Category: Nonfiction

June 2017 Wrap Up

June has been…something. I mean, A LOT has happened. Not only did I attend my daughter’s high school graduation and participate in AP exam scoring for the first time, but I also got a new job way on the other side of the country. And, yes, I did just buy a house last year. So, I am officially in moving mode and prep mode and general my short-lived vacation is over mode. 😩

Obviously, I am happy about the new job. The emoji is used for dramatic effect because I didn’t plan to be moving (again!) this summer.

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It’s Monday and spring break is over. #sol17

Monday Reading Check-In

I missed last week, so let’s do a little catch up, shall we?

 

Since my last post, I read:

Destiny's EmbraceDestiny’s Embrace by Beverly Jenkins
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don’t typically read traditional romance stories, but this one seemed to check all the boxes pretty well. I was more intrigued by the character of Alanza than Mariah, but it was fun reading about life on a ranch and all of the other fun historical tidbits that you get from historical fiction.

Read Harder 2016: Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900

View all my reviews

 

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and ScientologyTroublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, so I listened to this on audio, which I think made it just that much more amazing.

Leah is a complete badass and spills ALL THE TEA. All of it. Every last drop. My girl names names and everything. ALL OF THE NAMES.

I love this book. Love, love, love. Remini is fierce and funny and also a little hood, which I completely appreciated.

Read Harder 2016: Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction)

View all my reviews

 

I also went to see:

Zootopia

Zootopia! I don’t make it to the movies often, but my daughter’s birthday was Wednesday, and she really wanted to see Zootopia, so off we went. It was a lot of fun and also a really practical look at how structural racism and sexism (and other forms of discrimination work). Allegory, yay! Anyway, my daughter liked it so much that she has already seen it again, so I can highly recommend it.

 

As of today, I’m reading:

I’m still making my way through Something Wicked by Alan Gratz. Poor Banks (Banquo), man.

I also started Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud, which is all about recognizing when it’s time to move on from situations in your life. I was introduced to the book through a small group study at my church, which I got a lot out of, so I figured I should probably read the book to get a little more understanding, so here we are. This article provides a little bit more info about the concepts covered in the book, if anyone is interested.

I’ve been reading House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones (the last book in the Howl’s Moving Castle trilogy) at work for the past week. I like the book well enough so far, but I legit keep forgetting about it until I get to work or unless I’m at work. So I guess this is the equivalent of a bathroom book in that way. We’ll see if it picks up. Or if I give up on it altogether. (I will probably finish it since I keep being amazed at how far into it I actually am. Maybe.)

Original now hosted by Kathryn @ The Book Date. Children's lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.

Original now hosted by Kathryn @ The Book Date. Children’s lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.

Happy reading this week, everyone!

 

Combo Weekly/Monthly Round-Up (It’s Monday, y’all!)

My eye issue has mostly resolved, so I should be able to keep up with blogs more from now, which is a definite yay. I missed posting last week, so this is a two-fer (though, technically, I guess it’s a three-fer). I read some books is what I’m saying. Let’s get to it.

This past week, I finished:

To Catch a Cheat (The Great Greene Heist, #2)To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars, rounding up

I love everything about this book (okay, almost everything, hence the 1/2 star deduction), including the cover. So fun! It gave me a happy.

View all my reviews

The week before that, I finished:

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor (An Abolitionist Tale about Harriet Tubman)Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Harriet Tubman is your OG, and you will respect her as such. Harriet Tubman is a complete and total badass. This book is A++ in showing that and giving an overview of her life. Two thumbs up, fine holiday fun.

Nathan Hale’s art is amazing, and he presents slavery in an unflinching and honest way, which is important given discussions around how children’s books are failing to do that right now.

Read Harder 2016: Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography)

View all my reviews

 

Watson and Holmes - A Study In BlackWatson and Holmes – A Study In Black by Karl Bollers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was solid.

I only have two complaints: (1) There were a couple of glaring typos in the first couple of pages and (2) the art work in the epilogue is completely different from the other chapters and it was my least favorite of all the art.

Otherwise, intriguing and an interesting/fun new take on Holmes.

Read Harder 2016: Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years

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Jessica Jones: Alias, Vol. 1Jessica Jones: Alias, Vol. 1 by Brian Michael Bendis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I first started this book, I didn’t care much for the art–a little too dark and muddled. However, as the story progressed and Jessica’s came out of her depression, the art work shifted. It was subtle, and it worked.

I like Jessica. I liked this. And that ending? Man.

View all my reviews

 

Yes, Chef: A MemoirYes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

2.5 stars, rounding down

So. Here’s the thing. Marcus Samuelsson has led a fascinating life, and I enjoyed reading about it. But at one point, he reveals that he has a daughter, and he decides to be an absentee father while he pursues his dreams. Which, you know, is fine if that’s the choice he wanted to make. But all I could think as he was talking about his time gallivanting around the world as a chef is “Yeah, but what about Zoe?”

WHAT ABOUT ZOE, MARCUS?

So that tempered my enjoyment quite a bit.

Also, hot tip to all the absentee/deadbeat parents in the world: do not thank the parent who actually did the work of raising the child. That probably annoys me more than women who say their husbands are “babysitting” the children.

Read Harder 2016: Read a food memoir

View all my reviews

 

So, all in all, January was:

A good reading month! I read 15 books, 5 of which counted for the Diversity on the Shelf challenge. I am running at lower than 50% reads by/about POC, so I want to improve on that next month. We’ll see how it goes. I also read three 5-star books. Wouldn’t it be nice if 20% of my reads this year turn out to be 5-star reads?

As of today, I’m reading:

The Light Between Oceans is slow-going so far, but it’s for book club so I shall power through. I am not sure yet how I feel about Re Jane. I dig a lot of the changes the author has made (I especially love how she deals with the madwoman in the attic–brilliant!) (also, love the word play in the title). However, this Jane is planning to do something original Jane just would not do AT ALL, so I am not sure if I’ll be able to keep reading if this Jane does something the original Jane wouldn’t. I am not even particularly enamored of the original, but I guess even I have my limits. So. We shall see how that goes.

Original now hosted by Kathryn @ The Book Date. Children's lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts &  Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.

Original now hosted by Kathryn @ The Book Date. Children’s lit version hosted by Jen Vincent @ Teach Mentor Texts & Kellee Moye @ Unleashing Readers.

Happy reading, everyone!

Recommendation Wednesday: The Artist’s Way

This book changed my life.

I mentioned in my musings on what I might do for my artist date that I was working through the book because I assigned it to my creative writing class and thought it might be a good idea to know what, exactly, I was asking them to do. I really wasn’t prepared for the impact this book would have on me.

The two biggest tools of the book are completing the morning pages and going on the artist date. That’s where I found the impact and the transformation. Well, those two tools and the reading deprivation during Week 4.

Basically, how the book works is that each week you read a chapter, write the morning pages, take yourself on an artist date, and complete some (or all) of the tasks at the end of the chapter. Repeat until the book is complete. Twelve chapters = twelve weeks.

How did it change my life?

The biggest deficit in my life is in the area of self-care. I suck at it. It is legit the hardest thing I do. What the morning pages and the artist date do is privilege self-care. Since I committed to completing the book, I committed to doing the work. (I am nothing if not a good student.) Doing the work meant writing the pages and going on the date. Every week.

I should note, though, that I rarely, if ever, wrote the morning pages in the actual morning. Even though Cameron says several times that it should be done before starting your day, that is not realistic for me. In fact, that’s what kept me from completing the book last time. Once I gave myself permission to just treat the morning pages as daily pages, finishing the work became manageable. I have done a lot of work on my perfectionism in the past few years, so understanding that I could do the pages imperfectly was key. Also, let’s be real: getting up a half-hour early is antithetical to my self-care.

Harder than the pages for me was the artist date. I had to start really small. Watching an hour of TV without doing anything else (like folding or separating clothes). Coloring at my dining room table. Going to the movies. However, as I kept with it, I started doing other things, bigger things. I went to plays. I took a West African dance class. I took a jazz dance class. I started planning other creative and fun things I could do with my time. Now it feels almost second nature to say yes to activities I would have previously told myself I didn’t have time for. I have made it a habit to sit down and watch TV shows I like because I like to watch them. I’m not too busy for the things I actually enjoy doing. It makes it a lot easier to do work or be creative when I know I’m not depriving myself of fun stuff.

Life is meant to be an artist date.

I will also note that I started The Artist’s Way in the summer when I wasn’t working. Completing the pages and the date became more difficult once school started back. But I kept at them.

The reading deprivation also marked a key point in my recovery (as the book calls it). I got a LOT of clarity. For one, I realized that part of the reason I was blocked (I haven’t written anything in years) was that I wasn’t interested in the type of writing I had told myself I needed to be doing or was interested in. I was, as they say, should-ing on myself, which kept me from doing what I wanted to do. The other major thing that happened during my deprivation is that I cleaned my room, set up an office, and opened up space for what I want my life to be.

So, yeah. Big changes.

I absolutely recommend this book for blocked creatives with the understanding that it is definitely not for everyone. The subtitle is “A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” after all. For anyone resistant to ideas of spirituality or discussions/mentions of God (though Cameron does point out that you don’t have to believe in any god to use the book and gives suggestions for what word to replace God with as you read, e.g., “creative force” or “good orderly direction” among others), probably you might not be as open to some of the suggestions or language Cameron uses. However, if you are willing or able to look past that language, I think there’s a lot of value here.

And, of course, if you are willing to do the work.

Book Review: Mindset

Once, when my daughter was in third grade, she got her report card and was ready to celebrate her achievements for the quarter. “Fine,” I told her, “but I just want you to know that we don’t celebrate C’s in this family.”

My daughter, understandably, started crying and told me that she had worked really hard for that grade.

Ashamed, and rightfully so, I immediately backtracked and told her that OF COURSE we would celebrate her C since she had worked so hard for it and OF COURSE effort mattered, and I did know that she had tried her best.

That episode came to mind as I was reading Mindset, and I thought of several different ways I could’ve handled that conversation that wouldn’t have resulted in scarring my daughter for life and making her think her best wasn’t good enough. I would have avoided telling her how smart and bright she is (something that has actively contributed to her anxiety around school) and instead applauded her efforts when she completed a challenging task.

So, yes, this book can help parents and educators reframe the way we think and the way we speak to children (and ourselves!) about the way we approach challenges. I have learned elsewhere that changing the way I think about a situation changes the way I engage with it, and that’s basically the crux of this book.

Why only 2.5 stars? The presentation is kind of dry, though Dweck uses a lot (A LOT) of anecdotal evidence. Still, the information is accessible and the ideas are useful. If you’re trying to help someone get out of a black or white, there is only winning or losing mentality, this book may be worth a look.

The Artist’s Way & the Artist Date

TThe Artist's Way by Julia Cameronhis fall, I’m teaching a fiction writing class for the first time, and I’m super excited. Because I’ve never taught the class before, I’m using a co-worker’s syllabus. (Sidenote: I was going to build the class from scratch but another co-worker talked me out of that, which is probably a good idea–especially considering that I have to build my two other core courses over again.) So, since this co-worker uses The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron for the class,  I will, too.

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Book Review: Intuitive Eating

The more satisfied you are when eating, the less you will think about food when you are not hungry–you will no longer be on the prowl.

I’m going to give a little background for why, exactly, I read this book just to give an idea of why it impacted me so much. I don’t normally get this personal on the blog, so bear with me.

I was doing a lot of compulsive, emotional eating and, when I stopped doing that, I realized that I had a lot of fear around food—about eating the right food or about eating too much or not enough. In fact, I felt like I was constantly undereating and misjudging how much food I needed. I would pack what I thought was a good lunch only to get to work and realize that one small porkchop and one sweet potato were somehow, surprisingly, not enough to get me through the rest of the day. And that was happening more often than I would like. In my quest not to overeat, I had gone a little bit too much the other way and was at a loss for how to make sure I was getting enough food.

Intuitive Eating by by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Tracking my food (through all the various means) makes me crazy and kind of obsessive, so I knew I needed a professional. Hence, I contacted a dietitian.

During our first session, she told me that she promotes permissive eating and told me to read Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. So I did. And I can honestly say this book changed my life.

(Note: I read the second edition of the book. There’s a new third edition available.)

Let me say up front that I had heard the phrase “intuitive eating” before, but it never occurred to me that there might be a book on it or that it had a basis in anything other than some idea of what/how people should eat. I mean, it just sounds like the sort of thing that makes sense. Of course I need to eat intuitively! So I would say that and not really understand what it meant.

Basically, the point of intuitive eating is that you stop relying on external cues for hunger/fullness, and you start learning and listening to your body’s cues for hunger/fullness. It moves everything from your head (i.e., I should/shouldn’t eat x, y, z) to your actual body.

In other words, stop dieting. But they don’t just say “stop dieting.” They also give research that shows the effects of dieting on physical and mental health. And they show you exactly how intuitive eating works and how to start doing it.

(They also don’t refer to sweets as “junk food” but instead as “play food.” Junk = bad, see? Ah, the power of language.)

So how did this book change my life?

  • I have stopped having guilt around when/how I eat. (Although I never thought of food as “good” or “bad,” I kept feeling bad if I got hungry before a certain amount of time.)
  • My relationship to the gym has completely changed. Because—just like with food—if I  move the focus to how exercising makes my body feel instead of the fact that I should be doing it, then I can focus on doing it because I want to. For example, I recently added in resistance training with the weight machines again because I remembered that I liked how strong I felt when I did it–and not because that’s what you’re supposed to do to lose weight (which is why I did it in the past). I have stopped thinking so much about losing weight and more about what makes me feel good.
  • I am still working with the dietitian to recognize my hunger cues and to learn how to tell I’ve had enough food for the activities I have scheduled for any given day. (None of these methods include counting calories.)

Some other thoughts:

My mom has diabetes and wants to read this book, so I was thinking about how this book would apply to her situation. I think the general principle is the same even with the restrictions diabetes (or another health condition) brings. Because if I know a food makes me feel physically bad when I eat it, then I figure out either how I can have that food without it making me feel physically bad or I find something else I want to eat. (Geneen Roth tried to make this point in Women Food and God, but she used a lot of foofy language to do so.)

Also, if someone has a serious eating disorder, the book offers lots of resources for finding help and support.

In conclusion: I recommend the book, definitely. The book is super accessible, easy to  read, and, most importantly, practical.

Some other reviews:

Source: Library

Book Review: Permission Slips

So write yourself a permission slip to see the funny part first. Misery is patient, and will wait.

Permission Silps by Sherri ShepherdPermission Slips by Sherri Shepherd is so FUN. I know Sherri as a co-host on The View and Tracy’s wife on 30 Rock, but I didn’t know she’s a comedian, and I didn’t know that she is funny. SHE IS FUNNY. I spent a lot of this book cracking up at how ridiculous she is–in the best possible way.

The book combines memoir with self-help (my two favorites!). The framework for the book is that Sherri gives advice on how to handle all the crazy life throws at you, and she does that by sharing her own experiences. She talks about her relationships with her friends, family, God, religion, and her co-workers. She also, of course, addresses that time she made her infamous “the world is not round” flub on The View. Nothing is off limits, which is part of the book’s charm.

The funniest bits have to do with her struggle with food/diabetes and her dating exploits. Part of what makes the book fun is that Sherri recognizes her own flaws and is willing to share how complicit she was in her own crazy. One of my favorite anecdotes is the one she tells about a dude who she was in the process of dumping (in the most passive aggressive of ways) (i.e., she had started dating someone else and ignoring this dude whenever he called) who came and essentially kidnapped her from the hairdresser, and she was so elated that she made this man crazy that she stayed with him even longer than she should have–but that’s because she had a hard time saying no to people. Completely nuts, but she recognizes how nuts she was, so that makes it okay to laugh. Plus, she’s telling the reader not to be as crazy as she was.

While I enjoyed the funny bits a lot, she also included a lot of sad/poignant parts, especially when talking about the birth of her son who was in the NICU and that she and her ex-husband considered removing from life support.

I mean, I almost cried when I got to this bit:

Later, Jeff told me that when he prayed, he told God that he’d take whatever he could get. “Lord, if You just bless my baby to stay alive, whatever package he comes in, I’ll accept and be as happy as I could be. If he’s in a wheelchair, I’ll take him in a wheelchair to the football game. I don’t care how he comes wrapped. I accept the package.”

COME ON. I am not made of stone.

Ultimately, though, Sherri’s memoir/self-help book gives a lot of insight into how she broke into the business, how she keeps her head on straight, and why making mistakes is okay.

For me, this was a surprisingly fun read. I just saw it on the shelf at the library and picked it up. I didn’t even think I would like it. But I did. And I can recommend it to anyone who wants to read something fun.

Source: Library

Armchair BEA 2013: Nonfiction

The genre discussion of the day is nonfiction! My initial response is always that I’m not a fan, but that is untrue. According to my category label, I read a lot of nonfiction. And I am always interested in nonfiction, especially if it falls under one of these two categories:

  1. Memoir
  2. Self-help

Memoirs are awesome, especially if they read like fiction, which is why I preferred Zora Neale Hurston’s autobiography to Angela Davis’s. For example. I also dig graphic novel autobiographies/biographies like Maus and Persepolis.

As for self-help, I love that stuff. I think mostly because I’m on a quest to be a better person. Also, because I love when books tell me something about my life. Plus also, I think a lot of self-help books say the same things in different ways, and it’s always interesting to see which one clicks.

Peace from Broken Pieces by Iyanla Vanzant actually combines memoir and self-help (LOVE HER). A book that has been particularly helpful for me lately has been Cheryl Richardson’s The Art of Extreme Self-Care. I am so terrible at self-care and need to do better and just thinking about her book helps.

I also like books about religion and spirituality, and a lot of times they fall under the self-help category.