Tag Archives: memoir

Read: The other Wes Moore: one name, two fates by Wes Moore

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The other Wes Moore: one name, two fates is a fascinating that is part memoir and part biography about two men from Baltimore growing up at the same time with the same name. As the subtitle suggests, their lives diverge and are polar opposites despite their oddly similar beginnings.

The audiobook is read by the author himself, which makes the story even interesting. It is a great way to enjoy the book since Moore does a wonderful job of reading and has great dynamics and intonation. Listening as an audiobook also adds more emotion to the story since there are many difficult times and passages for both men.

Despite having eerily similar family situations and starting environments, each Wes Moore makes decisions early on that set them on different paths but it isn’t until middle/high school that their lives become set. The author could have ended up like the other Wes Moore if his mom hadn’t made drastic changes and stretched their financial resources to ensure that his life was better than hers. He was sent to military school that in fact straightened him out whereas the other Wes Moore didn’t have the same opportunities and his mom struggled to support their family so like his brother he began dealing drugs to make copious amounts of money and couldn’t quit it for good then ended up in prison after a robbery was interrupted. Clearly environment as well as nurture played important roles in shaping both of their lives, for better and worse.

This is another timely book even though it is several years old. In a way, it reminds me somewhat of Between the world and me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and is a good pair to it.

Recommended?: Yes, for anyone who enjoys a memoir and is interested in reading about two very different lives of black men from Baltimore. It is a serious book but there is a lot to learn from it and certainly worth a read.

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Read: Joseph Anton: a memoir by Salman Rushdie

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In a recent episode of the Dinner Party Download podcast, Salman Rushdie confided that he was tired of being asked about the fatwa and that after publishing the memoir, he doesn’t really get any questions about it now. It’s true, the 650+ pages of  Joseph Anton: a memoir by Salman Rushdie cover the minute details of his life, or lack of one, during the height of the fatwa. After reading it, there is certainly nothing more that I need, or want, to know about that time in his life; if anything, it was TMI (too much information) but then again that was the point.

The book spans from Valentine’s Day, 1989 to year 2001 in which attention shifted from the individual focus on Rushdie to worldwide discussions on terrorism. The Guardian has many articles curated about Rushie and the fatwa, including an article from the day after it was made. For the entire course of those 12 years, Rushdie was under the constant watch and protection of the British government and for much of that time was restricted in his travels, even being banned from certain airlines as they feared the unknown of carrying him.

To start off, even though this is a memoir, Rushdie writes about himself in the third person. Initially this seemed very stuffy and self-grandising, however, to remain hidden he did have to take on a persona and was deemed “Joe” by the officers protecting him so he decided on the name Joseph Anton so that he could set up accounts and still conduct business and pay bills while not raising concern. For the most part, once the reader gets used to this point-of-view, it is easy enough to follow although it gets a little confusing at parties or with other scenes in which “he” could apply to another person; Rushdie constantly uses either first or full names for other people so “he” usually refers to himself (Rushdie). Maybe distancing himself from his hidden persona made it easier for him to write about but part of me just wanted Rushdie to use first person for a more intimate read and experience–although I’m not sure how much more intimate it could have been considering how detailed he is in his nearly day by day accounting of the events. For me, it constantly felt like he was writing about someone else and not himself due to the use of third person which wasn’t as satisfying as if he would have used first.

The tone of the memoir is mainly journalistic and factual but there are times, either about particular topics or people, in which Rushdie’s anger is evident but that probably shouldn’t be too surprising after all that he went through for so long. At times, he was discouraged from speaking out or in defense of himself while others continued to criticize his writing and denounce him. This book was his outlet to set the record straight by telling his complete side of the story, finally.

Despite the long-windedness of some of the passages, or the rattlingly off of famous people whom he wined and dined with when he was allowed during this trying years (many of whom helped protect him and champion him), Rushdie’s writing style shines though here and there throughout the book, especially at the end. I think of him as a descriptive writer who is able to capture an essence in a poignant sentence or paragraph, packaging a gem of knowledge in an often wondrous sentiment. It is more pronounced in his works of fiction, obviously, since this focuses on a different sort of narrative and story. He wanted it to be true to his experience, rooted in reality, and he certainly pulled it off.

I have met Mr. Rushdie twice, once in undergrad and once at a library conference. At ALA, I had him sign my paperback copy of The Satanic Verses with a bookmark two-thirds in. He remarked, “People still are reading this.” In Joseph Anton, he discusses at length how difficult it was to get the paperback published, how it took years, so I appreciate my copy much more now knowing its history and struggle that went into printing it.

Recommended?: For those who are fans of Rushdie or anyone curious about his time during the height of the fatwa threat. The last chapter, which covers 2001, becomes more of an essay on the changing of the world at that time and the pivot of the event of 9/11 for everyone. The part that truly impresses me is that Rushdie was able to recover and continue writing his novels even while the threat was still looming. His book Fury was published on September 11, 2001 oddly enough and due to the events that day, came to have more meaning and nostalgia than he had meant for it. I have wanted to read more of Rushdie and I think Fury will be my next of his.  

Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie book cover 

Read: Is everyone hanging out without me? (and other concerns) by Mindy Kaling

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What a fun read! Sure, it’s a beach read, yet Mindy Kaling’s Is everyone hanging out without me? (and other concerns) imparts insights within its humor and vignette-style. I picked up this book in Portland at Powell’s and have eyed it on my shelf for months. A friend said to give in and read it now–great advice.

Mindy covers everything from bullying about weight to leaving a party to the difference between men and boys. Of course, she divulges aboutThe office and her Hollywood lifestyle. I love her sense of humor, the way in which she sets the reader up and delivers.

Due to the vignette-style, the book just scratches the surface of many topics and while some readers might find this off putting, the writing is so heartfelt and contains many apt observations that I didn’t mind the style. In a way, Mindy writes as if she truly is speaking to a friend while out for coffee; in most cases, stories would be short and sweet and other times they’d be longer with more details, like her Matt & Ben section.

However, since it was published a couple of years ago, it doesn’t include anything on The Mindy project, her new show that I adore. My favorite episode of season 1 is the third, no questions asked. Before that, I didn’t know who Mindy was, having not watched more than the first couple episodes of The office. This comment will likely get me in trouble with many. In my defense, let me just say that when it first aired, I didn’t have interest in such a show and I was in college. And now that I worked in an office and have a cube, I’m not interested in watching a show about it–though a know enough to be thankful that my workplace isn’t like that!

Recommend? Yes! Mostly for women but men could learn a few things…Mindy even has a “how to be a cool guy” list. Kidding aside, anyone can relate to most of this book. It’s a fast read and will keep you entertained! Just keep in mind that it’s a fun memoir and not meant to be a lofty government tell-all or something. Grab a drink and catch up with Mindy!

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Read: A door in the ocean by David McGlynn

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David McGlynn’s writing draws the reader close and throughout the memoir sustains this intimate camaraderie, which makes it enjoyable yet hard read at times. His memoir revolves around grief, struggle, and perseverance, focusing on the murder of his friend, his time as an Evangelical Christian, and the comfort he finds in water and swimming. Life, as many of us know, is not easy, but for McGlynn, life dealt him a particularly tough hand.

The murder of McGlynn’s best friend and family during high school creates a ripple throughout his life, a consuming loss that shapes his future and choices as he tries to make sense out of something in which it can’t. He takes up his father and stepmother’s religion with fervor, becoming very active and studious within Evangelicalism. Though already a competitive swimmer, swimming becomes a way of life, of interacting with the world. It not only earns him a full-ride scholarship for college but gives him solace during hard times. Obstacles and doubts pave his path, yet McGlynn presses on, having faith that things will get better, even when it is religion itself that he struggles with.

At the end of his memoir, McGlynn takes a teaching job at a college in Wisconsin as an English and creative writing professor. I was in the first class of students Professor McGlynn taught. During that time, I remember hearing bits and pieces about his life but all of the details in his memoir make me feel like I am truly meeting him for the first time. His writing style is captivating as well as heart-breaking, and yet hopeful as he persists and life progresses, getting better while new worries and hardships crop up.

While the story itself is relatable and accessible, I found several similarities between his life and mine, particularly with the mission trip. Finishing the memoir makes me want to visit Wisconsin and go get a beer with him, to catch up and tell our own stories from the past. Next time I’m in the area…

 

Recommended?: Definitely. Besides the wonderful writing and his storytelling ability, McGlynn peppers his work with insights and commentary on life and people, religion and society. After closing the back cover, my own knowledge and view of the world had grown from these nuggets of truth that he learned through his struggles and successes.

A door in the ocean by David McGlynn