Tag Archives: non-fiction

fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science by Lucia Greenhouse

fathermothergod: My Journey Out of Christian Science by Lucia Greenhouse. Published by Crown Publishing. Read in July, 2011. Advanced copy received through GoodReads Giveaways.

Lucia Greenhouse’s memoir is an engaging story about coming to terms with one’s parents when one does not share said parents’ integral belief system. Lucia was born to parents who became members of the Christian Science faith as adults; most of her extended family are not members of this faith, Christian Science is not to be mistaken for Scientology, which happens sometimes due to the shared “science.” It is a denomination of Christianity founded by Mary Baker Eddy. In addition to The Bible, members of this church also follow Ms. Eddy’s teachings, which she published in Science & Health With Key to the Scriptures.  In short (from someone who has never experienced Christian Science), members of this faith believe that physical ailments are a symptom of a person’s lack of faith. Illnesses should not be treated with medicine; instead, one should be able to pray and receive healing. This goes for everything from a headache to cancer.

The first part of Lucia Greenhouse’s memoir details her childhood with the usual experiences: chicken pox, church services, camp, school friends of other faiths. Then things change. Her parents decide to leave Minnesota and move to London, where there are Christian Science boarding schools Lucia and her siblings can attend while her parents work on growing as Christian Science practitioners (sort of a faith healer). As Lucia grows up, she starts to question Christian Science. She experiences death of loved ones, which shakes her. Lucia’s parents are unhappy when she gets glasses to remedy her poor eyesight. Her faith in the founding ideas of Christian Science is on shaky ground.

The book moves forward in time. The reader finds Lucia out of college and working in New York City. She is called home to learn that her mother is ill. The rest of the memoir focuses on her mother’s illness and how is affects the family. Mother and father insist that she is getting better every day, despite the growing frailty. Her mother eventually goes to stay at a Christian Science care facility and Lucia is asked not to contact her mother for fear of impeding her improvement. Eventually, Lucia and her siblings intervene and call an ambulance to take their mother to the hospital. The conflict in the family grows as other family members come in to town and are horrified to see how sick Lucia’s mother was allowed to get.

Lucia struggles with guilt and blame, torn between the knowledge that her parents are adults who made their own choices and the idea that as a daughter, she is responsible for the love and care of her parents as they grow older. She questions the role her siblings and extended family played – or should have played – as time went on. All family members are forever changed, and some relationships are broken beyond repair by the end of the memoir.

Ms. Greenhouse has written a book that grabs your attention. It gets in your head and one cannot help but question where religious freedom and responsibility to the ones you love intersect and separate. Every few years, a story in the news surfaces about parents who “let” their child die as they practiced the Christian Science faith rather than visit a doctor, and this memoir gives the reader a window into one person’s experience in that situation. When, if ever, is it okay to ignore the advancements of modern medicine because it goes against faith? How does it affect relationships when you disagree with loved ones on such an important life issue?

I will definitely add this book to my high school’s collection. It is published as adult lit. I think this is a book that high school students in particular can relate to as they are figuring out who they are, separating their identity from their parents, and testing beliefs and boundaries.

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We All Fall Down: Living With Addiction by Nic Sheff

We All Fall Down: Living With Addiction by Nic Sheff; read in November, 2010. Copy provided by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers via NetGalley. To be published in April, 2011.

I don’t think a day goes by that my blog doesn’t get at least one hit thanks to a search phrase of “Nic Sheff update” or “Nic Sheff relapse.” I originally posted my thoughts on Tweak and then mentioned a CNN article talking about Nic’s relapse, which is what brings people here. Tweak continues to be a book I cannot keep on the library shelves, although some of that has been due to theft. I take that to mean kids want it even more. I was happy to hear Nic Sheff has another memoir coming out; one reason being an update in his own voice, and another because it means he must be sober more often than not to accomplish a second book. When I saw it was available on NetGalley, I had to read it.

We All Fall Down: Living With Addiction covers a period of time in Nic’s life when he entered rehab after Tweak ended.  He is in and out of a couple different programs, and has episodes of relapse. He talks about working on a book, which I assume to be Tweak, and then touring with his dad to promote it. Like Tweak, it is not an easy, happy book to read, but Nic’s story is powerful and really puts the reader in his mind. I couldn’t help but feel sympathy for all involved: Nic, his family, his friends, his fellow addicts. Again, like Tweak, it is written in a conversational tone. It doesn’t make the book feel like “quality literature” but I think many readers will value Nic’s honesty and voice over anything else.

I would recommend that Tweak be read before reading We All Fall Down. It could be read on its own, but I think Nic’s story is more powerful if you know his background struggles of addiction and relationship drama. When he crosses paths with Zelda late in the book, I don’t think the reader can grasp Nic’s growth without knowing their story.

We All Fall Down is a memoir that I could not put down, and I really value Nic’s update. I continue to wish the best for him and hope we hear more from Nic himself in the future. I’ll definitely be adding several copies of this to my high school library.

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Enter to win American Rose!

I saw American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare, the Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee at the airport this week and really wanted to read it.  I didn’t let myself buy it since I’d just mailed home 4 boxes of books from ALA Midwinter, so I would love to win a copy. You can enter to win a copy at Joshilyn Jackson’s site!

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11th Anniversary of Columbine

I know I am several days late, but I wanted to point out that this week was the eleventh anniversary of Columbine.  Dave Cullen’s book on that day still haunts me.  If you haven’t read it, you really should – it was one of my top ten from 2009.  My original review can be found here.

The paperback edition was recently published and it contains some things not found in the original hardcover:

  • A 12-page afterword: “Forgiveness.” Vignettes on three victims in very different places eleven years later, and the central role “forgiveness” played in their recovery. Includes startling new revelations about the killers’ parents.
  • Actual journal pages from Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold.
  • Book Club Discussion Questions.
  • Diagram of Columbine High School and environs. (Something I had wished for in my original review – thanks Mr. Cullen!)

A book trailer is available on You Tube, and Mr. Cullen has a great web site of his own.  Take time to read the book, and take time to give thoughts and prayers to those affected by that day.

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Top Ten 2009 books

Happy New Year’s Eve!  Today, I thought I would post my Top Ten YA books of 2009.  I cannot rate them more than this; I had a hard enough time just narrowing the list down, so these are in alphabetical order.  They are not necessarily what I think are the best literary achievements nor what might stand the test of time.  These titles are the books that emotionally affected me, that I loved reading and couldn’t put down, books I will gladly read again and recommend to my students.

1. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl – If I have a hard time falling into a book after reading something, I know the authors have left their mark on me.  Thank you, Ms. Garcia and Ms. Stohl.

2. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – A sequel that is better than the first. I cannot wait to read Ms. Collins‘ third book in the series.

3. Columbine by Dave Cullen – Yes, Mr. Cullen did not write this specifically for a YA audience, but I think it is so well done, students and adults can be drawn into the narrative and come away with hope and understanding.  This is the best non-fiction I read this year.

4. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie RyanMs. Ryan‘s book transported me out of my backyard and in to a creepy forest full of zombies.

5. Hate List by Jennifer Brown – Tears and tears!  Thank you, Ms. Brown!

6. I Know It’s Over by C. K. Kelly Martin – My heart broke many times while reading Ms. Martin‘s book.

7. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. StorkMr. Stork has created such a unique voice – amazing!

8. Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki – A graphic novel created by two cousins that captures adolescence in a heartbreaking way.

9. The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander – I love the way the main character grows and learns about herself.  Also, Ms. Alexander REALLY made me want a rooster!

10. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – Wow! Really, well done Ms. Anderson!

Honorable mentions go to An Echo in the Bone, Bear Portraits, Dark Places, and Goat Song.  None of these can really be counted as YA, but I really loved them.  (Reviews will come at some point for An Echo and Dark Places.)

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve and I wish you all the best in 2010!

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Goat Song by Brad Kessler

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The full title of Brad Kessler’s book is Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese. I LOVED this book. Brad and his wife decided to leave the life of the city behind and move to the country. One of their neighbors owns goats and after several years, they decide they would love to raise a few and start making their own cheese.

Kessler tells the history of both goat herding and cheese making while telling his own story of the first year or so of owning goats and making cheese. His prose is beautiful, the way he talks about walking with the goats, listening to their voices (they each have a different voice and a distinct personality) while enjoying being out in nature. His descriptions of the cheeses are also gorgeous. He talks about eating something given to you by the animals you spend your day with, how when he eats a goat cheese in the winter, he can taste the summer day from the day he milked the goats to make that cheese.

It’s a quiet book, so calm and meditative. Loved it, totally fed my desire for my own goats!

4 and 1/2 stars

This isn’t YA, and I don’t think this would find much of an audience in my high school, but it’s a beautiful book and had to share it.

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More on Dave Cullen and Columbine

Michael Hasting published an interview with Dave Cullen, the author of Columbine. It is an interesting read if you read or plan to read Columbine. Particularly interesting is where he talks about the structure of the book because I found it so well done when I read Columbine.

My review can be found here if you are interested.

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