Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Welcome to Braggsville

Welcome to BraggsvilleWelcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I give it 4 stars for an excellent dialogue about race. How we all come with certain biases, (how could we not?), whether we acknowledge them or not. It also gets 4 stars for two excellent twists. And for skewering Bezerkley as much as D'aron's little backwater Southern town. But I will say that it could have been better (much better) with some judicial editing. It is told in a sort of jazz ska stream of consciousness...which works sometimes...the opening sentence that goes on for a page and a half is brilliant. But most of the time I felt as though I were swimming upstream trying to hold on the plot. Even the ideas and questions raised get diluted with so much dithering and circumlocutions. Also, just to play devils advocate...so much controversy surrounded The Help when Stockett wrote in the voice of a black woman, and yet Johnsons protagonist is white (and the whites here are portrayed none too keenly) and yet no one seems to be upset about that. Why can whites only write white people, but black authors have free license? To be clear, I am not upset about Johnsons portrayal, only questioning the seeming double standard for writers today.


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"People generally aren't too fond of people who are different.  No one can warm to everybody.  That ain't ever gonna change.  Only thing'll change is what counts as different, from time to time.  So, try to take 'em as individuals.  Know you can't fix the world."

Bark: Stories

Bark: StoriesBark: Stories by Lorrie Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am really being generous with the three stars, but it's not like I didn't like it. It's just that it has only been a couple of weeks, and I can't really remember it. These stories should have resonated with me...all of the protagonists are about my age going through things that people my age go through...like divorce, suburban malaise, what do you do when your first act is over?,etc. the writing is divine and the conversations witty and fun. But even when I finished, I thought, "what was the point?" Though I am sure she had one, and I just couldn't latch on. It's kind of a it's not you, it's me sort of thing. Moore likes to name her stories with double meanings like "Foes", but I am afraid this was all bark and no bite for me.


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"That was the only happiness in life: to choose the best unhappiness."

"As each one lost its heat she could no longer feel it even there on her back, and then its removal was like a discovery that is had been there all along; how strange to forget and feel it only then, at the end;

Cinder

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)Cinder by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My daughter loves this series, and convinced me to read it. It is a very enjoyable read. I could guess the plot by the third chapter, but it is a retelling of Cinderella so perhaps you shouldn't expect many twists. Still, the smaller twists...cyborgs, aliens, spies, plagues...create an enjoyable alternate reality for this Cinderella story. And of course, because it is a trilogy, don't look for a happy ever after...at least not until after book 3...(hopefully?!)


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Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Vampires in the Lemon GroveVampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These short stories are haunting, much like George Saunders. I will admit I didn't "get" all of the stories here, but loved the imaginative plots regardless. I paricularly enjoyed "Vampires in the Lemon Grove" about an aging(?) vampire trying to keep the interest of his restless partner; "Proving Up" which I so happened to read right after Willa Cather and would be a perfect companion read, as it questions the worth of the sacrifices the prairie settlers made to tame the land; and "The Graveless Doll of Eric Munn" where a bully has seconds thoughts about his actions. These are stories you can read again and again and draw out more each time. They are also just wicked fun.


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The Turner House

The Turner HouseThe Turner House by Angela Flournoy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Turner house is falling apart. In an old neighborhood in Detroit, it once housed the 13 Turner children as they grew up. Now the Turner children are grown with adult children of their own, Mama is sick and living with Cha Cha, the eldest, and they must decide what to do with a house not worth what they owe on it. That is just the backdrop for the beautiful, brawling story of this interconnected clan. Flournoy only highlights a few of the kids here, touches on others, and only mentions some in passing, but you get the sense of how this big family works, with each sibling accepting or bucking their role in the family. Flournoy highlights the ghosts we carry we with us, literally and figuratively, as we fight for our own identities...even when we are well beyond 60. I enjoyed this book, even though I realized some time later there was very little resolutions in the end. But life is like that, no wrapped up ending, just small joys and victories, and if we are lucky a family that despite all the bickering can still get together and dance.


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"self-sabotaging self-righteousness masked as self-reliance."

"Slavery.  Did there ever exist a more annoying way to try to make a modern-day black man feel like his troubles were insignificant, that he should be satisfied with the sorry hand society dealt him?"

"the line of reasoning was faulty; it was precisely because his grandfather's father was born a slave that he should expect more from life, and more from this country, to make up for lost time at the very least."

"Lelah saw it had cost too much to aim for so little>"