Like I’m just a visitor from another planet. Just here until the Mother Ship comes and takes me home. And I think, “I have so much to do in such a small amount of time”. Spending more time making a list of all the important things that need to be done before I go. Just to lose the list.
Or a holographic image. Seeming lifelike and tangible from a distance, but the closer you get, you see the fragility of my existence. An image without substance.
On other days I feel sturdy and rooted and permanent. Absorbing information. Dendrites growing. Emitting my learning and my expertise. Building something of importance. Strong and sturdy for those who need to use me for support or for reference, or for ingenuity. Creating stories, strengthening relationships. Contributing more than just carbon dioxide.
Neither feeling upsets or confuses me. I merely note the incongruity between the two and wonder what I will feel tomorrow and if anyone ever feels the same.
But most days, I feel as though I just think too much about how I feel. And I’m tempted to be “sexist” and blame it on my gender. Or “Freudian” and blame it on my upbringing. Or “Catholic” and blame it on an examination of conscience.
And I realize that there is no one or nothing to blame.
Megan Goldin is one of my new favourite mystery writers. My introduction to her was the novel Night Swim and I absolutely loved it. I was privileged enough to receive, through NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press, a copy of her newest novel Awake. Goldin does not disappoint.
This novel is in the vein of the movie Memento and the book Before I go to Sleep where sleep is the enemy.
Our protagonist Liv suffers a trauma so severe she cannot remember it. Every time she wakes up she suffers short term memory loss. When we first meet Liv (present day) she finds herself in a cab with no ID and in possession of a bloody knife. Liv doesn’t remember the last two years of her life let alone how she got into that cab. The only clues to help her are written on her hands and arms. “ Stay awake” and “trust no one” are two such ominous clues.
The story moves effortlessly between two time periods; present day and a time set two years in the past.
For most of the novel we live in media res with an unreliable narrator. Alternate chapters do give us some sense of logic because we meet Darcy Halliday, a homicide detective who is trying to take her place in a department where women are few and far between. Darcy is first on the scene of a murder where “stay awake” is written on the window of the crime scene with the victims blood. This phrase will obviously thrust the two women together to seek the truth.
Stay Awake forces the reader to literally stay awake themselves with its rapid plot and overpowering suspense until the end of the novel is reached.
Ellie doesn’t physically fit the standards set by society today and therefore is bullied relentlessly. In this novel written in verse we are given a brutally honest first person narration of a young girl’s emotional and sometimes physical abuse dealt to her by kids at school as well as some members of her own family.
The author’s use of verse is very effective in creating pathos in the reader becoming melodramatic.
For adults it is a quick and simple read that reminds us that “no matter your size or who you are, you are lovable and deserve for people to treat you like you’re a valuable person” (Fipps pg 245). For young readers it is a novel; it is an accessible read in both writing style (word choice, tone) and theme.
Trigger warning for those who have suffered bullying and abuse.
Twelve-year-old Maddie is a normal teenager who just wants to do normal things like having a party at her grandmother’s vacant house without her parents knowing.
Maddie has it all arranged: she will tell her mother she is staying with her father and tell her father she is staying at her mother’s. Having succeeded in this ploy she then buys junk food and awaits the arrival of her two best friends. Unfortunately, her friends cannot come so Maddie spends the night alone with her junk food and old black and white movies.
Now, everything would be fine and dandy if the political situation hadn’t been precarious. With curfews and military vehicles a common sight, life for Maddie and her family has been different, to say the least. Tragically, the evening Maddie decides to trick her parents and stay at her grandmother’s, the state is evacuated and Maddie is left all alone with nary a human around to help her. Soon the power is cut off and food becomes scarce and Emma is forced to use her imagination and grit to survive both the physical and mental hardship she encounters.
This novel is written in verse, and in being so adds a wonderfully melancholy tone to the writing. It reads like a stream of consciousness, therefore, making Emma’s experience more emotionally impactful.
How does Emma spend her days? Will Emma survive? Will her parents ever come to realize she has been left behind?
A great book to have in a classroom library or middle school book club.
“…the chances we failed to seize, the moments of happiness we allowed to drift away. Today it seems to me that my whole life was nothing but a string of those small near misses: a race whose result we know beforehand but in which we fail to bet on the winner.” Jean-Dominique Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death
To banish the “near misses”
To be aware of the gifts revealed to us
no matter how tiny
To ignore superfluous detail –
the bullshit and posturing,
the maneuvering and manipulating.
To see what is truly a divine moment
and just “be”
in each breath,
in each heartbeat.
To reach out and embrace everything you already have,
I was really apprehensive about responding to poetry. I don’t read a lot of poetry, I’m not sure why. I guess it’s because I don’t feel “qualified” to talk about it. That being said, one of my 2021 reading goals is to read more poetry and therefore my first choice this year had been Ian Williams Word Problem Poems.
Williams juxtaposes serious topics such as racial discrimination and mental illness against elementary school math problems and language arts “rules”. This approach leads me, as an educator, to reflect upon what is integral to my teaching; that I should be spending more time discussing timely and impactful societal issues rather than solving for x or making sure students use proper subject-verb agreement.
Williams’s poems offer an intimate view into the mind of a black man. Free -verse, creative and experimental, and intimidating (honestly I don’t even know what words to use to describe my response) but tremendously thought-provoking.
Always one for experimentalism and creativity, I really enjoyed and appreciated deliberate choice in format and typography for each poem. The shapes, in and of themselves, lead to another level of interpretation of the meaning of the poem.
So, if you’re tentative about adding poetry to your reading list “Word Problems” will be an engaging addition.
Last week I reflected on my year of reading. The titles, the genres, the authors. Around March last year, I had to take the reality of my “COVID mindset” and my inability to focus into consideration and set a milestone much lower than I usually do at 50 books. As an English teacher and book blogger, this felt like a failure. This year, however, I am confident I can air higher than 50 soooooo I’m thinking 60?
So, what have I learned about myself as a reader?
I read more non-fiction (yay one of the goals I DID meet)
General fiction made up the bulk of my titles (mostly mystery and fantasy)
I included graphic novels.
A handful of audiobooks made my list (mostly non-fiction)
fiction- Mexican Gothic (review to come) by Silvia Moreno Garcia
non-fiction- The Heart and Other Monsters by Rose Anderson
audible- Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
YA- Legendborn by Tracy Deonon
Graphic novel: Long Way Down based on the novel by Jason Reynolds artist Danica Novgorodoff
Fantasy: The Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo(review to come)
Reading goals for 2021
Increase Science fiction and poetry.
I need your help, my fellow book addicts, please send me titles of your favourite Science fiction reads and poetry books (preferably contemporary!!!
What was your favourite read of 2020? What are your goals for 2021