Archive for October, 2009
Even in the life of a writer and book reviewer, one finds one periodically likes what one reads or likes what one writes. This happened two–two!–times this week. The first excerpt is a review of something I enjoyed reading, Michelle Huneven’s absolutely laying-waste-to-the-land-and/or-competition Blame, which I reviewed for NPR.
When a character accidentally kills a mother and daughter within the first 20 pages of a novel, a reader might expect the author to dedicate the remaining pages to picking through the resultant mental debris….
As Huneven takes us through the predictable consequences — two years of jail time, crippling guilt, stunted relationships and a lifetime membership in AA — it’s impossible to not be scared straight by her vivid and disturbing depictions of Patsy’s post-tragedy world. But even more frightening is Huneven’s detailing of the harsh truths of the mind and how it can, when unchecked, incrementally warp our lives. As Patsy suffers through a withholding lover, a limited marriage, a compromised friendship and a derailed career, she can’t change anything until she’s made to see how much she has visited these punishments on herself.
Read the rest here.
The second is something I enjoyed writing! It’s an essay about the mother who created a line of black Barbies for her daughter, which is a sweet gesture but likely to backfire, as in the case of piano lessons and other acts of enforced childhood uplift. Here, I had the opportunity to not only confess to rampant Barbie mutilation but also tell the as-yet-untold story of racial integration, Bewitched, and the signifying panda:
Some of you may remember the “Bewitched” episode in which Darren’s white clients visit on Christmas and give Tabitha a white doll, her black friend a black doll, and a baby whose parentage they can’t quite discern a stuffed panda. Darren and Samantha gently rebuke the couple for their racial absolutism, and as the show closes, the baby clutches the black doll, Tabitha plays with the panda and the black girl with the white doll. (Or does the black girl get the panda? This is why I would have failed the LSATs: “If three children have a panda, a white doll and a black doll to share, and each can’t play with their cultural signifier…”)
The episode’s point was that children are too innocent to see color. (And, implicitly, that there is not way to express biracial identity without crossing species, but that’s another issue.) But as a biracial panda-person, I lived in terror of someone giving me a biracial doll, or a doll that had any utility beyond dollness, for that matter. What was the adult asking me to do? Drag it out every Christmas, like an ugly grandma sweater? Confirm in my crayon thank-you it had validated my identity?
Read it all here. AND
OMIGOD I forgot they put Tabitha in blackface!
I FORGOT, I SWEAR! Never again. Sadly the panda part isn’t in the clip:
I have always wanted a bunch of people on tap to do my job so I could lie down but have never figured out exactly how to swing it. Luckily for me, the delightful blog Booking Mama has stepped in with a Shelf Discovery challenge that will yield pinch hitters if not a permanent staff in the important work of rediscovering and celebrating neglected YA classics. Here are, briefly, the rules:
The Shelf Discovery Challenge will run for six months (November 1, 2009 – April 30, 2010). To join me in this challenge, all you need to do is grab a copy of SHELF DISCOVERY and pick out what six books you want to read (of course, you can read more than six!) Then, after you read a book, just write a “book report” to share your thoughts with others!
If Booking Mama agrees, I also have a prize I would love to give to the winner. Although it might be more of a runner-up prize. I always think runners-up get very neglected in the prize department, except in the case of last night’s Top Chef, in which Michael Voltaggio’s deeply mistaken belief that he is a nice guy briefly spilled over into his actually being one. IN ANY CASE. Please enter early and often, at least up until April 30, 2010. God, what will be HAPPENING by then! We may not even have books, or an Internet! But what we will definitely have is Judy Blume. Good luck!