Posts Tagged ‘ freedom ’

#2012resolutions in review — the YA novels

While crying through reading my third YA novel of the year, and trying not to  be ashamed of this fact, I thought, the reasons why a non-YA seeks out YA lit might at least be kind of like the reason she seeks out TV — except better.  And I really shouldn’t be too ashamed about it, right?  Let’s face it, I’m probably not alone in trying to relive a little adolescence in mid-life.  But more importantly, I know there are pleasure reading levels and there are challenge reading levels. And what I’m seeking in this resolution-to-read experiment is to know what both feel like, jump right in, and eventually become a voracious and diverse reader.   But, I’m stubborn and impatient and insecure — just like a teenager.  So you have to deal with a little rant now and then until reading begins to civilize me.

I decided to bring for the short Christmas vacation  The Perks of Being a Wallflower as 10th of the 12 books I committed to reading for my  2012 resolutions.  I brought it along because of husband’s repeated suggestion of it, and because, logically, it is among the stacks on my night stand (that is starting to resemble husband’s, actually), the one that is due back at the  library soonest, but mostly because I knew I would speed through it and be able to relax and enjoy passing my time with it.  All these things I might say about TV, but — and, yes I know how uppity this sounds — reading, even YA, even Children’s Lit, is a better way to pass the time.  Reading it in the quiet of the Christmas house, while everyone else who might need my attention was napping, had a certain quality weight to it.  It made me feel full rather than drained in the way losing myself in visual media usually does.

As I mentioned, this was the third YA novel to really strike some chords, and since I’ve not written in much detail at all about any of my reads this year, I thought I’d dig deeper into what I’ve found special about these. Disclaimer — I am not a book reviewer.  This will be a brief personal reflection and commentary on my own learning process through reading, and absolutely not a full and proper commentary on the merits of these books. So, read on, or not as you wish.

First, there were definitely aspects of  The Perks… that I related to from my adolescence  — mixed tapes, panicky feelings, and observing life  more than the drug use and a solid family unit.   But, as dear hubs pointed out, what’s great about these books is how they explore and often times beautifully articulate a period of our lives we probably experienced in a very inarticulate way. It was common, and intense, and forming, but unless we were gifted writers (or readers!), we lacked the words to express it to ourselves or others meaningfully.   One point when Charlie is getting panicky, for example, he finds comfort in covering his head with a pillow “until the quiet slowly put the pieces back in place” (or something along those lines — dammit for letting hubs return the book before I finished this post!).  While I never did that literally as an adolescent,  having felt like that before, I thought as I read it:

Yes!  Why didn’t I just put a damn pillow over my head every once in a while?

Interestingly, though, I more often related to the novel and the characters’ experiences as a parent. This was especially true toward the middle-end when no terrible childhood trauma and adolescent experimental consequence was left unexplored.  And this is probably what’s put me in a panicky, worried mom mood since finishing the book.

I had entirely different experiences reading A Wrinkle in Time and The Fault in our Stars.  I began rereading L’Engle’s sci-fi novel when my oldest was in the hospital and so, it was nice to get completely lost in a fantasy during that time.  Yet,  still I found articulate words of comfort here as well:

Happiness at their concern was so strong in her that panic fled, and she followed Charles Wallace into the dark recesses of the house without fear.

But as much as I hold that novel dear, my favorite of the year, even competing with the adult novels I read, was John Green’s The Fault in our Stars.  Here too, I related as both a kid and a parent of a (sick) kid.   I can’t remember the articulate words as much as the fullness of what I learned from that book — how to treat people.  This was important to me since, remarkably, I’ve only had one chance in my life so far to experience someone close to me get sick and die.  And I was a miserable failure at it. This book allowed me to get close to that again, think through it, cry through it, and learn from it.  I also caught myself slowing down my reading towards the end of the book because I didn’t want to stop reading it — just like those annoying catchy quotes about bookworms say. - The awkward moment when Ted realized he couldn't text with his library book.

So, while I said I wasn’t reviewing and commenting on the merits, I will just say that I think everyone should read The Fault in our Stars.  Not sure what of my other 2012 reads I’ll process through next, if any. I may be just looking to finish by January, which means 2 more books in 5 days.  Possible? Maybe.  I’m starting on Dan Roam’s The Back of a Napkin and may well finish one I’ve been picking up in bits and pieces throughout the year.  Stay tuned.


oui! be the change!

While I’m not absolutely certain “rules” are the answer to the world’s tough problems, be those rules gun control, or mandatory mental illness screening of high school students (as I heard Dave Cullen, author of the book Columbine suggest on NPR’s live coverage yesterday), or this interesting one —  enforcing politeness — which predated the tragedy in CT.   I *do*, however, find the latter’s poll finding that “60 percent of French list bad manners as their #1 cause of stress” very humbling.  That and the words attributed to Mahatma Gandhi are getting me through today.

We must be the change we wish to see in the world


confessions of a truthbrarian

To all the kind friends who have shared nonamerah’s A Girl You Should Date on my fb wall or spread it across the interwebs for the promotion of reading and librarianship, to those who may be reading my blog or following this truthbrarian in hopes of literary comradery, I confess.  I can relate to nonamerah’s post perhaps only in its painful description of my own young dating failures.  I think I was nerdy and pretty enough to attract suitably interesting and intellectual boys, only to disappoint them with a lack of disciplined bookishness.  You see, I am one of those librarians who doesn’t really read a lot of books — mostly nowadays, I claim, because I’m too busy.  But the whole thing has got me thinking about my entire literary past and inspired me to take stock.

Past elementary school, I couldn’t tell you my librarians’ names, and I don’t recall story times or visits to the public library that involved anything more than a place to do homework and have fries at the Hardees next door.  I actually did. not. believe. my college voice professor who told me the library had books with the full English translations for the various language arias I was working on.  “It can’t be that easy!”, I thought.  And since I never recall seeing what might have been a librarian anywhere in that college library, I never followed up to verify this outrageous claim.

What?!  I know!

As a truthbrarian, I’m obviously not proud of this.  And it’s not even that I have trouble reading or that I don’t enjoy it as a pastime. I do!  In fact I boast at home that among the larger tomes in our recently reestablished home library,  I’ve read the largest of them in their entirety. My husband, the main collector for the library, has read some or all of more of the books and is certainly the more read in our family.  Our eldest daughter is not far behind. But I am a late (or perhaps, interrupted) bloomer.

Leo the Late Bloomer, by Robert Kraus and José Aruego

While I don’t remember my parents reading to me at home, I do have fond memories of my elementary school librarian and that library. I can still picture the reading bathtub, where the Judy Blume books were located, and what a big deal it was to have visits by author/illustrator, Tommy de Paola, and also Jose Aruego, who showed us step-by-step how he illustrates animals. Fascinating!  I can also recall my mom supporting our local bookstore and my particularly intense preteen reading spree of the entire Sweet Valley Twins series and Garfield comic books – don’t judge.  I also  loved my church library, but only have 3 solid book memories:

  1. The Giving Tree (and other Silverstein poetry)
  2. Joni, an autobiography of diving accident victim turned artist
  3.  a crazy cartoon book about a boy who got bit by a dog with rabies.

My current reading choices retain this pattern for creative humor, biographies, and a touch of morbidity.  But what I remember having an even greater fascination for in these libraries was the organizational system of the books, the act of checking out books, and wanting very badly to stamp and sort.

Many librarians, of course, share this organizational proclivity. But, I’ve always felt that every other librarian must have always loved books in a way that I never fully grasped.  I now know,  that truthbraries give you more than books.  They give you the ability to seek, discover new things, be curious,  and seek even more.  This has always made me a good problem solver and information organizer/seeker.  But that seeking within books and stories in the traditional sense has been late to bloom in my life.

The problem with lackluster seeking (as opposed to desperate seeking)  in books is not just less reading, but that my bibliography relied almost solely on the recommendations of others.  This, for better or worse, boils down to the company you keep.   My first recommendation I count as a plus. My big sister gave me Catcher in the Rye, which led me to inquire and read the entire Salinger bibliography,  articles about him, and his daughter’s biography of him.  However, in my high school naivety, I once settled on a recommended Danielle Steele novel  for a book report, making me reading adverse for quite some time!  However terrible that reading experience was, though, I see now the silver lining was a new-found appreciation for its opposite —  good writing, and the skill to critically evaluate for it. Today, I love to edit and to write.

I recall one more remarkable recommendation through a senior English reading essay (not really recommended as much as part of the reading requirement of the class).   It was a timed essay exam where I nailed a comparison of themes in the Red Badge of Courage.  I remember being super energized by a  feeling of discovery and impressed with how quickly I organized my ideas on paper.  This probably speaks again for my analytical skill and enjoyment of writing than it does for my love of reading.  But it is certainly connected, and I can see, through nonamerah’s A Girl You Should Date,  how those who have immersed themselves more fully and regularly into reading would develop a self-perpetuating love of it.   I am also totally into the concept there that exposure (through reading) to a variety of both creative and factual stories will only make one a better and more creative thinker, conversationalist,  writer, and even lover.  This truthbrarian seeks all of these  adding mother, friend, and leader. A tall order!

While I’ve got a late start to it (overall and in this late 2012 new year’s post), I have recommitted to the avid reading side of my dear profession.  This new year, I  firmly resolve to a reading regimen and welcome suggestions for its  structure and content.  You can keep up with my #2012resolutions progress by following me (@atruthbrarian ) on twitter.


Journal 09-23-03

I talked to a friend of mine tonight about my school and got on the topic of what a massive undertaking our product is and can become.  I have found myself quite overwhelmed at times, especially reading Kurzweil, wondering how I will get my head around the entirety of information science.  So many aspects, thoughts, ideologies, issues, concerns, answers!  And how, when/if I do get my head around it, will I be able to help others with it all?

I went back to the article from the Utne Reader and found another interesting aspect of this whirlwind of information. Karen Olsen, the author of the first article Are We Overwhelmed by Too Many Choices? reflects on the fact that abundance of choice is a defining feature of our country and generation, which is linked tightly to our individual self-image as well. She writes:

Our choices seem especially fraught with anxiety now as [our selections] are more than ever declarations of who we are…with each decision you are constructing an identity for all the world to see and judge you by.

**and this was pre-social networking!**

Then she goes on to make the point that the anxiety come from the lack of time to make that decision.  This is similar to what we talked about in class about the need for reflection time.  The dread rate of change has got us so wrapped up in that it nearly doesn’t allow for a moments wait.  Think about searching the internet. We are constantly searching for a faster response.  It is clear that when we don’t have an outlet or learn to incorporate reflection into a major part of our lives, we will translate that impatience with a machine response times on to people, our interactions with patrons, our personal relationships, to new ideas, and to new technologies.

It is also similar to the modern (or maybe its mostly Western) movement in social (per this article) and religious thought that everything begins to be OK, whatever feels right to you is best.  Such freedom of choice, it might be said, begins to corrupt the moral fiber when considering very sensitive social issues (e.g. abortion, pornography). Maybe that’s a sweeping statement and might reflect some bias.  But, I wonder if this isn’t a message in what the author is also saying, that we can’t be afraid of making these statements  that reflect one of our many sides or ways of seeing things. I guess I’m not afraid of these statements because I expect to reflect of them further, refine them, and edit them if needed.

Journal 09-02-03

I posted on the discussion list for the first time tonight.  While at first I felt shy, by the end I was confident and comfortable.  I still think and wonder, though, about that quote and putting my ignorance out there for everyone to hit.

I got on a big “fear” kick, which had brought me then to this question:  When (or) is fear healthy or necessary, or of any value?  Is it ever?  What about what said of the positive side of the Patriot Act?  What it of value in response to September 11th?  Has it made our plane travel safer in a positive and free way?  Can freedom and fear co-exist?

I think it all depends on your definition of fear and likewise, your definition of weakness. I believe the two are inextricably mixed.  I was reading a book called Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom.  In it he provides a reminder of St. Paul’s words: “My power is manifest in my weakness.”  and continues by making clear his own definition of weakness. I think, while the context Bloom uses is prayer and connection with God, the definition is relevant.    He says it is not the weakness we show by sinning and forgetting God, or even as the OED’s definition of weak-minded: mentally deficient, or weakness: self-indulgent thinking.  Rather, Bloom affirms Paul’s statement to refer to weakness which means completely supply, completely transparent, completely abandoned in the hands of God.  This is not unlike how we should be when learning something new.   If we bring out own biases, or will to be right, or ego into a new situation, we will undoubtedly run into frustration — if not externally in relation to others, at least within ourselves.  And new situations, lack of knowledge, or experience, or control can be scary.  This is a very small statement considering the effect September 11th had on people and I don’t mean to sum it up as merely a new situation, as it is so much more.  But I guess what I think Anthony Bloom is defining is that freedom and fear do co-exist.  But is freedom self-indulgence? Is fear weakness?  These are hard thoughts to practice, especially when American’s freedom these days seems to be the definition of sin (forgetting God) whether the world believes it or not.

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