"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Review and quotes: Where the Crawdads Sing

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

This is the book I'm highlighting right now---

Title: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Book Beginning: Prologue---
"Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow-moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long-legged birds lift with unexpected grace--- as though not built to fly--- against the roar of a thousand snow geese."
Friday 56:
"That evening, Pa cooked up a supper of fried fish...As Kya washed up after, Pa walked into the kitchen, carrying an old WWII-issue knapsack. Standing near the door, he flung it roughly onto one of the chairs. It slid to the floor with a thud, which made her jump and twirl around. 'Thought ya could use that fer yo' feathers, bird nests, and all that other stuff  ya c'lect.'...She picked up the frayed knapsack, made of canvas tough enough for a lifetime, and covered with small pockets and secret compartments. Heavy duty zips. She stared out the window. He had never given her anything." 
Summary: Kya, called the 'Marsh Girl' by folks in town, is abandoned by her siblings and mother, leaving her alone with her angry, abusive father. When he abandons her, too, she is only ten years old. But somehow, through her ingenuity and hard work, she survives and some would say, thrives. But living alone is hard and Kya does get lonely. When she is fourteen she renews a friendship with Tate, a boy her brother Jody knew before he left home. Tate offers his friendship and teaches Kya to read, since she only attended school for one day and never returned after many students bullied her all day. Then Tate leaves for college and Kya's loneliness returns. Her human need for companionship leads to accept a friendship with a local boy, Chase, who is captivated by her wild beauty but refuses to include her with his activities in town. When Chase ends up dead all eyes turn toward the most likely suspect, the Marsh Girl.

Review: I LOVED this book. This will no doubt be my go-to book recommendation for the year, a rather lofty prognostication considering it is only January. I loved it for three simple reasons.

First, the writing. You get a sense of it from the first quote. Reading this book was like listening to beautiful, exquisite music. The kind of music that makes you weep and yet you want the song to never end. I wept like my heart would break as I read, yet I was still so invested in the story. Parts of the story reminded me of the writing of Harper Lee in To Kill a Mockingbird. And then there was the poetry. I love it when books include poetry.

Secondly, the characters, especially Kya. She was such a flawed character but I just cheered for her throughout. Sometimes I found myself shouting at her to do this or not do that. She was so vulnerable and yet extremely smart and talented in her own way. She is a person I would like to be around so I could see things through her eyes. She was a talented, yet untrained naturalist and she knew her marsh, every bird, blade of grass, and shell. I want to visit a marsh now.

Lastly, there is a mystery. A good one. One that is complex and interesting and one I didn't solve myself. I was blown away when I learned the truth...revealed in a poem, of course.

Hope I've said enough to make you want to read this one yet not revealed any spoilers.

RHS Book Club March 2019

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Review: Wide Sargsso Sea (Classics Club SPIN selection)

Yesterday I finished my Classics Club Spin selection, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, and I hated it. In fact, it was so bad it makes me wonder if I should even be in the Classics Club if this is the type of book that is considered a classic. I was pretty excited to read it since I like Jane Eyre and it is a story from Bertha's point of view. Bertha is the crazy woman in attic, Rochester's first wife. It dawned on me that poor Bertha had received a bum warp from Charlotte Bronte and it would be interesting to see the story from her point of view. Well, let me tell you, I wish I hadn't bothered.

Here is what the book blurb for the book says:
"Jean Rhys reputation was made upon the publication of this passionate and heartbreaking novel, in which she brings into the light one of fiction's most mysterious characters...Set in the Caribbean, its heroine is Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Rochester. In this best-selling novel, Rhys portrays a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind."
That sounds pretty intriguing but the writing is so confusing, it is nearly impossible to tell who is talking, and includes words and slang which are never defined. The book is separated into three parts. The first part is narrated by Antoinette (renamed Bertha by Rochester) beginning a few years after the end of slavery on the island when the x-slaves were understandably hateful and vindictive. The second part is narrated by Rochester, though no one ever uses his name. And the last part is set in the English attic from the point of view of Bertha. It was the only part that was even partially recognizable and understandable.

In the back of the book are book discussion questions. I wish I'd seen them before I started reading. The questions themselves helped me to understand the text a bit better. I decided that I would attempt to answer a few of the questions just to help me feel like I didn't completely waste my time.

1. Q-Happiness always seems to elude Antoinette. Why can't she simply be happy with her life?
A- Antoinette's life has been fraught.  Her father died right after the slaves were freed so she was hated by blacks because her parents were slave owners and by whites because she and her mother were so poor. She seems to also be terrified of voodoo and bad spirits so every evening/night she is spends in terror. She didn't want to marry Rochester but her mother had gone mad and she had few options. It was as if things just happened to her.

2. Q-What is the racial situation when Antoinette was growing up? Did it seem like she and her mother understood this?
A- As I mentioned above, they were living on the plantation after the slaves were freed and due to the death of her father, were also poor. The natives called the women "white cockroaches" or "white niggers" clearly non-complimentary terms. They still wanted servants but didn't trust them and couldn't pay them well.

3. Q- What are the relationships between lust, power, sex, and money in the novel?
A- Clearly Rochester marries Antoinette for lust and possibly for money. Sex is not healthy. Antoinette tricks Rochester into seducing her after he had already stopped sleeping with her. Later he sleeps with her maid in retaliation. Both are miserable. Though Antoinette's mother had no money, she married Mason, so Antoinette came to marriage with a dowry. The islanders were very critical of Rochester for taking her money.

4. Q- What is the effect of reading the story from different points of view? 
A- I found it to be extremely confusing. I read somewhere that Rhys tried to write in a spare style (think Hemingway). She accomplished this, but left out important clues in the writing like who was talking since they never named themselves.

5. Q- Many of the characters are mad and many others are drunk. How did this impact the story? 
A- In my opinion, I couldn't tell the difference between the drunks and the mentally ill. It just added to my confusion.

6. Q-Rochester starts calling Antoinette "Bertha". What does this say about their relationship? 
A- Antoinette herself says that "names are important" and they are. It was a mean and demeaning thing he did to try and put her down.

7. Q- There are two fires in Wide Sargasso Sea. How are they similar?
A- The first fire is set by natives who are almost zombie-like. As the house goes up in flames, the pet parrot flies out of the house with feathers ablaze. The bird's death is the last straw for Antoinette's flail mother. The second fire, we know, happens in England in Rochester's estate, set by Bertha. Even though he tries to rescue her she runs to the roof and spreads her arms, like wings, which are on fire before she dives to her death. This fire leads to a different kind of rebirth for Rochester.

8. Q- What is a Sargasso sea?
A-It is an area of the Atlantic between The Caribbean and the Azores where there is a lot of brownish seaweed growing. I guess this means that the distance between/and reality of England and Jamaica are unknown to the other person.

I checked out the reviews of  Goodreads readers and there were several 5-star reviews (no doubt English Literature majors) but many, many more 1-star reviews. These folks hated the book just like me. Save yourself time. Don't read it.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Youth Media Awards Announced Today

The YMA Awards were announced last night and the YA winners are: (For the full list click here)
My list only reflects YA winners.

1. Michael L. Printz Award (Best YA literature of the year) 
  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo- Award
  • Damsel by Elana K. Arnold- Honor
  • A Heart in the Body in the World by Deb Caletti- Honor
  • I, Claudia by Mary McCoy

2. Schneider Family Book Award (Teen living with a disability)
  • Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro (Ages 14-18)-Award
  • (Don't) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health edited by Kelly Jensen-Honor 
3. Alex Awards - 10 Best adult books that appeal to teen audiences   
  • The Black God's Drums (Clark)
  • The Book of Essie (Weir)
  • Circe (Miller)
  • Educated: the Memoir (Westover)
  • Green (Graham-Felson)
  • Home After Dark (Small)
  • The Girl Who Smiled Beads (Wamaria and Weil)
  • How Long 'Til Black Future Month? (Jemisin)
  • Lawn Boy (Evison)
  • Spinning Silver (Novik)
    4. Margaret A. Edwards Award (An author who has made a significant contribution to YA or Children's Lit)
    • Name of author : M.T. Andersen 
    5. Stonewall Children's and Young Adult Literature (LGBT) :
    • Picture Us In the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert -Honor
    6. William C. Morris Award (First YA novel by author)
    • Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram- Award
    7. YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults 
    • The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees authored and illustrated by Don Brown- Award
      8. Coretta Scott King Book Award (African American Author) 
      • A Few Red Drops: The 1919 Chicago Race Riots by Claire Hartfield-Award
      • (Three honor books goes to a children's/middle grades books)
      9. Coretta Scott King Author-Steptoe New Talent
      • Monday's Not Coming Tiffany D. Jackson
      10. Pura Belpre (Latinx Author) 
      • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo- Award
      11Odyssey Award (Audio Book)
      • Sadie by Courtney Summers- Award
      • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo- Honor
      • (The other three honor books are middle grade or children's books)
      12. Sibert Informational  Book Award (Distinguished Informational books)
      • The Girl Who Drew Butterflies by Joyce Sidman -Award (Ages 10-12)
      • Spooked by Gail Jarrow -Honor
      • The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees authored and illustrated by Don Brown-Honor
      • (Three other honor books for children or middle grade reader)
      13. Mildred Batchelder Award (Translated into English)
      • Run For Your Life by Silvana Gandolfi, translated from Italian
      14. Children's Literature Legacy Award (An author or illustrator whose work has had a substantial and lasting effect on Children's literature)
      • Author name: Walter Dean Myers
      15. Newbery Medal (Most outstanding contribution to children's literature)
      • (The award book and two honor books are for middle grade or children readers)
      16. Caldecott Medal
      • (All Award book and honor books are for children readers.)
      So many good books. Let's get reading. (Highlighted books or authors are those I have read.)

      24 in 48. I did it! (Well, sort of.)

      So just minutes ago I finished the 24 in 48 challenge, except I didn't finish it in 48. Let me explain. Before I signed up for the challenge, I knew I already had commitments which would take me out of the reading arena for four, maybe more, hours. I decided to start the challenge on Friday to make up for that lost reading time. Then, luck would have it, I ended up coming down with a sore throat and weird mouth infection, which actually made me feel pretty awful, though I could read okay if I didn't talk or eat anything. I just wasn't at the top of my game. Part of the way through the day on Sunday I knew I would not make my 24 hours of reading goal, then I decided to do something different. How about I just read for a total of 24 hours, no matter how long it takes, and total up what all I was able to read in that amount of time. So that is what I did and here are the results (be prepared to be impressed):

      Books I finished (having started them before the challenge)-
      • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. Print. 26 pages. A book club selection for both of my clubs. I really enjoyed this one though the ending may be a bit to Hollywood for my taste.
      • Becoming by Michelle Obama. Audio. 6 hours. Anyone who listens to audiobooks knows that it takes longer to listen than to read a book. While listening, I went for a walk with the dog, played a few mindless computer games, and started a puzzle of the National Parks...all things I can do while listening to an audiobook and not getting distracted. The total book was 19 hours long, so I listened to the last third of it. Love it!
      • She Walks in Beauty: Poetry selected by Caroline Kennedy. Print, 34 pages. I've been working on this volume of poems for several months but was glad to wrap it up with this challenge.
      • Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. Print. Read 151 pages to completion. This was my Classics Club SPIN selection. It is a highly acclaimed book but I hated it. yuck. Will not be recommending it to anyone. But I finished. (It is short, thank goodness, and I'd only read 25 pages of it before starting the challenge.)
       Books I completed, start to finish:
      • Native Nations Miniseries: Chiefs and Warriors by Edward S. Curtis. Print. Considered gift books, this is the first in a series of four which have the prints that Edward Curtis took of Native American warriors and chiefs, with notes he wrote to go along with the photos. I purchased the set several years ago as a gift for my husband. This is the first time I've actually looked inside one of them.
      • A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver. Print. This was an impulse checkout from the library as I walked past the "New Books" shelf. Oliver just died a week ago and I wanted to read more of her poems. After I finished this slim volume I realized I'd read it before. Oh well, I loved it the second time around, too.
      • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Audio. I listened to the eleven hours it took to start and finish this book. Once again I dog-walked, drove, worked a puzzle and finished the book at 11 PM last night. This is officially my favorite book of the year and it is only January.
      • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Print. I bought this book nearly two years ago and have been putting off reading it. Why? It took me 30 minutes to read and it says lots of important points about valuing women.
      Books I made progress on:
      • StarTalk With Neil deGrasse Tyson (Young Reader's Edition). Print. I read around 120 pages, nearly 70% complete. This was a Cybils nominated book I didn't have time to do more than peruse but I love it. It takes a long time to read each pages because of the all the text-boxes and photos. It is very thought-provoking, too.
      • Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward. E-book. I read three more chapters. I had started this book back in September and set it aside. In fact, I set it aside for so long, I lost my charging cord and had to buy another so I could get it charged just to read on. 25% complete.
      Book I started:
      • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green. Audio. When I say "started" I mean just started. I am 12 minutes into it. But I have begun. I purchased this book on my Audible account many months ago and my daughter has listened to it already. I am psyched to have started it.

      In summary, I finished eight books plus made progress on three others in 24 hours of concerted reading. I usually consider eight books a month to be my average reading goal, which shows me that I don't really spend as much time reading as one would think. I did have three short ones of 50 to 100 pages in length, but I also completed two audiobooks which take lots of extra time to consume. Now to keep the momentum going I hope to blog about all eight of the books in the coming two weeks. Eek. Another big project!

      Thursday, January 24, 2019

      Friday Quotes: The Great Alone

      Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
      e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

      This is the book I'm highlighting right now---

      Title: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

      Book Beginning:
      That spring, rain fell in great sweeping gusts that rattled the rooftops.
      Friday 56:
      Salvation Army. So he had planned ahead and thought of her the other day when they were in Homer. It made the ugly clothes almost beautiful.
      Comments: I am nearly done with this book by the author of The Nightingale. This book is set in the Alaska bush. Leni is a teen who has moved so many times she has no friends. Her father, a Vietnam vet came home changed, with serious PTSD (they didn't call it that in the 1970s), and her mother would go along with her father's schemes to try and keep the peace. When he decided to relocate to Alaska and live off the grid in the bush, the women had to go along, knowing how unprepared they are. The quote from page 56 is the first day of school for Leni, where she is forced to wear the ugly clothes her father bought her in Homer, the biggest town near their new home. I'm thinking that the Book Beginnings quote is trying to set the tone of the story... things were so miserable for the family it was as if they would drown in their misery.

      Wednesday, January 23, 2019

      Review: Before We Were Yours

      Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate won the Goodreads Choice Awards for Historical Fiction in 2017. It beat out heavy hitters like Lincoln in the Bardo (Saunders) and Packinko (Lee). So what makes Before We Were Yours so popular with readers? This is a question I hope to explore here and today during our book club discussion.

      With the advent of DNA and genetic testing, it is possible to learn more about one's ancestors than ever before. And the popularity of these tests prove what mankind has always known, we want to know how we are connected to the past. The fundamental question of our identity or "who am I?" resounds loudly in Before We Were Yours as the story is told from the viewpoints of two narrators---Rill Foss, a twelve-year-old kidnapped along with her siblings from their houseboat on the Mississippi in 1939, and Avery Stafford, a thirty-something lawyer living in modern times who is trying to investigate a mystery involving her powerful family.

      What the reader learns as the story weaves back and forth between narrators and time periods is that both are affected by the Tennessee Children's Home Society, which operated between 1924 to 1950 in the Memphis area. This society, led by a woman named Georgia Tann, not only dealt with actual orphans, trying to place them in good homes, but also with black market children, stolen from poor, underprivileged parents and placed with rich and well-to-do ones.  These children might be stolen from hospitals where cooperating nurses or doctors would tip off the society if a desirable baby was born to poor parents. If these distraught parents reported this to authorities, the cases would be closed without investigations because the police and the court system were involved in the cover-up. The TCHS also destroyed records so if parents did trace their children to them, they would not be able to locate where the children were once they were adopted. This went on for years. A halfhearted investigation started in the 1940s but not until 1950 did the state get serious about investigation the claims against the TCHS and by then Georgia Tann had died from cancer. Many. may children never located their actual parents if they learned that they were a victim of this scam, even to today. Many other children died in the custody of the TCHS. It is estimated that at least 500 children died without being adopted or without proper burials or paperwork.

      Rill and her siblings were the type of children that the society sought, cute blond-hair, blue-eyed kids. Rill, at twelve, was really too old to be adopted, but she was an observant and unique narrator as she tried desperately and vainly to keep her siblings together. I enjoyed the chapters set in the late 1930s very much for this reason. But when the story moved forward in time to Avery's story, everything felt contrived and very romance-novelish.

      I am not sure which the readers who voted in the Goodreads poll liked better, the historical fiction (Rill's story) or the romance novel (Avery's story) but I know which I liked better: the historical information. In fact, Before We Were Yours has caused me to do a bit of my own research on the TCHS and I found what I learned equally fascinating and horrifying. How could this have happened and for as many years as it did? This is my favorite type of historical fiction, books where I learn something while being entertained.

      For book club, here are some of the questions I plan to ask to generate a discussion, which I hope will be a good one?
      1. Did you like the book, why or why not? (We always ask this question first.)
      2. We've read quite a bit of historical fiction in our club. How does Before We Were Yours compare to the other selections in terms of informing you about the highlighted history (All the Light We Cannot See; The Nightingale; Lincoln in the Bardo; Pachinko; The Invention of Wings; Homegoing are a few I can think of out of my head.)
      3. Do you prefer historical fiction that teaches you something new, like about the Tennessee Children's Home Society, or ones that deal more with cultural information from the time like Pachinko?
      4. What do you think the theme of the book was? Do you think these themes resonate more with readers today? Why/Why not?
      5. Compare the narrators Rill and Avery and the halves of the book. Which did you like better.
      6. What do you think of the cover? What story does it tell?
      7. Georgia Tann ran a tight ship and often scrimped on food and clothing for the children, yet she lived a lavish life-style. What were some other observations you made about her from the text? 
      8. What do you think the Foss family would have been like had they been allowed to stay together?
      9. Was Avery's family story believable and do you think that voters really would have cared where the family had the grandmother housed? What did you like/not like about her portions of the story? Was her relationship with Elliott believable? what about her romance with Trent?
      10. Why did Rill and her sisters keep their reunions a secret? Do you think that was really necessary?
      11. Why do you think that Trent's grandfather was so secretive about what he was investigating?
      12. Was the feel-good ending necessary?
      13. Have you or will you recommend this book to others?

      RHS Book Club January 2019
      (2 of 7 back reviews)

      Tuesday, January 22, 2019

      24 in 48

      Q: How does 24 in 48 work? Do I have to read 24 books in 48 hours? 
      A: 24 is for the number of hours, not the number of books! Over the course of 48 hours, you challenge yourself to read for 24 of those hours. This can mean reading 12 hours each day, 20 hours one day and 4 hours the next, or 24 hours straight. However the scheduling works best for you! 
      Q: When is the next readathon?
      A: Mark your calendar for January  26-27, 2019! [I'm in!]
      Q: How can I participate? 
      A: Make sure you’ve signed up for the next readathon on the sign-up post, and include your main participation location and email. That location can be your own blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Litsy, etc. but you also don’t have to have an internet presence to participate. You can just sign up and that’s it! You’re participating.
      But if you’d like to do more, you can use the hashtag #24in48 on all of those social media outlets to keep up with fellow readathon-ers, as well as check in to this blog as well as TwitterInstagram, and Litsy during the ‘thon to take part in challenges, answer questions, and maybe win some stuff. [I am pretty bad about using any social media other than Facebook and this blog. Expect to see my updates here on Head Full of Books.]
      Q: Do I have to read for a full 24 hours? 
      A: This is the goal, but many people don’t quite make it. Which is fine! The point of the 24in48 readathon is to dedicate a weekend to reading (while still allowing time for sleep and/or brunch and/or exercising and/or whatever else you might have going on in a normal weekend). You’re free to customize the readathon to best fit your life, and we encourage you to sign up if you plan to participate in any way, even if you know you won’t be able to fit in a full 24 hours! (You aren’t eligible for prizes if you don’t sign up.) [I will be tweaking my participation to include 4 hours on Friday because I have already scheduled a four-hour event on Saturday and I don't think I will be able to finish otherwise, since I am a person who needs to actually sleep.]
      Q: Do ebooks or audiobooks count?
      A: Absolutely! It doesn’t matter what format you consume your books, just the hours you spend doing so. [Good. I will be driving part of the time of the readathon, so I will listen to an audiobook as I drive.]
      Q: What do I hope to read?
      • Finish audiobook: Becoming by Michelle Obama. (I have about 8 hours left to go.)
      • Start audiobook: Where Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen
      • Finish: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah [print] (I have about 125 pages left to finish up.)
      • Finish: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys [print] (I just started this book last night , so essentially have the whole book to read.)
      • Continue reading: Fear by Bob Woodward [e-book] (I abandoned this book so many months ago I can't remember where I am in it.)
      • Continue reading: She Walks in Beauty by Caroline Kennedy [print] (Poetry. I will aim for just reading some of it.)
      • If time allows, start: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah [print] or
      • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

      Monday, January 21, 2019

      TTT: Books I meant to read in 2018, but didn't

      Top Ten Tuesday: Books I meant to read last year but didn't get around to it.

      I have Fear on my Kindle; I have An Absolutely Remarkable Thing on my Audible account. We are choosing book club selections this week and I hope that Unsheltered and The Female Persuasion are on our lists. The other books are still on my TBR so I may get to them in 2019.

      When reading suddenly becomes themed: rape

      Back in 2010 I wrote about SYNCHRONICITY in reading, or when all the books one chooses in a given time period all seem to line up some way, as if on a theme. At that time the themes were: drug smuggling, little boats, and hippies. It is weird but true. Then last year it happened again. All the books I picked up in a six-week period of time had something to do with Civil Rights, Black Lives Matter, slavery, and Martin Luther King, Jr. I hadn't intended to spend the first few months of 2018 reading on a theme. It just happened.

      Now it has happened, again. This time my reading has synchronized around the theme of rape. Now this is not a topic I particularly enjoy reading about. Who does? But the last three books I have read all dealt with the topic of rape, and unfortunately the circumstances were all fairly similar: a young, powerless girl is sexually assaulted by an older and more powerful male. After days of agony, each girl decided to report what happened to her and the ensuing police investigation and trial were nightmares. The communities and the law seemed to favor the perpetrator not the victim. The victimization continued long after the actual assault and the trial.

      The first book I read on this theme was Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough a fictional account of an actual female artist, Artemisia Gentileschi, who lived in the 1500s in Italy. She was raped by one of her tutors. Since women had no rights in the courts in those days, her father had to bring charges against her perpetrator for losses, since Artemisia could no longer paint because of the trauma. The 300-page transcript of the trial still exists. Ultimately, Artemisia was found to be truthful, but only after her hands were broken as a sort of test of her integrity. Her perpetrator's punishment was a five-year banishment from Rome. Artemisia had to move out of Rome, too, to escape the gossip and malice directed at her. Though a talented artist, today she is mostly remembered for her rape and the trial, not her art. But one can soothe oneself by saying this rape occurred over 500 years ago. Surely things have improved for women in today's society. Right? Only marginally.

      The next book I read, Beartown by Fredrik Backman is a completely fictional story about a small town in Sweden completely obsessed with ice hockey. The star of the Junior team, Kevin, who is poised to lead his team to a National title, hosts a party after one victory, and he ends of raping a young, star-struck teen, Maya, whom he invited to the party. When she finally tells her parents what happened and the police get involved, the whole town seems to turn on her (and her family) because Kevin is such a good hockey player. It must have been her fault that she was assaulted. Once again, just like what happened to Artemisia 500 years earlier, Maya seems to be put on trial to prove her innocence, rather than the other way around.

      I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Abuse, Justice, and Hope by Chessy Prout is memoir written by a teenager who was assaulted by a graduating senior the end of her freshman year at the boarding school they both attended. When she finally told her parents what happened, about a week after the assault, the boy had already won an award from the school for being a good citizen. And just like in the two aforementioned books, after the charges were made, it was Chessy, not her perpetrator, who received condemnation. She was asked questions like, "How can you wreck Owen's life." Suddenly she was ostracized at school, ultimately causing her to leave that school altogether. During the trial, one got the impression that Chessy was on trial. Once again the victim had to prove her innocence.

      In all three books, the raped survivor was not the only victim, all the family members who stood behind their daughters, became victims, too. In Chessy's family her father lost his job because of the time and attention he needed to give to his daughter and her trial. Her older sister, who also attended the same boarding school, lost friends. The lives of all family members were changed.

      Unlike Artemisia and Maya, Chessy found her voice and is using it to make a difference for other women. After Chessy's assualt and the trial, that found her rapist only partially at fault, she decided to become an advocate for sexual assault survivors. She joined an organization called PAVE (Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment) which is a national nonprofit which is designed to prevent sexual violence through education, social advocacy, and survivor support. She has been interviewed on National TV and has served on many panels as a teen spokesperson on the topic. She also started a movement called #I HAVE THE RIGHT TO which encourages women to express their rights in an open way. The book, by the same name, was just just being prepared for publication when the #Me-Too movement started. The two movements work nicely together.

      The I HAVE THE RIGHT TO book was a Cybils nominated book in the JH/SH nonfiction category. Though it did not make the short list of books moving forward , it certainly should be widely read by teens and young adults and I recommend all libraries that service those populations get a copy. The message, more than the book, is one that I hope resonates with kids...

      Here are some of my rights:
      I have the right to...
      • say no and mean it
      • to wear whatever I want and not be blamed as being a tease
      • stand up for myself and to speak out on issues I think are important
      • be proud of myself and my accomplishments
      • be in a bad mood and not have it blamed on my period or my hormones

      What about you? What do you have a right to? Let's keep it going.

      Sunday, January 20, 2019

      Sunday Salon: Mary Oliver Edition

      My favorite poet, Mary Oliver died this past week. To honor her, this week I will share excerpts of some of my favorite poems, in between the news of the week.

      From- "The Summer Day"
      The question: What do I plan to do with the rest of my life. I want to find a cause that I can support and really get behind, feel like I am making a difference. Mary Oliver asks, "What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

      From- "The Swan"
      Taking time to ponder the big questions: Often Mary Oliver's poems start talking about one thing, and then she asks a question which seems to relate to a broader, bigger topic. I am challenged today to think about her questions. "And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
      And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for? And have you changed your life?"

      From- "In Blackwater Woods"
      Each day gets easier: as I say goodbye to my father in my heart. Mom seems like she is doing well, too. This week she told me that she is returning to those activities she had to curtail once she needed to care for Dad full time. This makes me so happy. Mary Oliver reminds us to love with our whole hearts and let go when the time comes.

      From- " Sometimes"
      New Bible Study: We are studying Ephesians 6 about the amour of God. First new insight comes from verse 12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood". Some times it feels like I am playing whack-a mole with the problems related to our government and our leaders. But our real struggles are against the powers of evil in the heavenly realms. 

      Dog Songs
      Bingley: Bingley was neutered this week. After a day of our threats about the need to stop licking or he'd need to wear a cone-of-shame, he has done well. Mary Oliver was a dog lover. She published a whole volume of poems about her canine friends in Dog Songs. Her poems never (rarely) mentioned people but they were full of animals.

      From essay- " Staying Alive"
      Books: Mary Oliver had a miserable childhood. Her father abused her, her mother neglected her. She found solace in nature and in books. I didn't have a miserable childhood but I still find solace in books. I love the notion that nature and books can re-dignify worst-stung hearts.
      • Right now I am listening to the audiobook: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. It is a selection for Pierce County Reads 2019! and we are reading it, and other works by the author for SOTH book club.
      • I just finished reading: I Have a Right To by Chessy Prout. It was a Cybils nominated book and I finally finished it. Look for my review soon.
      • Up next: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (audiobook) and Wild Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, a classics club spin book.

      One day you finally knew

      what you had to do, and began,

      though the voices around you
      kept shouting
      their bad advice – – –

      But little by little,
      as you left their voices behind,
      the stars began to burn
      through the sheets of clouds,
      and there was a new voice,
      which you slowly
      recognized as your own,
      that kept you company
      as you strode deeper and deeper
      into the world,
      determined to do
      the only thing you could do - 
       determined to save
      the only life you could save.

      Mary Oliver, 1935-2019