Review: An Unnecessary Woman

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I picked up my most recent read at a semi-local independent bookstore. I know they say not to judge a book by it’s cover, but the cover and title are what drew me in. Feeling a little unnecessary myself lately, I just had to know what this book was about. To put it much too simply, An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine is a meditation on the love of language and literature as well as what it is like to live your life by continually bucking social norms, not as a political statement, but as simply a way to live life true to yourself.

An important element to this book is its setting: Beirut, Lebanon. The protagonist, Aaliya, is above all resilient. She has to be due to the unrest she has lived through. A basic knowledge of the historical events of the area is helpful when reading through this story, but I wouldn’t say it’s critical.

Now while the world is changing around her, Aaliya lives a simple life. Alone in her apartment, she translates a book into Arabic every year. Her life is solitary and she surrounds herself with literature. Throughout her meditations on her present day life, you go through many flashbacks of how she got to be so “unnecessary” as a divorcee living apart from her family.

While this book is an enjoyable read, I couldn’t make myself care much about the characters or the plot, which I think is showing though in my brief synopsis of it. The prose, however, is beautiful. Alameddine is a master at crafting sentences, weaving together allusions to other works with his own observations, and writing deeply about loneliness, aging, politics, etc. That’s what made the book for me.

I was never completely absorbed or felt as though I couldn’t wait to get back to it after setting it down, but I by no means regret reading it. My copy will probably make it’s way to a used bookstore eventually in order to make room for something else, but I’m glad I picked it up.

 

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National Video Games Day

Apparently it’s National Video Games Day. While this “holiday” is simply one of many superfluous holidays that seem to be attributed to every single day on the calendar, I thought it would be a great opportunity to finally talk about video games on this little blog of mine.

Now, many people are often surprised when I’m outed as a gamer. I guess I don’t seem the type to spend hours in front of a screen playing the life of a made-up person, creature, or robot. Honestly, I always find it surprising that others are surprised.

As a lover of stories, video games have always seemed like a natural fit for my interests. You see, I’m drawn to story-rich games, simulations, and RPGs. Unlike when reading a book where the plot is set in stone, in a game I get to interact with the story and co-create it as I play.

I know, I know–tons of people love to criticize video games. They say it’s a waste of time, that you’ll kill your brain cells, or become more violent. Well I say “bologna!” There are all sorts of studies that show that video games help hand-eye coordination, decision making skills, and creativity.

For me, gaming is also a great stress reliever. As someone who lives with mental illness everyday, it can be great to step into the shoes of someone else for a while. Or the repetitive actions of some games can be soothing. Plus, the soundtracks of video games are often specifically created to be relaxing and to help you focus (unless you’re about to face a boss, then it gets suspenseful).

But I wasn’t always comfortable acknowledging my love of video games. When I was younger I would get really nervous to go to the store and buy a game. I always felt like it was something for boys only and that I must have been a weirdo for wanting the new pokemon. Now I know that’s a ridiculous notion to hold onto. Gaming is for anyone and everyone.

So happy Video Games Day! And keep your eye out for more video-game related content on this blog of mine that refuses to follow any specific niche no matter how hard I try.

Race and Literature: A Few Recommendations

Race is a complicated issue in the United States. While we may not be in the era of Jim Crow laws or legalized segregation anymore, racism is unfortunately alive and well. Just this week five high school students in a small town not too far from my own wore white hoods and burned a cross while waving around a confederate flag. It’s despicable, but racism includes so much more than these larger events that can easily be pointed out.

Our nation, particularly the white majority, needs to educate itself on race issues. Even the most well-intended social justice interested person has to constantly fight the internalized racism that is entrenched in this nation’s culture. While I am by no means an expert on race, I have learned a lot over the past few years and have had to challenge my own assumptions time and time again. Sometimes it’s by noticing the reactions of my friends when I unintentionally say something I didn’t understand the repercussions of, sometimes it’s by listening to the stories of others and learning what they have to deal with on a daily basis, and sometimes it’s through reading. I took a few classes that focused on literature that challenged the narrative we are often fed about race in the United States. Here are a few recommendations to get you started: Continue reading

Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse: an Introduction

Before I actually dive into Leigh Bardugo two connected series, the Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology; I just want to acknowledge that this post (and possible follow up posts on these works) is not going to be my typical book review. Originally I planned on doing separate reviews for each book, but I read the Grisha trilogy before I rebooted my blog so the books didn’t feel adequately fresh for regular reviews and then I got sick as I was reading Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, so those reviews were delayed. Okay, let’s quit procrastinating and dive into this AMAZING universe. Continue reading

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America

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I’m a big fan of crime-based tv shows and podcasts, but for some reason I’ve never ventured into crime books. Deciding it was time to remedy this lapse in my reading practices, I picked up The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson at a used bookstore.  Continue reading

Weekend Coffee Share 8/20/2016

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This week has been, well, a lot. If we were having coffee, I’d have to tell you all about it.

The biggest event is that I had a job interview! YAY! It’s for an adult services librarian position open in a small-to-midsized town about a half-an-hour drive from my hometown. Because of the size, they aren’t requiring a masters even though it is a full librarian position. Honestly, I couldn’t have dreamed up a better job opening. I would even be able to work full-time and get my masters online part-time.

As you can imagine, I was beyond excited to have an interview, but nervous as well. All-in-all, I think the interview went okay. I wish I had had better answers to the questions, but I don’t think I did poorly. It was just so hard to read the people interviewing me. I should know by the end of this week if I’ll be called back for a second interview. I really want it, but I also know I’m really inexperienced and have a lot to learn. We’ll see I guess.

After the interview, I found myself slipping into a brief depressive state. Even though it went fairly well, I started doubting myself a lot. Basically, I don’t feel qualified enough for this job. Since I want it so badly, it got me down. I also haven’t gotten a new therapist yet since moving back home. I really need to do that, but I keep putting it off for some reason. I’m feeling better now, but I don’t want my mental health to start sliding now that I’m home, something my previous therapist was worried about due to my history with my hometown and my parents.

I’m also having a ton of trouble with my ex-landlords. They haven’t sent me my security deposit yet and now also want to charge me hundreds of dollars for floor repairs. What’s wrong with the floors at my old apartment? I have no idea. They did jackhammer it up while I was living there without telling me. I didn’t have water for a week thanks to that, and they refuse to respond to my request for decreased rent. The whole situation is really getting out of hand and I know I’m being screwed over. I was a great tenant but now they seem to just want to squeeze every penny out of me. I guess I’ll have to get some legal counsel, but it’s all so stressful and overwhelming. I can’t just ignore it either. The money isn’t just mine, it’s also my roommates’. Unfortunately I’m the account holder, so I have to put in a lot of the work to figure this out.

My family is also worried that our dog is sick. She has been acting lethargic and bleeding quite often. We’re really concerned because we know she has a tumor that we’re watching. Plus we just had to put our other dog down a few months ago.

On the bright side, I get to see my baby nephews next weekend, and that’s always great. They’ve gotten so big, and I can’t wait to see them in person.

Anyways, if we were having coffee, I’d apologize for all my ranting and ask you how you’ve been.

Everyone’s Read That But Me

Even though I read a lot and studied English in college, there are some books that I truly feel as if everyone around me has read that I just haven’t. This list is just a snapshot of the holes in my personal reading history and is by no means exhaustive.

The Chronicles of Narnia

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So many people grew up with a parent reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to them or picking it up when they got a bit older. It’s a classic children’s series. I, on the other hand, was obsessed with the Boxcar Children as a kiddo and never picked this series up.

Frankenstein

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Ah, the famous doctor and his monster. I know the story of Frankenstein and have been meaning to read it for ages, but for some reason I keep putting it off. Most of my English-major peers read this book in high school, but I never did. I’ll get to you someday Mary Shelley. I promise.

Dracula

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Even though I definitely fell prey to the vampire craze that was going on during the Twilight era, I never went back to the O.G. vampire novel. I’ve read some fascinating literary criticisms about it, so I really need to pick it up and interpret it myself.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

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As a lover of fantasy, it is a true crime that I’ve never read Tolkien’s trilogy. I read The Hobbit a year or two ago, but I still have yet to pick up the trilogy. I blame the fact that my older sister was obsessed with it. I must have subconsciously avoided it as a way to create an identity outside of her shadow. I’m thinking I’ll get the audiobooks once I finish listening to Harry Potter.

Please tell me I’m not the only one who feels like they have critical holes in their reading history. Surely no one can keep up with all the books they should have read, right?

Also, I’d love to know what would be on your list! Tell me in the comments or make a post of your own.