Sunday, April 20, 2014


When people ask me the type of books RAs read, this is one that fits into a distinct category: an immigrant coming to America and managing to succeed and live an Americana Dream.  This particular book (Americanah) is the journey of a young Nigerian woman, written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which has significant correlations to the author’s own journey.  The two main characters in the story are Ifemelu and Obinze, who are first introduced as young teenagers in Nigeria and fall in love growing up in their homeland.  Ifemelu decides to leave her country to study in the United States, which leads to their breakup.  The remaining storyline follows the separate journeys of the two characters Ifemelu and her challenges in the US, lack of money, dealing with racial bias, finding how immigrants start at the low rung of the employment ladder (care-giver/nanny) to finally making it.  Ifemelu has her big break after she begins to “blog” about the racial divide in the US between African and Caucasian people, which leads her to be hired as a consultant/speaker on topics related to diversity.  Ifemelu’s journey into adulthood is captured through her relationships with men and how society (and her family) responds (first with a white man and later with an African-American – which is very different than from a native African).  Simultaneously, the story shares Obinze’s decision to leave Nigeria and after many attempts goes to the UK to follow his path for success (monetary), which he eventually achieves. The book presents significant reminders to the challenges and disturbing racial intolerances that immigrants face when leaving their homeland.  The book concludes where it began, the two coming face to face at a meeting later in life back in Nigeria, where it all began, and see if after the two journeys the former young lovers can be brought back together again, though one of the characters is now married with a child.  The story is uniquely told through the voice of the character.  This is a beautifully written and engaging book.  The depth of story and intricacies of the characters are well developed.  The story flows nicely.  I would highly recommend this one and yes, dreams can come true with hard work and resilience. Good read for those who really enjoy the journey stories.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Weekends at Bellevue

It’s time to start reading books again.  I invited the Resource Center Assistants (RCA) to meet with me after getting feedback from them that I should treat them like RAs.  Agreed.  So I have met with a number of the thirteen so far, and the first book I was suggested was Weekends at Bellevue by Dr. Julie Holland.  The book chronicles the real life experience of Dr. Holland during her nine years as a psych ER doctor from 1995-2004.  For anyone who may be reading this blog and not from NYC, Bellevue Hospital is the famous city hospital of NY, which means everyone is accepted, whether they have insurance or not.  This is the hospital where many of the homeless population, criminals, patients with schizophrenia, drug-overdoses, and other city dwellers are sent to receive hospital treatment.  Holland works every Saturday and Sunday night shift, guiding the young docs on the shift with her.  She provides guidance and leadership on the nights where the city is ALIVE and active.  As you may imagine, this collection of individuals brought to a hospital for mental health issues makes for a compelling job, and stories for our reading pleasure.  Interwoven within the bi-polar, suicidal, depressed, homicidal, and other category of mental-health patients is the story of her entry into graduate school, her relationships with colleagues (some good, some not so good), her various male “conquests” (include getting married), the birth of her two children, and the eventual decision to leave the ER.   Holland shares how she developed her “style” as a doctor and how her relationship with her father fueled much of her “coldness” in response to her patients.  We also learn about her vulnerabilities and the decision for her to enter a relationship with a counselor and how she worked through her challenges.  There are real life stories well documented within the book, such as the shooter at the Empire State Building (she worked with one of those who was shot), 9/11 response in the city, the suicide of her friend and writer Spalding Gray, and some other well-known deaths of NY residents.  The story is an interesting read, though Holland never really ingratiates herself as an overly sympathetic doctor, though I would imagine her edge was clearly developed through the type of people she engaged each weekend.  Interesting story of work that is necessary but really hard to think about doing on a regular basis.  Strange choice for a favorite book, but kept me glued throughout.