Our Hike conversation was lively, spirited and healthily divisive. I
particularly enjoy hearing the first impressions of love and hate we all start with (cue to Pavarotti & Celine I hate you then i love you song- min 2:25). A book discussion would not be the same if we don’t start with a generalized statement which then gets explored in some depth. And to the depths we went.
“WHAT IS THE PATH!?” Jen asked- she was on the hate camp for this book.
Answering that lead us to all sorts of perceived understandings. Was this “dude author” capable of writing something evocative with simple language or was it just a simple Disney-ish like fiction book packed with a Sebastian (little mermaid) like sidekick. Sarah said the path reminded her of the vicious cycle of domestic abuse. Nicole thought the path was like a simple fun game where the protagonist has to make it to the next level. Rachel proposed the path could be a metaphor to midlife crisis, while Ursula said it could be a marriage metaphor.
If anything, I am happy to have escaped into a wacky world of a talking Crab. It was a nice break from the seriousness of our previous books.
Read at your own risk, but do finish it- its a quick read!
This month the Ladies decided to read a male-centric book to get into the head of an American businessman going through what seems like an endless period of bad luck. Though everyone appreciated this author’s peculiar writing style there was a general consensus that A Hologram for the King felt like story that was constantly going in no direction. Though there were stand out scenes that left readers pondering on the events that had transpired there was a lack of consistent character development. However, some of the ladies praised author Dave Eggers for deviating for the tried and predictable story arc that we are so accustomed to. By the end of the discussion we agreed that if A Hologram for the King is on your current list of books to read, then go ahead! If you rather watch the movie though, it makes the story much easier to follow and features everyone’s favorite Tom Hanks!
The homelessness crisis is a hot ticket topic of discussion if you live in San Francisco and different viewpoints can often feel divisive. As it kept coming up in our bookclub discussions, we decided that we needed to do something about it. Read. Then discuss.
Housekeys not Handcuffs is a series of essays by Paul Boden, who has been in the homeless organizing field here in SF since 1983 when he himself was homeless. There were also essays by Art Hazelwood, an artist and activist, Bob Prentice, who did a lot of early policy work surrounding homelessness, and many unnamed authors from decades of of Street Sheet, the newspaper that covers homeless issues and that people can sell to supplement their income instead of pan handling. In regards to the content of the book, more of us bookclub members were more engaged by the artwork than the text. Prints, murals, cartoons, photos, and mixed media gave a strong visual to the history of the homeless struggle. This piece by Christine Hanlon was a favorite.
What really made this Holistic Lady Bookclub a night for the records is that the author Paul Boden joined us in person, bravely crossing the threshold as a man entering into the sacred territory of an all female bookclub. He shared it was his first ever bookclub meeting as well and it was our first meeting with the author sitting in the room with us. We all were excited and a little nervous.
We started our meeting with sharing what felt like home–several women felt their parents’ house where they grew up was home, others said their husbands, kids, and pets felt like home, someone named their apartment in SOMA, someone described the moment in the drive over the Golden Gate Bridge when you can feel the fog, someone else said community and public libraries make a place feel like home. We all could easily identify that feeling of safety, of belonging, of knowing your place.
As Paul shared details of his experience, history of funding changes, inequalities that exist in our system, and advice on what a mother bear wanting to protect her den and cubs experiencing compassion fatigue should do, it became clear that every single one of us in the room was learning something new. Some shared the overwhelming need to examine previous beliefs and how they view people who are living on the street or even that this conversation might influence how they vote in the future.
Does life get much better than reading a book to learn more and having a beautiful discussion that really digs into history, life experience, and beliefs?
If you would like to purchase Housekeys not Handcuffs, Paul recommended you buy the book straight from their website www.wraphome.org since they don’t get any cut of the Amazon sales. The Western Regional Advocacy Project website is also chocked full of resources, artwork, history, and actions about homelessness organizing.
Every book club meeting start out the same. We made it a habit to arrive early to chit chat prior to talking about the book and last night was no different. 6 of us were present at Urszula’s first hosting gig to share memorable short stories from Allie Bosch’s Hyperbole and a Half. In my mind I imagined doing this post with back to back pictures of how our meeting played out- but that is not happening. Not sure what software Allie uses but it takes patience and skills to make stick figure animation come alive. I leave you with my one and only stab at illustration using Microsoft paint.
Was Marina Keegan going to become a great American author or is her posthumous success more of a Selena effect? A success after death carried by the potential of who she could have become…Who knows. What we do know is that The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories is a great collection of short stories both fiction and non fiction. It’s a quick and inspiring read. The topics are evocative, deep but delivered with the freshness of her 22 year old soul.
What was particularly catching to me is the depth of her writing and how each story was different from another. It’s not like reading Paulo Coelho where you are going to be hit with “search for the meaning of life” in every book. Marina’s stories had underlying themes of love but delivered differently from one story to the next. She writes about young love, old love, parental love, love for humanity – all in different context and flavors.
This book is a must read.
I leave you with some quotes discussed during the bookclub meeting and youtube videos of her in the news and delivering poetry at Yale.
“She had the rare combination of being quiet and popular, a code that made her intimidating to younger, fashionable girls and mysterious to older confident boys.”
“I heard the creak of a door behind me and turned, quickly, to see Julian shutting its heavy frame behind him, panting. Jared’s hands were on Emma and I felt him pulling and myself letting go.”
“Why do we spend so much time caring about the animals? Yes, their welfare is important, but surely that of human is more so.”
My sister jokes that too much of a good thing is an awesome thing. She may be onto something as that is exactly how some Holistic Ladies felt about the Goldfinch. Donna Tartt’s rise to fame is the talk in literary circles. Her writing style is so vivid that some not only felt drawn to but almost intruding the protagonist’s personal space. For Sarah, the writing was so palpable that she had to put the book down to avoid devouring such a beautiful story. But for others, too much vivid writing was not necessarily enjoyable- especially when reading the whirlwind of Theo’s friendship with Boris.
We talked about the “Bori’s” in our lives during our transitional years, how Theo was dealt the short end of the stick and how he ultimately absorbs his dad’s traits. Check out Donna Tartt’s discussion of the book for more insight on the book and her writing process.
Here are some of our memorable quotes
“Maybe sometimes- the wrong way is the right way? You can take the wrong path and it still comes out where you want to be? Or spin it the other way, sometimes you can do everything wrong and it still turns out to be right?”
That life- whatever it is – is short. That fate is cruel but maybe not random.
Our next book is a collection of essays called “The Empathy Exams” by Leslie Jamison. Check back next month for the blog update.
Amanda Lindhout, in her book A House in the Sky, takes us on the journey that lead to her widely known 460 day captivity in Somalia. I think its safe to say that the Holistic Ladies, in general, enjoyed this book and the conversation it. Some applauded her audacity to explore war torn countries alone while others lamented the circumstances which lead her to starting a foundation. I asked what was Amanda’s biggest flaw and someone said “thinking she was invincible,” as she did not measure the level of danger she put her family in. It does take a certain degree of guts to start a journalism career in dangerous places without proper safety planning. We wondered what Nigel Brennan, her traveling buddy, has written about in his memoir The Price of Life: A True Story of Kidnap & Ransom, how his storytelling differs from Amanda, and how he describes her.
We recommend this book, but do give a warning to those sensitive to rape stories. It is unfortunate for women in the 21st century to fall silent under the common presence of sexual abuse, especially under the pretense of religious or cultural norms.
Last night, we met up at Katie’s and had a wonderfully, jam-packed discussion about… LIFE! Unfortunately, only two of us read Mockingbird in its entirety, but we didn’t let that upset the balance of our meeting. We were able to dig deep into the recesses of everyone’s memories and have a pretty good discussion about the book, but the biggest part of the meeting was celebrating all of the big changes in our lives! From new jobs, to new boyfriends, our Holistic Ladies are at a crossroads in their lives, and are eager to follow new paths. Thank you to everyone for being so supportive of one another and genuinely happy for each other!
As far as Mockingbird, we dove into a discussion about what makes a “Classic” a classic. We agreed that a classic is a book that deals with strong issues of the time. Mockingbird, for example, written in 1960, dealt with race and class in the South. There has been wide-spread controversy surrounding this book since it was written, and it is still banned from some communities.
We discussed the major theme of innocence and the loss of innocence. “It is a sin to kill a mockingbird” because they are innocent. The book had a few characters who were suppose to be “mockingbirds”, and their innocence was discussed. My favorite quote, said by Atticus to his son, Jem, after Tom was found guilty of rape because he was black was: “I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it — seems that only children weep.”
We decided to pick the next 2 books to make it easier to stay on top of the reading with our new schedules. Our next book is The Vacationers by Emma Straub, which will be discussed at our next meeting on July 15th (this date is tentative because only one of the Ladies was available on the 8th). The book that will be discussed in August will be House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett.
Disclaimer – this is not a book review, but a recap on the book discussion from last week as I did not read the book!
Apparently, Orange is the New Black is about a nice female Caucasian who commits the crime of accomplice during her young adult life and is put in prison for a short period of time. The book highlights the inefficiencies of the prison system – a system that seems to be
Some of the ladies recommend the book, other’s don’t and encourage to skip and read Wild instead. full of “chicken shit rules written by chicken shit people.” The book also touches on the unwritten rules established by inmates, like how each race protects their own. During the book discussion, the Holistic Ladies talked about the seemingly infinite loop of crime and unfit punishment, what outcasts turn into after servicing a sentence, how the prison population is forecasted based on reading scores and, damn, how it all goes back to education.
February’s monthly book meeting could not have showed cased two more different books. One the one hand, there was the relentless heroine from Divergent fighting tooth and nail to stay alive. On the other, Marry Him is an attempt to give women a new prospective about finding love: don’t dismiss potential mates before giving them a true chance.
Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent greatly resembled The Hunger Games, one of last year’s favorite reads. Divergent is a book about the division of society into personality types. Although the book portrays an exaggeration of five personality types, it sheds light into the way humans often self segregate. The protagonist’s struggle to select the personality type she would forever be reminded many of the time they were in high school trying to find themselves. Similarly, while the characters in the book fight to belong in a personality type, like in real life, the characters also fight not to be cast offs. The ladies are thrilled about the upcoming film next month!
The ladies had very strong opinions about Lori Gottlieb’s Marry Him. There were some that swore by the book, following its tenets when looking for “Mr. (Not) Perfect.” For others, the book seemed to overlook the reasons why some relationships don’t work in the first place. Simply looking at a relationship in retrospect neglects the person’s raw emotions felt at the point in time. Bottom line, finding love is not easy. But as one of the ladies best said it “Everyone who wants a husband should take it as seriously as their career!”