Updated Book Recommendations Post

Ages ago, I wrote about my favorite books. Now, exactly 4 years later, I am updating that list. Graduating with a minor in English means that I am qualified to give unsolicited book recommendations, right? Who knows, but here we go!

Beloved by Toni MorrisonSlide1

While I have a hard time saying what my favorite book is, Beloved has no competition as the most important book I have read. Everyone American or person who lives on American soil should read this book, because it deals with one of the central traumas of our history: slavery. But so often we forget about that history, even though we are most definitely still living with the legacy of it. And I could go on about that (maybe it’ll become its own blog post?), but I promised to talk about books here. This book is so rich with everything; I could read it 100 times and get something new from it every time. There’s new symbolism every paragraph, and the characters and story are compelling (and it’s based on a true story!!). The main question of the book is: what would you do to ensure that your children won’t suffer as slaves? Don’t get me wrong, it’s devastating to read. I had the good fortune to read it in a class setting, and I would actually recommend you to read it in a group setting. That helps you to get more out of it and also helps it feel less heartbreaking. So if you get anything from this post, check out Beloved from your library; it’ll be worth it.

Slide2The Round House by Louise Erdrich

This is similar to Beloved in that it deals with a trauma in American history: the oppression of Native Americans. Except it’s not historical fiction, but rather a contemporary work looking at the legacy that left behind. Specifically, it’s about the mess that is tribal jurisdiction in this day and age and asks the question: what is justice, especially when the justice system is not built in your favor? Like Beloved, this book has its devastating moments (it seems I have a type), but it’s more manageable. Erdrich is a genius at using small details to highlight feelings of loss, so it’s a very organic compassion-inducing read, if that makes sense. But it’s told from the perspective of thirteen-year old Joe, which definitely gives it very welcome moments of comedy and light-heartedness. Content warning: this book does wrestle with topics of rape, murder, and death (no graphic descriptions though), so just be careful.

Re Jane by Patricia ParkSlide3

In the past, I always used to say that Jane Eyre was my favorite book. And then I started looking at the colonial and imperial aspects of it, and now I’m not so sure. But I still adore Bronte’s writing style, so I would recommend reading it along with Re Jane as a companion text. Re Jane is a rewriting of Jane Eyre, from the perspective of a Korean American woman taking care of the adopted Chinese daughter of white parents. This book is refreshing and fun, and it fixes all of Jane Eyre‘s issues. Not only does it tackle issues of race in America, but it’s also very feminist, especially with the portrayal of the Rochester/Bertha replacements. It was especially fun for me to see the ways that Park took my favorite themes of liminality and belonging from Jane Eyre and reconstructed them for a biracial protagonist. The issues that Jane faces are unique to her racial identity yet still feels universal, and it’s a great read.

Slide4The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

You may recognize the title of this book, because it was made into a film last year. I actually still haven’t seen the film yet, but it’s on my to-do list. This is a memoir (love memoirs so much; it might be my favorite genre of book). Walls’ life has been so wild that it’s almost hard to believe that it’s not fiction. The book chronicles Walls’ poverty-marked childhood, moving across the country, ending with her in New York and her relationship with her homeless parents. The most moving aspect of reading it is the nuanced way that Walls honors the past that made her into the woman she is while also recognizing how painful it was to live through. It’s a riveting read and beautifully told, so go read the book and then watch the movie!

And while I focus on novels, here are some suggestions for other genres:

Nonfiction: The Language of God by Francis Collins. If you’re at all interested in learning more about how to reconcile faith and science (specifically on the topic of evolution), I highly recommend this book. Francis Collins is a fantastic writer, and his perspective is very compelling and comprehensive.

Poetry: My two favorite poets at the moment are Pablo Neruda and Layli Long Soldier. There is a purity to the simplicity of Neruda’s odes that’s just delightful and wholesome to read, and he also writes a lot of beautiful love poetry. Long Soldier is a Lakota poet whose works are unconventional and push the limits of what poetry is. Her response to the Congressional Resolution of Apology to Native Americans, a book of poetry titled Whereas, is incredible, and I highly recommend it.

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Song for the Sorrowful

Guys, I’m really excited. So because my school is awesome, this summer I was paid to spend 20 days reading and writing388634_312874848724131_1928943340_n poetry. Yes, I was paid to do this. How cool is that? Anyway, each day, I had a different poet. I would read their biography and a good number of their poetry, and then I wrote my own poetry as a response to what I had read. This is what I did at the beginning of the summer. Then I went on vacation/a mission trip, and since I came back, I have been editing the poems that I feel are worth it to actually make better. My intention from the beginning was to use these to fuel blog posts (so if I post poetry randomly in the next few months, know that this is where they came from). And now I am finally doing that!

This poem I wrote close to the end of the 20 days on the day I studied Sylvia Plath. I was actually pretty frustrated because I had had a difficult time writing very inspired pieces that day, but then the opening lines of this poem just came to me. So that’s pretty cool. It’s not my best poem, but I felt like it was ready for the blog. So yeah, I hope you all get something out of this.

Song for the Sorrowful

Speak to me of joyful things;
Let sadness take its leave.
Sing to me a lullaby,
And darling, please don’t grieve.

Your heart was made for more than this;
I know this much is true.
You only see your brokenness,
But I’ve seen deeper in you.

Your eyes are made of joy,
Your smile is made of love,
Your hands are raw, pure gentleness,
And your heart is a gift from above.

I know that it’s not easy
To break off the bonds of fear,
But in your endless trying,
Don’t forget that I am here.

You were not made to go it alone;
Let your brothers and sisters aid.
You’ve helped us all throughout your pain,
Now finally, be repaid.

Don’t let sorrows storm your soul;
You will get through this strife.
You have a place upon this earth.
There is purpose for your life.

A Poem Recitation and Reflection: The Two Glasses

I decided I’d do something different today! So, this is my favorite poem. It’s written by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, who is most known for writing the poem, “Solitude.” It’s a really neat poem, and I even performed it last year in my theatre class. I decided to recite it instead of perform it because I am currently still in my pajamas (wooh, snow days!), and I don’t have super nice quality video cameras and such. So, I hope you enjoy my recitation, even though I don’t have any pictures or exciting visuals to go with it.

I also wanted to reflect on the meaning of the poem. On the surface, we can obviously see it drawing a contrast between wine and water in this imaginary conversation they have. Wine is the more stereotypical “powerful” player in this game, but water is shown to have its own quiet strength. Wine lovers, do not fear! There is nothing inherently wrong with wine; problems only occur when people misuse it. As I said, it really comes down to the way we view strength. Wine exerts its strength by hurting people and forcing them to do things they might not normally do. But water has a different kind of strength: the kind that helps instead of hurts; the kind that gives instead of takes. Water says, “I set the wine-chained captive free, and all are better for knowing me.” Water proves itself to be stronger than wine in this scenario because its helping hand completely nullifies the strength of wine.

And I liked that, because in society, we like to glorify physical strength, even to the point where it hurts everything around it. We glorify this idea of conquest–of people, of money, of “fame, strength, wealth, genius.” But that’s not where real strength lies.

Just a thought,

Epylle Spydre

p.s. You don’t need a cool glass of lemonade today; it’s fine if you curl up on the couch with hot chocolate. 🙂

p.p.s. If you want a transcript of the poem, here ’tis (even thought it’s missing a line, dunno why…):
http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-two-glasses/

The Sky: A Poem

Hey guys, I’m going to be different today and post a poem that I’ve been working on. I’ve always loved the sky, and one day, when I had paper, a pen, and some free time, I decided to start writing about it. I would not call myself a serious poet, but I did have fun with this, so I thought I’d share with you. 

If words could paint,
Or letters dye,
My masterpiece would be the sky.

 

On my canvas,
So pure and clean,
I would start with a dab of green.

 

For what could show
The sky’s immensity
Than a tree’s propinquity?

 

Next to come
Would be more hues,
Red and orange, and some blues.

 

A sunset shown,
What greater lens
To display the sky with a few pens?

 

The clouds are next,
Though vapor in essence,
Stand sharp against the colors, as if with substance.

 

The fluffy white,
Shaped by God,
But sometimes black with rain, for sod.

 

And finally, the sun,
That golden, glowing sphere,
Spreading its warmth and dissolving all fear.

 

Heating and lighting,
Proud and strong,
We also praise it with the song.

 

Yes, I would paint the sky.
For I am keen
To capture its glory on a canvas clean.

 

But alas, I cannot paint,
And even if I could,
I could not capture
The sky.

 

Not with the canvas clean,
Nor with a beauteous melody,
Not even with words on a page.

~Epylle Spydre

Image

picture taken by my sister, as usual. 🙂