Transitions…Moments when one status becomes another. Baby becomes child. Child becomes adolescent. Adolescent trips into teens. Teens bloom into young adult. Young adult becomes adult. Adult ages, ages, ages and becomes elderly then just old… Transitions bring seen, unseen and unforeseen outcomes. How one rests in the aftermath of transition is tempered by a capacity to juggle awareness, reasoning and decision-making in real-time or postpartum. This issue of Bookissh examines two works involving women dealing with very unique transitions in their lives, and one anthology of poetry written by teen authors in heightened states of transition. Hold onto your hats because this issue is windy!
** A quick note: I am now employing a rating system which employs pens. All books are rated on a (5)🖊 🖊 🖊 🖊 🖊 scale. There are no 1/2 pens.
“Wreck and Order” by Hannah Tennant-Moore
🖊 🖊 🖊 🖊 Four Pens
Literary Fiction explores in depth the complex nature of a character. Readers gain access to a plethora of a character’s experiences be them dark, dangerous, transformative and enlightening. Twenty and Thirty-something Literary Fiction propels characters and readers into coming of age and/or self actualization stories. “Wreck and Order” by Hannah Tennant-Moore, accomplishes this and it’s unsettling…
For armchair readers who use fiction to indulge travel, Elsie, the main character will journey you from California, New York, Paris and Sri Lanka and you will watch her, while biting your lip, individuate from her broken family and weed her way through communities responding to poverty in varying fashion. Her first emancipation leads her to Paris, where she hides from the discerning eye of the French and buries herself in a translation of Fifi, an out-of-print work that speaks uniquely to her. She returns to the USA and heads to California as Elsie leads her high-risk lifestyle–she has reckless sex, experiments with drugs and alcohol, allows herself to be a battered woman and sadly finds pleasure in this. As someone with potential might do, Elsie rolls her life dice and lands on normalcy. She enters a stable relationship offering the fruits of marriage, family, traditions and predictable routines, but this time serves as simply a gamble leaving the dice to fall again in her shadow zone fraught with abuse, depression, drugs and alcohol. Just when you want to rip her out of the book and give her a shake and hug, she comes to some sensibility and uproots to Sri Lanka, which too has hidden dangers for young, single women traveling alone. In Sri Lanka, Elsie discovers deeper, repressed parts of herself as she struggles for peace in her being. She takes us into tourist areas, small villages fraught by war and to the top of Kandy, a mountain and monastery for long and short term meditation. Elsie’s self-discovery at this time provides the germination for what becomes her healing. During her time in Sri Lanka, Elsie discovers a sense of self-worth, self-efficacy and forms a friendship with a native Sri Lankan. It is within this friendship, Elsie learns of her own abundance in the presence of a family who assume roles and relationship without question or preference. To this new friend Elsie gives so much of herself and learns to navigate the conditions of giving, which further solidifies her possibility of healing.
What’s missing in “Wreck and Order” are the great speeches characters can make to those who violate or disappoint them. What’s missing is an honest look at the individual outcomes that high-risk lifestyles can impose on the physical wellness of a participant. Reading, “Wreck and Order” was not easy. When one is responsible for the lives of others, one hopes that pleasure and pain can be separate and not dangerously entwined. One further hopes that those for whome we are responsible will treasure their bodies, souls and history as they make their way in the world responding aptly with the notions instilled in them from whence they come. It took me a few days to come down from this work, but as a writer should, Tennant-Moore took risks, spoke openly regardless of the potential for offense and told the story she wanted to. Post reading, I had to remind myself that there are many realities and all bear weight and crave acknowledgement, and so she wins my concern, but not all 5 pens.
“This Too Shall Pass” by Milena Busquets
🖊 🖊 🖊 🖊 🖊 Five Pens
A meditation on maternal loss and how one woman, Blanca, wades through a month of her life working through the acceptance of her mother’s death. Told in unique, Second Person point of view, Blanca positions the reading audience as her deceased mother. She writes the book to her mother as though they are speaking albeit without the words belonging to both in a two-way conversation. Using beautiful, flowing, philosophical prose, Busquets takes us from city to shore in Spain and as she does, she copes with the incoming, unpredictable flutter of memories of her creative, eccentric, independent, liberal mother. Through Blanca, readers experience the shift that occurs when generations pass and exchange roles. Through Blanca, readers meditate on youth and age, the benefits and impediments of long and short term views. Blanca shows readers the frustrating capacity that grief denial and displacement possess and indulges in uncommitted physical relationships, excessive drinking and drug use. Repressing her feelings, Blanca demonstrates the debilitating effect this has on her soul and self. Struggling with the incongruence of her mother’s values for such things versus her own, Blanca claims what becomes her own truth in facing her mother’s death. Though we love our parents, and in essence become them, we still have a few tricks of our own.
Throughout the narrative, Blanca confides, “-today I will come see you at the cemetary”and social whim leads her askew. Pages wind down and one wonders if Blanca will make it to her mother’s grave. It is when she is near, this reader is thankful for the unconventional, quirky relationship she had with her mother. This part of the book summons tears and choking cries from this reader. Thankfully, Busquets is playful and with a subtle, charming sense of humor and uses it at this juncture during the narrative. The final image in “This Too Shall Pass” leaves readers with an image likely found on an international poster for a lovely bottled spirit of some sort to be enjoyed on a terrace by the sea. “This Too Shall Pass” was a stunning read and perhaps I’ll read it again only this time with a box of kleenex.
“Leave This Song Behind”
🖊 🖊 🖊 Three Pens
Salman Rushdie said, “A poet’s work is to name the unnameable, point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep..” “Leave This Song Behind: A Teen Ink Book”, hands the torch to 2016 teenagers and this is their words in verse.
It is a remarkable opportunity for a teenager to be published using their most raw and unadulterated expression. “Leave This Song Behind” is a collection of poetry written by teens holding up the tradition of speaking the heart pulsating within the human condition.
The editors should have considered inviting several authors into the Forward. While I’m a fan of Tod Strasser, most teens have no idea who he is today. Considering the sections, perhaps Suzanne Collins or John Green would be good invites as they are voices of the times for teens today.
The anthology is divided into seven sections based on the following:
- Come to your senses
- Less is more
- Get into shape
- Let me tell you a story
- Shall I compare thee to
- I wasn’t expecting that
- Love, life, death
I think the book would have flowed better if the sections were either scrambled up more or turned upside down. The first half demonstrates how old some of our teenage souls are–almost too old for their time on this planet. Most of the angst is directed toward institutionalization and industrialization, which we’ve seen plenty of in the popularization of Dystopian literature. As a heartfelt reader, it’s hard to pick oneself up when you see how bleakly this group optimized their experience, ideas, hopes, feelings and dreams. This reader was looking for that zest for life and rebellion as independence blooms and freedom abounds during the teens The light these first half poets illumined was one of broken relationships and numbed senses. Thankfully the book picks up around the “Shall I compare thee to” section and becomes more lively and playful thereafter.
On a genre note, it is worth reading poetry with our children, teens and tweens. It is worth penning with them and to them. When our truths emerge, so too does evidence of the generation’s response to its condition. Poetry–read some, talk about strong images and/or feelings created within, try your hand at some, because through your hand will flow your voice and not the one stating approval, disapproval, or whatever one speaks.
“Leave This Song Behind” is definitely a good book to borrow and a better one to share especially if you want to find out what’s in your kid’s heart and on their mind.