Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Protecting Marie

Protecting Marie by Kevin Henkes
Weight: 6 oz
Method of Disposal: Lending Library at animal shelter

I do love good young adult books, and anyone who knows me knows that I adore dogs.  This one was okay.  It is about a young girl whose dad gives her a puppy and later he cannot handle the dog, and he gives the puppy away.  Later, he brings her home a well-trained adult dog who she promptly falls in love with but constantly worries about losing. The father is an artist with a complicated and moody personality, and the mother seems like a very caring and patient woman.  The young girl is growing up and confused by the world around her.  She is a sweet kid who is eager to please and to understand.  I appreciated that the book felt honest and that it did not shy away from difficult occurrences that happen in life just because I kid might read it and realize the world is hard and not always fair.  That very important people in our lives can be selfish and disappoint us a lot, but we can still love them.  I do not have to forgive him though.  Her dad is a jerk!  ;)  The most valuable lesson of all, of course, is that adopting older dogs is the way to go.  They are awesome!

Right Stuff, Wrong Sex

Right Stuff, Wrong Sex: America's First Women in Space Program by Margaret A. Weitekamp
Weight: 12 oz
Method of Disposal: Lending Library

This book was great.  The writing style was straight forward and factual so if you are not into history books this one will likely be a challenge for you, but the information inside of it is so important and so interesting.  How has NASA managed to exist my whole lifetime without me ever hearing about so many amazing women?  I keep having this moment.  Watching Hidden Figures, reading this book, reading Rocket Girl.  I had no idea.  I was enthralled with each woman described within this book.  I would get excited and try to remember every name and new detail so that I could share it later, but there was so much that I did not know, and I struggled to keep it all in my mind and accessible.  I think this is a great starting point to a lot more reading!

In other news, the old NASA joke that if women are ever allowed in space it will be because men have been approved to have 120 lbs of recreational equipment....not cool.  In another book I am reading currently (What Happened), Hillary Clinton talks about writing to NASA as a little girl.  She wrote to them to say that she wanted to be an astronaut.  They wrote her back that they do not have girl astronauts.  Who does that?  Even if it was true.  Crushes a kid's dreams like that.  I guess they were just trying to be honest, but come on NASA.  You have disappointed me in so many ways, but I am determined to love you.  The good news is that I bought this book in a NASA store at Cape Canaveral so I give them that.  They were not trying to hide this discouraging history.  Times truly have changed.

I have been reading about amazing and intelligent women who work so hard and are incredibly brilliant.  They have dedicated their whole lives to what they find inspiring and important and never end up achieving their ultimate goals.  I cannot help but think about how overwhelming the disappointment must have been when Jerrie Cobb realized she would never go to space.  The moment when Hillary realized she lost the chance to be the first woman President of the United States of America...and to a heartless buffoon that sexually assaults women.  I cannot think of anything more unfair, really.  To work so hard and watch the bull in a china shop trample his way through and to the top.  I think of Jill Tarter looking for extraterrestrial life and retiring with no proof that there is life out there.  It is so frustrating and, at first look, makes me sad.  Then, I think about all the amazing achievements these women did reach in their lifetimes and all of the people they influenced and touched--including someone who will become president, women astronauts that have been or are on their way to space, and the person that finally discovers and proves the existence of extraterrestrial life.  I think of all the people who are inspired by these women and make their way in other arenas with them in their thoughts.  I guess the cliche is true.  It is much more about the journey than the destination.  I hope that at some point I am able to look back on my life and feel that I used my passion to achieve something.  Of course, if I were really really lucky, I might look back and see that I achieved THE life goal.  I could be a Valentina Tereshkova and make it to space.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A Dog's Purpose

A Dog's Purpose: A Novel for Humans by W. Bruce Cameron
Weight: 10.4 oz
Method of Disposal: Lending Library at animal shelter

I read this late at night when my wife was asleep, and I bawled my eyes out, heaving, and whimpering without waking her up at least two, possibly three, times.  The book was much like a Hallmark movie with a story line guaranteed to be an emotional roller coaster for anyone with a heart, but there is no particular depth and the story is not really a surprise.  Everything is expected.  I read it while also going through vet visits with our older dog who we lost the night after I finished this book.  That really upped the ante for me and made it to where I could not blog about this book for a minute afterwards.

This is not a book I am likely to recommend because it was kind of like television for me.  I enjoyed it, and it captured my interest, but it is not something that will change my life or that made me connect on any deep, human level.  It was not outstanding as a work of art.  All that being said, I would not discourage anyone from reading it either.  It WAS entertaining, and it did make me feel things.  If you want to read a story about a loyal and "good" dog and his relationship to people from his own perspective then why not?  Pick it up.  See what you think.

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Colony in a Nation

A Colony in a Nation by Chris Hayes
Weight: 8 oz
Method of Disposal: Lending Library

This book was accessible and could likely be read and understood by a variety of people.  The author is willing to turn the camera on himself at times to examine his own privilege, but he does not focus in on himself to the extent that it becomes superficial and nauseating.  He ties in his experiences growing up in New York in the 80's, his reporting from Ferguson after the shooting of Michael Brown, American colonialism, and information and insight about race relations in America spanning at least 3 decades.

He posits that there are two Americas that exist at the same time--one America experienced by "The Nation" and one America experienced by "The Colony."

He writes, "If you live in the Nation, the criminal justice system functions like your laptop’s operating system, quietly humming in the background, doing what it needs to do to allow you to be your most efficient, functional self. In the Colony, the system functions like a computer virus: it intrudes constantly, interrupts your life at the most inconvenient times, and it does this as a matter of course. The disruption itself is normal.

In the Nation, there is law; in the Colony, there is only a concern with order. In the Nation, you have rights;in the Colony, you have commands.  In the Nation, you are innocent until proven guilty; in the Colony, you are born guilty" (pp. 37 and 38)

Later, he writes, " So what would it mean if the Nation and the Colony were joined, if the borders erased, and the humanity--the full, outrageous, maddening humanity--of every single human citizen were recognized and embodied in our society? Or even just to start, our policing?

I want to think it would be nothing but a net benefit for us all.  For so long one of the great tools of white supremacy has been telling white people that there's a fixed pie, and whatever black people get, they lose.  As a matter of first principles, I reject that" (p.213).

He brings up the Brock Turner case from Stanford University and how the rapist was given a small sentence due to his background and potential.  He discusses our instinct to "level down" rather than to"level up."  We want Brock Turner to be treated like those in the Colony.  We want revenge.  Instead of wanting those in the Colony to be treated as well as Brock Turner was.  He was right for me in that the name Brock Turner fills me with such rage, and I would love to see the wealthy, white, sociopath suffer in jail for far longer than 6 months.  I understand Hayes point though.  Getting revenge on Turner will not change anything in our criminal justice system with its systematic racism and tough on crime mentality.  

Overall, the book was thought-provoking and told in a way that I hope many people will be able to hear.  I would recommend it to others, especially others who have not read many or any books on race relations in America or on racism within our justice system.

Don't Erase Me

Don't Erase Me by Carolyn Ferrell
Weight: 12 oz
Method of Disposal: Leaving in a Lending Library

This book was heavy with pain and suffering.  Getting through it was like slogging through a giant mud pit at times.  It was exhausting.  The author forced your eyes open and onward each step of the way.  You would see these teenagers where they were at, whether you wanted to or not.  AIDS, rape, incest, poverty, pregnancy, identity all curled together and also standing on their own and separate.  Being young black and gay, being young poor black and female, being hopeful, trying to see a way out--even in a 14 year old boy who you will call "husband" or "father." The lives of these characters were difficult to imagine and, yet, the author keeps on, brazen and unfaltering.  This book was not bad or poorly written, but I was glad when it was over.