What I’ve Been Reading: April 2016
Light and quick and slightly predictable, but still a fun, sweet read. Full of good food, complicated family relationships, joy and sorrow, and working hard to fulfill your passion in life. This book made me so grateful that I get along well with my four sisters and that I have them for a deep support network now that we’re all grown up. Sisters are the best.
This books is a slim collection of essays written near the end of Sacks’ life. It’s short but powerful and inspiring. He eloquently describes what it’s like to reach the age of 82, receive a terminal diagnoses and look back at a long, successful, and important life. This quote sums up the feeling of the book beautifully:
“My predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved. I have been given much and I have given something in return. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.” —Oliver Sacks
Kelli Estes weaves together the stories of two women born nearly a century apart in this wonderful debut novel. It takes place in one of my favorite places on earth (Orcas Island, WA) and tells the heartbreaking and fascinating story of racism against Chinese people in the early days of Seattle. While there are some predictable plot points, the story is well told. I found myself swept away by the strength and courage exhibited by the two main characters.
I loved this award winning middle-grade historical novel set around the time of American Revolution. It paints a powerful picture of the life of a slave girl and her brave quest to find freedom. I feel like it’s a gentle approach to an extremely difficult subject, and I’m grateful to have books like this to help introduce my children to horrible periods in history. I’m sure this will spark deep conversations with my kids. We’ll be studying this time period in our homeschool this summer and this book is definitely going to be on my 11 year old’s reading list.
Alan Cumming’s childhood story of abuse is heartbreaking. He shares his experiences in a matter-of-fact way, which somehow makes it even more sad to me. I appreciated reading about his struggle to work through his difficult past. It was not a quick recovery and he’s open and forthcoming about that. Recovery is often glazed over in memoirs of this nature, but he lays out the battling emotions he felt and the slow progress he made. Not only is his story of overcoming a brutal childhood inspiring, but he’s woven in stories of his unknown grandfather and the fascinating discoveries the researchers of a genealogy reality show made to help Alan uncover his past.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
This memoir told in verse was absolutely beautiful. It won a Newbery Honor for good reason. As I was reading it, I found myself pondering why stories told in verse seem so much more powerful to me than prose. The answer I ultimately decided on is that they feel like each word is chosen carefully and intentionally. There is no filler or fluff and that leads to a very strong narrative. Especially in the case of Brown Girl Dreaming. As soon as I read the last page I immediately handed it to my 11 year old daughter to read. She devoured it in a day. It’s a coming-of-age story and a civil-rights story and a testament to the power of family all rolled into one. Just amazing.