November Book Discussion: Bone Gap

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Oh man, you guys, I think this is my favorite book that we have read for this book club. There were just so many things to love about it: themes of inner vs outer beauty, male and female power, magical realism, beautiful prose, fabulous characters. Really, I could go on and on. Do you get the point that I loved Bone Gap?!

So here we go, diving into the November discussion. This is my second last audio discussion before the baby comes! Crazy pants. Hope you guys enjoy it. Remember to leave your comments below and check back to see what other readers thought!

Quick summary:

  • themes of external vs internal beauty
    • all the men who think Roza owes them something because she is beautiful and get upset when she doesn’t want them
    • Finn’s prosopagnosia and how it relates to his relationship with Petey
      • Isn’t that what love is, seeing things that others can’t?
    • how Sean respects her wishes and that automatically puts him on a different level than the other men she has encountered before
  • all the ways in which people leave: Didi, Hugh, Petey’s dad, Roza
  • Finn and Sean’s relationship
  • the magical realism elements were limited but pretty seamless, except for the random horse riding through weird, magical worlds, which I thought was a bit strange
  • the beautiful, beautiful prose that created such a rich and wonderful atmosphere and setting

(Remember, December’s book selection is If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo. You can find the other Young Adulters Book Club posts here.)

November Book Discussion: Bone Gap

creativity + fear

I have been thinking a lot about creativity lately. Creativity and fear, in particular. There are a great many things that I want to try, do, make. They burn beneath my skin. But I let fear keep them there. I would rather spontaneously combust from the collective heat of all of my undone projects and unexplored ideas than put something imperfect out into the world.

Above all else, I fear rejection. I fear being told that I am not good enough, that I am not worthy. That I do not deserve love. The idea of making art and having it not be good enough for other people, even for me, makes me nauseous with terror.

For our baby shower, I put out a giant canvas that I’ve had for several years. When I hold it in front of my body, only my head and feet show. I put it out on the island with a bunch of paint and asked people to create a communal art piece that we would then hang in our daughter’s room. A lot of people were overwhelmed by this small act of creativity (aren’t we all?). “But I’m not an artist, Jessica.” “But … what would I even do?” “But I don’t paint.” My dad practiced his birds on a scrap of paper beforehand; they were literally the M-shaped birds that we all drew as children, though my father is capable of drawing a pretty realistic tiger. My mother painted an off-kilter diamond and then waved at it vaguely, asking one of our friends, “Do something with that, maybe?” (It seems that creativity and fear go hand in hand for a great many people.)

In the end, more than half of our guests contributed and the end result was a colorful, chaotic creation that looked like it was made by a bunch of manic kindergartners. It was far from a masterpiece, but it was made with great love.

There was a lot of white space, though, and it was disjointed. Bryan said it made him feel anxious. I thought I would add to it, fill in some of the white space, balance it out somehow, while preserving what our friends and family had poured themselves into. Had overcome their fears to create.

I put it off, though. What, exactly, should I do? I was deeply afraid of ruining what had been made that day. So it sat on a table in the basement, where I never really had to see it.

I thought about it, though. A lot. It wrapped itself around my brain like some kind of strangler vine. My anxiety grew. The truth was that I didn’t like it the way it was. I liked parts of it and I liked what it represented, the idea of it, but the canvas itself? I had no desire to hang it in the nursery.

A few weeks ago, finally, I decided to do something about it. There was resistance; the effort it took to actually heave myself off the couch after I’d announced I was going to paint was monumental, even by third trimester standards.

I did a warm-up painting, which I ended up liking quite a lot. Then I turned to the big canvas. Still, I had no idea what to do. Still, my mind was a complete blank. I could not picture anything to do with it that didn’t involve painting over the whole thing and starting again from scratch.

So I decided to just…start. I squirted some purple paint onto my palette and I just…started. The more I painted, though, the more I panicked. The more I looked at it and thought, “Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck, I have really messed this up.”

After about ten minutes, I stopped. I took a step back to survey the work that I had done, and my heart sank. I hadn’t loved it before, no, but now…well, now, I really hated it.

I was frustrated and angry. See? This is why I don’t take risks! This is why I don’t make things! Because they end up looking like this.

I wish there was some great moral to this story. Like, “I took a risk and it paid off in spades and now I have this amazing thing for our nursery.” But it doesn’t. It didn’t. I don’t. I don’t know yet how I am going to fix it. If I am going to fix it. It is still sitting on that table in the basement, my palette abandoned beside it, some brightly colored tissue paper next to that which I thought I might glue onto it. Just to make the whole thing look a little more disjointed and chaotic. Bryan said he would try to help. And maybe that’s the point: failure is just an opportunity to try again. And again and again and again. So answer the call to make art, even if you fuck it up, even if it makes you sick with fear, because there will always be another chance to try again. The fear is our signal that this is something important, this is something worth doing. And really, what is the alternative? Spontaneous combustion. That’s what.

creativity + fear

the burden of knowledge

Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t a feminist.

I wish that I could bury myself in ignorance and apathy. That I could pretend that the world’s injustices neither matter to me nor touch me at all. That I don’t care that we live in a patriarchal rape culture that systematically devalues women (among many other marginalized groups). But I can’t. I want better for myself. I want better for everyone. And now, more than ever, I want better for my daughter. 

I wasn’t surprised when the ultrasound tech told us that our baby was a girl. For the entirety of my pregnancy, I had been telling everyone who would listen that exact thing. “I have absolutely nothing to back this up, but I am convinced that it is a girl.” With the confirmation, though, came an almost immediate, suffocating tidal wave of terror.

We are having a girl.

Oh God, we are having a girl.

Oh God, how am I ever going to prepare my daughter for the world that we are bringing her into?

The wage gap. Catcalling. Brock Turner. Donald Trump. I looked around me and saw monsters around every corner, in every closet, under every bed. I wanted to curl my arms around my belly and tell my daughter to stay in utero forever, where she’d be safe. Where I could keep her safe.

Because the fact of the matter is that I have no idea how I am going to prepare her for this world. I don’t know how to prepare myself for this world most days. For the crushing despair that I feel on an almost daily basis just when I open my social media accounts. How am I ever going to raise her to believe that she breathes fire when the society that we live in is so hellbent on keeping her small? I want my girl to be fierce. Unafraid. Powerful. I want her to have every opportunity in the world, to go through life believing that there is no one more capable than she is. It would be so much easier if I could look around at the world and shrug. Oh well, that’s just the way the world is, it is just something we have to deal with.

I refuse to accept the world the way it is; I know better than that. I won’t raise my daughter to accept it either.

I guess that is all I can do. Teach her not to accept the status quo. Teach her to use her voice. To be big. To take up space. To make the world a better place than she found it. A better place than we made for her. And that I’ll be right there beside her, doing the same.

I have a few ideas for this that I am already bandying about with a friend. I will let you know if and when something more concrete blossoms into existence. In the meantime, tell me, what do you do to make the world around you seem a little less bleak? (Especially in times like these, when the darkest timeline seems to have come true and Donald freaking Trump is the next president of the so-called “greatest” country in the world.)

the burden of knowledge

October Book Discussion: The Knife of Never Letting Go

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Happy Halloween! Let’s jump right into it, shall we? Without further ado, the October book discussion for The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. (It starts off a little awkward, like I’ve never done this before, haha.)

I think this one has the potential to be fairly divisive, and I am really interested to hear what you guys thought about it. Don’t forget to check the box that will send you an email when other people post here, so that we can respond to each other!

Also, remember that November’s book is Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. Do you have your copy yet?

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October Book Discussion: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Two Book Selections and an Announcement

Announcement

As some of you know, I am currently pregnant with my first child. I am due December 21, and as such, am expecting a very busy Christmas season. For that reason, I have decided to make the last two book selections of the year myself, so that I can be as prepared as possible with discussion posts for each before I have my baby and my world gets turned upside down and inside out. 🙂 As well, I am going to be including a list of books that sound interesting that you may want to look into for the first few months of next year; I don’t know when I will be coming back with the book club. I am hoping for April, but I make no promises! As always, feel free to share your book recommendations with each other and I hope that you guys enjoy our last three selections of 2016!

book selections

Reminder, October’s book is The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. Added bonus of announcing November and December’s books rather than voting on them means that I can take a little bit of extra time to read Knife. Confession: I haven’t even picked it up yet. Whoops. It has been a busy month!

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November’s book will be Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, which completely enchanted me with this summary on the Barnes & Noble blog:

Bone Gap is a dense, weird, magical realistic fairy tale about a girl whose beauty makes her a target, and a boy whose sight works differently from everyone else’s. It’s about the dangers and delights of seeing and being seen. It alternates between the contemporary small town where teenaged Finn has been raised by his stoic older brother, Sean, since their mom skipped town, and the enchanted hinterland where Sean’s girlfriend, Roza, is being held by a terrifying figure out of fairy tales. Enigmatic Roza washed up on the boys’ property after some mysterious trauma, and both fell in love with her in their own way. When she’s kidnapped by the man she was running from, Finn is the only witness, and his inability to save her haunts him. With the help of a bee-eyed girl and his slow discovery of his own strengths, he sets out to bring Rosa home.

I mean, come on. They had me at “dense, weird, magical realistic fairy tale.”

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December’s book is If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, which tackles some thorny and deeply relevant issues.

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won’t be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

hiatus recommendations

As for books that you might want to check out during the hiatus, I have ten here for you. It was very hard to keep it at ten. But my psychology education tells me that more choices is bad and leads to decision paralysis and less enjoyment when a decision is made, so ten it is.

  1. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
  2. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
  3. American Girls by Alison Umminger
  4. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (This is the first book in the Raven Cycle series and this series is my favorite series EVER and I am therefore terrified to recommend it to you guys. Basically, if you don’t like it, I don’t want to know.)
  5. I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
  6. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
  7. The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
  8. And I Darken by Kiersten White
  9. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  10. The Diviners by Libba Bray

BONUS: If you want to start a really great series, I recommend the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor.

Happy reading!

Two Book Selections and an Announcement

October Book Selection: The Knife of Never Letting Go

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I was going to make you guys read another horror/supernatural thriller novel for October – tis the season – but then I was reminded that not everyone likes that stuff as much as I do, so I decided to keep those for myself and go a different route. (I do have some great seasonally appropriate recommendations, though, if you are interested!) We actually ended up with a four-way tie in this month’s poll; I recruited Bryan to be the tie-breaker. He chose The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, which I am quite excited about as it has been on my list (the one in my head) for ages. Admittedly, I was really excited about all the options, so it would have been impossible to disappoint me!

From Goodreads:

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

That summary doesn’t even begin to touch on the elements of gender politics that have seen the book compared to The Handmaid’s Tale (!!!) and that I am salivating to delve into. This should be another meaty read with lots to discuss, and I can’t wait to get into it! I hope you guys are excited, too. Happy reading. 🙂

PS. Find the rest of the Young Adulters Book Club posts here.

October Book Selection: The Knife of Never Letting Go

September Book Discussion: Dumplin’

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Hello, hello, and welcome to the September book discussion! For this edition, I brought in one of my very best friends and one of the most intelligent people I know, Alex Luterbach. Several notes:

  • The sound is, once again, not fantastic. I am still working on figuring out another way to record these conversations.
  • There are two (gasp!) swears, including an f-bomb. So be aware of that if you are listening at work or around children.
  • If you are interested in doing one of these book chats with me in the future, let me know!
  • When you leave a comment, make sure that you check the box to have a notification email sent to you when someone else comments on the post. That way, you can come back to the post to respond to other people’s thoughts. 🙂

Without further ado, our discussion about Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy.

 

Vote for October’s book selection here. I will announce the result Thursday morning.

September Book Discussion: Dumplin’

September Book Selection: Dumplin’

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Coming in with a full 75% of the vote, September’s selection is Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. I am so excited for this one, guys! I have been reading a lot of books lately about body positivity and fat positivity and this is just supposed to be an incredible read. (PS. Read “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls” by Jes Baker if you haven’t already. It’s a (non-fiction) revelation.)

From Goodreads:

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

***

As always, feel free to post any thoughts you have while reading on this post, and if you want to get caught up on our past discussions, go here.

September Book Selection: Dumplin’

August Book Discussion: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

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All right, guys, time for another variation of the discussion! Let’s dive in to The Girl Who Fell From the Sky. This month, I invited Carlia to come along and chat with me about our book, and we had a lively discussion about characters and theme and symbols within the book. It is longer than last month’s, clocking in at just about 30 minutes, and I have to apologize that Carlia’s side of the conversation is not as loud as it could be; I was recording our Skype conversation using my phone. If anyone has any suggestions on how to do this in a more efficient and quality way, please let me know!

Otherwise, enjoy. 🙂

Please leave your comments below! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this complex, layered book.

Oh, and click here to vote for September’s book. (Wait, September?! Time is flying, guys. I am almost in my third trimester!)

August Book Discussion: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

August Book Selection: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky

The votes are in and our book selection for August is The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow. This should be an interesting read, with, I’m sure, some difficult situations and themes. Can’t wait to dive in! Have you picked up your copy yet?

Synopsis from Goodreads:

This debut novel tells the story of Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I. who becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy. With her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel moves to a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring mixed attention her way. Growing up in the 1980s, she learns to swallow her overwhelming grief and confronts her identity as a biracial young woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white. In the tradition of Jamaica Kincaid’sAnnie John and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, here is a portrait of a young girl – and society’s ideas of race, class, and beauty.

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Feel free to share your thoughts here while reading. 🙂

(Find the rest of the Young Adulters Book Club posts here.)

August Book Selection: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky