Friday, January 11, 2013

Cutting For Stone

Cutting For Stone  by Abraham Verghese
Weight: 1.9 lbs
Method of Disposal: Leaving at Joe's in EAV
I went to Iowa last year to visit my Stepmother's family.  I finally got to spend a substantial amount of time with her mom, dad, and sister.  I also got to see the school I have always wanted to attend for creative writing and explore Iowa City.  My brother and his family came over from Colorado, and it was all around a great experience.

There is an amazing bookstore in Iowa City called Prairie lights, and I might have gone a little wild there.  I was in love with it the second I walked in and the love just grew as I walked about.  I saw a posting for my college professor who I love and deeply respect, Amber Dermont.  She was teaching some summer writing classes and had given a reading at that bookstore.  I saw postcards made by children to raise money for a youth writing program.  There were so many literary journals!

My Stepmother's mom bought me this book on one of our last days in the city.  She bought it at a library sale, and it is one of her personal favorites.  She is an avid reader too.  I finally read it and, while it is not one of my favorites, it does grip your attention.  It may not be believable, but it is intense, and I cherish it as a gift from my family.

A Queer and Pleasant Danger

A Queer and Pleasant Danger: A Memoir  by Kate Bornstein
Weight: 1.5 lbs
Method of Disposal: Leaving at Joe's in EAV

My dear friend, Harriet, bought me this book for my birthday before she flew back home to the U.K.
It was on my wish list--yeah yeah, I know I should not even have a wish list since I am trying to get rid of all my books.  It is hard though.  I do not want to only ready books from the 80's and 90's.  I need to have access to current information and literature.

I was excited to read it because I read some of Bornstein's other work in college and really enjoyed it and learned from it.  Gender Outlaw was my first and then I had to get The Gender Workbook, neither of which I am prepared to get rid of yet.

This memoir is, amongst other things, a letter to the author's daughter who she has not spoken to in 16 years.  Bornstein's need to communicate with her daughter and the obstacles that prevent it broke my heart from page one.  She tears into her life and exposes herself in every chapter.  We hear about her childhood, her father, and the experiences she had while realizing her transgender identity.  Then we are sucked into the strict, abusive world of Scientology, something I never knew about Bornstein before I read this book.  It exposes things I never knew, and I found it to be so interesting and, again, heartbreaking that it is the largest obstacle between Kate and her daughter.  She writes about BDSM, her eating disorder, her relationships, her sex life, the loss of her mother, the loss of her brother, loneliness, closeness.  It can get raw and some people may even think gritty, but it was so honest and so interesting.  I left with a new level of respect for Bornstein, whom I already respected.  If you are looking for an interesting memoir by someone who has probably led a more exciting life than you then this is the one.

Waist-High in the World

Waist-High in the World  by Nancy Mairs
Weight: 8.8 oz
Method of Disposal: Leaving at Joe's in EAV

I bought Waist-High in the World ages ago--long before I had a passion for reading and exploring (dis)ability.  I picked it up recently without considering what it was about and just started reading.  I was glad to realize it was by an author with MS.  I am a beginner.  I am ignorant to this disease but, looking back, I do not understand how.  I guess it is what we so often do in this able-body obsessed world.  I glanced at it and kept going, never considering who it touched and that it might one day be something me and/or my friends might be diagnosed with.  I am not always proud of how I have moved through the world, though I imagine every thoughtful person must feel this way when looking upon certain situations in their lives.

The thing about disability, as with all umbrella terms, is that it encompasses so many people, so many situations, and so many bodies that it can become overwhelming.  What we can narrow down and see clearly though is that, in the United States, the world is set up in a way that seems to benefit white "able-bodied" heterosexual men most of all.  Once one takes the time to delve into disability studies, read the blogs of people of varying abilities, open up, talk with their friends and family about disability, so many things become clear.  Having a disability is one thing, learning how to maneuver the world is a whole other thing.  The signs on the bathroom doors may say handicap accessible, but are they really?  Can everyone fit in them, turn, move, arrange themselves in them.  Are there enough bars?  Are they at the right height?  If needed, can an aid fit in the stall?  Do city signs and public buildings utilize Braille, sounds, font size in a way that can benefit a large number of people, including those that would not even consider themselves handicapped?  Are wheelchairs, screen readers, and other tools affordable and accessible?  Despite the laws, are noticeably disabled people as likely to be hired for a job they are qualified for?  Are they given help when fighting for these rights?  Are people without an obvious disability frequently pushed to do things they should not do and then judged when they cannot do them or when they are more easily exhausted by them?  Do they have the same literature, movies, and music that are representative of their body experience, their sexualities, their negative experiences with oppression, their positive experiences?  Even when disabled characters show up in pop culture it is generally so that they can be pitied or so they can prove that they are superhuman despite all the odds.  How helpful is this really?  Do we have the information available that would be helpful in exploring and celebrating sexuality in a way that is not focused only on penetrative, orgasmic, heterosexual sex?  I could go on but, by now, I am sure you are able to think up your own lists.  It just goes on and on and on. 

I highly recommend this book to everyone.  It is one woman's experience of MS and living with her husband who battles cancer.  It is not a book about what MS is or how it effects everyone that has it.  As is often the case with these things, it effects people's minds and bodies differently.  This is a book by an intelligent, thoughtful woman.  It examines various topics that influence all of our lives, and it also gives us a candid and powerful insight into hers.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Scent of the Missing

Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog by Susannah Charleson
Weight:10.4 oz
Method of Disposal: Leaving in an EAV neighborhood book box

What a pleasant surprise?!  I bought this book when it was something like 75% off--a bookstore was going out of business.  I bought it because I love dogs and because it was inexpensive.  Then, I kept hesitating to read it.  So many times books about animals are not written well, even if they are interesting.  I knew I would struggle through this one.  I was wrong.  Susannah did a great job.  Sometimes she had me laughing, alone in my house, while my own dogs gave me quizzical stares.  I respected her drive and her dedication.  I was pleased to see that Search and Rescue dogs are still dogs after all.  They have to learn how to coexist with people just like the shelter dogs we adopt out every day.  It can be so frustrating when someone returns a puppy for chewing or for not being housebroken.  If only those same people realized that even canine heroes have to go through that phase.  I really loved this book and this glimpse into Susannah and Puzzle's lives. 

The Belize Bundle

Are You in the House Alone?  by Richard Peck 2000
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler  by E.L. Konigsburg  2002
Sight Unseen: Science, UFO Invisibility, and Transgenic Beings by Budd Hopkins and Carol Rainey 2004
Watership Down by Richard Adams 1974

Weight: 37.6 oz

Method of Disposal: Used as a dog toy and then recycled

Despite the fact that I have not written in a little over a month, I have been reading quite a lot.  I have just been doing quite a lot aside from that too, and I was just so exhausted that I let my poor blog slide.  It would be okay, except that I still have so many books!  The universe stepped in and one of bookshelves toppled over on me and one of my foster dogs.  Don't people die that way?  Luckily, the pup was in a metal crate and was spared the pelting I got.  The books might have been retaliating because in true puppy form (and as I have told you with other fosters) she did manage to destroy some books in her time here after escaping her crate.  In her adjustment week, she actually managed to tear up one of the books AND shit on it.  Beautiful, sweet, wild thang.

I was particularly crushed when I saw my copy of Waterhip Down.  I had never actually read the book, but I had meant to for a very long time and was just about to get started when disaster in the form of a dog struck.  I particularly liked this copy from the 70's.  It smelled delicious and the typeface was lovely.

She gnawed on a few others, but I still think I might be able to read them.  I think that, in reality, I am being overly ambitious and that I am going to be really aggravated when I get 100 pages in to find 20 pages eaten, but I am not ready to throw away more than three--particularly with Watership Down equaling more like five.

The good news?  She is an incredibly sweet dog that does really well if she has the appropriate energy outlet and today she went home with a young couple and one of them is a runner!  I so hope they love that baby for life.  I will miss her but, as is always the case with these abandoned/neglected babies, I am so glad she found someone who can take the time to give her the life she always deserved.