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September 2014
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September 2014
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Outside, there’s the sound of wind
through the pine trees.
But inside there are stories, there are biscuits
and grits and eggs, the fire in the potbellied stove
already filling the house with warmth.

 - "bible times" from Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
September 2014
19

Brown Girl Dreaming: #ReblogBookClub Week 1

A few thoughts on Parts I & II of Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming:

  • The format of the book feels informal, as if Woodson has been jotting down these observations since she was a child. In other words, it feels very present. As a reader, I am right there with the author, eavesdropping on conversations and witnessing moments that happened years before I was born. It makes for an intimate experience.
  • Several themes stuck with me in Part I: heritage and, separately, the things that our parents give us as children.
  • Heritage can be both a burden and a source of pride. Jacqueline juxtaposes her family’s roots in slavery and the South with the illustrious Woodson line, peppered with doctors, lawyers, athletes, and more. Her mother is irrevocably tied to her home in South Carolina; almost in equal measure, her father cannot bear the idea of living outside of Ohio. Both are deeply rooted to a sense of place and belonging, and this creates a wedge that ultimately drives them apart. Heritage is inescapable – it can give us something to atone for and something to take solace in.
  • Although parents pass along their heritage, both culturally and genetically, they also choose what things they give to their children, things to shape character and identity. Jacqueline’s father bequeaths her his name, or tries to, because he believes it will set her apart and make her strong. Jacqueline’s mother equips her with the strength to survive, the strength to know who she is in the face of incomprehensible injustice.
  • In Part II, I was struck by the fluid concept of home. Is home a place, a person, a feeling? Jacqueline’s mother returns home and finds her family scattered, broken, and gone. She no longer has that sense of security and identity in her childhood town, nor can she content herself with her children alone. She flees to New York to try and find a place that feels like home.
  • Meanwhile, her children make their home with their grandparents in Greenville, where “Grandfather” becomes “Daddy,” where their grandmother forces them to assume a strict spiritual identity, and where they start to glimpse, in bits and pieces, the battle against racism. For them, home is not something they are allowed to choose for themselves, but something they adapt to out of necessity – a grandparent’s love, a warm stove and biscuits in the winter, a front porch where they are taught whom to associate with and whom to avoid.
  • After reading Part II, I thought a lot about what home means to me. For the first 22 years of my life, I had little say over my home. My parents left their respective childhood homes in Mexico and Southern California and settled in Washington, where they raised my younger sister and me. Last summer, I moved to the Bay Area to make a new home for myself. Like Jacqueline’s mother, I found something especially enticing about a big city. Here, I rent a spare bedroom in a large, beautiful house that neither feels comfortable nor mine. While I am in this fluctuating state, however, I have found a sense of home in the relationship I have with my boyfriend, and am content knowing that we share a city and a space that belongs to us.
  • A final thought for now: In many books and films I’ve watched about the oppression of the 1950s and 60s, stories seem to revolve around one activist or event, from Rosa Parks to Martin Luther King, Jr. What happens with those stories, as powerful as they are, is that they are quickly explained and quickly resolved. By contrast, Brown Girl Dreaming not only spans the spectrum of racist attitudes and behavior, but helps the reader understand how long of a process this was (is), and how difficult it was just to discuss solutions to these problems in safety, let alone carry them out.
September 2014
18
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September 2014
18

How do we know what latent possibilities of achievement we possess?

 - Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
September 2014
18
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September 2014
17

Was it possible to die simply from an absence of tempo?

 - "Fugue" from The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender
September 2014
17

T5W: Five Favorite Author Blurbs

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Question of the week: What are your top five favorite author blurbs?

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday required a fair amount of research. Normally, I’m not one to pay attention to book blurbs. I tried to choose fairly recent releases, excepting The Fault in Our Stars. Enjoy – and go read these books!

As always, feel free to reblog, comment, or make your own Top 5 list. You can find the T5W group linked at the bottom of this post.

  1. “Electric… filled with staccato bursts of humor and tragedy.” – Jodi Picoult, blurb for The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  2. “Dark and hilarious, like the fudge Grandma used to make during her ‘special’ period. Deliciously funny!” – Jack Handey, blurb for One More Thing by B.J. Novak
  3. “It’s tempting to call this novel post-apocalyptic, but really, it’s about an apocalypse in progress, an apocalypse that might already be happening, one that doesn’t so much break life into before and after as unravel it bit by bit. Edan Lepucki tells her tale with preternatural clarity and total believability, in large part by focusing on the relationships – between husband and wife, brother and sister, parent and child – that are, it turns out, apocalypse-proof. Post-nothing. California is timeless.” – Robin Sloan, blurb for California by Edan Lepucki
  4. “Very few women have become famous for being who they actually are, nuanced and imperfect. When honesty happens, it’s usually couched in self-ridicule or self-help. Dunham doesn’t apologize like that—she simply tells her story as if it might be interesting. The result is shocking and radical because it is utterly familiar. Not That Kind of Girl is hilarious, artful, and staggeringly intimate; I read it shivering with recognition. –Miranda July, blurb for Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
  5. “The Circlers’ social etiquette is as finely calibrated as anything in Jane Austen… Eggers treats his material with admirable inventiveness and gusto… the language ripples and morphs… It’s an entertainment, but a challenging one.” Margaret Atwood, blurb for The Circle by Dave Eggers

Check out the Top 5 Wednesday group here.

#books   #book tag   #T5W   #T5Wfamily   #Top 5 Wednesday   
September 2014
17
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September 2014
17
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reblogbookclub:

I loved this part. It made me think so much about the conversations that shaped my life just before and after I arrived.
Here’s what I know:- I am Rachel Lea after my late great-grandmothers Regina and Lillian.- I was almost Rebecca Lily.- If I were a boy I would have been Randy.- My father wanted boy-me to be Rhys, but my mother really did not.Do you know whom you’re named after or what else your name might have been?
-RF

I really enjoyed this part of the book as well. My name is Ashley, which is something my parents decided together, but my middle name is Gabrielle for my father’s name, Gabriel. Several times during my childhood, he asked me if I wanted to change my first name to Gabrielle, even though that would make our names indistinguishable (with the exception of my mother and her relatives, everyone pronounces his name “gah-bree-EHL”). I chose to keep my birth name, but I love that part of me is a testament to him.

reblogbookclub:

I loved this part. It made me think so much about the conversations that shaped my life just before and after I arrived.

Here’s what I know:
- I am Rachel Lea after my late great-grandmothers Regina and Lillian.
- I was almost Rebecca Lily.
- If I were a boy I would have been Randy.
- My father wanted boy-me to be Rhys, but my mother really did not.

Do you know whom you’re named after or what else your name might have been?

-RF

I really enjoyed this part of the book as well. My name is Ashley, which is something my parents decided together, but my middle name is Gabrielle for my father’s name, Gabriel. Several times during my childhood, he asked me if I wanted to change my first name to Gabrielle, even though that would make our names indistinguishable (with the exception of my mother and her relatives, everyone pronounces his name “gah-bree-EHL”). I chose to keep my birth name, but I love that part of me is a testament to him.