29tolife

Just another WordPress.com site

Archive for the tag “books”

Work, School, Book Club Too?

On top of everything else going on in my life, working full-time, being a graduate school student, I’ve added a book club to the list.
It started off innocently enough. Some very smart, sweet, creative and conscious women from my former job had been meeting with each other to discuss books and art and culture and to just unwind and share goodies (hand-made and store bought) for some time.
A dear co-worker of mine mentioned that they were reading one of my new favorites “Americanah” and I was very curious about the perspective of this very diverse group of women. So I crashed the party.
After having a very wonderful time– they were excited to see me since I’d recently left that job– I was invited to return anytime and to read the next book.
So despite homework, assignments, class and work, I took on the next selection, which was massive “The Goldfinch” and although I stayed up all hours of the night to complete it in time for the next gathering, I enjoyed the book a great deal, and enjoyed talking about it with this group even more.
Our next meeting is coming around the first of the month and have I started the book yet?
Of course not. I plan to this week for sure.
Should I be taking on any other extra activities, common sense says no, but my intellectual and creative side says yes.
For some reason, it’s worth it to me not only to read these books, that I may not have otherwise selected for myself and voluntarily spend a Saturday morning being the youngest in a group of women of different backgrounds and cultures, married and single, mothers and childless.
It enriches my soul in a time where I’m racing to get things done. It allows me to slow down, and be nurtured by other women who’ve been there and done that and who get my yearning for education and beautiful things and humanity.
I enjoy how they show pride in all of the things I’m trying to accomplish and encourage me that I can in fact, pull it off.
They are like doting aunties who want me to find Prince Charming, but are relieved it’s not an obsession. They understand how important the expanding of my mind is to me and they share that vision in their own personal lives.
I appreciate their honesty and confusion about issues of race and sexuality and what it is to be a woman in the world. It’s refreshing to discuss these things in a civilized way with people who are outside of my usual circle.
What I appreciate the most is knowing how different we are, but seeing just how similar we are too. We are curious, we love sweets, we appreciate art and music and culture, we love books and we love talking about them.
The most wonderful thing about a great book is the tangential life discussions and real anecdotes that arise from a fictitious character’s struggle or triumph.
As a black woman, I’ve often stayed away from book clubs because many black women want to read books by only black authors. I can understand why. When you escape, you want to be in a world that looks like you and talks like you and thinks like you. For me, I only want that sometimes, and not every book by every black author is good. So what excites me about the book group I’m in is the value the non-black members place in reading books about black people as well as people of all races, genders or sexuality. Their acceptance of Americanah, made me more interested in their book choices that involved non-black characters because I was confident, they were simply picking really great books, period. When they suggested books by international authors, I knew I was in the right place.
Reading great books makes us smarter, makes us critical thinkers, exercises our imagination and gives us access to worlds that may be impenetrable in real life.
The book club is just as essential as my studies or my job because it feeds my soul. Staying up later to do some extra reading is only a small sacrifice to make for what I’ve gained in return as a human.

Advertisements

The Four Agreements, Me and My Hair

I often talk about timing. Things happen in certain sequences not only for dramatic effect, but for some kind of reason. Usually when you really pay attention to a sequence of events, you find that reason over time and you get why things lined up exactly the way they did when they did.

I’m currently reading “The Four Agreements” and yes, it is one of those self-help enlightenment books that folks like Oprah thought were all life-changing and amazing.

But I have a few opinions on this book. I’m not done yet, but I’d like to share what I’ve taken from it thus far.

First, I think reading this book while I’m attempting to go natural with my hair helps really clarify a lot of my original fears of wearing my natural hair.

*Meaning I’m growing out my chemical relaxer which straightens my hair.

The premise of the book is that there are things society, our family, friends, enemies and we agree and believe them. Because of what we are trained to believe, we can even tell ourselves positive or negative things and we’ll agree with them and believe them to be proper and correct also.

As far as black women and hair, we had society telling us we were not attractive if we were not as close to looking European as possible. So even if we couldn’t alter our skin color, we for damn sure straightened our hair. In turn, society responded to us more positively and particularly men.

But we can change what we believe and what we agree to and I think by reading about going natural and hearing stories about how liberating it was for women and just the celebration of natural hair on pinterest and seeing women in a lot of television commercials with kinky, wavy, curly or super short hair, reconditioned me.

I wore my hair in a fro in public for the first time, and I actually felt good about it. Those other women were letting me know it was ok, and in turn, I believed it, agreed, and now I think I can wear my hair almost anyway I want.

I also believe and agree that I can wear my hair straight from time to time too and I won’t be turning on my culture or hating myself. LOL.

It made me think of relationships. It made me think of what the men in my life found as beautiful. I could either agree or disagree with them and keep it moving. Same thing about my weight.

At one point, it did seem like the Four Agreements was promoting narcissistic behavior and dismissing the thoughts of others and becoming disconnected and diluted.

But when you put all four agreements together, and practice them intently, it’s completely far from that. You are more cognizant of yourself and what you say and how you treat others.

The other agreements are not to make assumptions and to always do your best.

So when you think about it, if you use your words wisely and in positive ways, if you don’t tear down others, or gossip, or set out to hurt people, if you don’t make assumptions, if you seek clarity from people and you always do your best, then that isn’t being selfish or narcissistic. You are just being a great citizen the not taking things personally or believing everything people say to you and taking it as gospel is not being delusional or dismissive.

I think the book asks us to come from a place of honesty in all that we do and seek positivity. Negative things will happen and you will be misunderstood, but you have to shake it off and not let it as one guy I knew would always tell me, “not shape your ball of clay.”

It’s made me think of what people have said about me and how I let what they said shape what I think of myself and what a huge effect that has on everything. How do I use my words? Am I putting out poison because of my own problems, hang ups and insecurities?

Sometimes the wordage can be repetitive or even seem way out there, but with an open mind, as you read, you can pick out things that resonate.

I have a feeling I’ll be rereading this from time to time.

 

Revisiting the Summer Reading List

Welp. I’ve fallen in love with reading again.

As a child, a was a voracious reader. During my long summer vacations, I stayed at the library. I always took out the maximum amount of books (8) and usually returned them all within a week. One summer I declared I was going to read every single book in the Babysitter’s Club Series and I did. I even read the Super Specials, mysteries and a few of the Little Sister’s spinoffs (totally not as wonderful). I was devastated when Claudia’s grandmother died.

I won contests for reading 200 books in a summer. During the school year, I was the kid who stayed getting those coupons for a small kid’s pizza at Pizza Hut for meeting the reading goals for the program they had in partnership with my elementary school. (Yes, I was/am a nerd. I still have my rejection letter from the Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego game show. I’m still pissed about it. I would have killed it! I wanted that loud ass jacket and a trip “anywhere in the continental U.S.” soooo bad. LOL!! I’m cracking up at myself right now. No Hawaii? No Alaska? That’s bootleg. To be a show about tracking a fictional villaness all around the world, PBS couldn’t spring for an international vacay for the kid and at least one parent/guardian? Damn!)

It seemed once I got thrust into the work world full time as an adult, I stopped reading for leisure completely. But I’m starting to get my groove back. I have an entire list of books I want to read/finish in the coming months. I forgot how much I loved reading. And as a writer, how inspiring it can be, and if you are reading great writers, you are going to become an even better writer. Most recently, I’ve read The Human Stain, Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock, Haiku for the Single Girl (friggin hysterical), and one of my all time favorites: The Warmth of Other Suns.

What I hope to tackle this summer:

The Art of War (currently reading)

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Let It Go by TD Jakes

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks By Rebecca Skloot

That new freaky book, Fifty Shades of Gray by E. L. James

Son of A Witch by Gregory Maguire (I loved reading Wicked)

The Legs are the Last to Go by Diahann Carroll

Audition by Barbara Walters

I’m Still Here: Confessions of A Sex Kitten by Eartha Kitt (I’m obsessed with her since a friend showed me a pic of her riding a bike presumably in her 20s, taken by Gordon Parks; which kind of looked like me!)

Lately, I’ve been most interested in non-fiction and autobiographies. I guess my background in journalism is a part of that, because honestly real life stories can be just as fascinating and even more complicated than things people make up.

If I read a fiction book, someone has to recommend it to me and it has to be awesome. The Human Stain falls into this category and after reading that, I don’t know how to find something to top it. I’m sure there’s more great work out there, I’m just too lazy. If you have suggestions, please share!

I’m also interested in rereading some of the classics I read in high school, and revisiting them as an adult. I read “Streetcar Named Desire” in high school and I went to see the play on Broadway last weekend.

It was absolutely amazing! Amazing! Amazing!

There were sly jokes and comments that I would have never caught as a teen, that I caught and adored. I had a new love for the material because I’ve spent time in New Orleans and it is my favorite city. I had a special sympathy for Blanche and Stella as a woman who went through my own personal pains. I especially felt for Blanche in a new way, because I saw a radiant woman I love dearly unravel in mental illness.

So I think I need to revisit The Great Gatsby and Vanity Fair and Jane Eyre again as an adult. I enjoyed those books back then, but I’m sure seeing it through adult eyes, will heighten the experience. Just like streetcar, I’m going to see something new this time around and it’s going to excite me and remind me of my evolution in my thinking and absorbing of material and my evolution as a person.

In honor of my recommittment to literacy, I bring you this hilarious parody. Bitches in Bookshops:

Post Navigation