“A Thousand Mornings,” Mary Oliver

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People often shy away from poetry, thinking it’s too complicated, saying that they just don’t get it. Worse: that it’s boring or old. Fair enough. I can’t say it’s for everyone. But, I am a firm believer that any avid reader who decries poetry just hasn’t read the right poems yet.

In Mary Oliver’s A Thousand Mornings, we see the space in which traditional poetic themes are gracefully met by modern sentiments and feelings.

“I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall—
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.”

I Go Down to the Shore, p. 1.

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“The Glass Castle,” Jeannette Walls

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The first chapter begins mundanely enough. An adult Jeannette Walls, sitting in the backseat of a taxi in NYC, catches sight of her mother rooting through a dumpster. The mother and daughter meet up for a meal, and Walls asks her mother what she needs. Her mother recoils, accusing Walls of having lost her priorities. On the next page, Walls is three years old and on fire.

The Glass Castle is a fiercely detailed memoir about her nomadic upbringing with free-spirited and often reckless parents. What struck me immediately was the way her experiences show the dark side of being free-spirited, the toll it can take, especially when children are involved. The idea of living on the road, or constantly relocating is heavily romanticized making it easy to forget the many downsides.

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“Fun Home,” Alison Bechdel

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My introduction to this book was gradual. First, a friend started sending me songs from the musical. They were of course great, but I don’t think my brain made the connection that the musical was based on a memoir. The first time the book itself was recommended to me was during a coffee date with friends. At some point, conversation meandered to books, which was odd but refreshing. We all enjoyed reading, but our friendships each pre-dated us being Adults Who ReadTM, and books weren’t a typical topic of conversation for us. That being said, the recommendation slipped my mind, and by the time I picked it up, I’d forgotten it was ever mentioned to me. Either way, I’m glad it made its way onto my bookshelf.

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is a graphic memoir dealing with her struggle with her sexual identity, her father’s hidden identity, and his death. Continue reading