Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love: A Review

March 27, 2019

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro

Inheritance Review

Genre/Categories: Non Fiction, Memoir, Ancestry, Bioethics, Jewish

Family secrets….bioethics…..if you send in a DNA sample to Ancestry on a lark, be prepared for truth.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Receiving DNA results from Ancestry propels a determined and persistent Dani Shapiro into a quest for identity and paternity. Shapiro thoughtfully unravels family secrets as she explores the meaning of love versus biology, a new cultural heritage, and family bonds. The story behind Shapiro’s discovery is not what you might expect and I won’t spoil that part of the story for you. You will want to know, though, that the ethical considerations that she brings up are worthy of discussion and careful thought.

(more…)

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In Pieces: A Review

February 18, 2019  

In Pieces by Sally Field

In Pieces coverGenre/Categories: Non Fiction, Memoir, Biography, Family Relationships, Motherhood

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links

Summary:

Beloved actor Sally Field tells her story for the first time. Her earliest years were lived as a shy, vulnerable, insecure, and anxious little girl in social situations, and she reveals that she did not feel safe at home. In middle school she discovered acting and it became a refuge for her. As she reached her later teens and landed her first professional acting job, she felt responsible to help her mom and younger sister in financial and practical ways. Even when she married for the first time, she felt the burden of providing financially for her young family. From her early years as Gidget and The Flying Nun, Sally Field went on to captivate movie lovers with riveting and emotional performances in her portrayal of characters such as Sybil, Norma Rae, and Mary Todd Lincoln. Of course, we also loved her in Forest Gump and Mrs. Doubtfire. Most recently, she played a leading role in the TV drama series, Brothers & Sisters. Through Sally Field’s personal story, readers see her behind-the-scenes reality and also follow her unstable and codependent relationship with her mother in which she ultimately finds healing and reconciliation.

Amazon Ratings (February): 4.4 Stars

My Thoughts:

Content. Although Sally Field’s story, In Pieces, is a bit sadder and more tragic than I expected, she writes in the same authentic, transparent, upbeat, and vulnerable style we’ve come to expect from her. Sally Fields shares her behind-the-scenes experiences and her complicated family relationships. Especially poignant is the relationship with her mother and eventual reconciliation. I appreciate Sally’s struggle to understand her choices and those of others. She is determined to chase her dream and demonstrates grit in dealing with life’s disappointments and circumstances. Through her life experiences, we learn what it was like for her to follow her heart and pursue her ambition in a male dominated world. She shares the good and bad, her ups and downs, her fears and her success, her doubts and passion. Her memorable story is honest and authentic, powerful and inspiring. The story doesn’t come across as written by a celebrity (except for mentions of the movie industry)….it’s a story from someone we might sit across the table from working though difficult life issues.

Personal Connection. Stories in which readers can make personal connections become the best reading experiences! I grew up in around the same area of Southern California as Sally Field; in fact, as it turns out we lived in the same city during our childhoods. I grew up fangirling Sally, watching her first in Gidget and then The Flying Nun. I’ve admired her work in later years and cheered for her on award shows, so it was incredibly interesting to hear the behind-the-scenes stories for movies that I’ve seen (not on DVD or TV but as they were released).

Cover. I don’t often mention covers in my reviews, but I love the cover of In Pieces. Her picture reflects the vulnerable and transparent person we read about in the story.

Recommended. Sally Field’s accomplishments despite the obstacles she faced are remarkable. I love hearing how the profession of acting and the portrayal of certain characters helped her work out the emotions and desperate circumstances in her own life. She is a survivor, and it’s an engaging and well written story. I’m awarding this five stars because of the emotions I felt while reading her story and because it was engaging (read it in two days). In Pieces is recommended for readers who love memoir, for fans of Sally Field the actor, and for those who desire to read about the movie industry. ***Trigger warnings for child abuse and for attention given to women without their consent.

My Rating: 5 Stars

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In Pieces

In Pieces

Meet the Author, Sally Field

Sally Field

Sally Field is a two-time Academy Award and three-time Emmy Award winning actor who has portrayed dozens of iconic roles on both the large and small screens. In 2012, she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 2015 she was honored by President Obama with the National Medal of Arts. She has served on the Board of Directors of Vital Voices since 2002 and also served on the Board of The Sundance Institute from 1994 to 2010. She has three sons and five grandchildren.



Let’s Discuss!

Are you a Sally Field fan?! Which of her roles is your favorite?



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Looking Ahead:

Come back Friday for a review of Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly.



Links

Check out The Secret Library Book Blog and her great weekly links!

I’ll be updating my Winter TBR as I read and review selections. So check back often!



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

 

Just Mercy Review: In Honor of MLK Jr and His Work

*this post contains affiliate links

January 21, 2019

Today, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr (MLK) and his work, I’m reposting a review of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson from my September 14, 2018 post …..



September 14, 2018

An inspirational memoir of courage ….. determination ….. vision …..

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

just mercy 2

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Memoir, African-American, Judicial System, Criminal Procedure, Politics and Social Sciences

Summary:

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Seattle Times • Esquire • Time

In this compelling and engaging memoir, Bryan Stevenson shares true stories about founding the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice established to defend those most desperate and in need (the underrepresented, poor, wrongly condemned, women, and youth trapped for life in the criminal justice system). In addition to detailing his experience as a young lawyer confronting political machines, fighting prejudice, and accepting challenging cases, Stevenson works determinedly and thinks deeply about mercy, true justice, and compassion.

Listen to Bryan Stevenson summarize his ideas in his own words: Bryan Stevenson Ted Talk

Just Mercy movie: filming in Montgomery.

Amazon Rating (September): 4.8

My Thoughts:

Compelling. Just Mercy is a compelling and engaging read in that it’s inspirational to read about real people and their life work. Even though some of the legal jargon and proceedings are unfamiliar to me, I am mesmerized by the overall story of Bryan Stevenson and his lifelong passion for championing the legal defense of the most underrepresented and most desperate prisoners. Despite great personal hardship, he persisted.

Controversial. Some readers might feel they need to agree with everything an author writes to read the work. Sometimes, I feel that way if it’s a topic that I have strong feelings about and am committed to my position. Other times, as in this case, it’s thought-provoking to see issues from an involved person’s perspective (especially from an authentic voice) and to consider issues that don’t usually affect my life.

Memorable. I have the highest admiration for Bryan Stevenson and others like him who have sacrificed and served in areas in which I’m incapable of affecting change. The only thing I can do from the sidelines is to listen and support. Sometimes when I read, the experience is like looking into a mirror and other times it’s like looking through a window.  This is a definite window read for me. I’m here to learn.

Thoughtful Quote. Although a difficult read on many levels, Just Mercy is one of those books I can say I’m glad I’ve read. I appreciate the focus on children who commit crimes (not to excuse them but to bring compassion and understanding into the situation):

“When these basic deficits that burden all children are combined with the environments that some poor children experience–environments marked by abuse, violence, dysfunction, neglect, and the absence of a loving caretaker–adolescence can leave kids vulnerable to the sort of extremely poor decision making that results in violence.”

As a teacher, this quote reminds me of how important mental health services and intervention programs are to all school children (especially starting with elementary aged children).

Recommended. Even though Just Mercy has been on the best seller list for a couple of years, it’s a worthy read I’m urging you not to miss. Recommended for readers who are interested in social justice, for those serving in legal or social services professions, for readers who enjoy books about current issues (such as incarceration rates of African-American youth, the death penalty, etc.), and for all who are challenged by reading issue-centered books about thought-provoking topics from an insider’s perspective and an authentic voice. Bryan Stevenson is someone I’d like you to meet because he is an influential, courageous, inspirational, determined, and visionary person that will be celebrated, respected, and honored for years to come.

Your Voice. I’d like to invite reviewers to leave a review link for Just Mercy in the comments if you are a POC or Own Voices reviewer.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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just-mercy.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Mercy

Meet the Author, Bryan Stevenson

bryan stevensonBryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

Bryan Stevenson Ted Talk

Just Mercy movie in the works

Bryan Stevenson Wikipedia

Review: Just Mercy

September 14, 2018

An inspirational memoir of courage ….. determination ….. vision …..

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

just mercy 2

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Memoir, African-American, Judicial System, Criminal Procedure, Politics and Social Sciences

Summary:

Named one of the Best Books of the Year by The New York Times • The Washington Post • The Boston Globe • The Seattle Times • Esquire • Time

In this compelling and engaging memoir, Bryan Stevenson shares true stories about founding the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice established to defend those most desperate and in need (the underrepresented, poor, wrongly condemned, women, and youth trapped for life in the criminal justice system). In addition to detailing his experience as a young lawyer confronting political machines, fighting prejudice, and accepting challenging cases, Stevenson works determinedly and thinks deeply about mercy, true justice, and compassion.

Listen to Bryan Stevenson summarize his ideas in his own words: Bryan Stevenson Ted Talk

Just Mercy movie: filming in Montgomery.

Amazon Rating (September): 4.8

My Thoughts:

Compelling. Just Mercy is a compelling and engaging read in that it’s inspirational to read about real people and their life work. Even though some of the legal jargon and proceedings are complex for me, I am mesmerized by the overall story of Bryan Stevenson and his lifelong passion for championing the legal defense of the most underrepresented and most desperate prisoners. Despite great personal hardship, he persisted.

Controversial. Some readers might feel they need to agree with everything an author writes to read the work. Sometimes, I feel that way if it’s a topic that I have strong feelings about and am committed to my position. Other times, as in this case, it’s thought-provoking to see issues from an involved person’s perspective (especially from an authentic voice) and to consider issues that don’t usually affect my life.

Memorable. I have the highest admiration for Bryan Stevenson and others like him who have sacrificed and served in areas in which I’m incapable of affecting change. The only thing I can do from the sidelines is to listen and support. Sometimes when I read, I look through a mirror and other times I look through a window.  This is a definite window read for me. I’m here to learn.

Thoughtful Quote. Although a difficult read on many levels, Just Mercy is one of those books I can say I’m glad I’ve read. I appreciated the focus on children who commit crimes (not to excuse them but to bring compassion and understanding into the situation):

“When these basic deficits that burden all children are combined with the environments that some poor children experience–environments marked by abuse, violence, dysfunction, neglect, and the absence of a loving caretaker–adolescence can leave kids vulnerable to the sort of extremely poor decision making that results in violence.”

As a teacher, this quote reminds me of how important mental health services and intervention programs are to all school children (especially starting with elementary aged children).

Recommended. Even though Just Mercy has been on the best seller list for a couple of years, it’s a worthy read I’m urging you not to miss. Recommended for readers who are interested in social justice, for those serving in legal or social services professions, for readers who enjoy books about current issues (such as incarceration rates of African-American youth, the death penalty, etc.), and for all who are challenged by reading issue-centered books about thought-provoking topics from an insider’s perspective and an authentic voice. Bryan Stevenson is someone I’d like you to meet because he is an influential, courageous, inspirational, determined, and visionary person that will be celebrated, respected, and honored for years to come.

Your Voice. I’d like reviewers to leave your review link in the comments if you are a POC or Own Voices reviewer.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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just-mercy.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Bryan Stevenson

bryan stevensonBryan Stevenson is the executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, and a professor of law at New York University Law School. He has won relief for dozens of condemned prisoners, argued five times before the Supreme Court, and won national acclaim for his work challenging bias against the poor and people of color. He has received numerous awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.

Bryan Stevenson Ted Talk

Just Mercy movie in the works

Bryan Stevenson Wikipedia



Happy Reading Book Worms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read all but three on the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

This week I’m reading two ARCs (advanced reader copies) of The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman and Virgil Wander by Leif Enger (author of Peace Like a River). I’m planning an extra blog post soon highlighting three recently read ARCS.

lieutenant's nurse

virgil wander



A Link I Love

Are you a fan of the Enneagram types or Winnie the Pooh? Check out this post that explores the Enneagram type of each character in the Hundred Acre Wood:  Kendra Nicole: My World In Reviews: The Enneagram in the Hundred Acre Wood.



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Do you enjoy issue-centered, thought-provoking memoirs? Have you read Just Mercy?
(kind and considerate comments are appreciated….others will be deleted or not approved)

Are you looking ahead to fall reading? I have quite a fall TBR list that I’m eager to share with you next Tuesday for Top Ten Tuesday!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

 

 

 

 

Tell Me More

summer

Happy August!

I hope your summer has been delightful and that it’s brought you many great reads and many opportunities for the best kind of Laziness! As summer winds down, I have an easy and light reading recommendation for you.



August 17, 2018

Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan

tell me more

Genre/Categories: Memoir, Biographical, Humor, Self Help

Summary:

In these various personal essays, popular author Kelly Corrigan explores the power of words to make a difference in our lives. Throughout the engaging and thoughtful collection of stories, there runs a theme of grief as she learns to accept the loss of her father and best friend. Each chapter includes humorous, insightful, and poignant reflections revolving around the roles she plays as a parent, a spouse, a survivor, a daughter, a sibling, a seeker, and a best friend.

Amazon Rating (August): 4.6 Stars

My Thoughts:

Some of you might be a fan of Kelly Corrigan’s work having enjoyed The Middle Place, Glitter and Glue, or Lift. The only one I have read that I can compare Tell Me More with is The Middle Place, and I liked Tell Me More better.

Corrigan excels in story telling and Tell Me More can be quickly read or you can make it last by reading just one self-contained chapter a day. Chapter topics include the freedom of saying “no,” the joy of saying “yes,” the compassionate listener saying “tell me more” the wisdom of saying “I was wrong” in place of “I’m sorry,” the honesty of admitting “I don’t know,” realizing that we’re “good enough,” pressing “onward” through grief, etc. Important themes include faith, friendship, and grief.

Kelly comes from a religious family, and one aspect I appreciate about her reflections is her honesty in the journey of reconciling her childhood experience with her own adult faith. A seeker, she honestly acknowledges that “I don’t know” if there’s a God.

Reading Kelly Corrigan is like listening to your best friend chat across the table over coffee. The chapter in which she lists her “yeses” is enjoyable and reminds us that we have so much good in our lives. She inspires me to make a list, too. I find that I can go on and on and on with this list….so many wonderful reasons to say “yes.” Here’s a portion of my list. Perhaps it will inspire you to make your own list.

Yes

Yes to Hawaiian vacations…..Yes to Labrador companionship…..Yes to reading…..Yes to spontaneous hugs from the “grands,”…..Yes to long, leisurely lunches with friends…..Yes to gently windy days…..Yes to rain storms…..Yes to warm chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies…..Yes to a tall, cold glass of Diet Dr. Pepper…..Yes to movies…..Yes to epic sunflowers…..Yes to blogging…..Yes to flip flops…..Yes to take out…..Yes to popcorn…..Yes to gardening…..Yes to expansive and glorious old shade trees…..Yes to South Dakota farmland…..Yes to guacamole…..Yes to Jesus…..Yes to a nap…..Yes to heated car seats…..Yes to Panera Bread…..Yes to any request from my adult children…..Yes to daffodils…..Yes to fireworks displays…..Yes to In ‘N Out (looking at you California)…..Yes to marching bands……Yes to libraries and book stores…..Yes to picnics…..Yes to Laguna Beach…..Yes to lifelong friendships…..Yes to a phone call with Mom…..Yes to newborn babies…..Yes to walk off home runs…..Yes to book clubs…..Yes to the Olympics…..

What are your favorite ways to say Yes?

Recommended. I recommend Tell Me More for fans of Kelly Corrigan, for readers who are looking for an easy, engaging, thought-provoking, lighter read this summer, and for those who enjoy reflective memoirs.

My Rating: 4 Stars
(based on this being a stand out in a genre I tend to avoid)

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Tell Me More

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Kelly Corrigan

kelly corriganKelly Corrigan is, more than anything else, the mother of two young girls. While they’re at school, Kelly writes a newspaper column, the occasional magazine article, and possible chapters of a novel. She is also the creator of CircusOfCancer.org, a website to teach people how to help a friend through breast cancer. Kelly lives outside San Francisco with her husband, Edward Lichty.



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



A Link I Love

 Did you watch Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society release on Netflix?! 

I loved it! Tell me what you thought in comments.



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read a good portion of the list (crossing off two more next week), some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

Next Friday, I hope to bring you a review of I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon. (I’m distracted by several books at the moment)

I was anastasia

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

What are you reading this week? Have you enjoyed some extra reading time in August? How are you doing on your Summer TBR goals? What did you think of the Guernsey movie?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

 

Rash: A Memoir

April 20, 2018

Rash: A Memoir
by Lisa Kusel

Rash 2

Genre/categories: memoir, Indonesia, travel, expat

Summary:

In the midst of living a comfortable life in California, Lisa Kusel encourages her husband to consider a teaching position at an international school in Bali. In six weeks, the family makes a “rash” and radical move to “paradise.” Looking for happiness and inspiration for writing, all Lisa finds in Bali are challenges that threaten her peace of mind, her marriage, her husband’s professional happiness, and her daughter’s safety. Throughout her candid, engaging, and well-told memoir, Lisa explores the difficulties of relocation and assimilation into a different culture and the pursuit of happiness. Adding to the pressure, Lisa’s husband’s position as a teacher in a start up international school is not all that had been promised. Will Lisa find happiness? Amazon (early reviews) 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

“Eat, Love, Pray” gone wrong…

The grass is always greener…

No matter where you go, there you are…

Privilege….

Memoirs always intrigue me! Thank you to Lisa Kusel for sending me her memoir in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

How many times have we each thought how much happier we’d be if only…. If only I had a different house….. If only I could lose 10 pounds….. If only I could take a vacation this year…… If only I could win the lottery…..  If only…..

This was Lisa’s frame of mind as she contemplated a move to Bali:

“I would reinvest myself. I would find contentment. I would be present. Victor and I would fall in love all over again. Bali would make that happen. Bali. How tropical and flowery that sounded. Yes, if we moved to Bali, all would be light and golden and I’d……..

I think if I moved to Bali, I’d learn how to stop searching for something new all the time and be grateful for what I have.”

Although I have enough life experience to predict where this memoir would likely lead, I was pleasantly surprised by the conversational, casual, chatty, and witty writing style. Lisa has an incredible ability to tell an engaging story filled with humorous details and vivid descriptions. Reading it felt like meeting her for coffee and hearing the story in person. On a few occasions, I laughed out loud. My only difficulty with the narrative was her use of profanity. I realize that this is a personal preference and that other readers may be fine with it; however, I prefer to experience a more limited use of profanity in my reading.

Readers who have expat experiences or have visited Bali (not the resorts) may find this memoir especially interesting as Lisa provides a great deal of cultural details and observations in her honest and reflective narrative.

While Lisa’s husband and five-year-old daughter take cultural adjustments in stride and try to make the best of a difficult and new situation, Lisa dwells in unhappiness. She fears that they might have made a “rash” decision to relocate to Bali but also worries that her daughter might develop a “rash” indicating dengue fever. Lisa’s excessive and persistent unhappiness and her inability to assimilate lead to tension in her marriage and a less than positive reputation among the locals and the school staff. Readers can appreciate her predicament based on her idea that moving to Bali would make her a happier person. Many of us realize that circumstances cannot provide real happiness because it’s an inner state of being. Can one choose to be happy in a difficult cultural environment and in a less than ideal living situation?

I appreciate the author’s honest reflections and her struggle toward rediscovering happiness:

“When had I stopped being just happy? …..  I’d been moody. Too quick to anger and accusation. I was often a dark presence, hovering over Victor’s life like a bitch balloon; a Pigpen cloud of ugliness following me around. Sometimes, I remembered, no one, not even me, wanted to be with me……I no longer knew how to appreciate all that was good and beautiful in my life. I was stuck. Could that be why I was so desperate to move to Bali?”

Have you, too, chased happiness? I think the theme of happiness is one to which most us can relate. In my younger years, as a mom with littles, struggling along trying to make ends meet on my husband’s meager salary, I remember thinking one Sunday that if only we had money to go to a fast food place for tacos after church (as many of my friends did) that I’d be happy. It seemed like that would be the secret to my happiness and a well-lived life. I wasn’t asking to win the lottery–just a few cheap tacos. I was sure that the happiness quotient of my life would greatly increase when we could drive through and get tacos after church instead of going home to make lunch. I clearly remember feeling cheated and miserably sorry for myself.

In addition to a theme of happiness, there is also the theme of cultural differences and privilege. As the author describes the Bali culture in great detail, readers can imagine themselves living in that environment. Lisa has a difficult time accepting the lack of air conditioning and flushing toilets, windowless huts, inadequate medical care, spotty electricity and internet, etc that she is privileged to have access to in the U.S. I follow the blog of a missionary in Haiti and she often writes about her happiness and contentment factor and cultural assimilation as she reflects on safety concerns and what her family may be missing by not living in the U.S. Her family proactively works on creating experiences within the Haiti culture that will meet the needs of their growing family. I admire expats who experience a few rough years of adjustment in the beginning and can create a lifestyle of contentment and happiness despite very difficult circumstances. Lisa reminds us of the challenge.

“I must stop looking to others for happiness. It’s right here, always available for the taking, and I have to stop blaming Victor and the rest of the planet’s inhabitants for any and all that goes wrong. There was only this one moment. This now. And I needed to embrace it.”

In the memoir, Lisa comes to an intellectual grasp of happiness; however, she falls short of showing the reader what that looks like in her life when she returns to the U.S. I wonder today if she is truly happy. Is she able to put into practice the insights she gained? Can happiness be learned through disciplined practice or will it always elude us?

Rash: A Memoir is recommended for readers who appreciate candid, reflective writing exploring themes of happiness and cultural differences, for expats (especially those who have lived or traveled in Bali), and for readers who love engaging memoirs.  ***Language***

My Rating: 4 Stars

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rash

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Lisa Kusel

lisa kuselLisa was born in New Jersey two miles from where Thomas Alva Edison first recorded sound. She went to college and studied biology and theater arts. She went to graduate school and studied environmental anthropology. After years of writing copy for non-profits, selling surplus cosmetics in Russia, and living off rich married men, she accepted an editorial position at that little-known Open Office competitor, Microsoft. There she created MATTER, the company’s first online magazine read by the 34 people who were patient enough to wait the twelve minutes it took the GIFs to download through their 56K modems.

She got married. Left Microsoft. Went to Africa. Moved back to California. She wrote two books: “Other Fish in the Sea” and “Hat Trick.” Wrote another one after that about WWII–not yet published. Then she moved to Bali to save her wounded marriage, and wrote a memoir about her time there. It’s called “Rash,” and it’s a funny poignant tale about a woman who mistakenly believes that running away to paradise is the only way to find true happiness.

She presently lives in Vermont, where she is writing her first young adult novel. Follow her writing at http://www.lisakusel.com. Feel free to drop her a line at lisakusel<@>gmail.com because she loves to hear other people’s stories.



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Extra:
The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel

room on rue Amelie

“Cruelty is the weapon of the ignorant.”

If you’re looking for an easy reading WW11 histfic selection, you might enjoy “The Room on Rue Amelie, a story of people who see injustice and have the courage to stand up and fight against it. For me, it was mediocre compared with other reads in the same genre. Although the dialogue could have been better written and the events better developed, the topic of rescuing downed English pilots over war town France was interesting and seemed to be well researched. I felt that the insta love story lines (2 of them!) were definite weak points of the story (insta love is more common in the YA genre and is usually stereotypical). Even though I would rate the writing 2.5 and skimmed several sections, I’ve rounded this to 3 stars for a compelling topic. Overall, it’s an enjoyable read.

My Rating: 3 stars

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Buy Here



Links I Love:

Modern Mrs Darcy: 15 Literary Novels That Will Have You Compulsively Turning The Pages
(How many have you read? Even though this genre is made up, it’s my favorite: great unputdownable literature!  I’ve read 6 on the list [some I liked better than others: e.g Homegoing, The Mothers, and Little Fires were my favorites; I DNF Americanah]. I would add News of the World to this list!)

The Novel Endeavor: A Gift Giving Round-Up For Book Lovers



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be highlighting my favorite, most compelling character from my April reading and offering a Link Up opportunity.



Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading!

What are your reflections on finding happiness? Do you think it’s found within or can it be chased?

A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety

February 16. 2018

A Way Out: A Memoir of Conquering Depression and Social Anxiety
by Michelle Balge

A Way Out

Genre/categories: nonfiction, memoir, mental health

Thank you Michelle Balge for an ARC (advance reader’s copy) of A Way Out. I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Summary:

Through memoir format, Michelle Balge shares her personal experiences towards conquering depression and social anxiety. It’s a story of Michelle’s perseverance,  fighting spirit, determination, hardships, courage through the ups and downs of treatment, and bravery as she strives to live a productive and fulfilling life with a mental health diagnosis. She holds nothing back (*trigger warnings) and in her own truthful words, she shares “about the hardship of living with mental illness, the road to recovery, and the spaces in-between.”

My Thoughts:

***trigger warnings*** If reading this book causes anxiety, please connect with someone to talk.

A personal memoir is extremely powerful as it helps readers build compassion and understanding and helps us all not to feel so alone in the world. There were many times in reading her story that I thought “Oh, I’ve felt that way, too!” Or thought that as a teacher, I have observed students with similar patterns.

I  deeply appreciate Michelle’s transparency and honesty in sharing her story from early childhood to present day. As she relates her story, she gives special emphasis to the signs and symptoms which are invaluable to parents, guardians, caregivers, teachers, etc. Some of the symptoms she excellently articulates include speech and comprehension becoming slower, early bedtime, lack of appetite, staying in her room, risky behavior, feelings of guilt, extreme shyness, overly worried about making mistakes, etc.  Most of these are symptoms we’ve seen listed in textbooks or pamphlets; however, hearing about them in her own words as she experienced them is a powerful aspect of her story.

Of the myriad strategies she tried, a few seemed particularly helpful for her: group therapy, meditation music, an accountability partner (friend) whom she promised to contact if she felt like she might hurt herself, and becoming involved at college with a mental health awareness group for which she “won the Spirit of Brock medal for the one undergraduate student who best exemplified the spirit of Sir Isaac Brock through their courage, inspiration, leadership, innovation, and community involvement.” I was struck by the fact that being a highly sensitive person who didn’t want to hurt or disappoint others kept her from hurting herself on many occasions. This was a powerful section of the book that helped me realize the value of close family and friend relationships and connections for any person struggling with depression and anxiety.

Her personal memoir is a story I will never forget and I’m honored to have read it. I rooted for Michele through every sentence, paragraph, and page as she grew to love and value herself, tried various strategies and medications, and ultimately realized what a special gift she is. Her story brings hope for many living with depression and social anxiety.

Michele’s mantra: “Continuing to do my best is the most I can do, and the most I can do is good enough.”

An especially important section in this book is the list of strategies and resources that Michelle used and found helpful and included for others at the end. Also helpful in reading Michele’s story is hearing that she lied to a therapist in the reporting of the severity of her mental health symptoms. This puts more responsibility on concerned adults and friends to act on and trust their careful observations and provide intervention.

One Important Take Away. As a teacher, (she said stepping on her soap box) I strongly feel that we can do more for children at a young age whom we observe struggling with extreme shyness and other social anxieties. How much easier it would be on everyone to provide strategies for intervention during the formative elementary school years. During my teaching years, I stayed in close contact with our site psychologist and/or counseling intern and referred many students to a professional to address red flags that concerned me. My regret is that I could not have referred more children for mental health services….students with extreme shyness…..students who are bullied…..students who live with traumatic family dynamics…..students who are loners…..etc. I am a strong advocate for early and accessible mental health services. I see this as one of the most important and urgent needs in our public schools. A lack of mental health services is an area that I felt most frustrated with as a teacher.

Heartfelt thanks to Michelle for sharing her story with the world! Her goal in writing this is “to help people who are struggling with their own mental illnesses and show them that there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel.” Her story is so important to read that I think every psychology and/or counseling student needs to have her memoir right alongside their textbooks.

Recommended. Highly recommended for individuals who might be traveling the same journey of depression and social anxiety as Michelle (her  experience and strategies might be helpful), for ALL teachers and/or professionals that work with children or young adults, for ALL counselors, counseling interns, psychology students, and psychologists, for parents who are concerned about signs and symptoms, and for ALL readers who seek to gain understanding and compassion in the field of mental health.

My Rating: 5 Brave Stars

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A Way Out

Preorder and/or Buy Here    Release Date: 2/27/18

About the Author, Michelle Balge

michelle balgeMichelle Balge is a mental health advocate, web designer, and animal lover. She has won awards thanks to her dedication to mental health, and has spoken about her experiences to students, the community, and professionals in the field. Michelle holds an Honours BA in Sociology with a Concentration in Critical Animal Studies, and will receive a Web Design Graduate Certificate in June, 2018. She was born and raised in Ontario, Canada, with a taste of city and small-town life.

For more info, visit michellebalge.com.


Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Looking Ahead:

I’m continuing to read Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser (from my 2018 TBR).

Prairie Fires

Amazon information here

Join me next Friday (2/23) for February’s Most Memorable Character link up! 
Reviews of “As Bright as Heaven” and “Out of the Dust” coming soon!
What are you reading this week?


The BUZZ

A Wrinkle in Time coming to theaters on March 9! 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society coming to theaters April 20! 



Sharing is Caring

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

If you are a mental health professional or someone concerned about mental health, would you consider sharing my review of Michelle’s book with a colleague or friend?



Let’s Discuss!

I’m eager to hear your comments about this week’s review.

If you are a mental health professional, can you envision this being useful for your clients?

What are you reading this week?

This Must Be the Place

January 12, 2018

Complex, complicated, and multi layered…

This Must Be the Place
by Maggie O’Farrell

This Must Be the Place 2

Genre: Literary Fiction

Summary:

This Must Be the Place is a story of a collapsing and reawakening marriage.  Daniel, a young American professor, travels to Ireland on holiday and family business and to stabilize his life after a failed marriage and a difficult custody battle. By chance, he meets Claudette, a world-famous actress who dramatically left the public eye for a reclusive life in a rural Irish village. Daniel and Claudette fall in love and create an idyllic life in the country and have two children of their own. A secret from Daniel’s past threatens to destroy their carefully constructed and quiet, happy life. As Daniel leaves to make peace with his past and himself, he also reunites with the American son and daughter he has not seen for several years. His story is told from his own voice and other multiple voices as he wrestles with the complexities of loyalty and devotion, family, and an extraordinary love. Amazon Rating (January): 4.2 Stars

My Thoughts:

At first I was less than enthusiastic about the book and set it aside on multiple occasions. Although the writing was beautiful, the structure was complicated and jarring as the story jumped perspectives and time periods. If I wanted to continue with the book, I knew I had to focus and invest some hard reading work. Somewhere around 50%, the persistence paid off and I started enjoying my reading experience. After that switch in my attitude, I grew to admire this complex and multi layered literary fiction work.

If you’re looking for a challenging and complex read and appreciate literary fiction, you might consider this book. I think what I enjoyed the most was the fully developed character study of a complex and flawed human being who really is trying to get things right in his life. If you’re in the mood for something light and easy reading, you might want to skip this one.

As always in well-written literature, I appreciate the meaningful themes presented. In this read, you will find substantial themes that include family relationships, choices, love, regret, and courage to make changes. Daniel is certainly a flawed character; however, I appreciate his determination to do the hard work in his life of becoming sober to work toward regaining that which is most important to him.

I read this book as part of the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club and this is how she applied one concept in the book to her personal life.

My rating: 4 stars (based on my analysis after the half way point)
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This Must be the Place

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Maggie O’Farrell

Maggie OFarrell

MAGGIE O’FARRELL is the author of four previous novels, including the acclaimed The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, which was a B&N Recommends Pick, and After You’d Gone. Born in Northern Ireland in 1972, O’Farrell grew up in Wales and Scotland. She has two children.

 

 

 



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society



Extras: Links I Love

Are you interested in Christian Fiction? Check out The Caffeinated Bibliophile: If You Loved This, Read This book recommendations.

Are you an educator or work in an environment that promotes children’s literacy? Check out The Loud Library: Best Faculty Meeting Ever post. She is a literacy leader and I know you’ll be inspired!

For all things children’s books, check out Miss MaGee’s Reads: A Literacy Blog. She’s a third grade teacher who provides reviews for all the newest and greatest in children’s literature.



Looking Ahead:

This week I’m reading Left Neglected (an inspiring story of a woman living with a traumatic brain injury) by Lisa Genova (author of Still Alice). 

Left Neglected

Amazon Information Here

What are you reading this week?



Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



Let’s Discuss!

What are you reading this week?

Wait Till Next Year

This book is loads of fun for baseball fans (especially Dodgers, Yankees, or Giants fans)! (Might even be a great Christmas gift!)

baseball, glove, bat

From loyal baseball fans, the refrain “Wait Until Next Year!” can often be heard after suffering a disappointing loss. In fact, it was after the Dodgers’ loss in Game 7 of the recent World Series that a fan vehemently shouted these exact words captured by a reporter’s microphone and camera. At that time, I was reminded of Goodwin’s book that had been on my TBR list for some time and that it had been declared one of my husband’s favorite reads last year. In honor of the recent, well-played, and highly spirited 2017 World Series, I decided it’s timely to read and review this popular memoir.

Wait Till Next Year
by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Wait Till Next Year

Genre/categories: Biography, memoir, baseball, small town life

Summary:

Doris Kearns Goodwin writes an endearing memoir of growing up in the late 40s and 50s as family, baseball, neighborhood, and church provided the secure and stable foundation for her life. Memorably, her Long Island neighborhood was divided between Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees fans. Through baseball she learned how to tell a great narrative and to keep hope alive, from her mom she grew to appreciate the joy of reading, and from her father she experienced the joys and disappointments of baseball. During the Dodgers’ scrappy early years, Doris and her father were ardent and loyal fans and they lived out the slogan “wait until next year” over and over again.

“It was that October [of the’49 World Series] that I first understood the pain, bravado, and prayer woven into the simple slogan that served Dodgers fans as a recurring anthem: ‘Wait till next year.’ ”    ~Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris tells of meeting baseball heroes, of nail-biting games, of having to confess at Confession that she wished the other team’s players would be injured so Dodgers could win, of the exciting World Series win in 1955, and of her sorrow as the Dodgers left Brooklyn in 1957.  She was so devastated by the loss of her team that she avoided baseball for years after the Dodgers left, and when she was convinced as a young adult to attend a Red Sox game, she transferred her loyalties, started keeping score again, and passed on her love of the game to her son. In addition to the loss of the Dodgers, she also tells of the loss of her mother at an early age.  Amazon Rating (November): 4.5 Stars.

My Thoughts:

Doris Kearns Goodwin is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, a role model for women, and well-known and respected for her presidential biographies . Some may know her from the Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary on PBS.

This is more than a great memoir; it’s a nostalgic, tender, humorous, and kind-hearted reflection on family and suburban living, current events, and social issues in the late 40s, 50s, and 60s. She describes a time when baseball was the national pastime, when parents didn’t worry about their children playing outside until dark, when children knew all the local shopkeepers, and ran in and out of their friends’ homes throughout the long summer days. She bonded with her father by learning to keep score in an official score book and then recounting the game for him (like an announcer) when he arrived home from work. Kearns Goodwin enjoyed a special relationship with her father (described later) and this helped form her interests, abilities, and skills as a historian and story-teller. In addition, as a youngster with spunk and an activist spirit, she devised a plan for her entire neighborhood to seek shelter in case of a bomb during the Cold War, and she wrote a heartfelt letter to President Eisenhower during the Little Rock Nine desegregation crisis.

Kearns Goodwin was encouraged to discover that her hope in the next game and the next season (wait till next year) could be applied to life in general and this idea helped her gain hope after the devastating loss of her mother.

Thoughts From the Hubs:

My husband thoroughly enjoyed Kearns Goodwin’s memoir because he loves history and because he spent his early years in New York and some of his fondest memories are listening to baseball games on the radio and attending a few games with his grandfather. Also, he’s an ardent baseball fan. He wants readers to know that if you’re not a die-hard baseball fan or the mere mention of baseball’s greatest players are less than thrilling, you can still enjoy this memoir because it’s about so much more than baseball. My husband suggests that for Kearns Goodwin, her memoir describes the excitement of an era where family life is centered around parents and small town communities, and the pursuit of the American Dream, including corner store business opportunities for entrepreneurs, first time home ownership, and later, the purchase of a television. Children strongly identified with their parents’ opportunities and pleasures and were brought into an adult world via sports, not so much for children to pursue their own opportunities but for them to appreciate and imitate character traits and to identify with the opportunities of others. Her father quietly used love of the game, the discipline of record keeping, loyalty to the team, and attention to detail to shape her character. Loyalty was a virtue alongside the American Dream…loyalty to family and friends and teams. Her early life was local and very much centered in the town and neighborhood in which she lived. Her self concept and self-worth were tied into her role in the family, her Catholic religion, and her team.

“I was a Catholic, a resident of Southard Avenue, a Dodgers fan,
a Rockville Centre girl.”     ~Doris Kearns Goodwin

My husband’s rating: 5 Stars.

Recommended?

I enthusiastically and highly recommend Wait Till Next Year for readers who love reading about a curious, enthusiastic, highly spirited, and thoughtful girl, who appreciate the retelling of history from a personal perspective, for baseball fans, and for those who love a well written memoir. It is sobering to think about her memoir next to J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy because they certainly didn’t share the same types of experiences. My Rating: 4 Stars

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Wait Till Next Year

Buy Here.

Meet the Author, Doris Kearns Goodwin

Doris Kearns GoodwinDoris Kearns Goodwin won the Pulitzer Prize in history for No Ordinary Time, which was a bestseller in hardcover and trade paper. She is also the author of Wait Till Next Year, The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys, and Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream. She lives in Concord, Massachusetts, with her husband, Richard Goodwin. More information here: http://www.doriskearnsgoodwin.com/

 

 


Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society


Extras:

Readers might be interested to know that two books I have reviewed on the blog were recently listed in the ‘top 20 books for far in 2017’ according to Amazon editors.

Ginny Moon (review)

Beartown (review)

In other news, will you be seeing Murder on the Orient Express this weekend?! Have you read the book?

Murder on the Orient Express

Book Information Here.

Movie Trailer Here.

Last, Wonder is soon to be released! (November 17) I can’t wait!

Wonder

Review Here.

Movie Trailer Here.

 


Looking Ahead!

Gah! I indicated last week that I had planned to read The Other Alcott….it’s still on my TBR and planned for a future review. In my reading life, I operate better from Inspiration than Demand. I do indicate all my current reads on Goodreads if you want to see what I’ve listed there. This is all to say that next week remains undecided. Except that on Tuesday I’m working on a special blog post titled “Top Ten Books I hope My Grandchildren Read.” (You might glean some ideas for children’s or young adult’s gifts!)


Sharing is Caring!

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow. This week we reached approximately 2,000 overall views! Thank you!


Let’s Discuss!

Have you read Wait Till Next Year? I’d love to hear your reflections.

Will you be seeing Wonder or Murder on The Orient Express in theaters?

What are you currently reading?

 

Hillbilly Elegy

August 18, 2017

Do you love memoirs?

Hillbilly Elegy
by J. D. Vance

Hillbilly Elegy

“I want people to understand what happens in the lives of the poor and the psychological impact
that spiritual and material poverty has
on their children.”

Genre: memoir, nonfiction, biography, sociology, poverty

Summary:

This is an observant, powerful, and sincere memoir about growing up in a poor white working class family in a poor Rust Belt town in Ohio. A Yale Law School graduate and a former marine, J. D. Vance was originally from Kentucky’s Appalachia region. His grandparents who were “dirt poor and in love” moved the family to Ohio in the hopes of escaping devastating poverty. Throughout the memoir, we learn that despite a geographical move, the family was never able to entirely escape the hillbilly culture of alcoholism, poverty, abuse, and trauma. Even though J. D. Vance beat the odds and graduated from law school, he still struggles to come to terms with his chaotic family history. The memoir is filled with detailed, humorous, dramatic, and colorful examples of what his life was like. Amazon Rating (August): 4.4 Stars.

My Thoughts:

Book clubs and friends could discuss this book for hours. The following personal thoughts represent only a few of the many discussion topics this book offers.

Love

Primarily, it struck me that the impact of his grandparents’ love affected his life. All through school, he was a bright student; however, when his grades started falling in middle school he states that it wasn’t the teachers or the school that was at fault, rather it was the chaos at home (living with his mom)  and in his community that affected his school performance. After he went to live with his grandparents officially, this is what he writes: “What I remember most of all is that I was happy–I no longer feared the school bell at the end of the day, I knew where I’d be living the next month, and no one’s romantic decisions [mom’s rotation of boyfriends or husbands] affected my life. And out of that happiness came so many of the opportunities I’ve had for the past twelve years.” J. D.’s description of the stability his grandparents offered him caused me to reflect on the importance of the home in a child’s life and education. His grandparents were certainly less than perfect, in fact they had serious flaws which would make one question his placement in their home. However, J. D. Vance lied to the case workers so that he would be ensured of being placed in their home because he didn’t think he could make it in life without their love and the stability they offered. Children can endure a lot if they feel loved. This doesn’t make the neglect right but it does make a difference. This reminds me of the story of Jeanette Walls in The Glass Castle…even though she suffered extreme neglect, I think she felt that both parents loved her which most likely made a great difference in her ability to achieve success. Another similarity between the authors is that both Jeanette and J. D. had an older supportive and nurturing sibling which added to the love and stability in their lives.

Upward Mobility and the Family

Hillbilly Elegy offers an in-depth look at the struggles of America’s white working class. J. D. Vance describes one incident when he was in a primary grade (I think 2nd but I don’t have the book here to look it up) that helped the reader think about how important  family support is in upward mobility. He recounts sitting in class while the teacher was asking students to solve mental math problems. He felt great about his answer and was delighted when the teacher recognized his brilliant thinking. However, the next student to offer an answer explained how “times” could be used to reach the same answer. J. D. was shaken. How did this child know about “times” when he had never heard about “times.” He knew it couldn’t have been taught at school because he would’ve remembered and learned it. After some thought, he realized that the child who knew about “times” must have learned it somewhere other than at school and realized he must have learned it at home. He offers this profound reflection, “There existed a massive ignorance about how to achieve white-collar work. We didn’t know that all across the country–and even in our hometown–other kids had already started a competition to get ahead in life.” As a result of his classroom experience, J. D. went home and asked his mom and grandparents why he didn’t know about “times,” and grandpa spent the weekend teaching him “times” and division. His point in explaining that situation is that the competition starts at home with the support and “extras” that parents offer. He realized as early as 2nd grade that his poor community was already finding it difficult to compete in this area.

No Blame for Public Schools

J. D. Vance is clear that neither public schools nor public school teachers were to blame for his declining grades in middle and high school. He describes the situation as follows: “We didn’t live a peaceful life in a small nuclear family. We lived a chaotic life in big groups of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins.” He describes again and again how this chaos affected his education, “The constant moving and fighting, the seemingly endless carousel of new people I had to meet, learn to love, and then forget–this, and not my sub par public school, was the real barrier to opportunity.” Officially moving in with his grandparents provided the stability he needed to succeed in school.

Optimism vs. Pessimism

J. D. Vance related throughout his stories the pessimism that permeated his community. Not only pessimism but blame. People he knew were always blaming someone else for their situation (the president, the government, taxes, etc.). When he came home from the military, one of his first observations was that he felt like an outsider, “For the first time in my life, I felt like an outsider in Middletown. And what turned me into an alien was my optimism.” He goes on to reflect that perhaps getting out of the community and entering the military and going away to college was the action he needed to take to achieve success, “It’s no surprise that every single person in my family who has built a successful home…married someone from outside our little culture.” The culture strongly defined by pessimism.

The Message From Home

Even though his chaotic childhood was filled with turmoil and trauma, J. D. Vance states, “Despite all the environmental pressures from my neighborhood and community, I received a different message at home [his grandparents’ home]. And that just might have saved me.”

Yay for grandparents!

Companion Reads

As I read Hillbilly Elegy I thought of two memoirs (among several) where the authors were able to rise above poverty and their communities: The Glass Castle and We Beat the Streets.  In The Glass Castle, we also see the hillbilly culture mentioned as Jeanette’s family moved in with her father’s mom in Appalachia. From this move, we see that the way her father treated his children could in part be due to an influence from the hillbilly culture. We Beat the Streets is a middle school read and I often referred my boys who were reading at grade level to this inspirational story about three kids who “beat the streets’ and became doctors. Theirs wasn’t a hillbilly culture but they were from a poor black community.  Information about The Three Doctors Foundation can be found here.

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot more to talk about in Hillbilly Elegy! If you read it, I’m certain you’ll need to discuss it. In fact, at times your discussions might be heated because of different reactions to one person’s analysis of a culture in crisis. I love that the insights and ideas in this book can be applied to communities around the United States. The discussion is much broader than simple hillbilly culture.

Finally, this book gave me additional insight into the chaotic lives of students at my Title 1 school. It’s difficult to learn when children are preoccupied with what drama is going on at home and in the community.

Recommended for women and men (especially those working with poor communities) for its thoughtful themes, discussion possibilities, and its ability to build empathy and understanding for different cultures and communities. Rating 4 stars.

Hillbilly Elegy

Buy Here

Meet the Author, J. D. Vance

J. D. Vance.jpg

J. D. Vance grew up in the Rust Belt city of Middletown, Ohio, and the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky. He enlisted in the Marine Corps after high school and served in Iraq. A graduate of the Ohio State University and Yale Law School, he has contributed to the National Review and is a principal at a leading Silicon Valley investment firm. Vance lives in San Francisco with his wife and two dogs.

Happy Reading Everyone!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

Looking Forward:

Next week, Reading Ladies will reflect on our reading roots…and in two weeks we’ll review Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate if you’d like to “buddy read.”  In three weeks I’ll review the long anticipated (at least by me!) Glass Houses, a new installment in the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny (release date: 8/29 …. happy birthday to me!)

Before we Were Yours

Buy Here

Please Share:

I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote and/or share my blog. It helps us grow.

Discussion:

Please share your reflections on Hillbilly Elegy in the comments section. Did any of the themes mentioned challenge you in your thinking? How does this book compare with other memoirs you’ve read with similar themes? In addition, I’d love to hear what you’re reading.