One of the books I’ve read most recently is Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words: Travels with Mom in the Land of Dementia by Kate Whouley. The book is a memoir of her experience with her aging mother as her mom declines into Alzheimer’s. Although that sounds sad, she manages to put a positive spin on the experience, and one that I found enlightening to read.
About the Book
Whouley isn’t shy about explaining that she had a difficult childhood and a tough time relating to her mother. However, she doesn’t dwell on this aspect and instead just introduces it as background information for a theme that the really resonates throughout the book – the theme that the past and future don’t really matter for the Alzheimer’s patient who is really in touch with the present moment.
Whouley shares how she learns to adapt to her mother’s repetitive questions and cycling thoughts by treating each time that she says something as important right in that moment and that moment only. Of course, people with age-related memory loss do remember some of the past, sometimes getting mired in it, but I still love that Whouley makes this great point that the loved ones can benefit from letting go of their attachment to the story of their relationship with the person and just trying to thrive in the present moment with him or her.
At the same time, Whouley doesn’t sugarcoat the difficulty of this experience. She discusses the challenges – financial, emotional – matter-of-factly but not without emotion. She gives a very balanced, honest, personal perspective about what it’s like to live as the decision-maker for an aging parent.
Whouley is a musician (hence the title of the book) and she weaves stories about her musical life into the story of her mother’s aging. It’s an interesting approach to personalizing a story that in this era is so universal.
A few favorite parts:
I recently read Borderlines: A Memoir by Caroline Kraus. This moving book tells the true story of the author’s experience of losing her mother in her early teens and how that grief made her ripe and raw for enmeshment in a mostly platonic relationship with a woman with borderline personality disorder. It’s intense and interesting and sometimes funny.
I always bookmark my favorite lines that stand out in every book I read. There were a couple from this one:
“Looking back, I see San Francisco as a curious siren. Almost everyone I was about to meet had migrated west for their own vague reasons, following some strange instinct that promised hope. It was a place that seemed ripe with possibility.”
“There is a particular kind of depression of the spirit sometimes associated with the deep introspective stage of transition and change. When this occurs, the Bear is a reminder that there is a prallel between depression and the natural state known as hibernation, when involcvement with the outer world is minimized in order to focus more energy on the inner processes necessary for a successful transition.”
“Memoir is, fundamentally, a literary investigation – a mystery that is cracked by re-creating dialogue and translating settings and action into words. But these are the vehicles to truth and not in themselves the end. There are the facts of this story, and then there is what I make of them. The curved lens of memory adds its angles to the process, shaping every setting, stretch of dialogue, and scene. But the aim of memoir – to transcend personal experience – is a corrective voice to that lens. In the end, the most distilled, captured “truth” is what the author has gleaned, with earnest motivations.”
I was walking down a street in Berkeley recently when I came across this:
It’s a Little Free Library.
I’d never heard of these before but I looked it up online and I learned it’s a thing happening all over the place. The idea is that you can take a book, leave a book to share reading in your community.
Little Free Library Story from Beargrass Media on Vimeo.
This project was started in 2009. By 2012 they had met their goal of having 2510 Little Free Libraries out there in the world. There are now more than 15,000.
When we were down in LA for my birthday weekend (to camp on Channel Islands) it was the time for the annual USC Bookfest, one of the largest literary festivals anywhere. We decided to spend a day there, where we listened to an interview and some poetry, visited lots of booths, bought some books on sale, added our hand to some art and ate out of the food trucks.
Making a Book
We went to a booth where we made our own little book. First we wrote a paragraph based on a prompt. Then several copies were made and added to a pile on a table. Then we were able to pick four other people’s on the table to create our story, which we pinned into a book. I had my boyfriend and sister help me with all the parts. It was fun
These are just two stacks out of four big stacks of books that I’m working on reading right now.
And these aren’t even the required school books.
One of the books that I read recently was Charlotte Pierce-Baker’s memoir This Fragile Life: A Mother’s Story of a Bipolar Son. It’s a wonderful, touching story of what it’s like to be the parent of a young adult diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It wrenches at the heart without being self-pitying, informs without being focused on an educative aim.
The story has an interesting perspective because Pierce-Baker and her husband are married, affluent, educated African American parents without a knowledge of mental health issues in their family. It addresses the difficulty of seeing her son arrested for drug issues (due to self-medicating the bipolar), the benefits of having money to help with his mental health problems (and the limitations of that) and the hard experience of learning how to help her adult child and when and how to set boundaries.
Her son’s poetry is woven throughout the book. It’s beautiful to see her use his words to share his story in both his voice and hers.
Every time that I go to the library I come home with dozens of books. I read most of them but there are always a couple that I don’t get to. This time around the two I didn’t read were Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche and OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu.
The latter I probably won’t end up reading. Although it looked cute, it’s a teen novel and I don’t typically read YA fiction. (Although there have been some exceptions.)
DeRoche’s book is one I might return to, though. It’s a memoir about the Australian author’s experience spending a year in San Francisco, meeting the man of her dreams and going sailing around the world with him despite a fear of deep water. It didn’t grab me at first, but sometimes that’s just a timing issue. I like travel memoirs, I like reading books related to life in San Francisco and I like true love stories. There was nothing wrong with the writing so the book is on my radar as one I might want to read, just not right now for some reason. It seems like a good vacation / airplane trip read.
Have you read either of these books?
Recently I was at the library and picked up a copy of Tim Manley’s illustrated book Alice in Tumblr-land: And Other Fairy Tales for a New Generation.
It’s a quick read and has some cute stuff in it that made me smile.
I’ve gotten the opportunity to participate in a lovely book tour for the book Antiphony by Chris Katsaropoulos so I’m happy to share that book here with you today.
About the Book
“What if the Universe is really a giant thought?”
This is the question posed by a leading theoretician in String Theory physics at the start of this book. The book doesn’t so much answer the philosophical question as explore the ramifications of being someone in a field who radically changes the perspective that field has long taken. Powerful!
What I Loved Most
I enjoyed this book a lot. Here are some of the main reasons:
- It’s super smart but also accessible. It delves deep into scientific theory as well as philosophy and some psychology but it uses layperson language and felt really accessible to me.
- The writing style reminds me of Milan Kundera. I’m a huge fan of Kundera’s work, particularly the book Identity: A Novel
so this is a big compliment. I think Kundera has a really unique voice and style that I never really see anywhere and Katsaropoulos has a similar quality that lent some magic to the reading for me.
- It’s fiction but I’m sure it’s rooted in some history/biography. At least in the sense that the major game-changers in the world, especially in science, have often faced difficulty in their fields (and their lives) when they turn accepted ideas on their heads. It really gives pause for thought and appreciation when it comes to the innovators of our world.
- It blends reality and non-reality in a fabulous way. There are dreams and visions, there’s science and of course the piece itself is fiction but could be a real story theoretically. Interesting!
About the Author
I actually wasn’t familiar with Chris Katsaropoulos before now but it turns out that he’d written another novel called Fragile and has also authored a number of non-fiction titles and poetry.
About the Publisher
Luminis Books is a proud independent publisher located in Indiana. Learn more at www.luminisbooks.com.
I recently read this special book that is a teen’s educational memoir about what it’s like to live with autism.
The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism was written by Naoki Higashida. He’s a Japanese writer who worked with a teacher using a system of pointing out what he wanted to say on alphabet cards, answering questions about what it is like to be inside the body of autism.
The book has been translated by KA Yoshida and David Mitchell and an introduction has been added by David Mitchell. They have an autistic child and explain how reading this book finally helped them to understand a lot about their child and gain more patience, compassion and communication with their kid.
The book is mostly Q&A format. The teen author highlights that this is just his personal experience and that he can’t say for sure what it is like for anyone else to be autistic. But he explains a lot about his experience in a way that might answer questions for others wondering what an autistic child is thinking or why they behave the way that they do.
For example, he addresses the question: “why do you ask the same questions over and over?” He explains that whereas other people seem to have their information stored in chronological order or clear files in their brain, his memory is more like a pool with dots of information. He says, “I’m always picking up these dots – by asking my questions – so I can arrive back at the memory that the dots represent.” And he goes on to explain that repeatedly asking the same question also offers the benefit of allowing him to play with spoken language because words or phrases he’s familiar with are easiest for him for conversations.
In addition to the Q&A there are some short stories/ essays integrated into the writing. It’s a quick read and one that I found really powerful. It helps remind me that people experience every single thing differently from others – not just autistic people but all people. We don’t all remember the same, perceive the same, experience the same. It makes me want to be more curious about what others are experiencing and why they do what they do, rather than sitting in my experience and judging what’s happening from the outside.
I shared this (and other books I read) on Instagram. Follow me there.