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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

#17 - Brother, I'm Dying - Edwidge Danticat

Title:  Brother, I’m Dying
Author:  Edwidge Danticat
Genre:  Memoir
Performed by:  Robin Miles
Publisher/Date: Recorded Books/2007
Dates listened to:  4/16/17 – 4/25/17
CDs/Hours:  7/8
ISBN: 978-1-4281-6631-8

Ms. Danticat is an award-winning, best-selling author.  In this book she uses her story-telling abilities to describe how both her father and his brother, her uncle, dealt with their debilitating illnesses.  When Edwidge was only four years old, her parents emigrated from Haiti to New York in search of a better life.  They left their daughter with Uncle Joseph, a peaceful pastor in Port-au-Prince.  He raised her with the love and devotion of a father, despite facing many hardship in politically turbulent Haiti.  Finally, at age 12 Edwidge was reunited to her parents and forced to confront the inevitably complex emotions.

As Kirkus Reviews reports, Brother, I’m Dying is an “exceptionally gripping memoir” that “avoids sentimentality in smoothly honed prose that is nonetheless redolent with emotion.”

I totally agree.  It’s like Haiti’s current situation is no different now than then, the then being the early 1970s.  I found it particularly heart-wrenching in those places where human kindness is lacking and not just in Haiti.

#16 - The Friendship Matchmaker - Randa Abdel-Fattah

Title:  The Friendship Matchmaker
Author:  Randa Abdel-Fattah
Genre:  kid chapter book
Publisher/Date: Walker & Company, NY/2011
ISBN: 978-0-8027-2832-6
Date read:  3/9/17 – 4/25/17
Pages:  179

Lara is the Friendship Matchmaker.  Her gift, she thinks, is matching up classmates to have a best friend.  She’s writing a manual to outline the rules.  Rules!  And does she have rules!    And here is part of her journal to tell us about her.  “… If you’re reading this Manual it’s probably because you’re sick and tired of feeling lonely.  Or maybe you have a friend but you’re not sure where you stand with him or her.  Or maybe, you’re the third wheel in a trio.  Or can’t work out how to strike up a conversation.”

You get the idea.  

Then a new kid in school, Emily, follows her “own” rules when it comes to making friends, and threatens Lara’s matchmaking methods.  They both decide to settle things and compete to see who can find a (TL) Total Loner a new (BFF) Best Friend Forever.  Will Lara maintain her status as “the” Friendship Matchmaker?  Or will she see, that sometimes the Rules for Friendship are meant to be broken?

DGD (dear granddaughter) listened as I began reading the book when she came to visit last month.  I couldn’t get her interested in finishing it the last time she was here so I finished it myself.  Yes, it was the second book by an author I’d previously read.  

Abdel-Fattah is from Australia and specializes in books for kids and young adults.  She’s a litigation lawyer and a human rights activist.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

#15 - Zelda - Nancy Milford

Title:  Zelda
Author:  Nancy Milford
Genre:  Biography
Publisher/Date:  Harper Collins/1970
ISBN: 0-06-091069-0
Pages:  383
Read:  3/9/17 - 4/19/17
Here is the story of Zelda Sayre, wife of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  She was also an author, artist, dancer and mother.  As a child, Zelda’s mother indulged her, the Montgomery, Alabama townsfolk labeled her “smart as a whip” and “quick as a steel trap”.  Indeed, she was a young hellion.  One day to get attention she climbed up on the roof after calling the fire department and telling them there was a child on the roof who couldn’t get down.  Her father, Judge Sayre, had no sympathy for such pranks.  Perhaps being named for a gypsy queen in a novel entitled Zelda gave way to her precociousness. 
Before her twentieth birthday she had met and married Scott.  They were the epitome of the roaring twenties – rich, living the life of the young and happy by partying, drinking, smoking.  Scott became a celebrity for This Side of Paradise.  The newlyweds discovered they were “being heralded as models in the cult of youth.”  And they proceeded to lap up their newly found fame.

Zelda was in love with Scott and he with her.  She saw how well Scott wrote and decided she wanted to follow in his footsteps.  And follow she did, with his help.  At first with each article she wrote, his name appeared first in the by-line.  As she got bolder with her desires to be published she angered Scott by plagiarizing his work.  He was very demanding and tried to make her change or delete parts of her novel, Save Me the Waltz, that were in his book, Tender is the Night. 

Dampened by Scott’s over-zealous nature and jealousy, Zelda turned to ballet dancing, something she aspired to in her younger years.  Yet at 27 she was too old to be any good.  Living the good life included for Zelda watching her husband with a 17 year old actress.  She became so enraged at their affair, “she burned all of the clothes she had designed in the bathtub of their bungalow.”   They rowed endlessly over his demands that she do something worthwhile and her inability to please him and herself at the same time.  She desperately wanted to be her own person.  More and more of their verbal abuses resulted in Zelda becoming hysterical.

As her mental state deteriorated, she spent months here and there in mental institutions, mostly in Europe.  Scott, too, suffered from his constant smoking and drinking, becoming depressed and “over-nervous about small things.”  Scott “complained of a fever and cough” in 1940.  He experienced a cardiac spasm in November of that year.  He felt himself lucky that he hadn’t suffered a major heart attack.  However, on December 20, he died.

By 1946, Zelda devoted more time to their now-married daughter, Scottie, and her new husband and baby son.  Zelda never totally regained her health.  In the spring of 1948, at a local health facility she took a “series of insulin treatments and was moved to the top floor of the main building.”    On March 10, a fire broken out in a kitchen in that building, and shot up a dumbwaiter shaft to the roof.  “Nine women were killed, six of them trapped on the top floor.  Zelda died with them.”

Sunday, April 16, 2017

#14 - Another Brooklyn - Jacqueline Woodson

Title:  Another Brooklyn
Author:  Jacqueline Woodson
Genre:  Fiction
Performed by:  Robin Miles
Publisher/Date: Harper Collins/2016
Dates listened to:  4/10/17 – 4/16/17
CDs/Hours:  3/2.75
ISBN:  978-0-0625-7375-9

So familiar are the characters in this work of fiction, that if you’ve met Woodson in print, you’d swear you were reading her memoir.  As the back cover tells us, Another Brooklyn heartbreakingly illuminates the formative years when being a kid gives way to adulthood and the promise and peril of growing up.  And exquisitely renders a powerful, indelible, and fleeting friendship that unite four young girls.