Diversity in Reading

Hi everyone! I recently wrote a post about diversity in reading for Book Riot, and made a video about it today (because the post went up today). There is more to come regarding this, but if you are AT ALL interested, click through to the video ON YouTube because I’ve shared links to Rincey’s BookTube channel. Rincey is such a fantastic BookTuber – she is smart, articulate, and her videos are easy to watch and engaging. If you love books, you’ll love watching her!

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed

wild by cheryl strayedI finally read Wild, you guys. And it’s not because I was behind the game with this one… I was ahead of the game! I’ve been a fan of Cheryl Strayed before much of the world was introduced to Cheryl Strayed, when many of us were still guessing that she was Stephen Elliot or Lidia Yuknavitch (or maybe both, doing the Dear Sugar column together). So when she revealed herself at the beginning of 2012, and Wild came out, I felt a little lost. I was happy for her because I don’t think she should have stayed hidden as Sugar for the rest of her life; though the column was incredible – it would have been a tragic waste of talent, heart, and soul. However, it’s like knowing someone very, very well and then having them tell you something about themselves that makes you feel like you don’t know them at all. Part of the beauty about Sugar was that she was mythical. She delivered letters to my screen, and I could make her anyone I wanted to. So, being introduced to Cheryl was in no way a disappointment, just a rattle. All of a sudden Sugar was a person I had never met, a person with a real face, a real life, a real family… and, for some reason, that was jolting. It’s hard to explain now – but if you went through it too, you might understand why. There was not a negative in this experience, of course, just an adjustment period. So, while I went and bought Wild immediately (wanting to support a writer I had grown to love), I had a hard time starting it. It wasn’t only because Sugar had not yet fully become Cheryl to me, and it was not because all of a sudden her devoted readers were asked to share her with the world after the explosion of the Oprah phenomenon happened, but rather because Sugar had gotten me through a hard time and I wasn’t sure I was ready to immerse myself in her hard time. The closest thing I can relate it to is that moment you find out your parent is a person and not just your parent; that they have had (and hopefully still have) a life that is separate from you and full of mistakes… that they are not God.

Aside from that, I had just gone through a stretch of growing pains. After a year and a half of on-again/off-again with someone I deeply regretted after we ended for the final time (but with whom I now can admit that I learned a great deal about myself with), I was spent. It was the type of relationship that you stop telling people you are in again (for the umpteenth time) because they A.) don’t want to hear it anymore and B.) start threatening to do something about it. There is a great line in Tiny Beautiful Things in which Cheryl is writing to a young woman about relationships and says, “Have you read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet yet? People die because they want who they want. They do all kinds of crazy, stupid, sweet, tender, amazing, self-destructive things.” This is a much better way of describing the cycle I was in with this particular person than how I used to describe it, “listen, I’m not the kind of person who you can just tell that the wall is made of brick, I have to ram my head into it to know for myself,” was how I had gotten used to summing it up. And ram my head I did, my friends… a few times just to make sure; and the wall was most definitely made of brick. After that I felt like I didn’t know myself (even though I would later find out this was part of getting to really know myself), and I certainly didn’t trust myself. Eventually, I grew so incredibly unhappy that I packed up my life and left. I couldn’t make myself stay where I was for one more second. So, I put all of my belongings in storage, put my townhouse up for sale, and left dodge. Just a few months later I found out that Sugar was “coming out” to her fans, and then we found out it was Strayed, I picked up Wild, and we are back to where this story started.

In those three years that Wild has sat on my shelf, my life has changed a lot (and many of you, readers, were there for it). I live in a new place, a place that many of my closest friends questioned when I first chose it because it is a small town in a rural-ish area, I knew almost no one, and they worried about what I would do. It’s true, what I was doing didn’t make much rational sense, but it made sense to me, and I was doing what I had to do: get very, very healthy. I made some amazing friends, I got myself outside, I had a couple of relationships, I lost the weight that had found its way onto my normally much leaner frame (that I hadn’t even noticed had accumulated because, frankly, I hadn’t really cared at that point), and I started trusting myself again for the first time in a long time. And then, last week, I pulled Wild off of the shelf and started it. I was finally ready.

My copy of Wild is marked and written in now in a way that very few of my books are. It’s a diary of sorts, and in subsequent readings it will probably become even more cluttered with pencil marks and notes. Strayed’s writing is just as beautiful in this book as it ever was in the Sugar column. Her vulnerability in allowing readers to see her weaknesses in order to allow them to explore their own is just as poignant too. There are some things that she and I have uncannily in common and other things in which we are complete opposites, but in both the familiar and the unfamiliar I was able to connect with her story. Her journey on the PCT was a very specific sort of meditation, the kind that most people who end up publishing these kinds of memoirs practice: a break from your life that evokes a greater change. What Strayed did, and others, including Liz Gilbert (who so many people compared her to at publication), is an extreme mediation of distracting their minds by actually physically leaving the familiar. Reading this book felt like doing it alongside her, and remembering the way in which I had done it myself three years ago. A lot of people have a hard time with this book because they feel like Strayed was irresponsible with her backcountry experience, and worry that others will follow suit (which they have). What I can say about that is this: the people who are inspired to do what Strayed did were always going to do something extreme because they need(ed) to. If they do it in an irresponsible way, they were always going to do it in an irresponsible way. There are some pretty significant threads that run through Strayed’s life and mine, but one thing is certain – our personalities differ profoundly in how preparation makes us feel comfortable. At the time of her hike, in her mid-twenties, Strayed did things first and thought about them after. I have always, always been someone who thought about things so much beforehand that I often never even did them. So, someone like me will never hike the PCT unprepared – not even if I feel a connection to this person who can reach so deeply inside people with her words that they feel connected to her in a profound enough way to follow her footsteps. It doesn’t feel safe to me to not start by mapping the proverbial trail as best I can before setting out, by making sure I have enough water and food and the right hiking boots (metaphorically speaking) because I expect there to be things that go wrong, and my personality type wants to give me the very best chance of not shooting myself in one foot while the universe shoots the other. However, 26 year-old Strayed, and possibly those who have followed in her footsteps, needed to follow the path in their own way; it’s the only way they can. And if I learned anything by banging my own head against a brick wall, it’s that we can’t keep people from making their own mistakes (no matter how small or how great) because they will always, always find a way… they’ll just do it when you aren’t looking. And in order to become who they are going to become, they need to make those mistakes and find the way out on their own.

I’m going to keep most of my favorite parts to myself, but I’ll share one with you: Strayed (having just arrived at the end of her journey) writes, “There was no way back, to make it stay. There was never that… It was all unknown to me then… Everything except the fact that I didn’t have to know… It was my life – like all lives, mysterious and irrevocable and sacred. So very close, so very present, so very belonging to me. How wild it was to let it be.”

And if that isn’t the truth, I don’t know what is.

*****

If you’d like to see the very short video I made about this post, you watch it here (along with the trailer for the movie adaptation which is being released in December)…

Add These to Your TBR :: Episode 1

As if you needed an excuse to add more books to your TBR, but here you have my permission (and encouragement!) to add these books that I’m excited about…

TBR = To Be Read; a general term that bookworms use to talk about the books they want to read.

Books Mentioned

Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

The Bell Jar :: Sign Ups & Starting Post

For July, I’ve chosen The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

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I’m posting the reading schedule (which will help you get through the novel on time). Below is the starting video for this read-a-long. At the end of the month (around August 28th), I’ll post a closing video with my thoughts so we can have a discussion of what we thought about the book! During the reading I’m going to open a Glassboard forum to discuss the book. If you would like to be able to access the forum, please let me know here. This will be a place where we can keep the discussion going throughout the month. You can access this forum through your computer or through the free smartphone app. (Please make sure to sign up with Glassboard with the same e-mail address you give me on the sign up form.) Glassboard is very easy to get the hang of, don’t let it discourage you from participating in the read-a-long or discussion! And don’t hesitate to ask me any questions in the comments section below!

 

Reading Schedule

This book is 200 pages, which means we’ll read 50 pages per week/ about 7 pages per day.

Week One: Stop at Chapter Six

Week Two: Stop at Chapter Eleven

Week Three: Stop at Chapter Fifteen

Week Four: Read till the end.

Any questions? Feel free to ask below!

 

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

Here is the final post for The Virgin Suicides (feel free to weigh in even if you weren’t participating in the read-a-long but have read the book)…

I loved it, did you love it? I mean, I LOOOOVVVVEEEEDDDD it.

I put all of my thoughts down below in the video, but I am going to post some of my favorite quotes from the book here in this post (quotes are better read in a post than watched in a video, no?).

Last night, I re-watched the movie adaptation and I have to say, not only did I forget how incredibly well done, perfectly casted (the boys! I adore the boys, not just the Lisbon girls), and dreamy with those gorgeous aesthetics, I didn’t realize (how could I until I read the book?) how spot on the movie was! Except for the part that I mention in the video, Sofia Coppola kept SO CLOSE to the books… not only with plot lines, but also with the working. I was very happy and impressed that she not only did that, but did it while keeping the film such a reasonable length.

My biggest question (that I forgot to mention in the video) is why did the girls have the boys come by that night? I can’t figure it out. They didn’t need witnesses… their parents would have sufficed. They didn’t need anyone to call the ambulance, they were trying to die (one was already gone by the time the boys got there anyway). Thoughts? I’d really love to hear what you think. 

 

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Can I just say it again… what a fantastic story. It’s love for me.

(Also, I want this edition of the book… isn’t it perfect?)

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Favorite Quotes:

  • Dr. Armonson stitched up her wrist wounds… “What are you doing here, honey? You’re not even old enough to know how bad life gets.”… “Obviously, Doctor,” she said, you’ve never been a thirteen year-old girl.”
  • …but sometimes, after one of us had read a long portion of the diary out loud, we had to fight back the urge to hug one another or to tell each other how pretty we were. We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn’t fathom them at all. We knew, finally that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.
  • Dear whoever,
    Tell Trip I’m over him.
    He’s a creep.
    Guess Who
  • (The entire sequence of phone calls playing songs to each other)
  • Like everyone else, we went to Alice O’Connor’s coming-out party to forget about the Lisbon girls… Inside we got to know girls who had never considered taking their own lives… Drunk, and kissing us, or passing out in chairs, they were bound for college, husbands, child-rearing, unhappiness only dimly perceived – bound, in other words, for life.
  • It didn’t matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and they hadn’t heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the treehouse, with out thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together.