When a room of parents at a PTA meeting at a Title 1 school audibly squirmed in response to my assertion that I would drink milk on its sell-by date, the armor I wore in childhood to make my poverty less hurtful clamped down around me. Many children at that school would drink milk on its sell-by date and likely have a parent who knows how to make use of spoiled milk. While my early experiences with poverty remain near the surface, the one type of poverty-related insecurity I didn’t fear is eviction. That’s the focus of Arizona-born Matthew Desmond’s new book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit In the American City.
The debate in my house about which is better, Marie Lu’s Legend trilogy or The Young Elites trilogy in progress, is more of an exercise in book chat than to make an actual determination. We share an appreciation of both, though we have preferences. My sci-fi boy likes the tech-y world depected in Legend. He read it alongside classic dystopian books, including 1984 and Brave New World. I prefer The Young Elites but not because it takes place in a classical, romantic world.
Eleanor: A Novel by Jason Gurley opens with every reader’s dream–a rainy Sunday, a steaming cup of tea and a private nook. Moving deeper, “Sometimes Eleanor [grandmother of the titular Eleanor] swore her life was being written by someone else’s hand.” Yes. I recognize this person.
I fell in love with Clare Clark’s writing the moment I broke into We That Are Left in spite of the grammatically irritating title. I wondered what she had to say about appearances that deceive and those who are titled pretending at something while we who are not titled aspire to their falsehoods. I jotted down lines and page numbers of favorite descriptions and passages. Such great writing promises a great story. In the end, I felt cheated of that great story just as the wealthy cheat at status and the poor are cheated.
“Evelyn” like “EEV-lin” in the UK or “Evelyn” like “EH-vah-lin”, my Mississippi born, plumber’s daughter grandmother? Intentionally or not Stephanie Clifford plays on a class tension among the upwardly mobile in America from the get go through the naming of the protagonist in her novel, Everybody Rise. I never felt on sure footing while reading this book. I was curious about Evelyn and the voyeurism that tempts me with Real Housewives of Everywhere and other reality shows about one percenters kept me reading.
[Note: Due to a website migration at my day job, some content that I wrote for a local bookstore chain was unpublished, so I’m republishing it here. I wrote reviews to sell books, so I may have sugar coated some things, but my basic feelings are represented.]
In Fiction Ruined My Family, Jeanne Darst isn’t posing, bragging or begging. She fully experiences the life of an artist and plies her wares in private homes or working barns or legitimate theater. She tells her story without embellishment, though she admits that perhaps not all the details are entirely true either. She doesn’t need our approval, though she has it (or at least the book does).
I wrote this review for Bookmans.com in the summer of 2012. When Bookmans did a website redesign and migrated their website database, we unpublished all but 30 posts. I tweaked this review to park it here for now.
Put down 50 Shades of Gray. I’ve got something equally smutty but infinitely smarter to recommend. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran is a feminist manifesto like none you’ve read. Most of us don’t go around reading feminist manifestos but in any case this one is definitely for everyone — even if you are a dude and maybe even especially so.