May 27th, 2018
Chelsea was tired, Chelsea was desolate, Chelsea was just done. She thought back to before ‘the problem’, to a time before she got to know these feelings so well. Group therapy from the hospital didn’t help her handle things outside of the hospital, but sometimes brief phrases were helpful. Recap, reconsider, re-label. The last one was idiotic, but who doesn’t love some alliteration. So Chelsea recapped the day she had woken up to her Great-Aunt’s boyfriend at the time at her doorstep, she had made all three of her kids, (including the grown man who smelled like cheetos and cardboard) a health centric breakfast of marshmallows on toast. She had then proceeded to get ready, take a long, 5 minute shower, and put on an old dress that was so old it was making a comeback (again), and tried to get her kids into the van … She had driven to the dealership, she had signed the papers, she had done all the work, and now it was over. Chelsea felt as though everything was coming to an end, except herself, she felt as though she was already over. The worst part was, she couldn’t even find the hope in her children, because she didn’t want them to see her pain. She didn’t want to burden anyone with her life, and with his death.
I have loved doing book reviews, but lately I have been exploring my creative side, and this summer I’m excited to be announcing that I will take this blog in a new direction. I am doing an online program with the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in July, and I feel this will help inspire me. I will be exploring some short stories and other projects moving forward. This Summer I will explore new ideas and genres and still address issues of history and social justice. This August will be my 2nd anniversary of doing the blog and new, exciting things await!
This past Sunday I attended a Black Lives Matter peaceful protest in my town, in response to the murder of George Floyd. We held signs and marched together as a community, and it felt like a good start. With all of the chaos and violence in recent news, and violence over the years, just being able to walk together down the street in peace gave me hope. Support isn’t a difficult thing to show, sometimes to show support all you have to do is simply show up. It is a simple idea, but actually giving support means a lot to people. I have posted reviews of Angie Thomas’s books On the Come Up and The Hate U Give. I encourage people to look at my earlier posts and reviews. In The Hate U Give, Starr is a young African American woman leaving a party, when an officer asks her and her friend to get out of the vehicle, and the officer ends up shooting her friend and pointing a gun in her face. This story isn’t real, but sadly it resembles many real events. The fear portrayed in Starr by Angie Thomas sends a shiver down your spine and makes you really wonder what you would do in that situation. The reality is that if you have a gun to your face, like Starr, you’re a victim and you have no ability to do anything. Starr couldn’t speak up and the whole book is about her finding her voice again. People in real life have to deal with finding their voice, and we need to make sure it doesn’t get lost in the first place.
I finally finished reading On the Come Up, and guys, I highly recommend this book. I just couldn’t stop reading it! The only bad part was when I had to put it down. I usually don’t read the epilogue in books, but the cliffhanger at the end of the book was so big I had to read more. In my last post I mentioned that Bri had to address her father’s death and face her grief. This journey is a difficult one and Thomas captures Bri’s conflicting and sharp emotions about the topic beautifully. Bri’s angry at her Dad for making choices that put him in danger and ultimately led to his death. However, she respects his rapping career, using his art to get to know him. Bri uses anger to hide a lot of her pain. She’s angry that her mom did drugs, that her dad died, that things went wrong, and she gets upset over things she can’t control. Her anger, it’s collateral damage and fall-out, are just a cover for her sadness. Bri’s sadness is deep grief for her father’s death that she never got to process. By finally learning to shed her anger and accept her sadness, Bri gets closure. Not only does she learn to accept her father’s death, she also learns to accept life. “We can’t control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we respond to things we can’t control.” – Avis J. Williams. This lesson is a hard one for Bri to learn, but by the end of the book she finds some peace. Bri ends a chapter in her life, she still has more to live, and the book leaves you wanting more.
My last post introduced the book I’m currently reading, On the Come Up , I’ve gotten far but I’m not finished yet. The book continues to get better, the characters become richer and more relatable with flaws as well as features . Bri, the main character, makes it through her first battle in the ring but more is in store for her. As she continues to rap she is reminded of her dad, because for so many years rapping was his world and the ring was his place. Bri seems to be trying to do her own thing, but the author makes it evident that at some point Bri needs to confront the memory of her father and figure out what he meant to her. Bri has a love interest, her best friend, and I can’t wait to see how that turns out. In Thomas’ last book the main character starts with a boyfriend, but in this one Bri starts out single. Yet both of them have to continuously work on their relationships, with themselves, friends, and family. I continue to find differences and similarities between these characters, two young African American women searching for their voice. I’m excited to find out where Bri’s life takes her, the choices she makes, and what direction this book goes in.
Angie Thomas pictured with her two novels
So lately, because of the quarantine, I’ve been stuck at home and the best part is it’s a good time for me to catch up on my reading. Sticking with the book review theme, I just started On the Come Up, another book by Angie Thomas. This book makes some connections with her previous book, but if you haven’t read it, you can still read this one. Unlike other series, Thomas’ books have similar themes, yet aren’t solely connected. I find this refreshing, because I like the freedom that comes with individual books vs. series. Whereas Starr, the main character of The Hate U Give had a strong family to help her express herself, this character had to do it all on her own. The story is that ‘Bri’ Jackson, a rapping star in the making, is following the steps of her dead father. Bri’s mother, grief stricken after her father’s death, turns to drugs. Her mother eventually sobers up, but not without leaving a negative imprint on her daughter’s psyche. The story starts with Bri getting ready to do an important rap battle, and she’s waiting for the call to see if she gets in.
As I’ve previously mentioned, I’ve been reading In The Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton. I have written about the book as I was reading it and finally here’s my review. I found the book to be as enticing and intricately worded as its title. The book explores the complicated world of Ruth Robb, a Jewish teen from New York City transported to the heart of the South. The reason for such a drastic change is the sudden death of her father. If all this isn’t enough, the book takes place during 1958 in South Carolina. Ruth finds herself keeping her Judaism a secret from everybody in one part of her life, like those at her Christian school and in the Debutante Society. She is still a part of Jewish Congregation in her town of Charleston and leading another life there. Her desperate struggle to cover all the bases leading two separate lives is perfectly captured by Carlton. Carlton also tells Ruth’s coming of age and develops her character through just the right lense. Carlton pushes forward with ideas I am drawn to even as a teen living today. Ruth wants to be accepted in the Debutante circle, and finds first love there. She still attends services at her Temple, and finds community there. Carlton writes about the poise and glory of the Southern Ball and Debutante world, and the sometimes true and ugly meaning behind those words. The urge behind people to simply shut off, to push away anything that doesn’t act or look exactly like them. The book is like a ball on a hill, it starts off slow and steady, but by the end it’s racing and crashing to the finish. The way the book moves reflects the movement of the main character. Reading this book I felt a deep connection to the main character, as she experiences the devastation of the bombing of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation Temple first hand, and I too live in a chaotic world. In 2019 in the United States there have been 3 terrifying attacks on Jewish institutions. I can’t imagine being a young Jewish woman in the United States during 1958 in the midst of a highly antisemitic atmosphere, I can’t imagine the fear. Despite the horrific feelings around it, Carlton sees through the smoke and the rubble, she makes sure that the stories are heard, and that the fear is seen. If we don’t look fear in the eye, we can’t face it.
Kutztown Scout Troop 101
Perkins with FDR and Cabinet
I was approached by someone from a local Scout Troop to present on a famous woman in history, they know this is one of the areas I explore in my blog. It was a very fun presentation, and the kids were great. I decided to talk about Francis Perkins, because we never really learned about her when I was a kid. She was a dedicated and tireless public servant . She was the first ever female cabinet member, she made dozens of strides for workers and labor conditions. In her time she accomplished a 40 hour work week, a federal minimum wage, unemployment compensation, injured workers compensation, abolition of child labor, social security and so much more. I can’t even fit in all of her accomplishments in this post, so I encourage you to research her even further. Also keep in mind that she accomplished all of these things within only 12 years of service as Secretary of Labor. Franklin Roosevelt broke gender stereotypes to push for her appointment, and she proved to be a wise choice for him and the country. I wanted to get the Scouts involved, so I had them do an activity where they wrote letters to State Representative Gary Day and State Senator Judy Schwank. In their letters the Scouts mentioned learning about Frances Perkins, and then they wrote about the things they’re passionate about and changes they would like to see, the kids really had a lot to say. They’re young but they know what change they want to see in the world the way Frances Perkins did, and they’re not afraid to speak out about it. It’s inspiring to see.
I’m finishing up In The Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton, definitely my favorite book right now. I’m really drawn to the main character, because in many ways she’s flawed, yet she’s also an amazing person. I’m really excited to do another book review, and this book is similar to the last book, a book about social justice and staying true to yourself. Both books have the similar theme of finding your voice and standing up for the right thing. However, there are some main differences between The Hate U Give and In the Neighborhood of True. This new book is set in the 1950’s, rather than modern day, so it can be hard to put yourself into the mindset of another time period. This book also focuses on experiences of a young Jewish girl who moves into a very antisemitic Southern town, versus the experiences of a young African American girl in the Hate U Give dealing with issues of racism as she moves between the Black Community where she lives and her mostly white school. Both of these books address very real issues of hatred, in different ways, that have been and still are part of young people’s lives. I hope you are looking forward to my final review of In the Neighborhood of True as much as I have enjoyed reading this powerful book.
In my last post I did a review of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and I said that I was going to review her next book On the Come Up, and I still plan to. However, I have been moved by the recent antisemitic attacks that have been in the news to address this issue by doing a review of another book first. This book is called In the Neighborhood of True, by Susan Kaplan Carlton, and it is loosely based on the 1958 bombing of a Temple in Atlanta, Georgia. The book is told in the perspective of a jewish teenage girl named Ruth, who moves from New York to Atlanta after her father dies. I want to review this book not only because I am Jewish and this issue is personal, but also to reflect on current and past anti-semitic events and how they affect everyone. Anti-semitism is a global and national crisis. In October of 2019 when I went to the Hannah Arendt Center Seminar on Antisemitism and Racism; people discussed the origin of antisemitism, the Palestine conflict, and zionism, and how to address them now. In The Neighborhood of True is a beautifully written book that depicts the dark history of antisemitism in America and is still unfortunately relevant today.
https://jwa.org/media/temple-bombing-atlanta-georgia – 1958 picture of the Temple bombed in Atlanta, Georgia
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/12/what-monsey-attack-says-about-jewish-community/604228/ – 2019 Picture of supporters of the Jewish community in Monsey, NY that suffered a brutal antisemitic attack.