Showing posts with label nonfiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nonfiction. Show all posts

October 18, 2020

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon


Kiese Laymon is a fearless writer. In his essays, personal stories combine with piercing intellect to reflect both on the state of American society and on his experiences with abuse, which conjure conflicted feelings of shame, joy, confusion and humiliation. Laymon invites us to consider the consequences of growing up in a nation wholly obsessed with progress yet wholly disinterested in the messy work of reckoning with where we’ve been.

In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to his trek to New York as a young college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free.

A personal narrative that illuminates national failures, Heavy is defiant yet vulnerable, an insightful, often comical exploration of weight, identity, art, friendship, and family that begins with a confusing childhood—and continues through twenty-five years of haunting implosions and long reverberations.

This is an incredible read. Plain and simple. It caught my eye as I was walking through a bookstore. I was intrigued by the synopsis but iffy on whether I wanted to buy it or not. So, I gave it the One-Page Test. I opened it up and read the first page to see if it gripped me. 

If I hadn't stopped myself, I probably would have sat in the bookstore and just read the whole book right there. I didn't want to put it down, so it came home with me and I totally devoured it. 

It written in a unique way as it's basically an open letter to Kiese's mother. That part alone made me want to keep reading. 

With no pun intended, the content in this book is HEAVY. There are a lot of tough things that Kiese writes out, but it keeps you turning the page. He's crafted it in a way that makes it easy to read and not lose the reader. 

He writes about the struggle growing up in the south as a black, overweight boy with a tumultuous home life. 

I can't recommend this book enough. 

5/5 Stars

November 11, 2019

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris


This beautiful, illuminating tale of hope and courage is based on interviews that were conducted with Holocaust survivor and Auschwitz-Birkenau tattooist Ludwig (Lale) Sokolov—an unforgettable love story in the midst of atrocity.
In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.
Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov's experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions.

I decided to start this book after finishing The Nightingale in order to follow a theme. I thought that would be a good idea. It wasn’t. It took me months to finish this one because I couldn’t read too much of it at one time. Going right from Nightingale to Tattooist was really heavy, and I needed breaks.

The amount of time that it took me to finish this book had nothing to do with the writing, though. This book will hook you, pull you in, and make you want to see how it ends.

It’s quite a different way to take in a story about the holocaust. Lale has direct contact with many Nazi soldiers. That gives it an interesting spin. He works for them while also working directly against them.

I know this book is based on a true story, but I didn’t realize how much until I read the epilogue. It made everything in the book that much more interesting.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a good book. It’s not the best writing I’ve ever taken in, but I also can’t exactly put my finger on why. It didn’t turn me off from the book it was just different.

I would recommend it to anyone interested in historical novels – either fiction or non.

4/5 Stars

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November 19, 2018

Faith, Hope and Justice: Saved by Grace and How God Led Me Through Hell by Marie Libellule

When a hard-working doctor dedicated to serving the poor is falsely accused of insurance fraud, she questions her faith, her life, and her vocation. But a series of unexpected messages from God, channeled through surprising messengers, changes everything - and leads her from the darkest despair into the light of vindication. A true story of faith, hope and justice, written by the woman who lived it.

I really didn’t expect to get drawn into the book the way that I did. Once I started it, I wasn’t able to put it down. I had to push through because I kept thinking WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?! JUST ONE MORE CHAPTER! Pretty soon it was 2:00 am and I only had one chapter left, so I just HAD to finish it that night.

The writing is really animated and puts you into the story. It’s not a super long book, but it’s very complete. It’s non-fiction, but it feels like a superhero book and gives you a whole new level of respect for doctors who really love what they do and respect their patients above all else.

Whether you like medical books or not, whether you are religious or not, whether you are into the medical field or not, I think this is a great book and highly recommend it as a quick afternoon read.

5/5 Stars

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October 18, 2018

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

"You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark."
For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.
Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called "the Golden State Killer." Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.
At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I have to start this review by saying – I LOVE THIS BOOK. I feel so passionately that it is, without a doubt, one of the best True Crime books ever written. If you’re a fan of True Crime, don’t even bother finishing this review, just go right down to the amazon link and purchase it.

Now, this book is about the Golden State Killer, so it is full of horrific details. If you aren’t prepared for topics of rape and murder, this one isn’t for you – fair warning. I think Michelle does a great job of taking you straight to the scene without making the experience of reading way too overwhelming. She gives a lot of detail but knows when to pull back. That said – these topics are not triggering to me, so I understand that someone else’s experience may be vastly different from mine.

Not only is I’ll Be Gone in the Dark about the horrific moments in the lives of California residents, but also it’s about Michelle and her relentless pursuit of the truth. She brought every incident to life with her words. It’s deeply moving, it’s gripping, it’s heart wrenching. It’s just an incredibly written novel and quickly shot up my list to one of my favorite books of all time.

Reading this book is heartbreaking. After it was released, the Golden State Killer was caught. But, Michelle also passed away before the book was completed. Her obsession with finding this killer and not letting this case die surely led to the eventual discovery of his identity, but she was not alive to witness this historic moment. I almost felt empty when I turned the final page because her story was complete, but his keeps going.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a fantastic book. 10/5 stars.

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July 14, 2016

Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger

Return once again to the enduring account of life in the Mojo lane, to the Permian Panthers of Odessa--the winningest high school football team in Texas history. Odessa is not known to be a town big on dreams, but the Panthers help keep the hopes and dreams of this small, dusty town going. Socially and racially divided, its fragile economy follows the treacherous boom-bust path of the oil business. In bad times, the unemployment rate barrels out of control; in good times, its murder rate skyrockets. But every Friday night from September to December, when the Permian High School Panthers play football, this West Texas town becomes a place where dreams can come true. With frankness and compassion, Bissinger chronicles one of the Panthers' dramatic seasons and shows how single-minded devotion to the team shapes the community and inspires--and sometimes shatters--the teenagers who wear the Panthers' uniforms.
Growing up in the northern Midwest with a high school football team that probably couldn’t even score on themselves, the lifestyle portrayed in this book is so foreign to me. . . sort of.

Aside from being a massive book nerd, I am also a huge sports fan. I attended my high school football games. I watch the Chicago Bears every Sunday during the season, I bleed my Chicago Blackhawks colors.

So, I understand the sports fanaticism side of the book.

Let’s go back to the foreign part – these athletes are TEENAGERS. Teenagers from difference backgrounds (increasingly moreso as the years go along, more on that later). But they are treated like professional football players. The morale of the whole town depends on whether the Permian Panthers can pull out a win under those Friday night lights. They are put under so much pressure, it is amazing to me that they don’t snap more often.

But this book also breaks my heart. The amount of disgusting racism that was prevalent in this story was just so sad. Yes, it is Texas. Yes, it was a few decades ago, but WOW. I feel like I could go on forever about this point, but it is really something that you just have to actually read to understand.
Let me say this – anyone who has ever gone to a high school football game KNOWS the feeling of those lights. 

Like I said, my high school football team was so bad. So, so bad. But I enjoyed going to those games. There is a certain atmosphere at a high school football game that cannot be replicated anywhere else. Maybe it isn’t for everyone, but being someone who has experienced it – just the TITLE of the book spoke to me.

That and I love… Love… LOVE the TV series. This book may have gotten a little monotonous at times, but I carried on because I genuinely enjoyed it and the subject matter.

The end of this book was absolutely heartbreaking, but it was so wonderfully written. Once I got to the last 50 pages or so, my heart was beating so fast, and nothing was going to get me to put down the book.

This review has probably been all over the place. But my emotions got the better of me with this book.

5/5 Stars. A Must Read.

Memorable Quotes: “They were fearless and relentlessly coached and from the time they were able to walk they had only one certain goal in their lives in Odessa, Texas. Whatever it took, they would play for Permian.”

“There was a heartbeat in those stands that dotted the Friday nights of Texas and Oklahoma and Ohio and Pennsylvania and Florida and all of America like a galaxy of stars, a giant, lurking heartbeat.” 

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