Friday, December 31, 2010

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris

It seems appropriate to end the year with the author who started it. Books that make me laugh are always checked off in my mental win column. The subject really does not matter. If it makes me laugh out loud, I like it, and David Sedaris always makes me laugh. One of his essays in this collection is titled 'Six to Eight Black Men' and is largely about Christmas traditions in Denmark. It made me laugh until I cried.

Thanks for loaning me another one, Angela!

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The Complete Persepolis is the first work that I have read from an Iranian author. Satrapi tells her life story as a graphic novel and in the process, explains what it was like to grow up in the shadow of the Islamic Revolution. She covers a wide range of themes and provided a new context from which to consider contemporary Iran.
"The regime had understood that one person leaving her house while asking herself: 'Are my trousers long enough? Is my veil in place? Can my makeup be seen? Are they going to whip me?' No longer asks herself: 'Where is my freedom of thought? Where is my freedom of speech? My life, is it livable? What's going on in the political prisons?' It's only natural! When we're afraid, we lose all sense of analysis and reflection. Our fear paralyzes us. Besides, fear has always been the driving force behind all dictators' repression. Showing your hair or putting on makeup logically became acts of rebellion" (302).

One of Satrapi's most consistent themes is family. This is a photograph of me and my fiancé; we are already family.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Complete Poems by Dorothy Parker

Indian Summer

In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please,
And change, with every passing lad
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Busy, busy, busy

Thanks to Russell for the loan of both the book and a pen. The book was to read; the pen was to write in the margins.

Derrida for Beginners by Jim Powell

"America is deconstruction." --Derrida

Dr. Palmer lent me this one about a month ago when I stopped by his office when I was up at CBU hanging up posters. In the course of our conversation, I mentioned that whenever anyone in my seminar classes mentioned theory, I got hopelessly confused. He lent me this book that he had read when he took philosophy of history when he was in grad school to help me get a handle on deconstruction/textuality. It is certainly the most accessible philosophy book I have read; the cartoons helped. It was also purposely flippant and would drive any serious philosopher crazy. For me, it was all the philosophy I could handle.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Interview with the Vampire by Ann Rice

Let me start by saying that I did not take this picture (I was 5 at the time), but it is my absolute favorite one of Cameron and Ryan.

It was nice to go back to a day when vampires did not glitter in the sunlight or get slayed by supernatural teenage girls (not that I have not enjoyed both of those contemporary vampire twists). Reading Rice's novel, it was easy to see where all the modern vampire hype got its start. Thanks to Chase for the loan.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Is it so wrong to laugh when you think about faith? Or to consider that God's standards of loving you are incredibly low (mostly it's about showing up and trying)? Or realizing that you aren't the only person who thinks this way? I found this book at Burke's Bookstore last Saturday afternoon, tucked away in a corner of the theology section waiting for me. It got me through my paper writing, exam grading week and a half with some light-hearted humor, introspective prodding, and the reminder that this too shall pass.

If you have never read any of Anne Lamott's more spiritual work, I highly recommend it. Start with Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith; Plan B is its sequel. If you have book borrowing privileges with me (which is pretty much everyone; I fear I may be too trusting with my books), feel free to ask for a loan.

I took this photo with my new Diana lomo lens. The plastic lens distorts the light and makes colors more vibrant. Like Lamott, I find the outdoors to be one of the easiest places to have a conversation with God.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential by Dan Pallotta

Yuck. Ech. Awfulness.

This book was absolutely terrible. If you have been following along, you know that I hardly ever come down harshly on a book. This book, however, sucks. I think Pallotta wrote this book to justify the enormous salary he was making as a nonprofit CEO before his charity folded. I think that he says controversial statements with no actual solutions (other than to have the courage to dream our biggest dreams). I think he would have a love affair with capitalism if it was personified. And I think his writing style is one the most gosh-awful ones I have ever read (constantly using increasingly bizarre metaphors and placing your "key points" in italics is distracting not helpful).

Yes, new ideas need to enter the nonprofit sector. Yes, current efficiency standards are lacking. Yes, there are changes that can be made to make the system more effective. No, Dan Pallotta is not the nonprofit savior.

In the interest of fairness, I should say that just about everyone in my Theory and Practice of Nonprofit Administration class disagreed with me. The majority thought he raised great points, and some students were actually fawning over him. I will say that he made me think, but I also could not get past the horrendous writing.

Writing all this down has been cathartic. Maybe now I can write my final paper without having to fight the urge to hurl the book across the room. I think the picture of the vomiting computer adequately sums up my feelings about this book.

Binder O' Assorted Readings by various authors in academic journals

Meet my binder o' assorted readings that I read this semester for HIST7060. We had different professors come in most weeks and spend the first hour and a half of class discussing the study of women and gender in their particular field. Most of them assigned at least 3 readings. Not all of the readings are in here because by the end of the semester I deemed the binder too heavy to lug around. I know this isn't a book, but I spent so much time reading all of these articles that I decide they count. Yeah, grad school's fun.

What a Woman Ought to Be and to Do: Black Professional Women Workers during the Jim Crow Era by Stephanie J. Shaw

I really liked this book. Shaw takes these women and explains how their parents and communities taught them who they should be as African American women. They were not educated in spite of being black women; they were educated because they were black women. She also does a good job contrasting this ideal of womanhood with the reality they faced once their education was finished. I also liked that this discussion was the first one in which I know I participated well. Corner turned.

I read this book back in November. Same old story about being backlogged that I will not bore you with again.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Founding Mothers and Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society by Mary Beth Norton

405 pages.............

This book was assigned to coincide nicely with Thanksgiving. You know what I'm thankful for? Not having lived in colonial America.

Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver

I could not fall asleep the other night so I took the time to finish this book, which happens to have been sitting by my bed 2/3rds of the way read since August. To be honest, it is not Kingsolver at her best. Pigs in Heaven is the sequel to Bean Trees, which I read on the plane to Brazil a year and a half ago. The story seemed solid at first, but the ending felt forced, like it was not really what the characters wanted to do. Maybe Turtle and Taylor should never have left Arizona in the first place.

Part of the reason I like reading Kingsolver's books is because I distinctly remember the people who suggested I read them and who I passed the books off to in turn. I grabbed The Poisonwood Bible from a friend's apartment three summers ago and read it in 36 hours because I could not put it down. This summer I found a copy of it at the library used book sale and bought it for a quarter to give to my grandmother. A camp counselor told me to read Bean Trees when I was 15, but I didn't pick it up until I saw it at a used book store a week before I left for Brazil. I left my copy in Brazil with Rahel, the German Ph.d candidate we helped with field research, because she wanted something to read that was in English. I read Animal Dreams last year on the way to California with my mom. I gave it to her when I was finished. She liked it so much that she bought Pigs in Heaven and then passed it along to me. Last April, I walked into an apartment to see a friend reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for a final paper. I mentioned that I would like to read it, and she told me to come back in two days and she would give it to me.

When I think about the cycle of getting and giving Kingsolver's books, I am reminded of the very different people in my life. Some are still a presence; others I have not talked to in years. Regardless, it makes me think about the network to which I belong when I realize how a suggestion from a counselor at Camp Marymount led to a book being given to a German student living in Brazil six years later. It is just one of those things that makes me pause.

Music and Revolution: Cultural Change in Socialist Cuba by Robin D. Moore

What do son, timba, and nueva trova have in common? They are all forms of Cuban music, and all genres of music I had never heard before class two weeks ago. That's a benefit to reading a book about music, to discuss it in class, you have to listen to it!

Song of Songs

The night before John and Amanda's wedding, I was hanging out with the bridesmaids at the apartment. We got to talking about the readings for the wedding and how one of the options was from Song of Songs. One of the people who had read it laughed a little and mentioned how that would have been an interesting choice. Post-discussion, I figured I should read it. It was my first foray into Biblical poetry and might I just say, "Wow."

Imposing Decency: The Politics of Sexuality and Race in Puerto Rico, 1870-1920 by Eileen J. Suarez Findlay

My book about turn of the century Puerto Rican prostitutes. I really enjoyed the shock value when people asked me what I was reading. Short version: Class was linked to race; concepts of sexuality and honor varied by class. To be white meant to be elite and honorable. To be black meant to be working class and disreputable. What color your skin was did not necessarily determine which group you belonged to because they were social as opposed to biological concepts. Who do you think the prositutes were?

(Get it? The buildings in Chicago are imposing. I finished reading this book in October, but I have been struggling with how to take a picture for a book about prostitution and war. Not that this lame stretch is much, but it's better than nothing.)

Essence of World Religions: Unity in Diversity by Pravin K. Shah

This book is another one that I started reading years ago and just now finished (for the same, pre-sleep reasons). I bought it from a Jainist at the Ghandi-King Conference my freshman year at CBU. I think by this point I have probably read all of it twice since I skipped around, but I finally finished the book from cover to cover. It is intended as a brief overview of major world religions and includes a nifty comparison chapter on Eastern and Western religions. My favorite part was a reading a Jainist's interpretation of Christianity. Sometimes you learn the most about yourself by looking through someone else's eyes.

I also feel like I should mention that I finished reading this book at the end of September. I just never got around to taking a picture for it.