Tag Archives: Memoir

The Good, the Bad, and the Orange

A Higher Loyalty by James Comeyfive-star-rating-black-clip-art-hi

35108805He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions. — Thomas Jefferson

For someone who is not big on the memoir genre, I never expected to be this moved by one, nor to be here giving out a five-star rating to one. But we live in strange times, don’t we?

We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized, and unethical behavior is ignored, excused, or rewarded.

Let’s be honest, most of us are reading this book for the juicy bits about Trump and Hillary, but that comes later. Before that, we learn all about Comey’s childhood and the work that eventually led him to become director of the FBI. Usually, this is the part where I find my eyes glazing over sentences, bored if I were being honest, but not so with this book. It all adds dimension and color to Comey as an individual and the decisions he would come to later in life. Plus, talk about an interesting pastthe Sicilian mafia Cosa Nostra, Rudy Giuliani in his earlier years, and the Ramsey Rapist all make an appearance. Notably is his experience with bullies and the obvious connection to some people he has to deal with down the line. In contrast, he also discusses individuals who inspired him and showed him how true leadership behaves. I really enjoyed how Comey wrapped this discussion of leadership into his memoir.

Doubt, I’ve learned, is wisdom. And the older I get, the less I know for certain. Those leaders who never think they are wrong, who never question their judgments or perspectives, are a danger to the organizations and people they lead. In some cases, they are a danger to the nation and the world.

And then we get to the good, or rather, terrible stuff of Hillary and the whole email fiasco. By experiencing it in Comey’s shoes and knowing the past he was coming from, I was able to gain a whole new perspective on this moment in our nation’s history. I think it’s dangerous territory when we play judge and jury and pass judgments in ways we have no authority or expertise over. This book is important for everyone to read because it helps us avoid that line of thinking and helps us become more empathetic, focusing instead on why people may have behaved in the way they did. For someone who originally experienced a lot of anger over the way this investigation was handled, I feel much more at peace about it.

The Constitution and the rule of law are not partisan political tools. Lady Justice wears a blindfold. She is not supposed to peek out to see how her political master wishes her to weigh a matter.

And then Trump comes into the picture, and it’s like you can hear The Imperial March slowly rise in volume. Much like the Hillary drama, readers get fresh insight into this weird, creepy dance Trump and Comey had all before he got fired in such an unceremonious way. In all seriousness, I experienced a lot of emotions at this point in the bookthere was anger, fear, and at some points, tears. The radical shift in the way not just Obama but also Bush ran the White House…man, I mourned the loss of that all over again. I knew it was coming, but these chapters felt like the valley of despair. How on earth did we as a country get here? How on earth were we going to get out?

Without all those things—without kindness to leaven toughness, without a balance of confidence and humility, without empathy, and without respect for truth—there is little chance President Trump can attract and keep the kind of people around him that every president needs to make wise decisions. That makes me sad for him, but it makes me worry for our country. 

Even in the midst of all this, A Higher Loyalty ends on a very optimistic note. I was surprised to find myself, after all that came before, feeling both inspired and a little optimistic myself. I read the epilogue twice to remind myself that, though we are in the eye of the storm, all storms pass over. It’s true that this review is a far more personal/emotional one than most others, but I think it’s because this is that kind of book, and I think that shows its effectiveness in presenting its message. It inspires you to reach that higher loyalty and demonstrates what true ethical leadership can be. I hope that readers from both sides of the aisle will reach for this book, and will come out on the other side fighting for the values that make this country great.

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Quick Take: Binge

Binge by Tyler Oakley
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bingeI always have a hard time writing personal memoir’s with anything other than 5-stars, anyone else have the same issue? :’) That being said, I really did love this memoir. I got the audiobook version which was narrated by the author, which definitely added quite a bit to my overall reading experience.

I’ve watched Tyler Oakley on YouTube for a number of years and I’ve always appreciated his overall positivity, his willingness to be vulnerable and his activism to bring better support for the LGBTQ+ community. This book was a microscopic view of his upbringing and the various personal experiences (both good & not so good) that led him to who he is today.

I think it’s so important for stories like this to be shared, especially in today’s social and political climate. I appreciate Tyler for trailblazing the way for other young LGBTQ+ community members to, hopefully, continue to share their stories and to be open with who they are knowing that they most certainly have a place in this world. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have read this book and I thank Tyler for putting his story out into the world 🙂 ❤

 

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Quick Takes: Hillbilly Elegy

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance
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27161156Let me start by saying that the largest reason for my rating is because, for the most part, I’m just not a fan of memoirs. I wasn’t particularly engaged and thought that topic could be better presented. I think that’s what my problem usually is with memoirs–you’re telling me what happened instead of painting me a picture like novels usually do.

I also slightly resent the fact that his story was used to push certain notions and philosophies upon the reader. Providing research to back up what you experience is one thing, concluding that “therefore, this should happen,” is something else entirely. Trust that you have presented the information well and that I am competent enough to come to my own conclusion because the truth of the matter is, I may see the solution residing somewhere completely different.

I do think it’s an important story, and I think it brings up very important issues that we as a nation need to address. I just wish it would have done so in a different manner.

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In Defense of the Foolish(Romantic)

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauerfive-star-rating-black-clip-art-hi

My high school students don’t typically read even when they’re required to, so when one makes a point to recommend a book she’s read multiple times, I stand up and take notice. She brought it up to me so often that I became moved by her love for Into the Wild. I decided to pick it up this summer when I took my solo trip to the Pacific Northwest–a perfect opportunity for this tale of travel and survival.

“As for me, I’ve decided that I’m going to live this life for some time to come. The freedom and simple beauty of it is just too good to pass up.”

I could not have read it at a better time. I was in the right mindset to completely understand and empathize with the characters in this book–not just Chris McCandless, but also Krakauer and the numerous other examples of adventurous travelers he gives. Because this seems to be the key to falling in love with what appears to be a very polarizing book: understanding the mind of the Romantic.

“At long last he was unencumbered, emancipated from the stifling world of his parents and peers, a world of abstraction and security and material excess, a world in which he felt previously cut off from the raw throb of existence.”

Chris was a Romantic, simply put. People quickly paint him into many other things he’s not. He’s not much of an Idealist: he prepares too much for that, though his practicality will fall short. He’s also not a Hero. He made mistakes, we can all agree on that. But he’s not a Villain either, as so many of these mistakes were understandable, especially when we stop trying to be curmudgeonly, self-righteous adults and remember the romanticism of our youth. This leads me to a quick aside, because I have some beef with the people who don’t like this book.

Continue reading

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Quick Take: Born A Crime

Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
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This was absolutely delightful! I find Trevor Noah incredibly funny and so, I had to born a crimelisten to this via audiobook on a road trip that my boyfriend and I took this past weekend.

This was a very different memoir in that this focused on his childhood in South Africa, which was a huge part of why I loved this book so much! It was so interesting to hear about his experiences growing up as a bi-racial child in South Africa after the apartheid. It was both heartbreaking and really empowering. My biggest take away from this book was definitely that his mother is an actual BADASS!! She is fierce and doesn’t put up with anyone’s nonsense, which you can tell is where he gets his drive from.

This was a poignant memoir that confronts racism and classism in some real ways. It was empowering to read, as a person of color myself, and it is a much needed statement during this time of too much hate in the world. I highly recommend this book and I actually recommend listening to the audiobook version.

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Quick Take: Wild

Wild by Cheryl Strayd
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Whew! I have been in quite the reading and blogging slump, my friends -_- Le sigh… I wildfinished “Wild” by Cheryl Strayd at the beginning of April and totally put off my review and even picking up another book. But…I’m back! 🙂 I am posting a “quick take” review of this AND you’ll be seeing another review from me in the next few days here of another book I just finished. Your girl’s got her reading/blogging groove back! 😉

Like I said, I read “Wild” towards the beginning of April. A colleague/friend of mine lent it to me and it was one of my 2017 Pop-Sugar Reading Challenge reads. I was excited to pick this one up! I had heard quite a bit about it and had heard some great reviews. Overall, I did enjoy it. I think Cheryls’ writing style is captivating and incredibly expressive. Her writing somehow evokes the same feelings in you, as you read her words on the page. Her story is heartbreaking and empowering, all at the same time…and I fully appreciate Cheryl putting herself out there for the world to see. Continue reading

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Quick Take: Stitches

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair by Anne Lamott
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518ddif1ddl-_sx280_bo1204203200_Years ago, I saw Anne Lamott speak at a conference and it felt like a breath of fresh air. Her explanations of writing and love and grace were unlike anything I had experienced up to that point. I then read Bird by Bird, and got about 300 pages of the same thing. I loved it.

I recently saw Anne Lamott speak again last week at church, and felt more of the same. Afterwards, I got to snag two books and get them signed–this one, and a free copy of her new one, Hallelujah Anyway. Just like a few years back, Stitches was just what I needed.

“Some people have a thick skin and you don’t. Your heart is really open and that is going to cause pain, but that is an appropriate response to this world.”

This is a good book when you’re tired of how f–ked up the world is, which feels like a daily occurrence nowadays (or is that just me?). She makes some great, poetic points interwoven into her beautifully told stories. It’s a super quick read, so you can set aside an afternoon to knock it out. I knocked off a star because the narrative felt a little disorganized at parts.

Side note: I really liked the design of this book, especially the dark green ink for the print. Hallelujah Anyway is printed in dark purple, which I am all about! Why don’t more books do this?!

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