Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Count!

An organization called VIDA: Women In Literary Arts has an amazing project where they count up articles in popular press written by and about women artists.  They make some simple pie charts, like this one

that express their findings.  Here's a spoiler:  they all look like that, or have even less blue pie pieces than that one.  I had heard some pretty damning numbers like those a few years ago, and, it's one of the reasons I almost exclusively review books by women for the weekly magazine I write for.  Plus I just really like women writers.   Check out the rest of their graphs - it's pretty shocking!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

We read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, for book club.  I'd heard of Alexie through Selected Shorts - a podcast I adore - they're big fans of his.  It's a YA book about a young Spokane Indian boy who lives on a reservation in Washington State.  Arnold Spirit describes himself as an awkward, pimply teenager, who gets beat up on a regular basis by other kids and even adults on the Reservation.  A teacher encourages him to go to a school outside the reservation, at which point he starts to feel more hope for the future.  He faces almost unbelievable challenges like lack of food, an alcoholic father, his disabilities (he was born with Hydrocephalus), lack of transportation (our book club was shocked that the character claimed to often walk 22 miles from school when his dad was too drunk to pick him up or there wasn't enough money for gas).  He becomes a "part-time" Indian - at home, on the Reservation, he's a full-Indian - at school, he identifies with his most-white classmates - unable to completely fit in either world, he finds it necessary to navigate between these very different cultures and societal groups.

Arnold loves to draw, and the book is illustrated with cartoons that he created (artwork is by Ellen Forney).  The cartoonish drawings lend a graphic-novel aspect to the book, causing it at once to fly by quicker, but also to allow those interested in the images to linger over the little details.

What was most interesting was learning about life and culture on the Reservation  - a little-known way of life for many Americans, despite the fact that it's such an important part of our collective histories.  For me, this book was a little too boy-focused, and I got a bit bored in the more basketball-y parts - but I would highly recommend this book to any young reader (old enough to deal with the themes of death and alcoholism.  Side note: this book is frequently challenged in schools and libraries apparently because of a masturbation reference!)
Overnight, I became a good player.
I suppose it had something to do with confidence. I mean, I'd always been the lowest Indian on the reservation tomtem pole - I wasn't expected to be good so I wasn't. But in Reardan, my coach and the other players wanted me to be good. They needed me to be good. They expected me to be good. And so I became good.
I wanted to live up to expectations.
I guess that's what it comes down to.
The power of expectations.
What really emerged in our book club was how little we know about American Indians today, and what a shame it is that Indian history is not a part of our national dialogue - I think this book is a really valuable contribution to literature and society (no less!) for the insight it provides.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Phone booth library

cool project in NYC to convert old phone booths into lending libraries. Reminds me of the cool converted magazine box in Logan Square.  Books for the people!  

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why We Broke Up

My interview with Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman is on Newcity!  I really loved this book - it was so enjoyable and I fell in love with the characters.

One regret I have is using the word "morality" in my question about sex - I should have just said "message".  I have this occasional dumb habit of referring to out-of-wedlock-sex as an issue of "morality" even though I don't even BELIEVE that people who have unmarried sex are in any way immoral.  But, I was raised in a very religious household/community where especially teen-sex was inextricably seen as a question of morals.  It's dumb, but, for some reason it's stuck in my head that way.  It's funny how, when you learn something as a child, it is very difficult to un-learn it.  For example, my mom told us that if the car door opened while the car was in motion, the force of change in pressure would suck everyone out of the car where they would be smashed on the side of the road.  To this day I COMPLETELY freak out if a car door cracks open when the car's moving.  Anyway, it's just a lesson to me to think more carefully about my word choice and I wanted to put it out there that I do regret using that particular word.

They were fun to interview - it was nice talking about a book I really enjoyed with the author and illustrator, right after I finished reading it.  I'm a big Daniel Handler fan - if you haven't read him, check out Adverbs or, better yet, Watch Your Mouth.

BTW, the book has an accompanying tumblr which is kind of amusing - you can read about breakups by people of all ages or add your own.  I wish I had a good break-up story, but most of them were just like, I don't like you anymore.  Oh, except for that one guy I dated in college who I found out was married.  Then, I broke up with him.