Well, hello, world! I have been paying attention to the movement of the days, enjoying the lovely weather and appreciating my world, my blessings, and my life, but my! Time does fly. It's the Friday before Labor Day (we now have it off with our new schedule), a lovely blue and gold day, and we're leaving for the camps once we get a few things accomplished. Tomorrow we will see Nathaniel Stephenson, Bates freshman, upon his return from his four day hiking trip in the White Mts, for the actual kickoff of Orientation. Today. . . today is a lovely day to drink some coffee on the deck and have an outdoor workout with Kiley!
So here are some books I've read lately:
Snow in August by Pete Hamill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Julie raved about this one; I gave it a try, but it is too generally sad for me to enjoy or find really good. I think it's easy to point out how horrible life might be for a kid in this boy's position (racism, loneliness, poverty, bullying. . . ) so I kept waiting for the redemption, the original insight. It did come, and the individual characters of the priest, the rabbi, and his mom were great, but overall, I felt Hamill's conclusion (what was THAT about?) needed more resolution and oomph. However, as I'm thinking about it, it's growing on me.
Okay. Bumped up the rating to 3 stars, and I'd add another half one if I could, with the comment that it's a book that's full of potential, contains some wonderful writing, and takes some good risks, but doesn't fully succeed.
Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This one just knocked my socks off and left me with an enduring "book hangover" that makes it hard to find anything else worth reading (for a while. I'm getting over it now). I'm not really sure why, except that 1. Samuelsson's life story is varied and fascinating; 2. his perspective on his life and all his missteps and successes is insightful and honest, and 3. the insights the book gives into how people cope with the intensity of a professional, topnotch kitchen (and how one topnotch kitchen can be a healthy place to work and another a terrible place) are illuminating.
"I'm always battling myself--the part of me that says I can and the part of me that says I can't. My greatest gift has been that the part of me that says "I can" is always, always just a little bit louder." (285)
He has a lovely paragraph that sums up his work in Ethiopia and his attitude toward the world's view of Africa as a whole. It's long, but the concluding bit is, "So although I feel them coming, the pitying tears of a Westerner, i do not let them out. Instead I reach for my younger sister Ashou, who is five, but looks as if she is three. I pull her closer to me and I let her sit on my lap. I let the flies that cover her face also cover my face. And I do not swat them away." 248
Born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, Samuelsson tells his life story (well, part of it--he's not very old yet, even!) with honesty and energy. His reflections on growing up OTHER in Sweden and on being black in high level kitchens are nuanced and informative, reminding me of the insights offered by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her novel Americanah. The food descriptions are mouth-watering, his love and respect for his parents is heart-warming, and his honest summation of his own arrogant or thoughtless mistakes in his personal life is refreshing. I loved this book, and I have been recommending it to everyone I can buttonhole! I saw it mentioned in a "Summer Reading" Guide by Random House, designed to get schools to assign certain books, and I have some students who'd love this. Go out and read it! It's interesting, insightful, and good!
All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I power-read this in one (very late) reading session, so I have an overall impression: it's powerful! It's scary! It reads like a memoir!
I have to go back and read it more slowly to get some of the nuances and make a final decision because my overview is that 1. Dave is way TOO thoughtless/heartless; 2. Ellie is incredibly annoying. Her sensitivity seems to be at least partially 100% indulgent parenting. And really: if you name your daughter after that character Eloise, are you asking for that kind of karma????; 3. I'm a little concerned that Weiner is becoming a Jodie Picoult type writer, focusing on a new Headline Issue with each novel. I hope she realizes that she's very good at just doing regular women dealing with regular life stuff, and she doesn't have to do Betrayed Political Wife or Surrogate Mom in Crisis or whatever.
However: it's immensely readable--hence the bags under my eyes this morning!
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