Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Quick Update

Very quick, because I can hear that my son's upstairs in the shower (his bathroom is directly above my office) and when he's done we're going shopping. I was trying to work on my novel, but have given it up after about 50 words and several internet excursions, one of which was actually research. (Arabic boys' names that American children can pronounce: go!)

People keep asking me if I'm ready for Christmas. It's a common enough phrase--are you finished buying gifts, sending cards (I don't send cards anymore), wrapping gifts, cooking, traveling, receiving travelers, whatever it is you're doing? No one means, are you ready for the holy day? Are you ready for hope in the midst of the darkest part of the year? I'm being a little philosophical here--it's the mood I'm in--but I like to think I'm mostly ready for both. It's been an odd year, but a very good one. My son's home now, and my daughter comes home tomorrow. I know we won't always get this much time together, as they continue into their adult lives, and I'm grateful to the point of driving them crazy. Yesterday I was Facetiming my daughter, who's immersed in final exams, and she said rather bitterly that it was amazing how I could hover from more than 500 miles away.

It's a skill I've honed.


I am behind on my thank-you notes for everyone who has sent me books. Books, books, books--it's been amazing. Really, really, good, and I'm really, really, grateful. I've decided to make this a full-time project--I'm in the very beginning stages of creating a full-fledged charity to put more books into the hands of low-income Appalachian schoolchildren. I'll keep you all updated as that proceeds, but for now--the library in the afterschool program is looking awesome. I'm about halfway through the weeding and I've gotten about half the new books onto the shelves, and they're being checked out and read, which is awesome. If you see on my Amazon wishlist some stuff that doesn't look like Quality Children's Literature--say, for example, Fly Guy, which I have no objections to but which isn't on my personal top ten--some of those are specific requests from the children.

The other afterschool program now has a lot more books that reflect the diversity of the students there. The elementary school has a lot more books.  There is a lot of work to do--and honestly, a lot more places to put books--but what's happening so far is tremendous, and it makes me very, very glad. And also hopeful. So there. I guess I am ready for Christmas.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Favorite Books of 2017

Today a friend thanked me for posting the titles of books I liked on Facebook. I was actually already thinking about doing a book list blog post, so here you are.

Two years ago I started writing down the titles of every book I read all the way through. For 2017, so far, I have 196 books. Not bad considering that the first few months I was hampered by a concussion and the last few by a book tour. If I counted partially-read books there'd be a lot more. I'm not going to list them all. I see that I started 2017 with a run on bodice-ripper romances by Jo Beverly--no shame  there, but you can find those on your own.

Anyway here are my favorites. I mostly didn't put the author down when I wrote the list, and I'm not going to go searching for it, but I will put the genre after each book.

Mayday  (middle grades)
Freedom in Congo Square (picture book)
Refugee (middle grades)
*The Haunting of Falcon House (middle grades)
*Midnight at the Electric (young adult)
Radiant Child (picture book)
the Maisie Dobbs detective series, all 13 of them (adult)
Olive Kitteredge (adult)
Wolf in the Snow (picture book)
*Textbook, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (adult)
*The Pearl Thief (young adult)
The Other Boy (middle grades)
The Jane Austen Project (adult)
The Poet's Dog (middle grades)
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (young adult)
Jane Austen at Home (adult non-fiction)
*All's Faire in Middle School (graphic novel, middle grades)
*The Hate U Give (young adult)
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook (middle grades)
*One Crazy Summer (middle grades)
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (young adult)
*Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (young adult)
*Evicted (adult non-fiction)
*Dear Martin (young adult)
*Long Way Down (young adult)
The Night Diaries (middle grades)
Heating and Cooling (adult non-fiction)
*The 57 Bus (young adult)
La La La (picture book)
Piecing Me Together (young adult)
Ms. Bixby's Last Day (middle grades)

I only selected books I really liked. I left off mass-market adult paperbacks, like Jo Beverly. I read a lot of books for research this year and I'm not listing any of those, either, although I quite enjoyed most of them. If I dislike a book I don't finish it unless I'm reviewing it and have to. I didn't really read that many picture books this year, but when I did I read really good ones. I made a conscious effort to seek out more middle-school and YA books with non-white narrators and was really happy I did. I don't have a lot of diversity in the adult novels I read, and that's something I'll work on in future.

I've starred my absolute favorites, the ones that really stuck with me, that I thought about over and over again. Of those, my most favorites: Textbook. Amy Krouse Rosenthal was an intellect like no other, and oh, I miss her. All's Faire in Middle School. Victoria Jamison is so, so good at recreating middle school and giving us a lovable flawed character. The Hate U Give. Angie Thomas's startling debut. Worried it wouldn't live up to the hype, but wow, it did. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. This one's a couple of years old and wins the award for the book that surprised me the most this year. Meg Medina doesn't flinch. Loved it. The 57 Bus. Another debut. Dashka Slater's incredibly nuanced, honest reporting makes this perhaps my favorite nonfiction book ever, or at least, of my life so far.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

No Moore. No More!

I woke up in a sort of crummy mood this morning and stalked around the house muttering to myself about how first-world-privileged my issues were. The house is a mess and I've really not started preparing for Christmas, mostly because I was on vacation all last week with my husband, so you all can put the violins away, even those really tiny ones you play between your forefinger and thumb. My son doesn't know when he'll be home for Christmas yet, but he's happy about that--it's a long story, not mine.

My dog is dying. That's true, and I can't fix it. Also some people I love very much have very heavy burdens right now that simply can't be lifted, they have to be borne. So that's hard, and it's truthful, and those are legitimate reasons to be in sort-of crummy moods.

I opened today's Gospel in my email. The University of Notre Dame sends it to me every morning; I only read it sometimes. But today, wandering about my messy house with my ailing dog, seemed like a good one. And I read,"Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest."

No joke.

So that was good, but then the internet got even better. I opened Facebook, and my top post was from my dear friend and heart-sister Christa, who lives in Chicago. It said, "ALABAMA." And then a row of tiny hearts.

I don't have a political home--currently I pretty much dislike all politicians, and the only thing I'd absolutely vote for is term limits, other than absolutely voting that NO SEXUAL PREDATOR EVER BE IN A PLACE OF POWER AGAIN.

I mean, I know that's not realistic. As someone in my yoga class said the other day, there isn't an adult woman in America who hasn't been harassed at the very least. But for so long, sexual assault was discounted, disregarded, disbelieved. Unimportant. And finally, finally, that's starting to change.

Once, when I was already an adult, a friend told me how when she was a little girl, she stayed overnight at a neighbor's and the dad exposed himself to her. She went home and told her mother, her mother pressed charges, and the man was arrested. And I was dumbfounded. You could go to jail? Really? I knew that showing your naked penis to a six-year-old was bad, and technically against the law, but for someone to actually get called on it completely blew me away. I didn't know that was possible. I didn't believe it could happen.

And that was maybe ten years ago.

It's not a party thing. Trump was (is?) a predator and so was (is?) Bill Clinton. Bill Cosby, Dustin Hoffman--don't know how they voted. I read a syndicated editorial the other day, written by a woman, with the title "The Martyrdom of Al Franken." I assumed going in that the title was satire, or sarcasm, but no--the writer really thought that what Al Franken did was "not that bad." That's true in the sense that exposing yourself to a six-year-old is better than making a six-year-old beat you off, which is better than raping the six-year-old, but it's all degrees of stuff that is absolutely wrong, and I'm really proud to live in a place that is not going to put up with that any more.

My husband dislikes the amount of profanity used by my new favorite blogger, Katie at He thinks it overwhelms her message, which is mostly, quit assaulting women you assholes. I think it's the perfect amount of profanity, because after all these years, we are finally allowed to be angry. We are saying exactly what we want to say, because we finally, oh Lord, finally, can.

And predator by predator, we'll call them out, as much as we can. Our daughters won't have to be silent. Our granddaughters won't freeze in shock and horror. It won't be acceptable any more.

So yeah, I'm in a better mood now.