Tuesday, August 18, 2015

It Gets Better

Book 26 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from April 28 - May 20

It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living by Dan Savage

Summary (via Goodreads)
Growing up isn't easy. Many young people endure bullying that makes them feel they have nowhere to turn--especially LGBT kids and teens who often hide their sexuality for fear of being bullied. Without openly gay mentors, they don't know what the future may hold. After a number of suicides by LGBT students who were bullied in school, syndicated columnist Dan Savage uploaded a video to YouTube with his partner, Terry Miller, to inspire hope for LGBT youth. The video launched the 'It Gets Better Project', initiating a worldwide phenomenon. This is a collection of expanded essays and new material from celebrities and everyday people who have posted videos of encouragement, as well as new contributors. We can show LGBT youth the happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will have if they can get through their teen years. "It Gets Better" reminds teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone--and it WILL get better.

My Opinion
It makes me very sad that this book was published about 5 years ago and many of the struggles are still the same.  Even though the book lacked a little in execution, the concept is one I support fully.  Even though the videos are more powerful than the book, the more ways we spread this message, the better.

It was nice to include essays in different languages (with the English translations immediately following), as well as ones from straight allies.  There were also a few stories about "self-bullying", which was a different angle as well.

There was a theme that high school will be rough but do your time and it will be over; that's bleak but the Internet has helped so much to avoid isolation and feeling like you're the only one going through it.

Both Gabrielle Rivera and David Sedaris made the point that, gay or straight, your life doesn't automatically become magical when you become an adult.  Gabrielle says it doesn't get better but you get stronger, and David says you have to be flexible with your dreams.  And Krissy Mahan pointed out that not all gay people have to live in cities or be rich to be happy, and that it gets better but that doesn't mean it's always easy.  It's good to have the reminder that every person struggles at some point in their life and ups and downs are a part of life. 

The essays that touched me the most were Going Back In by Michael Cunningham and Gunn's Golden Rules by Tim Gunn.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"What a simple and powerful truth. Things get better - things have gotten better, things keep getting better - for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people."

"When you're young...everything feels like the end of the world because you haven't seen how good it can get. By the time you graduate from high school, four out of eighteen years feels like a pretty significant percentage of your life. But four out of forty years, or four out of fifty, or sixty years of amazing-ness is absolutely nothing." ~ A.Y. Daring

"I just want to let you know that it gets better. When you grow up, you realize that you're not alone and that there are lots and lots of people - communities of people just like you - who are willing to embrace you and support you and love you. You just need to hang around and wait for that magic to happen, because life is really great. Even when you're different, life is really a wonderful thing." ~ Chaz Bono

"This is the power behind being gay. At some point, you have to make a decision in your life about who you are and what you're gonna do. A lot of people don't have to do that. They just go through life one step at a time. But when you're gay, you have to make a big choice in your life to be who you were meant to be and to follow your heart. It makes you strong." ~ Jesse Barnes

"No government has the right to tell its citizens when or whom to love. The only queer people are those who don't love anybody." ~ Rita Mae Brown

The Pearl that Broke its Shell

Book 25 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from April 9 - 18

The Pearl that Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

Summary (via Goodreads)
Afghan-American Nadia Hashimi's literary debut novel, The Pearl that Broke Its Shell is a searing tale of powerlessness, fate, and the freedom to control one's own fate that combines the cultural flavor and emotional resonance of the works of Khaled Hosseini, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Lisa See.
In Kabul, 2007, with a drug-addicted father and no brothers, Rahima and her sisters can only sporadically attend school, and can rarely leave the house. Their only hope lies in the ancient custom of bacha posh, which allows young Rahima to dress and be treated as a boy until she is of marriageable age. As a son, she can attend school, go to the market, and chaperone her older sisters.
But Rahima is not the first in her family to adopt this unusual custom. A century earlier, her great-aunt, Shekiba, left orphaned by an epidemic, saved herself and built a new life the same way.
Crisscrossing in time, The Pearl the Broke Its Shell interweaves the tales of these two women separated by a century who share similar destinies. But what will happen once Rahima is of marriageable age? Will Shekiba always live as a man? And if Rahima cannot adapt to life as a bride, how will she survive?

My Opinion
Although a fiction novel, bacha posh is a true custom that my (minimal) research indicates is still practiced today.  It interested me and while I haven't read much further yet, there were one or two books on the custom that caught my eye to possibly read it the future.

Good writing keeps the pages turning even if it feels like a very long book.  It's the kind of book where I feel like I've been reading a long time but not many pages have passed.

It was a little clunky at times and I would have to reread things to understand them.  Part of this was because I felt the author assumed more of an understanding of Afghan culture and language from her audience than I had and I had to look up the meanings of words to be able to keep up with the story.

It's really depressing that there isn't much of a noticeable difference between the time periods in how women are treated.  It's sad how undervalued they are.

The author is identified as Afghan-American so this is probably an accurate depiction of how people feel, but the insertion of the politics of "Amrika" after they began bombing the Taliban was a bit heavy-handed at times.  The people were happy but didn't understand why help didn't come sooner; to quote from the book, "Why would Amrika be so upset after just one building was attacked? Half our country had crumbled under the Taliban. We were all thinking the same thing. If only Amrika had been upset about that too".

In the end, I wavered between 3 and 4 stars but rounded up to 4 for Goodreads. 

A Few Quotes from the Book
"That night Khala Shaima started a story of my great-great-grandmother Shekiba, a story that my sisters and I had never heard before. A story that transformed me."

"Too often, I missed the opportunity to learn from Bibi Shekiba's story. She was determined to make a life for herself and I seemed determined to unravel the one I had."

"From what Khala Shaima had told me about Bibi Shekiba, she looked for chances to make her own naseeb. I, her great-great-great granddaughter, could do the same."

Monday, August 17, 2015

Conspiracy in Death

Book 24 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from March 10 - 29

Conspiracy in Death by J.D. Robb
Book 8 of the In Death series

Summary (via Goodreads)
At a time when human nature remains as predictable as death, a killer plays God--and puts innocent lives in the palm of his hand...
With the precision of a surgeon, a serial killer preys on the most vulnerable souls of the world's city streets. The first victim: a sidewalk sleeper, found dead in New York City. No bruises, no signs of struggle. Just a laser-perfect, fist-sized hole where his heart had once been. Lieutenant Eve Dallas is assigned to investigate. But in the heat of a cat-and-mouse game with the killer, Dallas's job is suddenly on the line. Now her hands are tied ... between a struggle for justice--and a fight for her career...

My Opinion
Maybe it was the nature of the cases in this book but this one wasn't very interesting to me.  It took me much longer than usual to read because I kept putting it down for other things.

I don't have anything positive or negative to say about it and I'm ready to move on with the series.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"We who hold power cannot be distracted by the condemnations of the ordinary, by the petty and pitiful laws of simple men. They are blind, their minds are closed with fear - fear of pain, fear of death. They are too limited to comprehend that death can be conquered.
 I have nearly done so.
 If my work was discovered, they, with their foolish laws and attitudes, would damn me.
 When my work is complete, they will worship me."

"And as always, children went hungry, women sold their bodies, and men killed for a handful of credits.
 However enlightened the times, human nature remained as predictable as death."

" "Sacrifice the few to save the many?" Eve shook her head slowly. "It's a stand that's been taken before. It always crumbles."
  "Yes." There was something of pity and something of fear in Mira's quiet eyes. "But never soon enough." "

"She'd learned to accept that not everything could be changed, not everything could be fixed."

"Look at history. Those in power have habitually found nasty uses for those without it. And often, all too often, they claim it's for the greater good. You could have a group of highly skilled, educated, intelligent people who've decided they know what's best for humanity. Nothing, in my opinion, is more dangerous."

The Legacy of Lost Things

Book 23 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from March 10 - 26

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and would like to thank the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and honestly review it.

The Legacy of Lost Things by Aida Zilelian

Summary (via Goodreads)
Aida Zilelian’s breathtaking debut novel, The Legacy of Lost Things, follows three generations of a family of Armenian immigrants living in the United States, as they struggle with one another and against the Old World expectations of their community. When Araxi, the oldest daughter of the desperately unhappy Levon and Tamar, goes missing, the remaining family members are forced to confront their painful histories together, and the role each of them has played in driving Araxi away.
Through Araxi and her family, readers are given a unique look at the generational and cultural tensions that both keep families together and tear them apart. Using spare, poignant prose, Zilelian deftly explores the themes of romance, duty, infidelity and guilt. Because of the mature content, this book is intended for adult and young adult audiences.

My Opinion
I wavered between 2 and 3 stars but went with 3 because of the writing style.

This was a very riveting read for me and each person's voice was interesting but it was occasionally difficult to distinguish between the time changes. 

It had so much potential but ended so quickly.  Some things wrapped up too neatly (implausible ending) but so much more was left unresolved.  It was entirely unsatisfactory after the investment I made in the characters.

Overall, good writing and I would read the author again but the arc and resolution needs a lot of work in this particular book.

Quote from the Book

"Anoush looked in the mirror as she dried her face. She had accepted the weight of time and her unhappy life a long time ago. It was enduring it that mattered the most to her."