Friday, December 31, 2010

Discovering bell hooks

A friend suggested I check out bell hooks after a really good discussion at work. I'm in the middle of reading "All About Love: New Visions" and "Feminism is for Everybody."

Neil and I started reading "New Visions" together, and the same reasons that I love it so far are the same reasons it drives Neil crazy. Go figure.

It's the first noon-fiction work I have really gotten into. It doesn't read like a text book, but I don't think hooks is exactly preachy, either. She simply tells the reader what she thinks, how she's feeling, and why, drawing heavily on personal experience and quoting a few other authors, sociologists and psychologists along the way.

Hooks contends that Americans no longer know how to love - that we confuse affection and care with love. Someone who is abusive does not love the person he or she is abusing. The short book focuses on different subjects every chapter - familial love, passionate love, greed, religion and spirituality, etc. Love should be more about respect -- you should cherish those who stand by, who you feel most comfortable around ... when it is all too easy to take them for granted and take things out on them. But doing that is not love.

This isn't to say that I agree with everything she has to say, and I don't think you have to in order to enjoy this book. It simply challenges you to question our society's views on love, how the media perceives love, and what it means to love.

More later, once I finish it.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Northern Light

Historical fiction abounds. It's not exactly hard to find a children's story about a kid who meets Abraham Lincoln or befriends Mark Twain or whatever it might be (in the adult section, too). It becomes a rarity when you stumble across a historical fiction book that works. Jennifer Donnelly's "A Northern Light" is one such work. In it, the real 20th century murder of Grace Brown is interwoven into the life of 16-year-old Mattie Gokey, as Mattie is working at the hotel in a town where a pregnant Grace is found drowned in the lake.

The story weaves between Mattie's present -- the summer of 1906 working at the hotel, getting to know Grace and then trying to understand her death -- and flashbacks to Mattie's past year working at home, going to school and trying to obtain her high school degree.

It's not hard to see why "A Northern Light" won a Carnegie Medal, Printz Award and was selected as a Borders Original Voice. The book deals with a lot of heavy issues - classism, racism, women's rights - in an accessible way, while still having an interesting plot and full characters. The Appalachian dialect of the early 1900s is done really well and really adds to the setting.

I had not heard of Jennifer Donnelly before reading this book. Her latest novel, "Revolution," came out earlier this year, and is also getting strong reviews. Looking forward to checking it out, too.