Texts From Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg

Texts From Jane Eyre is another very witty and clever book that I highly recommend for a change of pace and a good laugh. The book is comprised of short “screenshots” of text conversations between some of literature’s most memorable characters and authors, including Jane Eyre (hence the title), some done in a modern style and some retaining their classic voices.

Because it’s such a short book and again, I don’t want to spoil it for you, here are just a few classic characters you will “chat” with:

  • Circe:
    • “where did the pigs come from Circe?”
    • “i don’t know, a pig farm, a pig mommy and a pig daddy who loved each other very much…”
  • Jane Eyre:
    • “I KNEW IT. DID YOU LEAVE BECAUSE OF MY ATTIC WIFE IS THAT WHAT THIS IS ABOUT”
    • “yes. Absolutely.”
  • Hamlet:
    • “darling i don’t mean to criticize but you really hurt your father’s feelings last night”
    • “hes not my real dad. why do you even like him”
  • Nancy Drew:
    • “do you think you can come get me?”
    • “are you tied up again?”
    • “i’m just over at the cave by the old mill”
    • “so you’re tied up…in a cave.”

If you giggled at any one (or all!) of these, then you’ll really enjoy the rest. It’s a perfect way to get to “connect” with some of your favorite literary characters in one place. It’s fast paced, light fare, and well worth checking out!

 

 

 

 

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Banned & Challenged Books Week

Hi Everyone! I’m blogging outside the box today because it is #BannedBooksWeek! I decided to do a little research on the honorary week, and suggest you check out the American Library Association (ALA) list of banned and challenged books!

I did so myself, and wasn’t surprised at what I saw on the banned books list- mostly books that were ahead of their time or had controversial points of view. As it is, some of these are still talked about in controversy! What did surprise me is that I read most of these novels between middle and high school ages- formative years. Each one has broadened my understanding of the time periods, taught me to see both sides of conflicts and resolutions, helped me sort where my moral values stand, and fueled my love for historical fiction!

Banned Classics:

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Ulysses, by James Joyce
1984, by George Orwell
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
The Call of the Wild, by Jack London

Then we reach the challenged books. This list really surprised me. I know I read about a third of these before I even entered middle school, and I haven’t read any of these post high school graduation. To think of a child reading challenged books- *gasp*! Of course, when I skimmed through the entire selection of challenged books, I understand many of them had adult themes- sex, mostly, but also drugs, violence, strong language and other controversial content that would make any movie “Rated R”. But some of these on my list- Junie B. Jones, REALLY?!- were shocking.

Challenged 1990-2009:

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine

The Witches, by Roald Dahl

Blubber, by Judy Blume

The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling

James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume

Carrie, by Stephen King

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

 

So there you have it- I’m completely guilty of reading these books, and I’m thankful that I’ve had the freedom- AND HAVE BEEN ENCOURAGED- to read them all. I think that reading has helped me become the mature, well-rounded, educated woman that I am, and every book has allowed me to open my mind, experience life through someone else, and ingrained the moral of the stories into my body. I’ll always carry a bit of Scout, Scarlett, Ponyboy , Harry and the trio, Tom and Huck, and Gatsby and Daisy… all of them along within me. And, above all, I encourage others to do the same- to learn from these characters, to express their thoughts and ideas, and to keep their minds open.

Now, it’s your turn! Feel free to share what banned books you’ve read!

 

 

Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls by Jes Baker

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last year or two (and if you have and are now reading this, welcome welcome), you’ve probably heard of the term “body positivity”.  It’s based on the crazy, outlandish notion that all bodies are worthy of social acceptance. Of course, I’m being facetious- this is the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard of, and I’m dying to spread the word.

As a fat girl, I have always had difficulty with loving my body just as it is. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been conscious of my weight and the scrutiny of what others thought about it. I remember dieting by the time I was in third grade. In retrospect, there have been so many times where I’ve looked at old pictures of myself, despite at the time hating the numbers on the scale even back then, and wishing I could look like I did 5, 10 years ago. And above all, it’s always been something I didn’t really want to talk about. I’m not a big “let’s talk about our feelings” kind of girl…I’m still trying to figure out why, but honestly I’ve always been really protective of talking about my personal baggage. I always took it as, it’s mine and mine alone to carry.

Thankfully, I’ve been really fortunate in that I’ve surrounded myself with some really amazing people who have loved me at every size, and they’ve always given me the confidence booster I needed when I was having a ‘bad body’ day. They see me for me, and know my weight doesn’t change how much I love them or what I would do for them, and visa versa. One of those amazing people includes my awesome friend, Althea, who told me about this blog, called The Militant Baker – let me tell you how much that has helped me.

Hang in there- I promise there is a reason for this back story!

So I’ve linked to her blog, but in short Jes Baker is a very strong and active advocate for body positivity, for both women, men and everyone in between! Seeing her posts and advice and colorful commentary (she loves to swear/curse- I find it hilarious and charming, though I acknowledge others may feel differently) really made me think about how I view my body and interact with others around me. Things like, I didn’t need to lose weight to love my body just as it is; That others weren’t going to die or whatever if I wore a sleeveless shirt or horizontal stripes out in public; That I had the right to dance, run, jump, and move however my body wanted to without worrying if I was horrifying others with my jiggly bits. Again, I’ve spent sooo much time within my head going over the ‘fat girls can’t” rules that they became a running commentary that I conditioned myself to work around- and because of that, I spent a lot of time trying to hide that reasoning, or even worse joking about it and keeping that negativity going. When Althea said, hey check out this blog, I didn’t realize that I could begin freeing myself from this inner dialogue, and how AMAZING that felt.

Alright already, enough about me, let’s get to the book!

SO, when I learned that Baker decided to write a book, I knew I just had to read it. It’s been on my TBR pile long before I even knew what a TBR pile was. So when I finally got my hands on it, I tore through it, flagging every other page or so, and I’ve decided to share with you 10 (even thought I could easily triple that!) nuggets that blew my mind:

  1. “The word “pretty”, when used to describe a woman’s physical appearance, signifies a physical ideal that’s fabricated by companies to make you believe you’ll never be enough until you reach it. Pretty is what they want you to believe in.” Think about that for a second- how many times have you seen a product boasting it’s ability to make you pretty/beautiful/younger, etc. It’s a money scam!
  2. “81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat (more than cancer, war, or losing both of their parents). In a survey of 9- and 10-year-old girls, 40% have tried to lose weight. 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting. And, 5% of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media.” If those statistics don’t make your jaw drop, then I don’t know what will.
  3. “Your life is not going to become happier, more amazing, or more successful after you lose those 10lbs. Or 20lbs. Or 50lbs. Because the pounds aren’t really the issue. Your state of mind is.” How many times have you heard this? After 10 lbs, I’ll (fill in the blank.) Yeah, I’m so over that.
  4. “Diet culture is the reason weight loss is at the top of everyone’s New Year’s resolutions lists. Everyone hates dieting, but we still feel this thrill when we eat a carrot or get our dressing on the sides.” When she explains this, I just kept repeating “ohmygawd” to myself. Like, the whole chapter. Which by the way has a hilarious and high five worthy title that I’ll let you all find for yourselves!
  5. A la Marie Kondo- “This applies to the beauty standards we were raised with. I’m going to challenge you to mentally pick up each rule you’ve been taught and ask yourself: Does this bring me joy?” I LOVE THIS THOUGHT. Do tank tops bring me joy? Yes- keep. Clothes that I’m “someday going to fit into?” No- toss. Eating healthy? Yes! Keeping a food journal & counting calories? NO!
  6. “One study showed that over 50% of primary care physicians viewed fat patients as “awkward”, “unattractive”, and “noncompliant”. In another study, 45% of a sample of physicians agreed they have a negative reaction to fat individuals.” She then goes on to talk about how doctors tend to only see the weight and not the actual health problem- which I have witnessed first hand thanks to a little known thing called Factor 2 Blood Mutation. It’s a wonder why people are afraid to go to the doctor- we can’t just go in and get a cure for our sinus infection without the addition of being told to lose some weight.
  7. “We all deserve the same amount of opportunity, respect, health care, education, life, love, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness regardless of our size, shade, shape, sex, gender, level of ability, and health records.” She said I could quote her on it in the book, so I did not only because of that, but because I believe she is 100% correct in this statement.
  8. “If you were to fill a room with women of all shapes and sizes, most of those women would have cellulite. Because, it’s totally and completely normal. Why don’t men have as much cellulite? Well, (1) their skin is thicker so it shows less, and (2) they store more fat around their organs instead of between the skin and muscle like we do.”
  9. “Take care of yourself above all else. It isn’t greedy. It isn’t selfish. It’s absolutely necessary, and this concept can translate into every part of your life.”
  10. “Contrary to what we’ve been taught, other people’s bodies are NOT ours to publicly comment on.” It sounds obvious, but we’re probably all guilty of making a comment we shouldn’t have. I’ll admit to it- and I’m also making a conscious effort to stop myself, because I also know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that cruelty. As Baker continues, there is SO MUCH MORE we could talk about without having to put someone else at the expense of conversation.

I swear guys, I still have 23 (yes I counted) other flags left- there’s just SO MUCH GOOD STUFF. So obviously, I’m off to order this one for my own personal library. I suggest you all read it- even if you aren’t a fat girl, there are so many great “decent human being” points that would resonate with any reader. Body love and body positivity are here to stay, and the more that we can discuss acceptance and HAVE acceptance, the better the world will be. Yes, seriously.

 

 

 

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

As always, Jodi Picoult knows how to write a page turner, complete with uncomfortable controversy that squarely reflects current affairs. Small Great Things, published last year (2016), is her latest heavy-hitter, this time tackling the subject of race, privilege, and prejudice.

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse of twenty years, single mother of a straight-A student, and a well-educated, hard-working woman. Her mother, a domestic to a wealthy television personality’s family, gave her every opportunity she could to further Ruth’s education and independence. When Ruth found out she was pregnant while her husband was overseas fighting in the war on Afghanistan, she was determined to give her child the same opportunities to be successful and then some- anything to help overcome the imminent obstacles from being Black.

Turk Bauer is a new father to baby Davis, husband of Brittany, and son-in-law to infamous white supremacist Francis Mitchum. His childhood was rocky, to say the least. His father left the family when Turk was young, his brother was killed in a car accident, and his mother drank herself into a stupor that eventually left her dead. Lost and angry, Turk befriends followers of the Mitchums, learns the ways of white supremacists, and eventually marries into the Mitchum family. At the hospital with new baby Davis, the last thing Turk wants to see is nurse Ruth coming into the hospital room, examining his child and wife. As soon as she’s done, Davis’ file is slapped with a Post-it:

“NO AFRICAN-AMERICAN PERSONNEL TO CARE FOR THIS PATIENT.”

When baby Davis goes into cardiac arrest with only Ruth available to help, Ruth has to decide- disobey orders to try to save the baby’s life, or watch on as he’s unable to breathe and do nothing.

Following a typical Picoult plot, the situation plays out in court and the reader gets to see every facet of the argument with points of view from all the characters involved. I have always loved this about Picoult’s books, because she easily allows the reader to slip into the first person narrative from one character to the next. Reading from Ruth’s point of view, I find myself cringing at the blasé comments from Ruth’s white coworkers, and near tears when she is arrested maliciously in the middle of the night. Despite all that she has done to blend in, she still sticks out. She unknowingly surrounded herself with people in denial, not acceptance, of her color. When reading from Turk’s point of view, I absolutely despised him, even when I found that I was pitying him. His childhood was terrible, the situation with his son was terrible… but his anger and strife fueled hate, and he never sought to rise above, only to get even.

Throughout the novel, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable. I’m white, privileged, and one of those people who don’t like to ruffle feathers (so to speak), but I’m aware of the facts that others don’t have the same privileges I do because of the color of their skin. Yet, I haven’t gotten the courage to stand up against it- I’ve sat back and kept quiet in fear of sounding ignorant, naive, or racist, and that’s just as bad as encouraging it. Reading novels like this (or like this http://bit.ly/2voDbia ), makes me check my white privilege, and gives me the determination to discuss these issues, even when it makes me uncomfortable. As Picoult mentioned in her Author’s Note:

“Why was writing about a person of color any different? Because race is different. Racism is different. It’s fraught, and it’s hard to discuss, and so as a result we often don’t.”

These days, it’s easy enough to go on any social media outlet and find heated discussions on racism, but to actually discuss racism from an educational standpoint, without personal or political bias, is difficult. I applaud Picoult for encouraging these discussions in a thought-provoking manner, for writing this book, for helping others open their eyes and truly see color, rather than ignore it.

Small Great Things is absolutely a must read, and another that belongs on your bookshelves.

 

Root, Petal, Thorn by Ella Joy Olsen

“I was the model of efficiency…by taking advantage of the greatest invention since bacon…audio-books.”

First off, this quote was my favorite part of the whole book. How spot on is that statement?!

Anyways, lets jump right in.

Ivy Baygreen is a recently widowed woman with two teens and a century old house. Prior to his sudden death, her late husband Adam had made plans to renovate and refurbish the old home to bring back it’s old charm and character. Now surrounded by the half-finished projects and memories of Adam, Ivy knows she needs something to pull her out of her grief. Her brother, Stephen, suggests making a list and sticking to it, so Ivy creates six steps, including finishing the house projects Adam started. As Ivy starts tackling these projects, she ends up finding “easter eggs” from the house’s past owners. Curious to learn about her beloved home’s past, Ivy finds that her heart wasn’t the first broken in the home.

Going back through the years, the reader is introduced to the home’s first owners, the Lansings. Sisters Emmeline and Cora are new to the Sugar House, UT area. Bringing along few posessions, including a rose bush, the sisters learn to love their new home and a few local young men. From there, we meet Bitsy, Cora’s daughter, who watches her father stuggle to keep the house as the Great Depression hits. After some time, Eris Gianopolous and her Greek family come to owning the home. We watch Eris and her husband update the home as well, Eris’s own form of therapy while she awaits her son’s return from Japan during World War II. Then during the 1960’s, we meet Lainey Harper, the most recent occupant of the Downington Avenue home. Struggling manic-depressive disorder, Lainey is desperate to be a good mother to her daughter Sylvie.

As all the ghost’s of the house come to surface, Ivy learns that “there is a little sad in every story”.

Personally, I liked the idea of this book more that the book itself. I liked the concept of the common plot line where the main character discovers something historical in the attic and connects it with the present, so the reader gets a historical flashback. However, while reading, the entries from the past are rather scattered, in my opinion. I think that would’ve made the climaxes to each storyline have a stronger impact if they had been in a more consistent order. Also, the same goes for the “chapters” being separated by character- I like that style, but there wasn’t a real order to the characters as their stories intertwined. Overall though, once you have all the storylines figured out at the end of the book, the parallels of love and strife come together nicely between all the characters.

All in all, it’s not a ‘keeper’ for the bookshelves, but it wasn’t a bad read. As someone who has recently bought a house, I can definitely relate to the ‘home renovation as therapy’ theme.

 

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

“She gave me a complicated smile. “You’ve heard the joke, haven’t you? Are you married or do you live in Kenya?“”

When my book-loving coworker suggested I read this novel, it didn’t take me long to reserve it at the library, nor did it take me long to read it. 350 pages, each one full of a romantic view of life in the 1920’s British East Africa as experienced by Beryl Clutterbuck. Though a fictional novel, Clutterbuck, who becomes Markham after her second marriage, is actually a nonfictional character, as well as the others described in the novel. When I finished reading, I couldn’t stop myself from doing some more historical research, trying to piece together the timeline and get better images of the people involved. I love when a book does that to me- inspires me to learn more.

Anyways, we are introduced to Beryl as a young girl living with her family in colonial Kenya. Her father is running a horse farm as a trainer and breeder of racing thoroughbreds, and Beryl wants to follow in his footsteps. When her mother and brother leave to return to England, she decides Kenya is her home, and she wants to stay with her father on the farm. As she reaches her teen years, she rebels against her father’s wishes to become a more suitable woman by taunting her new governess and running away from boarding school. She isn’t interested in becoming the expected civilized housewife. Growing up in the bush, she’s followed her best friend Kibii step for step as he learned from his tribe how to be a warrior. Matching his courage and skills, Beryl knows she can take on any man’s job with determination and hard work, and succeed. However, when she reaches the age of sixteen, the tables are turned when she learns her father’s business has gone bankrupt, and he must sell the farm and train at another stable, leaving Beryl to decide if she should stay on the farm, go work for her father, or become a wife.

She decides to marry Jock, a man who just moved to the colony near her father’s farm. The merge leaves Beryl with her father’s horses, but also with a loveless relationship. When it becomes obvious that the marriage isn’t going to work out, Beryl decides to separate from Jock to go work as a trainer on her friend and mentor’s farm. A turning point for Beryl, she becomes the first English licensed female horse trainer (at least in Kenya, maybe the world). As her reputation builds for her training, she also gains a reputation for being a nontraditional wife, if you catch my drift. Despite her successes at the racetrack, her personal life causes her difficulties in keeping clients. After some time, she requests a divorce from her husband. He isn’t willing to grant the divorce because he doesn’t want to be seen as a man who can’t control his wife, nor take a hit to his reputation. They fight- him by drinking and getting into physical altercations, her by holding her ground and occasionally another man. As her relationship with Jock flames out, a new one with Denys Finch- Hatton fires up.

While reading, not only does the personal drama keep things interesting, but the romance of living in such wild country in Africa draws you in. I loved imagining the red clay, the safari trips, the rain season, the flamingo flocks near where Beryl exercised her horses… all the imagery was lovely, even in terrifying moments. Because of McLain’s wordsmithery, I was living right with Beryl in the environment that she loved so much.

With so much depth and strength to the characters, the setting, and the overall complexity of human relationships, I’d recommend it to anyone, and especially for those with the additional interest in the female empowerment and equality. I’m amazed at what barriers Beryl broke back in the 1920/1930s, of how much has changed since pioneers like her broke traditional female roles, and of how we are still pushing to get through the glass ceiling today. “Circling the Sun” is a must read.

The Dalai Lama’s Cat by David Michie

Another recommendation by a coworker, The Dalai Lama’s Cat was a quick and simple read.

It follows the life of (of course) the Dalai Lama’s cat, who goes by many different names including HHC (His Holiness’ Cat), Mousie-Tung, and Rinpoche, as she learns from the His Holiness himself. Through careful observation, she learns how to find true happiness, how to eat mindfully, how to release envy, and how to find love. For example, she observed this couple one afternoon:

“…a panel of more than two thousand people with smartphones and send out questions at random intervals during the week. Always they were the same three questions: What are you doing? What are you thinking? How happy are you? What they found out was that forty-seven percent of the time, people weren’t thinking about what they were doing.”

These types of observations, even though meant from a cat’s point of view, are meant to make the reader reflect upon them. So when I can upon this excerpt, I spent a few minutes thinking about what I was doing versus what I was thinking, and how happy I was about it. What’s funny is, this mention of mindfulness became a small lesson on how to be mindful. Michie wrote novel filled full of little teachable moments like that, passed off as personal observations from the Dalai Lama’s cat. It’s quite clever, truthfully.

While I appreciate those little moments, I found the novel overall to be lacking in action. There wasn’t a large climactic scene, or one giant overarching lesson- and if there was, it totally went over my head. So overall, I wouldn’t recommend the read unless you needed a little inspirational spurring.