Finding the Unlost


Don’t Label Me ~Take 2~, originally uploaded by Megan *.
     I haven’t read half as much as I would have liked to in my absence, but I have done enough. This began as a look into the idea of nature vs. nurture  and quickly evolved into Women’s studies, which took on a life of it’s own and ended in a very murky teen studies category, if such exists.
      The pain and trials a teen girl goes through is unremarkably vast. Then again, I’m only referring to what we put ourselves though. What about that which is out of our control? That which can genuinely harm us? Teen girls have predators, dangers,  and goings-on that turn innocence to ash around every corner. It really is quite a feat that ladies make it to the age of twenty anymore. How do they do it? That is the question I asked myself that took me on a search for answers. I attempted to cover every aspect of young-adult hood (and even parts of childhood) to see how people have survived. I read books on both instigators and victims, boys and girls. After six novels, I came to one conclusion. How do they do it?  I asked. Simple. They’re too stubborn not to.
     This may cause a chuckle or a smirk, but I mean it in the most serious of tones. Sometimes – most times – young girls are too naive to understand how long wounds will stay, and it doesn’t help that nostalgia is a deceptive liar. They “march on”, over dramatizing the wrong aspects of life, taking cues from the reaction of others. We are all so very childlike in this way. Katherine Tarbox expresses her anxiety about late homework while casually admitting she fell for the lies – hook, line and sinker – of an online predator in A Girl’s Life Online. Her warped value system is typical among the thirteen-year-olds she addresses. Most understand that it is easier to find ones identity among magazine racks and brand names than it is to formulate concrete opinions. This need for attention is what fueled the 41-year old predator that eventually isolated the poor girl.
     Of course no one enjoys living in reality, with its gray lines and smudged morals, but the most dangerous time for a girl is when she steps into this new world with that veil of naivety previously mentioned along with a new pair of blinders, called independence. Its hard to admit when you’re wrong, and even harder to admit you’re wrong because you didn’t listen. Most become unable to swallow the crow when parents are the ones who deserve the “I’m sorry”. When did this war begin? I have never known so many conflicts to exist under so many roofs simultaneously. I credit this to lack of communication and respect – by both parties. Most parents have heard this statement and asked me why they should respect their child. Simple: why would you deny your own offspring  a courtesy that you would extend to a stranger? More than anything, I wish to see more respect between parents and children. Respect of ideas, opinions and space. I never even considered bringing up this issue until I read Glass by Ellen Hopkins. A drug-addicted teen mom continues down the path of destruction, isolating herself from friends, family and reality. Midway through the novel, a mother-daughter argument arises, and the still-high teen begs for a chance to redeem herself and gain custody of her son. I kept reading, imagining the mother’s temper as she stood in the doorway, not even allowing her fallen daughter inside. I imagined her disappointment, her shattered dreams of what her angel could have been – all destroyed. And yet, she continued to stand there, listening to the rantings of an addict, and her ever-present get-rich-quick scheme. I shared her pain, hope and guilt right then. I stopped, and all I thought was whoa, what parent would do that for their child – besides mine? In that moment, the mother ceased to be a flat character, and was suddenly a real person with real emotions, more real than most of the people I encounter in a day. How many parents would set aside their anger for another minute just to listen to the person who has hurt them most, simply because they respect the fact that said person want to change (but never will)? I hope you have a better answer than I do.
     And what about those who do change? How does one sit down and explain to the world that “I’m not who I was. That other person you enjoyed was a complete lie”? It is a strange feeling when you realize that you despised the person you were not too long ago. When I made this discovery, I sat in my room for 48 hours with a pen, a notebook and an open window trying to figure out just when things changed for me. Needless to say, after 48 hours I came to understand that it didn’t really matter when I changed, that I should simply celebrate the fact that I changed at all. This topic was touched on in an extraordinary way in Bad Girl by Abigail Vona,  in which a “bad girl” is sent to a behavior modification center. Through doctors notes and her own narration, the reader is permitted to witness the great feat that is more than a turnaround, it is a complete relocation of body, mind and morals. Excuses are thrown out the window. Strict rules are enforced more for the patients’ need for structure than the nurses’ need for order. It is a book about survival, honesty and self discovery – in the sense that she discovered that there was a “self” that was not yet found.
     Then there are those who do not survive. There are those who “give up”. They give up on family, life and everything that exists as we know it. Some see it as taking the power back, holding their own fate in their hands, others call them victims of suicide. There was a time when I could empathize with these select few, but that is me no longer. I’m now an onlooker, a curious observer, along with the faceless narrator that lives between the pages of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides.  He – the boyish narrator – holds the reader captive as he spins the tale of the Lisbon girls and how they came to perish through witness interviews, faded memories and stories whispered between neighborhood boys while displaying evidence (pictures, a bra, notes found) of their existence, more for his sake than ours. We know the girls as he did ; separate and equal suburban goddesses, never to be touched. We listen to the whispered secrets of who wore makeup, who was promiscuous, who had started menstruating and we swore not to tell. We, too, peeked out of the too-small treehouse window to watch for signs from Mary or Lux, yearn to know if they are as aware of our undying love for them as we are. But in the end we are only spectators who never knew them at all, and never got around to understanding why the girls resorted to nooses, razor blades, sleeping pills and open windows as their farewell.
      I am not so amazed that girls survive high school. If anything, I am amazed that they survive themselves. I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy the numerous fates I thought I wanted as a young adult, and am most thankful for the fact that I was so often denied the objects of my adolescent longings. Youth only happens once, and I must warn against ignorance and eagerness to jump ahead to adulthood. Dear reader, if you can survive adolescence (full of temptation and teen perils) then the world is yours.
I  admit that I became more aware of my younger self while reading this, and it gave me more of a sense of where I came from than any history book has in a long time. I found an unlost piece of me, a quiet piece that should have always been protected from the dangers of growing up too fast, but never was. That piece is safe now.

 

Published in: on March 21, 2008 at 8:58 pm  Comments (1)  

Everyone Needs a Pleasant Reminder

childhood

I realize it is quite late, and I should be in bed like all good children are. Tonight’s excuse is as follows; I feel that if I don’t get my thoughts out now, then when I try to do so tomorrow morning, they will be incomplete. I’d hate to have that, knowing it was preventable. I came across tonight’s inspiration purely by accident (as are most of Novel Dame’s muses), and it brought back fond memories.

By hitting the wrong link, I was presented with a list of the Bestselling Children’s Books of All-Time (Hardcover). I sat here for a good twenty minutes just reading this list, and reflecting on each book. For the longest time, I had believed that the world had turned away from Little Golden Books, thus neglecting the classics that my parents and myself grew up with, like The Pokey Little Puppy (1), and The Little Engine that Could(30). My own copies are no bigger than a cell phone nowadays! Certainly everyone expected Dr. Seuss to be littered throughout, but Nancy Drew, of all books, made the top 50! I didn’t think kids read her anymore. Honestly. One of my earliest memories was having the whole series sitting on my shelf – next to my rubber piggy bank. They were my first “chapter books” and I was wholeheartedly devoted to the clean cut, classic crime solver for many years. Shh, I’ll admit part of me still is. I remember having to memorize an entire Eric Carle book (20) in first grade, and going to the school library for read-aloud time to hear The Rainbow Fish (25) for the sixth time and still loving it. To see Waldo books(41, 45), Richard Scary(66, 73), and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie(69) listed… its like going back there. Back to my tiny Elementary school, back to the playground, back to the wonderful teachers. I remember the primary-color rug in my kindergarten class, the Halloween parties and parading through the hallways in costume. Delightfully, I remember when the D.E.A.R. program was introduced, translating to Drop Everything And Read (which I never questioned). In my life, books have never been the plot line, just filler, but I will say that they have always been there. I’m thankful that I’ve grown to appreciate that.
I’m glad I stayed up to share this trip with whomever decides to read. I hope someone else goes looking for the books they remember as a kid. There’s so much more that I could tell about, but I want to hear someone else’s story, should this be a catalyst. I know my answers, but when did you really discover that you loved books? What are your earliest memories with one?

Published in: on December 30, 2007 at 2:31 am  Comments (3)  

Hurry Up and Wait!

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This is again inspired by Sara Nelson’s So Many Books, So Little Time. I know I’ve mentioned it quite a lot lately, but its written like one side of a conversation at a book club, and thats what I love.

     So here’s my half. She frequently makes references to the stack of books by her bed. I, too, have a book “stack”, but mine has grown so much that it has its own shelf. Top shelf, of course. Nelson actually references many of the books on there, which both excites and depresses me for the same reason. She has read a book that I have not, and I own it.
     That seems to be part of the problem: I own it, therefore it is always availible. I don’t have a due date, or a late fee, or an anxious friend attached to the cover. I look up there and think “I’ll get to it when I get some free time” but when I actually do get some free time, I browse the school library. Or I end up here, but thats a different story.
     A small, childlike part of me feels guilty for neglecting these books (both new and used; I love used book stores. Everything is previously-loved.) but the rest of me sticks to the notion that i’ll get snowed in someday and these will be my saving grace. I feel that each deserves to be recognized even though I havent read them yet:

The Human Comedy:  I got this from the estate sale of a beloved family friend. Its old, tattered, and I have never cracked the cover. I don’t know what its about, and I don’t think I’ll ever read it. For now, just having it is enough. 

The Pigman, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Handmaid’s Tale, Enchanted Castle, The Goose Girl, The Prophet, Heidi, Illuminatus! Trilogy: odd books that I’ve collected by various means. I don’t know what theyre about, and I think I will read them someday, when I am unable to find anything else.

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint: Nelson mentioned this book and said it was wonderful. I think I really will read it. I’m going to make it the first book I read in 2008. I think that’ll be a lovely start, don’t you?

The Phantom of the Opera:  My sister used to be hopelessly devoted to this book, fell in love with the Broadway production and enjoyed the movie. Buying this at a used book store was my way of paying tribute to her. I tried reading it, but its written in a dull manner, to be honest. More of a technical manual than fiction.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius:  Sara Nelson also mentioned this book, which I have gotten 4 chapters into but never gotten attached to. I’ll try again nxt year. She enjoyed it, and we’ve agreed on other books so far.

The Screwtape Letters:  I loved this book, although I didn’t get far into it. I tried reading it at the wrong time in my life, which I think greatly affects the opinion of a book like this. I can honestly say I’m at a very different point now, though not necessarily the polar opposite of where I was. I’m going to re-read three very important books before I tackle this one again.

The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, The Red Badge of Courage The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hamlet, Plato, Catch 22, Oliver Twist: Classics, I know. I own them, I just don’t know why. Are they any good? someone else thinks so. Do I? . . . the covers are pretty. these are the “maybe, someday” books.

Slut!: This is a nonfiction novel that addresses the American Sexual Double-Standard. Its a very easy book to get into but it covers the same points so many times that its hard to tell if you’ve gained anything as far as pagecount. But anyone who has ever been gossiped about can relate to some of the stories. As usual, I’ve never finished this book. Such is life.

     Here’s to you, all you fellow bedside-pilers or top-shelfers. Cheers to all the books we don’t know we love. Take care.

Published in: on December 15, 2007 at 12:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

To Have and to Hold

     I’m doing it again: I have managed to wake myself up to write another entry. Have you ever found yourself protecting a book from harm not because you felt the parchment itself was in danger, but because you wished no harm to come to fictional characters? Tonight’s entry began with a rather interesting conversation I had during class with a good friend of mine. It began with books we loved, followed by characters we loved, and somehow that progressed to Characters We Wouldn’t Mind Being Married To:

  (NOTE: My list is substantially shorter than hers)

      * Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird: If you have ever read Harper Lee’s frequently-banned novel (as most high school sophomores have), then you know why he is at the top of my list. His entire character is based on integrity, and he serves as an ideal role model for children and lawyers alike. He is humble and honest, accepts himself, yet somehow still manages to not force his values on others while trying to change things for the better. This is a delicate thing, and I still haven’t quite figured out how it was achieved, but he is admirable nonethless.

* Mortimer Folchart, Inkheart/Inkspell: Although Inkheart is both of Young Adult and Fantasy nature, I still find this devoted father to be a wonderful addition. As a Bookbinder by trade, he passes his passion for the possession, care and repair of books along to his young daughter Meggie. In the novel, he earns the nickname “Silvertongue” because he has been blessed with the gift of being able to read anything out of a book. This becomes a problem – and the basis of the plot line – when he reads out the villain of a strange book. There are little things dropped within the pages of Cornelia Funke’s intriguing trilogy (Inkdeath to be released 2008) that lets you know exactly what kind of values Mortimer chooses to embody and creates an interesting conflict between men like himself, and the men read from books.

* Charlie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Call me silly for this one, because even I admit that Charlie embodies very few ideals associated with the characters mentioned above. If nothing else, Charlie would be fun to have around simply for conversation. I have had to pick apart the book over the last three weeks in order to complete a class project, and I have been picking up even more revealing bits of information than I previously had. Charlie is heartwarmingly honest,  innocently humorous and naive to exactly how insightful he is. He’s devoted to family and friends, and takes something from everything he does, be it a lesson, a story, a trinket.

I’m sure there’s more… its much to late to think now. Best wishes, and never trust someone anyone doesn’t carry a book (Lemony Snicket).

Published in: on December 14, 2007 at 12:40 am  Comments (3)  

I feel my paradigms shifting…

Updates!

11 am: The biggest news I have today – for now- is My To-Read List is finally available to the public! Printed, its 19 pages long. I still need to fiddle with the format and edit it, but there it is, in all its raw glory. all 970 books… By all means, PLEASE add to it!

And I have come across a wonderful website that has done exactly what I’ve been meanining to: complile a complete list of movies “Based on the Book” (BOBs)! The most notable of which are Stardust, Kite Runner, The Thief Lord, Bee Season, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and (my favorite, coming Fall 2008) Inkheart!

More to come…

Published in: on October 20, 2007 at 11:14 am  Comments (1)  

Teen Read Week

 “Celebrating its 10-year anniversary October 14-20, Teen Read Week™ provides us with a wonderful opportunity to spend a week of our time devoted to and celebrating teen reading. ” says yalsa.com.

     Meaning Teen Read Week is a lovely little promotional “holiday” set up to promote both reading and Young Adult Novels (YANs). This year’s theme is LOL @ your library®, which suggests humor as we “Laugh Out Loud” and reminds us that teens teens are very much connected to the internet.

 And I have set up a seperate booklist featuring a whole bunch of funny novels recommended by both various sources and myself (although Ive only read a few of them). The 2007 Teens Top Ten Nominees (PDF, Adobe required) and ready to be voted on, so take a look! I have read none of these books, so any opinions on them are welcome. And lastly, If any ladies out there are interested in taking a survey, I know that SmartGirl.com is interested in some opinions on Teen Read Week.

One “funny novel” will be featured each day for the rest of the week. Today’s Book Of the Day is Thwonk by Joan Bauer.

Our Narrator, A.J. is a senior photographer whose most recent assignment is to capture teen love in time for the Valentine’s Day issue. Thats the last thing she wants to do. Melted candy hearts, crumpled valentines and ragged cupid dolls are more her thing, not couples strolling along the beach. But when she does find a battered cupid and tells the doll why she hates Valentine’s Day so much, things take a turn. Suddenly everything starts to go right when Peter, the love of her life, finally starts to take notice of her! It doesn’t take long before she figures out its all because of Jonathan, the cupid out to make right his wrongs. Its a humorous book that teaches the lesson of you should be careful what you wish for.

Published in: on October 14, 2007 at 9:00 am  Comments (1)  

“You kiss by the book.”

Not even a day into this and already the response is amazing! I’m quite excited about this project now (not that I wasn’t before). Thanks, guys. As for the book suggestions, I’ll get right on it… Until then, here’s a current list of what I’m reading now:

Twinkie, Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger
This is a lovely insight into all those unpronounceable ingredients found on all the labels of processed foods in the supermarket. After all, haven’t we all asked ourselves exactly what kind of tree does Red Dye #40 grow on?

Well, only three chapters into the book, I’ve already discovered that many of the necessary ingredients come from oil. As in black gold, from Iraq, Oil. Worse yet, are all the chemicals that are added to and taken from the oil to get those odd 12-syllable-long words for things that fall inevitably into the “less than 2%” category. Whats worse? All those natural things that most people can pronounce and do consider safe to consume (as opposed to crude oil and chlorine) are explosive. Example: Flour dust. Glucose.
I think that speaks for itself. More discoveries to come.

Prep  by Curtis Sittenfeld
This has been put on hold since July, and I have yet to pick it back up yet, but it is a rather interesting read. Its about a new girl at a Prep Academy (and not the Barbie Cliques, as I was lead to believe) and although I will most likely have to re-read the whole thing, I haven’t been terribly disappointed by the plot yet (to the best of my recollection).

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
 So far its a lovely read about a granddaughter who grew up hearing her grandmother tell the tale of Briar Rose as if she lived it herself. Not long after her grandmother passes away, a simple wooden box with a rose etched in the top is discovered, and inside, various documents that leave a trail – but to what, its not yet known.
Full of curiosity, the reader gets to follow along while the narrator blindly finds her way into an amusing fairytale, all while trying to ignore the inkling that maybe it wasn’t just a bedtime story.

If There Be Thorns by V.C. Andrews
This is Book 3 of the Dollanganger Series, the first of which is the widely popular Flowers in the Attic. Lets start with the first one…

Flowers in the Attic is about a family. Two parents, 4 children; oldest brother, middle sister and a set of boy-girl twins. The father dies, leaving mommy dearest with no means of financial support so the family must go crawling back to mommy’s rich parents. The only problem is that Grandma and Grandpa didn’t approve of the marriage in the first place (for good reason)… so in order for Mommy to get written back into dear (dying) father’s will, thus winning his inheritance, Mother must pretend that such a “sinner’s marriage” bore no fruit. Mommy Dearest agrees to let Grandma lock her precious babies in the attic, never to see daylight until Grandpa dies. . .and so begins the tale. Three years and five months later, the children have accepted that their mother has become self-important and ignorant of their needs. They have survived both physical and mental abuse, neglect, incest, and three of them manage to escape (note how many children there were to start with). So ends the first book. Thrilling, graphic and disturbing.
The second book, Petals on the Wind, picks up right where Attic left off, but covers many more years. Cathy(the older sister) is the focus of this equally enthralling sequel. All three children harbor resentment toward the mother who found it easy to pretend they didn’t exist, and it manifests itself differently in each of the three siblings. As much as surviving such a terror has brought the them together, it also begins to isolate each one. Cathy begins to make plans to seek the ultimate revenge against her mother and grandmother, and it plays out beautifully. The climax is a confrontation between herself and the mother, and even more family secrets get spilled. Cathy goes from being admirable and strong in Attic to disturbed and obsessed in this novel. Christopher, the eldest brother, goes toward a hauntingly downward slope as well, but this novel brings more attention to how the actions of parents eventually manifest themselves within their children. This is a slow read to start with, but it picks up nicely to a complicated web of more sex, deceit and consequences of a past that cannot be outrun. Should I mention that Cathy inevitably has two children from two different men? Such a well spun web…

…Which bring us to the third book, If There Be Thorns. The narration switches from Cathy down to her sons. Interesting things continue to occur between Cathy and her brother Christoper, and both fail to see that they have helplessly fallen into the same troubled footsteps of their own parents. Around this time, Cathy is said to have started writing Attic. Its obvious her younger son has inherited the psychological problems of both herself and her mother. Not as many plot twists, but its reminiscent of Attic in the sense that the reader gets to see how adolescents have to deal with the knowledge that parents are not perfect, and not all secrets are innocent. More lies, more truths, more ghosts of the past. (more…)

Published in: on October 11, 2007 at 9:49 am  Leave a Comment