Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Two Peas in a Pod: Similar Themes’ Category

With the news from Crimea and Venezuela lately, we have been thinking a lot about revolution, protest, democracy, refugees, as well as about daily life for those who live during political uprisings. So, to help us all work our way through the news, we have selected three books to share with you — two books for younger readers and one for adults.  (One other superb pick - A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon - was slated to be part of today’s post, but will be reviewed instead in a post later this spring.)

Yes, our three picks take place in Latin America. However, wherever these books are located, we honestly believe the empathy they elicit transfers — to the Ukraine, Syria, the Congo and many other areas of conflict.

Yes, we highlight these books with hope that we all learn something to help us process today’s news.

Yes, (and this is a very, very important point) we also recommend ANY one of these three choices as a SUPERB book for you to read.

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin (2014) – Celeste Marconi is eleven and has bigger problems than many pre-teens.  Her country – Chile – is in the midst of being overtaken by a military dictatorship.  As events unravel, 1) one of her best friend is among those “disappeared” by the General, 2) her parents go into hiding to protect her from their now dangerous support of the previous leader, and 3) her “grandmothers” send her to far-away Maine to live with her Tia (aunt) and escape the problems the dictator has brought her family in Chile.  Yet, throughout this novel she becomes more than her circumstances.  This is an excellent introduction both to South America and to all that being an exile entails. The Book Jam recommends this both to middle grade readers and adults who love them. And to be honest, parts of this novel have remained with me long after I closed the last pages. ~ Lisa Christie

Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez (2002) - Do not let the small size of this novel fool you; it appears sparse, but says so much about what happens to families when a country’s politics take a dangerous turn. In this novel (based upon Ms. Alvarez’s own experiences in the Dominican Republic), the young protagonist, Anita (named in honor of Anne Frank), is coming of age in a Latin American dictatorship. Most of her relatives have already emigrated to the United States, a few of her relatives have disappeared without a trace or gone into hiding, and the government’s secret police are terrorizing family members who remain because of their suspected opposition of the dictatorship. The power of family and the danger of politics hit home with the slim volume for middle grade readers. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea (2005) – With a bit of magic realism, Mr. Urrea tells the story of Mexico’s expansive history, beginning in 1889 with civil war brewing. Around this time, a 16-year-old girl, Teresita, the illegitimate daughter of the wealthy rancher Don Tomas Urrea, woke from a strange dream that she has died. Only it was not a dream; this rebellious young woman actually woke with a power to heal. What she did with this power shapes Mexico even today. Mr. Urrea took twenty years to complete this novel based on his great-aunt Teresita, who possessed healing powers and was acclaimed as a saint. The Book Jam hopes you enjoy every aspect of his labors. As a fan of Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, I certainly did. ~ Lisa Christie

Read Full Post »

Looking at all the PR leading up to this weekend’s Oscars ceremony, we started thinking about all the books that have inspired award-winning films. To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone with the WindThe Help and The Godfather just begin this list. Then, we started thinking about what we have read lately that could inspire the next round of directors and screen writers. And, of course, we found a few books to recommend. Even if these books never become movies, we hope you enjoy them in their prose form.

Pick #1The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol (Feb. 2014) - What would make a better movie than a collection of short stories about people who made movies in the mid-20th century, and were persecuted as a result of their beliefs? The UnAmericans is this book, and wow would it provide great characters for Hollywood’s current best to make their own.  But, while you wait for its screen debut, please read this great collection of fiction.  Now, the envelope please –oops we meant now, our review:

To start, I HATE short stories. They leave me bereft because just as I am starting to care so much about their characters, they are over.  So the fact I am recommending a collection of short stories is rare and special. This collection is amazing. Each story has unforgettable characters. Each is well written by one of Stanford’s Wallace Stegner Fellows (a sign for the Book Jam of an author who can write – hello Bo Caldwell).  Yes, I was a bit sad at the end of each one because it was over.  How did I survive?  I chose to concentrate on the overarching theme, and look at it as a strangely constructed novel about a variety of interesting “communists”/immigrants to America from the various countries that were once known as those behind the Iron Curtain. ~ Lisa Christie

Pick #2 – The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson (Dec. 2013) - Yes, someone has already made Schindler’s List. However, we truly believe the true story of one of the young boys he saved would make a great leap to the big screen. But, until Mr. Spielberg hears our advice, please read this true story of one of the young Jewish boys saved during WWII by Herr Schindler.  In this book, the boy reflects, as an older man, how chance, kindness, luck, intelligence, but most importantly Mr. Schindler, saved his life.  This book for young people outlines important themes, brings life to unsung people that we should know about, uses care and candor throughout, and is well-written.  ~ Lisa Christie  

Pick #3Ripper by Isabel Allende (Feb. 2014) - What could be a more sure-fire hit than a movie: 1) filmed in San Francisco, 2) with a Latino lead who is not the stereotypical drug dealer, but is instead a police detective, and 3) that at its core is actually about a bunch of wicked-smart teen gamers who help solve the mystery of a serial killer? Well If Ripper ever becomes a movie, that is what you would see.  In the meantime, enjoy Ms. Allende’s first mystery that combines murder, San Francisco and gaming.  In it,, the teen daughter of a SF detective teams with misfit teens in an online game where players attempt to solve the identity of Jack the Ripper.  The game becomes real when a grouping of murders in SF looks like the work of a serial killer.  With access to her father’s files, the unintentional involvement of her rather unique mother and grandfather, the girl and her gaming friends prove instrumental in figuring things out. We predict a sequel featuring these teens, and at least a movie or two.  ~ Lisa Christie

BONUS PickUnder the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (March 2014) - Just before posting today’s reviews, our town’s lovely children’s librarian put a great middle grades novel in our hands.  And, since the author herself credits the book Monuments Men as essential to her story, it seems timely to include a review of this superb book in an Oscars post.

Publishers Weekly says “Fans of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will find this another delightful lesson in art history.” That fan base includes us; so, we were thrilled to read this.  What would the movie look like?  Well, it would follow Theodora Tenpenny around Manhattan as she tries to solve the mystery of a painting she uncovers (literally) once her grandfather dies. It would include her eccentric mother who has spent at least fifteen years doing nothing but completing her mathematical dissertation and consuming very expensive tea (certainly not providing for Theodora).  It would show how two amazing, but lonely, girls can make great friends.  And, it would introduce viewers to both the world of amazing art, and the importance of asking for help when you need it.  Not bad for an author’s first children’s book! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Read Full Post »

?size=l

Confession time: Neither of the Book Jam’s Lisas usually reads self-help books, or makes a big deal out of New Year’s Resolutions. Yes, we think about them and make promises to do better, but lists and perfectly executed plans are not our norm.  However, when we started the Book Jam we did vow to try to read books that we would not normally pick up on our own in order to reach as many readers as possible.  And, as we thought about posts for the 2014, and specifically a New Year’s themed post, we picked up a few books from a genre we rarely visit (or at least not since we quit dating) — the self-help genre.  Honestly, they helped.  How?  Well, both caused us to think a bit differently about conflicts and concerns in our life, and they provided a bit of comfort in that we could relate to aspects of each of our chosen author’s lives. Here are our two recommendations.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, PhD and LMSW (2010) – We first heard of Ms. Brown because of a TED talk.  Then she seemed to be everywhere – on multiple NPR interviews, in magazines, books in friends’ homes.  So we picked up this book of hers and read.  In it, she takes her research studying difficult emotions such as shame, fear, vulnerability from her career at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and adds insights from her own “mid-life unraveling”. (This is her term for the more typically named mid-life crisis.)  She defines the unraveling as a time when you are “challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and embrace who you are“.  Her conclusions from this research and work?  Well, we would sum it as follows — that courage, compassion and connection are gifts that only work when exercised.  In this book, she shows both how this exercise is possible, and how it changes those who practice these gifts.

The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist (2010) – A great entry into thinking about how you interact with money and how it interacts with your life. And, since money is everywhere and determines so many things in one’s life – job, food purchases, type of home, type of neighborhood one’s home is in – thinking about how you approach and relate to money seems important.  Using anecdotes from her work as a fundraiser for large non-profit organizations and her personal life, she shows how one’s thoughts about money filter one’s interactions with the world.  Groundbreaking?  Probably not, but we found it useful as she caused us to think about money — a topic we honestly find uncomfortable discussing during out best moments.  She also has us thinking about our own work and how we value it. Stay tuned for any ways this thinking affects our future reading choices.

Disclosure: We did not read these books straight through, but instead picked them up a bit at a time over the past few months.  For us, this felt like the right way to approach these authors.  We mention this only to give you “permission” to dabble, rather than immerse yourself in self-help genre, in case you too usually avoid this genre.  And, we promise our next post will delve into the power of fiction.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 398 other followers