Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I am basically finished with my Christmas shopping, thanks to the Internet. I also have my house decorated and my child sufficiently bat-shit crazy excited.

You know how some people lose weight for summer, to look hot in their bathing suits? I need to lose weight for winter, to fit into my pants. Oopsies.

This weekend, rain or shine, Sawyer and I are running a one-mile race at UC Irvine, his first ever. It’s a Santa run, so they hand out beards and hats at the start, which should be chaotic and adorable. We went for a “practice” run last weekend and it was hilarious. He’s super fast out of the gate and then gets tired and walks. Then he runs. Then he walks. It’s actually really great interval training. More than anything I’m excited for him to get his own medal (and hot chocolate mug) when finishing.

I just started listening to Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty and am intrigued by not riveted. I always listen to her books, as opposed to reading them, but feel like I was more hooked to other ones faster in the past. We’ll see. 

My husband and I started watching the show Masters of Sex and I really like it so far. I’m loving the combination of the biology, human sexuality, and gender equality issues.

We have two and a half weeks until Christmas break and I am DETERMINED to be basically caught up before then with my grading. For the past two years our semester ends after break, in January, which I absolute hate. When we had finals in December we were forced to be done with our grading, since the semester was ending and grades were due. Now that we have until January there’s way too much wiggle room to procrastinate. Nope. I want my three weeks relatively grading-free.

I usually prefer incredibly large, soft sweats to hang out in around the house, but I recently discovered Dragon Fit Compression Leggings on Amazon and they’re pretty great (and less than $20!). They’re super snug without being constricting, so I don’t have to worry about them stretching out and fitting weird at the end of the day. I haven’t worked out in them, but they’re dry-wicking and seem like they’d be a pretty solid option.

I keep waiting for more bad things to happen- the last few months have been full of them around here, some I've shared and some not. Every time I hear a weird noise I assume that something is wrong with the house (pipes leaking? termites? appliance breaking?) and fully expect one of our cars to break down soon. What else? I know that I'll snap out of it soon, or learn to cope better, but the onslaught of negativity has be rough. I've been having a lot of trouble sleeping and it was no surprise when after days of resisting my son's cold I ended up with a nasty sore throat yesterday. I also know that there are plenty of good things in my life and that I have a lot to look forward to, but still. Sometimes we get to complain and dig our heels into the discomfort. 

I can also say that the transition from one dog to no dog is much harder than from two dogs to one dog. 

A Bookish Christmas List

Let’s face it- all I really want each year for my birthday and Christmas, for the most part, are books. My husband and I are long past the days of trying to figure out gifts for one another, so we instead determine monetary limits (both of our birthdays are within the holiday season as well) and set up wish lists for each other (especially since we both hoard our Amazon credit card points all year). It’s incredibly practical and extremely easy. I also usually end up with gift cards for Barnes and Noble and Amazon as well, which, naturally, are spent on books, too. Here’s what I have my eye on for this year:

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris

The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg

Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine by Kevin Wilson

A Manuel for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

Severance by Ling Ma

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

Soon to come: what to buy the readers, nonreaders, and kids in your life!

What's on your Christmas list (bookish or otherwise)?

Reading to Learn: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama has become an international icon over the past decade, serving eight years as FLOTUS in the White House and then afterwards with her work with organizations like Reach Higher. Her memoir, Becoming, came out earlier this month and I started it immediately. Admittedly, my expectations were extremely high- she has excelled at everything from establishing her own career before meeting her husband to helping kids eat healthier to running a family in front of the world to rocking tank tops with her awesome arms. Write a book? She's done much harder things. And disappoint she did not. Becoming is one of the best books memoirs I've ever read and will definitely make my top-ten list of the year. 

Obama divides her book into three sections: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More. The first section is on her upbringing in Chicago and her experiences at Princeton and Harvard Law School. She discusses her struggles with always trying to stick to the path she and her family expected of her, one of constant achievement. I definitely found a kindred spirit in her devotion to order and following a plan. In the next section, she covers her early marriage with Barack, as well as his quick rise in politics. She also discusses her two daughters, including her struggles with conception and managing to be a working mom. The last section detailed the Obama family's time in the White House and right after. 

I sometimes struggle with getting into memoirs, one reason being lengthy chapters on the person's youth. I was concerned with this and sort of went into the book with the attitude, "I hope the early years are fast- bring in Barack!" In fact he doesn't enter the picture for nearly 100 pages and that ended up being completely fine- Michelle alone is incredibly fascinating (of course) and she recollects her youth easily and with reflection, humor, and honesty. Once she and Obama become an item her perspective is endearing and loyal, although she isn't afraid to admit to her resentment of his time away from their family, her struggles with his need for so much alone time, and how much she despised his smoking.

If you're on the fence, get off. This book is worth every penny and every minute spent reading it. It was such a wonderful reminder of what this country used to be like and how possible it really is to bring back someone with experience, intellect, warmth and humor into the White House once again. Michelle Obama is a shining example of what a First Lady - no human being - should be like and her story is amazing from beginning to end. 

The Worst Birthday Ever/Good Bye Chomsky

I had planned to pop over yesterday and leave a list of 35 things about being 35, but ended up not really feeling it after the day I had had. Let me back up.

Our 7.5 year old lab, Chomsky, has had a few ailments the past month, like some arthritis struggles and a bad ear infection, but nothing that we couldn't manage. Monday he had a slight upset stomach, but was acting okay, so we just chalked it up to "one of those dog things." Tuesday, he was fine, except maybe a little less into food and a tiny bit sleepier than normal. But still, no red flags (he even happily took a short walk). Wednesday was a different story. He was sick to his stomach again and incredibly lethargic- I called the vet and took him in that afternoon, putting all my Thanksgiving prep on hold (I had actually made an appointment for early that evening but then called back and insisted they get me in then). After over two hours at the vet we weren't really sure what was wrong- they gave him some fluids and anti-nausea medication through an IV, and gave us a round of antibiotics. His heart rate was quite fast and he also had a fever. They took blood that showed his organs were fine, but that there was definitely an infection that was altering his platelet counts and some other levels of the blood. 

We went home and he was absolutely miserable. He ended up getting sick again and it was probably then that he ended up aspirating. I talked to my sister, who is a vet tech, around eleven that night and she agreed with taking him to an emergency vet, which I did. I had to practically carry him in and they took him back in a gurney- it was heartbreaking. The vet was very concerned, since his blood pressure was half of what it should have been and he still had the symptoms from earlier. They did an x-ray and it showed he had pneumonia, due to aspirating when he got sick a few hours before. She wanted to keep him for a day (it was 2:30 am at that point) and run more blood. She promised she'd call me and sent me home to get some rest.

I finally crawled into bed and managed to go to sleep by 4 when they called back with the blood results, which indicated he was septic. His blood pressure had gone up a little bit, so we decided that we'd keep treating him and hope that he'd get better. Two hours later, at six, they called back and told me his heart was stopping- by the time the vet joined the call twenty seconds later it had stopped and he was gone. I then drove to say my good byes, settle the bill (yup, I had to pay almost $2,000 for my dog to die, plus $600 earlier in the day to our regular vet... if your dog dies shouldn't they call it even? Sorry, but, just... damn), and make arrangements. 

And then I left. I went to the store to pick up rolls, since I knew I wasn't going to make them from scratch after all. I went home. I remade my pumpkin pie that turned out horrible from the day before. I finished cleaning. I put the turkey in. I curled my hair and put on seventeen pounds of makeup to hide my exhaustion and sadness. 

Our guests were definitely a welcome distraction- it ended up being eleven of us total, so my house was noisy, lively, and I had plenty to do. I'm so glad we opted to keep to the hosting plan (not that I would have ever in a million years canceled, I would have just driven over all the food to my sister-in-laws or something). I once again successfully proved my ability to compartmentalize. 

So, that was my 35th birthday. And Thanksgiving. 

Luckily, there will be other birthdays and other Thanksgivings (I hope, anyway...). There will never be another Chomsky. He was the best dog I've ever had- he was so sweet, protective, and handsome. He was incredibly patient with Sawyer and won over everyone who came into our house, even if they confessed to "supposedly" not being "a dog person." The whole thing is even more difficult since we lost Cordie, our golden retriever, just six months ago. We've always had a dog, so there is a huge void in our home right now. This is always inevitble when you own a pet, but he was too young to go. I was confident we would have a few years left with him, at least, but boy was I wrong. 

I guess that's the biggest take-away from this. Things can happen so fast to totally turn your life upside down. While I'm thankful my human family members are healthy and well, my heart hurts for my sweet Chomsky.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts: Thanksgiving Edition

Happy Thanksgiving Eve! Are you prepping up a storm? Daring the stores? Kicking back because someone else has it handled this year? I'm in the thick of preparations with turkey on the brain- for that reason I've decided to stick with the holiday theme today.

1. I didn't host last year, but have several times in the past (this is probably the fifth time? Something like that). It's a lot of work (and money), but I really enjoy it. It was just the three of us last year and I was a little bummed. I think there will be eleven of us, which is perfect!

2. I love love love making pies, but I actually don't really like them. At all. I usually take a thin slice of pumpkin and take a few bites, but they're really just not my thing. I am, though, a purist when it comes to Thanksgiving meal items and just got myself to bring mac-and-cheese into the mix for the kids two years ago. This year, though, I decided SCREW IT ALL and am making a pan of brownies with frosting. I should get a damn dessert. 

3. Every seven years my birthday falls on the holiday. I kind of hate it. 

4. I am a total brining convert- it really helps retain the moisture in the bird.

5. I love that most recipes for Thanksgiving are pretty forgiving. The turkey really just needs to be cooked all the way, but things like stuffing and gravy are pretty reasonable. 

6. The first year I hosted I went to pull out the turkey to check it and baste it and spilled hot turkey drippings all along my side- I ended up with massive blisters all down my side, immediately. The show must go on, right? I changed my clothes, rinsed off the turkey juice, and kept on hosting. Later.... ouch. I had scars until I was pregnant, which they disappeared after!

7. I love that this holiday is all about food and hanging out, not gifts. 

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving! Be thankful! 

Trends in My Graphic Novel Reading

I am by no means an experienced graphic novel reader- far from (although I do live with someone who most definitely is). I am appreciative of the genre, though, and have noticed some trends in the ones I do read (I think I've read four or so this year, which isn't that many, but more than the past). Here are some of my preferences:

Timely Topics: A lot of the graphic novels I have read tend to deal with relevant topics, like immigration, sexuality, and the role of social media. I appreciate seeing things expressed in a different perspective and usually walk away from the experience feeling like I have a better grasp on the topic, thanks to what I've read. 

History: Interestingly, I don't really care for historical fiction, but I have definitely appreciated graphic novels like Maus and Persepolis

Coming-of-Age Stories: I'm a sucker for this genre in any medium, but I've read a few graphic novels that focus on young adults finding their way (some of which overlap with the two above areas).

Repeat authors: I have a very limited scope of what is exactly out there in terms of this sort of literature, so I have found myself reading multiple works by authors, like Allison Bechdel and Craig Thompson.  

Good Reviews/Award Winners: Because, like I just said, I don't have the same awareness for graphic novels as I do contemporary literary fiction, I have definitely taken advice from reviews.

A lack of superheroes: I'm actually a little confused about the difference between comics and graphic novels, but, nonetheless, I'm not into reading about flying crime-fighters. 

And a few things I don't care about:

Illustrations: While beautifully illustrated texts are always nice, I really don't mind simplistic drawings, either. I think part of this is because I am still sort of "learning" to incorporate "reading" the drawings as I read.

Length: These babies fly by so fast, it just doesn't really matter if they're several hundred pages. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[me in front of my true love]

Hey there! I'm going to have a break from work soon and would love to visit your blog and check it out! Leave me a link in the comments below!

1. I mentioned going to LA in my post yesterday with friends, and it was just what the doctor ordered. I went with one of my good friends whom I have known since kindergarten and my other friend whom I met while in the teaching credential program back in 2005. I introduced the two of them several years ago and we always have so much fun when we get together, once a year or so. I am so incredibly thankful for the several strong friendships I’ve acquired over the years. I have friends to go to readings with, friends to discuss teaching with, friends who want to hike or exercise, friends I can randomly text and complain about thing to, friends who are always up for a random outing, friends who have little ones for mom dates, etc…. I’m just so appreciative!

2. I’m becoming a little obsessed with embroidery accounts on Instagram. Cross stitching has always been my first love, but I have to admit that there are just so many more possibilities with embroidery (which makes sense, since there is only one stitch in cross stitch). I’m a little confused about it, though, so if anyone here embroiders maybe you can answer this question: HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO? The patterns are transferred onto material, I understand that, but how do you actually know what stitches to use (since there are so many)? Do you just decide on your own? Do the patterns have the info? I’m so confused (but still so intrigued). I actually ordered a book the other day and am trying to decide if I should just bite the bullet and buy a little kit from Etsy (they’re so expensive compared to patterns, though).

3. I mastered the Milk Bar Mother Dough recipe this weekend, after one horrid attempt several months, so basically the possibilities are endless and the world is my oyster.

4. Today is Sawyer’s Thanksgiving Feast at school and I am so glad I took the day off to go. Last year I didn’t, and I still feel guilty A YEAR LATER for being one of the few parents to not go. Luckily I was able to schedule another appointment earlier today, so I’m killing two birds with one stone.

5. I received my copy of Becoming by Michelle Obama yesterday and I’m so excited to get started! Our book club decided to read it towards the end of next school year, but I knew fully well that I’d read it early. I’ll take copious notes and either reread it in the spring or listen to it so that I can participate, though (always the good student).

6. Two more work days until Thanksgiving Break! Thank God. It. Is. Time. For. A. Break. I need it and the kids need it. I am exceptionally tired, they’re struggling to maintain motivation, and I need some time at home to catch up on life. I have a few things planned, but I’m in retrospect thankful for canceling my plans to drive to Zion with Sawyer. I think I’m going to take him to see a children’s production of Madagascar, we might go to Knott’s, I have plans to see a friend or two, but otherwise I need to get back to basics: clean, grade, run, play with my kid, and sleep.

7. I am kicking the holiday week off with a trip back to UCLA for the David Sedaris. I’ve read several essays in the past, but didn’t read an actual collection of his until Calypso over the summer. Last week I knocked our Me Talk Pretty One Day and then am moving through Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Flannel right now.

The RBG Exhibit at the Skirball

Over the weekend a few friends and I drove to the Skirball Cultural Center in LA to see the Ruth Bader Ginsburg exhibit, based on the Notorious RBG book. It was absolutely worth the drive (although we made a day of it, catching a volleyball game at UCLA and going to dinner) and if you are local I can’t recommend it enough. 

With a few exceptions, they didn’t allow picture in the exhibit, which was disappointing at first but actually ended up being a nice change.
The exhibit led patrons through Ruth’s life chronologically, with dioramas, memorabilia, signage, audio visual footage, case brief details, and some interactive experiences. I have read a great deal about her life already, so little of it was really that new to me, yet it was still really neat to see things like her yearbooks, dissent collars, and several outfits in person. I think they did a good job of interjecting some of her personal life as well, as a wife, mother, and opera-lover.

One of the most fun sections was a little cliché and silly, but still a good time. There was a Supreme Court Bench to pose in back of, as well as a selection of judicial robes and dissent collars. We got a kick out of doing it, but what was even more awesome was seeing a three-year-old little girl do the same right after us (even more cool was that the Skirball provided robes sized down for toddlers and up all the way through 3XL).

Besides the exhibit itself, it was interesting to see the variety of people there to learn about and pay homage to Ruth. And that’s the thing about her- I think her passion for helping others, adherence to the law, and devotion towards justice transcends age, nationality, and socioeconomic background.

Motherhood in Barbara Kingsolver's Unsheltered

While I had a few issues with Barbara Kingsolver's newest novel, Unsheltered, her thematic employment of the obstacles that come with motherhood were interesting. The book is divided into two sections, one the present, focusing on the struggles of main character Willa's family, and then the past, which is centered around a young science teacher named Thatcher Greenwood, a man who desperately wants to introduce Darwinian studies into a conservative town. Motherhood is definitely more obvious in Willa's sections, although there are definitely subtle, underlying maternal threads in Thatcher's too. 

My attention was first drawn to the role motherhood plays when I double-took after reading the line "A mother can be only as happy as her unhappiest child" (Kingsolver 56). I ruminated over this one for awhile, running different scenarios in my mind (I even put up a poll on Instagram, which garnered split results). While I definitely grappled with this, Willa really seemed to live it. Her oldest son, recently widowed, with a newborn, and unemployed, was struggling to find his way and she also believed her younger daughter, Tig, was floundering (she was not; she was thriving by her own personal standards but just not living up to traditional ones established by society). Willa had lost her job in journalism, was living in a dilapidated house, and was charged with caring for her grandchild and dying father-in-law. More than anything, though, Willa seemed to define herself by her children. Were they successful? Were they engaged? Were they interacting with her in the way she felt they should? Were they interacting with each other in the way she felt they should? Where they happy? She took their happiness so personally, which she really had no control over, as they were both grown. And yet because she had not control over anything else in her life she returned to what was innate: caring for her children. 

While not as prevalent, the storyline set in the past also had a great deal of maternal undercurrent. Thatcher's wife, Rose, is prim, proper, and spoiled, despite their total lack of resources. Meanwhile, Thatcher starts spending more time with the woman next door, Mrs. Treat, who ends up being a self-taught scientist who is more successful than Thatcher. Mrs. Treat defies societal pressures, happy to be separated from her husband and to live alone with her insects and plants. Rose, however, struggles to get pregnant and ends up miscarrying. The whole Darwinian focus of this section becomes even more important, in those regards. Rose's baby was not fit and could not survive, just as Rose and Thatcher's marriage struggles as well.

I don't want to give anything away, but Willa makes some progress and there's a great deal of upheaval within the past story as well. And while I have been finished with the novel for a few weeks, I still think about the quote I opened with often. Can a mom really only be as happy as her most unhappiest child? If I have to choose, I choose no. My child is insanely important to me- I'd run into a burning building to save him, throw my body in front of a freight train to push him out of the way, and fight off ten men twice my size on his behalf. But when it comes to matters that are not life and death I disagree (notice I said "life and death"- if he was ill or injured or missing my unhappiness would be equal to or surpass his). I am an individual- I am not defined by motherhood. It is a huge part of who I am, but I lived thirty years of life before him. I wasn't just waiting for a baby- I was learning, doing, growing.... living. You have to diversify your investments in every way, I guess. My family is at the top of the pyramid, of course, but there are so many other parts of my life that help me be who I am. While I will always want the best for Sawyer, I'm not going to wrap my life up into his so much that my happiness depends on his. That's simply not fair to him, either. That's so much pressure.

So while this book maybe wasn't the best I've read this year, it was still really solid in terms of story and writing, and clearly thought-provoking. 

Writing Update: The Beginnings... (2)

It’s been a few weeks and I’m back with a report on my progress. My only goal since I last wrote was to create proposals for the ideas that I have floating around in my head, so I chose two and wrote one-page sort of synopses for both. Nothing crazy or detailed at all, but enough to where I finally put my ideas on paper. This is, sadly, more progress than I have probably made in a year or two, which is so pathetic that I can’t believe I’m publicly admitting it. I want to be a writer, some day, and yet I prioritize literally everything else ahead of it.

I honestly have no idea what one to choose- that’s the biggest problem right now. They are both topics that I connect easily to and stories I would like to read. Both play around with format a bit (one more than the other) and present their own challenges. I think one of my biggest hang-ups is that I don’t know how either of them is going to end, which feels a little, I don’t know… unstable? It’s like going for a drive and having no destination. Some people thrive off of this sense of adventure, but I’m just not that kind of girl. I need an end goal, along with a way to get there.

Interestingly, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that I feel such a need to be regimented in creating a plan. If you want something huge like this to work it can't be forced from a place that isn't natural to the person doing the work. I have been to dozens of author events over the years and there is such a wide variety of writing. Some know every twist and turn and minor character before the actual prose writing begins, while others opt for a more organic, flexible route and just jump right in. The idea that there are so many ways to go about this task is simultaneously reassuring and daunting.

So, that’s where I’ll start, after choosing one. I’ll work on the path, aka the outline. While doing this I’ll set up major plot points, start creating characters, and figure out that gosh darned ending. Since the holidays are approaching I have to maintain realistic expectations, which means that I am hoping to have an outline done by the end of Christmas break, which is the first week of January. I’ll still post on my progress sometimes the first week of every month, though, just for accountability purposes.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[womp womp womp]

1. This past Saturday I came down with severe vertigo that was really shit-icing on a shit-cake that has been my life lately (I’m going to start off negative and whiney, but it will get better, I promise... you can always just skip to number two if you're in no mood for this kind of nonsense, which I TOTALLY get). I have never had vertigo before, so I have no basis for judging my experience, but even the emergency room doctor said it was an intense episode and seemed to feel genuinely bad for me (as he watched me retch for what seemed like eternity). I woke up at 4am to the worst dizziness I’ve ever felt and alternated between that and throwing up for nearly four hours. Even moving my head enough to take a sip of water caused the room to whirl, and attempting to brush my hair made me literally sick. I called the advice nurse, and my mom (duh), and both advised me to get medical treatment to help take the edge off, so I went in (my first ER visit ever). They pumped me full of fluids, gave me anti-nausea medicine, some drugs for the spinning and tried to perform the Epley maneuver on me (I had the type of vertigo that happens when the crystals in your inner ear become dislodged and mess with the nerves that send messages about stability to your brain), but it made me so violently ill we had to quit in the middle. Luckily, by the time I went home I had finally quit getting sick and was able to sleep for the rest of the day. I felt better and everything went back to normal on Sunday after I was able to do an alternative to the Epley that a friend sent me. Nonetheless, it was a horrible weekend and now I am slightly terrified the vertigo will strike again (let’s just say giving birth was better than those initial hours with it). October was a horrible month and NOVEMBER WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BETTER. There was no scientific proof for this or promise from a higher being, but it was what I decided and I’m pretty upset that I haven’t had the improvement my entitled-ass DEMANDED from the universe. I know it could be worse, I do, but I am finding it harder and harder to roll with the punches. I also know that it will pass- that’s the most important thing.

2. Something better? The midterm elections! Sure, it wasn’t the crushing blue wave that some idealists were hoping for, but for jaded realists like myself it was positive. I love that things just got more difficult for the GOP and that a lot of women and people of color were elected. And the turn out! Polls were crowded. I definitely see the good.

3. I'm listening to Busy Phillips new memoir, This Will Only Hurt a Little and it was a tiny bit mediocre at the start, but it has definitely picked up and I'm officially into it. I remember her most from Dawson's Creek, but I know she's huge on Instagram.

4. I am reading the graphic novel The Best We Could Do, a memoir by Thi Bui, and it's really beautiful. The story, about a Vietnamese family who cam to the US in the early eighties (or maybe late seventies) is fascinating. I'm also rereading Athol Fugard's play, "Master Harold"... and the boys, since it's what I teach next. My students are blown away that we're spending the rest of the period on a book that's less than sixty pages, but they'll see how much is packed into that sucker. 

5. I finally finished the gallery wall for the cross stitching projects I have completed and kept three months after painting it (it's in the guest bedroom that hasn't been used in awhile, in my defense). I want to start an ambitious project of making little Stitch People of the book characters of the books I teach... eventually (in my dreams I could do a whole line of these and sell them on Etsy. "Sell them on Etsy..." WHO AM I? I can barely pick up my dry cleaning and there's been a prescription sitting at the vet for almost a week). 

6. This weekend I hope to redeem my ability to be fun (after last weekend, that is). My friends and I are going to drive up to see the Notorious RBG exhibit at the Skirball Center in LA and then scoot on over to UCLA to watch a women's volleyball game. We'll probably get dinner in Westwood at a place full of college kids, where we'll either pretend to be young or just feel really old. And then I will force them fifteen minutes down the road to The Milk Bar, since I'm driving and they will have no choice. My new rule in life is that if I am within fifteen miles of the mothership I will stop for no less than $25 of deliciousness. 

7. I saw A Star is Born last week and I loved it so much. I have been obsessed with the soundtrack since it came out and it was even better than I thought it would be.

8. I make a huge year-in-review book every December of the past twelve months and like to do it in snippets so that it's not a huge rush to take advantage of the half-off coupon that Mixbook always gives out. So far I have done absolutely nothing on it and we've had quite the busy year- I have got to get on it (I think last year it was almost 200 pages?).

October Reviews

October is such a long month for the teachers who I know- we have zero days off, there are fall parent-teacher conferences, the grading has really started stacking up, and, given that we went back at the beginning of August, we are TIRED (teacher-tired coupled with mom-tired is no joke, trust me). But, the one benefit is that it seems like I usually get quite a bit read- I need to escape, I guess. 

This month I was able to get through six books, and of a wide-variety. Three were nonfiction, one was a graphic novel, two were about immigration, and two were from well-respected female writers (some of these are overlapping, don't worry, I can do a little math). I have found myself craving contemporary literature lately, yet I find myself reading more nonfiction than ever, in my attempts to educate myself and feel like I'm doing my part to be informed.

I started off the month with Bob Woodward's Fear, which was fascinating, yet at times a bit repetitive in terms of the content I had already read in Fire and Fury. Nothing surprises me anymore, I guess, so the pages and pages of the ridiculousness that happens in the White House is pretty much what I expect to happen these days. This was the first book I've ever read by Woodward and I found him much more accessible than I thought he might be. 

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I read Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas and Tell Me How it Ends by Valeria Luiselli, both of which cover the lives of undocumented people in America. Vargas focuses on his own story as a Filipino who had believed he was documented up until his late teen years, and then had to deal with navigating the education system and the journalism profession with this obstacle to deal with. Luiselli focuses on her perspective as an interpreter for children who are trying to seek asylum or citizenship in the country. Both were incredibly sobering and are books I'd urge people who have a narrow view of immigration to read.

When I had heard that Nick Drnaso's Sabrina was nominated for a Man Booker Prize, I pre-ordered it immediately, as it was the first graphic novel to obtain that honor. It is a quirky, yet sobering work, that comments on the role of the media, mental health, and what it means to be alone. Truth be told, I think I'd rather read the novel version of it (which does not exist), since the minimalist nature left me with many questions. 

If you're fans of Orange is the New Black and good literature in general, Rachel Kushner's The Mars Room is right up your alley. Romy, the main character, is serving a life sentence, while leaving her young son in the care of her mom in the Bay Area. The story jumps between the past and present as we learn about her life as an exotic dancer prior to her arrest, and how she manages to survive in prison. While not exactly a light and uplifting story, I couldn't put it down. Kushner's a fabulous writer and her pacing left me frantic for more information, especially as she divulges more and more. 

Lastly, I just finished Barbara Kingsolver's newest novel, Unsheltered, a few days ago and I had mixed feelings about it. The story is set around a family in the present, who is struggling with a crumbling house, mountains of debt, an unexpected grandson, and an ailing father-in-law. The past inhabitants of the house also split the story time, when a determined young science teacher faces a great amount of push-back from wanting to teach about Darwin in school. My biggest problem was that I was much more drawn to the present story than the past, making those sections often difficult to get through. The book was nearly 500 pages, and while there were several parts I really enjoyed, I was thankful when it was over. I don't regret reading it, since as a whole I think some of the parallels were intriguing and the connection made by this problematic home was thoughtful. 

1,705 pages