Sunday, May 31, 2020

This is not a book post. Sorry/Not sorry.

My city has a curfew tonight.

There is rioting in my city for the second night in a row.

Protesters and agent provocateurs alike are smashing and grabbing in businesses in the part of the city I used to walk around at age 11, when my best friend and I started taking the bus downtown to window shop. At 16, when I had my first non-babysitting job, developing pictures at a one hour photo shop. At 48, taking my daughter to the Nutcracker.

And while I will be staying the hell away from all of that, I don't blame them. I don't think they are "disrespecting the memory of George Floyd." He was murdered by the very people who are supposed to uphold our laws. I don't think they are "diluting the power of their message." Their message is that the system is already broken, so why keep pretending?

I've been pulled over by police four times during my 35 years of driving.

I've never gotten a ticket.

Once I was hundreds of miles from home, with someone else's child in the front seat.

Once I couldn't produce proof of insurance.

Every time, I had clearly done exactly the thing I was being pulled over for.

(For the record: driving with high beams on, running a red light, driving with high beams on AGAIN, and driving with a broken taillight. I had reasons for all of these--the high beams thing AND the broken taillight both had to do with faulty wiring in aging vehicles--but they were all incontrovertible facts.)

Not only have I never gotten a ticket, THAT WOULD BE THE WORSE CASE SCENARIO FOR ME.

When the lights flash behind my car, this is what goes through my head: "Oh shit, I hope I don't get a ticket."

That's all.

Not "I hope the cop doesn't look over my car and write me up for additional bullshit."

Not "I hope the cop doesn't call me names or belittle me or try to verbally provoke me."

Not "I hope the cop doesn't decide he doesn't like my tone, pull me out of the car, and and arrest me."

Not "I hope the cop doesn't pull his gun."

Not "I hope the cop doesn't kill my passenger."

Not "I hope the cop doesn't kill me."

And I KNOW, I know, that if I were a person of color--especially but not only a black man--all of those things would run through my head.

The last time I was pulled over, the time I couldn't find my damn insurance card, do you know what the nice young policeman said to me?

He said, "I saw this beat-up old pickup with a missing tail light and wanted to check out what was going on, but I'm not worried about someone like you."

Like me.

Middle aged? Nope. A woman? Hardly.

He meant white. Basically he pulled me over because he thought I might be brown, and therefore suspicious, but once he saw I was white, he was happy to let me go. Even with no proof of insurance and no taillight.

So fuck being nice. Fuck playing by society's rules if society's rules on apply TO you, not FOR you. I'm not going to be breaking windows and looting, because I don't fucking have to. I live in a world in which I can at least pretend hard work will get me everything I need. But over and over, more and more, the world shows that this is not the truth for people who don't look like me. So if they want to shatter glass at the Apple Store and light fires in City Hall while Jeff Bezos continues to make billions as the rest of us lose jobs, I'm not going to clutch my pearls.

I don't know what the world is going to look like when this is over. I believe things could change. I believe things could revert right back to status quo. It will depend a lot on whether we worry more about ourselves or our society. Sure, my life is easier and safer when people don't riot in the streets. But how can I say that my comfort and security are more important than the very lives of my fellow citizens and human beings? That my right to go shopping downtown is more important than another's right to not fear for their life at every traffic stop? That being seen as a Nice White Lady is more honest than acknowledging that with one phone call, I can threaten the life of any black man in this country?

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Sunday Post #51/Sunday Salon #25

Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer hosts the weekly Sunday Post link-up, and Deb at ReaderBuzz expanded Sunday Salon from a FB group to a link-up as well.

What I Read
It's been two weeks since I posted last, and I've only read four books in that time. I read Glennon Doyle's latest, Untamed, for a book club meeting that never happened. It was fine. Some bits were great, some were boring, and I'm ashamed to say that part of why I read it was to figure out what happened with her marriage, which she'd been discreet about before.

I read The Wild Robot Escapes, which was a let-down compared to the first one. No otters.
IV. English Language Arts, Grade 5
I love those otters!

I read A Good Girl's Guide To Murder, which was a solid YA thriller. I liked the combination of "primary documents" with narration. The "who-done-it" part was sufficiently twisty, but otherwise it was pretty predictable, if that makes any sense.

The only book I really got caught up in was We'll Fly Away. I didn't know anything about it going in, but from the first page you realize that the character is writing from death row, then it jumps back to the "before," so you spend the whole book wondering who he's going to kill. There are plenty of awful people that you can see getting into situations that spiral out of control. Eventually I realized that to be on death row, he can't have just killed one person in self defense, so then I was really worried about him. It isn't devoid of hope, but it's pretty bleak going. It reminded me a lot of The Serpent King with even harder lives. Maybe because that sense of doom was so prevalent, it didn't knock my socks off quite as hard as TSK, but it was gripping and emotional.

We'll Fly Away

What I'm Reading/What's Next
I've been eyeing Death Comes to Pemberly, which I have from the library and Indian No More, which I brought home from school. But I also am tempted to keep reading YA thrillers, like All Our Twisted Secrets or Be Not Far From Me, which I'd have to get online. My student book club chose a British thriller called The Sacrifice Box, so I'll definitely read that, even though it doesn't sound like my type of book. A little too creepy/horrorific.

Three Things
  1. I ran out of gas while driving a car for the first time in my life. My sister borrowed our truck, and we were driving her car, and I neglected to pay attention to the gas gauge. 
I realized what was happening in time to turn onto a road that led to a gas station, and then to coax the coasting car into a parking lot, so I just had to walk .7 miles each way, on a sidewalk, to get the gas. It could have been worse in so many ways.

2. Teachers in my area have been furloughed one day a week starting last week. It will save our districts money without costing us any pay, as unemployment and the CARES act will cover somewhat MORE than our regular paychecks. I've been teaching for 22 (?) years and for the first 18 years worked 60 hour weeks, then worked 50 hour weeks the last four years. That's 10-20 free hours per week for 22 years, not to mention unpaid work in the summer. So I don't feel too guilty, except thinking of the people who have lost their jobs entirely. The unemployment part is doing what it's supposed to do, and the CARES money is meant as stimulus money, so again, there's nothing WRONG with the situation. But it feels weird.

3. Yesterday my daughter and I took part in a bookish trivia event organized by a literacy coach in Pennsylvania who's in a FB group I'm in for reading teachers. There were about 15 teams from her area, plus teams from Maine, Texas, Minnesota, and us in Oregon. Many of the adults were reading teachers, librarians, etc., and the kids were all book enthusiasts.

Reader, we slayed them.

It wasn't even close. We got the first 46 questions right, then missed one about Chrissie Tiegan's cookbook and one about The Bad Seed (picture book--I would've gotten one about the creepy play), but it barely put a dent in our lead. I don't know that we'll be invited back, but we had a great time, and won a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card.

And now it's raining again, and I'm ready for a nap. Hope you have a good week. Stay safe.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

TTT: Last Week's Topic! (Books I Would Have Loved as a Kid)

 TTT (Top Ten Tuesday) is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl .  If you want to quadruple the size of your TBR AND find a bunch of great book blogs to follow head on over and check it out!

The topic this week is: Things I’d Have at My Bookish Party.

And I honestly just don't know. Books and cookies and comfy chairs. So instead, I'm going back to  I last week's topic, which wasTop Ten Books I Wish I’d Read As a Child

Which is kind of tricky. I read a ton as a kid. I don't know that I missed much of what was available at the time. Plenty of great books have come out since then--I'm thinking of everything from Holes (1998) to Look Both Ways (2019). But I'm okay with having read them later in life.  So this list will be a bit of a chaotic mess, which seems only appropriate in May, 2020, right?

A Few Books I Did Somehow Miss
These are great books that existed when I was a kid, but that I didn't read until sometime after that point.
  • The Dark is Rising series 
    • I got these for my nephew when I was in college and thought it was a new series. Nope! It came out in the 70s!
  • The Princess Bride
    • Didn't know it was a book until long after I saw the movie, though my older sisters say they remember reading it before then.
  • Chrestomanci stories by Diana Wynn Jones
    • Another author I thought was more from my nieces and nephew's generation, but it turns out she started publishing in the 70s too. 
  • Sideways Stories from Wayside School
    • I didn't hear about these until I was teaching middle school in the late 90s, but it turns out he started writing them in, yes, the 70s.
Over Sea, Under Stone

A Few Books I Missed the Window On
There are some books published after my childhood that I would have loved when I was a kid, but are just "meh" for me now. Talking animal books, for the most part. But despite what C. S. Lewis said, I think there are some books that are more enjoyable for children that are still good books. Here are some I think I would have LOVED as a kid, if they'd been available then, but haven't been able to get into as an adult. Yet.

  • The Redwall series
    • Another one my sisters' kids adored! 
  • The Tale of Despereaux
  • Junie B. Jones series
    • My impression is that she's a modern-day Ramona Quimby, and who doesn't love Ramona?
  • Keeper of the Lost Cities
    • My OBOB girls are obsessed with this series, and I feel so bad because I just can't get myself to read them. I slogged through the first two, and I probably would have been equally enthralled at their age. But it was long ago, so I was enthralled with Dragonsong and Agatha Christie.
Redwall (Redwall, #1)

Current Books We Had Nothing Like
For realistic stories, we had Judy Blume and Paula Danziger. For books that did not only feature white, straight, middle class, able bodied characters we had Mildred Taylor and, um, not much else, frankly. There is so much more honesty and representation in books today, even though there is so much more ground to be made up.

  • Maybe He Just Likes You
    • I don't know if I've EVER read a book, for ANY age level, that does such a great job at deconstructing what it is to be objectified and then shamed for it.
  • The Crossover
    • Not only would I have loved novels in verse as a kid, to read about black boys living joyful lives would have been amazing. Plus, my mom had heart issues, and I would have related the heck out of their dad's storyline.
  • Pet
    • A book! Set in future Africa! That addresses child abuse! And our responsibilities to each other! With wildly diverse families! And an African girl saving the day!
  • Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World
    • There were, by careful counting, ZERO books that featured LGBQTIA+ characters when I was a kid. None.
  • New Kid
    • The closest thing there was to graphic novels when I was a kid was Tin-Tin. 
New Kid (New Kid, #1)

Now I'm off to see what everyone else came up with for their bookish parties. 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

April in Review

My Reading

# of books read: Six. I was home all month, and I only managed to read six books.
Bests In which I tell you all my favorite reads and make up categories so they each win something:
Well, I liked them all, so that's good, right? If I were to rank them, it would go something like this:

All time favorites
The Knife of Never Letting Go (re-read)

Deliciously dark
The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein

Fun and thought provoking
Look Both Ways
Not so Pure and Simple
Go With the Flow

Bookish Events and Happenings

I read Dig as part of an online book club with other winners of the Book Love grant, which is organized by Penny Kittle, a teacher, author, and all around amazing individual. She is a big name in the reading teacher world, and as such, she is on friendly basis with various authors. So of course, she invited A. S. King to our book club meeting, and she came, and it was so amazing to see and hear her in her actual work space. 

Amy (as we now call her, I guess?) writes very organically, and if you haven't read Dig, you should probably skip the next paragraph as I will spoil it remorselessly.

She did not realize until she'd been writing for awhile that The Freak was dead, and it took her even longer to realize that she was also the missing cousin. I asked her if Jack and Bill were related as well, possibly descended from the brother who'd been sleeping with the Mexican woman on the potato farm, and she said that her editor was the one who'd figured that out--she didn't make that connection herself while writing, but as soon as her editor asked, she realized that yes, of course. She was also pleased that I'd initially taken the cover illustration as being of a heart and nerves. Since she already knew it was a potato, she wasn't sure if people would really fall for it. We asked her about the various points of view used in the story--why was the Ringmistress in third person? Who is the "you" CanIHelpYou addresses? She said that she didn't think she'd be able to write the Ringmistress in first person, that it would be too hard to inhabit such a strange character. And that the "you" being addressed is always us, the reader. "You must dig."

I've also been on a couple of bookmobile runs around the town where I teach, dropping books off for students. It's not much, but it's something.

On the Blog

I read six books, and I wrote six posts. One is a TTT about titles that would make good band names, one was a weekly update (because April was basically one long week, right?), one was my review of March, and the others were odd little bits and pieces from my quarantine life


I won CampNaNoWriMo, though I still haven't finished the first draft of the book. I'm at about 53,000 words with no end in sight, so maybe pantsing isn't the way to go? But I'm fifty years old and never even attempted to write a book before, so I'm taking the win.

We celebrated our kid's 14th birthday, driving her around to various family and friend's houses where they held up signs and left her gifts sitting in their driveways. Plus she got to see everyone's dogs, which is always a highlight for our poor pet-deprived child. It was weird, but fun, and she had a far better day than she'd anticipated. I made a delicious lemon cheesecake, and her dad made her favorite soup, so all in all, it was a good time. 

I don't know what else to say about life this month. I am struggling to stay motivated and productive. My husband, on the other hand, has gone into overdrive and can't stop fixing things around the house. I do better on sunny days. I don't know what the future holds, and I'm equally afraid that things will continue to slide into a sort of anarchic-fascist white supremest dystopia or that we'll just all go back to an oblivious capitalist system doomed to destroy the planet. I am an innate optimist, so this is disconcerting. I deal with it with a lot of naps and baking, then with staring in despair at the chubbiness of my cheeks and chins during Zoom meetings. 

That is FAR too grim to end on, so here is a picture of the breakfast I had one morning in early April, and some pictures from a colleague's farm, because last week's bookmobile run for students also became a wine-mobile run for my coworkers.
My mom made that mug in our backyard kiln in the 70s. My kid made the biscuit.

Toby the very naughty goat and Zsu-zsu the very sweet dog.

I did not catch the peacock's name.

My monthly summaries are always linked to the Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up on Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts at Midnight, as are terrific blogs' monthly reflections.  Nicole and Shannon usually put together a fun scavenger hunt giveaway too, so go check it out!