Review of ‘The Water Dancer’, by Ta-Nehisi Coates (fiction)
Fiction has the power to effect change by immersing the reader in a reality completely different from his own, but vital to understanding the reasons behind some of modern-day society’s failures. The Water Dancer, although containing some supernatural elements, is such an important read when it comes to understanding how the power dynamics between blacks and whites today was shaped by slavery. By delving into the emotions behind the “experience” of being a slave, and putting oneself in the shoes of the characters in The Water Dancer, the absurdity of the argument that descendants of slaves should “just get over it” and the potentially powerful healing process of reparations become clearer. Although I’m certain that some, if not most, of the finer points being made by Coated flew over the head of this tired mama, this book is still the top recommended read of this month.
Review of ‘Maybe You Should Talk to Someone’, by Lori Gottlieb (non-fiction)
Apparently, when a therapist goes to see a therapist (which, unsurprisingly, seems to be the norm), it offers them the opportunity to work on their personal issues, which weaves into the way that they work with their own patients. Gottlieb manages to capture how interwoven the well-being of the therapist and the work done with their patient is. She shares, in chronological order, the work she is doing with her own therapist and the work three of her patients are doing; an elderly woman who is convinced she doesn’t deserve happiness because of the way she raised her children, a young woman who is dying of cancer, and a middle-aged man grappling with anger at all the ‘idiots’ who surround him. Each of these patients are helped by and help Gottlieb, who, in this book, managed to make me laugh, sigh, groan, and cry. It also helped me glean insight into some of the work that I have to do, which is always so appreciated.
Review of ‘With the Fire on High’, by Elizabeth Acevedo (YA fiction)
It’s always so easy to judge others, isn’t it? And because we are all so prone to it, it’s so important to read books like this one, that turn certain stereotypical clichés on their heads. The main protagonist in this contemporary YA book, teenager Emoni Santiago, is a high school senior raising a toddler. And while this is, in itself, a dramatic situation to be in, the rest of the book is remarkably drama-free. It’s the coming of age story of a teenager mother who struggles, with her grandmother, to make ends meet (what with a dead mother and an absent father), but at the same time, it’s an uplifting yet (to me) realistic story of overcoming. The story comes in small snippets sometimes, short chapters that share an essential point or story about Emoni in a straightforward yet almost poetic way, again delightfully drama-free. The description of cooking as telling a story really struck me; while I like cooking, I never thought of it as storytelling, and I have been looking at the product of my culinary efforts lately wondering what story they were telling (other than the “yummy!” of my own delightful toddler).
Review of ‘Good Morning, Monster’, by Catherine Gildiner (non-fiction)
In contract to Gottelieb, Gildiner presents one patient at a time, and delves into each of their stories—deep. While this makes perhaps for a less poetic read than Gottlieb’s book, Gildiner crafts, in each case, an engaging and powerful story. There are, of course, overlaps in the paths that each of her patients take, which helped me, again, glean insight into the complexity of some of the work that I myself have to do. But it’s also a great read as first short stories of heroic journeys, some quite harrowing, that will give readers hope that they, too, can overcome.