Read With Us

Read With Us: Let's Talk About It!

Read With Us

Welcome to Read With Us book discussion week!

Bonny and Carole and I are each posting a different question (or questions) on our blogs today about our latest RWU book . . . The Women of Brewster Place. Join the discussion (which you're welcome do even if you didn't read the book).  I'll be answering your posts within the comment section for this discussion -- and you can comment on other people's comments, as well. Y'know . . . like in a real book group. (Please know . . . that because of the limitations of Typepad, I can't "layer" or "stack" the comments in my comment feed. Remember when I was having so much trouble with my comments last summer? Yeah. It was because of my attempt at "stacking." Sorry. Bear with me.)

We have another "book lovers" surprise package for you with this book discussion. Just leave a comment on any of our book discussion blogs and your name will be entered in the drawing -- the more you comment and participate in the discussion, the more chances you have to win!

Now, let's get on with our discussion.

The Women of Brewster Place

First . . . I'd really like to know what you thought of the book (or the movie, if you watched that). How did it make you feel? Did you like it? Do you think it deserves the attention it got when it was first written? How does it compare to more recent/contemporary novels you've read?

As I read the book (and, later, watched the Oprah Winfrey movie version), I was captivated by the physical "location" of the walled-off Brewster Place. That wall! It just kept everything/everyone in -- or out. And, then. Well. There was that ending! I know a lot of readers didn't like the ending of Brewster Place, or were confused by just what it meant. So, let's talk about that, too.

The actual street - Brewster Place - and its wall are like characters, personified. Do you agree or disagree? And would you say the street/wall is a protagonist or an antagonist? And does the street/wall, itself, have any impact on the story or its outcome?

Okay . . . that ending! What do you make of it? It's meant to be Mattie Michael's dream-scene, with the women of Brewster Place dismantling the wall brick-by brick. Does that work for you? Or not?

I can't wait to hear what you think!

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Don't forget: We'll be discussing the book on Zoom tonight - 7:00 pm Eastern Time. There's still time for you to join us! Just let me know of your interest either with a comment or by sending me an email (see sidebar, above) -- and I'll send a Zoom invitation. 

 


Updates and Changes and Zooms . . . Oh, My!

So.

Wasn't TODAY . . . supposed to be THE DAY we all discussed the latest 

Read With Us

book selection . . . The Women of Brewter Place????

The Women of Brewster Place

Oh, yes, my friends.
Yes. It was.

And I sincerely hope you'll . . .
understand,
be okay with,
cut us some slack for
. . . making a last minute substitution here.

You see, well. The election and resulting exhaustion got the better of us. We hope our change in the "starting lineup" won't be disappointing for any of you, and that you'll stick with us for a week.

Here's the adjusted plan:

Next week - on Tuesday, November 17 - each of us (Bonny, Carole, and I) will post a book discussion question on our blogs. As always, we encourage discussion-by-comment through the week.

But-wait-there's-more! Also on Tuesday, November 17 at 7:00 pm Eastern Time we will be hosting the FIRST EVER READ WITH US ZOOM book group meet-up! To join in, all you need to do is RSVP to either Bonny, Carole, or I. You will receive a Zoom invitation next Monday. We hope you'll join us. Come along to talk about the book, share a glass of wine (or your beverage of choice), and just . . . hang out with us for a while.

So. If you haven't read the book yet - or if you're not quite finished - you've got an extra week to do it. And if you want to supplement your reading (or substitute your reading altogether), you can watch the story unfold before you on Amazon Prime. 

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Oprah Winfrey's The Women of Brewster Place is available to rent for $3.99 (or you can purchase if for $7.99) on Amazon Prime right now. I rented and watched a couple of weeks ago, and found the movie version follows the book very closely. If you don't have time to read the book - or if you just want a refresher - I highly recommend watching this film version.

So.

I hope you'll forgive us for this last-minute change in plans.
And I really hope you'll join in either the discussion or the Zoom meet-up or BOTH next Tuesday!

And, as always, thanks for reading with us!

 


Read With Us: The Women of Brewster Place

Read With Us

As we announced last month, the latest Read With Us book selection is . . . 

The Women of Brewster Place

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor.

This book was first published in 1982, and was awarded the National Book Award for First Novel in 1983. The book is not very long - only 192 pages - but, boy! Does it pack a wallop! Now considered a "contemporary classic," the story is told in 7 interconnected stories -- technically not short stories -- but 7 related stories. As in . . . characters we meet in one story appear in another story. (Think Olive Kitteridge. Or Girl, Woman, Other.

Why did we choose this particular book? Well . . . we know that many of you - like us - are on your own journey in understanding racism. We're trying to be/become allies. We're learning together. We're moving forward. So we thought a book from the Zora Canon might resonate for many of us right now.

Bonny and Carole and I landed on The Women of Brewster Place because it sounded like a book we'd be interested in reading as a sort of fictional "partner" to the non-fiction books we've also been reading: The Warmth of Other Suns, Caste, How To Be An Anti-Racist, I'm Still Here, etc. The women characters portrayed in Brewster Place . . . represent the very women described in those non-fiction books. It's like they come to life in novel form -- a great way to expand our understanding and make the issues more relatable.

Here's a quick summary description of the book (from Goodreads):

"In her heralded first novel, Gloria Naylor weaves together the stories of seven women living in Brewster Place, a bleak inner-city sanctuary, creating a powerful, moving portrait of the strengths, struggles, and hopes of black women in America. Vulnerable and resilient, openhanded and open-hearted, these women forge their lives in a place that in turn threatens and protects—a common prison and a shared home. Naylor renders both loving and painful human experiences with simple eloquence and uncommon intuition. Her remarkable sense of community and history makes The Women of Brewster Place a contemporary classic—and a touching and unforgettable read."

You have plenty of time to grab the book and read along!
We'll be hosting our blog-based book discussions on November 10.

 I do hope you'll Read With Us . . . The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor. 

 

 


Read With Us: Now In Its 2nd Year!

It was last September, almost exactly a year ago now, that Bonny, Carole, and I asked you to come on along on a "bloggy-book-group" adventure with us. We invited you to . . . 

Read With Us

Like any new book group, we're figuring things out as we go along. How to enourage people to  . . . read with us. What type of books to select. How often we should "meet." And - most challenging for us - how to host a meaningful and interesting book discussion via our blogs. We thank all of you for reading with us and supporting us as we work out the kinks and figure out how to make this work!

Today is a special day for us . . . as we announce our next Read With Us book selection.

The Women of Brewster Place

Earlier this summer, I discovered this list - the Zora Canon - of the 100 best books by black women authors, and we decided to choose our next Read With Us book from the list. It was not an easy choice! There are so many excellent books on the list, but the The Women of Brewster Place rose to the top for us. It was a book none of us had heard of before, but all three of us immediately wanted to read -- and we thought you might enjoy it, too. Published in 1982, it's now considered a "contemporary classic," and is often taught in literature classes. The author, Gloria Naylor, won the National Book Award for First Novel in 1983 -- and the book has even been made into a television series. Twice.

I'm half-way through the book now, and I think it will be a good selection for us to read together. It's a series of interconnected stories about 7 women who live in Brewster Place, an inner city housing complex. There is much depth to the stories and the characters, and I think you'll really enjoy reading this one. I had no trouble getting the book from my library (your mileage may vary), but it's also available for Kindle for $2.99 right now (limited time offer, so don't delay if you're interested).

We'll be talking more about the book next month, and then we'll host the blog-based discussion in November.

I do hope you'll Read With Us!


Read With Us: So, What'd'ja Think?

Read With Us

Welcome to Read With Us book discussion week!

Bonny and Carole and I are each posting a different question on our blogs today about our latest RWU book . . . Wild Game. Join the discussion (which you can do even if you didn't read the book, you know).  I'll be answering your posts within the comment section for this discussion -- and you can comment on other people's comments, as well. Y'know . . . like in a real book group. 

We have another "book lovers" surprise package for you (and I promise it's not any surprising "wild game"). Just leave a comment on any of our book discussion blogs and your name will be entered in the drawing -- the more you comment and participate in the discussion, the more chances you have to win!

Now, let's get on with our discussion.

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The book begins with an epigraph: Mary Oliver's poem, The Uses of Sorrow

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The Uses of Sorrow
Mary Oliver

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

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In the book, the author certainly works her way through the "darkness" of her adolescence over the course of her growing up, although according to this interview, I wouldn't say she thinks it was a "gift," exactly. (The writing process itself sounds like it was very cathartic for her; a chance to understand and forgive her mother.)

Do you think the epigraph - Mary Oliver's poem - was a fitting way for Adrienne Brodeur to begin the book? Do you see the darknesses in your own life as gifts, or would you wish some of them away? Is growth possible without suffering?

I can't wait to hear what you think!

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The Uses of Sorrow by Mary Oliver originally appeared in Thirst, published in 2006, Beacon Press.

 


Get Ready to Talk About It

Read With Us

Y'know, one of the best things about being in a book group . . .  is reading a few books you'd never in a million years read on your own! Book group selections can certainly challenge our reading habits in whole new ways -- and I know our current Read With Us selection did that for many of us.

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Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur was not a book I'd ever have read . . . left to my own devices. I actually enjoy memoirs, and tend to read a few every year. This one, though? I'm gonna admit that it didn't appeal to me at first. Then, I heard the author speak with Gretchen and Liz on the Happier podcast (it was their book club selection last fall), and I was a little more interested. There was more to the story than the book blurb seemed to suggest.

It's . . . uncomfortable reading, subject matter wise. A mother coerces her young teenage daughter to "help" her hide an affair with her stepfather's best friend? Really? So . . . juicy, for sure. But also not something I could relate to (thankfully). I mean . . . my family, one of very modest income living a very modest life and eating casseroles thrown together for dinner with no cocktail hour ever, was about as far-removed from Adrienne Brodeur's complicated life and even more complicated family than I could imagine!

So I read the book like it was fiction. Because it seemed like fiction to me.

But, if I'm really honest about it, there were some very relatable things in this book for me. Not relatable in a lifestyle or family-structure or situational kind of way. But there is something very universal about wanting your parents' attention and affection, about separating from your parents as you grow into adulthood, about letting your children go their own way, about secrets. And I think, in that way, there was more to this book than its rather juicy foundation would imply.

I'm looking forward to delving into this one with you next week.

Join Bonny, Carole, and I next Tuesday to talk about the book together. Each of us will pose a question for discussion on our blogs. We look forward to hearing what you have to say! (As usual, there will be a booklovers prize at the end, so be sure to join the conversation.)

In the meantime, this book is a quick read -- so even if you haven't read it yet, there is still time. Yes, the subject matter will be a turn off to many. Just do what I did and pretend it's fiction! (Because most of us read fiction with this kind of storyline all the time now . . . don't we?) The writing is very good, and the story flows quickly from the more uncomfortable child/mother relationship to The Aftermath and the author's struggle to find her self as she grows up.

If you want to delve into the book a bit more - either as reminder for yourself or just because you're interested in the author - here are a few links to check out:

An interview with the author on NPR. (You can read the transcript OR listen to the interview using this link.)

A summary of the discussion from the Happier podcast. (You can link in to the actual podcast episode from this link, too, if you want to listen.) Note: If you scroll down in the link, there is a photograph of The Necklace so talked about in the book. If you've read the book, I'm sure you'll be curious to see what that dang necklace actually looked like -- so this is worth the scroll down to see.

A link to the author's guest appearance on Dani Shapiro's podcast Family Secrets. (I listened to this podcast last night, and it is quite interesting.)

I'm looking forward to discussing this book with you next week.

Happy reading!


Read With Us: Wild Game

Read With Us

Have you started reading the latest Read With Us book selection yet?
(I haven't yet. But I will soon!)

As a reminder, for this go-round, we'll be reading Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me by Adrienne Brodeur.

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According to the book description on Goodreads:

Wild Game is a brilliant, timeless memoir about how the people close to us can break our hearts simply because they have access to them, and the lies we tell in order to justify the choices we make. It’s a remarkable story of resilience, a reminder that we need not be the parents our parents were to us. 

The book created a lot of buzz late last year, being named to several "best of 2019" book lists, including NPR, The Washington Post, Slate, Library Review, and others. I first heard about the book when Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft selected it as one of their Happier podcast book club selections. I thought it sounded intriguing . . . and then when I listened to the podcast episode discussing the book, I knew I wanted to read it.

I hope you'll pick up a copy and Read With Us!

You've got several weeks to grab the book and get reading (I hear it's very engaging and a fairly quick read at 256 pages). I noticed yesterday that it's available for Kindle for $2.99 (hurry, though; that price may go up at any moment), and a quick search at my library showed that it's currently available on the shelves (your local library results may vary, but I'm betting it's not currently a "hot read").

We'll be discussing the book on all three blogs (different questions; different discussions) on Tuesday, August 11. 

C'mon along! Read With Us!

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Here's a link to the Happier podcast book group discussion in case you're interested in hearing that before (or after!) you read the book. It's fascinating to hear the "inside scoop" provided by author Adrienne Brodeur, who appears on the podcast with Gretchen and Elizabeth.


Drumroll Please!

Read With Us

I don't know about you, but my reading tastes change a bit during the summer (and, apparently, during a pandemic; who knew). With the summer sunshine and more hours spent outdoors, I look to lighten up my reading with, oh . . . a "beach read." Maybe a Stephen King. A memoir, perhaps. Something quick, compelling, and even a little titillating maybe.

We think our fourth Read With Us book selection may just be a perfect summer read!

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Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me is a memoir written by Adrienne Brodeur.  Although I haven't started reading it yet, Carole devoured it, and Bonny is already deep into it. The book promises to be interesting and compelling -- a memoir that reads like a novel -- and a real page-turner. It also promises to have just what every book group needs in a book selection: many discussable elements.

(I know some of you listen to the Happier podcast and may already be familiar with the book, as Gretchen and Elizabeth chose it for their Happier book group last winter.)

We'll be reading the book in June and July, and hosting our blog discussion in August.  Watch for more information about the book and the author during our promotional posts next month. In the meantime, you can try to find the book at your local library now that many are offering curbside pick-up. The book is also available for Kindle ($12.99), in paperback ($16.99 at Amazon), or at a variety of independent bookstores. 

I hope you'll join in and Read With Us this summer!


Wrapping It Up

Read With Us

It's time for a quick wrap-up of our most recent Read With Us book group selection . . . I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez.  

It's also Thursday . . . which means Three on Thursday over on Carole's blog . . . and I'm challenging myself to see if I can get a 2-fer here. (Can I do it? Can I wrap up our book discussion AND do a Three on Thursday post?  You be the judge!)

First, the housekeeping.

We tried something a little different with the discussion portion of the book this time. Instead of stretching the discussion over three weeks, with each of us hosting the discussion on successive weeks, this time around we opted to discuss the book on one particular day, with each of us posting a different discussion question on our blogs.  Generally, we think this worked pretty well, and we're planning to continue this strategy with our next book.

We also planned to host a Zoom book discussion - and we even contacted the author to see if she'd be interested in joining us. You'll notice that I'm using the past tense here: planned. We think a Zoom book discussion would be great - and a lot of fun - and I'm sure we'll try it in the future. We decided to let it go this time, though. (One of us really doesn't need One. More. Thing. to deal with right now.)  We haven't heard back from the author yet (and it's been awhile, so we're thinking we won't). If we do, though, and if she's willing to join us, we may just host a "pop-up" Zoom discussion for this book at some future date. 

Second, the book itself.

Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

While we didn't all love the book, most of us ended up liking it . . . more than we expected to. Generally, we found it to be a well-written coming-of-age story. Yes, the main character and narrator (Julia) was angry and abrasive, which made it hard for many of us to be completely sympathetic, but she also had to straddle two very different cultures and manage competing sets of expectations. There was an excellent discussion over on Bonny's blog about whether or not Julia's parents had realistic expectations of their daughters.  I think Becky summed it up perfectly when she pointed out that "fears of immigrant families attempting to raise children in what must seem a thoroughly alien and permissive society" drove Julia's mother's actions.  You can follow the Bonny's discussion here.

Carole's blog featured a good discussion of the book's setting (the book is mostly set in Chicago, but there is a segment set in a Mexican village when Julia returns for a visit), which most of us felt was well done and believable. Many readers felt Julia's visit to Mexico was unrealistic and they questioned that aspect of the storyline. For me, I'm just going to say that Julia's trip to visit her family in Mexico was vital for her personal growth, and a necessary vehicle for her to understand herself and her family better. Sure. It was perhaps a little unrealistic, but this is YA, and as Margene pointed out: "It’s part of a YA coming of age story. The reader needs to know Julia’s family roots and why there were expectations for her to be a perfect Mexican daughter, not an American. Her parents were not fully realized and this was a good device to share their stories." You can follow Carole's discussion here.

We talked issues in my blog discussion, where we were all in agreement that there were a LOT of serious social issues packed into this book. Some readers felt it was maybe too much - and maybe too dark - for the intended audience, while others felt it was appropriate. Sarah made an excellent point: "Something I've noticed about YA fiction now compared to the YA fiction I read when I was a young adult is that it's much more realistic. Some may say there were too many social issues in Julia's life, but the reality is that young adults today are dealing with those issues. I remember many of the books I read as a teenager glossing over those issues, as if they didn't exist. While I didn't love this book, it rang very true for me in this respect." Most of us agreed with Sarah -- that the issues Julia was dealing with were likely representative of what a young, smart, grieving first generation immigrant teen might be struggling with in her day-to-day life. You can follow my discussion here.

Overall, most of us thought the book was a good representation of YA literature -- that it was YA done well, with universal themes, an authentic voice, and a well-written story.  Many of us didn’t expect to like the book -- but ended up thinking it was . . . pretty good.  If you didn't have a chance to read I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter with us, you may want to check it out.  It's a critically-acclaimed YA selection filled with family conflicts, long-held secrets, surprising discoveries, rebellion, and - ultimately - reconciliation.

Third, the drumroll! 

Congratulations to Allison (otherwise known as @kwizgiver over on Instagram, and blogging at What If This Is As Good As It Gets), the winner of this round's exciting prize package!  

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Thanks so much to all of you for reading with us! 

And STAY TUNED for the big announcement of our next Read With Us book selection . . . coming to a blog near you on Tuesday! (Hint: It's perfect for summer reading!)


Read With Us: Discussion Time

Read With Us

When Bonny and Carole and I were selecting the next Read With Us book, we were interested in finding something about the Mexican immigrant experience written by a Latinx author.  

Several lists pointed us to our eventual pick . . . 

Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

But you know what I didn't know when we chose this book?

That it is Young Adult (YA) fiction!  A category I generally . . . don't enjoy.  But.  Here we were.  A YA title . . . that we asked you all to Read With Us!

I decided to keep an open mind about our selection. After all, this book is good YA fiction . . . being a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award for Young People's Literature and all.  So I decided to read it while channeling my 13-year-old self.  Here she is, by the way . . . just to keep things in perspective.  (7th grade.  Is it a good age for anybody???  Just wondering.)

Scan

Before we begin the discussion, though, let's have a little review.  What IS YA fiction anyway?  And how is it different from adult fiction?  

There are 3 main differences:

First, there is the age of the protagonist.  Most YA fiction features a protagonist in the 15-19 year-old age group, while protagonists in adult fiction are typically fully-formed adults (at least in their 20s, but often older).

Next, there is voice.  While most YA fiction is written by adults, the voice still feels authentic to its younger target audience.  The concerns, motivations, and inner thoughts of YA protagonists tend to reflect "teen issues" -- friendships, self-discovery, and separation from parents, for example.  The YA narrative voice will usually be more in-the-moment -- more a play-by-play than the retrospective approach we typically see in adult fiction.

Last, we've got themes.  This can really blur, because the same themes often occur in both YA and adult fiction.  It's just that in YA, those themes (sex, violence, etc.) are not described as explicitly as they might be in adult fiction.

Personally, I tend to find YA kind of dull and predictable.  But 13-year-old Kym?  She really ate it up!  While 13-year-old Kym would have been scandalized by many of the topics and issues in this book (because the 1972 world she lived in was so very different from the modern-day world Julia was navigating), I know that 13-year-old Kym would've loved reading I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter!

So.

Let's get to discussing, shall we?  Here's my discussion question:

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter was written to follow Julia’s day to day life. Along the way, the book touches on a multitude of social issues. Which was the most natural to you? Did you enjoy the slice of life nature to Julia’s narrative? Do you think there were too many social issues crammed into this book?  Or did it showcase how these issues permeate society?

Please consider this bonus question as well:

Do you think this book was a good representation of the YA fiction genre?  And did you judge this book differently than you might if it were adult fiction? Would you have liked this book when YOU were part of the target YA audience?

Please join the discussion by leaving a comment here on the blog. I'll be responding to your comments directly IN the comments, so please do check back once in a while to see how the discussion is going this week. Please feel free to respond to other commenters as well.  

Be sure to check out the questions posed by Bonny and Carole today, too!  It's our first-ever-three-blog-book-discussion-extravaganza!

Like we did last time, we've got a little bonus for you to participating in the book discussion. We have another “book lovers' surprise package” to be given to one lucky reader! Just leave a comment on any of our book discussion blog posts. Your name will be placed in a hat EACH time you make a comment — so the more you share, express your opinions, and comment, the more chances you have to win the prize. The winner will be revealed as part of our wrap-up post later this month.

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And one more thing . . . We'd like to try to organize a Zoom book discussion sometime next week.  It's tricky to find the best time, though.  Please let us know in the comments if you'd be interested in taking part in a Zoom discussion, any time preferences (morning, afternoon, evening, for example), and if there are any specific days you CAN'T do (Carole can't do Monday evenings, for example, and I can't do Tuesday evenings).

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As always, thanks for reading with us!