All tagged Non-Fiction

Inspiring & Hopeful - Finding Me: A Life Reclaimed by Michelle Knight

That day I disappeared in 2002, not many people even seemed to notice. I was twenty-one, a young mom who stopped a a Family Dollar store one afternoon to ask for directions. For the next eleven years I was locked away in hell. That’s the part of my story you may already know. There’s a whole lot more that you don’t.

— Michelle Knight, Finding Me

A Life Reclaimed - these three simple words give voice to the heart and soul of Michelle Knight’s memoir, Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed, written with Michelle Burford. Less than half the book speaks of the horror that she, Amanda Barry and Gina DeJesus faced each day while held in captivity by Ariel Castro, who Knight refers to as "the dude." 

In concise and clear words that never softens the reality of her experience nor overly dwells on it, she communicates the fear and the pain she knew as her constant companion during her years chained and held captive at the whim of the dude. She held tight to her memories of better times when she cradled her beloved son close, laughing and playing games with him.

Recommendation Roundup: April 2014

Clearly, I had a much better reading month than my CEFS compatriots, with a number of books I quite enjoyed. 

By far, my most surprising read was Zac & Mia, which is one of those review copies that I downloaded on impulse because the folks at Harper Collins have me auto-approved for their books. Little did I know that it had won the Text Prize in Australia a couple of years ago, because that would've been my first clue that it was a good one. It's getting a lot of comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars, but I'm not sure that's an apt one, though the subject matter is similar. If I were to compare it stylistically to a "cancer book," I'd probably say it's more similar to The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder, but that's not that best comparison either. It's actually just unique, with a distinctive voice and style. 

List-O-Rama: 9 FNL-Worthy Football Books

Growing up in a village (literally, it’s officially a chartered village) in Western New York State, I didn’t have much in common with most people in the community. My family was one of 4 Asian families in town. Most people my age hadn’t even heard of the country from which my parents hail, Korea (the Forgotten War, indeed). We were non-religious in a place with 4 churches that dominated the quaint downtown square guessed it...Church Street. We were white collar in a predominantly blue collar/rural region.

But one thing I had in common with everyone else was my love for the Buffalo Bills, the NFL team that played in a stadium a located a scant 45 minutes northeast. During football season, our school walls were plastered with articles and photos on the Bills from the local newspapers. We had mini pep rallies where each class had to make up a song to go with a different player. A particularly catchy one my fourth grade class came up with went, “Andre Reed, he’s number 83! When the ball gets thrown, he’s sure to receive!” 

I know. We were so clever.

In the early 90s, my family moved to Buffalo itself, right in the midst of the Bills glory days when they, as everyone probably already knows, made it to four consecutive Super Bowls, but didn’t manage to win one. In the years since, as life has taken me 2500 miles away from my hometown, my attachment to the Bills has never waned, despite their current ignominy as a team in the throes of a 13 year playoff drought, the longest in the NFL. 

A strange thing happened though, something that I never expected. While I was always a fan of the Buffalo Bills, the football team, I was not necessarily a fan of football, the sport itself. But, with the help of my SHO, who understands football in a way that I never will, I’ve grown to appreciate its complexity, its strategy, its status as the ultimate team sport, its unabashedly arrogant theatrics, its history, and its place in our country’s history, both as a pastime and microcosm of American culture and society.

Unfortunately for me, the football season, both for college and the NFL, is relatively short, the regular season spanning only four months from September through January.

Fortunately for me, in addition to the countless number of football documentaries available on Netflix (Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 is a particular favorite of mine), there is a plethora of books on football for me to read during the off-season. This is especially handy now, when every other sport that I enjoy is also on hiatus, a convergence affectionately known as Laura’s Summer Sports Slump.

A lot of books on football are more akin to reference guides, covering stats and exciting topics like the development of the West Coast Offense. However, my favorites, as follows, are the ones that aren’t just about football, but about the special, everyday moments that make up life.

Just like FNL.

“Yo, padre!” he’d say. He’d challenge the priest about the unscientific impossibility of the miracles and when the priest continued to ignore him, he’d get mad and yell out something about Pope Alexander VI’s bastard children, or Pope Leo X’s hedonism, or Pop Nicholas III’s simony  or the murders committed in the name of the Church during the Spanish Inquisition. But what could you expect, he’d say, from an institution run by celibate men who wore dresses. 

Review: The Glass Castle by Jeannette WallsThese words flowing from the always opinionated mouth of Jeannette Walls’ father made her worship time memorable and short. 

She begins her memoir, The Glass Castle, speaking not of her early childhood memories, but rather of herself as an adult sitting in a taxi worrying about whether she had overdressed for the evening’s events when she spots her mother digging through a dumpster. They’re only fifteen feet apart but in truth, a world of differences separate them. She watches as her mother hoists items from the dumpster, examines them and then laughs with glee at what pleases her. Her mother’s hair hangs tangled, dirty and matted while her eyes sink deep into her face making her sockets look like caves.

Feeling panic rising in her chest, Jeannette slides down into her seat and asks the driver to take her back to her home on Park Avenue. She’s come a long way from poverty, hunger, icicles hanging from the ceiling as she struggles to stay warm. She fears that someone going to the same lavish party as she will spot her if she speaks to her mother. Then her secret would be out for all to see the darkness from where she came.

This memoir struck a chord deep within me.

List-O-Rama: 7+ Non-Fiction Books About Sports

The Olympics are winding down, and I know I’ve had equal fun both watching the athletes and snarking on NBC for their piss-poor coverage here in the States.

As promised, here are some recommended books about sports—and yes, I know, some of these sports aren’t in the Olympics.

Little Girls in Pretty Boxes by Joan Ryan

It’s been a long time since I read this book, and I understand it’s been updated to include more about the current realities of elite gymnasts and figure skaters, but Little Girls in Pretty Boxes is a very eye-opening book about what it takes to be a top-level athlete at a young age. I’ve been told that on the same subject, Dominic Moceanu’s memoir, Off Balance, is also a fascinating look at elite gymnastics. 

{Amazon | Goodreads

The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam

This is a remarkable piece of writing about my first sports love, the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team. David Halberstam followed the team for a year in 1979 and recorded the highs and lows of professional sports at that time. It’s one of those works of non-fiction that reads like a novel because it’s so fast-paced and engaging. Another book I love about the same time period is the classic, Heaven is a Playground, which is about youth streetballers.

I don’t believe the war is simply the work of politicians and capitalists. Oh, no, the common man is every bit as guilty.

The Holocaust is disturbing enough for adults to conceptualize, but for younger children it’s especially difficult to explain. I certainly cannot give a valid explanation beyond the usual lines that we find in history books.

However, in Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography, Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon have gifted us with a finely-illustrated and written graphic book that explores issues of intolerance and prejudice for a younger audience in an accessible way. It’s deeply felt for the the young and not-so young.

Told through the eyes of Otto Frank (Anne’s father) but still drawing upon Anne’s diary, Otto’s sad face and words come forth in a beautiful portrait of him in darkness and shadows thinking about Anne’s diary.

Painful reminiscences overwhelmed me…Never had I imagined the depths of her thoughts and feelings.