Thanks for joining me on this journey. Besides Brené Brown’s life-changing books, I’ve also been reading Kristin Neff’s Self-Compassion. As I wrote in my last post, shame is a debilitating force. The only way to begin to combat it is with Self-Compassion. Dr. Neff’s website says, “With self-compassion, we give ourselves the same kindness and care we’d give to a good friend.” I realize this sounds New Age-y and weird—but it’s working for me, and maybe it’ll work for you.Continue Reading
I shared in my last post that I’ve been particularly inspired lately by the work of Brené Brown. Brené is a Texan story-teller and shame researcher, whose TED Talks on vulnerability and shame have struck a nerve with thousands, including myself. Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection were a balm to my soul, and I’ve already recommended them to several people.
Brené often shares people’s reactions when she tells them she’s a shame researcher: horrified, embarrassed (for Brené), confused, etc. People don’t like to talk about shame. In fact, Brené has discovered that shame is one of the most silent, covered-up epidemics of the day. Shame thrives in our society because the weight of it causes us to keep it secret. It robs us of the very qualities we need in order to overcome it: courage, compassion, and connection.Continue Reading
If you haven’t noticed (which is perfectly fine), I’ve been taking a break from blogging for the past eight months. It wasn’t intentional; OLL was one of the casualties from the chaos in my personal life.
You may have tons of questions about that—and if you do, then I have to first say thank you for caring. Unfortunately, I’m still unpacking the answers myself and I’m sure in my confusion I’ve given well-meaning people scattered, contradictory, and incoherent answers. I apologize, and I won’t try to answer them here because this is neither the time nor the place.Continue Reading
I finally did it. I gave in, gave up, saw the light, had an epiphany, was told by an angel, was coerced…and started a Tumblr. “What is the point of a Tumblr?” you might ask—as I did for so long. For me, it’s kind of a halfway point between full-on blog and social network. I would feel weird posting just a quote or just a picture on One Little Library. And I would feel weird posting a full length book review on Facebook. Those actions break the unspoken rules of those social media sites. But on Tumblr, I can do both and either quite happily. I can repost/reblog others’ content without feeling like I’m using someone else’s content to populate my site. (To this day, I have only reblogged one post ever.) I can post just a quote from the book I’m reading without launching into a whole review. And I can post pictures of my cat without feeling like One Little Library is Losing Its Focus.
And now that I’m on Tumblr, I love it! Seriously. It is so much fun. As a book lover, there are just so many great ways to indulge in my favorite thing in the whole wide world: books. There’s Book Porn and Date A Girl Who Reads. Maybe I’m having a bad day at work, and I can take a look at Life in Publishing and know I’m not alone. Maybe my authors are being ridiculously author-ish and Hey, Author says everything I wish I could say. Because I work in education publishing, I sometimes wonder what it’d be like to be a teacher, and then I read Sh*t My Students Write. Say I’m snuggling with my kitty while trying to blog. Well, so are many famous authors. When I’m in the mood for just a small dose of Dostoevsky, there he is. Lots of living authors have Tumblrs too, like Rainbow Rowell, John Green, and Neil Gaiman.
My Tumblr has another pretty epic feature. If you’re reading along with the Literary Wives series but you don’t have a blog—or if you do have a blog and you just want to do this anyway—you can submit a review of your own and I can post it on my Tumblr! It doesn’t even have to be a full-length review; it could be a quote, a video, a pretty picture, or one sentence—however you’d like to comment on the book and participate in the conversation. Cool, right? Right.
So basically Tumblr is awesome and we should all Tumbl together.
Happy New Year!
Hopefully by now you’re recovered from New Year’s Eve festivities and enjoying the Rose Parade. We live a mere five minutes from the parade route, so yesterday I got a sneak peak at the floats as I was driving home:
This year, I want cross some bookish resolutions off my list, and I want to revolt against some of the bad habits I’ve developed. 2014 will be different. So here are my resolutions and revolutions for the new year:
Spread the love of reading by participating in World Book Night on April 23, 2014.
If you’re not familiar with WBN, basically: you can volunteer to give a book of your choice to people FOR FREE. The goal is to encourage people to read by giving them a great book. This year, one of the books is The Zookeeper’s Wife, which is the Literary Wives pick for April, so I (and possibly some other Literary Wives bloggers) will be handing out The Zookeeper’s Wife. Good news! You can do it too! Sign up here.
Re-read as many books as I want.
I have a very long TBRR list. It’s time to get cracking.
Hold a book swap party.
I will not participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge.
Like my friend Cecilia wrote about, I’ve been trapped by the Goodreads Reading Challenge. It’s a great idea, but I’ve found myself choosing shorter, lighter, “easier” reads rather than challenging myself with more complex texts, just to reach my totally arbitrary goal. There’s nothing wrong with light reads—there are times when a good YA is exactly what I need. But I don’t want to stop pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. I don’t want to stop engaging with classics and really complex texts.
I will re-read as many books as I want… and not feel guilty about neglecting the stack of unread books.
This ties into my first revolution. The way Goodreads works, if you re-read a book, it still only counts as one read on Goodreads. Not fair. And it’s kept me from re-reading some wonderful books. (I know this is a pretty childish complaint against Goodreads, but hey, that’s why I’m revolting.)
I will buy books only from independent bookstores.
It’s time to put my money where my mouth is. Like everyone else, I love a good deal and a sale. I LOVE free, two-day shipping from Amazon. But I know indies have good sales, too. Never have I ever not found what I wanted for a good price at Powell’s in Portland, OR. Though I don’t live there anymore, I can still shop online, and I can be patient for the delivery. I hate seeing and hearing about indies closing. And I don’t want to be part of the problem.
What are your plans for the year?
This quote has been on my mind the past few days. I’m currently re-reading The Dovekeepers, and it’s books like this that always remind me of why I love reading so much. When I’m done, I’ll post another review with more discussion about some of the themes in the book. But for now, let’s just talk about how amazing books are.
This is why I’m thankful for books:
1. A book can change everything.
It’s the motto of this blog because I really believe that. Just take a look at this list of 50 books that changed the world. Remember how Uncle Tom’s Cabin changed the heart of a nation? Or how Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary ensured that English speakers would have a common way of communicating? Some books are so threatening or dangerous, that people ban them or burn them.
2. A book can teach me something new.
I would say almost every book I read teaches me something new. That’s one of the many reasons I do it. I love learning. When I read The Paris Wife, I learned more about Ernest and Hadley Hemingway than I knew before. Reading American Wife taught me about some important events in Laura Bush’s life. I had never even heard of Charles Lindbergh before I read The Aviator’s Wife. And I didn’t know anything about Moby Dick before reading Ahab’s Wife. The Literary Wives series has been an education in itself!
3. A book can help me empathize.
Probably the most important thing books can teach is empathy. When you read a book, you choose to see the world through someone else’s eyes for a while, and that’s a powerful experience. Sometimes, looking at someone else’s situation—even if that someone is a fictional character—can help you see into your own. Adam Bede taught me a lesson about beauty. Crime and Punishment helped me see how common the desire for greatness is. Whether I’m empathizing with villains or heros, that fellow-feeling is something I always treasure while reading.
4. A book can be a friend.
I realize I’ve never actually written a review about Jane Eyre, even though I talk about it all the time. (I’ll have to fix that soon!) But you can read my About page. That book has been a friend to me. And I’m discovering in The Dovekeepers another good friend. The Dovekeepers might be a runner-up, or even a contemporary favorite!
5. A book can bring people together.
Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had have revolved around books. When I was lonely in Portland, I felt happy and alive in my book club. One of my best friends, Amanda, and I met because of a book. As a freshman in college, I got to my Exodus-Deuteronomy class early and was reading Gone With the Wind. When Amanda came in and saw me reading, she started conversation, telling me that GWTW was her favorite book. And we’ve been best friends ever since! And then there’s the Literary Wives series. Each one of those bloggers has become a friend to me, and I’m so very thankful to have them in my life.
Head over to The Junia Project today to see a few more things I’m thankful for.
Happy thanksgiving, everyone. What are you thankful for?
I should clarify: Today is not my birthday.
When I was a freshman in college, my school held a huge “Love Africa” fundraiser. They set up little huts and shanties right outside our dorm, so that we could see what kinds of conditions many people in Africa were living in. We walked through the huts listening to an audio guide, like a tour in a museum. But this was a grizzly, heartbreaking tour. The narration was punctuated with gunshots and screams. We heard stories of girls raped, boys forced to shoot their families, parents dying of AIDS. At the end of the tour, we were prompted to help in some way.
Was it a little heavy-handed? Definitely. Will I ever forget it? No.
So, of course, I decided to sponsor a child. Having grown up with only sisters, I’ve always wanted a daughter. So I picked a cute little Ethiopian girl’s face from the sea of pictures on the table. I signed my name up, and I waited to receive a packet in the mail with more instructions. But when I received the packet, there had been a mistake. Somehow, I had been given a boy about nine years old in Malawi. I was so confused. I panicked; I already felt attached to that little girl and I wanted to support her, so I called World Vision. They said that girl had already been chosen to be sponsored by someone else, and would I please consider sponsoring this boy?
And I said yes. Absolutely. And I am SO glad I did.
Now my husband and I both support him, and I try to send him letters a few times a year with pictures and updates on our lives.
Two months ago, my husband and I celebrated our birthday. Yep, that’s right. We have the SAME birthday. Because it was his 25th, I threw him a big, football-themed party. A few days later, I wrote our sponsored child a letter telling him about my new job and our birthdays and asking him about school (English is his favorite!). I received his letter back last week:
I read it that first night and came across “I am happy to get to know that you reached 24 years of age when you were writing me your letter.” And I thought, “Huh. That’s kind of strange.” I mean, birthdays are cool and all, but 24 isn’t that big of a deal. Sure, I’m happy to be here, too. I stuck the letter on the fridge and forgot about it.
And then tonight as I was making dinner, I looked at that letter again, and it hit me.
Maybe it is a big deal to be 24. Maybe not everyone gets to be 24. Maybe for some people, where every day means hunger and war and disease, reaching 24 is a luxury.
So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I just wanted to say that I’m thankful to be where I am, to live in a safe country, to have family and friends who love me, and to have reached 24 years of age.
I met Octavia Spencer. Just sayin’.
She wrote a pretty cool book called The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit. And you know it’s going to be a good week when a trip to Mrs. Nelson’s to meet Octavia Spencer (who is awesome, btw) results in not only meeting Octavia but also getting:
So I’m pretty excited about this week. And it happens to be the week of Halloween.
I don’t usually embrace the Halloween spirit. But this year, I’m feeling festive. So last week Andrew and I did the SoCal version of a trip to the pumpkin patch—i.e. the patch was so crowded and it was a blazing ninety degrees, so we ran in, grabbed two pumpkins, and ran back out. The scarf is for show.
Today, we started decorating. Using many things I found in the apartment (paper, tape, pencils, scissors) and just two plastic tablecloths from Party City, I made a minion door for a whopping total of $4.00.
What do you have planned this week?
Well, here we are! The fourth installment of the Literary Wives series. We’ve glimpsed the life of First Lady Laura Bush in American Wife, struggled with Hadley Hemingway in her one-sided marriage to Ernest in The Paris Wife, and we’ve seen two selfish criminals fall in love in A Reliable Wife. Angela, Emily, Audra, and I have had a delightful time reading these books and chatting about them with you. …But don’t worry! The series will continue. Stay tuned for more details soon!
I’m happy to say that this was by far the most enjoyable wife book we’ve read, even if the marriage itself was just as sad as those in the other books. Once again, we got to imagine what it must have been like to be married to a famous man: in this case, Charles Lindbergh, the famous aviator who was the first person to make a solo flight across the Atlantic, in the famous plane The Spirit of St. Louis.
The book reminds me much of American Wife, in the breadth and depth it covers. We meet Anne Morrow when she has just graduated from Smith. She doesn’t know what she will do with herself; she lacks the purpose that her siblings and friends seem to have. Until she meets Charles Lindbergh—the celebrity that every teenage girl is in love with. But he asks Anne to go up in a plane with him, and she never comes down.
It’s a story about flying just as much as it is about Charles, and I think that’s what I enjoyed most about it. Marriage is at once the part of her life giving and denying her freedom. He marries her because he needs a partner, someone to be his “crew.” He teaches her everything he knows about flying, literally and metaphorically. She learns to love flying, and that itself is freedom.
1. What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife?
Charles Lindbergh is looking for someone very specific in a wife: someone smart, who can learn navigation and flying, who has talent but won’t compete with him, and who doesn’t get sick in an airplane. Anne fits the bill. She has dreams of becoming a writer, but she quickly learns after their marriage that her dreams need to be sacrificed to his already-established life of flying. On their honeymoon, a time supposed to be filled with romance, he immediately starts teaching her to fly, and callously expects her to have dinner on his table, even though, as the daughter of a diplomat, she’s never cooked a day in her life. But she learns to cook, as she learns to fly.
He puts her through the most ridiculous tests to see how obedient, how docile she can be: making her fly solo, shooting her off the side of a mountain, making her navigate by the stars. “He led, I followed, and that meant I had to keep up with him,” she says.
The way Charles treats her is paradoxical. He very clearly establishes his control, but he also gives her more freedom than most other women—especially wives—had at that time. Among his friends, who felt he shouldn’t take his wife up in the air with him, he is quick to defend her ability as just as good as any male pilot’s. Though he is more sought-after to write, he always asks for her input and humbly accepts her edits to his writing. He often tells her that he doesn’t want her to get caught up in domestic duties, that she is too good to spend her days cleaning sinks and looking after children.
But these turn out to just be words. He is a micro-manager to the nth degree, controlling every aspect of his family’s life even though he is rarely home. After their first baby, Charles Jr., is kidnapped and murdered, and after being criticized as a Nazi-sympathizer during WWII, Charles tries to steer his life the way he steers his plane: by charting, planning, making lists, and above all—disregarding his emotions. He continues to use Anne: first to fly, then to have as many children as possible, then to help him write. She is always hopeful that her obedience to him will make him love her more. But it doesn’t.
2. In what way does this woman define “wife”—or in what way is she defined by “wife”?
On the surface, Anne allows herself to be defined by Charles’s definition of “wife.” Her biggest rebellion was that she had an affair—but what good is that rebellion if he never knew about it? It may have made her feel better, but it didn’t actually free her from his control. In my opinion, the better rebellions were the smaller ones, the ones he did see, the ones that proved to him that she was just as strong as he was.
Charles is forever heartbroken by the death of his baby, and nothing is able to heal that wound in his life. In fact, it is Anne who emerges stronger. She allows herself to grieve—even though he forbids it—and is able to heal. He never does.
Charles pushes Anne to write, believes in her potential, and finally she does; Gift From the Sea is her letter to other women, urging them to follow their dreams and live for themselves. She begins to do so herself, renting an apartment in the city where she became known in literary circles as a writer in her own right. Charles always insisted on the importance of being detached, and she learned the lesson from him well: “Finally, I was strong. I was able. Able to separate my life from his; able to separate myself, from him. Like all surgical procedures, it would not be without pain and regret.”
It’s not until Charles dies, though, that Anne is truly able to be free. “Charles taught me how to be alone, long before I ever wanted to be. But now, I do. Now, I’m ready. …I will fly, alone. Wearing my own pair of goggles, my view of the world just as unique, just as wonderful, as his was, but different. Mine. Alone.”
Once again, in this book I found the main struggle to be between freedom alone or oppression together. It makes me incredibly sad. I don’t want to be alone, yet I don’t want to be constrained and imprisoned either. In the books we’ve read, wives seem to only exist in one or the other. But I hope, in the books to come, that we find some different marriages that provide more hope for “real life.”
What did you think about The Aviator’s Wife? What do you think about the struggle between “freedom alone” and “oppression together”?
If you’ve never read the full text of “The Declaration of Sentiments,” I highly encourage you to do so. It holds some of the most powerful words I’ve ever read.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton lists many of the grievances committed against women in the United States:
- Withholding the right to vote
- Holding her accountable to a law she did not agree to
- Withholding rights given to even the most despicable men
- Taking away her voice
- Giving everything she owns to her husband
- Withholding the right to earn money
- Giving such power to her husband that he has ultimate authority over her
- Disallowing her to file for divorce
- In the event of divorce, disregarding her wishes or the children’s best interests
- Taxing her to support a government that doesn’t support her
- Withholding from her most forms of employment, and especially those of a highly regarded nature
- Refusing her access to higher education
- Refusing to acknowledge and support her spiritual giftings in the church
- Upholding a double standard against her
- Assuming the ability to decide what her dreams, abilities, and accomplishments might be
- “He has endeavored, in every way that he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.”
That last is the most powerful one to me. It’s heartening, and it’s sad, to look at this list. I see how far we’ve come, and I’m so glad. But I see many women who are still so hopeless, so dejected, so resigned to allowing others to define their lives. I see women who allow a magazine or a TV show or a celebrity to tell her she’s not good enough. I see women who compete with each other, for unclear reasons. I see women who think their gifts are not good enough for the God who gave them to her.
Believe it or not, I’ve actually had people say to me, “Why do you care so much about women? What’s the big deal? You have the right to vote…” I would laugh if it weren’t so common to meet people with this opinion. Clearly, the work is not done.
The women of the Seneca Falls Convention are my heroines. They fought boldly for what they knew was right. But the work is not done. We still need to fight for the girls being aborted in China and India. We still need to fight for the victims of sexual violence in war zones. We still need to fight for the victims of rape and abuse. We still need to fight for the girls who are picked on and bullied. We still need to fight for the girls who aren’t allowed an education. We still need to fight for the girls who are told, “Well, you shouldn’t have worn that skirt.” We still need to fight for the women who are told, “God doesn’t want you to lead.”
To that end, I want to introduce you to some women who are my IRL (in real life) heroines. They started The Junia Project, an organization dedicated to inspiring women to love God and embrace the gifts and roles He has given her. I have the honor of being part of this wonderful group of women, and I want you to be part of it, too.
*You don’t have to be a woman. Men, know that every woman you love is affected by the grievances listed above. Fight for her.
There’s so much work to do, but this is a good place to start.