Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef Gabriel Hamilton
This is an interesting memoir about cooking and life by Gabriel Hamilton. She begins with her unorthodox childhood. First, her strong memories of her mother and her cooking, then later, after her parents divorced: her own childhood explorations in cooking. Then she takes on an autobiographical trip through all of the cooking she did and finally to Italy, her husband’s home and how her only way of communicating with her mother-in-law is through cooking. Then finally, when she takes over her mother-in-law’s kitchen, she sees the full circle between her mother and her motherhood.
We the Animals: A novel is a series of remembrances of Justin Torres’ childhood and young adulthood. It begins with the chaos of childhood. I enjoyed the ruckus ride of a group of brothers all tangled up in chaos in a working class, biracial family. There were some diversions into infidelity and how adult depression affects kids.
However, the book turns toward the end about the experience of the author’s emerging sexuality. At first this emerges as his feelings of difference which he mainly brings up as grades. Then, finally he deals with his coming out as a gay man.
In some ways this didn’t work for me. I felt like it was a series of memories not completely connected. Yet, I liked the first part. He describes his family and the chaos of children perfectly. As often happens with people who are still alive, the book didn’t come to a conclusion in a neat way. His clear strong feelings didn’t come through in his chapter about him coming out, which makes me believe it is too recent or too raw for him to clearly write about.
In The Language of Flowers: A Novel, a girl who ages out of the foster care system, finds her family after many years. This is very sweetly written, and actually is surprisingly positive for all the challenges that this group of people face. There is a certain feeling of destiny as the main character falls back into the family she bonded with most strongly. Yet, she is still unable to make a family.
What I found the most surprising was the idea that being a part of a family takes skills, and if these skills are not taught, the next generation won’t have any idea how to make a family.
I love the layering of meaning that the author, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, creates with the flower meanings. She is very kind to her characters, giving them space to find their way, but not making them perfect, just true.
I have an interest in the farming movement, the hippie return to the land movement. I saw this autobiography, This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family’s Heartbreak (P.S.) at Mother Earth magazine. Melissa Coleman’s parents, Eliot and Sue, were some of the pioneers in this movement. They moved to a small piece of land in Maine and built their farm from nothing. Yet, this is Ms. Coleman’s autobiography of this time, told first from her perspective and then adding to her memories with talking to others. She was frustrated with her father’s drive to make the farm succeed, at, what she believes, the expense of his family. It is interesting to read how even though she loves her parents, and she tries to understand them, she does hold them in a bit of judgement for her unconventional childhood. It seems a reoccurring theme with the books I read lately, of the parent’s selfish dream overtaking the child’s need for a childhood.
This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family’s Heartbreak (P.S.)
Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Rom
In this book, Peggy Orenstein documents her rocky path to parenthood. Unlike many of us, who had a child by doing less, i.e. stop actively trying to not having a child, her path was much harder because she struggled with a long period of infertility. As a journalist, she is very detailed about the ordeal she went through. She is also very honest about her obsessive feelings during that time, how it nearly ruined her marriage and had health consequences. She talks about how some doctors had slightly dishonest ways of presenting information to her and her husband, and the common difficulties they had with adoption. She also very frankly deals with her own feelings of guilt that she didn’t start the child making process earlier when she was more fertile. It is a wonderful story, very well written and personal.
Waiting for Daisy, Peggy Orenstein, Bloomsbury 2007
I picked up this book out of curiousity. What kind of effect does the “princessification” of girls have on young women? The premise is that uber exposure to princesses through the Disney marketing, girls are harmed. The question is interesting, but like many things in childhood impossible to isolate in the context of the overall environment. While I do agree that our over materialistic society does create some soullessness for all that are in it, this particular problem seems to be a problem in that perhaps these girls are a little spoiled. My Catholic background always brings me back to the axiom that anything in extreme is bad, but a little bit is harmless in most cases. In that way, I see that while my little nieces like to dress up like princesses, one has a wonderful whismical sense of dress, that is her own special thing, and the other is just as likely to have a cowboy hat on. Both of them keep pace with multiple brothers. Balance is the key.
She goes on to say that the indulgence in the princess can create an unbalanced sense of sexuallity in teenagers. This may be a contributing factor, but I think our society’s hypersexuallity may have just as much influence. Again there is the problem of isolation.
Whether I disagree or agree with her premise, the book was interesting and well researched. Peggy Orenstein deals with the issues in a thoughtful and personal way. She studies many facets of this issue from the child pageant, pre-teen online activities to the American girl craze. She looks at the issues from all sides, and is sympathetic to the idea that most parents are just trying their best.
Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein, Harper Collins, 2011
Now, I am not sure if I read to many of her books in a row, but Things I Learned From Knitting: …whether I wanted to or not was not my favorite of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s books that I had read so far. There are a few things that are recycled from the other books (or vice versus). This is a super easy read, but not very much depth.