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Memoir

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

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Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

This is a quick, fun read if you are obsessed with the Gilmore Girls. Disclaimer, I have not watched all of the new reboot episodes because I am savoring them. I don't want it to ever end! It's also a quick, fun read if you loved Parenthood. Which I did. So imagine what fun it was to read this book and hear her talk about working on both of these great shows. And also, did you know that she has written a work of fiction? And that her editor is Jennifer E. Smith, the YA author who writes lovely romantic novels? Graham's book is called Someday, Someday, Maybe.

Okay, now I have to go finish the Gilmore Girls. Maybe. I really don't want it to be over.

Number of Pages: 
209

Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Sarah Glidden

Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq by Sarah Glidden

In late 2010, cartoonist Sarah Glidden went along with two of her friends--co-founders of The Seattle Globalist--and a former Marine as they researched the impact of the Iraq War on the region and the refugee crisis. Glidden's focus to document the overall process of journalism and how it was conducted for this specific purpose, but it also comes to encompass the Marine's own experiences and reactions along the journey. Rolling Blackouts, constructed largely from transcribed audiovisual material collected on the trip, offers a glimpse into the horrors of war, complicated history, and voices of both the well-known and unheard victims of the region's violence.

I really enjoyed Glidden's graphic memoir, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, a few years back and found this book to be as enlightening and thoughtful. There is so much food for thought here--the less-documented tragedies of refugees' displacement, ruminations on ethics in jounalism, U.S. military involvement in the Middle East, what it means to be progressive, and so much more. I found it really interesting, too, in the window of time it occurred--just after heavy U.S. military presence from the Iraq War and just before the uprisings from the Arab Spring. For a graphic novel, this is slightly more text-heavy, and Glidden's use of soft-toned watercolors lend to the reflective nature of the book. There are no clear answers, but there are plenty of viewpoints; reading this will likely spark plenty of contemplation and conversation. This is definitely one of my favorite reads this year.

Number of Pages: 
298

Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx by Sonia Manzano

Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx by Sonia Manzano

Sonia Manzano faced many obstacles during the turbulent 1950s and 60s--both at home and at school--before she became the beloved character Maria on Sesame Street. Growing up in the South Bronx in a working class family, Manzano had to fight for what she wanted as she learned how to deal with her alcoholic, abusive father and a world that insisted on dividing life into black and white. It is only when she finds refuge in theater that she finally understands she can aspire to a life beyond the limited career options available to women at the time and maybe change the world in her own way while she's at it.

Listening to Becoming Maria (available through the library on Hoopla) is a terrific experience as it is read by Manzano herself. If you grew up with Sesame Street as I did, just the sound of her voice is like hearing a lifelong friend. Her memoir is poignant, featuring lots of humor and tenderness towards difficult topics, and while Sesame Street is barely mentioned, learning of her experiences lends so much insight to her future role as Maria. Becoming Maria is a fabulous addition to the nonfiction pertaining to the groundbreaking work of Sesame Street (I also highly recommend Street Gang and Sesame Street Unpaved).

Number of Pages: 
262

Me, My Hair, and I (edited by Elizabeth Benedict)

Me, My Hair, and I  (edited by Elizabeth Benedict)

It may seem excessive to devote an entire book of essays to the subject of hair, but each of these writers proves that there's plenty of ground to cover that goes way beyond appearance.  As Marita Golden says, "hair is not benign, it is important and potent."  Each of these essays illustrate that hair, especially for women, is not just something to be groomed and maintained, it's a signifier of one's history, personality, status, age, taste, health, the list goes on . . .  Although these themes ran through each piece, every story was unique.  Suleika Jaouad, who went through leukemia and chemotherapy at age 22, reveals how losing her hair made her feel like an outcast, and getting a "hair tatoo" made her feel empowered again.  Anne Kreamer decides to "go gray," and experiences a profound shift in her concept of time.  Anne Lamott finally finds her look with dreadlocks, after years of hairstyles that never felt right.  

Several other essays focus on parent/child relationships--one mother's confusion over how to "do" her biracial daughter's hair, a child's struggle with an abusive, Old World father who insists she cannot get a haircut, and other scenarios in which grooming hair is a loving ritual, or a painful argument each time.  Of course politics, social movements, and religion also play a role.  One woman leaves behind her Hasidic Jewish culture in which married women must shave their heads and wear a wig.  And an African American woman adopts a "natural," tired of straightening her hair in a forced attempt to be something she is not.

One essay also pays a much-warranted visit to body hair.  Other writers explore hair as a means of attracting a mate (also satisfying or displeasing a mate), their own hair perceived as a success or failure in their culture, or hair in relation to a sibling--a means of shared experience/closeness, or a source of envy.  This mutable extension of our bodies becomes an expression of independence, beauty, and nonconformity.  And yes, of course, numerous haircut experiences, frustrations, and triumphs are recounted that explore all manner of colors, textures, lengths, and styles.  This made for an enjoyable, diverse read on a subject for which surely everyone has a story to tell.        

Number of Pages: 
316

Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn

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Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn

Walter Kirn is the author of such fictional tales as Up in the Air and Thumbsucker. This book, however is a memoir of his relationship with Clark Rockefeller aka Christian Gerhartsreiter, a man who was convicted of a murder that took place before Kirn's first meeting with Rockefeller.

We read this book for the Brentwood Book Club selection in July. It was a successful treatment of the author's unease with this horrible discovery that the person he had known and spent time with was not the person he said he was. And that he was being tried for murder. The stories that he tells about his meetings with Clark are about his whims and eccentricities that are forgiven because he is a Rockefeller and Kirn is the kind of man who finds himself drawn to the wealthy only to be equally enthralled and repelled by the wealthy.

I expected the book to be more about Gerhartsreiter and his crimes than about the author working through his  feelings of being duped, but that ended up being interesting too. If you want more of a story of the true crime variety, then there are other books out there about his case that you might want to check out.

Number of Pages: 
277

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

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Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

You would think, with three hit television shows, Shonda Rhimes had it made, but in reality, her aversion to the limelight kept her from really embracing the life she earned. One Thanksgiving, her sister pointed out, "You never say yes to anything," an observation that caused Rhimes to totally reevaluate her life. In the following year, Rhimes decided to say yes to everything--speaking engagements, glamorous parties, and talk show appearances, as well as to spending more time with her family and listening to her body. She even eventually learned how to say yes to saying no, which was in itself another life-affirming practice. After the year ended, she found she had transformed from her fear of life into embracing all the joy and opportunities that came her way.

I really enjoyed listening to this book (the audio is great--read by Rhimes, herself). The whole process she went through was so encouraging. Even though she is a celebrity with her own unique experiences as she approached this new mindset, I could see how so much of it can easily apply to myself and those of us who lead far less public lives. This is a great read (ane listen!) if you've been feeling like you've been in a rut and need to shake things up a little.

Find Year of Yes in the catalog.

Number of Pages: 
336

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

I feel like I am late to the Knisley party! I couldn't put this book down. Luckily, I didn't have to because I had a marvelous block of time waiting for my car to be fixed in which to read this delightful book. But boy was I hungry afterwards! Lucy Knisley writes and illustrates this graphic memoir about her life in food. It is largely dedicated to her mother and her mother's influence. Her mother worked at Dean & Deluca back in the day, in Manhattan in the 70s. She catered, she farmed, she cooked always. Lucy grew up surrounded by chefs, grocers and farmers market folk. Each chapter takes you through a different period in her life. The chapter on Mexico is hilarious. And includes a recipe for huevos rancheros. Yum! Her art is illustrative of my favorite type of graphic novel, though I am hard pressed to say why! The colors, the clean lines? Whatever she does, she does well. I'm looking forward to reading more of her works, she just came out with a new one this year.

Number of Pages: 
173

Something New: Tales From A Make-shift Bride by Lucy Knisley

Something New: Tales From A Make-shift Bride by Lucy Knisley

Something New is a graphic novel about weddings. Specifically, it's a story about Knisley's own wedding - her relationships leading up to the proposal, the planning of a wedding she wasn't sure she wanted, and the finished product. Lucy isn't a woman who has always planned her wedding, and with a surprise proposal when she isn't even dating anyone, she feels entirely unprepared for her new bridal identity. The story is told through themes, small segments that are easy to read and still somehow flow together. It takes a humorous look at what planning such a large event can do to a person, even when she never thought it would.

Number of Pages: 
291

Count on Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships, edited by Adriana Lopez

Count on Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships, edited by Adriana Lopez

The organization Las Comadres Para Las Americas compiled these twelve essays for Count on Me, celebrating the bonds Latinas (and, in one essay, a Latino) have found with other women. From mentors to childhood friendships, in the kitchen and on the road, this collection looks at the varying ways comadres effect our lives. Each essay resonated with me in its own way--I loved the variety of ages, occasions in which these authors found their kindred spirits, and backgrounds which form their world view. By nature of its format, Count on Me was a terrific read to pick up here and there, read a story in a sitting, and come back later. I was delighted to find entries by two favorite authors, Stephanie Elizondo Griest and Luis Alberto Urrea, and as usually occurs when reading collections such as these, I look forward to exploring the work of other women featured. Best of all, it inspires you to reach out to your own comadres and express your gratitude!

Number of Pages: 
236

How To Weep In Public: Feeble Offerings on Depression From One Who Knows by Jacqueline Novak

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How To Weep In Public: Feeble Offerings on Depression From One Who Knows by Jacqueline Novak

How to Week in Public is part memoir, part self-help, part humor. Novak discusses her own experiences with depression in an easy to understand way, without asking for sympathy or solution. She promises from the beginning not to solve the readers' depression issues, but only to offer company and understanding. Novak considers herself a fuctioning "depressive," not healed, but very good at coping with her symptoms. I found the attitude of acceptance rather than demand for change refreshing in a book directed at those with mental health issues -- too often books pretend to solve all your problems, but Novak's voice is refreshingly frank. She uses her own life to concoct theories on depression, some realistic, some utterly ridiculous. Though she recognizes the disease as a serious issue, she approaches it with a humor that only someone who understands can find. Novak's language is occasionally crude, and unapologetically in favor of embracing your true feelings, so it may offend or upset some readers. I found it highly entertaining, familiar, and just the right balance to make a self-help book that promises nothing.

Number of Pages: 
242