It’s rest-time at our house right now on this cloudy Friday afternoon. It’s also the last day of March, so while my kids are “resting” (using all the pillows and chairs to make a limousine), I figured I’d record what I read this month. As always, I would love to know what you’ve been reading, too!
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott*
This is a classic. I read it in college, so I wondered if it would still resonate the second time around, but it still inspired me and fueled my desire to write. I especially love the chapter on giving because I often grapple with the idea of submitting work for publication (with thoughts like my writing isn’t good enough, it feels arrogant to put it out there, these experiences are precious to me, I don’t want to sell out). She writes, “You are going to have to give and give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward. There is no cosmic importance to your getting something published, but there is in learning to be a giver.” I love this perspective.
A Poetry Handbook: A Prose Guide to Understanding and Writing Poetry by Mary Oliver*
Poetry is my heartbeat. It is my preferred genre. It is how my mind works, and the form I am most comfortable writing in. I am learning to embrace that. For real this time. It’s ok to write mediocre poetry! I tell myself this multiple times a day. This book is a pretty in-depth overview of poetry and is such a helpful reference and encouragement for poetry nerds.
Heaven And Wind And Stars and Poems by Tong-Ju Yun
This is a book of poems by one of Korea’s famous poets. He wrote during the 40s and 50s, a particularly volatile time in Korea. His writing is full of strong, memorable images. My husband ordered an English translation that is beautiful and effective. Translations don’t always ring true, but this one did.
Dirty Glory: Go Where Your Best Prayers Take You by Pete Greig
This one was surprisingly powerful for me. I don’t say that lightly. The first half of the book shares insight into our relationship with God in prayer and the second half shares insight into our relationship with others. I have heard Pete Greig speak many times, and his insight and authenticity is so refreshing. I highly recommend it. “This is the staggering message of Christ’s incarnation: God’s glory became dirt so that we — the scum of the earth — might become the very glory of God.”
A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros
I was excited to read this one because I really love the way Cisneros writes, but it was a little disappointing. There were definitely gems sprinkled throughout, but it is mostly a collection of talks and essays she wrote for universities, art exhibits, etc. It’s not what I was expecting. However, this quote helped me feel less alone and more accepting of my writing process: “I can’t explain my process. I just know when given a topic, I can only try, but I give no guarantees. “It’s like fishing,” I explain. “I can get up early, mend the nets, get my boat ready, and row myself to an area where there are plenty of fish, but I can’t guarantee my catch. I’m just the fisherman, not the creator of fish. It’s a matter of waiting.” I can relate 100%
This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer by Kay Mills
This might be the first massive biography I’ve ever read. I thought of my dad the whole time because he’s always reading a 500 page biography. It was hard to get through because it is so dense. SO dense. But it was totally worth it because I LOVE FANNIE LOU HAMER. Seriously, she is a hero of mine. If you don’t know who she is, she was a civil rights activist in the 1960s. Her focus was on voter rights but she also advocated for education and started a farm to provide work and food for the poor in Mississippi. She is known for her knowledge of scripture, her no-nonsense speeches, and her consistent, passionate singing (YES FOREVER). She was committed to seeking justice for all people—black and white, for championing the family, and strongly opposing abortion. These stories need to be told and remembered. I’m so grateful for women like her who refused to back down even after being badly beaten and threatened. She spoke boldly in truth and love.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros*
I wrote my undergraduate thesis on Cisneros’ works, so this book is really special to me. I re-read it in hopes of feeling the spark of creativity it ignited in me so many years ago. It’s written from the perspective of a Mexican American girl searching for her place and a home. I love her imagery and the way she masterfully and memorably mixes poetry and prose.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Our English library has so many wonderful books. Have you read this one? It was on display in the YA section with all its shiny metalic stickers, so I picked it up. I’m so glad I did. It’s a novel written through poetry. A sort of autobiography that traces relationships and prejudice and dreams of one girl through time and place. I really loved the voice and tone it was written in. It rang both hopeful and true.
Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
I found this book on the jumbled shelves of our smaller English library. It’s a children’s novel about a Japanese American family in the 1950s. It’s mainly about the relationship between two sisters, but it touches on the prejudice they face in the south and the intense working environment their parents took on in order to provide for their family. There is a scene where the girl’s father teaches her a powerful lesson that costs him a lot (I don’t want to give it away) and I’m still thinking about it. It’s a really beautiful work with a powerful ending. I also loved the subtle elements of Japanese culture that are mentioned throughout.
As you can tell, Jase is still not sleeping well, which is the reason I have so much time to read (particularly during the hours of 2am—5am). I don’t recommend sleepless nights, but if you have to endure them, at least there are plenty of books.