Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter

What a good book! I wouldn't be surprised if this one wins the Pulitzer Prize in 2017 (but I don't know much about the timing/nominating process for that). Though it starts in the 1940s, it is a book for our times, showing us what happened in the United States from then right up to now(ish), now when the violence of race conflict that had gone underground has re-emerged. The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter is a book about American social and political history, race conflict, civil rights, labor rights, deaf culture, gay culture, and being human. Written by a woman playwright, Kia Corthron, its central characters are two sets of brothers--one set black, one set white. We see them in the circumstances of their families and the changing culture of America after World War II and through the violent civil rights era to the moment of now. We need to read it now, so we don't ever let some of what happened here (in this book and in this country) ever happen again.

This is a challenging read, with many characters and incidents to keep track of. A wonderful thing about its narrative voices (in chapters from various perspectives) is that it reads/looks the ways it sounds, like speech. Black and white speech from the American South and Midwest, moving north and west and east, through the years, though schooling, and through the education that is life. And this is all the more remarkable because some of the characters speak with their hands! I learned that "the sign language" was called just that before getting "standardized" into American Sign Language, which was sort of white American sign language. The title resonates beautifully throughout--coming from the Magna Carta, the Great Charter of our political liberties and basic rights, as it is heard by a particular young boy: "I like that! I like the Magnet Carter!" Another marvelous thing is that in the immersion into characters I cared about, I 1) became them 2) did not know sometimes whether I was white or black (but then, suddenly, I did) and 3) came to understand how terrible, terrible, difficult things can happen and how people can survive them, or not.

Visit the book via the publisher, Seven Stories Press, here, where you can see/hear Corthron read from her work! And/or read the first chapter here, at the author's website.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Finally, the Sweet Pea!

All summer I have been waiting for the sweet pea to blossom, and suddenly this morning I saw it! Pale pink blossoms on tall, sturdy, winding stems. I planted it by the fence and also gave it some supporting posts, but it really wanted to wind around other greenery, which, at the fence, tends to be Sweet Autumn Clematis, also beginning its bloom, and deadly nightshade, which, despite its purple beauty, I tend to pull out, due to its deadly berries. This is one of the fine Wikimedia images of Sweet Pea, full credit here.)

Also, finally, it's raining! Got in my last early morning swim before the rain! More on the joy of swimming and swimming in the rain here.

Today I will take back to the library The Man of My Dreams, by Curtis Sittenfeld. Very sweet & honest. I located Prep in Young Adult Fiction, so that's next. Returning to young adulthood, but I was never in prep school, so there will be plenty to learn. (No frogs were harmed in the making of this blog post.) I get cranky listening to the news these days, so it's Cranky Doodle Day in the blog. I agree with those calling for journalists to report the news (not so much the news about the news) and get at the truth of things. I'm sad about America today but excited about the future of America as it could be guided by a woman who knows how to get things done. The woman of my dreams.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Dog Days

The heat and humidity of central Illinois hovers over August, the fair, the start of school...but, for now, I am still swimming in the early mornings, and still reading up a storm. After Eligible, I read Sisterland, also by Curtis Sittenfeld, borrowed from the library for a train trip. I learned about psychic powers, twins, and earthquakes.

Earlier, on vacation, I read Rosemary: the Hidden Kennedy Daughter, nonfiction by Kate Clifford Larson, a sort of sister-and-brotherland experience. Without psychic powers or earthquakes. But with Presidents and First Ladies....

And now, back to Sittenfeld, I am immersed in American Wife, reading it well after its scandalous timeliness in 2008, as it is a novel about a First Lady who strikingly resembles Laura Bush. So now I am learning about...a fictional Laura Bush. And enjoying the story and how it is unfolding. Two sentences have arrested me so far. "My grandmother assumed my loyalty, and this, surely, is the reason she got it." Yes, I am loyal to those who assume my loyalty, but I guess I've learned that it doesn't go both ways, alas. I've assumed that some people were loyal to me, who weren't. That's been a wake-up call that keeps ringing.

This same grandmother tells the main character, "We have to make mistakes. It's how we learn compassion for others." That's true for me, too! My mistakes awaken compassion in me as now I finally understand the behavior of others! And, mostly, forgive them. Even that loyalty thing!

I have already been to the beach this summer, the Lake Michigan beach, and there may be a weensy bit more of that, but today I went to the virtual beach via the art of Kazaan Viveiros. With dogs, via Dog Days 2016 at Escape Into Life.