Archive for the ‘Nonfiction Review’ Category

Review of The Gift of Anger, by Arun Gandhi

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

The Gift of Anger

And Other Lessons from My Grandfather Mahatma Gandhi

by Arun Gandhi

Gallery Books (Jeter Publishing), 2017. 292 pages.
Starred Review

This book is filled with stories of things that Arun Gandhi learned as a child when he lived for two years on the ashram with his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi. I read a chapter a day, which gave me some nice, inspirational food for thought. I learned much I didn’t know about Mahatma Gandhi, but what I love most about this book is how it radiates peace and nonviolence. Reading this book makes it much easier to see how counterproductive it is to hold onto anger.

The chapters themselves are listed as “lessons.” So “Lesson One” is “Use Anger for Good.” Lesson Four is “Know Your Own Worth.” Lesson Five is “Lies Are Clutter.” Lesson Six is “Waste Is Violence.” And Lesson Eight is “Humility Is Strength.” The book includes eleven lessons, all illustrated by stories and insiights. Lesson Nine gives us “The Five Pillars of Nonviolence,” and throughout the book, a picture develops of the power of a nonviolent life.

I wasn’t surprised by the title story and the lesson “Use Anger for Good,” because I’d read about that incident in Arun Gandhi’s picture book, Grandfather Gandhi. When Arun came to the ashram as a boy, he had a lot of anger. His grandfather talked with him, including this insight:

Bapuji looked over at me from behind his spinning wheel. “I am glad to see you can be moved to anger. Anger is good. I get angry all the time,” he confessed as his fingers turned the wheel.

I could not believe what I was hearing. “I have never seen you angry,” I replied.

“Because I have learned to use my anger for good,” he explained. “Anger to people is like gas to the automobile – it fuels you to move forward and get to a better place. Without it, we would not be motivated to rise to a challenge. It is an energy that compels us to define what is just and unjust.”

Grandfather explained that when he was a boy in South Africa, he too had suffered from violent prejudice, and it made him angry. But eventually he learned that it didn’t help to seek vengeance, and he began to fight against prejudice and discrimination with compassion, responding to anger and hate with goodness. He believed in the power of truth and love. Seeking revenge made no sense to him. An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind.

And that’s only the first lesson! The lessons progress, and are usually accompanied by stories from Arun’s life with his grandfather, though there are usually other illustrations as well. The lessons include Mahatma Gandhi’s time of political activism, using nonviolent protest to free India from British rule, and they continue all the way up to his death, and Arun’s struggles with wanting revenge. Ultimately, honoring his grandfather’s legacy won out.

“Forgiveness is more manly than punishment,” Bapuji had said.

When we are tested, we don’t prove our strength with violence or anger but by directing our actions for good. India had given Bapuji the great gift of a brief peace after his death. I had to give him the similar gift of forgiveness in the face of great evil. Bapuji had once explained that it is easy to love those who love you, but the real power of nonviolence comes when you can love those who hate you.

There’s lots of wisdom in this little book.

SimonandSchuster.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Transforming, by Austen Hartke

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

Transforming

The Bible & the Lives of Transgender Christians

by Austen Hartke

Westminster John Knox Press, 2018. 198 pages.
Starred Review

I picked this book up from the library, and the very next day was glad I did, having a reason to defend transgender people to some well-meaning Christian friends. My own oldest child is a transgender woman. I’ve seen for myself this isn’t some kind of delusional temporary whim. I’m also in a Facebook group for mothers of transgender children. I’ve heard many sad stories of what happens when a church family rejects a transgender person and the harm it causes their entire families. At the same time, I’ve read happy stories of what happens when people transition with love and acceptance from their faith communities.

This book is written by a transgender pastor. He brings in the voices of many other transgender people. He talks about the good it does transgender people when their churches accept them – but also the good it brings to churches when they embrace their transgender members.

There’s background at the front. There are personal stories. I’m not going to repeat every argument why it is not biblical to reject transgender people or to require that gender dysphoria is the one medical condition that should not receive medical treatment of any kind.

I knew that the Bible does not speak against being transgender. But I hadn’t realized how much there is specifically for those who don’t fit gender norms.

I was especially touched by the author’s description of how he found life in the passage Isaiah 56:3-8. I’ll copy a little bit of that here:

“Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and do not let the eunuch say,
“I am just a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast to my covenant,
I will give, in my house and within my walls,
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off….
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
besides those already gathered.”

I was floored. I could swear I had never heard these verses before in my life, despite having read through the book of Isaiah for a class only the year before. I felt an immediate connection to the eunuch and the foreigner. Their fear of separation, fear of being forgotten, fear of being kept out of God’s family – all based on identities as unchosen as the place of their birth and as intrinsic as the shape of their body. Their fears were my fears too. Yet here was God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, quieting those fears and promising an unequivocal welcome.

He goes on to explain why eunuchs, especially after the Babylonian exile, were in a place similar to transgender people today. And yet God gives them in this passage a name, legacy, family, acceptance, and blessing.

And of course there is more about eunuchs in the Bible. Jesus talked about them, and the evangelist Philip was sent by the Holy Spirit specifically to the Ethiopian eunuch. I like this paragraph:

Whether you believe Jesus was advocating for castration, for celibacy, or for something else entirely in Matthew 19, the fact that he uses eunuchs as a positive example is huge. It means that Jesus knew about people who fell outside the boundaries of sex and gender, and that he did not see them as broken or as morally corrupt. He saw them as people with a variety of experiences and as people with something important to teach the world about God’s kingdom.

There’s lots more “apologetics” – defending that transgender people belong in the church and should not be excluded. But he moves on to explain why this is important:

This is when trans Christians experience life in abundance – when they are welcomed into community; when they are loved for all of who they are; when their differences are respected; when they know they can count on their community to help with their daily human needs; and when they feel safe enough to drop their defenses in order to take on Jesus’ gentle yoke of discipleship. That may sound like a lot to ask of a church, but in reality these are commitments we try to make to the cisgender members of our communities. So why not include trans folks? After all, if the life Jesus promises is abundant, surely there’s enough to go around!

In the concluding chapter, he looks at the parable of the lost sheep.

But what if we imagined this story a different way? What if the lost sheep didn’t wander away from the safety and goodness of the shepherd? What if it was just trying to escape the cruelty of the flock? Sheep will occasionally pick out a flock member who doesn’t fit in – maybe because of an injury or a strange marking – and they’ll chase that individual away. There are times when I think Christians need to see ourselves more in the ninety-nine sheep who stayed put, and ask ourselves if we may have been part of the reason that the lost sheep got lost in the first place.

And his appeal reminds us that we as a church have much to gain by being more welcoming:

But what’s at stake for Jesus in this situation isn’t just that one single lost sheep, and it’s not just the ninety-nine back home. It’s the integrity of the flock as a whole. Saving just the main group or just the individual wouldn’t do any good, because the flock is more than just the sum of its parts. When Jesus goes after that lost sheep, what he’s telling the flock – what he’s telling us – is that we’re not complete without each other.

In this book, transgender Christians have shared their stories and the ways that Scripture, faith, and gender identity interact in their lives. I hope you’ve been able to read these stories and come to the same conclusion the shepherd did: that our faith communities and churches aren’t complete without trans folks and their experiences.

At the messy, lovable, chaotic potluck that is life in the church, transgender Christians have a lot to bring to the table. We can help the church see Scripture through different lenses; we can help other Christians understand their own gender identities; we can help to break down barriers created by sexism and misogyny; we can remind people of the diversity of God’s creation, and of God’s unlimited nature; we can stand in the gaps and bridge middle spaces where others may be uncomfortable or uninformed; we can help make connections between the sacred and the secular, making the church more relevant for the world, and we can provoke people into asking questions about themselves and about God that they may never have thought to ask before. And that’s all while most churches still don’t affirm our existence as Christians! Imagine what we could do if we worked together!

There’s a lot more in this book. I hope that reading it will open many hearts. Let’s follow the teaching of Scripture and welcome all into our churches, including those who were once outcasts.

wjkbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/transforming.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Hour of Land, by Terry Tempest Williams

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

The Hour of Land

A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks

by Terry Tempest Williams

Sarah Crichton Books (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), 2016. 389 pages.
Starred Review

I got to hear Terry Tempest Williams speak about this book at an ALA conference before it was published and got a chapbook of the first chapter, so I was watching eagerly for it to come out. However, it still took me a long time to get it read. I tend to read nonfiction slowly, a chapter at a time, and this one continued to be on hold at the library, so I couldn’t just renew it and keep going. I finally buckled down to finish and was even more impressed than I expected to be.

I expected a lot of meditations on the beauty of our National Parks, but what I found is a lot more than that. There is much information about their history, and yes, about the wildlife and landscape, but there’s also a great deal about current concerns, such as oil companies taking over the land all around a national park and creating environmental devastation inside the park. Or the devastation wrought by an oil spill on a national park on the coast. Since this was written before the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, it was hard to read about the challenges and be pretty certain that things aren’t getting better.

Here are some things Terry Tempest Williams has to say in the introductory chapter.

In my wanderings among these dozen national parks, my intention was to create portraits of unexpected beauty and complexity. I thought it would be a straightforward and exuberant project, focusing on the protection of public lands, as I have done through most of my life. But, in truth, it has been among the most rigorous assignments I have ever given myself because I was writing out of my limitations. I am not a historian or a scientist or an employee of a federal land agency privy to public land policy and law. My authority is simply that of a storyteller who lives in the American West in love with this country called home.

I have been inspired by the photographs and people included in this book. I have learned that there is no such thing as one portrait or one story, only the knowledge of our own experience shared. I no longer see America’s parks as “our best idea,” but our evolving idea; I see our national parks as our ongoing struggle as a diverse people to create circles of reverence in a time of collective cynicism where we are wary of being moved by anything but our own clever perspective.

“The purpose of life is to see,” the writer Jack Turner said to me on a late summer walk at the base of the Tetons. I understand this to be a matter of paying attention. The nature of our national parks is bound to the nature of our own humility, our capacity to stay open and curious in a world that instead beckons closure through fear. For me, humility begins as a deep recognition of all I do not know. This understanding doesn’t stop me, it inspires me to ask questions, to look more closely, feel more fully the character of the place where I am. And so with this particular book, I have sought to listen to both the inner and the outer landscapes that spoke to me, to not hide behind metaphor or lyricism as I have in the past, but to simply share the stories that emerged in each park encountered.

At a time when it feels like we are a nation divided, I am interested in how a sense of place can evolve toward an ethic of place, especially within our national parks….

This is the Hour of Land, when our mistakes and shortcomings must be placed in the perspective of time. The Hour of Land is where we remember what we have forgotten: We are not the only species who lives and dreams on the planet. There is something enduring that circulates in the heart of nature that deserves our respect and attention.

The national parks she explores in this book are Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, Acadia National Park in Maine, Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa, Big Bend National Park in Texas, Gates of the Arctic National Park in Alaska, Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida and Mississippi, Canyonlands National Park in Utah, Alcatraz Island and Golden Gate National Recreation Area in California, Glacier National Park in Montana, and César E. Chavez National Monument in California.

What she discovered in these parks is fascinating and surprising and thought-provoking. This book is a treasure and a challenge.

fsgbooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It

Finding Love Beyond Words

by Patricia Love, EdD, and Steven Stosny, PhD

Broadway Books, 2007. 224 pages.
Starred Review
2007 Sonderbooks Standout: #1, Relationships

Okay, why am I reviewing a book about marriage today, when I’ve been divorced for 8 years, separated for 13 years, and with no prospects or evidence that I’ll ever marry again, besides being too busy reading for the Newbery committee to do any dating – or to have time for more than one book for adults at a time?

Well, I’m not sure I completely know the answer to that. It’s partly that it’s a Steven Stosny book. I’d recently reread some others, and they’re so full of wisdom. I’ve also spent a lot of time alone while doing so much reading – but since I don’t have time to date, maybe reading about marriage satisfies a little bit of that loneliness. I’m hoping I can learn some things while my emotions aren’t invested and busy triggering and blinding me – so maybe I won’t make the same mistakes the next time.

This book also has some super interesting things to think about, many ideas about men and women and how we respond and think differently. Everything they say about women rings true, so I suspect what they say about men is also true, and I’m still hoping I’ll absorb some of that.

Besides, the first time I read this book, when I still hoped against hope that my own marriage would be healed, I was taking grad school classes for my Master’s in Library Science, and didn’t have time to write or post a review. When I named it as a 2007 Sonderbooks Standout, I promised to write a review some day. So I’m finally keeping that promise for this book!

Besides, it’s an outstanding book! I read it too late to help my marriage, but I will always wonder if I’d read it sooner and tried some of these things, if something might have changed. As it is, if there’s anyone I can point to this book before it’s too late, that would be a wonderful outcome of writing this review, and nothing would make me happier.

The main premise of the book is similar to the book Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs, which says that a man’s deepest need is respect and a woman’s deepest need is love. Or John Eldredge’s books, as in the book Captivating, that says women need to answer the question, “Am I lovely? Am I worthy of love?” and men need to answer the question, “Do I have what it takes?”

But Doctors Love and Stosny take a different approach. And those books I mentioned are from a Christian perspective and refer to the Bible to make their points. This is a secular book and refers to research, but I think it’s the flip side of the same ideas.

They say that a woman’s deepest vulnerability is fear, and a man’s deepest vulnerability is shame.

Most of the book is about how this falls out and how we can overcome it and use these vulnerabilities to connect rather than resent each other. But let me also talk about the promise in the title – these methods do not require lots of talking about it or building your “communication skills.”

They are not disconnected because they have poor communication; they have poor communication because they are disconnected.

The ideas for connecting are excellent – I wish I could try them out! But what’s helpful for me and can teach me even when I’m not in a relationship is better understanding a man’s perspective, better understanding what things I do that would trigger shame in my partner – despite my best intentions.

I was really surprised by the idea that a woman sharing unhappiness with her husband can make him feel like he’s failing to protect her or she doesn’t appreciate all she does.

Women build alliances with other women by doing what they learned in early childhood: exposing vulnerability. Marlene doesn’t have to mention to her girlfriends that she feels sad, unhappy, lonely, or isolated. They infer it from her body language or tone of voice, just as she can tell if something is wrong with them. As soon as one woman senses a friend in emotional need, they become more interested and emotionally invested in each other. But what do you think happens when Marlene tells Mark that she feels bad? (She has to tell him – his defense against feeling failure and inadequacy has blinded him to her emotional world by this time.) You guessed it – once she forces him to face her vulnerability, he feels inadequate as a protector. He responds with typical shame-avoidant behavior: impatience, distractedness, defensiveness, resentment, anger, criticism, or “advice” that sounds an awful lot like telling her what to do.

Here’s why talking doesn’t help:

One reason that talking about your relationship has not helped is that fear and shame keep you from hearing each other, regardless of how much “active listening” or “mirroring” you try to do. The prerequisite for listening is feeling safe, and you cannot feel safe when the threat of fear or shame hangs over your head. The threat is so dreadful that the limbic system, the part of your brain in charge of your safety, overrides any form of rational thinking. Almost everything you hear invokes fear or shame.

This is also why things sometimes change drastically when a couple gets married. Or why someone outside the marriage suddenly seems much more understanding. If a male friend talks about quitting his job and starting a business, I might admire him for his vision, for living out his principles. But if my husband does that? Oh, you can be sure my fears will get triggered! And if I express my concerns or start asking questions, “Have you thought about this….?” or offering suggestions or even criticism – You better believe I’ll be triggering his shame. [I can’t even begin to express what a comfort it was to me that when my then-husband retired from the military and was looking for a job, I was not in his life and was not in a place to give any input whatsoever. I could all too easily imagine how those conversations would have gone. This book explains why.]

This dynamic is explained in a chapter addressed to men. Again, I hadn’t realized how much a man’s identity is tied to making his wife happy – in a way that’s not as true when they are dating.

There was a time when your partner, before she was your partner, talked to you about various things that made her feel anxious or insecure. You most likely responded with a sense of protectiveness. You knew intuitively that she was upset. If she felt disregarded, you paid more attention to her. If she felt unimportant, you showed her that she was important to you. If she felt accused, you reassured her. If she felt guilty, you helped her feel better. If she felt devalued, you valued her more. If she felt rejected, you accepted her; if she felt powerless, you tried to empower her; if she felt inadequate, you helped her appreciate her competence; and if she felt unlovable, you loved her more. You did all this out of a natural desire to protect the person you loved.

You fell in love because you were able to connect, and you were able to connect because you felt protective. It started to go wrong when you began to see your impulse to take care of her, which made you feel great while dating, as costing too much time or money in a committed love relationship. You probably had good reasons for starting to feel that way, but as long as you feel that way, you will not find viable solutions to time and money problems. In other words, things will certainly get worse until you decide to be protective of your partner’s fear as you used to be; and in the long run, this will cost far less in time and money than a disconnected relationship and divorce.

Of course, this switch in how you reacted to her anxiety was confusing to her, to say the least. She was doing the same thing that used to invoke your protectiveness – worrying or expressing needs – but now she provoked your anger and resentment. It’s as if once you got married you expected that she would never again feel bad, or at least not show that she did. When she did show it, you interpreted her complaints as an indictment of your failure as a provider.

There’s a lot more about how things break down. Before rereading this, I would have said – no, I have actually said – that I don’t have much of a problem with fear.

But I came to see that I work so hard at managing my fear, I’m not even conscious of it. That’s what was going on when I’d give my husband career advice, or over-manage one of the many times we moved. That may be behind my tendency to plan way ahead, to over-pack for trips. I can so easily visualize every What-if scenario. And of course there’s physical fear. Women are trained from childhood not to go for a walk alone at night, for example. I am smaller than most adults, and there’s some fear that comes with that. I plan around it.

And of course the deepest fear is of not being loved, and ending my life alone and abandoned. When that fear’s triggered – well, is it any wonder your partner might feel like you don’t trust him as a lover? Once his shame is triggered, if he withdraws to feel better, my fear’s going to increase, and so on.

But the main thrust of this book is about overcoming those vulnerabilities, seeing your partner’s perspective, and being able to connect. Besides all the insights, there are some wonderful techniques that can build your connection to each other and remind you of your love for each other. Like I said, I really hope I get a chance some day to try these techniques out!

Here’s the last paragraph in the book:

The most profound moments between two people occur when their emotions resonate, soothing their different vulnerabilities and raising their hearts to simple enjoyment. When emotional connection goes deeper than talking, women overcome the stifling limitations of their anxieties, and men abandon destructive shame-avoiding behavior. The best protections from fear and shame are compassion, appreciation, and a sense of connection that is so deep, flexible, and resilient that it creates love beyond words.

I like that the title doesn’t say anything about fixing a bad marriage. This book offers a way to improve your marriage. Even good marriages can stand a little improvement! I hope some of my friends will try it out! And I will plan to reread it if I ever get married again. Until then, I’ve got some food for thought, and I’m mulling over what parts of my life are affected by fear I didn’t even realize I had.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Braving the Wilderness, by Brené Brown

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

Braving the Wilderness

The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

by Brené Brown

Random House, 2017. 194 pages.
Review written in 2017

The newest book by Brené Brown didn’t hit me as hard as her earlier books. This may well be that although I know I have a problem with perfectionism (so The Gifts of Imperfection was perfectly appropriate), I already have strong roots of community in my life, especially through my church, but also a wide-ranging network of friends.

Braving the Wilderness is about True Belonging – yet at the same time about having the willingness to be authentic, even when it means standing alone.

Her tips on finding this weren’t as pithy as in some of her other books. In fact, a few months ago, one of my colleagues came back to work after going to a class and was talking about it. I don’t remember much about it except that they used a very long acronym BRAVING, and I thought it was not only unmemorable to have such a long acronym, but I also thought that using V for Vault – to mean not betraying confidences – was a pretty silly stretch. (My co-workers and I thought Vegas would even be better, as in “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”) So imagine my surprise to see that same acronym in this book.

Now that I’m looking at the acronym, I see that she first introduced it in Rising Strong. (I didn’t remember that.) But now since “Braving” is part of the title, it was a little more central, and used as a checklist for trusting others and trusting yourself. The acronym stands for: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Nonjudgment, and Generosity.

She does have some good points when she talks about the need to come back together as a society. I agree that we’re in a place where we need that.

So here’s the big question: Wouldn’t you think that all of the sorting by politics and beliefs we’ve been doing would lead to more social interaction? If we’ve hunkered down ideologically and geographically with people who we perceive to be just like us, doesn’t that mean that we’ve surrounded ourselves with friends and people with whom we feel deeply connected? Shouldn’t “You’re either with us or against us” have led to closer ties among the like-minded? The answer to these questions is a resounding and surprising no. At the same time sorting is on the rise, so is loneliness.

Confronting that, here are what she calls the four elements of true belonging:

“People are hard to hate close up. Move in.”

“Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil.”

“Hold hands. With strangers.”

“Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.”

There are chapters titled with all four of these suggestions. And it’s good stuff – but it didn’t really stick in my mind.

However, I did like what she had to say about True Belonging at the front of the book.

Belonging to ourselves means being called to stand alone – to brave the wilderness of uncertainty, vulnerability, and criticism. And with the world feeling like a political and ideological combat zone, this is remarkably tough. We seem to have forgotten that even when we’re utterly alone, we’re connected to one another by something greater than group membership, politics, and ideology – that we’re connected by love and the human spirit. No matter how separated we are by what we think and believe, we are part of the same spiritual story.

I do like the way she connects true belonging with standing alone. If you’re just trying to be like everyone else, you’re working on fitting in, and that’s very different from true belonging. But if you are vulnerable enough to show people who you really are – then you’ll be able to find true belonging.

Again, this book might have hit me harder if I were feeling lonelier and didn’t have true community in my life. As it was, it reminded me that even though I live alone, I really do have people in my life with whom I truly belong. And that was a nice thing to remember.

BreneBrown.com
randomhousebooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Strong Is the New Pretty, by Kate T. Parker

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

Strong Is the New Pretty

A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves

by Kate T. Parker

Workman Publishing, 2017. 250 pages.
Starred Review

Strong Is the New Pretty is a book of photographs of girls being strong – and they are indeed beautiful.

My library has put this in the juvenile nonfiction section, but I think in many ways, this is a book for families. If you have girls in your family, stick this on your coffee table. Let the whole family browse the photos. It would also make a nice high school graduation gift for a girl, encouraging them to be themselves. (Though the girl isn’t likely to take such a large book off to college with them, so I suppose that’s a little problematic.)

The text accompanying the pictures isn’t exactly geared to children. There’s an introduction, and then nine chapters, with titles “Confident is Strong,” “Wild is Strong,” “Resilient is Strong,” “Creative is Strong,” “Determined is Strong,” “Kind is Strong,” “Fearless is Strong,” “Joyful is Strong,” and “Independent is Strong.” Each chapter has an inspiring explanation at the front of how these pictures fit with the theme. Every photo has a quotation from the featured girl.

For example:

Cancer stole part of my leg but not my joy. I choose happiness. Being happy is my superpower.

— Grace B. age 12

Leaf jumping is the best.

— Alice age 6

Through music I have the ability to make others smile and even cry when I perform in a way that moves someone.

— Nora age 11

She had a knot in her cleats. I’m really good at untying knots, so I helped.

— Lily S. age 5

Yeah, I am a little muddy. So what?

— Tayla age 6

The quotations aren’t usually profound, but the photographs are stunning! And I love that the photographer gave each subject a voice.

In the Introduction, the author explains how the project got started.

This photo series started as a personal project. I work as a professional photographer, but I’m also a mom (the mom with the giant camera and bag of lenses at most events). And it’s not uncommon for me to be photographing my girls and their friends – constantly – when they’re riding their bikes, at soccer practice, or exploring tide pools while on vacation. The more I shot, the more I began to notice that the strongest images, the ones that resonated most with me, were the ones in which the girls were being 100 percent themselves. When they were messy and funny and stubborn and joyful and in your face, I kept shooting. I didn’t ask them to smile or go put on a pretty dress. I wanted to capture these girls as they were, and how they were was amazing. I wanted to continue capturing them in just that way – not just for my sake, but for theirs, too.

As a body of work emerged, I kept at it with more intention. I wanted to show my girls that beauty isn’t about being a certain size, or having your hair done (or even brushed, in their cases), or wearing a fancy outfit. I wanted to combat the messages the media sends to women every day. I wanted my girls to know that being themselves is beautiful, and that being beautiful is about being strong.

I strongly recommend checking this book out and enjoying the beautiful images. And I even more strongly recommend sharing them with your daughters. Talk about them. I’m guessing they, too, will see how pretty these strong girls are.

https://katetparkerphotography.com/blog
workman.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/strong_is_the_new_pretty.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Super Late Bloomer, by Julia Kaye

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

Super Late Bloomer

My Early Days in Transition

An Up and Out Collection

by Julia Kaye

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2018. 160 pages.
Starred Review

This book is published for adults, though it will definitely have an audience with some teens, but it’s not a children’s book, so I think I’m okay to post the review during my Newbery reading year.

This is a memoir in comic format, taken from the Up and Out webcomic. Julia Kaye is a transgender woman who transitioned as an adult. This book tells the story of her transition.

I loved this book. My own daughter is transgender and transitioned as an adult – so I think it helped me understand what she’s gone through and is going through.

The comic format, even using simple lines, is great for showing emotion and helping the reader feel what the author was going through. You can feel some of the pain of gender dysphoria and feel why misgendering causes ongoing pain and insecurity. The book communicates that even though there are ongoing causes of pain as someone transitions – that doesn’t mean transitioning is all a mistake. It doesn’t magically make all issues go away.

I’m hoping that transgender folks will enjoy this book to read about someone else having experiences similar to their own. And cisgender folks can enjoy it to get an inkling of the kind of bravery it takes for transgender people to present themselves to the world as who they truly are. As well as better understand and empathize with fellow human beings.

We may not all be transgender. But we all know what it’s like to feel different, to feel like people are staring at you, or to be unhappy with the way we look and the way people respond to us. This book helps the reader understand what we have in common.

Instagram.com/upandoutcomic
andrewsmcmeel.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/super_late_bloomer.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Barking to the Choir, by Gregory Boyle

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

Barking to the Choir

The Power of Radical Kinship

by Gregory Boyle

Simon & Schuster, 2017. 210 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a second book by Fr. Gregory Boyle, a Jesuit priest who works with gang members in Los Angeles and founded Homeboy Industries, which gives jobs to former gang members.

This book continues the inspiring stories from his first book, Tattoos on the Heart. What’s so amazing about these books is that Father Boyle honestly sees the gang members he works with as wonderful people – people he can learn from himself. And with his stories, he enables the reader, also, to see them as valuable people, loved by God – even delighted in by God.

Father Boyle genuinely learns from the homies he lives among. I liked this quote:

We always seem to be faced with this choice: to save the world or savor it. I want to propose that savoring is better, and that when we seek to “save” and “contribute” and “give back” and “rescue” folks and EVEN “make a difference,” then it is all about you . . . and the world stays stuck. The homies are not waiting to be saved. They already are. The same is true for service providers and those in any ministry. The good news, of course, is that when we choose to “savor” the world, it gets saved. Don’t set out to change the world. Set out to wonder how people are doing.

He’s here divulged something of the secret of his ministry. He’s not trying to save gang members – he’s savoring them, genuinely feeling privileged that he gets to know them.

And that kind of love changes lives.

This book is about kinship. About community. About enemies becoming friends. And the astonishing love of Jesus that enables that.

Human beings are settlers, but not in the pioneer sense. It is our human occupational hazard to settle for little. We settle for purity and piety when we are being invited to an exquisite holiness. We settle for the fear-driven when love longs to be our engine. We settle for a puny, vindictive God when we are being nudged always closer to this wildly inclusive, larger-than-any-life God. We allow our sense of God to atrophy. We settle for the illusion of separation when we are endlessly asked to enter into kinship with all.

There are a whole lot more inspiring quotes in this book, and they’ll gradually show up on Sonderquotes.

Read this book! You will be challenged. And you will be blessed.

HomeboyIndustries.org
SimonandSchuster.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/barking_to_the_choir.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Called to Create, by Jordan Raynor

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

Called to Create

A Biblical Invitation to Create, Innovate, and Risk

by Jordan Raynor

Baker Books, 2017. 234 pages.

I ordered this book after seeing an ad on Facebook, which said it looked at the life of C. S. Lewis and offered a Christian perspective on creating. Being a fan of C. S. Lewis and a writer at heart, I put a copy of the book in my Amazon shopping cart and bought it on my next order.

I was a little disappointed. Although the book is tangentially about creative arts like writing, the true subject of the book is entrepreneurship from a Christian perspective. Mind you, I do like thinking about entrepreneurship from a Christian perspective – and many of the insights about how our work should be our calling do apply. It’s just that I personally am not at all called to be an entrepreneur. (My calling is a librarian – and like Paul boasts in I Corinthians 9, I take pride in offering my services free of charge.)

The book is peppered with stories, though some of them I’d heard before as sermon illustrations. I certainly didn’t learn anything new about C. S. Lewis, either. But there were many stories of entrepreneurs I’d known nothing about.

And I do love the foundational insight behind this book: That our work can be a calling from God even if it is not full-time ministry. Like the author, I grew up in evangelical churches and absorbed the message (probably unintentional) that if you were really a follower of Jesus, you’d go into full-time ministry.

Given that I’m not in the intended audience, this book does talk about important topics for Christian entrepreneurs: The purpose behind creating, deciding what to create, and how to run a business with Christian values throughout. He also looks at questions like the balance between hustling, trusting, and rest, and the challenges of dealing with both failure and large profits.

Following Jesus should affect our entire lives. This book takes a look at how it should affect your business if you are among those called to create.

calledtocreate.org
JordanRaynor.com
bakerbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/called_to_create.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Footnotes from the World’s Great Bookstores, by Bob Eckstein

Friday, August 24th, 2018

Footnotes* from the World’s Greatest Bookstores

*True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers

by Bob Eckstein
Foreword by Garrison Keillor

Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2016. 176 pages.

Any book lover will enjoy this book. It’s quirky – even has the cover opening in a different direction from the way the pages turn.

The author is also an artist and has a painting of each featured bookstore – and they truly are from all over the world. If I had lots of money and time, it would be so much fun to buy a copy of this book and travel the world and try to visit all the bookstores.

Each bookstore has a brief description, usually including something notable about it. Then on top of the painting of the bookstore, there is a quotation from someone who works there, telling a story about something that happened at that store.

As an example, here’s what they’ve got for Books of Wonder (minus the painting), a store I ordered Wizard of Oz books from for my kids. I’ve never visited it, but I’ve got a warm spot in my heart for it.

Books of Wonder’s claim to fame is that it was the model for the bookstore in the 1997 film You’ve Got Mail. Nora and Delia Ephron, who wrote the film, were both longtime customers and friends of the store – and Meg Ryan spent a day working at the shop to prepare for her role in the film. In 1985, Books of Wonder established a joint imprint with William Morrow and Company, publishing its own children’s books. Its standing-room-only events have included celebrated authors like J. K. Rowling, Madeleine L’Engle, Maurice Sendak, and Eric Carle.

Here’s the quotation written over the “sidewalk” in the painting of the bookstore:

“My very first book signing was like a dream. Held at the famous Books of Wonder in Manhattan, I shared a table with the great Lane Smith. The first customer was an adorable little girl who, clutching her book very tightly, approached me with an angelic smile. As she gazed up at me with a look of adoration and pure love, her father bent down and said, ‘No, dear. Lane Smith is the other guy.’ The smile immediately devolved into a quick, hideous grimace as she zipped over to the other end of the table. I can still recall her face as if she was the only person to approach me that day, because she was.” – Mo Willems

There’s lots more where that came from! This book will make you smile and also make you want to go shopping for books.

bobeckstein.com
clarksonpotter.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/footnotes.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?