Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Uglies

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Author: Scott Westerfeld

Published by: Simon Pulse (2005)

Tally Youngblood wants to be pretty. But it’s because she’s about to turn sixteen and everyone in her world turns pretty at the same age. After performing a trick in New Pretty Town, she meets Shay, the girl who could care less about turning pretty. When Shay invites Tally to run away with her to The Smoke, the Special Circumstances are involved and Tally learns that turning pretty, changes you forever.

Never hearing that much buzz about this series until I met a YA lover (check out her blog here) who went on and on about Scott Westerfeld and Suzanne Collins (reading that trilogy next), I decided to pick this book up. Additionally, a fellow book club member recently read the trilogy and raved about the world. When I saw the premise, I immediately thought of The Giver by Lois Lowry because they all turn pretty at the same age just like everyone receives a bike at the same age and is also assigned their occupation at thirteen for the rest of their lives.

This story was an interesting look at the way this society functions solely based on beauty and how this is a reflection of our society today. Although not as extreme where pretty and “ugly” people living in separate towns but man, too close for comfort.

The writing works for a young adult novel and much better written than any Stephanie Meyer novel (but that’s just me).

A solid read from beginning to end; once you start, you cannot put the book down. With a first line like, “The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit,” how can you not get into this story?

Looking forward to the next in the series, Pretties!

Black, White, and Jewish

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Author: Rebecca Walker

Published by: Riverhead Books (2001)

Rebecca is the product of a biracial and bicoastal home. In her memoir, she recounts her sexual experiences, her identity crisis (is she white, Jewish, or black?), and everything in between.

What is missing in her memoir are the spaces in between – there weren’t enough instances where the reader (well, this reader anyway) was too involved in her story. There was an emotional distance prevalent in the tale. The writing wasn’t particularly salient, novel, or fresh. There were run on sentences that drove me crazy or places that were incomplete.

As a person of color myself, I was able to relate to her identity crisis (am I American or Dominican, or both?) but I wanted more. She was the daughter of a famous and well-renowned African-American author; why didn’t we hear more about that? I comprehended this book was about her and not her mother but Alice Walker was her mother, after all. She also recounted many friends from the different coasts she lived from year to year – which I could not keep track of for the life of me.

This book was lacking insight; I kept thinking, “Okay, so what?” Almost like an essay with a good thesis statement and not enough examples to prove her point. A decent portrait of her childhood but not enough to keep this reader vastly interested in her story.

Bad Behavior

BadBehaviorGaitskillAuthor: Mary Gaitskill

Published by: Vintage (1989)

I very rarely read short story collections in succession as I did this one. There was a common thread in her stories – a certain uncomfortable quality that made the ready queasy or “dirty” after reading them. The characters weren’t likable, there wasn’t even one protagonist that one sided with – they were all different aspects of deviance. Continue reading

Home Stretch

November is halfway over and I’m not even halfway done with my NaNo book this month.

There’s a part of me that’s completely un-enrolled in my story and writing. I’ve been so busy with life! Socializing, planning parties, potlucks, movies, reading, and everything else in between. How can I juggle all this and writing?

I know writing and having a social life is possible; writers do this all the time! This all sounds the same, doesn’t it? Like I’ve been here before, talking about the same thing but it’s a different day. I’m aware of that. Writing down this awareness makes me want to step up my game and finish this novel. I may not complete the thing but the effort is there, no?

For my fellow NaNo’s, work it! Eleven more days! Woohoo!

Waiting for Superman

imageEdited by: Karl Weber

Published by: Participant Media (2010)

As a companion to the documentary, Waiting for Superman, this book discusses public education from the filmmakers’ perspective, policy makers, officials, administrators, and teachers as well as parents view of the state of education now and what should be fixed in the system. There were suggestions that would never work in public education while other structures have worked in some communities (and states) but would never work in others. The end of the book has resources for an average citizen to become involved in the community.

As a non-teacher, I was able to read this objectively. However, the first half which focused on non-educators’ approach to rehabilitating the educational system was absolutely absurd. I found it hard to take the filmmakers seriously. As for the rest of the book’s contributors, some chapters were insightful while others were extremely hard to get through. If anything, I was inspired to actively pursue working as a workshop instructor or in higher education but in public education. As for the book, interesting read but definitely not something I would have picked up on my own. Thank goodness for book club!

Discipline

I started the National Novel Writing Month on the first. I started with one idea and then went off and did something totally different. I am satisfied with what I’m writing about though so I don’t feel as if I shafted myself.

What I’ve been slacking off on is the discipline to sit down and write for a long period of time. I find myself tweeting instead or updating my word count every five hundred words or minutes. Talk about distraction!

Amidst the distraction and lack of focus, I have been constantly thinking about writing, planning my social gatherings around enough time to write, and meeting folks (online and in real time) who are writers! I am aligned with the universe in my passion, which is a fantastic thing.

When I do sit down to put words on the page, there’s an acute attention and concentration that takes control as my hands fly across the keyboard; I’m in the zone, the story is taking itself somewhere I didn’t expect, and my characters are really talking to each other. It’s an amazing feeling.

I mostly have this concentration when I’m doing NaNoWriMo though; when I’m writing a short story, the creation is already written down on the page and being transcribed onto my laptop. There’s a different energy when I’m typing versus when I’m writing. When I have a pen in hand and I’m writing from a prompt, my creative juices are flowing, my mind is churning, and I’m putting everything down on paper to make sense of things later. With this contest, I’m doing the same thing but the accomplishment is greater because it’s a novel, not a short story or prompt.

I love NaNoWriMo. I wish I could have this kind of discipline with all my writing year round. Maybe this time, I’ll carry this with me for years to come.