Archive for the ‘Books Read’ Category

Back in the Groove

September 23, 2011

I have not been writing. Anyone following my blog here or Milf Alert can clearly see that.

I have a million and one great excuses – realistically probably a thousand or so – most of which are legitimate (i:e planning a birthday party, moving furniture, pregnancy, the doctor telling me to rest more – although this could be perceived as a motivation, a new nanny and so on), but none of which will help me finish my book or keep the creative juices flowing.

And there are plenty of decent motivations that should help me through this hump.

I think about my book, even ordered two books that seem remotely related to mine. One of them, Posh is proving to be unreadable. One would think that seeing a poorly written published book would motivate me to finish mine and seek a publisher. One would think.

I rearranged my home office, and actually have a decent desk, albeit under the staircase, and now have some surface area to work. I no longer have a door to my space so my kids have been rummaging through the drawers spilling paper clips, emptying the shredder and running off with my wrist rests. On the upside, I do feel on top of most of my office paperwork that needs attention.

Frustrated with my nearly eight year old laptop and intermittent battery, I splurged on a new macbook air, opting for the lightest computer to reduce any excuse about not wanting to carry around my bulky laptop. I’ve had a few minor hiccups with it and as a result I’m not entirely certain I want to keep it, so I’m hesitant to install Microsoft Word on it (Yes, a $1,000 plus dollar computer still requires additional basic software), as I’m limited to the number of installations.

Before I completely embrace my new computer and apply the cover which allegedly scratches the computer surface upon removal, I need to spend time on the phone with customer support. Finding a few moments when the kids leave me alone to make the call and play on the computers is usually after bedtime when I am tired, hungry and likely angry from fighting the bed time battle ritual.


The Unfairness of it All

June 4, 2011

Life is equally unfair.

This simple sentence has provided immense comfort as I think how unfair it is that I don’t have my mom.

When I told a college friend about my mom’s passing, she shook her said no, I can’t imagine that as if a word without her inspiring and opinionated mother did not exist. I reminded her, don’t you think I felt that way?

I suppose if my mom and I were not as close her loss would have been easier, but it also meant that I would have missed out on our laughter, adventures and friendship.

29 Again and Again

April 11, 2011

As part of the From Left To Write Book Club I read 29: A Novel by Adena Halpern about a grandmother who gets her birthday wish to be 29 again for one day.

Yesterday my grandmother celebrated her 93rd birthday with an intimate gathering of friends. My siblings and I bought her an iPad so she would not be restricted using her computer at her desk. As for the friend who suggested the gift and offered to participate, I made her promise to teach my grandma how to use the device.

My grandmother and I have always been close; she’s felt a special kinship for me for years and has even admitted to me being her favorite granddaughter. This also translates to more responsibilities for me, like visiting her and calling her more frequently than my siblings, and helping her navigate everything from technology (she still has not learned how to use the cell phones I’ve purchased her), shopping and more. She’s still a heck of a lot better than most of her friends who she complains are aging poorly. She’s lived an amazing life as a performer and business woman, and at times is more coherent than my dad.

It’s sad to think that she has a finite amount of time left on earth and when she goes a little bit more of my mom will disappear as my grandma has a lifetime of memories of her only daughter. But as I remind myself, nobody gets out alive.

My mom never indulged this line of discussion, but my grandma admits to regrets, mostly surrounding her relationship with her husband. “If he didn’t die, I would have left him,” she’s said. I do not encourage this line of speaking too much as there is nothing to gain and for someone eternally optimistic, Grams does not need recall painful memories. She’s expressed remorse at only having one child, but after a miscarriage and breast cancer diagnosis, the doctors told her she could not have more.

My mother always said life is not a dress rehearsal. While I will ask Grandma what she would do differently if she could revisit 29, I’ll continue to live as if this is my one shot

An Immortal Cell Lives On

April 5, 2011

I recently read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot about cells taken from a black woman in 1950s. The cells, unlike any other, had an immortal quality where they kept multiplying and even infesting other sterilized scientific studies. The sample, as was practiced at the time, was taken without consent. As the cells grew, spawning an entirely new industry the family was never made aware. They have yet to be compensated by any of companies profiting from the cells and cannot even afford basic health care.

The story has stuck with me on several fronts.

The first was that horrible childhood of Henrietta, her children and even some of the grandchildren. Henrietta had, besides cancer, syphilis and HPV likely gifts from her philandering husband. One child was abused so, and I only know from the two antidotes in the story so I must fathom it was worse than what I read in a few pages, that the reader can almost forgive his unpleasant disposition. Another daughter was repeatedly raped by the husband of her father’s girlfriend, while the father turned a blind eye. All left school early.

Perhaps its a testament to my sheltered life, but it’s so hard to imagine such abuse existing even though I know it does. I have had my fair share of trauma and drama throughout my childhood. While I was raised in a privileged home with two siblings, I remember feeling extremely alone and often a burden to my parents. By the time I went away for high school most of my misery subsided. I have survived without physical abuse, sexual abuse or rape which must put me ahead of many, and light years ahead of the Lack’s family.

The other part of this book that I struggle to comprehend is that Ms. Lacks’ cells are still circulated and used for countless research including a cure for polio. I’m sure the family must grapple with part of their mother not being at rest. From a Jewish perspective, the immortal cells would cause many discomfort. Some rabbis collect all of the stray hair and fingernails of the deceased so the soul can rest without concern of the body.

When going through my mother’s bathroom shortly after she passed I found her hairbrush filled with stray hairs. Holding that brush, longing for my mom I briefly contemplated what to do. Without consulting my sister, as I had been doing for many decisions, I threw the hairs away. Now I cannot imagine my internal debate, but then it had been a big decision. Imagine if each of those hairs where in someone else’s hands, or laboratory, out of my control. Like the Lack’s I’d be happy they were being used for good, but I’d feel violated for not being consulted on their secondary life.

The final thing that I love about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is that it took the author ten years to write it! Sure she has a much better excuse than I have offered (The Lacks family initial reluctance to talk to her, and all of that scientific research) but it’s comforting to know that even talented writers have their obstacles.

I left the book at my hotel on vacation with the hopes that someone will find it and enjoy it as much as I did.

Room for Improvement

September 27, 2010

As part of the Left to Write blog, I was given a free copy of Room by Emma Donoghue. The book has generated some hype recently, but I suppose a write up cover of the New York Times Book Review section will do that. I began the book late this weekend but given some fervent opposition to the book by my fellow bloggers and the late arrival of said novel, I did not finish the story narrated by a five year old boy locked in a room with his mother.

I feel badly for not completing the book, or really reading more of it. When children are pulling off their diapers sitting in wet cribs and screaming bloody murder, a book must be engaging enough to maintain my attention. Of course, as part of the Left to Write blog, I don’t have to write a report, merely a blog inspired by the book. And if I don’t? I can’t imagine my imaginary mommy friends in the blogosphere will disown me. Will you?

Cowboys and Wills

September 2, 2010

As part of the From Left to Write blog, I received a complimentary copy of Cowboys and Wills: A Love Story by Monica Holloway. The book follows a mother’s help to reach her son after he was diagnosed with autism.

I don’t know if autism is more prevalent today because doctors are more aware of it and thus children are getting diagnosed more frequently or if the expanded definition includes more ranges of disorders or if there is something in the environment contributing to more cases, but it is scary.

One Day

August 23, 2010

I just finished One Day By David Nicholls. It was one of those delightful books that I was disappointed to finish, and slightly disappointed by a sudden event at the end. I’m struggling to find another book that I will enjoy as much.

It followed two friends over 20 years on the same day each year, a clever and challenging undertaking for a writer but it works surprisingly well.

I related to the character Emma in her disappointment for how her early 20s passed into less than she had hoped. A disappointment, rather with unfulfilled dreams, unrequited love and lack of direction. I look back on my early 20s with a pang that I did not achieve more success as a writer. I look at authors with such awe when I should focus that the only difference between me and them is discipline, and maybe some connections and education. There’s slight embarrassment that I do not have more to show for my attempts at writing.

Just as there is slight embarrassment that I have not read certain classical novels or ever embraced Shakespeare. I know regrets do not have a place in a productive life.

Emma found her focus when she returned to school and became a teacher, sharing her passion with kids. So, at 32 I have my life ahead of me and still time to do more. Which means I should probably return to that novel that I’m ignoring.

How To Read

July 16, 2010

I recently started The Liars Club by Mary Karr and am struggling to read it, not because she is a bad writer, but rather because she is a great writer. Each sentence, each paragraph is constructed so poetically and succinctly and grammatically correct, I want to focus on the words and the sentence structure. The memoir is proving to be so compelling and engaging that I want to discover what happens next. I’m torn between my desire to savor the writing and devour the story. (more…)

Girl In Translation, me in shock

June 23, 2010

I zipped through Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation over a weekend, my mouth agape at the narrator’s journey. It was one of those stories that I wanted to tell myself did not and could not happen, at least not now, at least not in my city. I wish it were that simple.

Kimberly Chang, the narrator immigrates to United States and juggles private school during the day and helping her mother in a sweatshop in the evening, living two diametrically opposed lives, an outsider in both.

I thought about my grandfather emigrating from Eastern Europe when he was a teenager. My dad tells the story of the time my grandfather was a young boy, coming home from buying bread sees his friend’s home bombed. He ran home only to have his mother ask, “where is the bread?” and send him out again. While my life could be considered privileged by many (okay most), I’ve still had my share of struggles which dwarf in comparison to Kimberly Chang’s or my grandfather’s for that matter.

If You Knew Suzy

April 19, 2010

I just finished a book by a writer who lost her mother to cancer. Reading it, I felt like I could have written it. I found myself nodding in agreement of certain maternal descriptions and shaking my head to others.

If You Knew Suzy: A Mother, A Daughter, A Reporter’s Notebook by Katherine Rosman is a daughter’s discovery and reflection surrounding her mother’s ultimately fatal fight with lung cancer. Katherine tracks down people who both influenced her mother and those whom her mom influenced. There were no great epiphanies but I imagine closure for the author.