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Why I Read

10 Jul

Inspired by this Instagram series

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I read to escape from the reality of the world

I read to gain empathy and understanding towards certain unfathomable parts of the reality of the world

I read for the romance

I read for the hope

I read for the laughter

I read to see females doing the things I’ve never personally seen females do but know, 100%, they can

I read for the company, for the new loves and best friends

For the Mark Darcys and Bridget Joneses

For the Anne Shirleys and the Weasley twins and Esther Greenwoods and the Jo Marches

I read for the antidote to hate

I read for an expanded mind

I read for “In vain I have struggled!” and “WHAT? A PRINCESS?? ME???”

I read for the love of it,

always simply for the love of the game

Literary Love #7: Gilbert Blythe – Anne of Green Gables

9 May

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Gilbert Blythe

(Anne of Green Gables)

I don’t want sunbursts or marble halls,

I just want you.

Gilbert and Anne were my first fictional model of love and as such I tried to force future interactions with men down the path they took. Spunky, dreamer girl–check! Handsome rival–check! Hate each other at first, only to realize they’ve always been in love!

It’s a model we’ve seen again and again and it seemed like The One to me. Once, I dramatically ripped up a school paper of a boy I liked, my early 2000s answer to smashing a chalkboard on his head. I then felt so guilty after I apologized again and again profusely.

Alas, I was not Anne.

I am not Anne.

I see her in me, though, in the way I see my dearest and oldest friends in me. The girls who shaped view of the world, my politics, my personality. The girls I grew up with. Anne is one of them.

I just wasn’t to have her exact love story.

From the book:

For a moment Anne’s heart fluttered queerly and for the first time her eyes faltered under Gilbert’s gaze and a rosy flush stained the paleness of her face. It was as if a veil that had hung before her inner consciousness had been lifted, giving to her view a revelation of unsuspected feelings and realities. Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps. . . perhaps. . .love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.

(Anne of Avonlea)

PS: Love #1#2#3, #4#5, #6

 

Literary Love #6: Prince Jonathan – The Lioness Quartet

6 May

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(There is truly not enough fan art about this series)

Prince Jonathan IV of Conté

(The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce)

If you have anything in common with a prince

you make it work

This is surely my most dramatic fan love of all time. I was so distraught that Jonathan and Alanna did not end up marrying each other that a friend and I printed off divorce papers online. Using a quill, we filled them out citing irreconcilable differences, “I was always in love with another man,” we wrote, as Alanna.

Middle school was such a fun time to be me.

The thing was this. Prince Jonathan was Alanna’s best friend during her time where she was pretending to be a boy. He then became her first love. They understood each other, they called each other out, they were equals. And then suddenly, oh wait, she’s in love with the King of Thieves? What?

Tamora Pierce herself ADMITS SHE WROTE IT SO ALANNA AND JON ENDED UP TOGETHER ORIGINALLY.

In the original manuscript (the quartet started out as a single adult novel), Alanna did marry Jon. The problem was that the whole final third of the book then felt awkward and so not-right. When I broke it up into four books for kids, I realized the problem. Alanna did not want to marry Jon. If I wasn’t going to let her have her way, she was going to make the writing a misery. You may have noticed that with Alanna, you do things her way or not at all.

Yes, yes, whatever. You are writing the series, lady. You can’t write four books with us falling in love with them as a pair and then go oh, oops nevermind.

It’s like when JK Rowling just dropped “Hey yeah Hermione and Harry should have been together.” Um, that’s really, really not fair. You wrote seven books proving otherwise, for seven books you made us fall for Hermione and Ron and NOW you want to pull that?

Nope.

I’m not having it.

And I didn’t have it the first time I read The Lioness Quartet, or today, or any day.

Prince Jonathan celebrated Alanna’s originality. He was fun, beautiful, her best friend.

He was her guy. Don’t write 3.5 books telling us he was her guy and then pull that crap.

I’m fine!

Totally fine!

From the book:

“You’re fighting what has to be,” Jonathan said, “and you know it as well as I do.”

“I–I know no such thing,” Alanna stammered. “I promised myself once that I’d never love a man! Maybe I almost broke that promise just now because of moonlight and silliness–”

“Stop it,” he told her sternly. He made her look up at him. “We belong to each other. Is that silliness?”

PS: Love #1#2#3, #4, #5

Literary Love #5: Ender Wiggin

5 May

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Ender Wiggin

(Ender’s Game)

Born to save the world and lose his own soul

 

Ender is different than any other person on this list. For one, he is quite young. I was quite young when I fell for him, but his youth is important. This is no grown Rhett Butler. This is a vulnerable kid who was bred for a military task which ultimately destroyed him and nearly destroyed an entire race. It is a space opera minus the melodramatics and romance. The stakes are life or death. Ender, a smart, compassionate, scared young kid is manipulated by the adults around him.

There are no proposals or great love soliloquies in this one. Ender is not the love interest. There is no real love interest. This is science fiction, a military book. And yet, as a child reading it I fell deeply for Ender. He immediately shot to the top of my Tortured Soul List, a list cradled close to my heart. I and I alone could reach these messed up human beings. I could show them how to love again, or for the first time. I could clean their wounds, day in and day out until they learned to trust humans again. I and I alone could heal their broken selves.

This got me into a lot of trouble years later when I started dating real life men.

From the book:

“I killed them all, didn’t I?” Ender asked.

“All who?” asked Graff. “The buggers? That was the idea…”

“I didn’t want to kill them all. I didn’t want to kill anybody! I’m not a killer! You didn’t want me, you bastards, you wanted Peter, but you made me do it, you tricked me into it!”

“Of course we tricked you into it. That’s the whole point. It had to be a trick or you couldn’t have done it. It’s the bind we were in. We had to have a commander with so much empathy that he would think like the buggers, understand them and anticipate them. So much compassion that he could win the love of his underlings and work with them like a perfect machine, as perfect as the buggers. But somebody with that much compassion could never be the killer we needed. Could never go into battle willing to win at all costs. If you knew, you couldn’t do it. If you were the kind of person who would do it even if you knew, you could never have understood the buggers well enough.”

 

PS: Love #1, #2, #3, #4

Literary Love #4: Laurie – Little Women

4 May

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Laurie

(Little Women)

He ended up with the wrong March sister

He ended up with the wrong March sister

He ended up with the wrong March sister

 

From the book:

I think I have cried more over Laurie than any fictional character. Every time I reread the book I would wander around the house in a haze, tears streaming down my face. It was all wrong. Jo and the professor were all wrong. He and Amy were all wrong. Full body sobs, uncontrollable emotion.

“Laurie was a young lover, but he was in earnest, and meant to ‘have it out’, if he died in the attempt so he plunged into the subject with characteristic impetuosity, saying in a voice that would get choky now and then, in spite of manful efforts to keep it steady…’I've loved you ever since I’ve known you, Jo, couldn’t help it, you’ve been so good to me. I’ve tried to show it, but you wouldn’t let me. Now I’m going to make you hear, and give me an answer, for I can’t go on any longer.”

The movie does it well when they add this:

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I mean, come on! I’m posting a collage here! That’s how strongly I still feel!

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Excuse me while I go sob.

 

Love #1, #2 and #3

 

 

Literary Love #3: Rhett Butler – Gone with the Wind

2 May

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Rhett Butler

(Gone with the Wind)

152 times I pined for Rhett Butler

152 times I missed the underlying masculinity complex

 

 

From the book:

Rhett’s proposal to Scarlett is 8 beautiful pages of romance! and drama! I would type out all eight pages, but, I’ll let you read them. I have done a dramatic reading of these pages to most of my close friends at one time or another and wonder if I should go to an open mic and take this show on the road?

Anyway, here’s part of his proposal:

“I always intended having you, Scarlett, since that first day I saw you at Twelve Oaks where you threw that vase and swore and proved that you weren’t a lady. I always intended having you one way or another, but as you and Frank have made a little money, I know you’ll never be driven to me again with any interesting propositions of loans and collateral. So I see I’ll have to marry you.”

“Rhett Butler, is this one of your vile jokes?”

“I bare my soul and you are suspicious! No, Scarlett, this is a bona fide honorable declaration. I admit that it’s not in the best of taste, coming at this time, but i have a very good excuse for my lack of breeding. I’m going away tomorrow for a long time and I fear that if I wait till I return you’ll have married someone else with a little money. So I thought, why not me and my money? Really Scarlett, I can’t go all my life, waiting to catch you between husbands.”

“Come Scarlett, you are no child, no schoolgirl to put me off with foolish excuses about decency and so forth. Say you’ll marry me when I come back or, before God, I won’t go. I’ll stay around here and lay guitar under your window every night and sing t the top of my voice and compromise you, so you’ll have to marry me to save your reputation.”

(Scarlett) “I am fond of you.”

“Fond of me?”

“Well, if I said I was madly in love with you, I’d be lying and what’s more, you know it.”

(Rhett) “No, my dear, I’m not in love with you, no more than you are with me, and if I were, you would be the last person I’d ever tell. God help the man who ever really loves you. You’d break his heart, my darling, cruel destructive little cat who is so careless and confident she doesn’t even trouble to sheathe her claws.”

OOH also when Rhett asks Scarlett to dance when she’s a mourning widow because he knows she wants to be center of attention. One of my favorite chapters in all of literature.

 

PS: Love #1 and Love #2 

Literary Love #2: Sirius Black – Harry Potter

1 May

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Image of the man who should have played Sirius in the films, I’ll argue this to my death

Sirius Black

(Harry Potter)

A former golden boy turned tortured soul

What more could a good suburban girl want?

 

From Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix:

“Harry saw Sirius give James the thumbs-up. Sirius was lounging in his chair at his ease, tilting it back on two legs. He was very good-looking; his dark hair fell into his eyes with a sort of casual elegance neither James’s nor Harry’s could ever have achieved, and a girl sitting behind him was eying him hopefully, though he didn’t seem to have noticed.”

“Sirius stared around at the students milling over the grass, looking rather haughty and bored, but very handsomely so.”

 

PS: Love #1 here.

Literary Love #1: Prince Char – Ella Enchanted

30 Apr

Welcome to my week-long celebration of my literary loves! There have been so many–so many men who shaped what I was looking for, who turned my world upside down before any real life man had ever even stepped into it.

Feel free to join me! I would love to hear your loves.

Inspired in part by this poetry series.

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Prince Char

(Ella Enchanted)

Love, love, love

One word. Three times.

The closing to all my letters

for years, years, years

 

 

From the book:

Dear Ella,

Impatience is not usually my weakness. But your letters torment me. They make me long to saddle my horse and ride to Frell, where I would make you explain yourself. They are playful, interesting, thoughtful, and (occasionally) serious. I’m overjoyed to receive them, yet they bring misery. You say little of your daily life; I have no idea how you occupy yourself. I don’t mind; I enjoy guessing at the mystery. But what I really long to know you do not tell either: what you feel, although I’ve given you hints by the score of my regard.

You like me. You wouldn’t waste time or paper on a being you didn’t like. But I think I’ve loved you since we met at your mother’s funeral. I want to be with you forever and beyond, but you write that you are too young to marry or too old or too short or too hungry — until I crumple your letters up in despair, only to smooth them out again for a twelfth reading, hunting for hidden meanings.

Father asks frequently in his letters whether I fancy any Ayorthian young lady or any in our acquaintance at home. I say no. I suppose I’m confessing another fault: pride. I don’t want him to know that I love if my affections are not returned.

You would charm him, and Mother too. They would be yours completely. As I am.

What a beautiful bride you’ll be, whomever you marry at whatever age. And what a queen if I am the man! Who has your grace? Your expression? Your voice? I could extol your virtues endlessly, but I want you to finish reading and answer me quickly.

Today I cannot write of Ayortha or my doings or anything. I can only post this and wait.

Love (it is such a relief to pen the word!), love, love—

Char

My 2017 Newbery Picks

11 Apr

If I were in charge of picking Newbery Honor books for 2017, I would have chosen the following five books. Look, the ones chosen were nice, but these ones. These ones were a cool breath of air in the midst of a neverending Arizona summer. Stick-your-head-in-the-ice-cream- freezer-at-Ralphs-on-a-120-degree-day kind of refreshing.

I loved them all dearly. Was it a spectacular year for children’s books or what?

1. The Best Man by Richard Peck

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The children’s librarian in charge of the New York Public Library’s Best Books For Kids List said this was her favorite children’s book in 2016 and she immediately started reading it again after she finished. That was enough recommendation for me, and I, too, found myself mesmerized by this story of family, ultimately. I love when children’s literature writes really loving, supportive, complex, human, wonderful families. So often in middle grade or young adult literature families are absent or dumb, but this family was solid and warm and caring. I need to read it again.

2. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

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If you have ever been a teacher, or know someone who is a teacher or wanted to be a teacher you should read this book. If you haven’t ever been a teacher and don’t know someone who is a teacher and have never wanted to be a teacher I still recommend it completely. I guess I recommend all of these completely so that isn’t exactly the best measure.

3. It Ain’t So Awful Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

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Very…real. I don’t know how else to describe it. It was based on the author’s experiences growing up Iranian in Newport Beach in the 1970s during the Iranian hostage crisis. It’s the universal middle school story of being uncomfortable in your own skin, with the backdrop of political and social turmoil. NYPL named it as one of their most recommended books of last year after I had already come to this conclusion so I felt 1) validated 2) ahead of the times, which are my two best feelings.

4. All Rise For the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

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Perry grew up in a minimum security prison and is removed from this home by a well-meaning member of the community to go into foster care. Heart freaking warming and breaking and feeling. I tweeted this out to Rainbow Rowell as a recommendation, that’s how strongly I felt! (She was not even asking for recommendations!)

5. Ghost by Jason Reynolds

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Jason Reynolds is The Man. He is able to capture characters and experiences so well and Ghost just might be my favorite thing he’s written. It’s the story of a young boy on a track team. There’s more to it, obviously, but it begins there. A young, scared, cocky, kid on a track team.

Hallelujah Anyway

9 Apr

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Last night I dreamt of Manderley.

Of my own Manderleys, I should say. Last night I dreamt of some of the most painful times of my life. They swirled back and forth, the hurts that live inside me and come alive when my body rests.

I woke up exhausted.

Anne Lamott says of her father’s death,

I’m not positive we ever got over it, in the way that the world assured us we would, and hoped we would, although with these badly broken psychic legs, we learned to dance again, to hike again, with limps and weird orthopedic shoes.

I put on my weird orthopedic shoes and went for a limping walk. That’s the solution to just about everything. Drink some water. Go on a walk.

Remember no feeling is final.

Malibu is bubbling and bursting and blooming these days. I reminded myself of the good things I have. Of this perfect town I live in. Of the man I love–my funny, kind, favorite human. Of flirting flowers and powerful stories and afternoons off. Of a body strong enough to go on walks, of an ocean breeze and a spring sun.

One has to be done with the pretense of being just fine, unscarred, perfectly self-sufficient. No one is.*

I caught up on my podcasts and made myself a meal. A meal with meat and fruit and a side of homemade guacamole. A meal while Dear Sugar played in the background.

I took out my trash.

The ancient Chinese had a practice of embellishing the cracked part of valued possessions with gold leaf, which says: We dishonor it if we pretend that it hadn’t gotten broken. It says: We value this enough to repair it. So it is not denial or a cover-up. It is the opposite, an adornment of the break with gold leaf, which draws the cracks into greater prominence. The gold leaf becomes part of its beauty. Somehow the aesthetic of its having been cracked but still being here, brought back not to baseline but restored, brings increase.

I put on my most comfortable dress and opened up my laptop to finish reading my friend’s book. She has a book deal with HarperCollins, this friend. These words will be published one day. They will be bound and sent to bookstores and libraries everywhere. Her words, her world, her story, once in her head alone—they will enter the world.

I’m mentioned in it.

That is so un-American. Most of the time we throw it out, cover it up with a doily, or patch the crack so we can still sell the item. This other way is to save our valuables with our own hands, to pass on to our children, nieces, and nephews Auntie’s chipped Inuit carving. Uncle Will’s journals. And if they toss Uncle Will’s journals, rich in memories and minutiae of this family’s story? That’s on them. Not our fault, for once. (Reason enough to get out the gold leaf.) We are invited to be part of creation, like planting shade trees for children whose parents were born last week.

As the sun hangs heavy in the sky I yawn and curl up for a nap. It’s my favorite time of day to be still and drift away for the moment.

The sky turns gold around me.

It’s a dreamless sleep.

 

 

*Quotes from Anne Lamott’s newest book Hallelujah Anyway