Where the Streets Usually Have Names: On Maps, The Hate U Give, and An American Childhood

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The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas and An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard

“The setting of our urgent lives is an intricate maze whose blind corridors we learn one by one—village street, ocean vessel, forested slope—without remembering how or where they connect in space.” – Annie Dillard, An American Childhood

“To me, it’s so weird to have a gate around a neighborhood. Seriously, are they trying to keep people out or keep people in? If somebody puts a gate around Garden Heights, it’ll be a little bit of both.” – Starr, in The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

What is childhood but a map of what’s considered normal? Children are born knowing and internalizing their surroundings, starting with (hopefully) a parent’s arms, moving on to rooms in their homes and then expanding to the streets outdoors. It’s how it goes: Healthy children start exploring, wondering – and then crawling, toddling, zipping away, using the maps (both literal and emotional) that are at their feet.

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Thank you, Google Maps, for transporting me back to my childhood.

The house I lived in until I was 12 was in a neighborhood with twisty roads and lots of hills. Or at least I think so; I haven’t truly seen it in over 25 years except for maybe two quick drive-throughs. I imagine if I were to go back now, it would feel easy to navigate, but even at age 12, it felt very labyrinth-like. One day when I was about 5, I went “jogging” with my mom. I decided I had had enough – because 5-year-olds and jogging with adults don’t usually go hand-in-hand – so she agreed that at SE 18th Street, we could part ways because that would be just one turn and about 10 houses away. And it was 1981, so of course. (Side note: SE 18th Street is also a steep-ish hill that my brother and I later decided to ride down while sitting on his skateboard. All was well until a surprised driver at the bottom of the hill nearly hit us and then trailed us home to yell at us in our driveway. AH, MEMORIES!)

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Not Oprah. Not Reese. Just Me: A Lifely Read & My Top 10 Book Club Picks

Sometimes I think of this blog as my own personal book club. I pick a book, read it, and then discuss it with – myself. That’s the writing part. What happens next, though, is I’ll receive a text from a friend who’s read a post and continue the “conversation” or someone will comment online about some aspect of a post with an interesting thought. So perhaps this blog is, in fact, kind of a “real life book club.” Readers and I “meet” outside of a regular gathering, but the jumping off point for discussion is – hey ho – right here. (Ironically, the very first thing I posted here was entitled Alone With My Books?)

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If this is what you want your book club to be, I can’t help you. ALTHOUGH, if these women are discussing books while dancing, I applaud their multitasking.

I’ve been in book clubs off and on since my early 20s, and I don’t mean to be a spoil sport, but I’m generally not a fan of the ones I’ve been in where people don’t actually read the book. I know, I know, that is the ultimate mommy/girls night out shtick: “No one ever reads the book! LOLOLOLOLOL….Pass the wine!” Call me a glutton for punishment (or maybe just antisocial), but if we’re meeting because of a book, let’s, I dunno, discuss it. We can go out for drinks or coffee to chat another time. (Maybe this is why I liked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine so much. #superserious #superliteral)

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Are You a Story or a Novel? Thoughts on The Only Story by Julian Barnes and the Stories We (choose to) Believe

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The Only Story, by Julian Barnes

There are three nearby coffee shops I frequent to get some work done. I like them all equally for different reasons – one has superior coffee, one has a nice array of breakfast sandwiches, and one seems to have a lot of moms and/or grandparents with toddlers. One of the above also has a group from a community organization that meets often. They are kind of loud and judgmental – and I love it and I hate it. I love it because it’s entertaining and I just can’t turn away (even though it looks like I’m just tapping away at my laptop). I hate it because they are just. so. damn. smug.

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Me surreptitiously listening to the other table.

Here are some recent conversation topics (some details changed to protect the loud): Why do people think New Englanders think they’re so superior? We are not! (Followed by conversation that points to: Yes, they think Massachusetts residents are superior.) Group leader’s detailed description of his family in a non-New England state and his siblings’ beliefs. (Cue uproarious laughter.) Discussion about teenagers and poor food choices. (Followed by a description of group leader’s self-righteous child-and-food philosophy, which is interesting because I can’t imagine this young guy has teenagers. Oh, just you wait!)

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Come on Eileen: The Spooky in Me Honors the Spooky in You

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Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

My husband and I finished The Americans last week. If you are pensive and stew in your emotions a bit – not that I know this from experience or anything – you will probably need to stare off into space for a while, shed some tears, read all the spoiler-filled recaps online (now that there is nothing to spoil), discuss ad nauseam with anyone who has seen the finale, sit around basically going “hmmmmm” some more, and perhaps play The Americans FX playlist on Spotify so you can relive all the emotion. Just some examples. (You will feel better after two days of this, by the way.)

No spoilers here, but if you know anything at all about The Americans, you can deduce that “identity” is the centerpiece of this tale. “Identity” isn’t just a wee little theme – it’s the whole she-bang. The main course, not the after-dinner mint. On the macro level, you’ve got two Russians who have posed as Americans for over 20 years (and have two American-born kids): What “are” they? Can one still be Russian if living inside a culture diametrically at opposition with one’s homeland? Then on the micro level: Let’s take a look at some of the crazy disguises that Elizabeth and Philip have had to don:

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In Obvious News, Authors Want You to Read Their Books: Thoughts on The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

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The Bookshop, by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Target bookshelves – they’re a bugaboo of mine. I won’t deny buying books at the bullseye bonanza and I also won’t deny that this quintessential American destination sometimes stocks good ones. But in a country that prides itself on individuality and choice, Target book sales promote just the opposite. Tell me: Where’s the fun in that?! (Well, it is indeed fun when you look for themes in the store’s offerings, as seen below…)

So, where do you get your books when you don’t want to read about what Target (or Reese or Oprah) wants you to read about?

The Real Housewives of Target

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