eBooks— May is Asian and Pacific Heritage Month and to celebrate, I have goodies!
In these strange and uncertain times, there is no shortage emotions of what we feel from one day to the next. Reconnecting with life outside of our self and our devices to the natural world is now a driving need. Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil is a collection of free and formal poems that appeal to our different moods especially, as we vigorously seek to fulfill a desire for connectedness. She uses simple, but alluring imagery, observing life’s details.
These times have also set off waves of of anti-Asian xenophobia, discrimination and violence amid cities and communities where generations of Americans have long held jobs, businesses and homes. Go Home! is a anthology featuring fiction, memoir and poetry from a diverse group of Asian writers who explore what home is and what it means in the 21st century. This dynamic work meaningfully and poignantly reflects how we identify ourselves in the world and at home.
Book – Author Laurie Halse Anderson first gained notoriety in 1999 for her novel Speak, which won numerous awards and honors and is rightfully considered a modern classic in Young Adult literature. In Speak high school freshman Melinda deals with great personal trauma all the while being ostracized by her peers. I highly recommend reading the original novel, if you haven’t already.
In 2018, the Graphic Novel Speak illustrated by Emily Carroll received strong reviews owing to its meaningful remake for established fans and introducing new readers to the story.
20 years after the publication of Speak, Anderson releases Shout – a powerful memoir in free verse. Here, she shares deeply of her complicated relationship with her parents, personal experiences with sexual assault and sexual harassment, and the reactions shared by readers over the years. Shout comes on the heels of last year’s #metoo and #timesup movements promoting awareness of the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault. Anderson is not a new voice in this conversation. Since the publication of Speak, she has advocated for open conversations about sexual assault.
Shout is a quick and powerful read and will interest fans who want to see how Anderson’s experiences found their ways into her books and learn more about her life as an author. Those interested in delving into the issues of sexual assault and harassment, will find jumping off points for thoughts and discussions.
So why did I read self-help if it didn’t, well help? Like eating chocolate cake or watching old episodes of Friends, I read self-help for comfort. These books acknowledge the insecurities and anxieties I felt but was always too ashamed to talk about. They made my personal angst seem like a normal part of being human. Reading them made me feel less alone.
After the “worst hangover ever,” and realizing she is desperately unhappy, Marianne embarks on the ultimate journey of self-discovery: she will read one self-help book per month for an entire year and each month follow the author’s advice to a “T”. From facing her fears (skydiving and posing nude for an art class) to using Rejection Therapy to face her social anxieties, she hopes to find happiness and fulfillment. Unprepared for the stress and depression that accompany her journey, she is determined to see the project through. With humor and honesty, Marianne shares a deeply intimate and emotional examination of her life, which is therapeutic and relatable.
Lori explores her personal experiences from the point of view of as therapist and patient. The concept of therapists seeking therapy for themselves was one I had never before considered. This prompted me to question how we, as a society view therapists. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is insightful, deep, thought-provoking and shows therapists in a different light. At the base we are all human beings, but as a people who pay others to provide a service, she demonstrates a unique lens in which to view therapists. Lori also shares stories about the work she did with patients, which includes humorous narration when describing her true feelings of an especially difficult patient. I find the therapist-patient relationship particularly fascinating and enjoyed reading all of the experiences Lori had to share.
She begins the book leading up to a devastatingly unexpected breakup, which ultimately leads her to seek out a therapist when she hits the breaking point. The order of events are easy to follow, as she switched between the present and past narratives. Learning about her career path and the events that ultimately led her to become a therapist, is a journey of seeking and discovery we may all relate to. Her story on this is enlightening. Lori is a relatable author and readers will find at least one aspect to connect with in Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.
Book – Many times while reading In Pieces I couldn’t help but think about Sally Field’s famous remark after accepting her second Academy Award “…you like me, right now, you like me!” I was struck by the fact that throughout most of her life, as described it in this book, she didn’t much like herself.
Many of the choices Ms. Field made in her life were because she was lonely, angry, and easily intimidated. She reveals a good deal about herself, which is often unflattering and sometimes disturbing. Her parents divorced when she was very young, her stepfather abused her, and others passed through her life, coming when they needed something from her, then leaving after. While her mother was present during the time Ms. Field was raising her own children, she didn’t step up for Sally when she needed her the most. Bit by bit, the mother-daughter relationship came together. This book is aptly titled in that her life was lived in pieces.
If you’re looking for a quick, “Oh, I want to hear more about Gidget and what Burt Reynolds were like,” feel-good story, this is not the book for you. If you like exploring the forces in peoples’ lives, particularly celebrities, and the choices they make, you might just like In Pieces.
Book – Minneapolis-based rapper and musician Dessa started out as a poet, so it is not surprising that she would eventually write a book. Like her songs, it’s personal and universal all at once, engaging and easy to read. Every once in a while there’s a punchline that really feels like a punch and makes you put the book down, causing you to take a moment to fully absorb what you just read.
The common thread through the book is her on-again, off-again, tumultuous romantic entanglement with a man she calls X (who you could probably identify if you really wanted to). They fall in love, break up, get back together, hurt each other. Along the way, Dessa considers taking out insurance on her romantic disaster (as a writer of heartbreak songs, she might be out of work without it), shadows her little brother on a day’s work as an artisanal cannabis salesman, tells the story of the airplane her father built, and explores what neuroscience has to say about where love lives in the brain.
Even if you have never listened to one of Dessa’s albums, there is plenty of joy to get out of this book, particularly for the heartbroken and stubborn. Once you have read My Own Devices, you will have a richer experience of listening to her records. Two of her best albums are currently available on Hoopla.
Book – As a lover of all things sweet, Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub sounded like the worst thing imaginable. A whole year? No sugar!? How awful! Once I got over my initial shock, however, I immediately grabbed the book and started reading.
Eve was inspired to start her Year of No sugar project after reading books by obesity and sugar experts, including Dr. Robert Lustig. Though Eve and her family led a relatively healthy lifestyle, she soon discovered sugar was in nearly everything they ate. And so the project began. The first few chapters introduce the planning of the project, as Eve consulted with her husband and two daughters on how the year would run out. I loved the idea of doing this project as a family, having that support system to get through it together. I can imagine the kids dismay, learning how their lives would be affected, and dealing with social pressures outside of the home with all things sugary and sweet. Instead of going completely cold turkey, Eve and her husband finally decided on the 1 Dessert a Month rule. Also, the two daughters could make their own decisions when it came to offerings of sweets at school, sleepovers, and other functions, as long as they were open to their parents when they did choose to indulge.
Eve is an honest, funny, and wonderful writer. She managed to mix science with her own experiences without making my brain explode. I appreciated her point of view, with the added input of her husband and children as they embarked on a journey not for the faint of heart. Check out Eve Schaub’s newest memoir, Year of No Clutter. One book at a time, Eve is conquering my biggest vices.
Book – Every once in a while a movie comes along that’s so bad, so unbelievable, so outrageous, that it goes straight past unwatchable and becomes compelling. In 2003, that movie was The Room, written, directed, produced by, and starring Tommy Wiseau. The Room is so uniquely, outrageously bad – and not just bad but also deeply, deeply weird – that you can’t help but wonder about the guy who made it. Fortunately, Wiseau’s co-star, co-producer, and best friend Greg Sestero has written a memoir about his friendship with Tommy and the filming of The Room, and while it doesn’t exactly shed any light on who Tommy Wiseau is or why he felt compelled to make this weirdly compelling, illogical relationship drama of a movie, it’s a delightful trainwreck of a story.
You can now experience The Disaster Artist in a variety of formats – there’s the original book, the audiobook as read by Greg Sestero, and the film starring James Franco as Tommy Wiseau. While Franco’s Tommy Wiseau impression is impressive, if you really want to experience the full range of weirdness, I recommend the audiobook. Even if you’ve never seen The Room – and I can’t in good conscience recommend that you do – this is a wild ride through one of the most implausible Hollywood productions of our time.
Book – It’s pretty much a guarantee; if you put a kitten on a book’s cover I’m at least going to pick it up for a closer look. And although Samantha Irby’s cat (Helen Keller, the world’s angriest rescue) is largely a secondary character in We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, I was definitely not disappointed.
Irby’s writing is in turn hilarious, sexually explicit, vulgar, moving, emotional, and definitely not for the faint of heart. Irby, who also blogs under the title ‘bitches gotta eat’ explores both the anecdotal and the deeply personal, always with refreshing candor and wit. Essays in her second book cover everything from her Bachelorette application (she’s 35 but could pass for 60 if she stays up all night) to growing up with an alcoholic parent (who once punched her in the face for doing the dishes wrong). It’s also wryly—and sometimes laugh out loud—funny and feels more like conversing with a dear friend than reading a stranger’s inner thoughts.
Irby grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, so local readers will find much of her experiences familiar and relatable. Her essays are loosely interconnected, making this an easy book to pick up and put down at your leisure. Anyone looking for a funny and emotional memoir that is nevertheless easy to read should look no further.
Book – If you are a person who lives on the Internet, you probably know who Zoë Quinn is – or at least you know the movement that sprung up after her ex-boyfriend posted a long, defamatory screed about her online, and then grew into an online harassment machine. Even if you don’t, though, you’ve seen some of its effects in the rise of online hatred, the never-ending stream of YouTube-star scandals, and the recent death of a man in Kansas by “swatting” – the practice of calling in a fake report to a police department that will result in a SWAT team being sent out.
Quinn’s book is part memoir, part guide to this environment of a new kind of harassment, one that disproportionately targets women, people of color, and other minorities, and which police and the legal system are woefully unprepared to cope with. She describes how she survived the initial onslaught, and the barrage of harassment and privacy violations she continues to struggle with, and how she founded an organization to help other victims do the same. She also offers some valuable information on how to protect yourself from a similar harassment campaign (without “just getting offline”). But even if you’re not concerned about attacks from the Internet, this is a valuable book to read. Internet culture is a part of our culture now, and we all should be aware of the ways it can go horribly wrong. (Also, Quinn has a great sense of humor. Seriously, just read the chapter titles.)