Tyrion Lannister, Body Image & Books That Make You Think

My first thought when I saw today’s word prompt, was of Tyrion Lannister. If you don’t know the name, Tyrion is a character in the book, Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin, the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series.

I began this conversation with myself this morning with the word squat, and with trying to think of what I could write. I saw a number of posts taking the word “squat” and talking about its meaning of “nothing.” I didn’t want to go there, having been suffering of late from this “nothingness,” and an inability to put words to paper.

That’s when I thought of Tyrion Lannister.

I am currently reading Game of Thrones as part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. I am about two thirds of the way through the book, and I haven’t yet decided if I like this character, or despise him. Tyrion is a squat, little man, affected by dwarfism. He makes up for his lack of physical size with a keen mind and a brash, often impertinent tongue.

This compensation of his frequently gets Tyrion into trouble, opening his mouth at the wrong moments and saying all the wrong things. The reverse is just as often true as well, however. He can talk his way out of certain death as quickly as he got himself into the trouble in the first place.

It is human nature to hide our weaknesses from others whenever possible. In Tyrion’s case, however, his physical stature is an obvious weakness, plain for all to see. Rather than hide it, Tyrion instead hides within his weakness. He embraces it, and uses it to his advantage over those who would discount him for it.

Negative body image is a huge issue in our real world today. We don’t really need characters like Tyrion to remind us of this fact. But I couldn’t help wondering what could we learn from Tyrion about dealing with those who would shame us for our physical attributes. He says:

“Let them see that their words can cut you and you’ll never be free of the mockery. If they want to give you a name, take it, make it your own. Then they can’t hurt you with it anymore.” – Tyrion Lannister

I found myself surprised that I would think of Tyrion when this word prompt came up. I haven’t had much to write lately, and I didn’t really think a little word like squat could inspire me. As I wondered about my apparent inability to write, and what to do about it, I asked myself the question, what have I been writing about lately? Aside from my fiction projects currently in the works, I’ve mostly been writing about what I’m reading. And currently, that is Game of Thrones.

Unlike another book I’ve read recently, a collection of stories by H. G. Wells, I haven’t been inspired to write much about Game of Thrones. I’ve been too busy reading it! I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the book, completely absorbed in the story.

While reading the Wells book, on the other hand, I had several ideas pop into my head along the way. My curiosity was triggered about a lot of different things. Such as this impromptu mini-study on the discovery of helium. Or this ongoing investigation into the treatment of gender roles in fiction. Reading through the Wells collection also generated ideas for several new stories I hope to one day pursue.

There are, of course, any number of differences between these two works that could account for this variance between them. Wells wrote his stories more than a hundred years ago. His language and styling are vastly different from Martin’s contemporary storytelling. Also, Wells is a collection of stories, as opposed to a single work. Make that part of a single work.

The bottom line is, there are some books that make you think. They instruct and inspire curiosity about the world around you. The H. G. Wells collection was such a book. Then, there are other books like Game of Thrones that simply take over your world, and devour you whole.

What does all this have to do with Tyrion Lannister? Ultimately, not much, I suppose. But he does fit the description of squat, and for that I am grateful, as he has inspired me to write these words.

And, what do you know, I suddenly find myself intrigued by dwarfism. What causes it? How many people are affected by it? How do those affected manage their day to day lives? …

In Support of Indie Authors: Why Should I Choose YOUR Book?

Recently I had someone request I read their independently published book with the admonition that I should support indie authors. This got me thinking about the books I have on my current TBR list and what goes into choosing a particular book.

How do I choose what to read? First, genre matters. When I go into a bookstore, I will automatically head for the Fantasy/Science Fiction section and begin there. More recently, the YA section will also demand my attention. Though I do enjoy a good romance or a suspense/thriller, I’m far less likely to pick up a random book from one of these genres.

Some of the top reasons I choose a book are:

1. I’ve read the author before and enjoyed his/her books. This is especially true when a series is involved, such as with Tad Williams and Brandon Sanderson. Often when I’ve really enjoyed one book by an author, I want to read everything ever written by that author.

2. I watched the movie that was based on the book. This isn’t a forgone conclusion. There are a number of movies I’ve seen and enjoyed and I’ve never given much thought to reading the book. A case in point: Jurassic Park.

3. The book was recommended to me by someone whose opinion I value and respect. Fellow writers, for example, or other readers who enjoy the same genre as I do. In this manner, I discovered the author Tamora Pierce, as well as a love for the children’s/teen’s section of the library!

4. The book has been the subject of much conversation. This might be a lot of sensational talk like that which has always surrounded the Harry Potter books, or Game of Thrones, driving me to it out of sheer curiosity. It might also be that the author is renowned in literary or genre circles. This would include fantasy/sci-fi greats such as Anne McCaffrey, Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. All those “must-read” greats of classic literature such as Shakespeare, Walt Whitman and the Brontë sisters? Yeah, they’re on my TBR “bucket list” as well.

5. The cover! When I choose to pick up a random book I know nothing about, it is invariably because I was drawn to it by way of amazing cover art. This will usually be enough to get me to pick up the book and read the back cover. If the story premise intrigues me, I very well might purchase the book.

6. Price. If I’m being completely honest, the price of a book makes a huge impact on my decision to purchase it. This is where I’ve really come to appreciate ebooks, as their low prices makes it far less “risky” to experiment with unknown authors.

Since starting this blog and joining Twitter, I’ve encountered a huge network of writers and readers that has exposed me to a vast and unending book selection. I’ve discovered a number of books that appeal to me and I wish I had more time to read. I want to read all the books! But alas, I do not have an unlimited supply of time, and so I have to narrow down the choices somehow.

For you indie authors out there hoping to sell more books, what I’ve found that has ultimately led me to decide to take a chance on a book by an unknown author, is the interaction I’ve seen from that author online. I’ve followed them on Twitter, read their posts, engaged with them on their websites and blogs. In this way I have come to feel as though I know the author, at least on some level. If they’ve engaged my interest in this fashion, I’m far more willing to purchase a book from them. And if I like that one? Well, I’m probably a fan for life at that point.

My current reading list has a remarkable lack of indie authors. Instead it is filled with a lot of popular fiction written by mostly well-known and successful authors. Traditionally published authors. Books written mostly by American authors. And in large part, male authors. This is not an intentional choice, and one I am working to change.

I am trying to include more indie authors in my reading list. I want to read more books by women authors. And I’d very much like to find more authors from outside the American/European experience and tradition.

I’m always open to suggestions for books to add to my TBR list. If you have a favorite, especially if it falls outside the “norm” I’ve mentioned above, please let me know! Include your reason for your choice as well. I want to know why I should read this book over and above all the others demanding my attention.

As always, thank you for reading.

2017 Reading Challenge, Reprise

When I didn’t find a fun reading challenge list like I used last year, I finally went ahead and built my own list. I was quite content with it, and really, I still am. But then, I ran across this 26/52-book 2017 Reading Challenge, and it just looked like too much fun. Especially when I realized all seventeen books on my original list fit very neatly into this one.

I confess, I took the entire list of 52 and arranged it to my own liking, choosing which categories I liked best, and narrowing it back down to 26, rounding out the original seventeen books to fill in the gaps. I added in some books I’m already working on, or have queued up to read. After all, if I’m going to push myself to read more, I might as well really make it interesting.

And so, without further ado, here is my new and improved reading list. (Books marked with a * were not included on my original reading challenge list.)

1. A book from your childhood – Prince Caspian, by C. S. Lewis
Book two of the Chronicles of Narnia, this is a continuation of a series I began reading last year. I started reading the Narnia books when I was younger, but never moved past the first book. I’ve enjoyed reading this one with my boys. (Find my review of this book here.)

2. A book published last year – The Aeronaut’s Windlass, by Jim Butcher
Okay, released September 29, 2015, it doesn’t quite qualify, but I’ll go with it anyway. This book came recommended to me by a Twitter friend when I asked for a place to start reading steampunk, a sub-genre I’ve been curious about. I’ve heard good things about Jim Butcher already, having learned about him and his other book series from my book club group.

3. A non-fiction book – *The Federalist Papers, by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay
I’ve been thinking it’s time I put my history degree to work and do a little research. I’ve been curious to read these and other writings from the early period of American politics. I don’t know if I’ll actually get to this one this year, but I would like to try.

4. A book that became a movie – The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
I first became intrigued by this series of books when I saw the first movie. When I found out it was based on a book, I immediately wanted to read them. Still, it took some time before I finally picked up the books and added them to my TBR pile.

5. A book published in the 20th century – Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin
There weren’t many books on my list written before 2000, and though not the oldest one, it is one of the few. This first book of the Song of Ice and Fire series, published in 1996, has become the basis of a very popular television series, though I haven’t watched it. I don’t typically like to start reading a series before it is completed, but perhaps it is a bit of morbid curiosity that finally led me to check this one out. (Read my review here.)

6. A book set in your hometown/region – *Dies the Fire, by S. M. Stirling
When I ran across this category on the reading list, I went looking for a book set in Oregon. I found this one and remembered this is another book I first heard about through my book club. So, even though I really don’t need to add another series to my list, I made an exception for this one.

7. A book with a number in the title – I Am Number Four, by James Frey
This one was easy, the only one already on my list that fit the category.

8. A book someone else recommended to you – City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare
As I mentioned in my last post, my sister strongly suggested this series to me. She took me to see the movie when it came out, and I enjoyed that. I’ve been looking forward to reading this one for awhile. (Here is my review of City of Bones.)

9. A book with over 500 pages – Shadowmarch, by Tad Williams
Tad Williams is one of my favorite authors, so picking up another series of his was easy. This isn’t the only long book on my list this year, fantasy novels have a tendency to be long. I like them that way!

10. A book you can finish in a day – *A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeliene L’Engle
This is another book on my fantasy book “must read” list. When I found it on my nephew’s bookshelf, he kindly allowed me to borrow it. Can I read it in a day? I guess I’ll find out.

11. A previously banned book – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling
This is the only series on my list that I have read before. Since it was first published, the Harry Potter series has been controversial in school libraries. In fact, the series made the top ten most frequently challenged books from 2001-2003. I’m not afraid of a little controversy.

12. A book with a one word title – Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson
I’ve been eager to read this series by Brandon Sanderson since I finished reading the Wheel of Time books early last year. He did a great job finishing a series I really loved, and I can’t wait to see what he’s created for himself.

13. A book translated from another language – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
This series, written by Swedish author Stieg Larsson, wasn’t published until after his death. Of all the books on my list this year, this one might be the most unique, a crime novel rather than fantasy, and certainly not YA.

14. A book that will improve a specific area of your life – *Boys Should Be Boys, by Meg Meeker
I’m a mother of three boys. I can use all the help I can get in raising decent kids. This book is subtitled 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons. There’s little I want as much as for my boys to be happy, healthy, normal boys. If I can learn something from this book, I will be grateful.

15. A play – *The Tempest, by William Shakespeare
I discovered audio books last year, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience. So far, I’ve chosen to listen to classic books I might not otherwise pick up. My latest pick includes a selection of famous plays including this one by Shakespeare. (Here is my review of this play.)

16. A book of short stories – *H. G. Wells, Collector’s Book of Science Fiction, by H. G. Wells
This one might be a bit of a cheat. Technically, this is part of last year’s reading challenge, but since I haven’t finished reading it yet, and it is a collection of short stories, I figured why not include it here again. (Find my review of this collection here.)

17. A trilogy or series – The Selection, by Kiera Cass
I’ve already declared 2017 as the “Year of the Series.” Therefore, filling this category was merely a matter of which series to list here. Turns out, it was an easy “selection.”

18. A bestseller – The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss
Last year, The Name of the Wind was on my reading list. I quickly came to appreciate why this series of books has received such high acclaim. I have been looking forward to reading this second book of the series, and I’m not at all surprised it has achieved bestseller status. The only reason I haven’t already read this one is that book three hasn’t been released yet, and I don’t look forward to waiting for the conclusion.

19. A book you own but haven’t read yet – The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
I’m ashamed to admit that I could almost close my eyes and grab any book off my shelf and it would fit into this category. However, since I already had several chosen to read this year, my choices were a little narrower. I’ve been eager to read this one, hoping it would be one I could interest my boys in reading with me.

20. An epic poem – *Beowulf, translated by C. W. Kennedy
I decided I needed to read this one because I’m writing a novel about a bard. Epic poetry is the realm of a bard, and familiarizing myself with the form would be useful. I decided to listen to it instead, so right now, this is what I’m listening to during my commute to work. (You can find my review of Beowulf here.)

21. A book of poetry – *Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
I found this book at a used bookstore and picked it up for my boys for Christmas. We’ve started reading it, but so far, I think I might be enjoying it more than they are. (Read my review here.)

22. A book with a color in the title – Red Rising, by Pierce Brown
I think I discovered this book through Twitter, or more likely, a newsletter from the publisher I learned about via Twitter. I was intrigued immediately, and I can’t wait to read it.

23. A book with an appealing cover – Windwitch, by Susan Dennard
I was first drawn to this series last year when I found the first book, Truthwitch, on Twitter. The cover drew me to it instantly, and I decided I had to read it. I did, loved it, and now, I’m excited to read the second book which also has a beautiful cover. As well as an intriguing premise. (Find my review of Windwitch here.)

24. A self-published book – *Necromancer Falling, by Nat Russo
This is yet one more book I discovered through Twitter. I read the first book, Necromancer Awakening and was intrigued by the idea. After a slowish start, I really enjoyed this book, and I’m looking forward to reading the next one. (My review of this book can be found here.)

25. A book by an author you haven’t read before – Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas
The Twitter marketing scheme seems to be working, at least on me. This is another book I’m sure I first encountered through Twitter. The books are beautiful and intriguing, and look to be exactly the kind of book I love. But I better start with book one, so here goes.

26. A book set in a country you’ve never been to – The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
I was a little hard pressed to find a book that fit this category. Most of the books on my list are fantasy novels set in their own fantasy realm. Another is set on another planet! Of those that are set on Earth, most take place in the United States. This one, however, is apparently set, at least in part, in England, a place I’d love to go, but have never been.

 

I didn’t intend to write a second reading challenge post for 2017. I didn’t intend to try and read quite this many books. But you’ve got to admit, this list is a whole lot more interesting than my original list. I still plan to focus first on my “rainbow” of books lined out in the original post. The other books I’ll read (listen to!) as I can, and hope for the best. Now if only I didn’t need the day job, and could get paid to read books…

2017 Reading Challenge: The Year of the Series

I began this blog with a list of books I had chosen to read in response to a reading challenge that gave me twelve categories to fill with a book to read. Thus, it seems the appropriate thing to do to begin my second year of blogging with a similar post. It’s a new year, and I’ve put together a new list of books I intend to read in the coming months. If things go at all the way they did in 2016, this will not be all that I read. My goal is to read even more than I did in 2016.

Finding this 2016 Reading Challenge was a brilliant stroke of luck at just the moment I was trying to start this blog. It gave me something to focus on for an entire year, so I always had a least something I would be able to write about as I tried to determine my place in the blogging world. It also gave me the chance to practice writing book reviews, and to learn to think critically about what I was reading.

The list also provided a challenge for me, making me stretch my reading abilities and push myself to read even more. While to many readers, a mere twelve books in a year would be nothing at all, but for myself, having read only eleven books in 2015, this felt like a good goal to pursue. And, as it turns out, twelve books was only the beginning of what I would read in 2016. I did, in fact, double that goal, reading twenty-five books.

I ended up reading some interesting, and often surprising books. Most of the books I chose for the Challenge came off my already impossibly long “to be read someday” list of books. So in that respect I accomplished something I might not otherwise have done.

As 2016 wound to an end, I began looking for a new reading challenge list for 2017. I didn’t run across one that I thought would work for me, at least not in the same way the list for 2016 did. So instead, I looked at my book shelves and I began pulling out books I’ve been collecting for too long unread. It turns out, a large number of my books are a part of a series, and so, I have declared 2017 to be the year of the series. I have chosen seventeen books that I’ve been meaning to read, or in one case, reread. All of which, are part of a series of at least three books.

A couple are by authors I’ve read before, Tad Williams and Brandon Sanderson. Three are a continuation of books I read in 2016, C. S. Lewis, Susan Dennard and Patrick Rothfuss. I decided to reread the Harry Potter series after binge watching the movies. And the others are books that in one way or another drew my attention and sparked my curiosity whether by their popularity, good reviews, by the movies that were made from them, or by some other means.

Having narrowed my choices down to seventeen books, I now had the dilemma of what order to put them in. I want to read all of them. Now. But, since I have to start somewhere, I sought input from my sister. She suggested I start with the Shadowhunter series by Cassandra Clare, as it’s one of her current favorites.

So, beginning with City of Bones, I put the books on my shelf in a sort of rainbow order, for lack of any other order that made any sense. The colors aren’t quite right to make a true rainbow (see the photo above), but it’s close enough. Here’s what I came up with:

City of Bones – Cassandra Clare
Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin
Red Rising – Pierce Brown
I Am Number Four – Pitticus Lore
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
The Aeronaut’s Windlass – Jim Butcher
The Maze Runner – James Dashner
The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
The Golden Compass – Philip Pullman
The Selection – Kiera Cass
Shadowmarch – Tad Williams
Prince Caspian – C. S. Lewis
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – J. K. Rowling
Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson
Throne of Glass – Sarah J. Maas
Windwitch – Susan Dennard
Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

The real challenge for me in reading through this list, will be not getting caught up in the series. I can see myself not wanting to stop with just the one book, but needing to finish the entire series before moving on. In some cases that will be impossible as the series isn’t finished yet. But it will be interesting to see which ones I can set aside after one book, and which ones will demand I read everything available.

This then, is my reading list for 2017. Seventeen books. All part of a larger series. Five by women authors, twelve by men. Most were published since 2005, a little more than half of them in the last ten years. It’s an ambitious list, as it in essence contains upwards of sixty books.

At first glance there doesn’t seem to be a lot of variety in the choices I’ve made. Most of the books are in the fantasy genre, and more specifically, young adult fantasy. Still, a list that contains authors such as C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling and George R. R. Martin certainly won’t be boring. I’m excited to get started on this list. And I can’t wait to see what surprises come my way as the year progresses.

With that, let me say, Happy New Year! Happy 2017! Happy reading!

The Great Literary Mash-up

Since the beginning of September, I’ve been participating in the Twitter #hashtag game, WIPjoy. Hosted by @simmeringmind, there is a prompt for each day encouraging writers to share about their current work in progress.

WIPjoy_Sept2016

Today’s prompt is this: If you could choose any other book to mash-up with your own, which would it be? I never intended to write an entire blog post on this subject, but in trying to come up with an answer, that’s just exactly what happened.

I’ve honestly never given any thought to this idea – that of mashing up the world I’ve created in my novel with the world created by someone else. I’ve never considered writing fan fiction either. Those worlds, no matter how much I’ve fallen in love with them, belong to someone else.

The more I thought about this question, however, I’ve come to the conclusion that my work is already a mash-up of sorts of everything I’ve ever read, seen or experienced.

I’ve been a reader from a very young age. Some early influences I can remember include the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mystery series. Anything by Roald Dahl or Beverly Cleary. I loved Charlotte’s Web, the Black Stallion books and Where the Red Fern Grows.

At one point I went through a romance phase and I read every Harlequin or similar title I could get my hands on. The particulars of the story didn’t matter – cowboys, cops, surf stars – I read all of them. I read the sweet romances, the intrigue stories, even the “spicy” ones!

I don’t remember for sure when I read my first fantasy novel, but I’m pretty sure it was J. R. R. Tolkein. I was hooked in an instant. Tolkein was quickly followed by others: Terry Brooks, Terry Goodkind, Stephen R. Donaldson, Tad Williams.

There’s been more influences, of course. Suspense and thrillers like John Grisham, Tami Hoag, James Patterson, Janet Evanovich. And classics such as Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Homer, George Orwell, Mark Twain.

All of these and more have become “mashed up” together in my imagination. This is where my own stories come from.

I can’t deny that the greatest influence has been my background in Christian faith – an influence that began even before my birth. I grew up going to church, reading the Bible and so on. The stories of Noah’s Ark, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Balaam’s Donkey, the miracles of Jesus. These stories formed the foundation of my imagination.

What then would I “mash up” with my own current novel in progress? I can’t choose just one. I’d have to go with the rich, world-building details of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, the exciting suspense of Tami Hoag, the beautiful language of Shakespeare and the simple, outright fun of Janet Evanovich.

And yes, I’ll own my faith too. This is who I am, and I write from this worldview. A worldview that is built on the foundation of faith and that expands with each new book, each new experience. I won’t pretend it’s a complete or perfect worldview. That’s why I keep reading. And writing.

Anne Frank – Her Story Lives On

I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and express all that’s inside me! When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?
– April 5, 1944

I have been following this 2016 Reading Challenge, and for category #7, I was to choose a book published before I was born. There are a lot of books that qualify under this category, and choosing just one could have proven difficult, but I decided to choose something from my already enormous list of books I want to read someday. What rose to the top was Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.

A small light in a dark room…

Sometime last year I began work on a new series of adventures intended for young girls, The Golden Locket Adventures. This is to be a sister series to my other middle grade stories, The Silver Compass Adventures, intended primarily for boys.

As I searched for ideas for these books, I began researching notable women throughout history that I could highlight in my books. I didn’t want just the obvious women who have been studied and profiled many times already, though I have considered the likes of Annie Oakley and Amelia Earhart. I looked for those I hadn’t heard of before and sought out their stories.

In this way, I encountered Miep Gies. Mrs. Gies worked for Otto Frank’s company in Amsterdam before the German invasion of Holland and throughout the war. She became instrumental in helping to hide the family, and was the one to recover Anne’s diary on the day the Franks were arrested, hoping to be able to return it once the war was over. I read Mrs. Gies’s autobiography, Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family. I was fascinated.

But even an ordinary secretary or a housewife or a teenager can, within their own small ways, turn on a small light in a dark room.
– Miep Gies

This woman’s story was well told. I was captivated, even devastated by her story, and deeply impressed by her strength. She became one of the first women I hope to feature in my adventure series.

But after reading her story, I wanted to know more. Thus, Anne’s diary joined my list of books I needed to read. This reading challenge provided the perfect opportunity to do so.

I have now finished reading the diary, and hope to share my thoughts. This will not be a typical book review. It is more of a piece of an ongoing conversation that I think we should not lose sight of. A conversation that should not be left in the past. The Jewish Holocaust of the second world war may be over, but hatred, bigotry and other human indecencies continue unabated to this day. I have to believe that we are capable of so much better.

This book isn’t a story as a typical book would be. Even a biography follows a narrative with a beginning, middle and an end. This is simply a diary, published as it was written. Near-daily entries of the everyday life as Anne experienced it. She wrote about her thoughts. She wrote about her family. She wrote about the conflicts that inevitably arise between people who are in too close quarters without break. She wrote about her interests and her hopes for the future.

Oh, why are people so crazy?

There a so many directions I could go with this Anne Frank article. She had so much to say and a surprising amount of wisdom for a girl of her age. She wrote about the typical things an adolescent girl thinks about, family relationships, love, her changing body, the future.

But more than that, she wrote about the war and the Jewish plight.

There’s a destructive urge in people, the urge to rage, murder and kill. And until all of humanity, without exception, undergoes a metamorphosis, wars will continue to be waged, and everything that has been carefully built up, cultivated and grown will be cut down and destroyed, only to start all over again!
– May 3, 1944

She wrote about the roles of men and women and the unfairness of gender bias.

Men presumably dominated women from the very beginning because of their greater physical strength; it’s men who earn a living, beget children and do as they please … Until recently, women silently went along with this, which was stupid, since the longer it’s kept up, the more deeply entrenched it becomes.
– June 13, 1944

Anne wrote with remarkable insight into the human condition. At the age of fourteen, she recognized within herself two “Annes” – an inner Anne she kept mostly hidden within herself out of fear, and the outward Anne which was the one everyone saw. She wrote often about the “outer” Anne as being dominant whenever anyone else was around. She would try to be the inner Anne, the better Anne, but expectations of others always had her shoving that Anne back down inside. She also felt that the inner Anne was her true self, but she could only seem to reveal this part of herself to her diary.

Anne began writing in her diary at the age of thirteen, shortly after going into hiding. She wrote primarily for herself in the beginning, but after hearing on the radio how documents such as letters and diaries could serve as a record of the war, she began to take her writing more seriously and even rewrote much of her earlier entries. It was her intention to share her experience with the world, but I can’t help but wonder if she could have imagined the reach her words would ultimately have, and the impact they would make on the world.

What I find most remarkable about Anne’s diary is that throughout this time in hiding, an experience most people would find terrifying, dull and extremely wearing, she remains upbeat and positive. She is hopeful for her future, and continues to work toward it with study and practice. Despite the hardships, she sees the positive.

I’m young and strong and living through a big adventure; I’m right in the middle of it and can’t spend all day complaining because it’s impossible to have any fun! I’m blessed with many things: happiness, a cheerful disposition and strength. Every day I feel myself maturing, I feel liberation drawing near, I feel the beauty of nature and the goodness of the people around me. Every day I think what a fascinating and amusing adventure this is! With all that, why should I despair?
– May 3, 1944

Anne’s diary provides a beautiful picture of a girl growing into adolescence. We get to be a witness to her growing maturity and self awareness. Anne writes with heartbreaking honesty, and her diary, to this day, holds a relevance that can’t be easily ignored.

I chose to read this book because I was fascinated by the story of a courageous woman who dared to do the right thing even when it was difficult. I wanted to know more of her story, and to see the result of her bravery. In the process I found a girl whose story is just as compelling.

Why do I think others should read this book? Because we all need to remember that underneath the labels – Jew, Christian, Muslim, Black, White or Brown – we are all still human. We all have the same fears, desires, curiosities, hopes and dreams. We all have to pass through the fire that is adolescence. Anne never had the opportunity to come out the other side of it. Many others through that time never had the opportunity. Even more throughout human history have been denied the right to become all they were born to be.

I am glad I made the time to read this book. I’m grateful that through their words, I’ve come to know the likes of Anne Frank and Miep Gies. For one, this is a piece of human history that should not be forgotten. But also, here are two remarkable women who have shared the truth as they saw it and lived it. Who dared to hope for a better future.

Let’s not allow their stories to be forgotten.

Apology & Redemption

Back in January I wrote this about my 2016 Reading Challenge. I listed twelve books chosen based on themes proposed by modernmrsdarcy.com. Since then, I’ve read and reviewed only five of the books on that list. Now, here it is already August, leaving me only five months to read the remaining seven.

In April and July I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, making writing a priority over reading, and, well, nearly everything. Therefore, during those months if I read at all, it was minimal, and I did not complete a single book. I also failed to post a single book review during those two months as well.

Here, I offer this apology for not reading as much as I should have. And for not posting reviews of what I have read. I’d also like to make this the beginning of a new challenge to myself for the month of August, and perhaps in doing so, redeem myself for my lack.

Instead of a writing challenge, I assign myself a reading challenge. I normally don’t read more than one book at a time, but somehow I managed to crack open multiple books over the past several weeks. Therefore, I will work on completing these books first, and then, if I have enough time, I will move on to more.

Here then, is my list:

1. Moon of Three Rings, by Andre Norton – I borrowed this book from another member of my book club, The Dragon’s Hoard. This club consists of about seven, or so, of my coworkers who all enjoy reading the same sort of books that I typically enjoy – fantasy and science fiction. Because of my nearly toppling to-be-read pile, I’ve balked at borrowing books from other members so that I don’t end up keeping them for too long. One member has been particularly vocal about Andre Norton, and as she appears on another of my “must read” lists, I finally gave in and accepted this book on her recommendation.

2. Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank – This book is number seven on my 2016 Reading Challenge list, but I got a little out of order when I wasn’t able to get my hands on number six, Classified Woman, when I was ready for it. So, on a trip to the local library to get some summer reading material for my children, I went ahead and checked out this book and began reading it.

3. D is for Deadbeat, by Sue Grafton – I have an embarrassingly large stack of books I borrowed some time ago from a community bookshelf at my place of employment. I have grand intentions of reading these books and returning them. This one happened to be on top when I became overwhelmed guilt over how long I’ve kept these books, and so, I started reading it.

4. Fiction Writer’s Workshop, by Josip Novakovich – This book should perhaps be at the top of the list as I started reading it longer ago than any of the others. I was reading this book chapter by chapter and using the writing exercises at the end of each as writing prompts that I shared with my local writers’ group. I was having fun with this, but somehow got distracted and haven’t been back to it in some time.

5. Writers of the Future Volume XXIX, ed. by Dave Wolverton – When I decided I was going to try writing short stories for my July Camp NaNoWriMo project this year, I thought maybe I should read a few short stories by other writers to get a better feel for the genre. This book has been on my bookshelf for I don’t know how long. I picked it up but managed to read only one story.

6. Necromancer Awakening, by Nat Russo – I’ve only recently ventured into the ebook world. This is only my third. I’d been considering this book for a little while, when the sequel was released earlier this year. Since I can’t read book two before reading book one, I had to get this one first. Since it’s on my mobile device, I can read it in the grocery line, or wherever else I happen to be.

7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy – This one is an audiobook I decided to download one night when I was busy making a cheesecake for yet another work pot luck. Since I can’t read, write, or do much of anything else while my hands are busy with baking, this seemed a perfectly logical way to make better use of my time. And so far, I’m loving it!

There it is, my hope of redemption for my reading failure so far this year. I am notoriously over-ambitious, and a slow reader. I will count myself successful to finally close even a few of these open-ended projects.