David Gerrold, a science fiction writer, decided he wanted to become a father. Single and gay, he chose to adopt through the California Foster Care sy...moreDavid Gerrold, a science fiction writer, decided he wanted to become a father. Single and gay, he chose to adopt through the California Foster Care system. One day, while looking through a book of adoptable children, he came upon a picture of Dennis, a troubled young boy that the social workers had labeled unadoptable. Dennis was convinced he was a Martian, got into fights with other kids, and destroyed property. But David was ready to take him on. Together, they built a family.
This was a great book! I happened upon it by accident in Borders and I read it immediately. Gerrold does gloss over almost all of Dennis's behavioral problems, making lists like "of course, he got into trouble, stole money, destroyed books, but he was a great kid". So we never really know much about the real struggles they went through.
The book instead focuses a lot on Dennis's obsession with being a Martian. Gerrold finds other examples of children who think they're Martians too, and speculates that they might, in fact, be Martians! Of course, he doesn't pursue this line of thought, for fear he'd be found crazy and put the adoption in jeopardy.
The book won a Hugo and a Nebula Award, which I gather is a big deal in the Sci Fi community. However, it really was just a heartwarming story of a dad and his son, and the growing pains a kid in the system faces as he struggles to become part of an average family in America. I have great respect for foster parents--I am a volunteer for the Orphan Foundation of America, which helps youth aging out of the foster care system, and I listen to the kids I mentor talk about it and wonder how the system and the families can be improved. It's a tough, tough job. I'm glad it worked out for these two. (less)
Wanda Hickey is one of those humorous coming of age stories in vignettes a la Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon stories. The true stories tell of Jean S...moreWanda Hickey is one of those humorous coming of age stories in vignettes a la Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon stories. The true stories tell of Jean Shepherd's childhood in small town Indiana, where his family and his friends are the main players on a stage of hilarity. Being Polish, I was particularly taken with the story of Josephine, a Polish girl from East Chicago upon whom Jean sets his sights, and whose Polish family he describes with a gusto that makes me love my own family all the more. Other great stories include the wonderful tale of the trip to the fair and of course the title story. Told with charm, wit, and a little bit of the ole "awwwww!" factor, this was a great read. One of my favorites of this year. (less)
Standard Notaro, and probably one of the reasons I'm not a huge fan of her writing, although I'm a big fan of hers. I love subtle humor, sarcasm, dark...moreStandard Notaro, and probably one of the reasons I'm not a huge fan of her writing, although I'm a big fan of hers. I love subtle humor, sarcasm, dark humor, but I'm not always so much a fan of a book that grabs you by the collar, shaking you and screaming, "Aren't I funny, goddamnit!?" I find that many of Notaro's books do just that.
This is a book of humorous tales from the holidays centered around Laurie's family and friends, including her long suffering husband, her mom, and her best friends in Arizona. The stories are amusing, but they're just not my kind of humor. My sister, however, thinks they're brilliant. So go figure! :-) (less)
The Glass Castle is a memoir Walls wrote about growing up with her eclectic parents: alcoholic dad Rex and dreamer mom Rose Mary. The Walls family liv...moreThe Glass Castle is a memoir Walls wrote about growing up with her eclectic parents: alcoholic dad Rex and dreamer mom Rose Mary. The Walls family lives like nomads at the beginning of the book--packing up in the middle of the night and leaving whatever home they're in to escape bill collectors, police, and child welfare workers. They travel around the US Southwest until their money runs out, and they are forced to move in with Rex's family in West Virginia. At this point, the Walls children start to plan their escape from the craziness of their upbringing and make plans to go to New York City to start fresh, new lives where they are unknown.
Eventually the elder Wallses become homeless after following their children to NYC (this is not a spoiler, considering on the first page, Jeannette talks about seeing her mom dumpster diving). There was a quality about Rex and Rose Mary--crazy though they were--that I liked. At the end, when their squatting leads to an opportunity to buy a place in the building, it's almost as if the optimist in Rose Mary knew it would all work out. Rex's alcoholism and the issues of his family certainly are disturbing--particularly in Rex's dismissal of claims of sexual abuse against the children--and yet there's something that leads you to pity Rex as well and feel a warmth for him as he does his best to keep the children free and moving.
A great book, a lot of great places and people, all of it sticks with you quite vividly, and I was pleased that the places played as important a role as the people and the story. I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. (less)
Joan Didion's daughter Quintana fell gravely ill and was hospitalized with a serious infection. She was placed in a medical coma and put on life suppo...moreJoan Didion's daughter Quintana fell gravely ill and was hospitalized with a serious infection. She was placed in a medical coma and put on life support. Only weeks later, Joan's husband, John Dunne, was speaking with her from their living room after visiting their daughter in the hospital, stopped mid-sentence and keeled over dead on the floor of a massive coronary. Four weeks later, Quintana pulled through and revived, but only two months after that, she collapsed from a massive brain hematoma.
Joan Didion documented this year in this book, which I think I heard about on NPR or somewhere, I'm not entirely sure. I know you're all going to hate me for kicking the widow when she's down, but this book was a lot less than I expected. I got through it, but I really thought it would be more about her feelings. Instead, Didion did a lot of research on grief and puts many of her findings in the book. She spends a lot of time analyzing the way things are and trying to figure out if she's behaving in a way that seems "normal" for your "average widow."
I read a review on Amazon.com that calls Joan Didion's writing as "cool" and perhaps lacking emotion, and I felt that way about this book. The most moving passage in the whole book was one in which she states that she realized she was in denial when she cleaned out her husband's closets, but couldn't get rid of his shoes because he would need them when he got back. I thought to myself, "well, now we're getting somewhere", but perhaps she didn't want to share where those painful thoughts led, because there was no indication that she picked the shoes up and flung them at the walls while sobbing in rage. And I wanted her to. I wanted her to be angry at God and everyone for putting her in this terrible situation with her husband's death and her daughter's serious illnesses. But instead, she seemed rather detached. Maybe she didn't want to share those feelings, but if that were so, she shouldn't have written a book purporting to be about that very topic. I found this book to be tremendously disappointing. (less)
I was not madly in love with this book like I'd hoped I would be. It was on the verge of smug, and made it sound oh-so-easy to just up and get rid of...moreI was not madly in love with this book like I'd hoped I would be. It was on the verge of smug, and made it sound oh-so-easy to just up and get rid of everything and join a Minimite community. There was no real complaint about the manual labor, lack of contact with family on the outside, or other difficulties that surely must have happened as a part of Brende's experience. While I can certain sympathize with his complaints about the modern world allowing us to forget simple things, and the loss of community, I don't think it's always as easy to just drop everything as he made it seem. He was the right person in the right place at the right time.(less)
Pete Jordan started a quest to wash dishes in all 50 states. He had always seen himself as an average guy underachiever--his life's ambition as a kid...morePete Jordan started a quest to wash dishes in all 50 states. He had always seen himself as an average guy underachiever--his life's ambition as a kid was to be a housepainter. Dishwashing seemed easy enough--there were plenty of jobs and he could go from place to place and quit wherever and whenever he felt like it.
This book tells of his quest and the various and sundry places he dished. The book is fascinating, funny, well written, and a tribute to having high adventure without a lot of responsibility.
As I was reading it, I thought, "Man this sounds like fun, seeing the country!" and started to think about my own trip. I was soon bogged down in the details of it, and then I realized. "Hey! This guy did it as a dishwasher! He didn't need all the plans."
I have no desire to dish, my own dishes are bad enough, but the story was full of fascinating people and places and was enough to spur me to plan my own trip. Jordan writes with humor and just enough guilt that you occasionally feel bad for the people he leaves in the lurch--but not really.
I really enjoyed this diary of Margaret Sartor's, her memoirs of growing up in the 70's. She was a smart and moral and interesting young woman and her...moreI really enjoyed this diary of Margaret Sartor's, her memoirs of growing up in the 70's. She was a smart and moral and interesting young woman and her presentation of her diary is interesting--not the usual "poor nerdy me" or high and mighty Christian, Sartor was homecoming queen and faced very real issues relating to sex, boys, parents, mental health, religion, etc.
It was a refreshing read--she made her choices with the best convictions she could and was honest and self-depracating and earnest all at once.
The book was fun, funny, and poignant. A great and quick read--some diary entries are only a sentence long.(less)