Tag Archives: Fiction

Why Jodi Picoult Deserves Praise From The Special Needs Community.

9 Feb

One of my favorite authors is Jodi Picoult. I’ve read all of her novels, and I saw her speak in March of 2010 regarding the release of House Rules (and it was by far one of the best nights of my life so far). However, I love Jodi Picoult for more reasons than she’s a great author (I quote her books more than any other author), every one of her books has taught me something, and the fact that she addresses touchy subjects. I also love her because she responds to emails from her fans. She’s said in numerous interviews that she’s the one responding, rather than one of her assistants.

In Jodi’s 2009 novel, Handle With Care, the main character, Willow O’Keefe, has OI, or osteogenesis imperfecta (a genetic disorder characterized by brittle bones that break easily). Even though Jodi discussed a disability that is very different from Cerebral Palsy, I still felt like I was able to relate to much of what Jodi discussed in Handle With Care about what it means to be different and what it’s like to feel so much physical pain on a daily basis. It was a special moment when I realized that my all-time favorite author was writing about certain feelings that I have experienced on a daily basis: the desire to find a place I belong in a society that’s not fully accepting to those who are “different.”

In March of 2009, I wrote the following email to Jodi:

Dear Jodi,

I just recently read the synopsis of your new book, Handle With Care,
and I am very excited to begin it! However, as I was reading your
conversation about Handle with Care that is featured our your website,
something caught my eye. Even though I don’t have OI, I have another
disability, Cerebral Palsy, which has affected my life since I was
young. Personally, I just want to let you know how deeply you touch my
heart with each of your books. You do a wonderful job of portraying
how it truly is for those of us who are different. I can sympathize with the kids you
interviewed that have OI. Even though it may be extremely
rough for them, they are just like any normal kid, and nothing warms
their heart more than when they are actually treated like one.
I am extremely thankful if you actually took the time to read this.
You and your books have made a significant impact on my life. I hope
to one day meet you and let you know face to face how much you have
truly helped me.
Thanks again,
-Amelia

This was her response:

Amelia, kids like you are MY heroes.  I hope you like the book and hope it rings true!
Jodi Picoult

So far, Jodi has discussed disabilities such as OI and Asperger’s (House Rules), and I applaud her for interviewing kids who are faced with the disabilities she has covered because those of us who have lived through the experiences our disability presents are the only people who know what it’s really like. Therefore, Jodi Picoult deserves a crazy about of praise and support from the special needs community for giving a voice to the issues that may have not had much prior awareness or increasing the level of awareness to a more diverse population. Though I still silently hope that one day Jodi will write a novel that has a character with Cerebral Palsy in it, I already have gained so much from the fact that she has written about many of the emotions I feel on a daily basis in regards to my disability.

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The end of the world from a fiction perspective.

19 Dec

I just finished reading Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver, and the basic focus of the novel, the concept of climate change, connects well with the possible end of the world on Friday, according to the Mayans. Here is the synopsis of the novel, according to GoodReads.com:

“Flight Behavior” transfixes from its opening scene, when a young woman’s narrow experience of life is thrown wide with the force of a raging fire. In the lyrical language of her native Appalachia, Barbara Kingsolver bares the rich, tarnished humanity of her novel’s inhabitants and unearths the modern complexities of rural existence. Characters and reader alike are quickly carried beyond familiar territory here, into the unsettled ground of science, faith, and everyday truces between reason and conviction.

Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen. Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man. As she hikes up a mountain road behind her house to a secret tryst, she encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders, and the media. The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town, and a larger world, in a flight toward truth that could undo all she has ever believed.

“Flight Behavior” takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time: climate change. With a deft and versatile empathy Kingsolver dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world.

Though Flight Behavior wasn’t one of my favorites by Kingsolver and I often felt like I was trudging through most of the novel, it did provide a fictional account of climate change as well as the possible end of the world. Personally, I do not believe the world is going to end on Friday. I know there are many people who either strongly believe the world will end on Friday, strongly don’t or are simply torn on the subject. In my personal opinion, I just don’t feel there is enough concrete evidence to support the end of the world. Yes, people have tried making connections by stretching the importance of certain events, but in my opinion, all of the sporadic events possibly connected to the prospect of the world ending on Friday just don’t add up to a solid reason.

Despite not believing the world is going to end on Friday, Flight Behavior got me thinking about what I would do if I knew the world was going to end within a matter of days, or even hours. My two necessities would be to tell my friends and family how much I love them, and then I’d spend my last few hours of existence sitting at a scenic overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Though I doubt too many people would be able to fully understand the desire to be alone right before the end of existence, I love the mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway in a way that’s truly hard to describe. I just know that when I am sitting at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I am the happiest I have ever been. The mountains have always been my favorite kind of landscape, and when I have the chance to simply sit and enjoy their beauty, nothing can beat that feeling of true contentment that I feel. In those moments, it’s as if all the troubles of the world melt away, and the only thing that matters is the natural beauty that is right in front of me. In my restorative yoga class, we talk a lot about striving to reach inner peace, which is also related to the Buddhist philosophy. Through meditation exercises in my restorative yoga class, I’ve gotten glimpses of that “inner peace.” And truthfully, if the world was going to end within a matter of days, I’d be perched at an overlook along the Parkway allowing the natural beauty of the mountains to help me find the pure happiness that I know resides somewhere within each one of us.

Mirrored in Truth & Beauty.

5 Nov

Last night, I started reading Truth & Beauty by Anne Patchett, which is a memoir of Anne Patchett’s friendship with troubled author and poet, Lucy Grealy. Here is a synopsis according to GoodReads:

Ann Patchett and the late Lucy Grealy met in college in 1981, and, after enrolling in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, began a friendship that would be as defining to both of their lives as their work. In Grealy’s critically acclaimed memoir, “Autobiography of a Face,” she wrote about losing part of her jaw to childhood cancer, years of chemotherapy and radiation, and endless reconstructive surgeries. In “Truth & Beauty,” the story isn’t Lucy’s life or Ann’s life, but the parts of their lives they shared. This is a portrait of unwavering commitment that spans twenty years, from the long winters of the Midwest, to surgical wards, to book parties in New York. Through love, fame, drugs, and despair, this is what it means to be part of two lives that are intertwined . . . and what happens when one is left behind.

This is a tender, brutal book about loving the person we cannot save. It is about loyalty, and being lifted up by the sheer effervescence of someone who knew how to live life to the fullest.

Since starting this book, I have seen myself in Lucy Grealy. Though I have not faced what she went through, the loneliness, fear, and desire to belong are all feelings that I have known all too well. Lucy’s words throughout the novel (seen especially in the letters she writes to Ann), are heartbreaking and brutally honest, but in more than one point in the book, I have felt like the words have been taken from my own soul. Even though this is definitely not the first time that I have seen myself mirrored in the emotions of someone else, I feel like this is one of the few times that it’s been so spot on. Throughout the book, Lucy exhibits numerous times when she is down on herself due to her situation. However, that being said, she is a poet, and writing is the way that she comes back to herself. Writing and her friendship with Ann are what allow her to come back to her reality with gusto. Though I am only about halfway through the book at this point, I have found myself, on more than one occasion, clutching the book almost like a life-line, holding it close to my heart and whispering words from the novel that seem to apply to my own life.

“Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.”

When I came across the above quote, I smiled. I smiled with the realization that during certain times in my life, I too have viewed writing as a friend, as the friend who is always there, day or night, waiting to welcome you home with open arms and a carton of ice cream. Yes, the ice cream addition was my own tid bit, but it’s what writing has been for me for so long: the one thing that I can come back to, again and again, like a long-lost friend that you never seem to lose touch with no matter how much time has passed. A friend with whom you can pick up right where you left off, as if you saw them just yesterday and not years ago. Thankfully, I have had the pleasure of having more than one friend like that in my life, and it is one of the best feelings I have come to find in this life. Sure, there are other things that come close to that kind of magic, but they aren’t moments that are also full of deep conversations that last into the early hours of the morning or moments of laughing until your stomach hurts.

“That is one thing I’ve learned, that it is possible to really understand things at certain points, and not be able to retain them, to be in utter confusion just a short while later. I used to think that once you really knew a thing, its truth would shine on forever. Now it’s pretty obvious to me that more often than not the batteries fade, and sometimes what you knew even goes out with a bang when you try to call on it, just like a lightbulb cracking off when you throw the switch.”

Truth & Beauty is full of more honesty than I can only hope to achieve one day with my own memoir. It’s not even just honesty that causes you to pause and think, That’s got to be truth. Those feelings are so raw that the only place they could have come is from the deepest and most authentic part of the soul. It’s more than that, if at all possible. It’s sitting on the kitchen floor with a cup of coffee in one hand and the book in the other, staring down at the page and thinking, I can only hope that one day I am as in touch with the deep and dark parts of myself like this author is able to portray. Though I have become incredibly introspective since beginning my memoir in January, I have not reached this level of raw authenticity. To do so, I believe it takes many more months, if not years, of sitting in the dark corners of your memories patiently awaiting the day when they decide to come out into the harsh light of day. You’ve got to sit in the dark and get to know them on a level that’s more true than you’ve ever known. You must sit with them, day and night, until you know their features and ways in which they move through the world. Until your breathing matches their own with such accuracy that you can no longer tell the difference between your breaths and theirs.

“Our friendship was like our writing in some ways. It was the only thing that was interesting about our otherwise dull lives. We were better off when we were together. Together we were a small society of ambition and high ideals. We were tender and patient and kind. We were not like the world at all.”

Though I am lucky to have an incredible best friend, when I read the above passage, the first thing that popped into my head was the level of comfort that can only be achieved through a childhood friend. I thought of a friend that I have known since kindergarten, and the nights that we would lie in my bed and stare up at the ceiling, talking about our futures like they were millions of miles away. The nights that we would hold hands when we got scared in the middle of the night, only to end up burying our faces in pillows a moment later when we were overcome with laughter. We looked at each other then, smiling and breathing heavily once the laughter subsided, not even knowing what we found so funny, and yet realizing that nothing could top the happiness that had been wrapped up in that moment. It enveloped us, that pure bliss, wrapping us up like a quilt that was stitched with every happy memory of our relatively short lives. We knew, no matter what, that we had each other.

My phase of writing fiction.

2 Sep

Last night while reading The Spirit of Writing: Classic and Contemporary Essays Celebrating The Writing Life, I came across this great quote that seemed to say it all:

Words, like eyes, are windows into a person’s soul, and thus each writer, in some small way, helps to enrich the world. But it takes courage to share one’s life with another, for we live in a world where every sentence penned can be criticized or praised. But it is a risk worth taking, for a greater vision remains: that through our words, be they fiction or fact, we might touch another soul as we share our stories and song. In that moment, however brief, we suspend the walls of separateness that so often cause suffering and pain.

Seven years ago when I was still in my phase of writing fiction, I started writing Silver Drops, the story of a girl who finds an entire new world behind a waterfall. I wrote for days and weeks on end, eventually reaching about 75 handwritten pages before I had to stop. I stopped this particular writing project because I just wasn’t sure where to go with the story anymore. I needed to include something that could push the story forward. However, at the time I didn’t know what that something was.

Since I was stuck regarding the story but I knew that I didn’t want to lose it, I kept the handwritten pages, but I also typed it up and saved it on a cd. I still have all 3 versions somewhere. I remember coming across them when I had to clean out my room before my parents moved up to North Carolina. I smiled when I came across the story, and as I sat on the floor of my childhood bedroom reading what I had written seven years ago, I was amazed at what my 13-year-old mind could come up with. I can only imagine how the story could progress if I added some 20-year-old wisdom to it.

I’ve gotten into the groove of memoir writing lately. Therefore, I don’t know if switching gears would benefit me or not. I loved writing fiction when I was younger. I loved the process of making up stories and creating characters. I loved being able to “spend my time” with people who I only wished could be real. I loved being able to pretend, if only for a minute, that I was a different person who had a completely different life. I wrote fictional stories the way some girls play dress up. I tried to fit all kids of characters into my stories, and I wasn’t satisfied until I had written a character so vividly that he or she was practically sitting in my room across from me saying, “You want to go play?”

Who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll pick back up Silver Drops with the same amount of gusto that started it all. Or maybe I won’t. However, if I know one thing for certain, it’s that I will never ever stop writing. It’s brought me so far already, and therefore, I feel like I need to give something back. So, yes, I need to share my story. I need to allow other people to realize that despite obstacles, setbacks and a world of pain, you can learn to enjoy your life.

WWW Wednesdays: August 22nd.

22 Aug

I’ve read some good books lately, so I thought I’d participate in a WWW Wednesdays this week. WWW Wednesdays were started by MizB over at Should Be Reading.

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently reading: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn. Even though Gone Girl is the book by Gillian Flynn that is currently popular, I came across the synopsis of Dark Places on Amazon and thought it would be a good introduction to Flynn’s writing before reading Gone Girl

Just finished reading: Small Wonder: Essays by Barbara Kingsolver. This book of essays was a nice change from the usual fiction by Kingsolver that I’m naturally drawn to. Plus, since I found out that Kingsolver will be coming to Asheville as part of her book tour in November, I figured that I needed to read some of the other genres that she’s written in. I loved the book of essays though. Despite being essays and not one concise story, I found myself unable to put the book down. 

Reading next: These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf. I loved The Weight of Silence by Gudenkauf that I read last summer, and when I found out that there was another book that she had written, I knew that I had to give it a shot too.

Feel free to comment with your WWW Wednesday. I know how much I love seeing what everyone else is reading, and I could certainly go for some suggestions if any of you have read anything really great lately.

How To Be Lost by Amanda Eyre Ward.

2 Jun

Since getting into my “pleasure reading mode” of summer, I’ve realized that most of the books that I’ve gathered by frequenting the bargain bins of my favorite used bookstores in Asheville are truly amazing reads! One of these truly amazing reads is How To Be Lost by Amanda Eyre Ward. It was such a wonderful read, so much so that I couldn’t put it down and ended up finishing it in one day! Here’s a synopsis of the book (according to Amazon.com):

To their neighbors in suburban Holt, New York, the Winters family has it all: a grand home, a trio of radiant daughters, and a sense that they are safe in their affluent corner of America. But when five-year-old Ellie disappears, the fault lines within the Winters family are exposed. Joseph, once a successful businessman, succumbs to his demons. Isabelle retreats into memories of her debutante days in Savannah, Georgia. And Ellie’s bereft sisters grow apart: Madeline reluctantly stays home, while Caroline runs away.

Fifteen years later, Caroline, now a New Orleans cocktail waitress, sees a photograph of a woman in People Magazine. Convinced that it is Ellie all grown up, Caroline embarks on a search for her missing sister, armed with Xerox copies of the photograph, an amateur detective guide, and a cooler of Dixie beer. As Caroline travels through the New Mexico desert, the mountains of Colorado, and the smoky underworld of Montana, she devotes herself to salvaging her broken family.

With dark humor and gorgeous prose, Amanda Eyre Ward brings us a spellbinding novel about the stories we are given, and the stories we embrace.

How To Be Lost is not the first novel I’ve read about a family member that goes missing. Other books in this category that I’ve read are Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah and The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (both of which were absolutely amazing reads!). Since I apparently am drawn to novels that portray a missing child, How To Be Lost didn’t disappoint.

I was drawn to the character of Caroline because of her drive and determination to search for a sister that she believed to still be alive, even though fifteen years have passed. Even though Caroline’s determination stemmed from the fact that Ellie was her sister and finding her would mean having her family “put back together” in a sense, her drive to find a sister that the rest of her family believed to be dead already is something that I really admired. I think it remains me of the advice to never give up when it comes to something that we truly believe to be true, even if there is no one standing beside us that holds the same view. It reminds me of a quote that I read once:

Stand up for what you believe in, even if you’re standing alone.

I think the reminder of standing up for what we believe in, even if we’re standing alone is something that each one of us needs to hear from time to time, and How To Be Lost was just that reminder. That being said, I highly recommend this book, as well as Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah and The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf. They are all just SO amazing! Go read them!

Barbara Kingsolver Quotes.

12 May

Since I’ve been on a recently discovered Barbara Kingsolver kick lately (I just finished The Bean Trees and am now reading Pigs In Heaven), I thought I’d share some Barbara Kingsolver quotes since I haven’t done a quotes post in a while (Quotes obtained from goodreads.com).

  1. “The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”
  2. “Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”
  3. “It’s what you do that makes your soul.”
  4. “What keeps you going isn’t some fine destination but just the road you’re on, and the fact that you know how to drive. You keep your eyes open, you see this damned-to-hell world you got born into, and you ask yourself, ‘What life can I live that will let me breathe in & out and love somebody or something and not run off screaming into the woods?”
  5. “If we can’t, as artists, improve on real life, we should put down our pencils and go bake bread.”
  6. “In a world as wrong as this one, all we can do is make things as right as we can.”
  7. “Morning always comes.”
  8. “Every one of us is called upon, perhaps many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, loss of a job…And onward full-tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another–that is surely the basic instinct…Crying out: High tide! Time to move out into the glorious debris. Time to take this life for what it is.”
  9. “Literature duplicates the experience of living in a way that nothing else can, drawing you so fully into another life that you temporarily forget you have one of your own. That is why you read it, and might even sit up in bed till early dawn, throwing your whole tomorrow out of whack, simply to find out what happens to some people who, you know perfectly well, are made up.”
  10. “It’s surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time. ”
  11. “To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know.”
  12. “She kept swimming out into life because she hadn’t yet found a rock to stand on.”
  13. “In my own worst seasons I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again
  14. “Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say.”
  15. “That was when we smelled the rain. It was so strong it seemed like more than just a smell. When we stretched out our hands we could practically feel it rising up from the ground. I don’t know how a person could ever describe that scent.”
  16. “If you ask me, when something extraordinary shows up in your life in the middle of the night, you give it a name and make it the best home you can.”
  17. “It’s one thing to carry your life wherever you go. Another thing to always go looking for it somewhere else.”
  18. “Anybody can get worked up, if they have the intention. It’s peacefulness that is hard to come by on purpose.”
  19. “People read books to escape the uncertainties of life.”
  20. “Don’t wait for the muse. She has a lousy work ethic. Writers just write.”

Happy Saturday everyone! Is there a particular author that has some of your favorite quotes? What are they?