Sunday, September 30, 2018

Literary Wives #35

An American Marriage 

I selected the "Georgia" font for this review since Roy's pet name for Celestial was "Georgia"!
This book was an Oprah Book Club selection for 2018 and 
I can imagine this translating well to the big screen.
Here is the NPR interview with Karen Grigsby Bates and Tayari Jones.
There are also many reviews out there to read...

What was my opinion of this book? 
Well...Tayari Jones is now on my 
Goodreads "absolute favorite authors" shelf! 
Wow. This woman can write. 
I read this book basically in one day. 
But don't let that fool you! 
It read quickly, but was enthralling 
and the complexity of the characters and their 
intertwined lives were revealed in a straightforward 
easily understood manner. 
There are not many authors capable of writing this way, 
in my opinion.
I own a copy of Silver Sparrow and am anxious 
to read it now.
I venture to say I would never hesitate 
to read a book written by Tayari Jones. 
In reading about some of her upcoming events, 
I see she will be in Nashville, Tennessee on October 14th "in conversation with Celeste Ng" who wrote Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You
I read and adored the latter but have yet to read her newest release, Little Fires Everywhere.
in Nashville, Tennessee. It is the 30th year for this annual event.
If only I had the time and money... It is notable this event is free!
Ah...but I digress...

The first of the three main characters we encounter is Roy. It is Roy who endures the most horrific of life events: unfairly arrested, charged with a crime, convicted, and incarcerated. Oh, if only that never occurred in our society! It is one of the injustices that always makes my heart stop and my eyes tear up. I never ever will forget reading Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson. Bryan is the founder of Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. This man is an absolute hero. Truly. A. Hero. No question. Again, I end up asking myself how humans can be so inhumane to other humans. I do not understand. Nor do I subscribe. But back to Roy...

I realized the irony of reading this particular book during the Kavanaugh/Ford controversy playing out in our nation's capitol. Though Roy's accuser believed her attacker was him and the room was completely dark, etc., so she was unable to truly see the man to recognize him or not. Whereas Ford knew her attacker and his accomplice very well. 'Nuff said. 

I loved Roy's admission of the help he received to get where he was as an adult:
All my life I have been helped by leg-up programs--Head Start when I was five and Upward Bound all the way through. If I ever have kids, they will be able to pedal through life 
without training wheels, but I like to give credit where it is due. (4)
Ah, that phrase "pedal through life without training wheels," isn't that a beautifully apt  analogy? I immediately thought of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. Whereas Vance mentions the various social programs by which he advanced himself out of the poor Appalachian culture to which he was born, he fails to give them their "due" or note appreciation for them, rather crediting only himself. (At least that was my interpretation of his story.) And at the end of his book he berates such helpful programs, but offers absolutely no alternatives... In my head I was saying, "He makes an excellent representative of the current Republican party--all negativity and criticism, but no thought of alternatives." That accomplishes exactly zero. No improvement. I appreciated Roy's character citing his appreciation and giving credit to the social programs that helped him. Of course, I credit Jones for her insight...

Atlanta is where I learned the rules and learned them quick. No one ever called me stupid.
But home isn't where you land, home is where you launch
You can't pick your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. 
Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land....
I'm not talking bad about Eloe... For one, Eloe may be in Louisiana, not a state brimming with opportunity, but it is located in America, and if you're going to be black and struggling, 
the United States is probably the best place to do it. (4)
Upon reading this passage, I sighed to myself and thought, that's probably correct, even given today's current social and cultural regress that seems to have occurred. Though I feel for black males--this is not a fair world for them. Or for any non-white, especially males. Just look at the prison population. The amount of non-white folks jailed for drug violations. Yet drug usage among white folks is estimated to be a much higher percentage than that for non-white minorities. Something just doesn't add up. 

I loved Roy's story about a date who pulled a gun on him in the middle of an Urban League Gala! She "flashed it inside her purse under the table" and stated that she knew Roy was cheating on her with "some chick from the Black Bar Association." I had to shake my head and laugh at that one. "Little Roy" continues to tell his Daddy, Big Roy, about how he had "lost his touch with the ladies for a minute" after that. No kidding! Ya think?!? ;) Big Roy's response?
"You don't want no woman that brandished a firearm, son."
I tried to explain that what made it remarkable was the contrast between the streetness of the pistol and the glitter of the evening. Besides: "She was playing, Daddy." 
Big Roy nodded and sucked the foam from his glass of beer. 
"If that's how she plays, what's going to happen when she gets mad?" (6)
Yep! Dad's definitely got a valid point there! :) 

I especially appreciated Jones' notation that 
White people say, "It beats digging a ditch"; black people say, "It beats picking cotton." (8)
There is a distinct difference... In thinking of raising children, Roy states
I'm not going to remind my kids that somebody died in order for me to do everyday things. (8)
Then Celestial promises
...she will never say that they have to be twice as good to get half as much. "Even if it's true"... (8)
I think I tried to convince my children of this last bit just simply because we were so poor when they were young. Though as with most, I don't believe they realized it until they got to school... They spent their youth fairly isolated in the country, which helped. 

Roy describes Celestial:
She was the perfect balance in a woman, not a button-down corporate type, 
but she wore her pedigree like the gloss on a patent-leather shoe. 
In addition, she popped like an artist, without veering into crazy. 
In other words, there was no pink pistol in her purse, but there was no shortage of passion either.     Celestial liked to go her own way and you could tell that from looking at her...
Even before you knew she was a genius with needle and thread, 
you could tell you were dealing with a unique individual. (8)
Roy works so that Celestial can stay home and build her business making dolls. Yep! She eventually makes a living making dolls! As they discuss this with Roy's mother and Daddy, Olive (Roy's mother) cannot believe people would pay $5,000 for a doll. "I guess that's why God invented white folks." I had to laugh at that! 

At one point, Roy realizes he has 'misspoken'. :)
If you have a woman, you recognize when you have said the wrong thing. 
Somehow she arranges the ions in the air and you can't breathe as well. (16)
That prompted another laugh from me! 

We are here to answer the Literary Wives question:

What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife?

Please make sure you read 
the other hosting bloggers' reviews:

Naomi of Consumed by Ink

I thought this book had much to say about 
"being a wife"!

Little Roy is sentenced to 12 years for rape. He is totally innocent and was with Celestial. But he ends up serving 5 years until Celestial's uncle finally convinces a federal court to reverse his conviction and release him from prison. However, after three years, Celestial stops writing and visiting Roy. This coincides with Olive's death. Little Roy's mother died from cancer when he had been incarcerated for three years. Big Roy remains at the cemetery and personally shovels all the dirt into the hole himself, covering his wife's casket.
Celestial sighed. You'll never see anything like that again, no matter how long you live."...
"Roy has been away so long." she whispered. "I've done everything I'm supposed to do. 
I haven't thought about any other man, let alone touched one. 
But when I look at Mr. Roy out there, at his wife's grave, I feel like I've been playing at marriage.
    That I don't know what it is to be committed." (153)

She is tired and wants to live her life. She and Andre/"Dre" have been best friends since they were 3 months old bathing in the sink together, and have been next-door neighbors throughout their lives. They end up as a couple during those last two years of Roy's incarceration and Dre buys her a ring and asks her to marry him. But Celestial no longer believes in the whole idea of marriage, stating that 
"Till death do us part" is unreasonable, a recipe for failure.
I asked her, "So what do you believe in?"
She said, "I believe in communion."
As for me, I'm modern and traditional at the same time. I, too, believe in intimacy--who doesn't? 
But I also believe in commitment. (105)
But as much as I could understand Roy's opinion that Celestial should remain faithful and wait for him, she eventually cannot hold out any longer and needs to live her life. And, it's not as if Roy had been absolutely faithful during their brief 18 months together as husband and wife. Celestial discovered a note with a woman's name and number written on it, as well as a receipt for two pieces of lingerie when Roy had gifted her only one of those. But I believe Roy felt that was no big deal. He admits to having been a real ladies' man while single. As I have mentioned before I will never understand why a man refuses to keep his pants zipped and remain faithful. Sheesh!  I did feel Dre was being a bit hypocritical in that he was screwing his best friend's wife but insisting upon "commitment" from her in their own relationship. What?!? Yep! Some irony there, huh?

And although Celestial's parents appeared to be totally devoted to each other, her father had  his own questionable beginning with Gloria. He was married at the time he started a relationship with her. He didn't reveal that to her until they had been dating for a month! She was his mistress for three years! It took him a long time to win her over before she would agree to marry him, but once they were married they were seemingly committed to each other.

So being a wife is what each female makes of it. Though Celestial and Roy seemed to fight quite often, at least in my opinion, she was trying to be a committed and sincere partner to her husband, though she did call him on his missteps. By refusing to marry Dre she was refusing to feel that sense of commitment again. It was overwhelming to her, and unattainable given the extreme situation in which she had found herself while married to Roy. I could understand that. Roy's parents appeared to be totally devoted to each other as well as totally devoted and committed to Roy as their son. And though Celestial's mother and father perhaps had a rather questionable start to their relationship with her being the mistress for the first three years until he was once again single, they had remained together for many years. I believe Jones was realistic in revealing that each individual makes of their marriage/parental role in life what works for them. It isn't the same for any two people. Being a wife, being a husband, being a father, being a mother--each individual serves in these roles differently. 

Perhaps more than the idea of being a "wife," I found both Little Roy and Dre's relationship with their Daddy to be fascinating. Dre's mother and father had divorced when he was a young child and his Daddy ended up marrying someone else and starting another family, fathering two children with his second wife. And he stayed around and raised those children, whereas he had abandoned Dre. His Daddy did at least pay for Dre to attend college, though he had not paid child support through the years. Dre ended up going to his father as a young adult and establishing some semblance of a relationship. 
I don't believe that blood makes a family, kin is the circle you create, hands held tight. 
There is something to shared genetics, but the question is, what exactly is that something? 
It matters that I didn't grow up with my father. It's kind of like having one leg that's a half inch shorter than the other. You can walk, but there will be a dip. (193)
I teared up at this passage. Having never even met my biological father and never having had a step-father, I can so relate. I have ALWAYS felt "incomplete." And my life has felt "incomplete" in many ways. I sometimes wonder if my rather extreme independent attitude  as a female is hard-wired in me or if it developed as a result of needing to fill that lack...of something missing in my life. Just a thought...

Little Roy discovers that Big Roy is not his biological father after all. His mother had legally changed Roy's name, though she retained his biological father's name as his middle name: Roy Onithal. (Onithal...what a name, eh?) Big Roy did everything in his power to be a real father to Little Roy. And Little Roy realizes that his true father is Big Roy; the one who cared for him in every way possible, even giving him his name. But of all the ironies, once he is incarcerated he eventually discovers that his cell mate is actually his biological father who paid a high price for him to be transferred to his cell so he could help Roy endure imprisonment. His biological father has abandoned more women than just his own mother once they became pregnant. Interestingly, Celestial is pregnant, from the last time she and Roy were together the night of his arrest, and he realizes that in his own way he abandoned his own child before s/he was born by indicating he didn't care what Celestial did and agreeing with her idea to abort the baby. (We learn this was not the first time Celestial underwent an abortion. Though her first pregnancy was under quite different circumstances--with a married man as the father.) 

As I composed this review I realized that each and every character was much more flawed than I had realized while reading the book. Tayari Jones stated that her goal was for people to not be able to feel they could relate more to any one character than another. I did feel that way at the end. I could relate to each character to a certain degree, but not any one more than the others. 

 If you've read this book, what was your reaction?

Join us on December 3rd as we review The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve.

Happy reading!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Judge Kavanaugh...or any other judge...

Who "judges" them?

No matter what your politics or your opinion of Judge Brett Kavanaugh or any other judge nominated for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States...
I agree with Ross Baker in the USA Today article entitled 
Even with Jeff Flake's FBI Investigation, Brett Kavanaugh Is Unfit to Serve.
"Brett" more than proved that to the world on Thursday.

I have known two different people who have worked within court systems.
To say these judges were corrupt is to understate the toxic environment to the extreme.

One person served as a Court Bailiff, and thereby oversaw all the finances of that court.
All money flowed through him and he was solely responsible for documenting all money 
received and paid out by that court.
He estimated that he turned down at least $100,000-$150,000 in 'overpayments' 
just during his first six months in this official capacity. 
He was finally provided police protection within 6 months of starting the job 
and informed by the FBI that a contract had been placed on his life. 
Someone was trying to have him killed.
It was the judge whose court he worked for as bailiff. 

The judge's income had dropped considerably due to THIS bailiff's refusal 
to allow money to flow "under the table" directly to said judge. 

This is when I learned that typically, any criminal attorney who charges 
an upfront fee that is at least $5,000-10,000 higher than any other local attorney, 
is usually paying that money directly to a judge...
and thereby obtaining more desirable verdicts for their clients.
Note: I am not stating this is ALWAYS the case, but usually...

Another time I met a woman who had worked in the court system 
when she was much younger, in her 20's. 
She quit within 6-9 months due to the sexual harassment she received. 
She was scared stiff for her own safety! And she is not a fearful person...
From whom did this sexual harassment eminate? 
The judges.

Her father was very upset once she informed him and insisted 
she immediately report her situation to the authorities. 
However, as she stated, they ARE the law!
And they quite obviously believed themselves to be immune to prosecution, 
'above the law' that they themselves enforce.

She was able to 'escape' the situation and leave behind a job she truly enjoyed 
where she believed she was performing a civic duty. 
But her safety and well-being were what mattered most...

I am certain there are very moral and ethical judges practicing in many courtrooms 
across the United States. 
I truly hope that is the majority of judges. 
One of my former college classmates 
served as a federal judge and I would bet everything I have 
that he is a very ethical and moral person. 
(Though I cannot be certain what type of person he has become decades later...) 

I can only hope that these two unrelated situations are few and far between...
but I seriously doubt it. 
Life has taught me that those in power are so very often undeserving of that power...
The United States in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential elections 
is a perfect example of that.

I more than believe Christine Blasey-Ford as well as the other of Kavanaugh's accusers. 
Firstly, I know from experience that when you drink all the time, 
as Kavanaugh and his buddies did, you do suffer from occasional "blackouts."

It is obvious he, like so many of our "political leaders" currently serving 
at the highest levels of the United States government, 
has led an elitist lifestyle from the time he was born.

It is obvious that he believes himself to be "above the law," to be a perfect person.

It is obvious he believes himself superior to any "woman"/accuser and
that his denial is all that is needed. 
His words will be taken as "gospel." 

To me it is obvious he has no right to sit on the highest court 
in the land...the United States Supreme Court.
Or any other court.
He has proven himself to be driven by strictly partisan beliefs.
He did not answer questions Thursday. Listen to it.
The Republican senators completely overpowered the 'questioning' 
with their own partisan rants at that point!
Just as he refused to truly answer many questions at all during the previous hours 
he had spent "testifying" (he did nothing of the sort) to the committee. 
At least none that mattered. 
More often than not he simply turned the question back to the questioner.

Watching Ford recount that the worst part of her memory dealt with the 
"uproarious laughter" shared by Kavanuagh and his buddy 
as she lay beneath the judge was so very poignant and sincere.
One article I read asked, "Who has the most to lose?"
Ford already gave up her home and personal security for herself and her family
 in order to come forward, 
but "Brett" has much to lose...
and therefore the much greater motivation to lie.

Will Republicans once again "win" by ignoring the fact 
that their nominee is obviously immoral and unethical?  
This is just a repetition of the Republican party's inability to nominate anyone 
who is actually well-prepared and fit to serve... 
This person is not even close to "even-tempered" or "objective" as we would and should expect of any person who is responsible for other people's freedoms and rights,
let alone to oversee one branch of the federal government. 
Our federal government is currently being run by people 
who are inept, unprepared, and totally partisan. 
We certainly do not need more of them...

All I could think of yesterday was the fact that Jeff Flake didn't need to "be a hero" 
as some of the earlier protesters had yelled, he just simply needed to "be a human." 
He failed. 
Though he did at least get a delay and further investigation,
I seriously doubt any Republican senator has the balls to vote their conscience. 

This is just my opinion, which I rarely put forward in this venue, 
but hopefully it will help you put your own opinion into perspective.

Happy reading...

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday for September 18!

Here are previous Smoke & Mirrors Top Ten Tuesday posts.
This meme was created by The Broke and the Bookish and hosted by that site until
January 2018 when That Artsy Reader Girl took on the hosting duties!

Today's theme for Top Ten Tuesday is Books on my Fall 2018 TBR List!
Yes, more than 10! And a couple into 2019!
Another favorite topic of mine! Adding to the TBR listing!

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams
Lauren Willig, Karen White
I have yet to read a book written by either Lauren Willig or Karen White, though I know I own some. :) 

I did read Williams' A Certain Age and loved it!

This book combines so much of what I love to read:
historical fiction,
a mystery, 
interwoven lives of seemingly unrelated characters!
Since I know virtually nothing about the Lusitania, 
I am anxious for this one! 

Their first joint venture, The Forgotten Room
looks to be a good one, as well!

She Would Be King by Wayétu Moore

Catherine of The Gilmore Guide to Books 
has rated this debut novel highly! 

This just released September 11, last Tuesday.
Set in Liberia. 
Historical fiction. 
Magical realism.
Wow! My interest is certainly piqued! 

Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll

To be released today! 
This book sounds a bit "romancy" for me, but I'm willing to give it a try!
I find most of the Young Adult novels I read to be very satisfying:
Ana of California by Andi Teran, the Anne of Green Gables series 
by L.M. Montgomery, The Cay by Theodore Taylor, Eleanor & Park 
by Rainbow Rowell, Emory's Gift by W. Bruce Cameron
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, 
My Side of the Mountain and On the Far Side of the Mountain 
by Jean Craighead George, Rascal: A Memior of a Better Era 
by Sterling North, Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, 
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, and Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
And never fear...I have read more than this, but these are the ones I have reviewed here!

The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton
A huge confession...I own 3 Kate Morton books and have yet 
to read even one! [hides face in shame] Really! 
I need to remedy that as soon as possible, especially since several readers have highly recommended her work to me! 
I believe the page count may intimidate me a bit!
It seems none of her works are less than 500 pages in length.
This newest is to be released September 20.
From Goodreads: "Told by multiple voices across time, 
The Clockmaker's Daughter is a story of murder, mystery, and thievery, of art, love, and loss." That's more than enough to interest me! 

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
I admit to being extremely disappointed by the fact that there is a release event for this debut novel planned in Indianapolis, Indiana, and I was excited to receive an initial email about it weeks ago! But when I tried (and tried and tried--for a total of 8 times!) to purchase tickets, I couldn't get the purchase to finalize. I used that same card at least 5-6 times that same day, but I just considered it fate that I was not to attend this event. Even though his brother, and one of my absolute favorite authors, John Green, is participating in it! ARRRGGGHHH!!! 
The frustration! But it's cool! I'm sure I'll live! 
Besides, this is definitely a first-world challenge! 
I am so excited for this one! It is scheduled to release September 25. 

The Weeping Books of Blinney Lane by Drea Damara
Release date: September 27.
Goodreads descriptors:
Books About Books
Adult Fiction
Time Travel 
I just feel this is definitely worth reading!

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
This is due to be released October 2. 
I have yet to read a book written by Chamberlain.
However, this one definitely grabbed my attention. 
It is labeled as Historical Fiction AND Time Travel!
From Goodreads: 
"A rich genre-spanning, breathtaking novel about one mother's quest 
to save her child, unite her family, and believe in the unbelievable. 
Diane Chamberlain pushes the boundaries of faith and science 
to deliver a novel that you will never forget."

All You Can Ever Know: 
A Memoir 
by Nicole Chung
Release date: October 2.
A Korean child adopted by a white couple and raised in the US. This must be an intriguing autobiography!
An opportunity to learn so much!

November Road by Lou Berney
Release date: October 9.
Honestly, I have no idea how I heard of this book/author!
But, I notice that Lori Rader-Day,
 one of my favorite mystery authors says it is 
one of her favorite reads thus far for 2018! 
Her recommendation: pre-order it now!
That is definitely enough recommendation for me!
And now I notice that Lori has just released her fourth book, Under A Dark Sky
Definitely another must-read for me! 
Oh, and in case, you're wondering about my using her first name, again, I have met her! And if you're ever able to attend an event in which she is participating--just DO IT!
She is a hoot! Very engaging and genuine!

Also on October 9, The Witch Elm by Tana French is released! Wow! October 9, 2018, is a great day for mysteries! 
I will never forget the day I picked up In the Woods to read it. I worked at Borders at the time and had been eyeing this cover/book for what seemed to be ages!
I was a bit hesitant, thinking it might be too scary for me...
But it wasn't! And. I. Was. Hooked. 
Her second release, The Likeness, is one of the best plotted and most unique story arcs among the mysteries I've ever read!
Point being: I am confident this will be just as enthralling!

I rarely read "romance" books. 

But, for some reason, the plot of 
Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks 
caught my eye. 
It is scheduled for release on October 16. 
Confession: I have yet to read a Sparks novel. 
Perhaps it is time to remedy that! I admit I am at the very least curious!

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon
Release date: October 16.
A five-star review from Roxane Gay 
certainly piques my interest!
As if I needed another motivation 
to anxiously anticipate this book!
The black experience in the US...
especially for males...
so much to discover and attempt to understand...

And now...for one of my very favorite series of all time!
Yet another, the 25th, installment in the Stephanie Plum series 
written by Janet Evanovich
I love these books so very much! 
Look Alive Twenty-Five. Release date: November 13.
If I can at all, I schedule myself off work the day of release 
of a new Plum novel, purchase from the nearest bookstore 
that morning, and settle in for a fun afternoon!
I am neither Team Morelli nor Team Ranger!
I enjoy the fact that Stephanie has them both in her life
and hope it remains that way! :)

Wow. Rough transition here...
from Stephanie Plum to one of the women 
I most admire in so many ways, Michelle Obama! :)

I am very anxious to read what she has to say.
She and her husband courageously survived and 
even thrived despite so many challenges!
If only they were still heading our country! :)
Becoming is set to release November 13th as well!
I am ashamed to note that I have yet to read any books written by Barack Obama, 
though I own two of them. 
So hopefully I'll also get to reading those soon!

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Release date: January 8, 2019. 
This pair also wrote The Wife Between Us, which I own...
but have yet to read. 
(I know! No big surprise there, huh?) :(
I met them this past April at the Christamore House Guild's 
2018 Book Author Event. 
They are quite fun! It is amazing to hear them 
describe their writing process! 
They even live in different states and they make this work!

Children of Virtue and Vengeance 
by Tomi Adeyemi is scheduled 
for release March 5, 2019!
As you can see, 
a cover image has not yet been revealed.
You might ask: 
Why mention it now? Because... 
It is the second book in the 
Legacy of Orïsha trilogy! 
I literally inhaled 
Children of Blood and Bone
the first of the three books planned 
for publication when I read it in June! 
Goodreads classifies this series as Young Adult, Fantasy, and of course, Fiction!
This is one of the most unique books I've read!
I loved the fact that each character is "black," "African," whatever word you select. 
Character descriptions were rich in detail and I enjoyed creating an image for each of them.
This was a selection for two different book clubs to which I belong. 
I was amazed at the difference between the two discussions. 
One group was quite diverse in age, vocation, race/ethnicity, etc., while the other was very monocultural. Can you guess which group provided a more intense and deep discussion? :)

 And, that is my Fall 2018 TBR listing!
Just 15 of the 6533 books on my Goodreads "Want to Read" shelf!
Oh, yeah...I definitely can't live long enough to read them all!
But that doesn't keep me from wishing I could! :)

Happy reading!!