Tuesday, November 19, 2013

These is my Words The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine 1881-1901 Arizona Territories, Nancy E. Turner

I really enjoyed this book! It has been recommended to me by several people and I finally got it. It was also one of the books that inspired "Relic" which is when I decided I absolutely HAD to read it. While riveting and exciting, it is not a page turning quick read like other novels. I think that's because it's all in first person, because all of the text is as if reading a diary. A very extremely detailed diary complete with recaps of conversations. I don't usually write that way in my journal, but I have read other journals from early settlers and sometimes they did recount things in a similar way. Plus, you wouldn't have a very good novel if you only had internal reflections and no conversation :-)

I found that I could relate quite a bit with Sarah, her dislike of having her husband away. I get cross too, if my husband volunteers to go away. It's one thing if he HAS to, and quite another if he just WANTS to, you know? I felt like this story captured a lot of what went on in the day, the wrongs of settlers that caused brutal retaliation from the natives to equal that of the settlers, train robbers, literacy, sickness and illness, child bearing, a tiny nod to birth control of the day. The one thing I thought was kind of funny is that things that seem so incredibly obvious to the reader, Sarah is completely oblivious to them. But maybe that's the kind of innocence they held back then.

There are some very shocking things that occur in this book to make it for a more mature audience. My 8 year old asked if she could read it after me......I told her she needed to wait until around high school.

Some discussion points could be the role of religion, the various degrees of love, how women want to be loved, the value of hard work, the value of women being able to be independent as well as part of a team in a relationship, the shift in perspective going from child to parent, depression and how un-treatable it was in the day and how far we've come, and dealing with grief.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Allegiant, Veronica Roth

The 3rd and final book of the Divergent Triology. Oh. My. Word. Luckily I have a friend who loaned me her copy after she finished so I didn't have to wait ages on the hold list at the library. And I devoured it. As fast as a stay at home mother of a 2.5 and 8 year old could do. Which is to say less than a week's time.

This one is split narrative between Tris and Tobias which was nice, and also 100% necessary to get the entire story. It was a little hard to go back and forth nearly every chapter, but that was just usually when I forgot to check the chapter heading to figure out whose head I was in at the time :-)

My hunch was correct. I had not guessed on motives, and I don't think I could have. It was crazy! But this book brought up so many beautiful things to discuss and I am SO glad that these things are being brought about by Roth to introduce these ideas into the minds of our young people. Things that were heavily addressed are: What is love? What are relationships (based on love) about?" What does it mean to be brave? What does it mean to forgive? And the age old nature vs nurture and how the way you were born and the way you were raised is neither an excuse nor a reason for your behavior-you are an agent unto yourself to choose your actions to go along with or against the grain of who you are and what you've been taught. The idea that it's not nature vs nurture, and perhaps not even a combination of the two that make us who we are, but some inherent complexity that as humans we just can't grasp so we shouldn't try to slap some label on it as if we actually understand human nature at all. It also addresses two main components of tyranny: Control of weapons and Control of information. And how the control of information is probably the worse and more damaging of the two. And that just because someone can put a label on you of a condition you might have, it doesn't change who you inherently are on the inside. For instance, just because you're "dyslexic" or "ADHD" tells you a susceptibility you have or a way your brain needs information presented to it that might require different ways to approach it, but it does not make you ANY LESS OF A PERSON. If you're labeled "bi-polar" it doesn't mean you aren't WHOLE, that you're somehow BROKEN. It means that you need to do certain things that others don't need, but it in no way makes you LESS HUMAN. And that is a BIG theme in this book. Even if people give you all the facts about everything, it cannot dominate who YOU ARE AS A PERSON. Because those things are just a very small finite part of what makes you you. Your choice in how to accept labels or reject them, or embrace them as part of your identity that is in no way tied to your worth to yourself, family or society is what really matters. Your choices. And your choice to accept responsibility for those choices. Even if they are not good. Even if they resulted from a mistake you made. Or from your poor judgement. But admitting your fault is not a bad thing. It's a brave thing. It's the RIGHT thing.

And then there's this most beautiful conversation about relationships between Tris and Tobais. **SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT, SKIP THIS PARAGRAH IF YOU HAVEN'T READ IT AND DON'T WANT ANYTHING SPOILED!!!!**Tobias made a mistake that Tris is finding it hard to forgive him for. She is struck by a conversation she had with Amar (former Dauntless trainer living "outside") where he tells her that she has been "Good for" Tobias in that she diminishes his less great tendencies (such as self-doubt) and enhances his good qualities. Tris says "If we stay together, I'll have to forgive you over and over and over again, and if you're still in this, you'll have to forgive me over and over and over again too. So forgiveness isn't the point. What I really should have been trying to figure out is whether we are still good for each other or not." All the way home I thought about what Amar said, about every relationship having its problems. I thought about my parents, who argued more often than any other Abnegation parents I know, who nonetheless went through each day together until they died. Then I thought of how strong I have become, how secure I feel with the person I now am, and how all along the way he has told me that I am brave, I am respected, I am loved and worth love. "And?" he says, his voice and his eyes and his hands a little unsteady. "And," I say, "I think you're still the only person sharp enough to sharpen someone like me." Isn't that one incredible lesson for young adults to learn? That you WILL have to forgive people over and over and over again. And that's not the point-if you're going to be in a relationship, you accept that part-the part where you will continually forgive. But that relationships shouldn't end because you "can't forgive" someone, but relationships should end when you are no longer good for each other. When you are no longer constructive as a pair, but destructive. And that you should TRY your BEST to be constructive when you've made commitments to each other. Then she says "I used to think that when people fell in love, they just landed where they landed, and they had no choice in the matter afterward. And maybe that's true of beginnings, but it's not true of this, now. I fell in love with him. But I don't just stay with him by default as if there's no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me." Isn't that one beautiful reality? One I wish I had fully integrated in my life. I kinda stayed with someone by default, because I truly felt like my options were limited. It was a long distance thing and in no way destructive, but we weren't exactly CONSTRUCTIVE together either. And even though I was willing to forgive over and over again, deep down, it wasn't really for the right reasons. It was really more out of desperation, which I didn't recognize at the time. And then there are the multiple lessons we get about dealing with grief. Which I think is truly important for young adults today. Living through a literary character who is torn apart by grief is not necessarily fun. It's heart wrenching and I'll confess I bawled my way through some of this. But that's what happens when someone grieves in real life. It affects different people in different ways. And you can see through the eyes of the narrator how different people, family and friends, deal with that grief-and how they've processed it before in the past and how they can turn to help others. Because that's what people do. In times of crises, we take care of each other. We don't need to be told, we draw upon any similar life experiences and we help the people we care about to work through their difficult times.

It was truly an emotionally charged book filled with beauty and tragedy and great life lessons that I don't think I've seen outlined in such a black and white way in young adult literature very often. I can see how many people might not like the ending. But to me, it was fitting and I understand. The people are on the mends, the way of life is improved for all within immediate reach with a very optimistic tone that things will continue to improve across the country. Overall, it is a victory for humanity and true freedom. I am excited to see this trilogy hit the Big Screen just as I was about the hunger games! This was truly a unique dystopian society series and I encourage everyone to read it. Again, no love triangle, romance is BIG, but never raunchy. Wonderful topics of conversation and great writing. Now I want to get my hands on the smaller vignettes that were written, like "Free Four" (Divergent from Tobias' point of view) and I know I saw another one....but can't remember, but my friend rated it on Good Reads, so I'll pop on over there to remember :-) 

Happy Reading!