Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: Tasting the Sky by Ibtisam Barakat

Title: Tasting the Sky
Author: Ibtisam Barakat
Year Published: 2007

Genre: YA non-fiction (memoir)
Pages: 171
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)Palestine and Jordan

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the back of the book): Ibtisam Barakat captures what it is like to be a child whose world is shattered by war. With candor and courage she stitches together memories: fleeing from her home and becoming separated from her family as the Six-Day War breaks out; the harshness of life as a Palestinian refugee; and her unexpected joy when she discovers Alef, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and his family of letters. As language becomes her refuge--a true home that can never be taken away--she begins to piece together the fragments of her splintered world.

Review: A friend suggested I read this book and I was in the mood for a non-fiction book so I said yes. The opening section (one of three) has tinges of Holocaust literature--how ironic! A group of Palestinians pulled off a bus at gunpoint by soldiers with guns, herded into a detention center, their ID cards checked (and different from Israeli citizens' ID cards), they are questioned and held for hours for no particular reason. Of course, they were not put in a camp. Yet.

The author split this book into three parts, the first and third being only a few pages each. The bulk of the book is the second part, which chronicles the author's life from age three and a half to seven years old. I feel like her story is one that so many Palestinians have lived: the Six Day War meant that they fled to Jordan to live in a refugee camp for almost five months, and upon their return to the West Bank, they lived in a simple one-room house, raising a goat and some chickens to have food. They even put their children in an orphanage for a while.

I liked the combination of life story, Palestinian culture, and history that are woven together in this book. At the end the author suggests other books and a documentary that will expand the reader's knowledge of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict and cultures. The documentary is one I showed in my world history course that is fantastic: Promises. It is about seven Israeli and Palestinian teenagers who meet and become friends, what their lives are like, and how they feel about the conflict. 
Challenges for which this counts:

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday Salon: May 28, 2017

My life in books:
Reading over the past couple of weeks wasn't too bad as I read these books and I've also been reading a couple books for work.

  • Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen--a good YA novel by an award winning author
  • A House without Windows by Nadia Hashimi--set in Afghanistan
  • The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian--a semi-creepy, but good storyline
  • Dive into Inquiry by Trevor McKenzie (a work book)
  • Power Up: making the shift to 1:1 teaching and learning (a work book)
Challenge updates:
  • Read Your Own Damn Books--My goal is to read 25 books from my TBR shelves this year. So far I've read 24, adding 2 in the past two weeks. 
  • Travel the World in Books--The idea is to read books set in as many countries as possible. This week I added Afghanistan, which brings my total to 19 countries.
  • Literary Escapes--Similar to the previous challenge, this one tracks the US states. In the past two weeks I added Connecticut and North Carolina, bringing my total to 15 states.
  • Read all of the ALA YA Award Winners--I finally read another book for this challenge! Now I just have to get ahold of an Alex Award winner.
My life outside books:
We are definitely winding down to the end of the school year. I've spent this month meeting with all the social studies departments in the district to wrap things up.

I finished the crazy all-green puzzle; it felt like quite an accomplishment and my mom was right, it was good to have an activity to keep me amused while they are gone.

My last Sunday Salon fell on Mother's Day and today is my mother's Birthday. She is 6,000 miles away and it feels strange that she, my dad, and my brother are together celebrating and I am so far away. We'll get to talk at least.

I posted a few days ago that I have signed up to do the AVON Walk to Cure Breast Cancer. I am overwhelmed at the thought of fundraising even more than the actual walking! My laziness and eating have been out of control lately, so I hope this walk and training help me get back on track.

  • I was disappointed by the movie, Jackie. I'm not sure why it didn't work for me, it just didn't.
  • The Amazing Race has only one more episode left. My favorite team is out, but I am still excited for the final. 
  • This week I discovered episodes of M*A*S*H on some random channel. I have such great memories of watching that show every week as a family when the show originally ran. It's been fun to watch this week; I think the show holds up pretty well.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Review: Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

Title: Keeping the Moon
Author: Sarah Dessen
Year Published: 1999

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 228
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)USA (NC)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school's library

Summary (from the back of the book): While her mother, aerobics queen Kiki Sparks, spends the summer touring Europe, fifteen-year-old Colie is stuck in sleepy Colby, North Carolina, with her aunt Mira. At first, she's sure it's going to be the worst summer of her life--but she finds herself changing her mind. For one thing, Mira's a sweet, laid-back eccntric; for another, no one in Colby knows that, back home, Colie is seen as a loser--formerly fat, and "easy." And then, by fate or by accident, Colie lands a waitressing job where she meets Morgan and Isabel. The two wisecracking--and wise--twenty something waitresses help her see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along.

Review: A friend was saying that she thinks of Sarah Dessen books as the Jodi Picoults for teenagers (right, Lori?) and I think she's right. I have only read one other Sarah Dessen before and it was a really long time ago. I picked this one up because Sarah Dessen won the Margaret A. Edwards Award for 2016, which goes to a YA author for his/her body of work. I am glad she did as it reminded me of how good and fun her books are.

Colie is like so many of us: unsure of herself and unable to forget the way she has been treated by mean teenagers. It takes moving to live with her aunt for the summer and meeting new people who don't know the (untrue) rumors to teach her that she is worthwhile, interesting, smart, and beautiful. Along the way, Colie learns that who she is is determined by her and not by others. This is a lesson we could all be reminde of more often.

I liked the idea of the small town of Colby, North Carolina with it's beachside attitude, local diner, slow pace, and July 4th bonfires. It sounds like a good place to go for  a getaway.

Challenges for which this counts:

Friday, May 26, 2017

I have officially committed to participating in the AVON 39 Walk to Cure Breast Cancer. I am part of a team with three other women from my work who are all fun, smart, and funny so I hope that will make the training and the walk itself entertaining in addition to meaningful.

I have wanted to do this walk for many years and am proud of and pleased with myself for finally doing it. I know far too many women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and anything I can do to help contribute to research and services for women living with the disease is good.

I will be walking in memory of Alya, who died far too young at age 44. This Alya with my daughter, many years ago. If you have someone you'd like me to add to my "memory list" let me know their name and please consider making a donation to my efforts. Thank you!

The walk takes place this September in Santa Barbara and Carpinteria, CA, with a total of 39 miles over two days. We walk a marathon the first day and a half marathon the second day. We have a three month training schedule and I laughed out loud when I tried to map my training walks when I saw just how far 10, 15, or 22 miles is in my town!

Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Review: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

Title: The Guest Room
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Year Published: 2016

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 314
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2017 Google Reading map)USA (CT, NY), Russia, and Armenia

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the back of the book): When Kristin Chapman agrees to let her husband, Richard, host his brother's bachelor party, she expects a certain amount of debauchery. She takes their young daughter to Manhattan for the evening, leaving her Westchester home to the men and their hired entertainment. What she does not expect is that the entertainment--two scared young women brought there by force--will kill their captors and drive off into the night.

With their house now a crime scene. Kristin and Richard's life spirals into a nightmare. Kristin in unable to forgive her husband for his lapses in judgment or for the moment he shared with a dark-haired girl in the guest room. But for the dark-haired girl, Alexandra, the danger is jut beginning.

Review: Human trafficking is such an important issue and that is what caught my eye about this book. I have also never read a book by Chris Bohjalian and have heard so much about him. And in his acknowledgements he thanks Stephen Kiernan who is the author of a book I read last week! I am such a geek; I love when authors thank other authors whose books I've read.

This book feels important. It's because it is tackling so many difficult subjects all at once: human trafficking; fidelity; friendship; trust; fear; and compassion. That's a lot. And it's done well. I like that we slowly learn Alexandra's history and story as she narrates every other chapter. While reading about how she was kidnapped, treated by her captors, and brought to the States as a sex slave is not easy reading, it is told well and slowly so that the reader really understands how her family was duped, how she really couldn't escape, and how she fears for her life once she "gets out."

And we also see the other side of the story: that of Richard, who attends the bachelor party that triggers the book, and his wife, Kristin, whose life is turned upside down after the party is over. We even see events from their daughter's perspective. Each of them reveals a little more about how we understand the situation, how we react to stress, and it made wonder how I would react. That is the mark of a good book.

Challenges for which this counts: