I’m certainly glad to put last year behind me! 2018 held loss or illness of family, friends and pets. Recovery from loss requires time and for me it was the entire months of December and January. This issue of Bookisshh is simply a backlog of some of the books I’ve read since the last blog post. Enjoy!
Becoming by Michelle Obama / Memoir
Readers will revisit Michelle Obama’s Chicago childhood and upbringing. Readers will ride the bus across town to Obama’s former high school, Whitney Young, and hang out with her and her friends at Water Tower Place. Introduced are influential relatives and their unique contributions to Mrs. Obama’s life are featured. Additional key figures during the later stages of Michelle’s life are included as she pursues and completes degrees within the ivory towers of the Ivy League.
Narrated with laser focus and great care for logical trajectory, Michelle shares quiet moments she experienced within racial stratification with the law firms, non-profit sector and political arenas.
Michelle focuses on the steps she took and how her responsibilities mounted while developing her story with former President Obama and becoming a first Black family to occupy the White House.
It takes near 400 pages to really feel a gut punch Michelle resultant of experiencing fantastic success as a person and not as a member of the Black Community.
This section dovetails into key individual victims centered within the Black Lives Matter movement. Obama contextualizes race-driven issues yet does not martyr individuals when stating a race problem has and continues to exist in these United States.
Additionally, Michelle Obama examines challenges faced by girls, veterans, military families, as well as children’s health concerns while confiding to readers why she’s chosen these special interest groups and what she’s learned supporting them.
Interestingly, Michelle demonstrates the limitations and dangers in being a First Family and how life in this position can fence one in.
Michelle Obama shares the decisions she’s faced as a woman, wife, mother, daughter, career professional, and POC committed to choosing the high road without claiming respectability politics or martyrdom.
What she does not share is hardcore messiness and how painful and challenging leadership nuanced by attitudes toward race and gender can be.
There’s a lot of value for people to intersect around the gritty stuff–our feeling life and emotional spectrum is what unites us in humanity as we learn and imitate one another in this growth. I guess time will later offer a deeper story should there be one to share.
Florida by Lauren Groff / Short Story Collection
I enjoy exploring an author by first reading a short story collection since it provides readers with a spectrum of tales crafted in a variety of manners.
Further, once a reader has wandered in and out of a writer’s view, voice and technique they can savor a lingering essence and move comfortably on to novel length work.
“Florida” is atmospheric, moody, maternal and quietly nudges at a teetering patriarchy. This collection of short stories varies in length and presents unique scenarios using a melancholic tone.
Using great subtlety Groff celebrates and mourns the shifting natural world on Earth dangerous in all of its glory.
Taking readers from Florida to France Groff reveals to readers the challenges of raising men during the era of MeToo and centers characters around unapologetic, nontraditional approaches to womanhood and motherhood.
Groff’s observation of human nature and description of setting demonstrates her sleepless neutrality for questionable actions humans take.
Characters appear aimless and vessel-like serving as either a historic cliche or metaphor for possibility not formerly available to females traditionally represented as daughters, wives and mothers.
Women run away, put passion projects first, live beyond unsatisfying marriages, find family life exacting and men sort of bumble around or learn to take cues. Women do this as the planet tries to wipe all of us clean using hurricanes, storms and earthquakes.
Groff offers no endgame solution to saving the planet or creating lasting gender equity, but she does an excellent job of dramatizing the tension not doing so creates.
Facism: A Warning by Madeline Albright / Non-fiction
Written with great authority Madeline Albright geographically and chronologically delivers to readers clear examples of the rise of fascism throughout the globe. Albright consolidates the pattern and routine of fascist takeovers within democratic, socialist and communist governments.
Former Secretary Albright characterizes traits commonly seen in among fascist leaders and how they borrow strategy from one another.
Additionally, Albright suggests who benefactors and beneficiaries of fascism are. More importantly, Albright demonstrates the ease with which fascism permeates any governmental system and how the United States is not special or separate from this possibility.
Though the work can read as repetitive, the changing geographic context enables basic elements of fascism to overlap and act as a template placing current political and economic pundits into this context. Experience points to how close fascism is to our existing democracy.
The book reads best when Albright is direct in detailing her accomplishments. Further, it is somewhat distracting how she takes great care to not name names of current US leaders which sort of removes the bottom of her point.
What Albright does do is ask us to look, compare, and listen in for rhetoric lending itself to fascist trends.
Regardless of party or economic condition Albright encourages us to take action on behalf of each other and foster a free and safe country and world for everyone.
Visible Empire by Hannah Pittard / Historical Fiction
I love a good Southern narrator, and Hannah Pittard demonstrates a shift on what memory serves that to be… Then again Pittard is from Georgia and some debate whether this is actually, “The South…”
Pittard has some firsthand experience with the historic backdrop of her tale since where she grew up everyone knew someone who died in the plane crash that opens her story.
In 1962 a plane crashes in Paris and many of the most prominent, wealthy caucasian citizens of Atlanta died. Black Community members died too but Pittard elects not to name them because their names were not printed in the papers or put on plaques outside of buildings Black Community members populated.
The narrative centers around a group of people interconnected by the crash.
There’s the mayoral couple, the newspaper man who marries the heiress and cheats on her, his maverick reporter and mistress, an orphaned female high board diver, a young Black male on the brink of self discovery at the tail end of Jim Crowe along with other minor players forcing the plot out of corners it frequently gets painted into.
Pittard, a privileged visionary, enters and exist the lives of so many: elderly, Black, Queer folks, patriarchal men and so forth. Unawares of her privilege she errs on being twee as she waxes poetic in dramatizing and voicing characters in their lives.
The story back drop is beautiful (it’s the South after all), but the writing is almost Netflix-like as cliffhangers need finessing and terse chapters are not clumsy in their handoff.
I wanted to be wowed more by this story! Wealthy citizens of Atlanta went to Paris to learn how to spend their fortunes and fill their mansions and centers of endowment.
The Atlantans all died at the same time and left entire fortunes and families behind. There’s big and little stories in that!
What Pittard focuses on is marital breakdowns over and how a young Black male is entrusted, punished, and rehabilitated by well intentioned caucasian people.
This is not a new story and “Native Son” does a better job of playing this out. Regardless, I did enjoy the work and it has left an impression and facilitated further interest in non-fiction reading on this topic which was stimulated by Pittard’s attention to and inclusion of factual detail.