October Reviews

Happy Halloween! I’m off to dress up like Batman (seriously) and take my little shark trick-or-treating soon, but here’s a quick rundown on what I read this month:

Evicted by Matthew Desmond
448 pages
This book chronicles the lives of several families, most of which are African Americans, living in poverty in Milwaukee and constantly facing the threat of being evicted. Desmond provides a look at the psychological, economical, and sociological factors behind their situations, showing readers how hard it is to break the cycle of the housing crisis. Once evicted, it’s difficult to find a new place. When homeless it’s difficult to find a job. When you are completely broke and without a home for you and your family it’s hard to be happy, resist vices and temptation, and thrive.

Verdict: This was one of those books that was difficult and depressing, but also important. I firmly believe in personal responsibility, but how can we as a society expect people who have absolutely no opportunities to even survive? And what about if that’s all you’ve ever known your whole life? We need to do better.

Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje
203 pages
This is my third time reading this book, since I teach it to my IB seniors every other year. The memoir tells the tale of Ondaatje’s return home to Sri Lanka to learn about his family and find some closure. The memoir is uniquely constructed with photographs, poems, notebook/diary entries, and maps

Verdict: I enjoy this book more each time I read it, and  because of this I think the kids are more and more receptive to it every year (funny how that works, huh?). I appreciate Ondaatje’s prose, but also at the different components that fit together to offer different perspectives of his journey home.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
336 pages
Ng’s second novel looks at two different families living in Shaker Heights, a town that tries so very hard to be perfect. On one hand, we have the Richardsons, full of bright, well-adjusted, upper-middle-class, entitled people (minus one of the daughters, who we learn starts her family’s home on fire within the first few pages). The other family, the Warrens, is made up of just Mia and her daughter, Pearl (go ahead and start reading into the Scarlet Letter symbolism now), two vagabonds who bounce from town to town however Mia, an artist, sees fit. Mia rents a home from the Richardsons and their connection commences, becoming increasingly murky as Pearl becomes involved with the Richardson children and both families become embroiled in an adoption scandal that rocks the town.

Verdict: I have to admit to liking her first book better, but this one was still really intriguing and solid, in terms of writing and character depth. I still struggle a tiny bit at sort of the dated quality of the adoption angle, as it is a little reminiscent of a 1996ish made-for-TV movie of the week (although this is when it’s set, so I’ll give Ng that). It’s definitely a book I’ll buy a person or two for Christmas and one I’ll recommend to my students.

Roar by Stacy Sims
304 pages
This is an interesting look at female physiology, including body composition, diet, exercise, and metabolic processes. Sims offers suggestions on fueling, activity plans, and hydration needs for those who are serious about being active to those who are more in line with competitive endurance events.

Verdict: I saw a running blogger reading this and thought it looked interesting. I am extremely active, but I know that I don’t always fuel myself correctly and am horrible at managing my hydration needs. It was interesting on the scientific and practical levels, although definitely not for everyone (though it is incredibly accessible).

1,291 pages 

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