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an apology

I swear, it’s the lack of a camera. Really. I have things to say, but not having images is a weird kind of handicap for me. I’m so visually dependent… 😦 And so, the silence lingers.. I’m going to try harder to post. But, it is so hard.

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Newbery is coming!

Okay, so the Newbery Medal shindig doesn’t happen for a few months, and it may seem a little early to start the talk. But, hey, there are crazy librarians out there who have been posting contender lists for months already. Besides, there are just SO many books to read before then if I want to give some good shout-outs. And so, get ready for some book reviews!

Longing for Rhythm

I don’t have much to say here, except that I just bought myself an early housewarming present. Yes, we won’t be moving until Sept. And, yes, our 15-year-old van with 370,000 miles on it finally gave up and we will have to buy a new one. And yes, we just found out that we have to start paying our mortgage now, even though the house isn’t done and we are also still paying rent. Oh, and there’s the monthly payment on the security system we had to install after the 3rd break in to the new house…

But… the house will be done (projected completion=Sept 6)! And we have had a lot of wedding video bookings this summer! And I got a raise!

So, in spite of all the financial stresses we are currently under, I decided to go for it. Because with all of the above mentioned things going on, I need to believe that there is a rhythm in our future.

A rhythm that doesn’t involve me rushing off to work before Matthew gets up, frantically trying to get done anything house rehab/wedding video/documentary related during my breaks at work, rushing home for 2 hours of dinner and bedtime with the kids, then squeezing in some “Matty time” (which means mostly taking alternating turns editing videos) before completely losing steam and falling into bed.

That isn’t rhythm. It’s just survival. And I’m sick of it. I’m ready for a more Soulesque life. 🙂  And not that I believe her latest book is going to solve all these complications, but I am ready to be inspired.

The Broken Ones

There are a brother and sister who come regularly to my library. She is a sweetheart who always has an excuse to come up to the desk and talk about something. There is an eager hesitancy to her conversations, anxious that we may not be able to give her time, hopeful that we will. Her brother, from what I’ve seen about the way he interacts with her and the way she talks about him, is a loyal and loving big brother.

The other day, as they passed the desk I saw him limping pretty significantly. With her usual openness, Lucy informed me her brother broke his kneecap. “Ouch, how did that happen?” I wondered.

With all the matter-of-fact, unsensational, unthinking candor of an 8-year-old who has lived with more than any child should she responded:

“My uncle was beating on him, and he didn’t realize he was really hurting him, so he just kept hitting him…”

My heart broke. As it does every time I see or hear a glimpse of the kinds of lives so many of these kids experience every day.  It is so, so common. The violence, the fear, the uncertainty.  What hurts most is that it is not even questioned. To Lucy, this is life.  To Rianna, when she explained that she wasn’t going to school because her mom made them move out after the cops came to the house, that is life. To Kaylee, who can’t return that dvd because her half-sister has it and her mom won’t let her talk to them anymore, that’s life. When I try to get to the bottom of the situations these kids are in, it’s murky and confusing even in their own minds. How can it make sense? The only frame of reference in their lives is instability. Nothing is secure or safe. But that’s life.

I told Lucy that if she was being hurt at home, that is not okay. It isn’t normal. It doesn’t have to be that way, and it shouldn’t. She stared at me, and this girl who doesn’t easily show emotion gave me a look I will never forget. As if I was speaking a language that seemed to make sense, that she had suspected existed, but was a little afraid to believe in. And when I gave her the number for the Child Abuse Hotline and explained what it was, she made a jerky, awkward motion toward me, an almost hug, pulled back at the last moment. And I embraced her, and whispered to her that I didn’t want her to get hurt, and my heart broke. Again.

Two days ago a man was shot a few blocks from us, right in front of one of my friends and her two-year-old. Later that night, the neighbor of my friends at West Park had a heart attack and died. Yesterday morning, while working out in the park with my YMCA class, I saw a dead body floating in the river. And last night, the tension on West Park erupted, with 13-year-olds holding guns and rival groups marching down the street. The police had to intervene between the warring factions surrounding my friends’ house.

Death and chaos are all around me. The image of the man face down in the water has been flashing in my mind for the past 2 days. His name was Gary. I just found that out.

People don’t know how to respond to death. Most of the others in my class made inane remarks about CSI: Columbus. One girl said, “I feel so bad for the little ducks!”

I have been mourning Gary. And I have discovered something. My response to suffering in the past has always been to respond, to react, to focus on what can be done to stop it. My gut has always urged me toward the disaster. I can remember as a child, seeing strangers in need, beggars on the streets, a quechua woman attacked by a dog… I always wanted to go to them, to somehow make the sadness go away. Even when I had no idea what to do, I still brought the woman home, asking my mom to fix her leg and sew her dress where the dog had torn it.

Perhaps it was the finality of seeing someone so far beyond any help. But all I want to do is curl up inside my house with my kids and shelter them from the world. Becoming a wife and becoming a mother, having these 3 people in my life who I love so deeply, so completely, has brought my gaze closer, reigned it in to this small circle around me.

But I do still long to join the action, the crusade, to make a difference. I hear from Kelly on West Park how they gathered in the 11 kids next door on the night their neighbor died. How they reached out, instinctively, before even understanding what had happened, when they heard the mother screaming in the street. What my friends in that house have done for those kids, not just in this one horrific moment of tragedy, but every day, is immeasurable. They have given them glimpses of a different way of life. Brought them to festivals and introduced them to music. Taught them to feed the chickens and find the right plants in the garden. In the midst of a warring neighborhood, the West Park House is a beacon. Because the tragedy is not just momentary. It is everyday in Franklinton. And every day, Kelly and Ashley and J. Meier and Jonny and Jonathan Youngman and Greg are there.

And while I yearn for that opportunity, I long to reach out like that, I find myself turning back to the 2 little lives that I have more power to influence than any others. At the end of the day, when I get home from work and there is maybe 1 1/2 hrs left before their bedtime, I want to spend it right there, with picture books and playdough and hide-and-seek.

How do I live out completely who I am? How can I be crusader and nurturer? How can I nurture my own in this place of chaos without also crusading for others? I am in search of a way to live this out…

Well, it’s about time for a Hunger Games read-a-like list!  If you haven’t read Suzanne Collins gripping trilogy set in the believably dystopian world of Panem, then you should really stop reading this post now.  Come back after you’ve read it. (oh, and did you see they cast the movie!)

Hunger Games has become such a definitive series for this kind of writing, that it is nearly impossible to have this conversation without it. But when you’ve exhausted the story of Katniss and are ready for another devastating assault on your understandings of social constructs and freedoms, here are some starkly depressing (yet so addictive!) worlds to delve into.

Divergent by Veronica Roth (My top pick!)

Beatrice’s world is divided into 5 factions, each of which believes that one trait is superior to all others. In her family’s faction (Abnegation) selflessness dictates how to dress, when to talk, what to eat… But Beatrice finds herself drawn to the daredevil antics of the Dauntless who prize courage. And when Beatrice turns 16 and takes the simulated aptitude test to determine which faction she is suited for, she discovers that her aptitudes cross over those faction lines to Erudite and Amity as well. She is one of the few, feared and dangerous, Divergent. The whispered word is a death sentence if the authorities ever were to discover it, and as Beatrice scrambles to understand this new label and its meaning, she also wrestles with her own identity and the new faction she chooses to the shock of her father. The action is intense and Beatrice is a gripping character, a tough yet real teenager facing her fears with wit and courage. This is not a  happy feel-good romance, though there is just enough to sweeten a darkly disturbing story.

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Incarceron is more than a prison. It is a living, sentient entity, shifting forms and toying with the multitude of lives trapped in its endless bowels. Legend tells that there was once a man, more mystic than human, who escaped. Finn clings to this legend, certain that he is more than a ordinary cell-born, a product of the prison’s recycled human cells. He is certain that he belongs to the outside, and that his sudden seizures bring real memories, not simply abstract visions of the stars. But the fearsome warden who controls Incarceron from outside, is powerful and clever and will not allow any to dream of escape. Yet his daughter Claudia, promised as a child to the kind prince whose future was blotted out long ago, is not content to accept her father’s secretive role. And when she and Finn discover a mysterious link between their worlds, a dreamlike, nightmarish adventure unfolds before them. Rich, mesmerizing and deliciously disorienting, Incarceron is a fresh, creative story.

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

As a “Lower” Trella is part of the crowded mass who cleans and slaves for the “Uppers,” though she spends much of her time resenting both groups as she cleans the vents and pipes running through the confined levels that make up her world (reminiscent of Incarceron, though a much paler story). Yet the lines between the deeply segregated classes begin to blur as solitary Trella develops an unlikely friendship with an “Upper” boy and begins to realize life in the Uppers is not quite what the pop cops would have her believe. And the mythical Gateway is perhaps more real than anyone, especially Trella, ever imagined. Trella was a difficult character to fully believe in. The animosity she receives from the other scrubs is insubstantial, and her reasons for refusing to hear about her parents are weak. Trella needed a bit of a stronger back story to truly sell her situation to  me, but she is a tough and clever heroine.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

After a terrorist attack devastates his home town of San Fransisco, Marcus is kidnapped and thrust into a dark and frightening interrogation. But he is being held not by the enemy but by his own Department of Homeland Security, and though Marcus is eventually released, his friend has become one of the disappeared. The DHS crackdown on not only his own liberties but the freedoms of all citizens are chilling in their believability. Marcus is a perfectly depicted, frightened yet stubborn teenager, whose ability with computers allows him to undermine the regime of terror that has been setup for the protection of the public. His determination to find his friend transforms him and his growing underground following of tech-savvy teens into a formidable force. It’s a reassuring story for those who only see the apathy in our teens, and the rallying cries to not trust anyone under 21 are, frankly, inspiring.

Gone by Michael Grant

When everyone 15 and over disappears one day from their town, Sam Temple finds himself attempting to bring order to a group of terrified and unsupervised children. With his genius friend Astrid and her autistic younger brother, Sam begins to piece together some form of society and to uncover the mystery behind the disappearances. In a moment of failed heroism, he discovers a supernatural ability to shoot beams of light from his hands, and little by little more abilities surface in those left behind. They find that there is a kind of force field that seems to encircle the area of the town, and they discover that anyone turning 15 also vanishes. In obvious Lord of the Flies parallels, power struggles and survival dominate the landscape while the addition of sci-fi phenomenon create a complex and dizzying storyline. In fact the sci-fi bit was a little too dizzying for my taste…

The Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

This series needs no introduction. I get a little giddy discussing these books, so I apologize in advance, but these books are a masterfully crafted story, with a heroin beautifully flawed, achingly familiar and inspiringly brave. Not to mention it is a complex and entertaining exploration of almost everything wrong with society. Tally Youngblood spends her nights sneaking out of the dorm for young “Uglies”, illegally spying on the glittering world of the Pretties across the river, and anxiously awaiting the day of her 16th birthday when she can undergo the required operation to become Pretty like them. But when her friend discovers a mysterious rebel society and flees the promised operation to join them, Tally is given a choice. Follow her friends obscure directions and lead the Special Circumstances to the rebel’s hideout, or never be given the pretty face she has been waiting for her whole life. As the truth behind the world as she knows it becomes clear to her, Tally’s own values and deep-seated desires are questioned. And for us readers, we are given a clear and piercing mirror reflecting our own dutifully formed beliefs of beauty, identity, self and worth.

I’m here. Chasing children and suggesting book reads and flying to CA to film some crazy priests doing amazing things… Okay, that last one only happen once, very briefly, but still.

Working full-time is completely draining, and it’s wedding season so the weekends have mostly been wedding shoots these days. Meaning very little time to do our “real” filmwork, but it is happening.

There is so much I’d like to be sharing on this space. I’d love to post about Radical Homemakers and what it means for the poor, our definitions and desires of intentional community, the stories of these many “old radicals” we’re following, how my kids are growing so ridiculously fast, my frustrations with myself for not imparting my Peruvian culture to them, and of course, some more book reviews.

I think I might only have the energy for book reviews. So look for those.