What I’m Listening to Now: Being Lolita by Alisson Wood

I went down a bit of a rabbit hole this week and listened to almost the entirety of Lolita Podcast. It’s made me want to re-read the book, but I realized that I only have it as an audiobook in the house and not a physical book. So, I thought, why not read…listen to… a recently published memoir by one of the folks Jamie Loftus interviewed on the podcast instead. So, I’ve picked up Being Lolita by Alisson Wood.

Quick Review: Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

Continuing on with my reading of brutal texts while self-isolating, I finally got off the wait-list at the library for this book and decided to go ahead and go for it. This is about news agencies, like NBC, catching news stories about sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape and keeping them from coming out. If you know about Harvey Weinstein and wondered how he could have gotten away with hurting so many people, this is a read for you.

But, it is not an easy read. (Or an easy listen. The audiobook actually contains a segment of a police sting recording.) This book was really upsetting. But, it is really good that we are talking about the structures that protect people in power and allow them to hurt others. Now we just have to change the structures. Ha. Just. No big deal.

This Month in Reality: Sit Still Already 

I’ve been thinking about starting a meditation practice for awhile now and last month’s Relovution reminded me of that. So, I’ve started one. I’ve been using Stop, Breathe and Think. And, it hasn’t been too bad! 

So, for this month I’m going to talk about two books that are of a the Buddhist/meditation perspective. (One that I just listened to and one that I admittedly read awhile ago).

Awhile back I read When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön. I was having a rough time because it was winter and I had sinus infections that I couldn’t shake and I was pretty bummed out. And, the title just caught me. It seemed pretty apt for my situation (because I’m overly dramatic so, of course, my life was falling apart because I never saw the sun and I was on antibiotics). Two things from the book stuck with me: the idea that even terrible situations have something to offer us (other than their terribleness) and that we should practice loving-kindness. Loving-kindness has a particular meaning here and refers to a practice of gentleness, compassion, flexibility and forgiveness. Mostly I remember that this idea of loving-kindness (maitri is the word Chödrön used for it) means being gentle and as someone who can be sharp tongued, being reminded of the importance of gentleness is always something I need. Chödrön talked for a long while about starting this practice with yourself. Yes, you mess up sometimes. Yes, you are uncomfortable. Yes, things hurt and you can’t always fix them or make them better. But, you can be gentle with yourself. You can be gentle with others. You might not be able to make something better, but you can, at the very least, not make it worse by being hard and inflexible. This book is full of discussions of Buddhist practice and how practice is important in difficult times.

The second book for this month isn’t actually a book. Mindful Living is a series of audio recordings of lectures given by Thich Nhat Hahn at a retreat that have been compiled for our listening pleasure. This audio recording is a nice example of what the audio format can do that you don’t see in books. It is really neat to be able to hear the monk’s words in his own voice. I enjoyed the lectures. My favorite of the lectures talked about thinking about what your face was like before you were born. We, none of us, came from nothing so it is an interesting exercise to ponder where we came from and how we have been influenced by things. I liked all of the little reminders of how to be mindful and how to make reminders to be present and to enjoy the experience of being you.
This is was interesting audiobook and I recommend it if you know a little about mindfulness and you are interested in expanding your understanding of it.

So, there you have it. One book and one lecture series both of which are worth a look! Yay!

Review: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

I am halfway through my Pop Culture Homework Assignment!

This book repeatedly punched me in the stomach.

Eleanor and Park meet when Eleanor gets on the bus for her first day at the new school.  Eleanor immediately gets on the wrong side of the cool kids on the bus by almost sitting in someone else’s spot.  Park growls at her to just sit down next to him.  Everything after that awkward and totally real meeting is beautiful and painful and awkward and wonderful.  Eleanor and Park are so fucking cute together I actually just swore at you in a review of a YA novel.  This was a beautiful, painful and real novel about teen romance. It was also a novel about negotiating identity (when you’re not really sure how to be what people think you are.  Are you that thing?  Are you not?  Does it matter?), being there for your loved ones, and dealing with crappy things in your life.
This book was great also great because of the main characters.  Eleanor is a chubby red head and Park is half Korean.  Others have talked about the need for diverse characters in teen novels and I think this is a good example.
Spoiler alert and trigger alert:  This book deals with domestic violence in a very honest and very real way.
More spoilers ahead.
Eleanor and Park’s relationship grows slowly over a few months.  At first, they are just sharing a seat on the bus.  Then, they are sharing comic books.  Then, they were sharing comic books and music.  (I’m actually making a mix tape inspired by the music mentioned in the book.)  It just snowballs from there.  Eleanor loves her time on the bus because she hates being at home with her Mother’s husband, who is an alcoholic and a wife beater.  The story builds until it becomes obvious that the creepiest of the awful things that have been happening to Eleanor aren’t being done by the awful girls in Eleanor’s gym class but are being done by Eleanor’s step dad.
I cried and cried and cried throughout this book.  The relationship between Eleanor and Park was wonderful.  Eleanor’s relationship with DeNice and Beebi was great.  Park’s parents were A+ and their attempts to interact with their son’s first real girlfriend were awkward and beautiful and also very real.  Sabrina, Eleanor’s mom, was heartbreaking.  (At one point she tells Eleanor she’s so lucky and good for staying away from boys and then implies that there are two types of women in the world:  women who are with a man and brave women who aren’t.  I think my heart is still breaking from that interaction between mother and daughter.)  Eleanor’s brothers and sisters were also heartbreaking.
God, this book.  It was so good.  It was so good, I’m still crying over it.

What I’m Listening to: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beth and I are in the same book club.  The reader on this audio book is knocking it out of the park.  Each girl has her own voice and it is wonderful!  I checked this out from my public library.  Shout out to the Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries!