This is a tender love story that defies description and convention. I love the way the artwork is crude and masterful, cartoonishly humorous and yet d...moreThis is a tender love story that defies description and convention. I love the way the artwork is crude and masterful, cartoonishly humorous and yet dead serious, sometimes all in the same page. I don't think I've ever read anything quite like it. This is a special, special book.(less)
I feel sort of bad giving this a lackluster review, but I have to say, this really wasn't very engaging. It wasn't BAD, at all, but I just felt kind o...moreI feel sort of bad giving this a lackluster review, but I have to say, this really wasn't very engaging. It wasn't BAD, at all, but I just felt kind of unengaged by the whole thing. The artwork, while it works well at times (I particularly liked the color artwork for more modern-day scenes) sometimes feels too... sweet?... for the subject matter. I liked the decision to show experiences through a child's eyes, but it somehow didn't really work overall; I felt like there was too little context for what was going on, and I ended up feeling disconnected from the story and from the characters' plight. The ending is quite abrupt, as well.(less)
Ok, yup, this is pretty much as good as people have been saying it is. I would say four and a half stars, but I loved it enough that I'm rounding it u...moreOk, yup, this is pretty much as good as people have been saying it is. I would say four and a half stars, but I loved it enough that I'm rounding it up to five.
I was an unknowing fan of Cheryl Strayed for several years, knowing her only as "Sugar" from the online advice column "Dear Sugar." Sugar made me cry on a regular basis. Sugar was wise, and caring, and I adored her. So when I found out Sugar was a woman named Cheryl Strayed who lived in Portland, and who had written a memoir, I knew I'd have to read it. I'm glad I did.
Strayed writes with a combination of immediacy and clear-eyed assessment. The events of the book happened in the mid-Nineties, after Strayed's life broke lose after losing her mother to cancer. Things that seemed certain were no longer certain, and she operated with a kind of destructive compulsion. It was with this attitude that she approached hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, all the way from Mojave, CA to the Columbia River. Although she doesn't come right out and say it, Strayed approached hiking the trail in the same way some people approach a suicide attempt: "if I come through this," someone might say, "then I'm met to live, and I will live. If I don't, well, no one will miss me much." Incredibly ill-prepared, carrying a pack that she couldn't even hoist to her back without convoluted methods, Strayed hikes into the wilderness.
She survives. She hikes 11,000 miles, something that boggles my mind.
I felt a strange sense of deja vu reading this, remembering my own journey to Oregon two years ago. I remember stumbling into Mojave at 3 AM, exhausted, and then driving nearly the same route she walks, traveling in one long day through most of her hike. It gives one an interesting perspective on distance, that's for sure -- the idea of driving in an hour far farther than any hiker would attempt to walk in a day. And Strayed definitely conveys that. The miles eaten up, and the way that one mile cross-country is an entirely different creature than one mile in the car, or even one mile walked on city streets. You feel every step with her.
I think if there was anything I wanted to know when I finished, it was, "Was it really as neat as all that?" WAS the trail the kind of turning point that Strayed needed? Did she manage to stay clean afterward? I know that eventually she was married, and had children, and wrote calm, wise, heartbreaking advice to people in pain -- but did she stumble? What happened to her junkie boyfriend? What happened to Paul, her ex-husband?
I suppose a good memoir leaves you wishing to know more. The endpoint Strayed picks -- finally touching the Bridge of the Gods on the Columbia River -- is both absolutely correct and absolutely frustratingly artificial. I know it's right and that's where the story should have ended, but I was left a little disappointed, nonetheless. I suppose that's where the half star went.
I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Expect to have sympathy pains in your feet.(less)
This is a powerful and uneasy memoir. As other reviewers have pointed out, the author's reference to Jeffrey Dahmer as a "friend" is a little inaccura...moreThis is a powerful and uneasy memoir. As other reviewers have pointed out, the author's reference to Jeffrey Dahmer as a "friend" is a little inaccurate. I think, however, that Derf Backderf is thoroughly aware of this; he's very open about the fact that he wasn't really friends with Jeff, except in the most limited ways. The "friendship" Berkderf and his buddies had with Jeff had a lot more to do with them being amused and a bit put off by someone, and being unable (and definitely unwilling) to see beyond the aspects of Dahmer's personality that seemed funny. It's intensely uncomfortable to read, because pretty much everyone did this kind of thing in high school to one degree or another. And what's most intensely uncomfortable is that all of us knew someone who was basically a Dahmer -- the kind of kid about whom you say, "Man, his family is f*cked up..." in tones of delirious gossip. The kind of kid people sort of smirk and gossip about and shake their heads. No one actually expects them to turn out to be serial killers. Most of them don't. Some of them turn out fine. Some of them turn into criminals of more petty sorts. Most don't turn out to have such a yawning pit of evil within them.(less)
Like many of us, Wendy McClure adored the Little House books as a kid, re-reading them often and occasionally imagining that Laura Ingalls could be he...moreLike many of us, Wendy McClure adored the Little House books as a kid, re-reading them often and occasionally imagining that Laura Ingalls could be her best friend. In helping her parents clean out the house preparatory to a move, McClure comes across her old copy of Little House in the Big Woods and begins re-reading it, eventually spawning a renewed obsession with everything Laura Ingalls Wilder-related. Butter is churned, homesteading is explored, and the obsession eventually culminates in a road trip to many of the sites described in the books.
What is Wendy looking for? She's not entirely sure, other than some half-formed wish to return to what she refers to as "Laura World," the imaginative and fascinating mindspace that the books used to provoke in her.
The result is fascinating, educational, funny, and even moving. McClure is self-aware enough to realize when she's behaving self-indulgently, and it's almost as though she's shooting the reader a look that says "I KNOW, bear with me here, ok?" when things get really crazy.
I loved this, and I highly recommend it to anyone who remembers thinking that maybe it would be awesome to learn how to churn butter.(less)
I thought I'd reviewed this, but I guess I never did!
I ended up reading this book largely because another library staff member brought it to me, conce...moreI thought I'd reviewed this, but I guess I never did!
I ended up reading this book largely because another library staff member brought it to me, concerned about the content. And not without reason: there are a LOT of phalluses on these pages. Once I started reading, though, I realized that the illustrations are not actually gratuitous -- or rather, they are, but their gratuity is meant to convey the strength of the protagonist's obsessive-compulsive thoughts. It's actually a wonderful, funny, and heartbreaking memoir, and I am happy to say that it has stayed in our collection.(less)
If you enjoy autobiographical comics along the lines of R. Crumb, Justin Green, or Harvey Pekar, this will be a welcome addition! Tyler writes unflinc...moreIf you enjoy autobiographical comics along the lines of R. Crumb, Justin Green, or Harvey Pekar, this will be a welcome addition! Tyler writes unflinchingly honest short comics about life: being a mother, lawn care, travel, growing up in the Midwest, working as a substitute teacher, putting a career on hold for kids... you name it. Her artwork is impressive: one page is grotesque, the next ethereal. If there was one thing I could change, I'd want more longer pieces in this collection. But that doesn't seem to be the nature of her work. I will be seeking out more of it, that's for sure.(less)
This book was slow going because I was mostly reading it during my lunch hour at work, but it's a good read. Ngugi wa Thiong'o is an acclaimed author,...moreThis book was slow going because I was mostly reading it during my lunch hour at work, but it's a good read. Ngugi wa Thiong'o is an acclaimed author, and in this memoir he tells of his life growing up in Kenya during WWII and the Mau Mau uprising. When I started reading this book, I knew very little about Kenyan history, so this made some of the events difficult to follow. On the other hand, it has spurred me to learn more about the greater political climate at the time. Sometimes the book can be a bit hard to follow, because the narrative is not always linear; it's more like listening to someone talk than reading a book, as the author is reminded of incidents or backtracks to explain something that has not been mentioned before. Sometimes this can be confusing, but it is also a rewarding experience.(less)
Sometimes memoirs are dangerous things, especially memoirs that are going for a more "wacky" angle about the author's bizarre and/or horrifying childh...moreSometimes memoirs are dangerous things, especially memoirs that are going for a more "wacky" angle about the author's bizarre and/or horrifying childhood. This is a good one, though; Abrahams treats her childhood self sympathetically, but also can't help but point out both the absurdity of her situation and the insane way she handled it.
As the title indicates, Kyria Abrahams grew up Jehovah's Witness, and the first part of her memoir is a fascinating child's eye view of what this entails and how real people navigate the often-ridiculous strictures of the faith. As she gets older, Kyria begins to rebel against her faith, but not before dropping out of school, entering into an ill-advised marriage, and discovering the wonders of alcoholism and suicidal ideation. Oddly, it's not really a depressing read, and you find yourself rooting for the young Kyria, almost in spite of yourself -- she's so screwed up, and makes so many stupid mistakes, but at the same time... Well, as she puts it, when you grow up in a faith that regards murder and smoking as equally bad because all sins are equal in the eyes of Jehovah, it tends to really throw off your sense of the world.
The only thing I sort of wished for was more resolution, even though it is probably artistically more interesting to end where she did. The memoir ends with Kyria just barely finding her feet after burning all of her bridges, and I found myself wanting to call her and check up: "Are you really ok now? Do you talk to your parents? How's that drinking problem?" But maybe that's material for a sequel.(less)
Until Mei-Ling Hopgood was in college, she knew she was adopted and she knew the barest bones of her early life story, but she didn't particularly fee...moreUntil Mei-Ling Hopgood was in college, she knew she was adopted and she knew the barest bones of her early life story, but she didn't particularly feel the need to seek out more information about her birth family. She loved her parents, a loving Midwestern couple, and she adamantly thought of herself as an all-American girl.
When she meets the nun who originally organized her adoption, however, she finds herself agreeing to get in touch with her Taiwanese family. The next thing she knows, she is on the phone with seemingly dozens of family members, and they don't just want to know how she's doing -- they want to meet her and treat her as part of the family again.
At first, Mei-Ling is just excited and exhausted by the chaos surrounding her birth family. But soon, questions begin to crop up: Mei-Ling has so many sisters; why was she the one who was given up? Why did her mother acquiesce? Why is the relationship between her birth parents so strange?
Mei-Ling's story is fascinating, although the writing is not particularly strong. Or rather, it's somewhat uneven; stretches of very good writing will be punctuated by that which is pedestrian or downright wooden. The strength of the narrative overrides the unevenness of the writing, however, and I recommend this memoir to anyone who enjoys a good memoir or who has an interest in international adoption.(less)
The sad thing about this book is that my favorite part was the cover. I mean, that's a brilliant cover!
But overall? Not the book I was hoping for. Fis...moreThe sad thing about this book is that my favorite part was the cover. I mean, that's a brilliant cover!
But overall? Not the book I was hoping for. Fisher seems to have mostly transcribed her one-woman show, and the problem is, what works for a performance doesn't hold up very well as a book. Everything's sort of glossed over with self-deprecating jokes, and there's not a real sense of narrative or much in the way of self-reflection. I didn't really want a celebrity tell-all, but I would really be interested in what Fisher really thinks and feels about her struggles with addiction, mental illness, and the bizarreness of her fame. Instead, I mostly got a lot of jokes about how it's weird when guys talk about jacking off to Princess Leia. It seemed like whenever she got too close to something painful, it was danced around or told in such a way that felt like she was saying, "Ok, told you about that, got it out of the way, so there." There is some genuinely interesting and affecting material here, but it's hard to find, which is really disappointing. (less)
This combination biography/memoir in graphic novel form is a complete delight! Ann Marie Fleming knew vaguely that her great-grandfather, his wife, an...moreThis combination biography/memoir in graphic novel form is a complete delight! Ann Marie Fleming knew vaguely that her great-grandfather, his wife, and his daughters had been somehow involved in show business, but all she had were a handful of anecdotes and a single playbill. As it turns out, Long Tack Sam (as her great-grandfather was known) was at one time a world-famous magician and acrobat, and he led a truly amazing life. Harry Houdini stole tricks from him, Orson Welles was among his fans, and audiences all over the world thought him to be one of the greatest acts in vaudeville history. His story is one of racism, love, adventure and hardship, and Fleming's account of tracking down his (and her own) history is no less exciting.
The book is based on Fleming's documentary about her great-grandfather, and makes use of stills and artwork from the film, but in my opinion it stands on its own very well. Highly recommended.(less)