1. Aya by Marguerite Abouet & Clement Oubrerie
a graphic novel about Aya, a teenager in Ivory Coast during the late 1970's. the art work is beautiful. many pages contain frames all with the same color scheme, so there are red pages, purples pages, green pages, etc. i love reading graphic novels that teach me something, in this case what it was like during a time of economic prosperity in the Ivory Coast. and yet, it's also the story of a teenager and her friends and family, a universal coming-of-age comedy with which we can all relate.
2. Tales of Woodsman Pete by Lilli Carre
i love this little silly book. pete is endearing and i loved the comics featuring paul bunyan. i adore the folk tale quality of the stories and giggled out loud while reading several of them. i wonder if pete accepts visitors?
yesterday i baked about 6 dozen cookies. today i will take them into work for a cookie decorating party. by the end my boys will be bouncing of the walls from all the cookie, candy, and frosting eating.
right now, hoever i will give you two more book reviews. the theme today is teacher memoirs.
5. The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy
this book is a memoir of conroy's experience teaching on south carolina's yamacraw island in 1969. the island is poor due to the end of a prosperous crabbing industry that ended due to pollution of the local waters. conroy is white and his students are black. one thing i really liked about this book is the honesty of conroy's own transition with racism. i was also able to relate some of my experiences working with a group of youth who are in many ways deemed "unteachable" with conroy's similar experience. doesn't everyone have the potential to learn??? while teachers will especially appreciate this book, anyone interested in race issues, politics, education, and social justice will enjoy it.
6. Teacher Man by Frank McCourt
we love frank mccourt in my house. we love his humor. we love that he was an english teacher. we love that he published his first book at 66. we love his writing. i enjoyed Teacher Man. one of the first anecdotes in the book had me rolling on the floor giggling ans it still makes me laugh whenever i think about it. there were many other memories that reminded me of stories jordan tells me about his own experiences teaching english. my only question is if this book can be appreciated the same way by readers who have not taught, lived with a teacher, or been close to a teacher. it seems a little less accessible than Angela's Ashes or 'Tis (which was my favorite of the three).
have a great week! may it be filled with cookies and great books.
i couldn't resist this little goose pin from ferdinand (only $4!). she seems very curious, which is how i prefer my geese. i am into pins and brooches lately...i think they are a great way to spice up a simple outfit.
i hope you enjoyed the book reviews i posted yesterday. it seems that many of you like quirky, so today i want to recommend my favorite quirky book i read in the past couple of years:
4. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
i love haruki marukami. he is no doubt one of the best writers of our time. Kafka on the Shore is the story of teenage runaway kafka tamura and an old man named nakata who is able to converse with cats. the tale of the two men start out separate and slowly become intertwined. the book is surreal and dream-like. there were many details of the story that lacked a full explanation, but to me this did not matter. i enjoyed the book because of murakami's exquisite decriptions which allowed me to briefly travel in another world where the lines between reality and fantasy are often blurred.
i also recommend this review of the book written by john updike. i suggest reading it after you read the book as it contains many details from the story.
i will try and post a couple of more reviews over the weekend but for now i leave you with one more bit of quirkiness:
first, thank you to vanessa, stephanie, and louise for nominating me for the "thinking blogger" award. i am honored to be recognized by three of my favorite bloggers! i have avoided nominating anyone (vanessa nominated me back in april!) because there are many, many blogs out there that i love and the anxiety picking out a few is reminiscent of the school days when we would pick kickball teams and i would hope, hope, hope not to be the last one picked. so please, know that i love you all!
now, on to the book reviews. i have decided to rate the books on a scale of 1-5 cupcakes (5 being the best and 1 the worst). there are few things as good as a great book, but a good cupcake is one of them. (although i would definitely take the book over the cupcake.)
1. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
i finished this book yesterday and wrote about it first in honor of jill who also recently completed the novel. i loved this book. it is the story of leo gursky, an old polish jew living in new york and preparing for his death and alma singer, a new york teenager searching for answers about her identity after her father's death. the story is told from the viewpoint of several characters, but leo and alma are the heart of the book. the characters are at once tragic and laugh-out-loud hilarious. apparently some readers felt this book is a little too quirky, but i love quirky. i highly recommend it.
2. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
this novel is another "journey" story dealing with different generations of new yorkers. it was written by nicole krauss' husband and because of this and the similarities in the storyline it and History of Love are often considered sibling texts. the protagonist in this book is young oskar schell who lost his father on september 11th. he finds a key in an envelope marked "black." oskar sets off to figure out what this key opens in the hopes it will reveal a secret about his dad, who often left puzzles for him to decipher. this book is even more quirky than The History of Love and may therefore be less accessible to readers who prefer more conventional novels. i really liked this book and was once again taken in by a skillfully crafted combination of tragedy and humor. foer is a brilliant writer with a wonderful knack for description. i highly recommend this book, but only to those who enjoy non-traditional writing formats and quirky storytelling.
3. Wickett's Remedy by Myla Goldberg
after enjoying goldberg's first novel, Bee Season, i was very excited to read her new book. the story is set in boston in the years leading up to and including the flu epidemic of 1918. it focuses on the life of lydia wickett and a "medicinal" syrup she develops for her husband. i enjoyed imagining what it must have been like to endure the horrors of the flu epidemic, however, overall i thought this book was a little boring. the tale, like in the other two novels reviewed here, is told from more than one viewpoint. there are even comments from the dead in the margins. while these comments are occasionally funny, they are more irritating than enlightening. i found myself skimming through sections of the book, especially through the newspaper articles and letters included. while certain parts of the story were compelling and had me quickly flipping from page to page, my take on the novel as a whole was "eh."
a trip down the stairs to my grandparent's basement was always an adventure. once our feet touched the cold linoleum tiles my grandfather would begin offering us every item in view. do you need a broken beach umbrella from 1969? how about a box of giant rubberbands? an old bottle of scotch originally received as a christmas present in 1977? when i would explain i lived in a small college then manhattan then brooklyn apartment he would yell, "You need a stretcha!" (stretcher) and would then proceed with the offerings. we were not allowed back upstairs until each member of my family agreed to take some object home.
when we were younger, we would always look through the basement bookshelf that held books that belonged to my mother or one of her two brothers. there were old mad magazines, textbooks, notebooks filled with homework assignments, nancy drew novels and hardy boys books that had lost their covers. once i brought home a copy of native son. another time i found how to be a nonconformist.
i rediscovered this book while going through my old books in new york. originally published in 1967 the book was written and illustrated by elissa jane karg. as a teenager, i loved comparing the advice she gave for being a non-conformist in the '60s with what i considered to be acts of non-conformity in the '90s. (the idea that following any rules is a form of conformity had not yet hit me.)
the illustrations are charming and definitely have a '60s vibe to them. the book was recently re-published and is available here.
now my grandparents live in a small condo in florida. there is no basement for storing old possessions. yet when we visit, i am still told i need a stretcha and am not allowed to leave empty-handed.
often i head to the center where i work thinking i have a great activity planned for my boys. sometimes, i am right. sometime, i am wrong, very wrong.
i was recently inspired by the section of ayun halliday's book, dirty sugar cookies, covering her middle school lunchtime adventures. she mentions playing the, "this is a _______" game and i thought, "what a great idea!. did you ever play it? it's hard to explain (especially in spanish). basically, each player has an object and sings a little song in unison and at the end of the song the object is passed to the person to each player's right.
each person sings:
(to the player to the right): this is a spoon.
(a spoon being the object this player is currently holding.)
(to the player to the left): a what?
(to the right): a spoon.
(to the left): a what?
(to the right): a spoon.
(to the left): oh, a book.
(a book being the next object this player would sing about.)
and then the same song is sung. this time with the book.
everyone gets into the rythm and the objects can be passed on and on for hours. or so i thought! when my kids eventually caught on (which took many versions of me modeling with volunteers, followed by playing in spanish, and then eventually in english) i thought we were all going to have great fun playing and playing and playing. nope. in case you were considering trying it with your group of ecuadorian teenage boys, don't! they love "head, shoulder, knees and toes" but "this is a _________" is BORING.
oh, and if you are interested in ayun's book then you can also check out her food blog. i like the book, but i like her blog more. and i like her zine, the east village inky the best (see an example of one of her cute little drawings to the left). especially now that she lives in my old neighborhood in brooklyn.(although, doesn't everbody these days?) her zine is full of funny stories and observations about daily life. yes, ayun is one silly lady but you can be assured that i'm never again playing one of her favorite childhood games with my boys. sorry ms. halliday.
hello friends. thanks again for all of your compliments on my portrait. and for your offers for collage swaps. i´ll be in touch with all of you soon.
yesterday, i found out that a project we had applied for through the ecuadorian ministry of health and thought we had been turned down for in a rather sketchy and corrupt manner may actually be ours. i´ll find out more tomorrow, but the project is basically to establish some baseline data on HIV in ecuador. the crazy part is that in four months we are expected to most risk groups in most of the country (the original request was for all risk groups in all of ecuador but i guess someone realized how ridiculously impossible that would be).
i also finished reading the autobiography of malcolm x. everyone should be required to read this book. at least every american should, as it covers not only an important figure in our history, but also helps one to understand the political/racial climate of his time. malcolm x´s ability to remain open-minded and therefore have his views grow and mature over time was what most impressed me about him. interestingly, it was this quality that lead to many people turning against him later on in his life. as someone who is always working on improving her ability to speak her mind, i admire someone who not only was able to speak his loudly, but also wasn´t afraid to admit when he felt his earlier ideas were inaccurate. it´s a reminder that everyone´s ideas evolve over time and this doesn´t mean we need to wait until our opinions are totally concrete and final before we speak out. i wonder what malcolm would be thinking if he was alive today.
and now i´m off to go re-connect with the treatment center where i will again be working a couple of days a week. hasta luego!
i've mentioned before that i tend to be drawn to comics by women artists/writers. apparently i am particularly drawn to female artists living in brooklyn. here are two new acquisitions i recommend:
1. jill turned me on to brooklynite vanessa davis awhile ago but i only recently had the opportunity to pick up her book, spaniel rage. i love it! i love her sketchy style of drawing and her simple yet funny (and often poignant) reflections on life.
2. megan kelso's squirrel mother. i adore her drawings. the women are often knobby-kneed and remind me of olive oyl (one of my all time favorite characters). and i love the little drawing of an object on the bottom right corner of the page before each new story. the object is always related to the comic that follows it. plus, i think megan also lives in brooklyn.
A while ago when I posted about some of my favorite comics, someone (who were you?) suggested I check out Jeffrey Brown. Now, I'd like to suggest him to all of you. I read both Clumsy and Unlikely and liked both, but LOVED Clumsy. I especially love the way Jeff captures expression in such a simple way. Clumsy is the story of a long distance relationship between Jeff and Theresa and Unikely is the story of how Jeff lost his virginity. There are some scenes in Clumsy that are so sweet that I think they would make a lovely wedding gift, even if the relationship fails in the end. Now I need to read Be A Man, which is the more manly version of the story of Clumsy (apparently Jeff got a lot of slack for being sensitive, don't know why as it was this quality that made me like the book) and Any Easy Intimacy, the most recent book about Jeff's problems with relationships. Perfect summer reading...I can't wait to hit the NYC comic book shops.