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23 Sep, 2016

In Memory of Bread

/ posted in: Reading In Memory of Bread In Memory of Bread: A Memoir by Paul Graham
on June 7th 2016
Pages: 272
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Clarkson Potter
Format: Hardcover
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: New York
Goodreads

“When Paul Graham was suddenly diagnosed with a serious wheat allergy at the age of thirty-six, he was forced to say goodbye to traditional pasta, pizza, sandwiches, and more. Gone, too, were some of his favorite hobbies, including brewing beer with a buddy and gorging on his wife’s homemade breads. Struggling to understand why he and so many others had become allergic to wheat, barley, rye, oats, and other dietary staples, Graham researched the production of modern wheat and learned that not only has the grain been altered from ancestral varieties but it’s also commonly added to thousands of processed foods. In writing that is effortless and engaging, Paul explores why incidence of the disease is on the rise while also grappling with an identity crisis—given that all his favorite pastimes involved wheat in some form.”


This is an unflinchingly honest account of what it is like to give up one of the things that you enjoy most in life.  Paul Graham loves to eat.  He loved bread in all its forms.  He loved beer.  Suddenly he found out that those foods were behind a sudden illness that caused him to lose 25 pounds and end up hospitalized.

The honesty of the writing can certain come across as whiny, especially for those of us who have had restrictive diets by choice or necessity for long enough to have moved past the first stages of grief.  He laments what it means now to travel without being able to eat anything and everything on a menu.  Eventually he learns to move past that and see that there is life after allergies.

“But the most sensitive have also come to know something that “normal” eaters do not often have occasion to consider:  to have anyone make food for you is an implicit extension of trust.  The more serious the consequences, the greater the confidence one puts in the cook.”

Yes!  I can be a nervous wreck when we go to new restaurants.  Honestly, I only implicitly trust food that I make myself for the husband because of his allergy.  The author laments people disrupting the orderliness of buffets so he can’t be sure anything is safe for him.  I can relate totally.

He discusses the privilege that he has as a fairly well off person with the skills and time to cook from scratch in order to accommodate his new diet.  He wonders how people how have to survive on prepared food do it.  The answer seems to be – not well according to the research.  He points out the irony that the foods that were once considered only good enough for poor people are now the rare grains and ingredients that cost more than wheat.

I’d recommend this book for any food lover or person interested in knowing what it is like to live with food allergies.

foodiesreadsmall

Book received in exchange for review from BloggingforBooks.com
21 Sep, 2016

Saving Delaney

/ posted in: Reading Saving Delaney Saving Delaney by Andréa Ott-Dahl, Keston Ott-Dahl
on April 12th 2016
Pages: 320
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Cleis Press
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: California
Goodreads

“Saving Delaney is the heartwarming true story of a baby who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome and the unconventional family who fought for her right to life. Andrea Ott-Dahl, who with her partner Keston Ott-Dahl has with two other children, agreed to act as a pregnancy surrogate for a wealthy Silicon Valley family. When pre-natal testing revealed the baby would be born with Down Syndrome, Andrea was urged to abort the child. Instead, the Ott-Dahls chose to keep and raise the daughter they would call Delaney, overcoming their fears while navigating legal, medical and emotional challenges.”


I’m not going to lie.  I read this book for the chocolate.

I was at BEA and the authors were signing right next to another author I was in line for.  When I finished they had a short line and the BEA worker said that they were handing out chocolate with the book.  That got my attention.  I hadn’t been interested in the book because I don’t like babies.  I’m also pro-choice and didn’t care to read a pro-life screed.  Turns out I’m really more pro-chocolate than anything.  I went up and got a copy of the book.  Delaney even signed it for me herself.

SavingDelaneysignature.jpg

Now I’m glad that I read this book.

The book is told from Keston’s viewpoint.  When her mother died when Keston was in her early 40s, she went through a bit of a wild time.  She broke up with her long term partner and decided to just have fun for a while.  She wasn’t planning on meeting a woman in her late 20s with two young children and falling in love.  She certainly wasn’t planning for her new girlfriend to decide that she needed to be a surrogate for another couple.

Keston had always had a phobia about people with disabilities.  This view was formed when she did some community service in a residential care facility.  Since that time she had actively avoided any contact.

Trying to get pregnant as a surrogate wasn’t easy for Andrea.  Tensions rose between the Ott-Dahls, the prospective mothers, and the sperm donors as months passed with no pregnancy.  Right when they were about to give up, Andrea got pregnant.

Routine prenatal testing showed abnormalities early.  Andrea was the biological mother.  An egg donor was not used.  Now the question was, could she be made to abort her biological child if she signed a contract stating that the prospective mothers got to decide about any health concerns to the child?  Should they keep a child with Down’s Syndrome knowing Keston’s issues with disabilities?

This book is the story of growing up and growing together.  It is standing up for your family in the face of pressures from all sides.  It is about learning to overcome your prejudices and convincing others to do the same.

Regardless of your personal opinions on abortion or surrogacy, I’d recommend reading this book.  It gives the perspective of people wrestling with the tough choices that come with assisted reproduction that aren’t usually heard.

 

12 Sep, 2016

If At Birth You Don’t Succeed

/ posted in: Reading If At Birth You Don’t Succeed If at Birth You Don't Succeed: My Adventures with Disaster and Destiny by Zach Anner
on March 8th 2016
Pages: 338
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: Texas, New York, California, Berlin
Goodreads

“Comedian Zach Anner opens his frank and devilishly funny book,  If at Birth You Don’t Succeed, with an admission: he botched his own birth. Two months early, underweight and under-prepared for life, he entered the world with cerebral palsy and an uncertain future. So how did this hairless mole-rat of a boy blossom into a viral internet sensation who’s hosted two travel shows, impressed Oprah, driven the Mars Rover, and inspired a John Mayer song? (It wasn’t “Your Body is a Wonderland.”)”


I have a confession.  I hate YouTube.  If I am forced to watch a video because of a deep interest in the subject, it better be captioned so I don’t have to turn the sound on my iPad on.  It is no wonder that I’d never heard of Zach Anner before reading this book.  It is also a testament to my love for his story that I’ve watched several of his YouTube videos and shared them with others.

Zach has cerebral palsy which causes him to have limited fine motor skills and poor balance.  He describes his legs as mostly decoration.  He has a lazy eye and his eyes don’t track which makes it difficult for him to read.  He also has a razor-sharp mind, a wild sense of humor, and the compulsive need to express himself through pop culture references.  This leads to a laugh out loud funny memoir about the unexpected turns his life has taken.

The book is not organized chronologically.  I appreciated that.  How many memoirs have you read where you know something interesting happens in the author’s twenties but first you have to suffer through the minutia of their childhood for many, many chapters?  Here we start on a high note.  He entered an online competition to win a spot on a reality show on OWN, Oprah’s network.  The prize? His own TV show on the network.

His video went viral when it was discovered on Reddit and adopted as the favorite by 4chan purely because of the spelling of his name.  He went on to win his own travel show on OWN.  From there you can only go downhill through cancellation and strangers asking, “Didn’t you used to be….?” in stores.  He describes how he moved to YouTube to make the realistic traveling with disabilities show that he wanted to make.

Along the way we learn about his attempts to find love, his love for music, his time working at Epcot policing other people’s disabilities, and his failures in adaptive P.E. class in 4th grade.  Each story is hysterical but ends with a life lesson that manages to be uplifting without being sappy.

This is best experienced by listening to the audiobook.  Zach narrates it himself.  I can’t imagine this book without his upbeat and charming narration or without listening to himself crack himself up retelling the adventures that he’s had.
One of the first videos Zach talks about making is this one where his friends torture him at a trampoline park. I had to look it up.


It is even funnier when you hear the background story of what went into making it.

I will be recommending this book to EVERYONE! Do yourself a favor and get the audiobook and step into Zach’s world.

17 Aug, 2016

Truffle Boy

/ posted in: Reading Truffle Boy Truffle Boy: My Unexpected Journey Through the Exotic Food Underground by Ian Purkayastha, Kevin West
on February 7th 2017
Pages: 304
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Hachette Books
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Setting: New York
Goodreads

“Ian Purkayastha is New York City’s leading truffle importer and boasts a devoted clientele of top chefs nationwide, including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, David Chang, Sean Brock, and David Bouley. But before he was purveying the world’s most expensive fungus to the country’s most esteemed chefs, Ian was just a food-obsessed teenager in rural Arkansas–a misfit with a peculiar fascination for rare and exotic ingredients.
 The son of an Indian immigrant father and a Texan mother, Ian learned to forage for wild mushrooms from an uncle in the Ozark hills. Thus began a single-track fixation that led him to learn about the prized but elusive truffle, the king of all fungi. His first taste of truffle at age 15 sparked his improbable yet remarkable adventure through the strange–and often corrupt–business of the exotic food trade.”


 This book starts with the admission that it is weird for a 23 year old to be writing a memoir.  It’s good to get that out there early because it is a bit presumptious but you’d be forgiven for forgetting that he’s only 23 while reading this.

While still in high school, Ian Purkayastha started an exotic foods club to make meals with strange ingredients for people in his Arkansas school and raise money for charity.  He used his vacation time to travel to trade shows and meet up with people in the exotic food community.  He set up his own business importing truffles from Italy for chefs in his area. This led to a job after high school graduation importing truffles in New York.  This is where he started to see the problems in the industry.  As he spends the next few years starting his own business, he travels around the world sourcing ingredients and meeting the people who hunt for mushrooms in the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Did you know:

  • A lot of “Italian” truffles come from eastern Europe
  • Truffle oil usually doesn’t have truffles in it
  • U.S. chefs prize the appearance of truffles so much that the vast majority of harvested truffles aren’t sent to the U.S. market because they aren’t the “correct” shape
  • There are attempts being made to raise truffles in specially planted orchards but it will take decades to see if it works

This book tries to dispel some of the snobbery around high end foods.  It shows the work involved in finding and harvesting.  It also points out how markets are kept artificially tight and how some countries become known as the best source of ingredients for reasons that may not be true.

This ARC of Truffle Boy is one of the prizes up for grabs this month for people who link up with Foodies Read.  If you like reading books featuring food, link up your reviews with us!

4flower

08 Jul, 2016

Black Man in a White Coat

/ posted in: Reading Black Man in a White Coat Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor's Reflections on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy
on September 8th 2015
Pages: 294
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Medical, Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Picador
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Set in North Carolina
Goodreads

When Damon Tweedy begins medical school,he envisions a bright future where his segregated, working-class background will become largely irrelevant. Instead, he finds that he has joined a new world where race is front and center.

Black Man in a White Coat examines the complex ways in which both black doctors and patients must navigate the difficult and often contradictory terrain of race and medicine. As Tweedy transforms from student to practicing physician, he discovers how often race influences his encounters with patients. Through their stories, he illustrates the complex social, cultural, and economic factors at the root of many health problems in the black community.


Damon Tweedy was offered a full scholarship to medical school at Duke University in North Carolina in the 1990s.  That was a deal too good to pass up even though it was well known that Duke had a history of being extremely racist.  Early in his time at Duke a professor mistakes him for a maintenance man and when he says that he isn’t there to fix the lights the professor can’t figure out any other reason why he should be in the classroom.  This spurs him to work even harder to prove that he belongs there.

He is frustrated because over and over in lectures he hears that diseases are more common in blacks than whites.  He worries that frustrating interactions with black patients will turn his white coworkers against black people.

He tells stories about what it is like to be both a black doctor and a black patient.

He talks about volunteer work at a clinic for the uninsured and whether or not the Affordable Care Act could help these people.  He had always assumed that people were uninsured because they didn’t work before helping at this clinic.  That’s a pet peeve of mine.  I’ve had this argument with my middle to upper middle class family members who were against universal healthcare and who have always had jobs that offered insurance.  I’m a veterinarian.  Until July 1 of this year when my practice was bought by a large corporation, I’ve never had a job that offered health insurance.  At least I could afford to buy it when I wasn’t married.  Most of my coworkers who make just above minimum wage didn’t have any health insurance.  Most of them still aren’t opting to get the available insurance now because it is very expensive with huge deductables.  /rant

A photo posted by @dvmheather on

He talks about how he was treated as a black man in sweats and a tshirt with a knee injury and how his treatment changed when he revealed that he was a doctor.

Should doctors be discussing sterilization with a drug addicted woman who just miscarried?

How do you deal with patients who don’t want to have a doctor of a different race than them?

How does poverty and cultural attitudes tie into poor health in the black community?


3flower

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14 Jun, 2016

My Underground American Dream

/ posted in: Reading My Underground American Dream My (Underground) American Dream: My True Story as an Undocumented Immigrant Who Became a Wall Street Executive by Julissa Arce
on September 13th 2016
Pages: 304
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Center Street
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Mexico and Texas

For an undocumented immigrant, what is the true cost of the American Dream? Julissa Arce shares her story in a riveting memoir.
When she was 11 years old Julissa Arce left Mexico and came to the United States on a tourist visa to be reunited with her parents, who dreamed the journey would secure her a better life. When her visa expired at the age of 15, she became an undocumented immigrant. Thus began her underground existence, a decades long game of cat and mouse, tremendous family sacrifice, and fear of exposure. After the Texas Dream Act made a college degree possible, Julissa's top grades and leadership positions landed her an internship at Goldman Sachs, which led to a full time position--one of the most coveted jobs on Wall Street. Soon she was a Vice President, a rare Hispanic woman in a sea of suits and ties, yet still guarding her "underground" secret. In telling her personal story of separation, grief, and ultimate redemption, Arce shifts the immigrant conversation, and changes the perception of what it means to be an undocumented immigrant.

Goodreads

Julissa Arce’s parents were working legally in the United States while she and her older sisters lived with her extended family in Mexico.  Her younger brother was born in the United States.  When Julissa started acting out in school at age 11, her parents brought her to live with them.  She had no idea that it was illegal for her to go to school.  She didn’t know that she had outstayed her visa until her mother explained that she couldn’t go back to Mexico for her quinceanera because she wouldn’t be able to come back into the United States.

She was a star student but was not accepted to any colleges because she didn’t have a social security number.  At this point Texas passed a law that allowed undocumented students to go to college at Texas state schools.  This allowed her to be able to go to school.

I was conflicted when reading this book.  I think people should follow the rules of the country they live in.  I also think that it should be much, much easier for people to come to the United States from Latin America so people aren’t required to sneak into the country.  Julissa also buys fake documents as an adult to be able to get a job.  I can see that she was brought into the country by her parents and she had no intent to do anything wrong at that point, but now she was actively breaking the law because she felt she was entitled to stay here and get a very high paying job.  She talked a little bit about whether or not she should go back to Mexico because she would be able to get a very good job so it wasn’t like she didn’t have options.  She also marries specifically get to a green card.  The more unethical things she does, the less sympathy I retained for her.

This book made me understand the issues around children of undocumented immigrants.  They are stuck as they become adults.  I think there should be a way for these children to be able to be legally documented.

freetogoodhome

First come first served and if you want to throw in a few dollars for shipping that would be great but not required.

10 Jun, 2016

Believing in Magic

/ posted in: Reading Believing in Magic Believing in Magic: My Story of Love, Overcoming Adversity, and Keeping the Faith by Cookie Johnson, Denene Millner
on September 20th 2016
Pages: 272
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Howard Books
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Michigan and California

In her new memoir, Cookie Johnson, wife of NBA legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson, shares details of her marriage, motherhood, faith, and how an HIV diagnosis twenty-five years ago changed the course of their lives forever.
On November 7, 1991, basketball icon Earvin “Magic” Johnson stunned the world with the news that he was HIV-positive. For the millions who watched, his announcement became a pivotal moment not only for the nation, but his family and wife. Twenty-five years later, Cookie Johnson shares her story and the emotional journey that started on that day—from life as a pregnant and joyous newlywed to one filled with the fear that her husband would die, she and her baby would be infected with the virus, and their family would be shunned. Believing in Magic is the story of her marriage to Earvin nearly four decades of loving each other, losing their way, and eventually finding a path they never imagined.
November 7, 2016 will mark a quarter-century since the announcement and Cookie’s survival and triumph as a wife, mother, and God-fearing woman.
Cookie has never shared her full account of the reasons that she stayed and her life with Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Believing in Magic is her story.

Goodreads

We all have had that friend.  You know the one.  She’s the one with the loser boyfriend who she insists is just the sweetest and kindest person ever to exist but he just doesn’t show that side of himself in public.  If you just knew him like she does, you’d understand.

 

This is what the first half of this book felt like to me. I felt like I needed to stage an intervention even though it all happened years ago.

While they were dating, Magic:

  • Publicly shunned her and then asked her if she learned her lesson when she didn’t follow his orders
  • Got upset when his friends teased him for calling her on an out of town trip so he broke up with her because she was “too controlling.”
  • Dated other women when they were supposed to be exclusively dating and then had the nerve to get mad at her for calling him out on it
  • Saw her with her new boyfriend during a 2 year breakup and then going out of his way to publicly humiliate the new boyfriend.
  • Repeatedly broke up with her for long periods and returned only when he found out she was dating someone else
  • Let her know that he had impregnated another woman during one of their breakups by bringing the now 3 year old offspring to a family party and introducing them to each other in front of his whole family
  • Proposed and then called off the wedding – TWICE

 

And just like your friend who keeps getting back with her jerk of a boyfriend, she keeps making excuses for him.

Now, I give her credit for not moving to LA with him and living the lifestyle of a basketball girlfriend. He wasn’t going to make a commitment so she stayed in Toledo and worked on her career. Good for her!

Eventually she did move because she felt that she had to prove to him that she could fit into his world.  She kept a job in her field though to maintain her independence.  Soon she had to choose between her career and the NBA finals.  She quit her job to stand by her man and what did he do?  Dumped her again.

This book is advertised as the story of a long and successful marriage in the public eye.  It doesn’t read that way at all.  To me it reads like a woman trying too hard to convince you that everything is ok.

I found the second half of the book more interesting mostly because Magic almost entirely disappears from the story once they got married.  She tells the story of raising her son, who she was pregnant with at the time of Magic’s HIV diagnosis.  She talks of coming to terms with the fact that their son was absolutely not athletic and over time realizing that he was gay.  She talks about the adoption of their daughter and the affect that adoption had on the life of her child.  She touches on the work they do in HIV education.  She does not discuss what it is like to have an HIV positive partner.

This is also advertised as a story of faith.  She talks about getting through the hard times when Magic would run off again by reading the Bible and discovering what God wanted her to do.  Amazingly, God always wanted her to do exactly what she wanted to do.  He would always lead her back to her emotionally abusive boyfriend.  Wow, thanks for looking out for me God!

 

freetogoodhome

First come first served

 

03 Jun, 2016

How To Get Run Over By A Truck

/ posted in: Reading How To Get Run Over By A Truck How to Get Run Over by a Truck by Katie C McKenna
on October 4th 2016
Pages: 294
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Published by Inkshares
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in New York

People often say, I feel like I've been run over by a truck. Katie actually was. On a sunny morning bike ride in Brooklyn, twenty-four-year-old Katie McKenna was forever changed when she was run over by an eighteen-wheeler. Being crushed under a massive semi wasn't something Katie should have survived. After ten hours of emergency surgery, she woke to find herself in a body and a life that would never be the same. In this brutally honest and surprisingly funny memoir, Katie recalls the pivotal event and the long, confusing road to recovery that followed. Between the unprepared nudity in front of her parents post-surgery, hospital happy hours, and the persistent fear that she would never walk again, Katie details the struggles she's faced navigating her new reality. This inspiring memoir follows Katie's remarkable journey to let go of her old life and fall in love with her new one.

Goodreads

This was the first book I read that I received at BEA.  It was handed to me when I was on my way off the floor one day so it didn’t get packed up with the rest of the books I was shipping home.  (I started it that night in a Jamaican restaurant that served me the most amazing avocado and plantain sandwich.)

 

Katie was riding in Brooklyn in the early morning. She pulled up next to a semi that did not signal that he was turning. When the light turned, the truck pulled into her lane, knocking her over and running over her abdomen with 8 wheels before stopping.

What I find amazing about this is that she never lost consciousness. It probably would have been better. She was able to tell witnesses her name and had them call her parents before the ambulance got there. Because she was talking, her parents didn’t realize the severity of her injuries until they got to the hospital.

In an instant she went from a healthy woman with no major issues in her life to a person completely dependent on other people for her every need. She was taken to a hospital well equipped to deal with major trauma. However, this hospital’s main purpose was treating prisoners so when she is recovered enough to get out of ICU, her quality of care falls dramatically. This is where this book is difficult to deal with at times. As a young white woman who is not in custody, with parents who are able to advocate for her, she is able to get out of this situation. She also causes problems for several doctors who give her straight answers to her questions without coddling her. She seems to only want to hear happy answers about her prognosis and anyone who doesn’t go along with this suddenly is getting the brunt of her family calling their supervisors and demanding that they never get to speak with her again. Several times while reading this I paused to be grateful once again that I don’t work in human medicine.

I would recommend this book for anyone who ever wondered what to say to someone dealing with a life changing diagnosis or injury.

freetogoodhome

ARCs are meant to roam so if anyone would like to read this, leave a comment and I’ll send it to you. If you would like to send a few dollars to help cover shipping that would be appreciated.

16 May, 2016

Code Name Papa

/ posted in: Reading Code Name Papa Code Name: Papa: My Extraordinary Life While Hiding in Plain Sight by John Murray
on September 30th 2015
Pages: 326
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Format: Paperback
Source: From author/publisher
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Who'd have thought a bright, but fairly ordinary young man from middle class America who got just above average grades, dated the same girl throughout high school and went to church most Sundays, would grow up to eventually head a very secretive band of brave individuals--both men and women--who regularly put their lives on the line because they wanted to protect the rest of you. Yet that's what we did, often sacrificing our personal lives (four marriages for me, all in the book) and our health (countless broken bones, major surgeries, even death) to do it.
Meanwhile you're just going to have to call me "Papa" like everyone else around the globe has through most of those wildly unpredictable and dangerous years.

Goodreads

 

John Murray joined the Marines during the Vietnam War after working as a police officer in Florida.  He becomes friends with two men named Jake and Bill.  Over time he finds that Jake’s father is a powerful man who has the power to make things happen for him, including getting him out of the Army.

Eventually, Jake’s father offers them all a job.  He heads a team of people who are the American branch of an international organization who kill people that governments can’t touch for various reasons.  They will be given cover careers but will be out of contact with their families for much of the time and they can tell no one what they actually do.

Not a lot is explained about how it all works.  Jobs are assigned but by whom?  How is this funded?  He says over and over that it isn’t illegal but defined how?  I kept waiting for the plot twist.  You know the one.  In the thriller the main character is working for a shadowy organization and eventually realizes that he is on the side of evil.  Spoiler alert – it doesn’t happen here.

Some of the locations discussed in Code Name Papa

The stories of the jobs are told in a very matter of fact style.  There is not much emotion expressed about the many people who died in these jobs except for when it was decided to kill innocent people to eliminate witnesses.  The descriptions are brutal but clinical instead of sensationalized.  It is a lot like listening to war veterans discuss battles.

When Jake’s father becomes ill, John takes over the running of the team.  He decides how to recruit and train new members.  He decides how to get jobs accomplished.  He makes decisions like requiring all female team members to have a hysterectomy because periods are inconvenient but the men don’t need to be castrated (because I guess testosterone never leads to anything bad happening?).

I read the book in one day because I found it intriguing but the more you think about it the more disturbing it becomes.  I wouldn’t recommend this for anyone who is bothered by reading about violence.  The husband read this book also.  Like me he was quickly absorbed into the story and read it over the course of a few days.

 

I received a copy of this book from the author for possible review.

04 May, 2016

The Year of Running Dangerously

/ posted in: Reading The Year of Running Dangerously My Year of Running Dangerously by Tom Foreman
on October 6th 2015
Pages: 280
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Running & Jogging
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Washington D.C.

As a journalist whose career spans three decades, CNN correspondent Tom Foreman has reported from the heart of war zones, riots, and natural disasters. He has interviewed serial killers and been in the line of fire. But the most terrifying moment of his life didn't occur on the job--it occurred at home, when his 18-year old daughter asked, "How would you feel about running a marathon with me?" 
At the time, Foreman was approaching 51 years old, and his last marathon was almost 30 years behind him. The race was just sixteen weeks away, but Foreman reluctantly agreed. Training with his daughter, who had just started college, would be a great bonding experience, albeit a long and painful one. 
My Year of Running Dangerously is Foreman's journey through four half-marathons, three marathons, and one 55-mile race. What started as an innocent request from his daughter quickly turned into a rekindled passion for long-distance running--for the training, the camaraderie, the defeats, and the victories. Told with honesty and humor, Foreman's account captures the universal fears of aging and failure alongside the hard-won moments of triumph, tenacity, and going further than you ever thought possible.

Goodreads

Tom Foreman had been a good cross country runner in high school.  He’d been good enough that he could win without training or taking it seriously.  Over the years he had done some running but not seriously.  So when his daughter wanted him to train with her to run a marathon, it was a big commitment for him.

Once that first marathon was done he kept running.  Soon he found himself investigating the world of ultrarunning or running distances longer than 26 miles.  He starts to train for a 50 mile trail race – spending hours a day running in spite of his busy schedule.

I hate running but I love reading books about running. It is weird.

I really don’t like reading books that focus on father-daughter relationships so I hesitated about picking this one up but my interest in the ultrarunning world won out. Besides, this is one of those books about a person doing something new for a year and I just can’t resist those.

I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that he had a history of being a runner before this started. It wasn’t like running a marathon was a completely foreign idea to him.

This is a good introduction to the weird world of people who run long distance and what it takes to be a part of it.

22 Apr, 2016

A Thousand Naked Strangers

/ posted in: Reading A Thousand Naked Strangers A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride to the Edge and Back by Kevin Hazzard
on January 5th 2016
Pages: 288
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Georgia

A former paramedic’s visceral, poignant, and mordantly funny account of a decade spent on Atlanta’s mean streets saving lives and connecting with the drama and occasional beauty that lies inside catastrophe.
In the aftermath of 9/11 Kevin Hazzard felt that something was missing from his life—his days were too safe, too routine. A failed salesman turned local reporter, he wanted to test himself, see how he might respond to pressure and danger. He signed up for emergency medical training and became, at age twenty-six, a newly minted EMT running calls in the worst sections of Atlanta. His life entered a different realm—one of blood, violence, and amazing grace.

Goodreads

When I started reading this book I realized that I had missed some important information in my life.  I didn’t know the difference between EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) and Paramedics.  Basically, paramedics are trained to make medical decisions like what drugs to give and EMTs are not.  They can start IVs and move patients but don’t make the medical treatment decisions.

To become an EMT a person takes a course and then has to pass a test. When the author did this, he entered into a whole new world.

His first position was with a private ambulance company.  They mostly transport elderly patients from nursing homes to appointments.  The turnover rate for employees was staggeringly high.

His goal was to work for Grady.  That is a hospital in Atlanta that handles most of the inner city.  Along the way he goes to paramedic school and has to deal with burn out after years of working in a high crime area with little to no support.

He sees people at their worst from dealing with arguing relatives to picking up mental ill people on drugs to getting an overdose patient’s friends to admit to what they had taken so they can help them.  He has to deal with coworkers who are burnt out themselves from the hours and abuse.

The book goes into detail about what it is like to handle accident scenes and medical emergencies.  It reads like having a conversation with anyone in a medical field where eventually you realize that the normal people around you are starting to get grossed out and you don’t understand why.

04 Apr, 2016

SeaSoned

/ posted in: Reading SeaSoned SEAsoned by Victoria Allman
on 2010-12
Pages: 200
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in the Bahamas and Italy and Greece

Victoria's Recipe for Marriage: Take two adventurous newlyweds and place them on a floundering yacht where the wife is the chef, and her boss, the captain, is also her husband. Add two inexperienced crew members, an anorexic diva and her bully of a husband, a CEO who thinks he's in charge, a drunken first mate, and a randy wife looking for diversion. Stir with a violent storm and a rapidly flooding engine room. Apply pressure and watch the situation simmer to a boil. Sprinkled with over 30-mouthwatering recipes and spiced with tales of adventure, SEAsoned is the hilarious look at a yacht chef's first year working for her husband while they cruise from the Bahamas to Italy, France, Greece and Spain, trying to stay afloat.

Goodreads

 

Victoria Allman and her husband have just gotten their big break.  He is going to be the captain of a yacht after years of working on crews.  To do this though they have to lower their standards.  They aren’t going to be on a big boat.  They are taking on a measly 100 foot yacht that isn’t in the best of shape.

I was very surprised when I heard her refer to a 100 foot yacht as a small boat.  I’ve seen those things in marinas and they are huge.  That’s your first clue that the lives of the rich people who rent these yachts are a bit different.

Victoria and her husband run the yacht with two crew members.  She is the chef.  She has to decide what to stock in the very small galley and what she might be able to find to cook with in ports that they call at.  If the passengers change their destination at the last minute or if they invite their friends from another yacht over, she might have to scramble.  She makes elaborate meal plans that can be crushed with a breezy “Here’s what I want for lunch…”

They start out doing charters in the Bahamas until the yacht is damaged enough that it has to go in for lengthy repairs.  They then pick up another job on a 200 foot yacht in the Mediterranean.  This makes Victoria happy because of the bigger galley but adds more crew member problems.

This is a behind the scenes look at a life of luxury that most people would never experience.  See what it takes to cater to another person’s every whim while living in cramped quarters with your spouse.

There are a lot of recipes in here too.  Most are meat based but there is one for a Santorini Eggplant Salad that sounds interesting.

I enjoyed the story telling in this book and wished it were a bit longer to immerse myself in this world for a while more.

30 Mar, 2016

Banished – A Westboro Memoir

/ posted in: Reading Banished – A Westboro Memoir Banished by Lauren Drain
on March 5th 2013
Pages: 304
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Religious, Religion, Cults
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Kansas

You've likely heard of the Westboro Baptist Church. Perhaps you've seen their pickets on the news protesting at events such as the funerals of soldiers, the 9-year old victim of the recent Tucson shooting, and Elizabeth Edwards, all in front of their grieving families. The WBC is fervently anti-gay, anti-Semitic, and anti- practically everything and everyone. And they aren't going anywhere: in March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the WBC's right to picket funerals.
Since no organized religion will claim affiliation with the WBC, it's perhaps more accurate to think of them as a cult. Lauren Drain was thrust into that cult at the age of 15, and then spat back out again seven years later. BANISHED is the first look inside the organization, as well as a fascinating story of adaptation and perseverance.

Goodreads

Lauren Drain’s atheist father set out to make a documentary about the Westboro Baptist Church and its habit of picketing any event that will give them attention.  Over the course of the next few years he was drawn into the group.  He was influenced by their beliefs and started to pay a lot of attention to policing young teenage Lauren’s life.  He became convinced that she was a slut and a whore.  He pulled her out of school and cut off all contact with people outside of her penpals from the Westboro church.

Eventually he moved the family from Florida to Kansas to live on the same block as the church members in an attempt to control his wayward daughter.  The fact that Lauren was a well behaved teenage girl with no sexual experience did not change his conviction that she was on the road to hell. They were the only family not related to the pastor Fred Phelps in the church.

Lauren was glad to move.  By this point in her life the teenage members of Westboro were the only friends she was allowed to have.  She enthusiastically joined into pickets.  Pickets are a way of life.  Westboro members picket something every day.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church demonstrate at the Virginia Holocaust Museum on March 2, 2010. by JCWilmore

The Phelps cousins and Lauren would picket outside their school at lunchtime. They picketed their own graduations. They traveled around the country to picket funerals. The whole time paranoia ran rampant in the church. Any hint of wrongdoing or wrong thinking was discussed in group emails. Humiliation was common.

Lauren was taught that what they were doing was right. The fact that people got upset was proof that the church was right and people felt guilty about having their sins pointed out to them. The church prides itself on being very smart. Most of the Phelps family consists of lawyers. All of the younger generation are required to be at the top of their classes in school. They are trained to react to people who question them with intellectual rigor. It seems like the best thing to do at a Westboro protest would be to totally ignore it. They would consider that a failure.

Eventually Lauren’s online friendship with a male church supporter is used as proof of her sexual immorality even though they have never met. She is banished from her church and family. Over the last few years she has learned to live on her own. She realizes that the church is destructive. She isn’t a gay rights supporter by any means but so far she has progressed to live and let live.

It was so sad to read about how she was scapegoated in her family because of her sexuality. She was constantly told that she was a slut and a whore.

It is the typical fear that if you don’t control women from a young age that you will lose all power over them. Then you can make them complicit in their own humiliation.

There are a lot of documentaries on Westboro because they feel that helping with documentaries helps spread their message. This one claims to have footage of the Drains.

16 Mar, 2016

No Excuses – a Football Story

/ posted in: Reading No Excuses – a Football Story No Excuses on June 2nd 2015
Pages: 272
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in California

Trailblazing Seattle Seahawks fullback Derrick Coleman Jr.—the first deaf athlete to play offense in the NFL—tells his inspirational journey of persevering through every obstacle, remaining dedicated to the hard work and a no-excuses attitude that ultimately earned him a Super Bowl victory.


Derrick Coleman was diagnosed as being legally deaf at the age of three.  In this book he tells his story growing up in and around Los Angeles.  He moved often with his mother when meant trying to make friends at new schools all the time.  He used sports to channel his energy and frustration.

He became a standout high school football player and then went to UCLA to play.  He was considered to have a good chance in the draft but wasn’t drafted after his senior year.  He went on to try out for several teams as a free agent before finding a more permanent job with the Seattle Seahawks.

This was an interesting story but it seemed to drag during his younger years.  He was only 23 at the time of the writing so there wasn’t a lot of life to cover.  It didn’t get really interesting until he was in high school and older.  It also seems to minimize his deafness more than you would think.  I feel like he is so used to it that it doesn’t seem like an issue to him so he doesn’t understand why people are so interested.  He mostly just says that it isn’t an issue and then moves on to talk about something else.

His insights into what it takes to get into the NFL and compete at that level are interesting.  That is the main focus of the book.  It covers the lifestyle of a player that isn’t a superstar.

I had never heard of him until I saw this audiobook on the library website.  I don’t have television so I hadn’t seen a commercial that he did for Duracell about being a deaf football player.  He did it for fun, a little money, and a year’s supply of hearing aid batteries.  He was most excited about the batteries because he needs to change them every few days.

22 Feb, 2016

Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye

/ posted in: Reading Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey by Marie Mutsuki Mockett
on January 19th 2015
Pages: 352
Genres: Personal Memoirs
Published by W. W. Norton & Company
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

Marie Mutsuki Mockett's family owns a Buddhist temple 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In March 2011, after the earthquake and tsunami, radiation levels prohibited the burial of her Japanese grandfather's bones. As Japan mourned thousands of people lost in the disaster, Mockett also grieved for her American father, who had died unexpectedly.
Seeking consolation, Mockett is guided by a colorful cast of Zen priests and ordinary Japanese who perform rituals that disturb, haunt, and finally uplift her. Her journey leads her into the radiation zone in an intricate white hazmat suit; to Eiheiji, a school for Zen Buddhist monks; on a visit to a Crab Lady and Fuzzy-Headed Priest’s temple on Mount Doom; and into the "thick dark" of the subterranean labyrinth under Kiyomizu temple, among other twists and turns. From the ecstasy of a cherry blossom festival in the radiation zone to the ghosts inhabiting chopsticks, Mockett writes of both the earthly and the sublime with extraordinary sensitivity.

Goodreads

When Marie Mutsuki Mockett is able to contact her relatives at their temple after the nuclear meltdown, she urges them to evacuate.  She can’t understand why they won’t go to a safe area.  Over the course of the next two years she travels to Japan and learns how the Buddhist priests in the area are helping to lead the people through their grief after the disaster.  She combines this with trips around Japan to help her understand the Japanese expression of grief in all forms as she grieves the loss of her father.

She explains the history of Shinto in Japan and how Buddhism came to Japan.  She talks about how elements of both religions are combined so that the animism of Shinto is still celebrated by Buddhists.

“The love of things, the belief that the world is alive, is in part what informs modern Japanese design, where things are sleekly, cleverly shaped, almost as though they are repositories for a soul.”

She meets with priests from different sects of Buddhism and meditates with each of them to understand the difference.  She consults with female seers and participates in rituals meant to lessen grief.

Although she is half Japanese and is fluent in the language and has been visiting Japan regularly since she was a child, she is frequently made aware of her status as a foreigner.  People are reluctant to speak to her openly because they say that she can’t understand Japanese ways.  Only hearing that she has family with a temple can make some people open to communicating with her.

I didn’t know a lot of the history of Buddhism specifically in Japan and how the different sects operate.  I didn’t realize that the priesthood was usually a family business passed down from father to son.  I learned about many Japanese celebrations meant to keep your ancestors happy.

This is a beautifully written book.  It keeps you engaged even if you feel like sometimes you are missing part of the story.  She doesn’t talk much about what is happening in her life in between trips to Japan.  I had more questions like, “How are you flying over to Japan so often?  How can you afford this?  Wait, you are in a documentary now?  When did that happen?  What is it called?”  I guess I’m just nosy.

18 Jan, 2016

My Accidental Jihad

/ posted in: Reading My Accidental Jihad My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer
on June 25th 2014
Pages: 361
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in North Carolina and Libya

Fifteen years ago, Krista Bremer would not have been able to imagine her life today: married to a Libyan-born Muslim, raising two children with Arabic names in the American South. Nor could she have imagined the prejudice she would encounter or the profound ways her marriage would change her perception of the world.But on a running trail in North Carolina, she met Ismail.

Goodreads

This book defines jihad as:

An individual’s striving for spiritual and intellectual growth

 

This is the story of the author’s personal growth during the last 15 years.  I’ve seen many reviews that complain that the story is all about her.  That’s sort of the point.  How has she adapted to a life that she never meant to have?

She was in journalism school when she met Ismail.  An unintentional pregnancy early in their relationship accelerated their plans.

Ismail was entirely different than Krista.  He was fifteen years older than her, an immigrant from a poor background in Libya, and a Muslim.  She was a California girl from a middle class background with vaguely Buddhist tendencies.    He gets crankier than she thinks he should during Ramadan and she can’t understand why he doesn’t understand Christmas.  She is horrified that Ismail insists on haggling in the mall, especially when it was for her wedding ring**.  Like all relationships, they need to find a way to blend together their differences to make their own unique life.

When their daughter is young and she is three months pregnant with their second child, they travel to Libya to meet his family.  She has visions of adventure but is faced instead of the realities of life for a poor family under Gaddafi.  She doesn’t speak Arabic so can’t understand the women who she with all day long.  She hates the oppressiveness that the political situation has over the whole country and it makes her bitter about being there.  She needs to work hard to find any beauty in the situation.

Back in North Carolina, the openness she thinks she has is challenged when her now preteen daughter decides to wear a hijab.  How should she react when a new neighbor says that they love the neighborhood because of the diversity?  All the neighbors are white so she doesn’t know what they mean until she realizes that they are referring to her family.

The writing in this book is lyric and vivid.  She is very open about her own faults in the way that she approaches her relationship.  This is a story that I think could be written about any marriage.  Some of the complaints and insights seem familiar even if you come from the same culture.

 

**I feel her pain.  The husband likes to negotiate.  It is so embarrassing.  I also was given an engagement ring with the following declaration of love – “I got you this.  I got a really good deal on it.”  This Christmas I got earrings with the price sticker peeled off but the 50% off sticker left on so I’d be proud.  My husband and Ismail together would be a force to be reckoned with.

23 Nov, 2015

I Am Malala

/ posted in: Reading I Am Malala I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb
on October 8th 2013
Pages: 327
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Set in Pakistan

I come from a country that was created at midnight. When I almost died it was just after midday.
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education.
On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive.
Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
I Am Malala is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons.

Goodreads

Nonfiction-November-2015

 

For the last week of Nonfiction November, there is a discussion of the group read, I Am Malala over at Doing Dewey.

1. What did you think of the tone and style in which I Am Malala was written?

While the story is interesting and important, I don’t think that this is a very good book.  It is very choppy.  That is probably because it is written in collaboration with a teenager and an adult coauthor.  While you can’t be sure who wrote what, there are definitely style changes in the book between when she is talking about things that happened directly to her and her family and when the background history is being laid out.

Another confusing point is that there is a young readers edition of this book that has the same name.  I originally got that one from the library by mistake.  I read a little bit of that one and it didn’t seem so disjointed.

2. What did you think of the political commentary in the book?

The commentary is what I would expect from someone who has gone through what this family has.  I hadn’t realized that her father had run a private school that allowed girls to study.  He used Malala as an example of what education could do for girls.  She spoke to the media and had an anonymous column on a website about education for girls.  That’s why she was considered a target.

I think that the background of the situation that is included in this book is very important.  It shows how little decisions in the lives of the people can add up to big changes over time.  The thing I found most scary is the story of how an uneducated guy in town got a radio show and started espousing ideas that a lot of the population adopted to the eventual detriment of the whole society.  That can so easily happen here too.

3. Did anything particularly surprise you about Malala’s daily life or culture?

The emphasis on honor and getting revenge for every slight made me sad.  That is such a horrible way to live.  There can’t be any peace if you can’t ever forgive.

I was struck by her assertion that Pakistanis love conspiracy theories.  She mentions that people don’t necessarily believe that she was shot.  Just reading the reviews on Goodreads supports this.  Some are really nasty about how it was all made up.

4. Do you think you would act similarly to Malala in her situation? If you were her parents, would you let her continue to be an activist despite possible danger?

I don’t think her parents let her be an activist.  Her father made her be an activist. He was using her as a face and a voice of his defiance of the Taliban.  I don’t think that he thought that they would do anything to a kid.  I think it was hardest for him when she was shot because he realized that he had focused the attention of the Taliban on her and hadn’t set up any of the security protocols that he had for himself.

I think it was good and brave to stand up the brutality and anti-intellectualism that was sweeping over their country.  I’m not sure that I would have been able to be so open in my defiance knowing what the regime was doing to dissidents.

5. What did you think of the book overall?

I think this book should have waited a few years.  It ends rather abruptly.  There have been other interesting things in her life that would have added to the story.  Publishing this book so quickly doesn’t allow enough time to pass to be able to discuss what happened in response to her shooting.  I would have preferred to read a book written about five to ten years after the shooting to see what impact it had.  Then the book wouldn’t have had to be padded so much when the shooting could be the beginning of the story instead of the end.

05 Nov, 2015

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome

/ posted in: Reading Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome by Reba Riley
on August 18th 2015
Pages: 368
Genres: Personal Memoirs
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Ohio

Reba Riley’s twenty-ninth year was a terrible time to undertake a spiritual quest. But when untreatable chronic illness forced her to her metaphorical (and physical) derriere on her birthday, Reba realized that even if she couldn’t fix her body, she might be able to heal her injured spirit. And so began a yearlong journey to recover from her whopping case of Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome by visiting thirty religions before her thirtieth birthday. During her spiritual sojourn, Reba:
-Was interrogated by Amish grandmothers about her sex life -Danced the disco in a Buddhist temple -Went to church in virtual reality, a movie theater, a drive-in bar, and a basement -Fasted for thirty days without food—or wine -Washed her lady parts in a mosque bathroom -Was audited by Scientologists -Learned to meditate with an urban monk, sucked mud in a sweat lodge with a suburban shaman, and snuck into Yom Kippur with a fake grandpa in tow -Discovered she didn’t have to choose religion to choose God.

Goodreads

Reba Riley was a good Evangelical Christian girl up until college.  The reasons for her break from Christianity are not explained but ten years later the effects are clear.  She isn’t able to even think about religion without getting angry and sometimes even physically ill if she goes into a church.

In the meantime she developed a chronic debilitating sickness that no doctor has been able to diagnose or fix.  On her 29th birthday she decides to do something about her spiritual state if she can’t fix her body.  She is going to attend the services of thirty different religious groups by the time she turns thirty.

I was interested in this book because it sounded similar to my journey. Our paths are different though because she still feels a need to have a belief in God.  I don’t.  I get angry when I think about people being scammed by religion of any kind.  She just thinks that the environment that she grew up in was toxic.

I didn’t blame my parents; any system of belief built like a Jenga tower is breakable.  If you much believe x to believe y, and y to believe z, and x, y, and z to believe in God, it only takes a crack in one area bring all your faith crashing down.  My parents didn’t break my faith; they had given me a faith that was inherently breakable.”

Yes! I agree with that statement wholeheartedly. I tell people that I studied my way out of Christianity. I mean that as I got deeper and deeper into the faith and the Bible, things started not to make sense or to mean something different than I was taught. It took a long time for the first bricks to fall but once they did, everything else happened quickly.

“…Christianese — the language of Evangelical Christians and therefore my native tongue.  Due to my background, I speak Christianese beautifully:  I can catch and throw idioms and deftly season whole conversations with Scripture.  It’s like a secret verbal handshake, so Evangelicals can instantly recognize one another regardless of the setting.”

Oh, yes. Just this summer I listened to a story my sister-in-law was telling about my brother’s boss’ wife (also their pastor’s wife) telling her off for letting people know on Facebook that the church staff was on a retreat. Obviously if your Facebook friends know that your menfolk are not home they will rush over to rape and kill you. I said, “Smile sweetly and say, ‘Oh! I thought we weren’t supposed to have a spirit of fear.'”

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:7

I told her, “I may not go to church anymore but if you need a Christian smack down for someone just let me know.”  All the studying might as well come in handy for something.

A lot of the religious facilities she visits are Christian but she does spend some time out of the Christian fold.  She visits Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Pagans, Hare Krishnas, Scientologists, and Atheists.  I like what one atheist told her.

“You know, one thing people never consider about atheism is that it gives us even more of a reason to be good people.  This life is all we have.  No second chances.”

Thank you.  I’m so tired of Christians constantly spouting off about how only Christians can have a system of morality because their god is the basis for right and wrong.  That never made sense to me even as a Christian.


This book is fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  If you’ve ever walked away from religion, you’ll find something familiar here.

 

About Reba Riley

“I’m Reba Riley, the author of Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome: A Memoir of Humor and Healing in 30 Religions, Patheos.com blogger, speaker, former Evangelical Poster Child and lover of all things sparkly. I live with my husband, Trent, and Welsh terrier, Oxley, in Cincinnati, Ohio, where I plan to write more books…after I recover from Post-Traumatic Memoir Syndrome.
My hope is that PTCS will inspire you, give you hope, make you laugh out loud at least once (preferably while drinking coffee so you snort it up your nose), and spark an international conversation about the reality of spiritual injury and the many paths to healing.” from Goodreads

04 Nov, 2015

A Donkey’s Tale: Saving Simon

/ posted in: Reading A Donkey’s Tale:  Saving Simon Saving Simon by Jon Katz
on October 7th 2014
Pages: 224
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Personal Memoirs
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

In this heartfelt, thoughtful, and inspiring memoir, New York Times bestselling author Jon Katz tells the story of his beloved rescue donkey, Simon, and the wondrous ways that animals make us wiser and kinder people.   In the spring of 2011, Jon Katz received a phone call that would challenge every idea he ever had about mercy and compassion. An animal control officer had found a neglected donkey on a farm in upstate New York, and she hoped that Jon and his wife, Maria, would be willing to adopt him. Jon wasn’t planning to add another animal to his home on Bedlam Farm, certainly not a very sick donkey. But the moment he saw the wrenching sight of Simon, he felt a powerful connection.

Goodreads

 

I love donkeys.  I knew that reading a book about a neglected donkey would be tough.  The opening chapters tell the story of Simon being left for dead in a pen without after food or water except for what is smuggled to him by his owner’s son.  Eventually the son calls the authorities and Simon is taken away.

He ends up on the author’s farm.  He is nursed back to health over time. The author has learned slowly to love donkeys and understand their ways.

“They are agreeable creatures, but they do not like being told what to do, and if you show that you really want them to do something that doesn’t involve food, you may be standing out in the sun for a long time.”

The author uses the story of his recovery to contemplate the meaning of compassion.

“But it seemed to me, I thought, standing out in my pasture, that the love of animals has made many people less compassionate to humans.  The very idea of animal rights in our time is equated with hostility, rage, and self-righteousness.”

He is telling Simon’s story on his blog and his readers are outraged when he reaches out to the man who neglected Simon.  He doesn’t go to him in judgement but to hear his side of the story.

“And why, I kept asking, are people who love animals so angry at people?”

This is an interesting topic for me.  I’m definitely on the “love animals, don’t care about people” side of the divide but I’m not nearly as hostile as some people I see especially in the rescue community.

“The farmer was animal, a monster; he should be jailed, punished, tortured, even killed.  No one offered a single line of compassion or understanding or concern for him, or for his son, who had bravely helped Simon when he was starving.

The hatred and fury were shocking to me, disturbing; this idea of rescue was not compassionate for me.”

This reminded me of the outrage I saw on Twitter from civil rights activists around the time of the shooting of Cecil the Lion.  They didn’t understand why the world was upset over the shooting of one lion in Africa when people in Africa were dying all the time and when African-Americans were being shot by police.  I didn’t have a good answer for that.  I still don’t.


 

Spoilers

After reading this book I saw the author bio below.  See the issue?  No Simon.  I went to the author’s website to follow up.  It turns out that Simon died unexpectedly shortly after the publication of this book.  That was a downer but he had a few good years where he was loved and well cared for.  He turned into a bully towards the end of the book and I don’t know how I feel about the story of pony he terrorized.  It was disturbing all around.

About Jon Katz

Jon Katz is an author, photographer, and children’s book writer. He lives on Bedlam Farm with his wife, the artist Maria Wulf, his four dogs, Rose, Izzy, Lenore and Frieda, two donkeys, Lulu and Fanny, and two barn cats.

29 Oct, 2015

Where The Hell is Tuvalu?

/ posted in: Reading Where The Hell is Tuvalu? Where The Hell Is Tuvalu? by Philip Ells
on August 31st 2011
Pages: 288
Genres: Travel
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)
Tuvalu

How does a young City lawyer end up as the People's Lawyer of the fourth-smallest country in the world, 18,000 kilometres from home?
We've all thought about getting off the treadmill, turning life on its head and doing something worthwhile. Philip Ells dreamed of turquoise seas, sandy beaches and palm trees, and he found these in the tiny Pacific island state of Tuvalu. But neither his Voluntary Service Overseas briefing pack nor his legal training could prepare him for what happened there.
He learned to deal with rapes, murders, incest, the unforgivable crime of pig theft and to look a shark in the eye. But he never dared ask the octogenarian Tuvaluan chief why he sat immobilised by a massive rock permanently resting on his groin.Well, you wouldn't, would you?
This is the story of a UK lawyer colliding with a Pacific island culture. The fallout is moving, dramatic, bewildering and often hilarious.

Goodreads

Philip Ells was a lawyer in London and he was burnt out.  He decided to escape his high pressure job by volunteering with Voluntary Service Overseas.  He was sent to Tuvalu to be the People’s Lawyer.  That job is basically serving as a defense attorney for anyone who needs one.  There aren’t native lawyers available for people.  The prosecuting attorney was also an ex-pat.

This job came with some problems that he hadn’t expected.  In Tuvalu there just isn’t much crime.  It is also customary to go to the police and write out a full confession immediately if you commit a crime.  Everyone pleads guilty.  That makes life for your defense attorney much harder.  His main job was to try to get the sentences as short as possible for his clients by whatever means necessary.  This led to most of the island residents calling him “The People’s Liar.”  He filled out the rest of his time by writing threatening letters to government officials of behalf of citizens.  That can get awkward when you then meet the officials socially or over tennis.

He also inherited Laita, a secretary/translator/paralegal with his office.  She feels that the less he knows the better.  He can cause fewer problems that way.

This book is written about his two years of service in the 1990s.  That means that the community in Tuvalu had very limited access to the outside world.  There was no internet and mail may not come if there were extra passengers on the plane.

From Google Maps

This is the main island of Funafuti. The town is on the eastern side.

From Wikipedia

This is the whole island nation. The islands are spread far apart and there was a boat that tried to make a circuit of them about once a month.  Sometimes it brings back fruits and vegetables.  Most of the time it doesn’t which leads to ex pat fantasies of the joys of a potato.

The ex pats and the natives of Tuvalu never truly understand each other.  The author writes about this with self-deprecating wit.  He comes to appreciate the quietness of the island especially after being loaned out to Kiribati and working for seven weeks on many horrific crimes in that country in addition to a Constitutional crisis.

He may have even been able to do some good such as helping teach a three day seminar on the legal rights of women in an area where domestic violence is not taken seriously by the police.

This is an unusual memoir in that the epilogue tell what other people in the book are doing now but never updates what the author did after leaving Tuvalu.

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