Book reviews...from picture books to adult books, as well as books-to-movie info, and other stuff I think is interesting. Note: Not all books reviewed or recommended are appropriate for all ages.
SEPTEMBER 30, 2011
TEEN/ADULT: Two inspiring reads
I recently read two non-fiction books, each very inspiring: Whose Child is This? by Bill Wilson and Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle. Both authors have dedicated their lives to living their faith by working daily in some of the most challenging neighborhoods in the country.
Wilson lives in a very rough part of Brooklyn, and runs one of the largest Sunday School programs in the country. Having been abandoned by his mother as a child, he has paid forward the kindness shown to him by a mechanic, who sent him to a church camp that changed his life.
Boyle is a Jesuit priest who lives in Los Angeles in the middle of gang territory. He started Homeboy Industries, a group of workplaces where former gang members are hired, often to work side by a side a former enemy. Boyle speaks about the tragic childhoods of many of these young men, who have managed to choose a different path for themselves.
Both men greatly humanize people in the most challenging of circumstances. As Boyle says, "Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it."
Both men also minimize their own "heroics" in choosing their vocations, sending the message instead that they have gained as much as they have given.
Regardless of your personal beliefs, there is something to take from these books for anyone who is interested in people...in the humanity that connects us all and how to bridge that which threatens to divide us.
This picture book biography by Erica Silverman tells the story of Emma Lazarus, who is famous for the poem that is engraved on the plaque at the base of the Statue of Liberty. This book, appropriate for all ages, tells of Emma's life as a poet, including studying with Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Emma was asked to write a poem in honor of the gift of the Statue of Liberty from France to the United States. At first she thought she couldn't write a poem "to order," but then became inspired as she thought of her deep desire that newcomers to the country be welcomed and treated with respect. This inspiration became the poem containing her very famous words: "....Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore...."
Emma never knew how famous her words would become, as she died in 1887...and the poem was engraved on the base of the statue in 1903. At her funeral, a mourner wrote: "We lament the loss to humanity of a women of high ideas and noble enthusiasms, a courageous and chivalrous fighter whose lance was raised effectively in defence of the oppressed."
This extremely well-written novel stars Marcelo Sandoval, a character who has a lot of Asperger-like proclivities, but who does not consider these indications of any kind of disability. The story follows his experience leaving the comfortable setting of his private school to work as an intern in his father's law office so he can experience (in the words of his father) the "real world."
A lot of what he learns about the "real world" is disheartening, but the beauty of this book is the privilege of following Marcelo's thought processes as he decides how to cope and adapt without losing himself.
This book leaves you committed to the idea that the opposite of normal is not necessarily abnormal, that sometimes what some call a "symptom" another may call a "gift," and that the "real world" needs more people like Marcelo.
This book received a starred review in nearly every library journal where it was reviewed, as well as multiple awards. It is also on the 2011-12 Iowa Highschool Battle of the Books list, and will be a book discussion choice at the local book club, LOL @ MHS, in November, 2011.