Tag Archives: literature

mid-week round-up

hedgehog

What are you up to this week? Last night, Chet and I were on a walk and got caught in a wild rainstorm. Those dark clouds can go from 0 to 100 down here in South Florida. Geeze Louise. Hoping for better weather this weekend so we can go on a Pokemon capturing adventure on FIU’s campus! Oh, I’ve also started a Finding Delight newsletter. (The first one went out last Friday!) They’re so much fun to create. I’d love if you’d SUBSCRIBE. You’ll receive an email on Fridays with links, videos, quotes, and MORE! Until then, enjoy the rest of your week, and here are a few fun internet goodies to tide you over…

How to build an entire makeup collection for under $100.

Team USA suits up for competition.

An appreciation of Michelle Obama’s DNC address.

American soccer’s gender wage gap is bananas.

An incredible tale of glamour, sex, betrayal, death and prison in the dizzying world of high fashion.

Dance mashup of the last thirty years of Disney.

The Strand Bookstore has included a literary matching quiz in its job application form since the 1970s. How would you do?

Why Van Gogh’s “mad genius” is a myth.

Loving the new Ghostbusters? Here are 11 other things in need of an all-lady reboot.

Hotline Bling poster.

Ten outstanding books to read this summer and beyond.

A must-read for young women!!! #ballonabudget

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mid-week round-up

winter road

Happy December, everyone! While Miami looks nothing like the picture above (in December or ANY month), after decorating our apartment for Christmas and doing a bit of holiday shopping, I’m feeling in quite the seasonal mood. This week, I’m counting down the minutes until Friday evening when my best friend’s plane lands and we can spend a weekend catching up and having a blast. Can’t wait!!! Hope you have a great week, and don’t forget to check out my 2015 Holiday Gift Guide. Alright, link time…

The farmer-philosopher who supplies halal meat to Muslims in the American South.

Make your own marquee Christmas tree.

Stamps to create custom pieces of porcelain.

A recipe for wedding disaster. 

A trip through Costco with Mom.

Hoping all the college teachers I know get equally hilarious drunk emails.

All hail the Chipotle burrito bowl! #hacked

Want to test your rationality? Take this three question quiz. 

A kick-ass public transportation story.

10 must-haves for the French kitchen.

Creating a home office with minimal extraneous space.

Books about Miami. 

In Defense of “Go Set a Watchman”

Today, I’ve asked Katie to share her thoughts on Harper Lee’s newest book, “Go Set a Watchman” and explain why she’s defending this controversial follow-up to a classic. Enjoy!


 

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.

scout finch

I will never forget the first time I read “To Kill A Mockingbird.”  I was in the 4th grade, which was, looking back, the most formative year of my reading career.  I read books that to this day remain some of my favorites – “The Giver”, “Walk Two Moons”, and “The Shadow Spinner.”  But most importantly, I was first introduced to my spirit animal – Scout Finch.  At the time, I had this quirky habit that ultimately led to me becoming an actress.  I would pretend with every molecule of myself that I was the protagonist of whatever story I was in the middle of (even if the character was a boy).  So for about a month when I was nine, I lived in Maycomb County, I had a brother named Jem, my father was a lawyer, and I signed every journal entry as “Scout”.

This particular book left a lasting impact on me, more so than any other story I had read as a young girl.  I remained Scout in my head long after I finished the final page. Harper Lee’s novel became my favorite book, and has remained as such.  I have reread it countless times, I have performed in the stage play (as Mayella Ewell), I have traveled to Monroeville, and it was even the subject my BFA senior project in college.  So, as you can imagine, when the news of “Go Set a Watchman” hit the mainstream media, I was more than a little excited.  I couldn’t wait to read the rest of the story.  In this installment, Scout was 26 (and being a 24 year old, this absolutely thrilled me).  Before I could even get a copy though, I was inundated with negative opinions (“What is this!! Atticus is a racist!!  MY WHOLE LIFE IS A LIE!!!”).  Now, having read it, I can honestly say that I believe it is an incredibly important part of the story.

go set a watchman

In defense of “Go Set a Watchman”:

  1. Jean Louise is the protagonist of this story.  Before we start getting our collective panties in a wad about Atticus losing his integrity, let us not forget who the hero of the story is and always has been.  Scout.  This is her story.  This is her coming of age.  This is her loss of innocence.  This is HER moment.  Throughout the entire narrative she has maintained her truth and defended what is important to her.  That is an amazing thing!!  One of the reasons I loved TKAM so much as a nine year old is because I could relate so much to Scout’s journey when she also was a nine year old.  But now I’m 24.  The world is completely different.  The same things that I stressed and worried about as a child are not the same as the things that keep me up at night now, but it is so comforting to read this book from a strong woman’s point of view.  She is still a major role model to me without having to look up to a nine year old.

  2. It teaches a lesson we all must learn in our twenties.  Which is that coming home after being away for a while is hard.  Whatever you consider “home” is not a golden, safe haven where your problems disappear.  Your parents don’t always have the answers.  Your responsibilities are still there, waiting for you to attend to them. I believe that everyone has that moment where they realize that their childhood home and the people that shaped them are not actually as idealized as we make them out to be in our heads.  It’s what we do with this new information that makes us who we are.

  3. Atticus has always been a little bit racist.  Maybe I have a skewed perception due to that time I delved so deeply into the psyche of Mayella Ewell that I will always hate Atticus just a little bit (I got something to say and then I AIN’T GONNA SAY NO MORE).  Of course, he’s very polite about it in TKAM, but it’s there.  He even jokes about relating intensely to a white supremacist senator who was involved with the klan. It is Scout, not Atticus, who ever pushes against racial or class distinctions.  Is Atticus a villain?  Absolutely not!  He’s a product of his time and place.  We as readers viewed him through the rose-tinted glasses that Scout herself was wearing, and as she matured, so did we.  His flaws were brought to light, and yet Scout was able to transcend that.

While “To Kill a Mockingbird”  will remain my favorite book, my favorite college experience, and the subject of the best paper I have ever written, I truly believe that this book is an incredibly important part of Scout’s story.  She is the hero, which makes me even more proud to have named the protagonist of MY story Harper Jean, a direct allusion to TKAM.  While I understand that sometimes it hurts deeply to see someone we have idealized for decades become someone we can no longer trust, let us not forget that the protagonist’s integrity and kindness has remained 100% intact.  I will be forever indebted to Scout Finch for teaching me the wisest lesson of them all…

 “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”

The Reading Habits Tag

the reading habits tag

I definitely found reading to take first prize in “happy places” for the month of January. I’m always an avid reader but recently I’ve just found nuzzling up with my cat and a book to be a brilliant evening occurrence. So, when I stumbled upon a reading tag which I bookmarked AGES ago, I thought I’d finally fill it out.

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

My bed. I have one of those pillows with arms (boyfriend pillows?) that’s been going strong since my freshman year of college and it’s usually what I’m propped up on. I also weirdly prefer to read on the side of the bed that I don’t sleep on. I’m sure that’s not what all those articles that encourage you to only SLEEP in your bed if you want to have restful slumber actually mean but hey! Sometimes I read on the couch but I’ll get distracted easily. And I love, love, LOVE reading at the kitchen table while something cooks (or someone is cooking FOR me).

2. Bookmark or random pieces of paper?

I’m currently using a Christmas-y bookmark my mom tucked into our stockings. However, the ribbon that was on the end of it is long gone after the bookmark became an impromptu cat toy.

3. Can you stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter or certain amount of pages?

I can stop at the end of a paragraph though the end of a chapter is preferable. I also like setting a timer when I read so that I don’t have to keep looking at my phone or a clock to check and see if I should be moving on to the next activity. This allows me to unwind and just enjoy as much of the book as I can get through in that time and then I stop wherever that is.

4. Do you eat or drink whilst reading?

Yes, nibbling on a snack is great while reading and of course drinking anything I can get at a coffee shop. I don’t like to eat a full meal while reading.

5. Do you watch TV or listen to music whilst reading?

No, not by choice. If someone else has something on and I want to read, I can tune it out. Chet listens to some very calming instrumental music while he works which I don’t mind but really anything else wouldn’t be my preference. I would love to be the type of person who reads during commercial breaks but let’s be real…I don’t have cable! And Hulu commercials are pretty short.

6. One book at a time or several at once?

One book at a time. I’ve dabbled in multiples–usually going for a diversity of genres, but I had a lot less on my plate in those days. Now I prefer to tuck in to one at a time and get fully immersed before moving on to the next!

7. Reading at home or everywhere?

Either. I’ll read anywhere! Some of my favorite places to read include: airports, cars, Starbucks, parks, and any sort of waiting situation.

8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?

Silently in my head…MOSTLY. My sister will be quick to tell you, I love the sound of my own voice…I didn’t do ELEVEN years of competitive speaking for nothing, ya know? So yes, I like reading out loud to other people. If I’m by myself and a passage is especially poignant or packed with a lot of information that I want to retain, I’ll stop and read it out loud. I’ve also volunteered at a radio reading service and loved every reading-out-loud SECOND of it. Sorry not sorry.

9. Do you ever read ahead or skip pages?

Not on purpose. Unless the book has pictures! Some of those memoirs with glossy photos smack-dab in the middle of the book should really come with spoiler alerts. Any lengthy acknowledgment section is also fair game for flipping to after the first chapter or so.

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

I like my books to look well-loved. And sometimes they’re not even brand new in the first place. Haven’t you people heard of a library?

11. Do you write in your books?

Sure. I don’t usually have much cause to but I’m certainly not against it. I loved writing in books in college. Cracking open a book you wrote in years later is such a meaningful time capsule.

12. What are you currently reading?

Yes Please by Amy Poehler. Before that, Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker. Up next, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.

What are you reading these days? Have any go-to book recommendations? Please share in the comments below! ❤ 

Book Club: In Pursuit of Female Road Narratives Pt. 2

book-club

As we continue on our literary journey, hiking alongside Cheryl Strayed in Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, I’d like to bring you some extra material and hopefully  extend your pursuit of the female road narrative beyond the confines of Strayed’s pages. Admittedly, I can fall down the rabbit hole on a lot of subjects but I think doing so in an attempt to provide a more holistic reading experience is a worthy plummet. Along the way I’ve raised some points for you to ponder and meditate on. Let’s jump right in!

More with Cheryl Strayed

Besides some online written reviews, the first press I heard about “Wild” and Strayed’s journey was on one of my favorite radio shows, Q with Jian Ghomeshi. Here, Jian asks some poignant and thoughtful questions…

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Would you hike the Pacific Crest Trail? What do you think Cheryl means when she says she “writes in the company of fear and I’m used to it”? 

Cheryl delivers a lovely TEDTalk on Radical Sincerity and explains, “our deepest treasures are buried in the crappy detritus of our life.” This idea was glaringly apparent to me with each passing chapter of her story and reiterated here. What I found so compelling throughout “Wild,” and perhaps you’re picking up on this through the pages as well, was how her physical pain throughout the hike served as a larger metaphor for her emotional pain, so much so, that it became unclear where one ended and the other began. And this is true in her speech here as well. It’s as if she could be talking about hiking 1100 miles or losing her mother at 22 or both…and for some reason I find that so beautiful.

“It was the most heroic thing I had ever done and that suffering was the greatest suffered…Carrying this weight I couldn’t bear; I bore it. Couldn’t live in a world without my mother; I was living in one.” 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: What is the most heroic thing you have ever done? Was it physical or emotional?

Setting off into the great unknown as a woman doesn’t have to be scary, it can be empowering. (Plus, Oprah insists she just got a cellphone. *side eye*)

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: What is the longest stretch of time you’ve spent alone? 

Cinematic Renderings of the Female Journey

When reflecting on on-screen odysseys of the feminine nature there are a few forms that come to mind:

Traveling home (NOW)…or with your peers for protection (THEN)…

To escape…when you’re “in trouble”…

When the trail eventually leads to a man…

I’ve watched these movies (multiple times each) and I’m drawn to these journeys and stories, too. Yet, I recognize that these can’t be the only paths. Surely there are other, unpaved roads for we women to pave…and movies we can make about the process. : )

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: What film journeys come to mind when you think about a woman on the road? Do they fall into these categories? Why do you think these particular narratives are more palatable to us? 

Possible Paths

Perhaps you are like me and “Wild” has struck a cord on more counts than just acting as a positive example of a female road narrative. Perhaps, you too have dreams of backpacking far off lands and long distance hiking.

To watch some kick-ass, back-packin’ the world, travelin’ expert ladies; I would recommend checking out the travel show Globe Trekker here. If you’re not feelin’ paying to watch the episodes, I’ve checked out many Globe Trekker DVDs at my local libraries and I think it comes on PBS2 if you got channels and such. They travel all around the world and highlight tips for solo travel. Great for a hearty dose of wanderlust.

To watch some kids KILLIN’ IT on the Appalachian Trail check out this. These three hiked the length of the AT and made 31 awesome webisodes documenting their journey. Their silliness and spirit was moving and inspiring. I hope to tackle future hardships by taking a page from their book–always laughing, humbled by the beauty of nature, drawing on the strength of community and love. Once you watch their first update you’ll probably accidentally binge watch them all…so, sorry about that.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: If you could write a road narrative into being RIGHT NOW, what would that journey look like? Where would the road lead?

“I hope you keep walking.” ~Cheryl Strayed

Book Club: In Pursuit of Female Road Narratives Pt. 1

book-club

The world is profoundly apprehensive when it comes to women on the move and on their own. Society has it in it’s pretty little head that a woman setting out into the great unknown will be met with a medley of hardships not shared by her male counterparts. Female travelers are viewed as progressive, doomed, and even stupid for flying solo.

When breathing life into my own daydreams about backpacking far-off lands or hiking the Appalachian Trail, the wind gets knocked out of my sails by a common response, “well, you’d have to find someone to go with you first.” And the colors in my dreams fade to ominous ones, get filled with other people’s boogeymen they assume belong in a story such as mine.

ontheroad

In her article, The Lack of Female Road Narratives and Why it Matters, Vanessa Veselka argues that we can’t fathom a positive outcome for a woman on the road because there is no precedent in American literary tradition, “no cultural narrative for [women] beyond rape and death.”

When a man steps onto the road, his journey begins. When a woman steps onto that same road, hers ends.

Veselka explains, we are all seeking something and this search is quintessential to our own human experience. “The Road Narrative” appears time and time again in literary canon, founded on a protagonist’s quest to go in pursuit of something greater than one’s self. From Ishmael to Frodo, Dean Moriarty to Huck Finn…

A man with a quest, internal or external, makes the choice at every stage about whether to endure the consequences or turn back, and that choice is imbued with heroism. Women, however, are restricted to a single tragic or fatal choice. We trace all of their failures, as well as the dangers that befall them, back to this foundational moment of sin or tragedy, instead of linking these encounters and moments in a narrative of exploration that allows for an outcome which can unite these individual choices in any heroic way.

The entire essay has stuck with me and I would highly recommend reading it in it’s entirety. Her words do a far better job than my own in describing to you why I have set out to find and read about women who embark on incredible journeys.

I had been hearing about “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed for some time but after reading Veselka’s essay I truly felt compelled to read it. After the death of her mother and a divorce, Strayed decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail on her own.

She would face odds, yes; she would face fears and boogeymen put into her mind by others, but in the end, she was searching for something greater than herself–her quest was to heal. This is a story of heroism. (And her last name is Strayed for goodness sake. How lovely and poetic.)

wild

So, in the name of forging a path for lone women to travel across page and road, I would implore you to pick up a copy of this page-turner. It is at times heart-breaking and others laugh out loud relatable. Over the next few weeks I will be posting some fun, supplemental material that I scouted to elevate my own reading of Strayed’s work. If you’ve read “Wild” before or would like to read it now and join in the fun, pop on back and check it out.

Reading her story may be the first step towards creating an adventure narrative of your own. As Veselka closes her essay, women can no longer waste time justifying our right to tell these stories.

If we have a shot it’s going to be because we stopped asking permission and just started in the middle.