Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Everything I Never Told You Bares All: A Book Review

I gave Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng four stars because it was really good. In fact, it was so good, it hurt. I don't know if I could read it again, though. I felt a lonely ache each time I read it, but I would encourage anyone to read this at least once. I didn't want to give it four stars. I wanted to give it less, because while I would devour the book in lengthy segments of time, it hurt to read it, so it took longer than usual to read. This is a testament to Ng's talent.

I loved the omniscient narrator who gave readers insight into each of the characters innermost thoughts without influencing in anyway. It hurt to read because all the characters were so silently raw and unwilling to speak when needed. There were several times that I wanted to shake any one of the characters, "Say something! Say what you mean!", but I had to remind myself they were not real. Ng made them real. She made the hurt real and while reading, I became almost like the youngest character, Hannah, joining the narrator in "watching" the family.

I would recommend the book for several reasons. For writers, this is a wonderful book for reading an exceptional omniscient narrator as well as how to build flesh and blood characters who will annoy, love, anger, feel sympathy for. As just a reader, it gives a wonderful sense of otherness. If anyone has never felt different or like an other, the novel does an amazing job of showing how a family of others still feel so alone.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review of Helen on 86th Street and Other Stories by Wendy Kaufman

This is an odd book. At first there doesn't seem to be any link between the short stories, but then a common thread starts to show in seams of the pages. The narrators are all women who want to be brave even in the most seedy of situations. They all want to "fake it till the make it". While some of the stories are stronger than others they all have small slaps of reality that linger with you after you've put the book down. Definitely worth a read.



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Thursday, April 20, 2017

From the Center of the Rounder

When I was a kid, and my grandma took me shopping downtown, I used to hide in the rounders filled with clothes Now, I know they're called rounders. Then they were just a giant circle of multi-colored fabrics I could sit in the center in and feel safe. It was always cooler in that shaded center. Less fluorescent. Less department store noise. When I looked up it's center and saw the tunnel of light, I had view of the outside, but inside I was safe. What is that? As children we liked to be surrounded by over stuffed pillows or rainbow quilted forts. I wonder if it's reminiscent of the last womb we felt safe in.

Today, when I got home from work, I sat on the floor outside my husband's closet saying hi to our dogs and telling him about my day while he sat at his desk. Behind me was a pile of dirty clothes, and although I knew they held his musky scent from the gym, I flopped back into the t-shirts and track shorts, jeans and colorful socks, and looked up into the row of hanging clothes and flashed back to my childhood.

Above me hung green and blue and red and pink t-shirts and dress shirts. The bottoms all faced me, wrinkled from being pressed together. The tile floor was cool on my back and the clothes beneath cushioned my head. For a moment, I was six again. I was safe.

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Church of Rock and Roll

Last night, I saw Green Day live at the County Coliseum. It's the second time I've seen the band. The first time, was in the early 2000's when they toured with Blink-182, and I was too you to know all the small things really wasn't going to matter.

When we got there, the place was already packed and the super fan music-heads were sprinkled in with their newer fans who sported updated 2017 grunge wear. I pointed to D and laughed. Flannel and El Paso didn't work in 90's and climate change hasn't made it any friendlier.

I really didn't know what to expect from the band, though. When I tried to think back to that first concert, I didn't really remember it much. Now, I've gone to a fair amount of shows in my life, so they do start to run together, but I usually remember at least one thing, but with the 2002 show, well, I really couldn't, which in retrospect was maybe a good thing. I was going in with a clean slate.

Thirty minutes in, after the crowd cheering to things like " No racism. No homophobia. No sexism. No fucking walls," the energy was reaching peak levels. Green Day's mission, and they said it several times throughout the show, was to make us feel joy.

Joy.

It's a really simple word, but not one we use often. I can't remember the last time I said it or wrote or felt it. That's odd, isn't it? I feel happy, a lot of the time. Content. Happy. Upset. Sad. But, joy? When he first asked us to show him joy, we all screamed and cheered at the top of our lungs, but even as I did it, I just felt like I was screaming. I wasn't feeling joy. I was trying to be loud. Billie Joe crinkled his nose and nodded unconvinced. I didn't know where it was going, but Longview was coming up, so I quickly forgot.

Fast forward thirty more steamy minutes and Tre Cool did leg kicks a la Vegas showgirl while singing Jame Brown's "Shout." We all sang along, and when Billie Joe and Tre switched places and they got us to all sing "a little bit softer now" Billie Joe withered on the stage and said,

"Rock and roll is going to set us free."

Then we sang along to him to Rolling Stones, "Satisfaction."

"This is unity," he said while we sang.

And it was. I looked around for a moment and saw all the raised hands and the voices singing as loud as they could, and I saw it.

Joy.

The kind I've never understood that people get by going to places like church. Even as I saw the word church, I wrinkle my nose. I find organized religion odd and stifling. And when I've seen that weird kind of elation on TV, it's never quite made sense to me. But last night, in the damp, dank seats of the Coliseum, a sea of people felt joy as they sang along to their favorite songs with arms raised and voices going hoarse. That's when he smiled.

"This is joy," he said.

And it was. And it was rock and roll that took us there. And it was freeing and wonderful not thinking about anything other than that music, singing that word, moving my body to the music.

Today, my throat is a little raw, but the feeling remains. It lingers in my mouth like the last taste of something delicious.

Joy.



Friday, January 27, 2017

As the World Goes Crazy

As the world goes crazy, the essay I wrote for Entropy magazine swims in my head. The title, "All They See is Brown" is on repeat in my mind. And when I feel a panic bubble up through my chest from all the talks of Mexico and walls and anti-abortion marches and pipelines andandandand the title repeats.


Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown Alltheyseeisbrown 

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Toast to the Stayton's

(tapping on glass to get guests attention)

Hello!Good Evening,

For many of you who don't know me, I 'm Yasmin, one of Sarah's closest friends. In fact, if we had had the chance to chose siblings, I would have chosen Sarah. And, I know that if Sarah had decided to have a maid of honor, that would have been my role. And now, for the sake of sparing my feelings, I know she won't deny that.

(pause for audience laughter)

So, I want to say a few words about Chris and Sarah. I want to make this quick. because this night isn't about us. It's about this couple and everything they've done to organize this celebration. Many times, weddings lose focus, and I want to bring the focus back on them and the path that led them here, together, with us this evening. First, I want to thank you for having us be a part of your celebration.

(Sarah and Chris nod and smile at guests)

When Sarah first told me about Chris, we were sitting in my living room drinking margaritas.  She showed me a website he'd made for her. It was quirky and funny. It was Sarah. I thought it was one of the most thoughtful things that anyone had done for her. Now, I didn't meet Chris until much later, but the website stuck out to me, because I thought, "If he took the time to do that for her, and he's just met her, he'll do much more."

When we finally did meet, I could tell he was a little nervous, and I tried not to give him the steal-y Sally eye. After some time, though, there wasn't any need for the eye. And, Sarah can tell you I have the eye.

(Yasmin gives the eye to the crowd they laugh)

But, in all seriousness, when your best friend gets married, you hope and pray that he will be a good guy for her. You hope and pray that you get along with him, because in order to be a part of her life, you have to share her with a man you don't know very well. (yet!) Mostly and most importantly, you just hope that she will be happy. And when I see Sarah with Chris, I know she's happy. I see the way he looks at her. He treats her like the most delicate thing in the world, and I know that I don't have to worry anymore. I know that he will protect her. Take care of her. Cherish her.

Finding love with someone isn't easy. I think everyone in this room knows that. The path is bumpy and sometimes loops and turns and loops again. The fact that Sarah and Chris found each other isn't something we should just be happy about. Tonight, we aren't just witnessing a wedding, we're witnessing a blossoming bud of a new family. And if that isn't something to marvel about, I don't know what is.

 So, I hope that you all will join me in celebrating the Stayton's and watching them blossom.

(Yasmin raises her glass and mouths 'love you' to Sarah)








Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Switching Hats

All summer long, I've been a writer. I developed a schedule where I woke up at 8am every day, went to my boxing gym, came home by 10:15, had a protein shake, and wrote. I would write until almost 5pm. Some days were more productive than others. Even when I couldn't write, I refused to leave the seat in front of my computer. This often caused the hubs to hate my writer's block because I often You Tube'd DIY home improvement projects for us to complete on the weekend.

Now the summer is over. Now, I am no longer a writer. I am a professor. Repeat. I am a professor.

We all play different roles. For example, I am a

daughtersisterauntwifeniecefriendwomansisterinlawbestfriendcoworkerreaderelpasoan

writer. 

I am always all of these things. But this summer my main focus was being a writer. I've never had that opportunity before, and I liked it. It sort of made me re-remember why I wanted to be a writer in the first place. And although that isn't over, I have to switch hats. I am a 

professor

now. I have to put that first. Not only because I have students who rely on me and a job who allows me to be a writer only in the summer, but because I truly like it as well. Today, I taught a class and the energy was just there. It was perfect. They laughed at all my well-placed jokes and after watching The Art of Storytelling  they left feeling a bit inspired. (Their words not mine). And when I walked out of the classroom, I was floating on air. I felt taller. I felt like I'd made a difference and laid great groundwork for a thought provoking class. 

That was at 8:30am this morning. It's 1:30, and I'm sitting at a table on campus to help lost students find their classrooms. I am writing this. I am thinking about my roles. I am thinking about how I will balance these roles. I'm praying that professor does not become so tall that writer becomes a short squat shadow at high noon. 

Repeat this: I am a writer. I am a professor. I am a writer. I am a professor. I am a . . .