Hello summer! Here’s what I’ve been up to this month.
What I’ve Been Reading:
Rising Strong by Brene Brown. I first learned of Brene Brown when I watched a TED talk about the strength of vulnerability. The talk deeply moved me, so I was eager to pick up her book. I’m enjoying “Rising Strong”, but a part of me wonders if should have started with her first two books. This book is all about the process of getting back up again, which is pretty inspiring. But there are things about the book that I’m not sure how to reconcile with myself. For instance, Brene asks an important question: Do you believe that people, in general, are trying their best? I like the idea of this question, which asks us to consider another person’s perspective and engenders kindness. But on the other hand, I’m not sure how to utilize this question towards someone who’s hurt me. Or someone who has abused me. Do we think that narcissists are trying their best? It feels like an excuse for an abuser. But maybe I need to read along more.
Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. I’ve heard about this book, which gives me mixed feelings, because I am a self-described Disney freak and I LOVE the Disney princesses. Turns out, this book is more critiquing the Disney BRAND of “Disney Princess” rather than the princesses themselves. And that is something that is really interesting to study. It’s also a little eerie how this type of branding and marketing infected other kinds of toys and dolls.
Amber Brown is Not A Crayon by Paula Danziger. I used to love the Amber Brown books. I was introduced to them in the second grade, and they still hold up! (I’m rereading a bunch of children’s books that I liked when I was little) I think what most impresses me about the Amber Brown series is the subject matter. Amber Brown deals with a lot of things–her best friend moving out, her parents’ divorce, her mom’s new boyfriend–these are pretty weighty subjects for a second grader. At any rate, I was inspired by Amber Brown. It was nice reading about a messy little girl in her messy little life.
The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White. There were a few books I remember being read to me in my third grade class. One was “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”–which surprise, surprise, I did NOT like! (I didn’t get into Narnia until high school!) “Trumpet of the Swan” was another one of them, and unlike LWW, I loved this book. It was a fun reread for sure. E.B. White is just so good at scenery and description and this book is rather progressive for something written in the 1970’s. Nothing compares to Louis the swan’s dad swan-diving into a music store and stealing a trumpet for his son. Even just thinking about that scene makes me laugh!
Coraline by Neil Gaiman. All of the books by Gaiman that I’ve read were meant for adults–but I’ve always been curious about how he handles children’s literature. I read “Coraline” for the first time and it was incredibly creepy. But I don’t think it was particularly creepy for children–I actually think it’s scarier for adults. Maybe because a lot of the danger and threats are more present and frightening to adults, whereas children just sort of take it for granted that there are creepy little doors that lead to other dimensions in their house.
The Small Rain by Madeleine L’Engle. I love Madeleine L’Engle. Every book I’ve read by her has moved me in a profound way. I’m not very far into this book, but I love the lush pacing. This book is taking its time and I really enjoy how it honors and tributes the arts. You just see L’Engle’s palpable love for music and theater in every page. I also get the sense that L’Engle is sort of “working out” some of the trauma she endured as a child. I respect and relate to that.
The BFG by Roald Dahl. Oh my gosh, the BFG! In the fourth grade, I had a bad habit of swiping books and this was one of the books I swiped. I clearly remember reading it on a plane while on my way to visit my Aunt Kit in Georgia. I felt pretty vindicated for stealing a book in the same manner that the BFG stole Sophie. Roald Dahl is always a delight to return to.
What I’ve Been Watching:
American Gods. I’ve been pretty psyched about this amazing Neil Gaiman book becoming a television series for a while now. And with it being headed by Bryan Fuller, I could not be more thrilled. (It’s also a comfort that Gaiman is keeping an eye on it and offering input–he apparently threatened to walk in front of a bus when the writers tried to insert an unnecessary and out of character sex scene with Shadow) First off, LOOK WHO THEY CAST AS SHADOW MOON! Ricky Whittle is DELIGHTFUL as Shadow Moon. Honestly, all of the casting is stellar and the changes they are making is really fascinating. Highly recommend.
Anne with an E. I was pretty apathetic about a Netflix reboot series for Anne of Green Gables–after all, what could possibly compare with the Megan Follows miniseries? But after Sarah Bessey’s glowing review, I had to give it a shot. And I was NOT disappointed. First of all, how cute is their choice for Gilbert Blythe?! How darling is this gawky skinny little Anne? Secondly, I really love the darkness that’s added to this version. I like the reminders that the early twentieth century was not a particularly pleasant time to live in. I like how the characters deal with different issues–family planning, contraception, child abuse, rape, pedophilia, PTSD–the series isn’t afraid to go there, while still keeping the whimsy and beauty of Green Gables. There are just some really great moments in this series–like the way the framed how creepy the teacher was, grooming Prissy. Or the stranger approaching children on the train, claiming to be a friend of the family, and inviting them to go along with him. Or how Anne disappearing into her imagination is both charming and sweet, but also a really desperate and frightening way to escape the trauma she’s endured. Highly recommend.
The Keepers. I have mixed feelings on real crime miniseries, like the one Netflix did on Steve Avery, “The Making of a Murderer”. On the one hand, it’s concerning that we’re seeing these horrible events for entertainment. On the other hand, gathering all the information and letting the court of public opinion draw their own conclusions (instead of a corrupt legal system) could be a really vital way for some people to find justice. I dunno, I don’t have a good answer. But if you are going to watch one, I recommend “The Keepers”. This is no salacious treatment of a crime, but a very reflective and thoughtful series on the corruption in the Baltimore Catholic church and a really heartbreaking loss. The way they handle it is very respectful and there are several episodes detailing what sexual abuse victims have to deal with. But they don’t lose focus on Sister Cathy’s murder either.
That’s all for May!