Book Review: The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

3.75 stars

I have a few things to bring up about the author’s theology in writing this book.

“I don’t care about your ignorance.”

The author clearly knows her stuff when it comes to ancient Middle Eastern culture and I am still in awe about how deep it went. However, she would work her magic in weaving words you know with words you don’t, removing the descriptive illusion that makes books so enveloping. This bothered me. Yes. Fine. There is a glossary and a map, but there is so much in every page that I no longer wanted to flip back to the glossary to find out what it was that she was pointing out. It might be a hat, or a dress, or a bicycle. I just glazed over it and continued. Because of this, I never truly felt an escape like I do in other books.

“I don’t care if you can read the names or not.”

In a lot of fantasy, author’s take liberties with creating fanciful names. These names go beyond my reading comprehension. And there were so many characters to keep up with, when a name was brought up again, because the spelling is not in my wheelhouse, I have nothing to even compare it to and as a result don’t remember the character at all. At the end, when characters were brought back I was like, do I know you? Are you important? Oh, right, you’re this guy’s dad? What did this guy do again? Just looking at some of these elegant names made my head spin.

Example: Darayavahoush e-Afshin (glad we could call him Dara).

“This book isn’t fantasy adventure, but more fantasy soap opera.”

By the second chapter, when all the ghouls came out, I was like YEAH! this is so cool. And then it wasn’t for a time, then a big fight with a dragon-looking thing and some crazy birds, which was COOL! and then, nothing but pampered politics for 300 pages. Even the climax was like, huh . . . I want the ghouls back.

Plus, I don’t know who the villain is, besides EVERYONE but Ali, the second narrator of the story – a chased, golden-hearted youth, that oh yeah, might have murdered my favorite character in the book.

“Incredulous is the best word ever.”

I find this in a lot of YA fiction where everyone looks incredulous. I guess, this is what everyone in Daevabad looks like, incredulous, which is half between anger and constipation. Every time I read it, a little ding sounded and the points in the book went done. I was saturated with incredulous enough in the Twilight series to never want to read it again.

“Magic will save everything.”

And it really does, because the magic is so beautiful. The world building is very well done and so consistent. Huge points on that.

All in all, I liked it, but it was hard for me to like it. If it wasn’t so fascinating and unlike anything I’d ever read, I probably wouldn’t like it as much. I did find similarities with my own series, that made me giggle. And also gave me hope that I’m doing something right. (mine copyrighted in 2013, btw.)

Emotional Quarantine: A Different Perspective of Quarantined Life for a Creative

I realized the other day that I am having a different quarantine experience than other people. I was invited to have a Zoom Lunch Meeting with my writer friends. They started doing this every Friday during Quarantine Life as a way to feel connected. I decided to take my lunch at that time so I could see them.

I clocked out and grabbed my lunch from our break room, in a paper bag that I could throw away after I was done so I wouldn’t need to clean my lunch bag every night. I started to walk through the hospital to find a quiet place to sit, but that became hard since they closed the cafeteria lunch room and took away all the table and chairs. I eventually found a place in the hospital lobby, a bench placed on a far wall away from any socializing. The hospital was closed to all visitors so I felt good about talking with my blue tooth headphones.

I clicked on the meeting and got a chance to see my friends. Everyone was there at their computers, horizontal and in comfortable clothes. I turned on my camera, all vertical on my phone and in my hospital scrubs.

Everyone sounded very glad to see me. I was overwhelmed by all the people. I ate my food and didn’t really say much, just listened to the day to day routine of quarantine life.

And as I listened to how they were dealing with things, I realized I was having a very different experience than my friends, and even my family. I decided to return to the lab and headed back. People wished me luck and cheered me on as I closed my phone.

Each morning I get up and clean the kitchen and do the dishes before I shower in the morning. I wake my girls for school and try to do something fun to get them jumpstarted on another fun day of homeschool, like leaving them kind post-its, or making them Deathstar Waffles for breakfast, anything to get their minds off the reality of why they are not at school. I make a lunch, something simple like peanut butter and honey and place it in a paper bag. I don’t eat much, but I need something with protein to get me through the day. I put on my scrubs and specific shoes and head to my car.

I drive, not chancing public transportation. Once I park, I take a deep breath and mentally prepare myself for entering the hospital. I don my homemade mask my sister made, so adjust my glasses so they don’t fog. I don’t touch any of the rails and walk the ten minutes up to the hospital, hitting the elevator button with my elbow.

I get out my badge and head into line, where I get my temperature checked. I then proceed to sanitize my hands and my badge. I walk to the lab, clock in, sanitize again to walk through the doors to the breakroom to stow my lunch. I then enter my lab and wash my hands before putting on a lab coat, gloves, and a face shield. Any time I leave the lab, it’s the same thing: wash hands, sanitize, wash them again.

I keep track of where I go and what I touch. When I get home, I head to the laundry room and immediately strip and throw everything in the washer. I slip off my shoes, grab a towel and shower, before I change into something comfortable.

This is my new life. It evolved to this, the strictest measures in order to keep my family safe.

I work at the University of Utah Hospital, which is one of the leaders in preparation for the C virus. I also work for ARUP, one of the leaders in testing for it. I’m not one that can work from home, I work in Transfusion and can’t easily ship blood units from my home. And though the hospitals may have slowed surgeries, that doesn’t stop cancer patients from needing transfusions or transplant patients getting a transplant when an organ is available.

Today is my day off. I spent my morning cleaning what happened over the week while I was at work, making breakfast like I always try to do on Saturday, and spending time outside fixing my yard.

While doing this, I moved our patio table that was been in storage under our deck to the outside cement pad, so the girls could have a place to get out and have lunch or do crafts or whatever. In my effort, the back legs got caught on a lip of cement and broke. This specific picnic table we inherited from my husband’s grandparents, which have both passed on. I immediately felt terrible and told my husband what happened and apologized incredibly for being so stupid and breaking this table that he loved so much. I was tremendously upset with myself and started to cry. He was beyond confused at how I was so upset about something that was completely fixable.

My last month I have been living above emotions, like I’m skating on a frozen lake. But once there is a break, or my skate gets caught and I tumble in, the pain is seizing and crippling. I am frozen and don’t know how to save myself, and don’t know how to ask for help.

For the most part, I haven’t talked to many people. I don’t enjoy Facetime or Zoom since I hate seeing how I act in real life. I post usually positive things to help uplift others. The other day, after a particularly hard day, I chatted with a friend about school. She asked how I was doing and I was like, you know, no one has asked me. I think that people don’t want to bother me or are too scared to ask. But I told her all about how hard it is to get up and get out every day. It’s hard.

I posted a picture of my sad eyes that day, because I usually have such life in them. If you know me personally, you would say my eyes sparkle, because I don’t hide my enthusiasm for life, I live it! The picture I posted was not like me, it was a ghost of me. The specter that is occupying my life right now and helping me through the days.

I’m struggling creatively too. I think my creativity is directly connected to my emotions. When I am happy and positive, I feel very productive creatively, but if I am depressed or pressing through writing, the creativity and imagination suffers.

Being away from my emotions is hard. I am so open to everything; I’m tenderhearted and try to be kind to everyone. It’s not like me to live without emotions. The day they closed the cafeteria seating area was a day when the ice broke under me. I took a break and grabbed a Pepsi. I noticed all the chairs were gone and decided to just sit on the floor. That’s a very ‘me’ thing to do, I enjoy setting lotus-style and relaxing, stretching my back and calming down. The manager of the cafeteria came and yelled at me for sitting in the closed area. I left in tears that would not stop. I couldn’t calm down.

I tweeted the other day that I feel the writing that comes from this time will be the best we’ve ever read, and I truly do believe that. What is happening now has a huge emotional consequence, feelings that are unknown to a lot of us. Generation defining emotions that will shape who we are and what we become in the future.

My oldest was struggling with everything that was happening and I told my daughter to take the emotions she was feeling and use them to write songs or poetry, so she can have a reference for this specific time.

Much like music can define eras, books carry very powerful feelings of times when they are written. Allowing yourself to feel those emotions and use them is a very brave thing to do. And I honestly couldn’t tell you that I have allowed myself to go there.

I’m editing a happy-go-lucky romance, but my mind and heart are struggling with even looking at it. I love what I’ve written, but it’s not what I want to write right now. But what do I want to write? I’ve written a few poems and I keep a pretty specific journal , but that isn’t what I want to write either.

The truth is I’m scared to feel emotions. I’m scared to even dip a toe in the icy water for fear that I will emotionally break down again. But if I did… maybe something breathtaking would happen. Maybe my words will reach ears that need comfort. Maybe they will travel to continents I’ll never walk on and places I’ll never see.

I’m writing this now to tell you all that it’s okay to feel things. Your emotions are important, and it’s important to understand what and how to feel. But unlike me, it’s important to share them with people, because we are all feeling them too. Many of us have to put on armor every day. Even running to the grocery store can be an anxiety-inducing idea. Journaling (like this post) is helping me embrace the emotions I am feeling, hopefully helping loosen the snarled tangled that I have wrapped around my joy of creativity.

Be brave and use your emotions you have to power you on and find a voice for a defining moment. Use this silent time to reconnect with the threads that made you YOU. Don’t be afraid of the icy water, trust your talents and your abilities, and let’s see how we can create imagination that can define the 20’s and beyond.

Things to Love in the Time of Corona

My spring flowers

Today is March 19th, 2020. It’s the first day of spring. Do people remember what Spring is? It’s the wakening of a sleepy world, one that has no memory of anything that has transpired over the last few months, even over the past few days.

I always look forward to spring. After being cocooned by cold and snow, and the depression that penetrates down to the soul. Spring is what helps awaken the seed of expression in me.

I do have moments of poetic inspiration, but it’s usually spring that refreshes the soul, dusts off the muse, and helps me remember amazing creation in nature and birth, and the simple marvels of science in how the world works.

My heart is having trouble right now. I have this strange feeling that rest right behind my ribs that feels that any moment it might ignite or completely wither. I can’t feed it too much and it can’t starve. I’m sure that several of you know this feeling. It’s not quick panic, it’s not anxiety, it’s just an anxious unsettling. And when I don’t have something to focus on, all I feel is the pressure.

Part of the reason I thought of writing this post is to help me change focus. Spring is a perfect thing to focus on. But more than that, I think that slowing the pace of life is a huge lesson to all of us that live high energy lives.

I’m considering a list of things that I forgot how much I love, not just about spring, but about living and breathing in general. In reflecting, it’s helping ease the terrible monster I feel inside.

Sidewalk Chalk Art

Pretty good art, right?

I grew up with not much money but a lot of imagination. I never had sidewalk chalk when I was younger. What we had (my friends and sister) were pieces of drywall. Remember how cool that was? Drywall? That was one of our favorite parts of when someone built a new room or did some remodeling. When we found some old drywall, a world of magic appeared before us.

For the past few Easters, sidewalk chalk was something I loved giving my girls, because of the magical experiences I felt when I was younger.

Sidewalk chalk is a great way to express yourself to others and a beautiful way to enjoy the sunshine. It reconnects the seeds of youth. When I get chalk in my hand, I’m all the sudden practicing my bubble lettering that I scrawled on my notebooks in junior high. I draw hopscotch courts and person outlines, and every color of daisy I can. It’s an expression of self that is juvenile and young. Rainbows and clouds graffiti on the ground that washes away with the rain. It’s a wonderful feeling that comes with drawing with chalk on the ground.

Baking Bread

I’m the worst domestic. I’m not very creative when it comes to cooking. I have very little imagination for it. But there is something very enchanting about baking, something that feeds me again from my youth.

My mother would make bread when I was younger. My young, formative years were spent in an unusual situation. I’ve posted about this before, but I lived for seven years of my life in a converted dairy barn in a small country town.

Living in a large family with very little money, my mother did extraordinary things to make it feel like we were always wealthy. She masked our situation when I was young, and not until I was an adult could I truly get perspective of our reality.

The simple act of baking bread reminds me of growing up an being small. Snitching dough with the pinch of my fingers. The warm smell spreading throughout our home. I loved her bread. It wasn’t a particular difficult recipe, but it was the act of making it that made it so special. And as I said, I’m not very domestic and have not carried on this tradition, but in the time of reflection, this was something I wanted to do for my family – a service I felt was important to imbue the difficult memories with something courageous their mother tried, much like my mother.

Connect Four and Sorry!

Bet you didn’t know that I am UNBEATABLE at Connect Four. My sister had the game when we were in the tween years, and often times we would just play and play. My sister is two years younger and has always been competitive with me, though she never admitted it. In playing, we both learned several strategies that have sharpened my skills and helped me predict my competitors next move.

I was given a wooden Connect Four game for my birthday last year and decided in this downtime to play my girls until I lost. We have postponed our matches because of online school, but it is still going strong.

And if you’ve never played Sorry! with me, it is QUITE the experience. I call myself sore winner. I’m funny, sarcastic, a bad sport, a loud mouth, never a cheerleader, always the one to kill the one that wronged me… and HARDLY EVER WIN. But when I do, I make it the most memorable experience of Sorry! EVER!

Another time in my childhood, I played my sister Sorry! until I won…. FOURTEEN GAMES LATER I finally won. FOURTEEN GAMES?? What is wrong with me? I love this game, that’s what’s wrong. I will drop anything to play.

Sorry! is my favorite game, and now is a perfect time to play me. My sister has an auto-immune disease and we are not allowed to visit, so the best way to play games with her is online. I love that we found Sorry! and Boggle and Punch Drunk Scrabble (the best way to play Scrabble is at 1 in the morning). If you can’t physically play with someone, this might be the best way to enjoy each other during this time.

Blanket Forts and Trampolines

Trouble is coming.

When all things started to fall apart on Friday, I knew very quickly that I needed to think outside the box when trying to keep kids and myself entertained. The first thing I wanted to do was set up a TV in our front room with retrogaming consoles and then build a blanket fort. My attempt at the blanket fort was dismal when you have a curious cat. It lasted long enough to appreciate the mysterious world that’s under a blanket fort, and also that I don’t need to live in one.

Yesterday, after a very difficult day, (oh… did I mention with all the social distancing and hoarding, we had a 5.7 earthquake?) I made a quick decision to pick up an trampoline a person was selling super cheap in my neighborhood.

Me and my girls set it up, springs and all, and don’t even care that the tramp itself is upside-down. I’ve always wanted a tramp ever since I was a teen. We never had one, but my neighbor had one, and we invented lots of games, one we called Ghost where we had to act out something and be judged, and I was rather good at that game.

My husband has been against a tramp for years. He did grow up with one and just didn’t think we needed it. We have mature trees and spent years climbing and swinging. But now the girls are teens and their imagination in suffering. I have to get them outside.

School being canceled has made my kids very depressed, bored, grumpy, constantly hungry, and the earthquake was icing on the cake. I went and grabbed the trampoline on my way home from work without even asking permission, and the girls are thrilled.

Trampolines let you fly. The weightless bounce is exhilarating. You feel the sky and are transported to a weightless world. And you know when you’ve returned to earth, because you feel gravity for the first time.

These two things center my spirit. They are just little and brought back threads of youth. Showing my silly side to my kids is important to me. My relationship with them is important. My trust and openness with them starts with their relationship with me. I’ve never been super strict, I’ve always been silly and willing to play. Be open to show that silly side.

Re-reading

As much as I love reading, I can’t concentrate on it. My brain is skimming over details and missing so much. I’m trying to finish The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow and I don’t think it’s fair to the book. I love the way it’s written, but have lost my appetite for it right now. I still want to read, so I’ve decided to reread books that I know and want to experience again. Books that I’ve been far removed from for years, foundations to my writing, and something to help distract my mind. I’ve selected three books:

  1. The Princess Bride – William Goldman
  2. Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
  3. The Sword of Shannara – Terry Brooks

These three books I own but forgot about.

The Princess Bride I read in high school, mostly because I loved the movie, which is a good adaptation, however, the book is so well put together that it changed my idea of how literature can be presented to an audience.

Anne of Green Gables I also started reading because of the movie, or series, but it was the first book I finished on my own – that was in ninth grade. It’s so quirky and funny, and about a girl that I identified with.

My mother read Sword of Shannara to me when I was super young. I have very fond memories of laying on her bed with my head hanging off the edge, looking at the world upside-down, worrying about Shea when he fell off the cliff away from his brother. You all remember that part? It was the worst! I read it on my own my first winter in Logan after I was married and felt very isolated and friendless. That book brought great comfort and companionship. Sword is fundamental in my fantasy writing and it will feel really good to remember the beginning of the journey.

We’re All In This Together

I feel almost like a specter in my own life, floating in my body and walking in my clothing. I see a purple sky and wonder how it turned purple. We all have this strange feeling in our chests. Everyone is feeling it. We are not alone. This is one of those life-defining moments where trajectories are formed and changed. It’s important to bring out the memories is a good way, try to enrich the lives around you, because they are forming serious memories right now. Each day is different and ever-changing, but don’t be afraid and don’t fight your anxiety. It’s okay to feel things, it’s important to know emotion and understand it.

Take this time to find in yourself strength you don’t know is there, but it is. The sun is still there and it will still be there tomorrow. Find the memories that have defined your life and share them. You are important to those who love you, so bring out the memories you want to craft for them. It’s a beautiful, but unclear time. But for once, the whole world is experiencing this feeling together. We aren’t alone. We are all in this together. Hang in there!

Book Review: The Starless Sea and Dreamy Meandering

“Strange, isn’t it? To love a book. When the words on the pages become so precious that they feel like part of your own history because they are. It’s nice to finally have someone read stories I know so intimately.”

Ever since I finished this book, it’s been haunting me. I’m still unsure how I should feel about it. I have very complicated feelings. Complicated. This book is everything and nothing. It does everything right and everything wrong. I ache for the stories and yet, can’t figure out what I just read.

In January, I got the opportunity to see Erin Morgenstern on tour and she was absolutely delightful, like in the ‘we could be best friends’ kind of way. Erin has only ever written one other book, The Night Circus, and I fell head over heels for it. So, the pressure was on for her to deliver a knock out story.

I waited to buy the book for this tour, and when I went to buy my ticket for the event, it was sold out. Stupid me. I posted on my social media if anyone happens to have an extra ticket to let me know. As it turned out, my friend got sick and couldn’t go and I was gifted the opportunity.

And I’m so glad I went. Because as I read the book, I was given insight from the questions she answered that night at her Q & A.

How this book is everything…

First thing I want to say – this book is presented as an experience. Much like her other book, where you feel like you are actually attending the Night Circus, this is developed without chapters and unfolds in layers. It’s sliced into sections inviting you in by telling you stories – stories written so beautifully and sensory that each was a delicious bite of words drizzled with honey.

I loved reading these stories. Many read like fairy tales, but some were poetry in disguise. Each one though was achingly beautiful. It brought a depth to the story that was unlike anything I had experienced, because my heart had grasped so tightly to each word that I lost breath. As a storyteller myself, I was in complete wonderment. Bravo!

“Everyone wants the stars. Everyone wishes to grasp that which exists out of reach. To hold the extraordinary in their hands and keep the remarkable in their pockets.”

How the book meanders and gets lost…

It’s so hard to put this book into one sentence. Let me try…

Zachary Ezra Rawlins finds a book in his college library that leads him to a secret underground library patrolled by cats where he can walk through doors that are lost in time, and eventually loses himself in stories created by the Moon and Fate and Time, and sails the Starless Sea to find the Queen of the Bees. (A nut shell with no spoilers)

So, on a positive note, this is very original, but it does have flavors of other books in it. Alice In Wonderland is very prominent throughout. There are so many references though, so many easter eggs that I couldn’t catch them all.

But that is the thing of it. TOO MUCH.

This book has so many ideas. When looking at the over-arching plot structure it doesn’t have one. Zachary wanders from one thing to another. I actually got very lost about halfway through. It doesn’t SAVE THE CAT or HERO’S JOURNEY. It just meanders around until you also feel lost like Zachary in the doors of time. So many little details were put into that I don’t think all of the threads were found at the end, because I was still confused.

And none of the characters are there to save the lost story. Actually, my favorite character is Kat, and she is not in it as much as I wished. Everyone else kinda falls flat. Kat is the only one with character. A friend actually mentioned she wished Kat were the protagonist instead of Zachary, and you know what? That is a great point. I kinda wish that too.

And let me point out the villain…..

…right. There isn’t one. Allegra, the strange lady that runs the Collector’s Club is a strong contender for the villain, but she isn’t really villainous. She steals doorknobs so people can’t get into the secret library. She did cut off some guy’s hand. That is pretty creepy. But she disappears halfway through the book, so then I was confused by the story’s direction. If there is no opposing force, what drives the main character’s actions?

I also think the main story was poorly cast, if we are talking characters. Zachary is a Video Game major, which I found weird and unnecessary. And then there is Dorian, who’s name isn’t Dorian, but we don’t know him from any other name, is the creepy guy that is Zachary’s love interest. I don’t have a problem with the relationship being same-sex, I do have a problem with the age difference and how it is written. It wasn’t interesting. There was no dynamic. Many times I felt that this was written as a teen romance, but then remember that this guy Dorian is about 50. It’s written that he is a silver fox, but that just makes it gross for me. I can’t connect with the relationship at all.

But the story wasn’t really about the relationship, or if it was, I missed that part with all the other unnecessary details.

When I say it was poorly cast is that the most interesting character is not the main character, and I feel that is a problem. There needed to be more dynamics and more risks when setting up the protagonist. And maybe the relationship didn’t work for me because I couldn’t connect with it, but it didn’t feel authentic either. It was almost like she decided to change the gender of her character to see what the story looked like and didn’t change some of the language surrounding it. Putting Kat as the main character flips it in a positive, interesting way. Kat being a Video Game major makes sense because of her eccentric character. Oh…. as I said, poor casting.

My mind kept coming back to the Night Circus and how deep that relationship went and how I was so glued to it. But it was a relationship hooked me in dynamic ways. I kept trying to give this relationship between Zachary and Dorian a shot, but I several times thought they didn’t even like each other. Looking at it now that I’m out of the story and evaluating it, I think about Morgenstern’s audience. One of the things that made Night Circus magic was the ache we felt for these two people forbidden to love and fated to destroy each other. The love story was weaved into every fiber of that story. It wasn’t so here. It had nothing to do with the story. Funny though, my favorite short story that was told between the Zachary sections was the Ballad of Simon and Eleanor, which was a quick but lovely love story, that later became very important and I just wanted more of this story. The other parts in the book were now a distraction. I didn’t care about the main story. I wish she would have put more thought about dynamics of a strong relationship in the main story as she did with the others.

“It is easier to be in love in a room with closed doors. To have the whole world in one room. One person. The universe condensed and intensified and burning, bright and alive and electric.”

And last thing… too much sweet is just too much sometimes. Have any of you ever had a Hot Caramel Apple Cider from Starbucks? They are no kidding amazing. If it’s not on the menu, you can still order it. It’s seasonal, but also on their secret wink wink menu. It is very sweet, and the first sip takes you by surprise. And then you start to get used to it. And then… by the end of the cup you are so sick of it, you don’t even want the very last sip, you just throw the whole thing away.

That is this book.

The prose are marvelous. Every single sentence is well planned, thought out, and poetic in every alliterative. Near the end of it, I felt like my fingers were sticky with honey. Stop mentioning honey. I was saturated with the intertwining words that it’s just too much for the heart and the brain. I no longer could recognize what was special about it. It might be with the cascading plot that toppled around a sea filled with honey, but I really think it was the free reign of ideas that was just a few too many.

This review is hard to write, but it’s also beautiful to write. I loved this book, but I hated it. I loved the fairytale. I hated the story, but loved it. And I hated mostly that Morgenstern gets away with such structure problems that I would get murdered for in my reviews. All hidden in her prose. That’s so unfair.

“Not all stories speak to all listeners, but all listeners can find a story that does, somewhere, sometime. In one form or another.”

I will recommend people read this book. I wouldn’t want people to miss it. It is a good example to writers and readers of what you can do with words. And a good exercise in how important structure, character, and relationships are to a story.

Book Review: The Hate U Give

I wanted to start off my year with something new, something not so fluffy or fantastical like what I usually gravitate to. This book caught my eye a while ago, and let’s be honest, she has the same last name as me, which makes her cool by default.

This is not what I typically read. I use reading as an escape from the hard stuff, so for me to read something I knew would rip my guts out is a bit strange for me.

The other day my teenage daughter read me the first page of a play called “Nocturne” by Adam Rapp. The first page, first line even, was super difficult for me to hear – about a teenager who accidentally ran over his sister, killing her. My daughter is at that age where this realistic curiosity feeds her emotions. I have grown passed that, having had dealt with real hard situations and having zero desire to revisit them. I have perspective and sensitivity, and it was hard for me even listening to her read this to me.

So, the thought of reading a story about a teen witnessing her best friend get shot by a cop was NOT on my TO READ list.

What changed my mind was Twitter.

I follow Angie Thomas. I have for years, and though I am not super active in the writing community there, I pay attention. She recently tweeter about the audiobook of The Hate U Give being one of the best audiobooks of the decade. THE DECADE.

Well, okay. Audiobook. I was curious. I love audio work and voice artists. Seriously, THAT is my dream job if I wasn’t an author. I have a commute, this should be fine. Listen to it here and there. Right? I think that sounds wonderful. I can do that.

So I downloaded it with a credit I had lying around and started that day.

Some books I can’t listen to on audio. Sometimes my brain needs to voice it. This happens with a lot of fantasy books when I’m engulfed in the cerebral words designed by an artist. Those things I can’t have others interpret for me. I need my head to do the narrating. But books like Eleanor and Park or Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered I wanted to listen to. I wanted to be entertained by the story. Because of the heavy subject matter, I thought maybe listening to this one would be better than reading it. Also, if Angie says it’s one of the best in the decade, than I think it’s worth a listen.

…and I’m very glad I did.

The best way I can describe this book is “Important.”

A quick rundown of THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas – Sixteen-year-old Starr Parker witnesses her best friend from childhood get shot by a cop for no other reason but for the color of his skin.

This book talks about race, social issues, culture, social politics, education, class . . . honestly, I think it touches every issue that people are afraid of. I was tremendously impressed with how it was handled.

Things I learned:

  1. It’s important to stand up for how you feel and what you believe in. Starr was afraid to talk about her experience with her friends. She attended a private school because of the poor education in Garden Heights. In the end, she stood up for truth and justice, no matter who was looking. — I have learned this over the years working in health care. I liked how it was represented so strongly in a book for youth.
  2. A community should act like a family. During the rioting in Garden Heights, the community rallied around Big Mav (Starr’s father) to keep their store open, even when it looked destroyed. Having small business and a strong community with you is important. It brings in safety and a sense of belonging. — I know my neighbors, they are good people. But there are several on my street that I don’t know. If something happened to my home, would they be there to rally for me? I seek that kind of support. I loved reading about that here.
  3. Sometimes people get in a bad way because they are trying to do a good thing. In the book, Khalil (the victim), was highlighted in the news as a drug dealer. Later you find out that he was doing it to protect his mother, not because he wanted but to keep her safe. — I think it’s always good to understand the whole picture before siding one way or the other. The underneath matters too. I really liked this point, because I don’t like how sometimes things are only told from one side. This is an important part of this book – Immediate reaction and sensationalism. When investigating anything, make sure it’s sourced. And it’s okay to form your own opinions, and don’t be a jerk to those that differ from you. Find the root cause of problems and help solve the problems. Be the sunshine in the change that we need in the world.
  4. Family unity. This family was very unified in what happens. And the family isn’t perfect and it shows the imperfections, but it centers on trust and love throughout the whole thing. I really enjoyed the side characters like Nana. Bahni Turpin did such a great job bringing in a rather grumpy old grandma to the stage. The whole performance was masterful. — Family is relations, but it is also who you chose it to be. My family takes in the strays, all are welcome. Believing in others and supporting is what a family should do. We all belong.
  5. Be proud of where you come from. Starr talked about having two versions of herself – the Garden Heights Starr and then her preppy school Starr. She hid the horrors of where she lived from her boyfriend Chris, who is white, which always thickened the perspective of everything. She grew to understand the real Starr and be proud of it. — For the longest time I was ashamed of how poor I was growing up. I later have found similar people with similar stories like mine, ones who understand what it was like to be the odd ones and struggle and to not fit in. I’ve grown to love my upbringing and wear it like a badge. I’m proud of it. Be proud.

This book makes me want to be a better human. The message of this book is about justice, doing what’s right, standing united. . . all things that many are timid about. It’s in my nature to be afraid to ruffle feathers, but when it’s important you should use your voice and stand up for what’s write.

I think right now is a perfect time to understand where you are and where you stand. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book. There is a lot of swearing because it speaks true to the culture and the situation, and I think it’s just as important to the book as anything else. That might scare off readers, but I embraced it and appreciated the authenticity.

THE HATE U GIVE really deserves the attention it has received. I’m glad I gave it a listen and plan on reading more from this author.