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.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Silent Night

Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub
Weight: 6.4 oz
Method of Disposal: Lending Library

This was an interesting and unbelievable story from World War I that I've heard about a handful of times, but I never really understood.  This book definitely cleared up any questions I had, but I did feel like there came a point where I wondered when the book would end and how it was possible the author had so much to say about one single day.  It might have been a better magazine article--at least for me as a reader--though I appreciated all the research and hard work the author put into it.  I loved the pictures, cartoons, and first-hand accounts.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Genie: A Scientific Tragedy by Russ Rymer
Weight: 7 oz
Method of Disposal: Lending Library

This book was depressing on so many different levels.  This poor girl (now woman) seems to have spent her whole life being used for someone else's greater good.  At some point the scientists in this book were no longer able to be in contact with Genie, and the author was not, so maybe things started to improve for her, but it did not sound like it.  It seemed like her future would be very bleak indeed. 

How this poor child could be pulled from one of the worst abusive situations the world had seen and then end up abused in her foster placements is beyond me.  There was so much media attention and, even with the world watching, they could not keep her safe.  It is devastating and just shows the world for what it is.  Somewhere there is some person who has experienced such little joy in their lives.  They have been to hell and back and hell and back and hell again.  Their life is unrelenting, and it has nothing to do with who they are or the choices they made.  At that same time there are countless other people growing up at the same time with all the opportunities and all the joy and also not always based on their choices--though they have likely been lucky enough to make a ton more decisions and have been faced with many more choices than Genie ever got the chance to.

If you are looking for hope, redemption, someone beating the odds, people doing the right things for the right reasons, then do not look here.  This book is not that.  This is not to say that there weren't people who loved Genie or helped her.  There were but, ultimately, as a whole, it would seem that she was failed terribly.