Friday, January 24, 2020

Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl DreamingBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this. It read quickly and beautifully. Woodson is exploring ideas of identity within her particular family, culture, locale, and nation. Her exploration of her family genealogy, her family connections near and dear were reminiscent to Madeleine L'Engle's Summer of the Great Grandmother which I finished (again) last night. She searches out who she is based on her relationships and comparisons with those who've gone before. She listens to the stories - family stories, stories read aloud, stories from the library read and re-read - and as she listens they form her and she learns what to say. Some of my favorite poems are the series of "how to listen" haiku strewn throughout the book.

She is shaped by place, by where she is at any given time. She acknowledges this - that any change in her history or her friend Maria's history or her grandparents, great grandparents - any changes in the lives, choices, histories, locales would make her a different person with different acquaintance and a different life entirely.

There are things I struggle with, this is a book to interact with. The final poem of the book has her believing in all things - even opposite things -with little distinction; no barriers. I think that is dangerous. Her reaction to religious practice of her family within the Jehovah's Witnesses was a struggle to think through. She seemed resentful of the time spent, thankful for the parameters given, frustrated by reactions by her grandfather and mother, intrigued by the wholly other. Because there are many beliefs wrapped up in the Jehovah's Witness that are not Trinitarian, Christian parents will want to tread very carefully. I would not hand this to a child without knowing what is there.

Clearly, Woodson has a gift. "Words are my brilliance." she is acknowledged and acknowledges on pg 248. Yes. For sure. Don't miss her brilliant words.

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Monday, January 20, 2020

Book Review: Consider This by Karen Glass (audiobook)

Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical TraditionConsider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen  Glass
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had read nearly all of this in book form and enjoyed it ... but got distracted and began other things ... and suddenly it was buried under a stack of books begun and unfinished. I suspect many readers can identify.

Happily, I won a copy of the newly released audiobook read by Donna-Jean Breckenridge immediately before a trip where I was driving by myself. I listened to nearly all of it on that trip and finished this evening while making pancakes for dinner and then while my children were watching Swallows and Amazons. Again.

What a helpful, lovely book.

Glass pulls together ideas from classical educators as and the principles of Charlotte Mason as the warp and weaves the idea of sythetic knowledge as the woof to reveal a glorious tapestry displaying what can be when we teach our children - and ourselves - in this way.

I was especially fascinated by her discussion of The Ways of Reason and Will. I am intrigued and ready to seek out more.

This book is a needed corrective of course to our modern educational courses and pathways. Highly Recommended.

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

Book Review: Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday LifeLiturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


There were valuable ideas to be mined in this book. Things like dealing with our digital world rightly, ordering our physical devotional life, thinking about routine and habit. I really enjoyed the first 5 chapters.

Warren lost me, to some extent, in her chapter about food. I started to find nuances in her thinking that were overly burdensome, in my opinion. Being thoughtful about details is good, but not everyone can think about canned food or the sources of food in this way. Not everyone can afford a chair built by their neighbor. She decries me-centered evangelicalism but doesn't see how being overly introspective about her day to day and choices is a part of that.

I found the writing to be a little less tight as she went on, I felt like I was reading the same ideas and sentences re-written. My favorite passages in the book were the quotes she pulled from other sources.

The final chapter, on rest and sabbath, was about a topic that I think is important and could use more highlighting, so I was glad it was included.

I can see why it has been a popular book, I found some of the ideas helpful, but it isn't one I'd recommend everyone read.

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Book Review: Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry

Hannah CoulterHannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A few years ago, gave away Hannah Coulter for free; they still do a free giveaway each month.

Last spring I decided to listen while I walked the dog. I was really enjoying it, but there was so much that I felt like could go into my commonplace and listening was inferior to reading so I set it aside.

This winter I decided that it was worth finishing even if I couldn't take notes and picked it back up again in Part 2 and today I finished the book. I was crying while driving down I-71. So much of this story touched my heart. Hannah and Nathaniel reminded me of my grandparents; her children my parents; her grandchildren were of my generation. Their choices and her perspective of them were touching; I will admit that I wished to hear from her children's perspective of their choices because I suspect they had their reasons for leaving the place.

There is something to be said for place and the lifestyle of the Coulters, but I found myself thankful that it wasn't the life that my parents' generation had for me. I'm no agrarian, but I am thankful for those who are and I think there can be a middle ground as well. Through Hannah, Berry laments a lost society that was a beautiful thing, but as I sit with a group of friends working on various projects in the same room I see a Membership that is built differently, but just as real-ly.

I appreciate how it taught me to let my children be themselves. I'm not sure that's the message I was supposed to get, and Hannah was certainly rueful of some choices her children made, but hope, expectation, and loving children are lessons I can learn from Hannah.

It is a beautiful book. Hannah will stay with me as the living beings she held in her memory and heart. The book will make you think, for sure, but it will also help you love.

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Friday, January 03, 2020

Book Review: Animal Farm by George Orwell (Audiobook)

Animal FarmAnimal Farm by George Orwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Library audio.

I have a deep-abiding hatred for dystopian literature. It began with Brave New World in high school and has not left me. In fact, we were supposed to read this 2 years ago in our AmblesideOnline curriculum, but I wanted the kids to read it with Jason, not me.

Today, we listened to the audiobook on a family day-trip to and from the Cleveland Museum of Art. It was a good way to do it. On the up-side I got my #20for2020 "Out of my Comfort Zone" challenge taken care of and the kids got to "read" and discuss this with Jason.

It is a well-written, idea driven book and important one. I can't say that I liked it very well.

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Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Book Review: When the Legends Die by Hal Borland

When The Legends DieWhen The Legends Die by Hal Borland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I first read this book as a Freshman in High School, some 32 years or so ago. I always remembered that I liked it, and as I am following the Literary Life Podcast's reading challenge of #20for2020 this year, and they have a "Reread a Book You Read in High School" category, I thought it would be a fitting reread. Aside from the challenge, I wondered if it would be appropriate for my nearly 14 year old son.

I enjoyed it probably more this time. I read the whole book today. It is written in a circle detailing how our lives are a circle and how to find the starting place of our identity. The main character, Tom Black Bull has many names - the boy, Brother Bear, Thomas, Tom, Killer Tom Black - that each fit his identity for the duration of part of the story. Just how is for the reader to learn.

Set in the early 1900s and detailing the exploitation of the Ute people, there are harsh realities regarding the white people - marriage and baptism for money not truth, the administrator of the Reservation school is not shown in a good light, the gambling cynic who takes Tom "under his wing," even the do-gooder teacher is shown as not really understanding and causing more trouble than good. These indictments are eased by other characters - the store owner, the flock owner, the and doctors (one of whom quotes George Herbert twice) who seem to understand and ease things with kindness. To some extent, the characters other than Tom are static and in their roles, but they serve a purpose and aren't caricatures.

While I was frustrated by the portrayal of preachers/priests, the climax of the book - which is very near the end - is a spiritual awakening. Tom's understanding of his identity is rooted in the pronouncement of the "All Mother." This is by no means a Christian portrayal of Gospel, but it does point to human need for the transcendant. Thomas Black Bull's beliefs shape who he is and how he will live going forward. He can now go forward after this dark night of the soul. There is much here that can be discussed.

Well written, engaging, it was a good way to start my reading year.

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Friday, December 27, 2019

Word for the Year 2020

For 2020 I wanted a verb that included the idea of "enthusiasm."

I toyed with using "enthuse," but decided that it had too much ... cynicism intrinsic in the very word itself. I want to be positive with enthusiasm; interested; participatory in a good way, interested with .

As I thought more and more about what I really needed for 2020, it was engagement.  To cheerfully, interestedly, enthusiastically engage with people and ideas.

I find it all too easy to live in my head, separate myself from ideas, not listen to narrations (oops), step back when in a group, etc.  Introversion, in and of itself, isn't a bad thing. The longer I'm home with my kids, I find myself becoming more and more introverted. It becomes so much effort to leave the house.

I find myself not talking to people after church. I find myself ordering groceries - which is great! - but not seeing the people in the store. It is easy to like but not comment ... not reach out when I disagree. I can consume media without responding. I live in my head, having conversations with people providing their parts - which may or may not be representative of what they'd actually say. I keep joys and sorrows to myself.

So, for 2020 I need to actually engage with life and the people around me.

I need to engage myself more in my kids' work. Pre-read, participate, think with them, engage in the ideas and ways and thoughts they're thinking.

I want to engage the ideas in my reading more. I've long found that I think when I write, so I hope to write more - maybe even, dare I say, blog more? Maybe more poetry?

I want to be better at my work, engaging moms where they are with Morning Time and helping them develop those relationships.

I want to think more deeply about my faith and act more on Christ's call, to be engaged in the work of the Kingdom. Even when I'm uncomfortable.

There are more ways I should engage in real and virtual life, but I hope to explore those in the coming months. I hope you'll join me in that exploration.