It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 6/10/19

It’s really a miracle that Pete Fromm survived the winter he accepted a job to maintain a salmon breeding pool way off the grid in Idaho. His job takes 0-15 minutes each day (once it’s freezing, he has to clear away ice, and once the salmon hatch, he has to check on them and count them), which leaves him with a lot of time to try to survive in the wilderness. The whole idea is pretty bone-headed to begin with, because Fromm has virtually no wilderness skills whatsoever, beyond a fascination with “mountain man” literature and a desire to fancy himself a modern-day mountain man. Part of the humor of the story is the double perspective Fromm brings to it—capturing his wide-eyed enthusiastic naïve 20-yr old self while also reflecting on his youthful stupidity with the rolling eyes and shaking head of the older, wiser version of himself. The story is engaging and the nature writing often really beautiful.

I can’t wait to booktalk this collection of comics and share with my students. Huda Fahmy is really, really funny as she tackles the anti-Muslim microaggressions and bias she encounters seemingly every time she leaves her house. I laughed out loud so many times reading this book and yet it’s got serious issues at its core. Although Huda is a married grown-up, I still think this book would have huge appeal to high school readers. Highly recommended.

I am not sure this is a memoir that anyone over the age of, say, 32 can read with sustained enjoyment. The work part is wonderful. Dorey-Stein responds to a Craigslist job ad and, much to her surprise, ends up employed as a White House stenographer, often traveling with the President and preparing transcripts of interviews, meetings, and speeches. But not as much of this book actually focuses on work as I would have liked. I ended up skimming long chunks that wallowed in her messy personal life—her on-again, off-again relationship with her boyfriend, her obsession and also on-again, off-again relationship with a cute and super toxic guy at work, late nights out getting drunk, mornings waking up with regret. Much of this book reads like a gushy junior high diary, only the author is in her late 20s and the content is R-rated. That might actually be the appeal to some readers: Look, the White House is like a college dorm! But there was a lack of self-awareness and self-esteem that I found hard to take as a reader.

This is a well-written and occasionally harrowing memoir about…. Well, it’s a little hard to describe. The reviews I read tended to focus on the miscarriage/premature birth scene, but this book is about so much: identity, gender, work, writing, marriage, trust, fidelity, being parented, parenting, feminism. Levy tries to answer the question of how she lost her baby and her spouse, but the answers to those questions are rooted in her childhood, her work, her friendships, her understanding of feminism, every aspect of her life. I understand the criticisms of this book and agree that it’s full of largely unexamined privilege. The author’s decisions in her personal life are not always (or even usually) likeable. But the book packs an undeniable punch.

Oh, this book. You might not think you need a book about Obama’s mail room, but trust me, you do. Obama read ten letters a day during his Presidency and had a large staff who handled the mail, responded to every letter, and handpicked ten letters that told the daily story of America and its citizens. Some of the letters are funny, many are deeply personal and painful to read, others level harsh criticism at the President and his policies. President Obama thoughtfully considered each one and wrote hand-written responses to many. Jeanne Laskas takes us into the inner workings of the mail room, profiling its staff as well as a selection of the citizens who wrote those letters. It’s a surprisingly riveting and moving story.





17 responses to “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 6/10/19”

  1. Beth Shaum (@BethShaum) Avatar

    Yes, I’m Hot in This looks so intriguing, and yes, I definitely DO need to read a book about Obama’s mail room.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I even miss Obama’s mail room! I don’t know why I’m reading all of these Obama books right now. They’re making me so sad!

  2. lindabaie Avatar

    I am intrigued by Indian Creek Chronicles since Winter by Rick Bass is a favorite book. I love nature writing! I’ll look for the Obama book, too, Elisabeth, a new title to me! Thanks!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I really enjoy nature writing too. I realized I have bought a lot of nature writing over the years and haven’t read that much of it, so I’m trying to do a little shop from my shelves reading. The Obama book is so good!

  3. Shaye Miller Avatar

    I can’t wait to read Yes, I’m Hot in This! Even the title is hilarious. And I’m definitely adding To, Obama to my list. So far, it’s not at any of the three libraries I have access to, but maybe we can get one to purchase it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I actually own To Obama so you can borrow it! And you can borrow Yes I’m Hot in This too!

      1. Shaye Miller Avatar

        YES! Please bring them the next time you’re in town! Thanks, Elisabeth!

  4. Amanda Potts Avatar

    I can’t wait to read Yes, I’m Hot in This – just put it on hold – but the memoirs both look too harrowing for the end of the school year. That said, I’ve put To Obama on my “to read” list. Thanks for the great recommendations.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Let me know if you enjoy Yes I’m Hot in This. To Obama is well worth it when you can. Parts of it are hard, but overall it’s more uplifting and hopeful.

  5. ejmam Avatar

    That’s a bit list of memoirs that cover a huge range of tones.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      My reading has been all over the place!

  6. Kellee Avatar

    I think I need all of these. Wow! The Obama book looks like a good one for my Kindle when I have a short time to read.
    Happy reading this week 🙂

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      To Obama was so good! I am still thinking about it.

  7. cweichel Avatar

    That’s some reading week you’ve got here! Indian Creek Chronicles looks good. I won’t be touching From the Corner of the Oval with a ten foot pole.
    Apparently I have you to thank for introducing me to The Thief. I am loving the series so far and can hardly wait to get my hands on The Queen of Attolia which is presently in transit fo my library. You are also responsible for getting me hooked on Martha Wells. Thank you so very much!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Wait til you get to The King of Attolia! Sooooo good. I was distressed at first that there was a new character and different narrator, but then I just fell in love with that character and the whole storyline. So glad you’re enjoying it. Yes, please avoid From the Corner of the Oval. So tiresome.

  8. Myra Garces-Bacsal Avatar

    Huda Fahmy is a new-to-me graphic novelist, I shall be on the lookout for this memoir – my kind of read. To Obama sounds heartfelt – thanks for sharing. Have a great reading week!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Yes I’m Hot in This is really funny–well worth finding.

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