Showing posts with label non fiction review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label non fiction review. 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

June 23, 2014

My Letter To Fear: Essays on Life, Love and the Search For Prince Charming by Patricia Steffy

Over the course of two years, Steffy conducted interviews with the fabulous women around her and their equally fantastic friends. She put no restrictions on age, or ethnicity. They just needed to be willing to answer some questions. Steffy asked them about expectations they had for their lives when they were very young versus their current realities as adults. She asked them to tell her the best things about themselves (a question which was surprisingly difficult for people to answer) and the worst things. Those answers— the funny, the sad, and the hysterical—and her own experiences became the basis for these essays. 

I really enjoyed this book. It was funny at times, it was a bit emotional at times, and there were some essays that were just too easy to identify with. There is something for everyone mixed in the pages of this book.

The writing was fun and flowed well, there was never a point where I was bored and felt like I needed to put it down. But, I also feel like you should spread out the reading of the book over time so you can take in some of the essays and really think about them. It makes the book more enjoyable than reading it all at once at a rushed pace which results in forgetting everything you have read.

Each essay is pretty short, spanning only about 2-3 pages in length. It is the perfect office book. When you need a quick break from work to re-gather your thoughts (or sanity…) it is easy to pick up and read one or two, then put back down for later.

I think Patricia Steffy really got the feel for how a lot of women think and feel at various points in their life. That’s what makes this book so relatable and familiar.
It was a fun read.

5/5 Stars

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April 24, 2014

Travelphan by Ryan Astaphan

Travelphan is a memoir for a mature young adult audience. By mature, I mean there is a lot of sex.

Travelphan documents Ryan’s struggles with injuries and his decision to take a trip to various places overseas including India and China. His intentions are to sort of find himself and try to train to be an athlete again.
The road is not easy, but he keeps his head high and he takes the readers through the good times and the struggles.

It starts off by detailing his life in the states and his experiences with sports. He ultimately ended up injuring his knee multiple times and had to have surgery. It was never the same after that and was pretty weak.
His decision to travel had a lot to do with wanting to get back into shape and start training again.
First, he stops off in India for a spiritual journey. I feel like his stop off here really gave him the mental strength to continue on to China and go through with the training.

Travelphan is written in a journal format. The chapters, or sections, were really short. It made reading a lot easier and more interesting. There were some that weren’t even half a page.
It felt like I picked up his journal right out of his room and started reading it. It was interesting, but I have always liked books that are written like that. Both fiction and non-fiction like this one was.

Despite some of the sexually explicit content, this was actually a very inspiring read. I haven’t torn my ACL, but I do have knee problems, and reading about Ryan pushing through his struggles was inspiring for me to do so as well!
It was fun, it was very interesting at times, and for a YA-directed memoir, it was written pretty well.

Memoirs are interesting because, by the end, you feel as though you really know the author even though you may have never talked to them. Ryan did a good job of presenting himself, his thoughts, and his problems. It was very relatable and could be read by any audience.

I overall enjoyed it, and I am glad that he pursued his dreams to train and ultimately get a book published.

If you enjoy travel or spiritual memoirs, or even just books that read like a personal journal, I would recommend this one.

4/5 Stars

Memorable Quote: "Those who are willing to sacrifice the most will enjoy life’s sweet nectar"

March 28, 2014

Daddy Was a Punk Rocker by Adam Sharp

This memoir was extremely emotional: Happy, sad, and everything in between.

Adam was not born into an easy family. His parents were heroin addicts and often seemed to be interested in everything except being around to raise him.

Growing up always trying to get his parents’ attention was hard on Adam and lead to a lot of inner conflict.

Crying when his dad didn’t show up for their scheduled meetings, dealing with his mother’s physical and verbal abuse growing up, Adam did not have it easy, but he still loved his parents.

The one common theme in this book was music. It was sort of all centered around his father’s love for music and how they did not share the same music tastes. Adam felt if he could just listen to the same music as his father, they would have a closer connection, and maybe he would want Adam to stay with him.

As his life progresses and he tries to find himself, he ends up in a bunch of different places with a lot of different people, but it always comes back to his parents. Whether he has talked to them recently or if something reminds him of them while he is away.

This is a memoir of self-discovery. Even if the road to it is difficult, it can be achieved.

Adam's writing style in this memoir is very visual. You can almost feel as though you are in every scene. It adds a nice depth to the story and makes it all the more real as well. 
His descriptions are well done and never drag on for longer than they have to. They are long enough so that you do not feel as though you are missing anything, but they aren't so long that they bore the reader. 
Aside from the actual story itself, that was my favorite part of this one. 

It was really well written, I felt that it flowed nicely together with the use of narrative and dialogue.
I found it hard to put it down at time. It was such an intriguing story that I just wanted to know what was happening next.

Even if you cannot relate to Adam's story, you will be pulled into it, and it is hard to stop reading once you start. 

4/5 stars

Memorable Quotes: 
"I was born healthy and strong. I shouldn’t have been. I’d shared my mother’s poisonous blood for nine months and I was supposed to be born addicted to heroin. I should have spent my first few weeks fighting for my life, suffering from vomiting, shaking, and sweating as I was weaned off my drug dependence with morphine or methadone."

"More important than the adulation was the lesson I’d learnt. I had learnt what could be achieved with the power of the mind, and more specifically, with the power of dreams."

"But sometimes the best way to grow is to stand still for a while. I needed to stop running, to stop trying to become someone new, to stop escaping painful memories and uncomfortable thoughts. It was time I stayed and faced them, worked out who I really was, who I wanted to be. No more pretending."

March 27, 2014

The Girl Who Had No Enemies: And the Man Who Hated Women by Dennis Patrick Fleming

This might be one of the best books I will read all year. 

This memoir was unlike any that I have read so far. It was a mix of a true-crime novel as well as a memoir.

It is a story about the tragic death of Dennis Fleming’s sister Mickey and the man who was messed up enough to cause harm to not only their family, but countless others around the country.

It details the struggles of a hurting family torn apart by not only this tragic incident, but personal relationships and beliefs as well. No family is perfect, but this shows how a family can come together through a tragic incident even if they don’t always see eye-to-eye.

I could not put this one down. From the moment I read page one, I was hooked.

I knew what the book was about before going into it, so the first section was so bittersweet to read. It establishes Dennis’s relationship with his sister and shows the reader who she was.

Knowing that something bad was coming to her and the family made me not want to get attached, but after reading so much about her and the family, you feel like you start to really know them.

Once I got to the section about Mickey’s death, I almost called it quits. I didn’t want to read about what happened because it is just so sad, but as I said before, I was hooked.

I reluctantly turned the page, and even though I may have shed a tear or two, Dennis did such a wonderful job at writing it that I do not regret continuing. You can really just feel his emotion, and it is just heartbreaking to read.

I really liked the parts about LaRette and his past that were inserted to break up the story. It added a certain flow to the book that made the reader aware that something was going to happen, but also kept them informed. It was a nice touch that I don’t see very often. When done wrong, it could completely mess with how the story is read, but Dennis inserted those sections at just the right times and it really added to the whole reading experience.

A must-read for true crime fans.

5/5 Stars

Memorable Quote: "A feeling, pure, and as powerful as the love I felt witnessing my first child enter the world, seeing her face for the first time—a feeling that powerful crystallized like a black diamond in my heart—I had to kill a man."

The Face of A Miracle by Jodi Sampson

The Face of A Miracle tells a touching story of finding faith through adversity.

Growing up, Jodi always wanted to have a family. She always wanted to be a mother, but this didn’t come easy for her.

Faced with the reality that she might not be able to have children after a few miscarriages, being able to birth her first child was a true godsend.

She went onto have two more children, but it never got easy.

With her youngest child, they had to face the hurtful truth of his cancer diagnosis.

He had a tumor in his head, and he was too young to have radiation treatment without serious damage to his brain.

This memoir follows their family’s struggles with basically living in the hospital, and how they kept their faith the whole way that he would be alright.

Jodi knew that God was on their side, and through the good times and the bad, she didn’t let her faith waver. She kept her spirits high, and it seemed to keep her family going.

This was a very sweet memoir with a touch of emotion as well. I felt myself getting very connected to this family and just rooting for them the whole way through. I’m not sure if that was because of how it was written, or just because of what kind of people they are (or maybe it is because hockey was involved a little bit…. Just kidding ;] )

I really liked the pictures that were inserted in the middle of the book. It added an even more personal touch to an already emotional memoir.

4.5/5 Stars. Highly recommended for people who like memoirs or books about finding your faith.