THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN: A Review

Published in 2007 by author Sherman Alexie, this YA novel was our Third Tuesday Book Club selection for the month of May.  The group’s discussion is tomorrow night. Other than some pretty rough language (but then that’s the way some teenagers talk), the book was a good read.  It was funny, sad, heartbreaking, uplifting–all at one time. The author is also a cartoonist and a poet, and the story is filled with insightful cartoons and poetic expressions in places.  It is the story of a boy who overcomes poverty, a medical condition from birth, fear, and loneliness as he comes of age.

The story is well told, and characters range from stereotypes to unique individuals. Arnold Spirit (his Reardon School name) aka Junior (his reservation name) is a protagonist who puts his “raw emotion” out there for the reader to experience. Rowdy, his best friend since earliest childhood is his protector and confidant, which makes his refusal to go off the reservation to the “white school” with Junior/Arnold and his hate directed towards him all the worse. Gordy is his new, nerdy friend at the white Reardon high school, and Penelope, the gorgeous white girl becomes Junior/Arnold’s girlfriend.  The clash between the characters is more than troubling to the protagonist. His family, a alcoholic but loving father, a smart mother, and a spiritual, tolerant grandmother round out the cast of characters.

The novel gives insights into Native American folklore and superstition as well as “Reservation Philosophy” and thought. For a boy born with hydro-encephalitis and who has “been to 42 funerals by the time he is fourteen,” there is a lot to overcome. The humor is typically adolescent male humor and raunchy at times, but not to the point of offending.

I do not know if I would recommend this book to a younger teenager, but a young adult with his/her “head on straight” might really enjoy this book. It will be interesting to hear what older adults thought of it tomorrow night.

Sunday (Evening) Post

Happy Mother’s Day.  Although I am not a mother, I had a lovely Mother’s Day Weekend. Saturday my husband and I visited Half-Price Books in Houston and I purchased $30 worth of bargains for my Little Free Library.  While in the same strip shopping center, we went to a consignment store specializing in furniture and accessories, and my husband bought me a lovely basket/vase which I was able to put dried flowers/weeds from a disassembled floral arrangement in, something I’ve wanted to do for a while now.  The clerk at the store said, “Tell me you’re a mother, and you’ll get a twenty percent discount.”  I informed her I was not a mother, but I thought I deserved a discount for being honest.  My Better Half chimed in that I was the only mother our cat, Lena, had ever known, and the kind salesperson came through with the discount!  She made my day. We finished up at Eduardo’s Mexican Kitchen for lunch, thus freeing me from cooking , not only the rest of the day but also for lunch today, thanks to warmed up leftovers.

This morning we cleaned up and moved furniture around in our guest  bedroom, anticipating summer visitors.  It looks so much larger and roomier, and My Better Half hung two pictures on the wall and in the hallway to accommodate the changes we made.  Now to the local Alvin furniture store, Cox’s, for an end table and maybe  a new sofa and loveseat at their Memorial Day Sale.  I told you it was a good weekend, didn’t I?

We worked in the yard again this first full week off from school, planting flowering hawthorne, another hibiscus, a knock-out rosebush, and a lipstick plant in a pot.  Also, our Easter Lillies, hastily stuck in the ground last Easter, are in full bloom for Mother’s Day.  They also have multiplied, so we may have further blooms for Father’s Day, or at least for next spring.

Finished this week: Many Waters by Madeline Engle…great as a part of a series or as a stand alone. (To be reviewed soon) and the very first issue of a delightful magazine, Magnolia Journal, “inspiration for life and home.” As a charter subscriber I was very interested in receiving this magazine, skimmed it ooooohing and aaaaahing when it first arrived, then going back and reading with enjoyment every word. Joanna and Chip Gaines, editor-in-chief and editor-at-large, respectively, are responsible for this excellent piece of readability.

Continuing to read: Have not quite finished today’s edition of The Houston Chronicle, my Sunday afternoon reading material; Who Is Human? a science fiction novel by Gary Pegoda; Beyond Human Nature by Printz; and Phillip Yancey, an excellent inspirational writer who is fast becoming my second favorite inspirational writer (next to Max Lucado) has hooked me on his Vanishing Grace:Whatever Happened to the Good News? 

Started this week: The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas.

I have done a great deal of reading, a chapter here a chapter there, and am probably going to end up with several books to review, all at the same time.

I’ve done little cooking besides warming up from food cooked last week and leftovers I’ve dubbed “Cowboy Stew” which has leftover lean hamburger patties from a lunch and anything in the refrigerator in the way of leftover vegetables that weren’t “spoken for.”  We’ve had it twice, once rolled up in flour tortillas and once over leftover rice from Eduardo’s. Believe it or not, it was most enjoyable.  A friend brought homemade Louisiana gumbo and a scrumptious dessert…more than we could possible eat ourselves, so we were privileged to share with a neighbor for her Mother’s Day.

As I said, it has been a good Mother’s Day weekend.

TAG: I’m It Again!

My friend James has tagged me to answer the tag that has gone through many bloggers, and without giving credit to anyone, here are my answers:

  1.  Choose one word that would describe you as a reader.  Like my friend, James, I am an “eclectic” reader.  I’ll try anything.
  2. What is the first book that made you fall in love with reading?  When I was six, my British grandmother gave me copies of a British alphabet book (which prepared me for school that year) and The Adventures of Nicholas Thomas, a very mischievous British cat who was always getting into trouble.  My mother read it to me until I could read it alone.  I will never forget the pair of Siamese cats who tricked Nicholas into doing the things he got in trouble for, then sat at the tea table saying, “Just bread and butter, purrlease “.  Poor Nicholas loved cakes and scones and cream and was silly enough to ask for them. The book was large, well illustrated, and had many chapters/adventures (or should I say misadventures?)
  3. Hardback or paperback?  Anything.  I’m not picky.
  4. How has reading shaped your identity? I have always found escape from problems, the busy world, and life in general in reading.  I have always been far more adventuresome in my reading life than in real life.  I have been so many places and had so many experiences vicariously–all through reading; so, I guess I am what I read.
  5. What book do you read when you want to be comforted?  The Psalms of the Bible–any version.
  6. Who influenced you to be a reader?  Both parents, my first grade teacher, Mrs. Lovern, and our local branch librarian in Norfolk, Virginia.
  7. Describe your dream reading lounge.  Anywhere in my castle, my house.  There are books “going” in every room almost.
  8. What book has changed the way you see the world? Most recently, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  9. What defines your life as a reader?  James said it best, “Where Jay meets happiness.” I paraphrase, “Where Rae meets happiness.”  Thanks James for letting me steal again!

10.  What are your favorite quotes?  My motto to teach by is from Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Now, whoever is reading this, Tag, you’re it! Respond to the same ten questions, either on your blog or in the comment section of this post.  There’s room! Please do not judge mistakes but consider them hugs!

Rae

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA: A Review

This 1997 novel, on the NY Times Best Seller List for over a year, gives the perfect women’s point of view on a Japanese women’s institution, surprisingly written by a man, Arthur Golden. It was researched very thoroughly and is a PWR selection for this quarter.  It is sexy, expressed in a most polite Japanese way, and described by reviews of its day as “astonishing,” “breathtaking,” a “literary sensation”, “seductive,” and “an exotic fable.”  If it isn’t considered a classic, it should be.

The novel recounts the story of Sayrui, a fictional famous geisha, probably a composite of several famous geisha of Japan’s past. Born in a tiny, poor, fishing village, Chiyo ( her first name as a servant in the geisha house she is sold to by her father)/ Sayrui’s life reflects the difference between the life of a geisha and the life of a prostitute. Hatsumomo, a famous geisha of the same house is her nemesis, insanely jealous and revengeful motivated by feelings of jealousy, fear, insecurity, and mean-spiritedness. Chiyo’s only friend, Pumpkin, eventually betrays Chiyo/Sayrui, making Mamha’s job as Sayrui’s mentor/”Big Sister” all the harder.

Of course it is a romance, but much much more than that.  There is a well-described picture of Japanese life both before and after the WWII bombings. Sayrui’s life goes from rags to riches to rags again to…I’ll let you read the end of the story. The underlying theme of the book deals with how a woman’s life and destiny depended on a man. It is a worthwhile investment of your precious reading time that will keep you turning pages into the wee hours.

Tuesday Teaser

Tuesday Teaser is a bookish meme from The Purple Booker.  The idea is to open a book you are reading at random, copy a couple of sentences and “tease” other readers into reading the same book.

Mine today is from a book selected for this quarter by PWR.  It is by Madeline Engle, author of scientific science fiction, and the selection begins near the beginning of the book where the twins, Sandy and Dennys, enter their Phd dad’s laboratory where a computer program dealing with time travel is in progress.  They think they may have “disturbed something”,

“Stupid.  We were stupid, mucking around with an experiment-in-progress… we should have stopped to think…Dispite the intense heat Dennys shivered…’Shade’ croaked Dennys.  Do I see a palm tree?”

Soon in this time-travel novel involving the same tesseract theory from A Wrinkle in Time, but this time computer generated, Many Waters has Sandy and Dennys relieved they are somewhere on planet earth.  The relief is not for long, however, as they meet Japeth and his son Noah, who both communicate with El who tells them they are living in the “end times”.  As they begin to piece together the Bible stories their mother read to them along with Greek myths, American Indian mythology and other stories which predicted a world-wide flood, they can only hope the way to return to their own world will come to them soon.

Reading/Cooking: Monday Morning Musings

Those of you who are bibliophiles understand when I say, we read to “escape”: from boredom, form being too busy, from our hum-drum, ordinary lives to adventures and emotions we can experience vicariously.  Recently while studying a text on human nature, I came across a concept that not only can we change our lives, but our moods as well.

I came home in a grouch and felt grumpy, but the books I thumbed into did nothing to relieve my self-induced bad mood, so I turned instead to cooking. The humidity was finally low enough (a beautiful, sunny day) to make forgotten cookies, a recipe from the 1970’s that was so popular.  They are made with whipped egg whites (2), 3/4 of a cup of sugar gently added and mixed in on high until peaks form, then a teaspoon of vanilla added in with more beating time via mixer.  All this time, the cook is preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Finally when the oven indicates the correct temperature has been reached, one folds in a cup of chopped pecan pieces and a cup of semi sweet chocolate pieces.  After dropping by spoonfuls onto  prepared cookie sheets, said sheets are placed on the racks in the oven and THE OVEN IS TURNED OFF. The next step is to forget the cookies for the next three to four hours or overnight.  Yes, the recipe sounds like Grandma’s old fashioned divinity, and yes, the cookies dissolve in your mouth. After the painstaking care and concentration on making the cookies, I felt much, much better.

Looking back at this week, I must have been escaping through cooking all week, for I made BBQ pork in the crockpot; used some black bean chips from our trip to Central Market to make nachos as a snack; tried out another bag of chips, this time parmesan cheese and garlic flavor, as another day’s snack; baked brownies, following the “cake-like” directions rather than our usual “fudge-like” directions on the box, then iced them with cream cheese icing.  Actually, re-reading this paragraph, I think this week I “escaped” into eating, not cooking!

Sunday (Evening) Post

How can a week be totally uneventful and totally busy at the same time?  I managed to complete an item on my bucket list, visit the Brazos Bookstore in Houston; shop and eat at Central Market not too far away from the bookstore; and celebrate the end of the semester at The Dessert Gallery–all in one day! Wednesday.  This was thanks to our “grandson” driving us from Alvin, negotiating all the crazy traffic (which had us overwhelmed at the thought of driving in it), and returning us safely home at the end of the day.  That’s a good grandson!  It took me a day to recuperate from our adventure, but that, too was a busy day. It seems like the things you have to do (or maybe choose to do, for some of them are fun or productive things) will expand to fill up the time you have to do them in.  I always used to say this about housework, but it seems today my life seems to behave by this principle as well.

This past week I finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha (a selection for this quarter’s PWR) and will try to review it by tomorrow.  I also finished The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, thus checking off the selected book for the Third Tuesday Book Club (thanks to my friend Janet who passed on her copy of the ones reserved on a shelf for us by our fine Alvin Public Librarian.  She has really become an asset to our club and to our city.

I took Printz’s “textbook,” Beyond Human Nature, out into the yard on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, and whether it was the change of scenery or for some other reason, I really “got into it.” I have only about 200 pages left, and although serious, non-fiction is not always my cup ‘o tea, I may be able to finish and can definitely say I’ve read some good evidence and fascinating case studies along the author’s premise. The book could be dry, dry, dry, but the author gives the perfect amount of basic, background review and writes so well that I’m glad I tackled the book. I also am still reading Gary Pegoda’s Who Is Human, but did not get too far this week because it is on my laptop, and I’ve been reading paper books all week. I think I also often slow down to admire the words and the writing.

After purchasing it Wednesday, last night I started The Hate U Give, which tempts me to put everything aside and read from dawn to dusk.  I have a feeling it will “go” all too fast.

I have watched practically nothing, but have worked in the yard, and it does look good.  Thanks to My Better Half for digging all the holes and the watering-in he will do for me this evening when it cools down. I have also cooked in an attempt to smother an unwarranted grumpy mood, and I may mention this in Monday Morning’s post.

A note to PWR members:  Don’t forget we have a get-together at Rae’s on May 28th from 1-4 (or so), and I encourage you to read one of the three books we selected for this quarter: Sea Change (the thinnest), Memoirs of a Geisha (a wonderful book you won’t be able to put down) and Madeline Engle’s Many Waters. I will begin the last mentioned soon, but have copies of both of the others I’m willing to lend.  If anyone would like to volunteer to talk about one of the three books (and spare yourself listening to me!) please contact me by phone or e-mail. I am so hoping some of you can come!

HAPPY READING!