Jessie, a thiry-something New York City girl, editor for a splashy women’s magazine, describes herself not as “happy,” but caustically content with her life–work, parties, and drinking and has a long-time relationship with a guy who at best is a jerk. Assigned to go to Montana to do an article on rodeo, she meets Jake, a twenty-five-year-old bull rider. Jake votes Republican, listens to Garth Brooks, owns guns and is a Christian. Jessie is blindsided by a genuinely lovable, optimistic, old-fashioned gentleman. After a short long-distance courtship, she impulsively ditches Manhattan, and finds herself living in backwoods Virginia, canning, sewing, and raising chickens. After a time, she asks, “is it worth it?” The answer comes among war, Bible clubs and moonshine. Rurally Screwed is a hilarious true-life love story, reminiscent of Macdonald’s The Egg and I. Take a peek at Jessie’s website, www.rurallyscrewed.com with pictures and funny comments on life in the country.
In this extraordinary memoir, Jim Abbott tells the story of his life as a child and of the years before and after becoming a major league pitcher. Not just a biography nor just a baseball story, Imperfect: an Improbable Life is the story of a man’s perseverance and dedication to overcome his physical disability and to gain acceptance for his achievements as a player and a person, not only as a disabled person. Abbott was born without a right hand and was raised by two young parents who provided unconditional love and who taught Jim to regard his disability as an opportunity and a challenge. As a child, Abbott hides his right arm in a pocket, enduring the teasing of other children for being different. He plays baseball and football with neighborhood children and gains acceptance for his abilities on the playing field. Hours of throwing a ball against a wall improve his pitching and his technique to throw then place the ball glove on his left hand for fielding. Abbott eventually plays high school baseball and football, wins an Olympic Gold Medal for baseball, was an All-American player the University of Michigan and is drafted by the California A’s baseball team. The book follows the ups and downs of his baseball career, and chapters about his life alternate with chapters describing each inning of the no-hitter that he pitched while playing for the New York Yankees. Inspiring is Abbott’s humility, and his belief that his example of achievement despite obstacles will inspire children with disabilities to reach for their own dreams. The most touching moments in his story are those before and after each game, when Abbott spent countless hours signing autographs, talking with families of children with disabilities, and answering hundreds of letters from disabled children.
Told with honesty and humor, this is a memoir not only about a career in baseball but of a life that inspires us all to overcome the burdens and challenges of living.
“But one thing is for certain – our need for love, our need for each other does not change. And that’s the painful truth, the raw beauty of being human. We hurt, we love, we endure, we continue – and on any given moment of any given day – we rejoice. Praying for Strangers has allowed me those moments of rejoicing in being human.” So says the author River Jordan one year after the debut of her second book, Praying for Strangers: An Adventure of the Human Spirit.
I appreciated this book for the motivation instilled in me to think more of my fellow people each day. I may not take the challenge of praying everyday for a stranger as River did, but I have been more cognizant of my interactions with those around me. River chose to begin this resolution one New Year’s when she had much on her own plate that needed prayer. She selfishly could have focused on her own needs such as her two sons being deployed, one to Afghanistan and one to Iraq. Instead River began praying every day for someone she crossed paths with and then telling them she would be doing this. Many times she approached them with, “Would you mind telling me your name? I have this daily resolution to pray for a stranger and you are my person today” The reactions and responses she received were nearly always of gratitude and love. The short converstaions that followed were such a boost to her spirit that River was encouraged to continue all year. Many shared particular prayer needs and their short interactions became sweet memories and wishes to see them again. We go through life depersonalizing those around us by never acknowedging their existence. The clerk at Wal-mart checking us out could be a robot for all the human interaction we have with them. River Jordan’s book helped me to realize the worth of each person and the hope we can give those around us just by sharing a smile, a few words and a prayer. Praying for Stangers is one book that won’t be read and forgotten.
Jewish American Michael Levy recounts his time spent in Guiyang, China teaching ESL as a Peace Corp volunteer in Kosher Chinese. This is a humorous, yet often touching memoir of the many cultural differences between America and the “other billion” Chinese (those that live far from Beijing or Shanghai that are not usually portrayed in the media). Surprisingly, Levy’s Jewish status is advantageous in forming relationships with the students he teaches at Guizhou University, like when faculty members inform him that he will be leading the Guizhou University Jewish Friday Night English and Cooking Corner Club. There were many scenes in the book where I was laughing out loud, such as Michael’s first experience using a squat “toilet,” spontaneously joining in with strangers singing John Denver tunes, a neighbor who sings Chinese opera at 6:30 every single morning, and the highly inappropriate English names some Chinese students adopted in his classes. In between these humorous anecdotes, Levy is able to convey the culture of western China where many feel they are caught in between the socialism of Mao and capitalism, and between traditional Chinese culture and Western society. No where is this portrayed more fittingly in the book than a description of a park in Guiyang with a gigantic statue of Mao just steps away from a Wal Mart. This is a quick, fun read particularly for those interested in other cultures and what those cultures think of Americans.
This simply but beautifully illustrated graphic novel tells the story of Marzi, a young girl coming of age behind the Iron Curtain. Marzena Sowa was born in 1979 in Stalowa Wola, Poland. The majority of this graphic novel, written as a series of vignettes, takes place in the years leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Ms. Sowa manages to demonstrate both the uncertainty of the time and the joys and wonder any child can find in the world. She and her friends often act out the visit the Pope made to Poland. She talks about her anxiety when her father is away from home for days at a time when he and his fellow factory workers go on strike. She also describes carefree summer days visiting her grandmother and playing with her cousins in the country. Presenting this story as a series of vignettes is very powerful. These snippets of a childhood spent in a country with stores filled with empty shelves and celebrations where people only show up and cheer because that’s what’s expected provide a unique perspective of a country that was shrouded in secrecy for decades.
>My first encounter with Betty White was on the Password Game Show with Allen Ludden, back in the early 1960’s. Just recently I came across a DVD of Betty White in Life With Elizabeth, which was done in the mid 1950’s. I missed Betty’s special Saturday Night Live performance back in May 2010, but I’m sure that was delightful, too. Betty’s sense of humor that I saw in Password and Life with Elizabeth, still shines through in her book, If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t). If you are or have been a fan of Betty White, at anytime in her career, you are going to want to read her latest book. It is a delightful quick read. But be forewarned; when you pick up this book, be prepared to finish it before setting it back down.
> In 2005, Sean Aiken graduated from college. He spent the next year and a half traveling and avoiding making a decision about finding a job. In 2007, he decided it was time to find a job about which he could be passionate, so he started The One-Week Job Project. He built a website, sent an email to all his friends and family then started taking jobs that lasted for one week doing a wide variety of things for an entire year (his first job was as a jump master for bungee jumpers). He didn’t ask for any wages, just that whoever employed him for the week donate some money to a campaign called ONE that fights extreme poverty.
Aiken garnered media attention and started doing guest spots on radio programs and being featured in segments on local television stations. He landed a sponsor who donated $1000 a month to help with travel expenses after week 5. The job offers rolled in and over the course of the year, Aiken tried jobs ranging from florist to computer-software sales to aquarium host, preschool teacher, and finally mayor of his home town.
It was interesting to read about the variety of jobs Aiken tried. His journey led to a number of discoveries about himself and a wide variety of insights from the people who employed him along the way (most of the people who offered him jobs were individuals who love what they do).
As one of Aiken’s employers pointed out, the project gained as much attention as it did because so many people settle for careers they don’t love. It was refreshing to read about someone with the drive (and willingness to live with uncertainty) to find his passion.
Aiken’s website is still up and can be viewed at http://www.oneweekjob.com/.
Slavery still exists today and needs to be stamped out
April is the anniversary month for several significant events in the history of space travel. On April 12, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space and the first man to orbit the earth. On April 13, 1970, Commander Jim Lovell uttered the words “Houston, we’ve got a problem”, which led to a frantic search by NASA engineers to solve the problems resulting from an oxygen tank explosion on the spacecraft Apollo 13. The accident, the harrowing hours afterwards and the tense planning to bring the astronauts back to earth are related in Lovell’s book Lost Moon: the perilous voyage of Apollo 13. In our audiovisual collection, Manhattan Public Library also owns the DVD of the award-winning film based on Lovell’s book, titled Apollo 13. April 12 is also the anniversary date of the first flight of a space shuttle, Columbia, in 1981, and the first flight of a U.S. Senator, Jake Garn, in 1985. The Hubble Space Telescope was deployed on April 25, 1990.
If you’re looking for clear, concise explanations of many aspects of space–astronautics, planets, telescopes, discoveries, etc.–you might try the National Geographic Encyclopedia of Space.
Coincidentally, April is also the anniversary (April 15, 1950) of the television program “Buck Rogers”!