
I was hardly aware this was a translation as I began listening to this engaging book. A good bit of the magic came from the reader, Brendan Fraser. I'...moreI was hardly aware this was a translation as I began listening to this engaging book. A good bit of the magic came from the reader, Brendan Fraser. I'd put it on my ipod, and at first I wondered who could be that talented, sexy, multi-voiced reader? He changes accents on a dime, from a Scottish brogue to Texan drawl, squeezing out the accentless Hollywood narrator voice all in the same breath.
A dragon, a brownie, and a boy set out on a quest to find the home of the silver dragons. They are helped on this journey by rats, an English scholar of fantastic creatures, and a djinni, among others. They must contend with an ancient nemesis, details of its dangers lost in the ages, and its spy right in their own backpack.(less)
I met Aidan in 2005 when he was giving a lot of talks on why he was a Conscientious Objector. He must have been working on this book at the time. He w...moreI met Aidan in 2005 when he was giving a lot of talks on why he was a Conscientious Objector. He must have been working on this book at the time. He was struggling with a new-Buddhist dilemna that he wasn't doing as much meditation. After reading this book, I could see how that could be a struggle. His Buddhist practice, which included study and meditation, were what kept him sane in the insane world of occupied Iraq.
It was clear then when he said the lack of armor was not as scary as the pain in his heart over carrying a gun. He felt such relief when he put that gun down, the tough time he got from the other soldiers were as nothing compared to it.
It was clear now when I read the book and got more details of how he expressed his misgivings.
Aidan's book is not so much a war memoir as it is an introspection. It is exactly the sort of instrospection that underlines the fact that a spiritually-minded person must separate himself and his spirituality from the deeds he is required to do in war. If you truly deeply in your heart believe it is wrong to kill, then if you are a soldier you must do something to reconcile yourself. The war machine encourages this. You must make the enemy less than human. You must absolve yourself from responsibility by telling yourself you are following orders. You cannot look deeply at how it makes you feel to hurt another, in fact you must learn to like hurting another.
This causes post traumatic stress disorder in soldiers, but is hardly acknowledged to do so.
Aidan could no longer separate himself, with his earnest beginner's mind caught up in the Buddhist way.
Oh, and there are people who are soldiers because they want to hurt people. Aidan witnessed plenty of those.
And then they come home. (That is not part of the book, but is something to think about.)(less)
Greg Mortenson failed to climb K2, and while he headed back d...moreI had the honor of presenting the author, David Oliver Relin, at our library book group.
Greg Mortenson failed to climb K2, and while he headed back down the mountain, he took a wrong turn, missed his bridge, and found himself in Korphe, a village not found on his maps. (Ridges in the glacier are as big as highways.) The people there welcomed him and brought him back to health. He happened to ask them to take him to their school. There was none. The children met under the cold sky and used sticks to write in the dirt. From that point he made it his mission to bring schools to those remote mountain villages in Afghanistan.
Before they wanted a school, the villagers wanted a bridge so they could build the school. That bridge not only helped bring the school, it changed the lives of the women in the small village. David Relin told us when a woman leaves her family to live with her husband, she may never see them in her life again. One ridge in these mountains might as well be a hundred miles. This little bridge allowed them to visit their families on a weekly basis.
Excerpts, an interview, and audio with Mortenson can be found on Beliefnet here.
David said CAI will never be like Mercy Corps. It is an example of the kinds of organizations we need. Still, compared to Saudi oil money (that funds the Taliban madrassas), it is a drop in the bucket.
David had talked to all kinds of groups in the previous several months. No matter the group, everybody is fed up with the war in Iraq and the "war on terror." He said, "The enemy is not Osama, Sadaam, the enemy is ignorance. We're going after the wrong enemy." He said we need to turn our attention to the root causes of terrorism, poverty and the need for education. One of the things we could do to counter our own ignorance is to "try to remain sensitive to the phrase over there." So much of what passes for news encompasses anything in the Middle East as "over there." Any bad thing is "over there."
An important piece about Afghani politics: the Taliban are thugs and gangsters who want payback. They don't really care whether girls are learning. This surfaced in the book about one of the fatwas put on Greg's head: the local gangster just wanted some kickback.
While David keeps himself out of the book, in the beginning, he does chronicle his first hairy helicopter ride piloted by Brigadier General Bhangoo, who had been Pakistan President Musharraf's personal pilot. He told us that sadly, General Bhangoo had died in a plane crash several months before this October talk. The man was flying an ultralight around K2, intending to fly it around the world.
Other tidbits: David's main translator was Ghulam Parvi, a "personal repository of Balti culture." Freaky moment: ibex head in the helicoptor. If I remember right, it was someone's illicit dinner. Ibex are protected, but, um, General Bhangoo had his connections.
The teachers in the schools are graduates of the schools. They have an equivalent of a 5th or 6th grade education, but that is what the villages need. They then get teacher training workshops during the summers. The 2005 earthquake zones "are still a nightmare." CAI dropped tents at the sites of the schools that crumbled. If someone wishes to sponsor one school, David told us, CAI asks for $50,000. That's $25,000 to build it, and $25,000 to keep it running and in supplies for a decade.
I thought this summed up the wise simplicity of the people that Mortenson grew to love:
No human, nor any living thing, survives long under the eternal sky. The most beautiful women, the most learned men, even Mohammed, who heard Allah's own voice, all did wither and die. All is temporary. The sky outlives everything. Even suffering. ~Bowa Johar, Balti poet, and grandfather of Mauzafer Ali. (less)
I read this book around the year 2000. I read all three of the trilogy in about a week...they are that brand of fiction that is like a drug you can't...moreI read this book around the year 2000. I read all three of the trilogy in about a week...they are that brand of fiction that is like a drug you can't say no to. You can't put them down, you read until it is gone, and then you wonder why you can't stay in that world.
This time around I listened to it. The readers are more like actors giving voice to the characters. Listening forces a person to slow down, absorb the details, and I love the details. The only chalkboard screech: when I read it, my inner voice read "daemon" as sounding like "die-mon" (like the Greek would be) whereas the British pronunciation is "dee-mun." That gives you a completely different feel to what daemons are, and to me they are more like the Greeks intended: a spirit personification of a person's innner self.
On the other hand, while I did chuckle over the turning of Christianity on its head, I didn't really feel it was all that subversive until I got to the third book. (It builds.) I didn't know the author really was anti-Christian. Now, with the movie out, more people are aware of this and making sure readers are aware...so I did pick up on more of those details, and which makes me think the author did intend the devilish pronunciation.(less)