Author Archives: Robin

About Robin

I’m a wife, mother, grandma, retired teacher, gardener, knitter, and avid reader. I live near Portland, Oregon, USA.

Read-a-thon Time

It’s time again for Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon. This annual Fall challenge is something I’ve enjoyed for many years. However, this year has been a strange one, and October has been a challenging one for us, so I’m not going to be able to spend the kind of time I usually give to this day of reading. But I am reading and listening as much as I can, and am enjoying the time I can devote to reading today.

In line with my focus on more cultural diversity in my reading choices, I checked out from the library a number of books about different winter holidays. I’ll list them here, as I finish reading them today.

From the publisher: When young David and Mama and Papa are celebrating Hanukkah one frosty winter evening in Brooklyn, Papa sees a parakeet sitting on the window ledge. He lets the parakeet in and everyone is delighted to find that it speaks Yiddish. They name it Dreidel and it becomes part of their family. 

From the publisher: During Diwali, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains celebrate the legends and stories that describe the triumph of good over evil and justice over oppression. Critically acclaimed author Rina Singh explores her Indian roots as she tells the Diwali stories, which remind us that eventually light will prevail over darkness.

From the publisher:  It is the first night of Hanukkah. Hershel of Ostropol is walking down the road. Tired and hungry, he is looking forward to reaching the next village. He is sure that bright candles, merry songs, and platters of potato latkes will be waiting for him. But when he reaches the village, Hershel discovers that the villagers aren’t celebrating Hanukkah. They’re too scared of the goblins that haunt the old synagogue at the top of the hill. Hershel wants to help the village people. “If I can’t outwit a few goblins,” Hershel tells the rabbit, “then my name isn’t Hershel of Ostropol.”

From the publisher:  From its beginnings as a farming celebration marking the end of winter to its current role as a global party featuring good food, lots of gifts and public parades, Chinese New Year is a snapshot of Chinese culture.

From the publisher: In an African village live seven brothers who make life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread or they will be turned out as beggars.

From the publisher: Celebrate the holiday of Chanukah with eight original short stories by Jewish storyteller Scott Hilton Davis. Enjoy a fun-filled journey to Oykvetchnik, the tiny shtetl town in Eastern Europe where people complain a lot (except during Chanukah when they seem to be a little more charitable).

Evening Update:  I had a very nice time reading today, although it wasn’t a lot of time. I enjoyed each of my holiday choices. The book by Isaac Bashevis Singer was a treasure. I listened to the audiobook of Chanukah Tales from Oykvetchnik, and loved it. What a wonderful storyteller! All of them are books I would recommend for sharing with family during the holidays.

So another Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon comes to an end for me (no, I don’t stay up all night reading anymore).  I look forward to the next one, in April.

Happy reading, my friends! And happy holidays coming up soon!

 

My Winter Holidays Reading

I do love reading holiday books! In the last few years, I’ve usually started my holiday reading by the first of October. It’s a refreshing change from my Autumn focus on mysteries and  Halloweenish reading, and I find I enjoy it more and more each year. I decided to create this post to track the books I read for the upcoming winter holidays, and to list the holiday books I’ve read in the past few years. This will be an ever-growing list of the books I find each year to read during this season.

2020:

2019:

2018:

2017:

2016:

2015:

2014:

2013:

HAPPY HOLIDAY READING, MY FRIENDS!

Wise Words from Barbara Neely

 

She cleared her mind and focused on the green hills in the distance and the extra-blue sky. She let her shoulders drop and felt some of the tension seep out of her neck. The world is still beautiful, she told herself, and I’m still in it. Everything else can be put right, in time.

Wise words from Barbara Neely in her book, Blanche on the Lam.

A River Runs Through It

Norman Maclean was a wonderful writer. My father really admired him as an author and read his book, A River Runs Through It, twenty-six years ago shortly before he died. I remember that he loved it, and I have kept my father’s copy of the book on my shelf for all these years. I decided to put it on my reading list for The Classics Club as one of my fifty-books-in-five-years, so I would finally read it.

from the publisher:

From its first magnificent sentence, “In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing”, to the last, “I am haunted by waters”, A River Runs Through It is an American classic.

Based on Norman Maclean’s childhood experiences, A River Runs Through It has established itself as one of the most moving stories of our time; it captivates readers with vivid descriptions of life along Montana’s Big Blackfoot River and its near magical blend of fly fishing with the troubling affections of the heart.

I can only guess now the things my father liked about this book. My father was also a writer, so I know he appreciated the beauty of the writing. He and Norman Maclean also had a sense of place in common — Norman Maclean grew up in Montana, and my father grew up in Wyoming, so they shared similar landscapes and boyhood experiences of place. This book is based on Maclean’s family and memories from his younger years; my father was also writing of his own memories and family history.

It would be nice to talk with my father about this book because, in all honesty, I didn’t like it as much as he did. The first half of the book dragged a bit for me. The second half was much more engaging and the story he told of a family tragedy was very moving. The beauty of his narrative through that part of the book really touched me. But I also felt that it was more of a “man’s book,”  although I realized that it was actually an honest depiction of the life and times and culture of that day.

I had previously read Norman Maclean’s other book, Young Men and Fire, which is an amazing account of the 1949 Mann Gulch fire in Montana where 13 young Smokejumpers were killed. It was a terrible tragedy, and Maclean’s meticulous research and exquisite writing, brought the story right to this reader’s heart. That was a book that has had a lasting impact on my life!

So, although A River Runs Through It didn’t touch me in the same way it touched my father, we were both touched deeply by the beautiful writings of Norman Maclean, and that’s a connection I treasure.

 

I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in Montana.

 

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Reni Eddo-Lodge

Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge, is an important book to read. It came out a few years ago, but is perhaps even more relevant today. I decided to reread it as part of my anti-racist education. I’m glad I did because I got even more out of it the second time. Reni is very articulate and her ideas powerful. There is also a podcast called “About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge”  which is available on Emma Watson’s, Our Shared Podcast, on Spotify. I highly recommend you read the book and then listen to the podcast. Both aare filled with important ideas.

from the publisher:

Award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge was frustrated with the way that discussions of race and racism are so often led by those blind to it, by those willfully ignorant of its legacy. Her response, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, has transformed the conversation both in Britain and around the world. Examining everything from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, from whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge, and counter racism. Including a new afterword by the author, this is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of color in Britain today, and an essential handbook for anyone looking to understand how structural racism works.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

*We tell ourselves that good people can’t be racist. We seem to think that true racism only exists in the hearts of evil people. We tell ourselves that racism is about moral values, when instead it is about the survival strategy of systemic power.

*We don’t live in a meritocracy, and to pretend that simple hard work will elevate all to success is an exercise in wilful ignorance.

*Structural racism is never a case of innocent and pure, persecuted people of colour versus white people intent on evil and malice. Rather, it is about how Britain’s relationship with race infects and distorts equal opportunity.

*Not seeing race does little to deconstruct racist structures or materially improve the conditions which people of colour are subject to daily. In order to dismantle unjust, racist structures, we must see race. We must see who benefits from their race, who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes about their race, and to who power and privilege is bestowed upon – earned or not – because of their race, their class, and their gender. Seeing race is essential to changing the system.

Reading this book and listening to the podcast are part of my ongoing personal project: My Anti-Racist Education.

Forgetfulness, by Billy Collins

Forgetfulness, by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,
as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.
Long ago you kissed the names of the nine muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,
something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.
Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue
or even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.
It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.
No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Classics Club Spin, #24: The House on Mango Street

“She thinks stories are about beauty. Beauty that is there to be admired by anyone, like a herd of clouds grazing overhead. She thinks people who are busy working for a living deserve beautiful little stories, because they don’t have much time and are often tired.”

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, is a beautifully written series of vignettes, very poetic and poignant, about a young Hispanic girl growing up in Chicago. These short little narratives of so many episodes in her life, create a clear view of the culture she grows up in and the struggles she faces in coming of age. It’s not an easy life, but she is one who observes closely and learns from her experiences. She is often lonely on her road to self-discovery, but is also surrounded by family and friends. She seeks beauty and a life beyond where she is growing up. And she describes it all as a poet would.

“Someday I will have a best friend all my own. One I can tell my secrets to. One who will understand my jokes without my having to explain them. Until then I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor.”

The House on Mango Street was one of my choices for my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

 

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 I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in Illinois.

September Reflections, 2020

September reflections…

September, this year, was an unusual month. The first half was filled with smoke and anxiety due to the many fires burning here in Oregon. The air quality was at the very hazardous level, and so our family all had to stay inside even more than usual — a quarantine within the quarantine! Many (but not all!) of the fires were finally brought under control, and the air cleared, so we could begin to enjoy the outdoors again, within the limitations of the pandemic.

With all of this necessary indoor time, I filled my hours with lots of reading. I focused mostly on reading mysteries for the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge, and thoroughly enjoyed myself! But I read other things, as well, including starting the first books for my annual Holiday reading. So all in all, September was a good, and very enjoyable, reading month for me.