ANOTHER WAY TO BE: SELECTED WORKS OF ROSARIO CASTELLANOS -- a multifaceted selection of the writing of a champion of women's rights and an outspoken critic of the oppression of the Mexican Indian
Another Way to Be: Selected Works Of Rosario Castellanos Edited & Translated by Myralyn F. Allgood (1990, University of Georgia Press; 192 pages)
¨Oh, may sleep elude our brows, may friendship pierce our hearts like thorns, and may songs offend our mouths, as long as the hands of this woman, this Indian mother, remain unable to give her child bread, light, and justice.¨
This book is a multifaceted selection of the writings of thinker, writer, diplomat and feminist Rosario Castellanos, one of Mexico's major literary figures before her untimely death in 1974. Poet, novelist, journalist, philosopher, and diplomat, she was a woman whose life and art reflected her commitment to the problems and promise of her native land. She was the daughter of a wealthy landowner and saw during her childhood the clash of cultures and social classes in tradition-bound communities where women were condemned to lives of submission, and Indians were regarded as nothing more than chattel. From these experiences she formed her opinion and her views of the world as a place where races and individuals are caught up in an ongoing struggle for justice and dignity, for "another way to be human and free."
The book opens with selections from her poetry in both Spanish and English. It includes selections from her prize-winning fiction and closes with a group of essays that reflect her intellectual debt to Simone Weil and Simone de Beauvoir and the kinship she felt with Virginia Woolf and Emily Dickinson. Together, the selections of Another Way to Be give a rich and full sense of the diverse talents of a remarkable writer and woman.
¨There must be another way...
Another way to be human and free
Another way to be
¨A champion of women's rights and an outspoken critic of the oppression of the Mexican Indian by the Ladino (white people), Castellanos wrote highly personal works that drew deeply upon her experience as a white, Mexican female in Chiapas. The struggles of the natives against harsh social conditions were apparent to her from childhood. Allgood here translates and assembles selections of Castellanos's poetry, fiction, and essays representing these themes. The poetry, presented bilingually, moves from her earlier intellectual works to lighter works and deals with basic human concerns. The fiction emphasizes the parallel conflicts of men versus women and non-Indian versus Indian. The essays, written for the Mexican paper Excelsior , reveal her perceptive views on a range of issues. This is the only work of Castellanos currently available in English, making it a worthwhile addition to both Spanish literature and women's studies collections.
- Mary Ellen Beck, Troy P.L., N.Y.
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Recommended by: Maite
WHY BE HAPPY WHEN YOU COULD BE NORMAL? -- a tough-minded search for belonging—for love, identity, home, and a mother
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson (2013, Grove Press; 240 pages)
This is a vivid and courageous memoir and an autobiography of a woman who wasn’t well loved by her mother. The book starts like this: “When my mother was angry with me, which was often, she said, ‘The Devil led us to the wrong crib.'”
Jeanette Winterson, a British author perhaps not very well known in the USA (sadly so) has written some of the most acclaimed books of the last three decades, including her first novel Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, and my favorite, Lighthousekeeping. With this witty, acute, fierce, celebratory and moving book, the author continues sharing her search for belonging, for love, for a home, all wrapped up in a continuous question of what is the meaning of identity in a person’s life.
This memoir is the chronicle of a life’s work to find happiness, a book that stabs you in the heart with episodes like when the author explains how she was left all night on the doorstep by a mother who kicked her out of the house at sixteen because she was in love with a woman. "Why be happy when you could be normal?" is the real-life question for her of her adopted mother, who previously had attempted to exorcise her sexuality. The book is full of stories that cut your air and leave you cold until the author’s sense of humor allows you to breathe again, a bit uneasily, sharing the pain that this memoir exhales. It is a deeply moving experience to read it.
From The Guardian:
“Jeanette Winterson's memoir is written sparsely and hurriedly; it is sometimes so terse it's almost in note form. The impression this gives is not of sloppiness, but a desperate urgency to make the reader understand. This is certainly the most moving book of Winterson's I have ever read, and it also feels like the most turbulent and the least controlled. In the end, the emotional force of the second half makes me suspect that the apparent artlessness of the first half is a ruse; that, in a Lilliputian fashion, what appears to be a straight narrative of her early life is actually tying the reader down with a thousand imperceptible guy ropes, so that when she unleashes a terrible sorrow, there is no escaping it and no looking away."
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Recommended by: Maite
THE BEAST: RIDING THE RAILS AND DODGING NARCOS ON THE MIGRANT TRAIL -- a harrowing, searing account of the hardships suffered by Central American migrants headed through Mexico to the United States
The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail by Óscar Martinez (2014, Verso; 224 pages)
One day a few years ago, 300 migrants were kidnapped between the remote desert towns of Altar, Mexico, and Sasabe, Arizona. A local priest got 120 released, many with broken ankles and other marks of abuse, but the rest vanished. Óscar Martínez, a young writer from El Salvador, was in Altar soon after the abduction, and his account of the migrant disappearances is only one of the harrowing stories he garnered from two years spent traveling up and down the migrant trail from Central America and across the US border. More than a quarter of a million Central Americans make this increasingly dangerous journey each year, and each year as many as 20,000 of them are
Martínez writes in powerful, unforgettable prose about clinging to the tops of freight trains; finding respite, work and hardship in shelters and brothels; and riding shotgun with the
border patrol. Illustrated with stunning full-color photographs, The Beast is the first book to shed light on the harsh new reality of the migrant trail in the age of the narcotraficantes.
I listened to the author of this book -- a young journalist and writer from El Salvador named Óscar Martinez -- on NPR and I was totally shocked by what he was taking about: his eight journeys on top of the freight trains known as La Bestia. La Bestia is the only way for hundreds of migrants to cross every year from different countries in Central America, across Mexico and up to the U. S. Border.It is not a pleasant journey and it is not pleasant reading in the sense that the reader will have to learn about gang violence, kidnapping, human trafficking, government corruption, rape, and the physical dangers that the protagonists of this treacherous adventure have to confront riding non-stop, for days, on top of a train. The reasons why a growing number of Guatemalans, Hondurans, Salvadorans and Nicaraguans are taking this horrible risk is very well known for those who choose to be informed.
Once read, this book will never leave you, and will most likely change your perception about the “immigration” issue.
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Recommended by: Maite
THE TERRIBLE AND WONDERFUL REASONS WHY I RUN LONG DISTANCES -- a short, laugh-out-loud graphic book about the promises and perils of exercise
The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by The Oatmeal (Matthew Inman) (2014, Andrews McMeel Publishing; 148 pages)
Some of you may have heard of the comic called The Oatmeal. If you've ever read any of those comics, then you've already read something by Matthew Inman, the author of a new graphic essay--of sorts--called "The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances." I'm a fan of The Oatmeal, and so settled in easily to Inman's sometimes gross drawings and humor, but if you've never read The Oatmeal, his drawings at first might seem crude and, well, a bit disgusting. Beneath this particular sense of humor, however, is an insightful and at times even poignant tale about Inman's journey to becoming an ultramarathoner. Inman certainly is an advocate for running, so if you like to run or are interested in running, his book will also serve as an encouragement to give running a try. What I find most delightful about his book, however, is that Inman finds humor in the many absurdities of what it is to be human, and I find his book a pretty entertaining way to be confronted with, well, the absurdity of being human.
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Recommended by: Brooke
WARRIOR POET: A BIOGRAPHY OF AUDRE LORDE -- the first and essential biography of the author, poet, and American icon of womanhood, black arts, and survival
Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde by Alexis De Veaux (2006, W. W. Norton & Company; 464 pages)
During her lifetime, Audre Lorde (1934-1992), author of the landmark Cancer Journals, created a mythic identity for herself that retains its vitality to this day. Drawing from the private archives of the poet's estate and numerous interviews, Alexis De Veaux demystifies Lorde's iconic status, charting her conservative childhood in Harlem; her early marriage to a white, gay man with whom she had two children; her emergence as an outspoken black feminist lesbian; and her canonization as a seminal poet of American literature.
This is the biography of the woman who wrote two of the most powerful sentences that I have ever read in relation to the concept of “difference,” “freedom,” “diversity,” and feminism: “If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.” And: “The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house.”
One way to describe Audre Lorde is to say that she was a Caribbean-American writer, radical feminist, womanist, lesbian, and civil rights activist. And using her own words, she was a "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet." She is one of those “ mothers” that every woman should make a tribute to, for all the tools she left behind to us with her actions and her writing. This biography is a very interesting document of the life of a woman considered a heroine for so women.
From Poetry Daily, by Jacquelyn Pope:
“"I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood," wrote Audre Lorde in her essay, "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action." Poet, activist and icon, Lorde profoundly shaped the women's and gay liberation movements of the 1970s and 1980s, and her words resonate powerfully today. This comprehensive biography, the first about Lorde to be published, fully renders Lorde's life and legacy, providing a vivid account of the development of her activism and documenting the evolution of her ideas over the course of her working life.”
For more, click here
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Recommended by: Maite
THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP: THE JAPANESE ART OF DECLUTTERING AND ORGANIZING -- New York Times best-selling guide to decluttering your home
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Condo (2014, Ten Speed Press; 224 pages)
Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list). With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home—and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.
This is a must read for those of us who have difficulty decluttering our life. Perhaps the most important message to help relieve the sense of loss/guilt/what if…is that we keep only things that “spark joy” in our hearts. If what we are considering discarding doesn’t “spark joy,” then we should pause to acknowledge our memories together and let them go, perhaps to “spark joy” for someone else.
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Recommended by: Marilyn
BETTYVILLE: A MEMOIR -- a humorous, bittersweet account of a man’s caring for his aging, irascible mother
Bettyville: A Memoir by George Hodgman (2015, Viking; 288 pages)
When George Hodgman leaves Manhattan for his hometown of Paris, Missouri, he finds himself—an unlikely caretaker and near-lethal cook—in a head-on collision with his aging mother, Betty, a woman of wit and will. Will George lure her into assisted living? When hell freezes over. He can’t bring himself to force her from the home both treasure—the place where his father’s voice lingers, the scene of shared jokes, skirmishes, and, behind the dusty antiques, a rarely acknowledged conflict: Betty, who speaks her mind but cannot quite reveal her heart, has never really accepted the fact that her son is gay.
As these two unforgettable characters try to bring their different worlds together, Hodgman reveals the challenges of Betty’s life and his own struggle for self-respect, moving readers from their small town—crumbling but still colorful—to the star-studded corridors of Vanity Fair. Evocative of The End of Your Life Book Club and The Tender Bar, Hodgman’s New York Times bestselling debut is both an indelible portrait of a family and an exquisitely told tale of a prodigal son’s return.
This is an intricate story of an elderly mother and her son who returns home to care for her as they try to find connections, love, and meaning in their lives and struggle to redefine themselves and to reconcile the reversal of their family roles. The reader is drawn into the book by the characters as they work through old regrets and unsaid thoughts as they pass through these poignant days together.
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Recommended by: Marilyn
KINDS OF WINTER: FOUR SOLO JOURNEYS BY DOGTEAM IN CANADA'S NORTHWEST TERRITORIES -- a unique blend of armchair adventure, personal memoir, and thoughtful, down-to-earth reflection
Kinds of Winter: Four Solo Journeys by Dogteam in Canada's Northwest Territories by Dave Olesen (2014, Wilfrid Laurier University Press; 268 pages)
After a fifteen-year career as a sled dog racer, musher Dave Olesen turned his focus away from competition and set out to fulfill a lifelong dream. Over the course of four successive winters he steered his dogs and sled on long trips away from his remote Northwest Territories homestead, setting out in turn to the four cardinal compass points―south, east, north, and west―and home again to Hoarfrost River.His narrative ranges from the personal and poignant musings of a dogsled driver to loftier planes of introspection and contemplation. Olesen describes his journeys day by day, but this book is not merely an account of his travels. Neither is it yet another offering in the genre of “wide-eyed southerner meets the Arctic,” because Olesen is a firmly rooted northerner, having lived and travelled in the boreal outback for over thirty years. Olesen’s life story colours his writing: educated immigrant, husband and father, professional dog musher, working bush pilot, and denizen of log cabins far off the grid. He and his dogs feel at home in country lying miles back of beyond.
More than a book for Iditarod lovers, this book is written as a narrative with observations, events, and musings that include thoughtful reflections on life and nature, similar to those of Thoreau.
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Recommended by: Marilyn
ANGRY OPTIMIST: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JON STEWART -- an inside look at the man who changed the face of comedy talk shows
Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart by Lisa Rogak (2015, St. Martin's Griffin; 288 pages)
Since his arrival at The Daily Show, Jon Stewart became one of the major players in comedy as well as one of the most significant liberal voices in the media. In Angry Optimist, Lisa Rogak follows his unlikely rise to stardom, from his early days growing up in New Jersey, through his years as a struggling stand-up comic in New York, and on to the short-lived but acclaimed The Jon Stewart Show, before at last landing a job as host of a half-hour comedy show that at the time was still finding its footing amidst roiling internal drama. Once there, Stewart transformed The Daily Show into one of the most influential news programs on television. Drawing on interviews with current and former colleagues and with new material on his departure from The Daily Show, Angry Optimist reveals how Jon Stewart came to wield incredible power in American politics and changed how the news is reported along the way.
If you have been missing Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, this book might help you through the doldrums.
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Recommended by: Marilyn