On the blog:
- Some thoughts on building a writing community
My favorite read of the week was Martha Wells’s slim sci-fi novel, Artificial Condition, the second in a projected series of four novels about a rogue AI who calls itself Murderbot. I don’t think this is a good stand-alone, but once you read the first novel in the series, All Systems Red, you’ll probably be hooked and want to read this one. I really admire what Wells does in these novels–they’re so fast-paced and action-packed that at first glance, they would seem to be all plot, and yet character development and world-building are equally well done. It’s hard not to fall in love with the incredibly endearing AIs at the heart of these books or wish for many more stories set in this complex and rich world.
Terese Marie Mailhot’s memoir, Heart Berries, packs a punch. It’s the length of an afternoon read, but I couldn’t read it in an afternoon. It’s simply too painful to read. It’s a memoir about intergenerational trauma (Mailhot is a First Nations writer from Canada) that feels so immediate and unfiltered and yet it’s so artful and crafted. As a reader, I would have liked less of the man (much of the memoir is written as a letter to the man she’s in a relationship with, written from a mental institution she checked herself into) and more of, well, just about everything else. Mailhot is fiercely intelligent, incisive, direct, and painfully self-critical. What the rest of us may think to ourselves and keep inside, she writes about. It’s a necessary book, I think, and one that is likely to resonate with many readers.
Dogtown is a book based on the National Geographic TV documentary series set at the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. Each chapter profiles a different dog, and while the stories aren’t always easy to read, they do have happy endings. There are black and white photos of each dog. Could be a good title to include in a high school classroom library if you have students who are interested in animal rescue. There are also brief profiles of many of the humans who work at Dogtown, including some of the trainers who share how they work with the dogs.
Another phenomenal graphic novel from Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault. Gorgeous art, gorgeous writing, and a thoughtful story, sad but still hopeful, of a boy whose father is an alcoholic and how this has broken his family.
My son and I just finished Pete Hautman’s Slider as our read-aloud, and it’s fun AND manages to deal with some weightier thematic material. David is obsessed with competitive eaters and accidentally overbids–WAY overbids–for a hot dog that was infamously only half-eaten by one of his heroes in an eating contest. He meant to charge $20.00 to his mother’s credit card, but ended up charging $2000.00, and the only way he can see out of trouble is to enter and win an eating contest himself. My son was very engaged by the competitive eating plot but also very interested in David’s relationship with his younger brother, Mal, who has autism. The family dynamics were interesting, though it seemed unrealistic to me that a family wouldn’t pursue some kind of therapeutic help or supports for a child with autism. Thank goodness David has a clue and can think to get the poor overwhelmed Mal some headphones and sunglasses to reduce sensory stimulation.