A fun young adult book in Keeper by Mal Peet. The story is about a young man nicknamed El Gato who visits reporter Paul Faustino immediately following the victory which earned his team the World Cup championship. Gato is being interviewed to share his personal story, which he has kept private his entire life. Gato shares his secret on how he learned how to play soccer. As a youngster, Gato was under-sized, and not very coordinated. His family had very limited means and Gato needed to quit school to take on a full-time job where his father also worked. One day he was startled by a vision of a man, who he later named the Keeper. The Keeper challenged Gato to play soccer, in particular to be a goalie. Over the next few years, Gato worked to improve his skills, which would be used when he was called upon to serve as the team goalie at the logging camp, where he was now employed at age fifteen. Within the next two months he received an offer from a rich business man to join one of the professional soccer club’s high school academy. After some disagreement from his parents, his uncle convinces the family to allow Gato to follow his dreams. Gato, after losing in the finals of the World Cup four years earlier, finally gets the championship he has worked so hard to attain. During his meeting with the reporter, Gato explains the story he wants written…. The story of how he became a superstar. Imagine Faustino’s response as he hears of the Keeper, a spirit of a deceased soccer player. It is a fun fantasy story that shows how hard work, having a mentor, and loving something so deeply can assist a person in realizing their dreams. Young athletes will love this one.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
I now know why so many young people got behind Bernie Sanders after reading his book Outsider in the White House. It is a “book within a book” in which he wrote many years ago, 1997, while he served in Congress and then an added intro and conclusion as he enters the race for President of the United States. This memoir focuses on his political ideology as a progressive with strong socialist views. Sanders presents all of his various campaigns for office, from his early losses as Mayor and Congressman, to his wins as Burlington mayor and later as Congressman for Vermont. Sanders serves as the first independent elected to the office of Congress in more than 40 years. He is clearly a pioneer who fights for the benefit of the poor. Much of the book shares the intricacies of his campaigns in which he fights big-financed challengers, always in the pockets of companies willing to have a political candidate keep the rich-richer. Sanders advocates for campaign finance reform where there are caps in how much a candidate can raise for an election. But his major focus always comes back to the poor, where he believes that if the poor realized their ability to impact an election, they would vote more for candidates who cared for them. Minimum wage increase, welfare support, education enhancements, and other initiatives that impacted the poor to be more advantaged in our society has always been his main pursuit, ensuring there is more economic equity among all Americans. Additionally, he describes how he fought the Persian Gulf War, always fearing that innocent men and women in the military would die for fights not worth fighting. He also has been strong on immigration reform, environmental focus to save our world, voter registration initiatives, improving and focusing on key international world relations, and education affordability. He is a staunch believer in equal rights from a gender, sexual-orientation, and religion/cultural basis. His platform and when he presents his ideas suggest he is usually ahead of mainstream thought. During the Clinton (Bill) Presidency, he argued for more and faster movement on many of the issues listed above. While he clashed with many during his run for office, he always seemed to present a congenial and respectful disagreement. The book is timely and helps reinforce this platform, but also a chance for one to compare it to the two current political front runners for President of the United States. If you aren’t into politics, Sanders presents a case why you should. I enjoyed reviewing his history and all of the challenges that a third party politician faces.
Friday, September 23, 2016
I always enjoy reading one of the all-time classic books I have not read previously. So reading William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, gave me the chance to place a checkmark in the list of all-time Top 100 best novels I had not read yet. And it was worth it! Faulkner, a Nobel Prize winning American author from the south, is known for his books that best capture the human condition and challenge that life often gives to each of us. Faulkner uses a unique style of writing in this book having fifteen different characters narrate the various chapters in the book. The story focuses on Addie Bundren, a married woman and mother of five, who is very ill while living on the family farm. Addie dies early in the book and the remainder of the story focuses on the process of bringing Addie’s body for a proper burial in the town of Jefferson, which is a good travel from their farm. (Note the time of the novel is set prior to cars and other transportation, so their journey involves taking the body, in a home-made coffin, by horse and wagon. The journey is difficult, which includes: a major rain storm; a washed-away bridge; meeting various people who attempt to help and/or challenge the family; and various personal family issues (broken leg of one son, the knowledge that the daughter is pregnant, and family squabbles over money). Throughout the book the reader enters the minds of the individual characters, who all face their own personal grief of a lost mother/spouse and also the issues that each one faces in a very difficult world. Faulkner’s ability to present the psychological dimensions of a family unit and real-life dilemmas using the words of poor people from the south makes for a masterpiece, a book that speaks to the times. While at first I was worried about the various voices bringing confusion as a reader, this was not the case. I highly recommend this rather short story.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
As I traveled down to Atlanta for a consulting presentation, I had the opportunity to read the book Redefining Realness by Janet Mock. Mock’s compelling real-life story is a huge educational moment for all who are unaware of the struggle that people who are born as one gender, but feel they are another gender, experience everyday of their lives. Mock, born as a boy named Charles, the descendant of a black father and Hawaiian mother, lived through much turmoil along with her brother bouncing from her two-parent home, then from mother, grandparents, father, aunt, and finally back to her mother. Mock was steeped in life transitions throughout the challenge to be accepted for living as she believed she was, a girl. Today, Mock is an author, tv personality, model, and activist for Trans and LGBT rights. Her story begins as she begins to fall in love with a man and knows that she must tell him her story. Before she does so, Mock shares her history… how it all began. Mock acknowledges how difficult her journey was through hiding the deep desire to be a girl, being sexually abused and molested, her early days of thinking performing sexual acts on young peers was her way to gain acceptance, her struggles in school by being bullied by peers AND teachers/administrators, and her decision for reconstructive surgery. One can’t imagine how lonely this journey must have been, yet she remained committed to being in the body she always felt she should be in. Her struggles financially to receive treatment and the surgery made her compromise her own values by selling herself sexually to save enough to have the surgery completed. The reader also gets a glimpse into the ‘grit’ of Mock to commit to her education, winning a full ride scholarship for her undergraduate degree in Hawaii. She does receive significant support from the trans-community within Hawaii, some which supports her selling her sexual services to men. Her struggles and final acceptance of what she did along the way to become a writer for People.com and receive her Master’s degree from NYU, yes NYU!, are a true testament that having dreams matter. Never giving up and focusing on what you believe in can drive a person to get to whatever they want, no matter the cost. Mock’s story may be different than others, she explains that she never was depressed or suicidal, unlike many who struggle from the psychological tolls of being outcast by family, friends, and strangers. Mock ends the book where it began, telling her story. Surprisingly, the man she loves listens and instead of staying friends, determines that he will be her life partner. This is a struggle and achieving personal success story worth reading.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Enter the world of the music industry in John Seabrook’s The Song Machine. Seabrook, a writer for the New Yorker magazine investigates the past few decades of what makes a song popular in today’s society. He spends time hunting down the history of the “hook,” the beat that keeps on beating in one’s head. He tracks down the best writers/producers who have the knack in developing these top-rated industry favorites, which he contends mainly stem from Sweden! (Yes, who would have thought that the beat started by Abba in songs like the Dancing Queen could be the beginnings of the industry that impacts our US music scene most?) For the ‘pop’ music lover, especially of the past two decades, this book tells you how it unfolded. From the boys band creation, yes Menudo/New Kids on the Block of the 80s to Boyz II Men, Back Street Boys, NSYNC, to the top Korean boys and girls bands, Seabrook provides insight to their creation and demise and it all starts with the ‘hook’ within the song, what catches the listeners to like or LOVE a song. How the beat sticks in the brain. He meets the label owners, music producers, and those who are writing the lyrics and musical sounds. His exposés on the rise of Britney Spears, Flo Rida, Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, Beyonce and an in-depth look at Rihanna’s rise to stardom are some of his best works within the book. Yes, for fans of those stars, you will learn how they rose, and some who fell along the way based on their own inability to beat the demons of a rise to stardom. It appears that few music writers seem to be the ones who are really dictating who the stars will be, sharing their work with a small cast of performers who bring the songs to life. But besides the individual star reviews, Seabrook presents an investigative approach to how music has changed through the decades as technology has changed (albums, CD, internet streaming) and illustrates how the money stream is affecting today’s talent. How long can the power of the radio remain the vehicle for new artists to get their move to stardom? Is Spotify the new way to launch a successful career? What new communication tools through technology will provide success for a performer based on a delivery system to ensure that money flows to the source who made it? The book is great. Understanding how the song, the performer, and the lyrics for some of Pop music’s top songs of the past two decades came together was fun to listen to, yes I did listen to this one. Make sure you take the time to then pull-up the songs on YouTube as you are reading. It is true the songs he has chosen to discuss are those that have stuck in your head many times before. It’s almost as if the repeat button has never stopped and as they say, the beat goes on!
Saturday, September 17, 2016
I learned a great deal from this RA Favorite book, The Boy who was Raised as a Dog, by Dr. Bruce Perry, a child psychiatrist. The student, who studies in our CAMS program (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Studies), said that the book is a requirement of one of the courses for the minor. Dr. Perry shares a series of cases involving children that all broaden his learning and knowledge about the neurosciences. The cases that are discussed include: parents who try and kill their kids, a parent who keeps their child in a cage, satanic rituals that harm a child, sexual abuse by parent’s boyfriend, kids from the Davidian ranch in Waco, the babysitter who left the child in their crib all day while she had another job away from the home. Certainly not an uplifting set of stories, but absolutely amazing how Dr. Perry approached each child, using techniques of care and concern, meeting the child where they needed to be met. The book gives important lessons to parents and affirms the important role counseling plays in answering challenges that our youth face. It is so sad to read the abuse cases that are all around us, but knowing dedicated professionals like Perry and his colleagues provide optimism in a world of pain, destructive relationships, and abuse. His last chapter, on creating healing communities is a classic read for all parents, providers, and others who realize the importance of caring. This is a truly moving set of stories where in most cases, the child is given a chance for a new life. Thanks Dr. Perry for all of your work.
Friday, September 16, 2016
A fun read which chronicles the real life adventure of Richard Proenneke after his time as a mechanic. Proenneke, a former US Navy enlistee who spent time at Pearl Harbor returns home to work long hours in the shop but knows he is missing something, serenity! The book, One Man’s Wilderness, is the actual journal entries of Proenneke during his sixteen month stay in the wilderness of Alaska. Proenneke moves to Twin Lakes, a very rural location in Alaska where he has friends who built a house and allow him to use it until he can build his own. Proenneke moves to the area at the end of May, just as the ice is melting from the lakes, and finds a great place to build his log cabin home. The journal entries from Proenneke include the daily temperature, and a series of topics including: his engagements/search for wildlife, his daily work progress on the house, the depth of the ice buildup on the lake, what he cooks for breakfast, the on-going fishing challenge, or his scenic trip around the area. Proenneke receives regular visits from his friend, Babe, who brings food and other supplies via his airplane. This trip and living in the wilderness is a dream come true for Proenneke, whom gave up the fifty hour a week grind. While the book is taken from the journal and photos that Proenneke wrote, he ends up living there for over thirty years, up to age 90! While I can’t ever imagine living in a rather deserted area, in Alaska, where temperatures go below negative 40 degrees in the height of winter, eating off of the land, for the most part, I applaud Proenneke for doing so. He is a complete hero for every Boy Scout and nature lover. His commitment to the land, keeping it pure, is one of the messages he leaves behind to others. A fun read and helpful reminder of how life was loved just a century ago for most.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
This is one of those journey of life stories that all of a sudden... BOOM, surprise, totally unexpected. The book, Open City by Teju Cole, is the story of Julius, an immigrant to the US from Nigeria. Julius is in graduate school at a local NY hospital, Columbia, studying psychiatry. The story moves from current day, to his childhood, to his travels around the world. In each of these times in his life, Julius is searching to find answers to life, make friends, and finish his education. Much of the book captures Julius’s walks throughout NYC from Wall Street to the parks to uptown, and around the world. He constantly engages with others to hear their perspectives on life. At times I wondered, where it would move away from Julius’s chats with the mailman, the homeless person, or the person running the internet café, or if there would be any change that would impact Julius. A mystery woman, whom he meets in the grocery store introduces herself to Julius, as a former acquaintance, the sister of a former best-friend. Julius doesn’t remember the woman. She goes into further detail about attending a party together, still Julius doesn’t remember. She offers to stay in touch, hoping that she can invite him to meet her boyfriend. This person will become a critical focus near the end of the book and it may actually have direct impact on his own understanding of impact – that which he has on others. I won’t give the ending away, but will say it leaves the reader wondering are all of my actions, words and deeds, things that make me happy with whom I am? On another note, the challenges of being an immigrant are real and we are once again reminded of how the US is not the most welcoming country for those seeking that “Dream” that is often mentioned about America. What makes this country great is the opportunity to do anything you can dream, but it is not often attainable when means, language barriers, and discrimination raises its ugly head. There is a lot to like about the book. I left it being completely uncomfortable. Hard to say whether I truly enjoyed reading it or not. But if the goal of a book is to leave you thinking, yes this one did and still does.
Friday, September 9, 2016
I have read and seen the play, watched the movie, and now I have read the novel, The Graduate by Charles Webb. The story of a “wiz” kid finishing college after receiving many awards, including a free ride to graduate school for a teaching degree. The story begins right after Benjamin Braddock returns to his west-coast home after his college graduation from an elite east-coast institution. The problem is that Benjamin has absolutely no motivation to continue his education, get a job, engage with others, or anything else. His mother and father do everything they can to get Benjamin “jump-started” to move beyond the slump he has entered. But, they never thought that a party thrown in his honor would have a lasting effect on Benjamin’s life. Enter the Robinson’s, Mr. Braddock’s partner in his firm, and his wife are invited to the gathering. Benjamin is cajoled by Mrs. Robinson to drive him home after the party and then the fireworks occur. Mrs. Robinson seduces Benjamin, a virgin, into her bed and this begins a summer-fall affair. All this comes to an interesting twist when Mr. Robinson gets Benjamin, who is reluctant to do so, to ask his daughter (Elaine) out for a date when she comes home from college (Berkeley) for Thanksgiving break. Mrs. Robinson warns Benjamin not to do so, but he does, and he falls in love over the course of the evening. The rest of the book focuses on Benjamin’s attempt to lure Elaine back after she learns from her mother that she had an affair with Benjamin. Will Benjamin be able to repair the “love-at-first-sight” that he had with Elaine, or will Mrs. Robinson be successful at keeping her hidden from Benjamin? In the future, I think they will call this a “period piece” where the language and the actions are very 1960s. Not totally enamored with this one. Though when I saw it on Broadway, Benjamin was played by an RA from the Greenwich Hotel and Lorraine Bracco from The Sopranos. Lots of other stories interest me more.
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
A series of short poems can ignite the senses, especially when they focus on love, lost loves, loves that never connected, and the dream of falling in love. All of this and more are contained in Lang Leav’s book of poems titled Lullabies. Her short stanzas of meaning touch the heart (literally!). I can see how the RA who suggested it re-reads the book often. The book is broken into three sections, Duet, Interlude, and Finale. In the introduction she notes, “I always thought poems were a little like spells … with an almost hypnotic effect. This combined with love, becomes ever more potent and intoxicating…. What greater magic is there than love?” Truer words never spoken! In her poem Keys, she notes the following discussion between two people who certainly are in the infancy stage of love, developing love… “hearts don’t have locks, she said…… some do, he replied. There are people who give away the key to theirs for safekeeping. Others are more mistrustful and give out several keys, just in case. Then there are those who have misplaced them but never cared to look. What about your heart, she asked. He smiled. Your words are the key to mine, he replied. Never forget your words.” A brilliant early phase of the art of finding the right lover. At times Leav appears to be giving advice, such as the poem, a cautionary tale, which has two lines: “There is a girl who never returns her library books. Don’t give her your heart --- it is unlikely you will ever see it again.” And Forewarned (advice about a boy): “If a boy ever says, you remind me of someone – don’t fall in love with him. You will never be anything more than second best.” And other times she is looking for advice on how to find a heart full of love. She weaves emotions with language accessible to any reader. The poems are very short, none longer than two pages, though most only two to three stanzas. While anyone can enjoy the book, I think it really speaks to those in the early stages of life, looking for answers on how, when, and where love can be found. I wish I had this when I was 18 years old realizing how my actions and words can impact those who I was attracted to, yet incapable of communicating effectively. Great read.
Monday, September 5, 2016
One of the faces behind the world of sports and news on national television wrote his own memoir, Roone, by Roone Arledge. Arledge, a Columbia University alum, tells his story from starting out at the bottom rung of the hierarchy and then proceeding to climb all of the way to President of ABC Sports and the President of ABC News. Arledge presents himself as a “wheel and deal” guy, always looking to enhance the low-rated ABC Network. He first created the turn-around for the sports division by bringing in contracts to cover the Olympics, NCAA Football, and his claim to fame, Monday Night Football. His deals brought ABC into first place against the ultra-rich competition, NBC and CBS. Arledge shares stories on how he brought the talent of producers, production leadership, and of course, on-air talent. His stories of how he kept Howard Cosell and Don Meredith in line, while on-air, are among the best, especially for someone like me who was growing up watching the NFL at that time. After securing significant kudos and support from ownership, Arledge was given the chance to perform a similar turn-around of the news division. First with ABC News, then Good Morning America, he added both Nightline, 20/20, and Prime Time Live. Arledge shared many of his innovations for on-air changes that enhanced the productions. Again, collected (stealing) talent from other networks helped him bring the third-rate shows into first place. While he was terrible at responding to messages, he was good at selecting talent, especially if they were a team. He brought Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Geraldo Rivera, David Brinkley, and Peter Jennings to ABC. All of whom later made their mark in the industry under his tutelage. Arledge shared many stories of the hard sell and the difficult internationally witnessed headlines of the day. From the Iran Hostage Crisis (which started Nightline), to the Munich Olympic terrorist kidnapping. The book is a “tell-all” on how the author experienced the ride to stardom in his field. Thirty-seven Emmys for his work certainly illustrate his ability to be at the top of the industry. This is a great read for those in the field of communications, especially network television. It is a completely different world now with so many cable television channels, the internet, and social media changing the playing field. If you aren’t interested in the field or not a fan of network news/sports, this may be a sleeper for you.