About A Book

Musings on literature, music, sports and more

Home is where…

Lately I’ve been thinking about the concept “home” a lot. About place and belonging.

My parents are moving from our house in New Jersey of 22 years to head down south. A house that is filled to the brim with memories of my childhood will soon be “home” to a new family.

It’s bittersweet. My parents are looking for something new and different, and I know that they need new sights and new sounds and a new adventure. But to never lay my head down in my sunshine yellow room is something I cannot even fathom right now.

Over 4th of July weekend I went home for the last time. I sat on our deck under the shade of the trees, walked the quaint Main Street of our town one last time, and said one last goodbye to the garden my dad and I planted in every year. A yellow sign in the yard of my neighbor’s yard showed I’m not alone in this. In these goodbyes. This feeling of nostalgia and sentimentality.

Now I don’t know what to call home. When I go see my parents down south, I can’t see myself saying I’m going home. I’ll simply be going to visit my parents.

Is the state I currently reside in home? I think Virginia could be home, someday. But right now it feels impermanent. I have no plans to necessarily stay here. I don’t own property or land or have a place I call my own (living that renter’s life).

For now my home is wherever the people I love are. I have homes scattered across the northeast and south.

At the same time, I’d like a place I call my home. Somewhere to put down roots, to really know and love the community. To tread familiar paths and feel like I truly belong.

I’m not sure where that place will be yet; I’m still searching for a home that I can call my own.

Change of mind

As of Friday, I was going to brace myself and read Harper Lee’s new book “Go Set A Watchman.”

Then I woke up Saturday morning and hopped onto Facebook and Twitter, and the few tweets and posts I did see made my heart drop into my stomach.

It seems that in “Watchman” Atticus Finch may not be the man we thought he was. I didn’t click on any of the reviews or links, but the little I did see in my feeds had me quickly deciding that no, I would not read this book.

As my mom put it “I want to love Mockingbird just as it is.” I don’t want something Lee wrote 55 years ago, and before she penned Mockingbird, to taint my favorite book.

I don’t know that this means I’ll never read “Watchman,” but right now is not the time for me to read it.

So I’ll continue with Judy Blume’s “In the Unlikely Event,” which is great. I will also be wandering the shelves of D.C.’s Politics & Prose on Monday with some coworkers to see Don Winslow speak and will probably pick up another book (or two or three) then.

Any suggestions for a summery read?

On Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set A Watchman’

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I’ve debated for the past week whether to read “Go Set A Watchman.”

But I know I probably will.

And I won’t love it, but I am scared I’ll hate it.

“To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is my favorite book, and has been for a long time. I named my cat after Scout, and my well-worn copy is re-read every year when the temperature spikes toward the 90s (after all, “summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill.”)

And now, more 55 years later, Lee’s first-ever novel is set to hit shelves. “Go Set A Watchman” follows a grown-up Scout as she returns to Alabama from New York to visit her father, Atticus.

This novel was not published previously because at the time she wrote it, Lee’s publisher told her to go back and write something focusing on Scout’s childhood. From that request “To Kill A Mockingbird” was born.

The manuscript for “Go Set A Watchman” was pushed aside, forgotten among other documents of Lee’s for the next 55 years. Then after her sister, Alice, who was in some ways also Lee’s protector, died in November the manuscript was found. Now it will be published.

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the publishing of the novel–this includes the timing of the novel being found (so quickly after Alice’s passing) as well as Lee’s health (she is almost 90 years old, hard of hearing and has poor eyesight).

Those issues aside, the question in my head at this point is: Was this novel supposed to be published?

I’ve seen reports from literary agents at Harper Collins saying the book only needed light editing. Lee was not in the position to do any re-writing or heavy editing herself. This manuscript being rejected is the reason we have Mockingbird today.

Maybe this novel was never supposed to be found. Never meant to land in the hands of millions who have loved and adored Mockingbird. Of course, right now I can’t say. I can’t judge a book too harshly I have yet to read, even if some part of me feels like there’s something wrong about it.

I know I have to read it. I can’t let social media and book blogs and water cooler talk define this book for me. Like it or hate it, I’ll have to make the decision on my own.

And after I turn Watchman’s last page, no matter my feelings about it, I have to remember that Mockingbird can still stand on its own as a beautiful, yet harsh, look at the American South, childhood and growing up.

Back at it … again

It has been almost a year since I’ve updated this. I think this blog may be perpetually stop and start for me. There are times when the need to write about books and more overwhelms me. I write daily about healthcare technology, and there are just times where I need to get those more creative juices flowing.

But sometimes life gets busy and the desire to write gets pushed back by other things.

However, the writing bug is back. So here I go … again.

Review: ‘Bad Feminist’ by Roxane Gay

This little blog o’ mine isn’t the only place I have been writing reviews. Recently, I started to write some for the Washington Independent Review of Books. My first one is a review of Roxane Gay’s wonderful “Bad Feminist.” The beginning of the review is posted below, and you can check out the whole thing hereRead the rest of this entry »

International Literacy Day

Today is International Literacy Day. 

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According to UNESCO, the literacy day will be celebrated worldwide with a main global celebration in Dhaka. Also in Dhaka there will be an international conference on “Girls’ and women’s literacy and education.”

What a wonderful thing to celebrate!

There are so many people who are unable to read and write, right here in the United States. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute of Literacy, as of April 2013, 32 million adults living in the U.S. couldn’t read.

32 MILLION.

And added to that, between 1992 and 2003, the number of illiterate adults in the U.S. has barely budged.

As a country of such prestige and power, there is a severe problem if so many citizens are unable to read. This prevents those 32 million people from being able to be educated and make informed decisions when voting; to advance their careers and find jobs; and to fully take part in society.

Hopefully days like International Literacy Day can draw more attention to this problem.

We all have our weaknesses

On Friday, I was helping get out the word about The Washington Independent Review of Books, a book review and features website run by a team of book-loving volunteers. I am the social media director for the review.

While stationed at a booth set up one the bottom floor of D.C.’s awesome Politics & Prose, a woman came up to see what it was all about. I handed her a coupon that would allow 20 percent of her purchases to go to the Independent. Sadly, she had already bought a few books. Showing me her full bag, she said “I’d buy more, but I have to steel myself. It’s a weakness I give into too much.”

And I said, “we all have our weaknesses, don’t we?” She nodded, knowingly. 

I have many weaknesses, my penchant for buying books far faster than I can ever read them being one. But it’s good to know what your weaknesses are and to accept them. To change them, if they’re something that needs changing, or to just say “this is who I am, these are the weakest parts of me.” 

Accepting our weaknesses and vulnerabilities is hard, but in doing so, we may be able to better understand ourselves.

What books have stayed with you?

A challenge has been going around on Facebook. Sometimes these can be a little annoying, but this one is book-related, so I was pretty happy to be tagged for it by a coworker. Here it is below with my answers:

List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They do not have to be the “right” books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way. 

1. To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
2. When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams
3. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
5. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
6. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
7. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
8. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
9. The Butterfly Jar by Jeff Moss
10. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

What are yours?

 

Unbroken

unbrokenLast night I finished Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. I’ve been slacking on reading lately, so I was really happy to pick up a book to plow through. I couldn’t put it down. It’s the true story of Louie Zamperini. An Olympian, soldier, POW, son, husband and father, Louie suffered unspeakable things during WWII. What probably hooks everyone on this book when they read it is his spirit and faith. Through horrors beyond the imagination, he never gives up. The power of the human spirit is often taken for granted. We can endure and travel through horrible things and while we may not be as whole as we once were when we reach the other side, we can survive.

When things get tough, I am going to think of Louie and his indomitable spirit. I definitely think Unbroken is worthy of all the praise it has received. Hillenbrand takes Louie’s story and treats it with all the care and truth it deserves. She doesn’t shy away from writing the hardest parts and makes sure all those who suffered alongside Louie also get their story told. I had no idea how brutally prisoners of the Japanese were treated, and Hillenbrand opened my eyes not only to Louie’s story, but to the stories of all POWs.

To the place I belong

WelcomeToNewJerseySignTonight a train will roll though the hills and valleys of Maryland, make a stop to say good evening to Philly and creak over bridges dotting Delaware. And then I’ll be home. Back to New Jersey — the place where I took my first steps, said my first words, read my first book.

Home is this idea we take with us everywhere. It could be a place; most often it is. Or it could be people; family and friends. Home could be a ballpark or college football stadium.

I’ve had many homes in my short 26 years. New Jersey. Penn State University. Galway, Ireland. Washington, D.C.

But New Jersey was my first home. My family and childhood friends my first loves. The streets of the Garden State my first adventure.

I guess that’s why every time I step aboard that train I want it to travel faster. I want time to speed up until I am home in my childhood bed. To where the people who know me better than I know myself wait.

Boxes are starting to be packed in that brick house on a shady street behind a baseball field. My parents are moving away in a year. To somewhere warm and new. And I want that for them. But, New Jersey will still always be home.

If I ever get lost in the years to come, I will take myself there and I will be found.

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