Book Marks (Special Halloween Edition)

halloween

Creative and clever Halloween costumes based on literary characters.

Halloween costumes for writers, some fun, some frightening.

Books in books that will give you a good fright this Halloween night!

For your viewing pleasure author Jonathan Franzen reads a frightening story about book stores to Stephen Colbert.

Now this is my idea of a pumpkin!

Seventeen very scary short stories.

The top 10 authors of the horror genre.

Frightening flicks that are based on books.

Seventeen tips on how to write scary stories.

And last but not least, the scariest book released this year according to Bookish Jen.

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Book Review: $2.00 A Day -Living On Almost Nothing in America by Kathryn J Edin and H Luke Shaefer

2.00 dayAmerica is supposed to be the richest nation in the world, right? No way do we have people living in strict poverty, trying to survive on the barest of bones, right? America isn’t some “primitive” third world country, right?

Well, not exactly. In America we have citizens from the largest of metropolises to the most rural of communities struggling to live on a mere two bucks a day. And their lives are fully explained in Kathryn J Edin and H Luke Shaefer’s eye-opening and maddening book $2.00 A Day: Living On Almost Nothing in America.

In the 1990s, politicians, including President Clinton, figured the “War on Poverty” from the 1960s had quite worked out. Far too many families were living on public assistance. Thusly, welfare reform was implemented thrusting many families (often helmed by single mothers) off the welfare rolls. Now, this was deemed a success during the 1990s because of a strong economy and a tight labor market.

But as we know, the economy fell to pieces in 2007/2008, countless people lost their jobs and finding work became hugely difficult. Hence, many people fell into poverty (including those had been living comfortable middle class lives).

But these people weren’t mere statistics we heard about and read about. They were real people living on very little, and using methods, some legal, some not so legal to survive.

In 2012 Edin and Shaefer traveled around the country interviewing various families who were living on very little money. They interviewed families in Chicago, Cleveland and rural areas in the Mississippi Delta. These people’s stories were both unique and similar, and I hope are listened to with an open mind.

Why do we have so many people living on so little? Now part of it is due to the nature of low-wage work, much of it in the service sector. And even in the service sector, many of these jobs have countless applicants. I know this to be a fact; several years ago I applied for a job at a small marketing agency. This agency had over 250 applicants apply for this position. I can only imagine how many applicants apply for positions at much bigger organizations.

And because employers receive so many applications, they can easily move onto another candidate if they can’t reach another. Some of the poor in this book live in homeless shelters and therefore have difficulty being reached by would be employers.

But even those who aren’t in homeless shelters, lived in substandard homes and apartments. Many of the families lived in cramped spaces with many relatives. Some told horror stories of crumbling abodes that slumlord’s ignored. And some even mentioned dealing with various forms of abuse they dealt within their homes

When employed, those profiled spoke of altered schedules (often at the last moment) and employers concerned with the bottom line cutting workers’ hours. Some of these people also worked more than one job, which cut into time they could spend with their families. The poor also had to deal with wage theft and truly awful bosses. And then there were people who had physical and mental issues that made being employed nearly impossible. Some of them were on disability but even disability checks didn’t stretch far.

Many of these people had SNAP (often called food stamps), which was pretty much the only access they had to a public safety net. And many spoke of relying of charity and food pantries. But in rural places, it was difficult to find these places.

So how do these people survive? Selling one’s plasma is a popular tactic, as is selling one’s food stamps. And some mentioned selling sex to make a few bucks to live on.

Many of them live with family members and friends and pooling their various resources. One woman with a car offers her services to help people get around.

And yes, far too many go without. People mentioned skipping meals and not purchasing the basic necessities like buying underwear or having electricity or running water.

But there were places where those profiled could find comfort, libraries being named as one. Some found comfort in their churches or amongst family, friends and their communities. And those who could find good charities, also felt comfort.

Now what can be done? Well, making others aware of these people’s plights is key and this slim volume helps do that. On a personal note, I think it’s important to not see these people as “others” but as our fellow human beings, showing empathy, not scorn. Yes, we could say they shouldn’t have kids if they are so poor and why didn’t they get an education? Sure, but not having children and getting an education is no guarantee that one won’t fall into poverty. Even those of us who “did everything right”-had children when established and in a good relationships, received an education, developed skills and worked hard, may have to worry about falling on hard times. These people are not lazy, most want to work and contribute to society, and $2.00 mentions how both the public and private sectors can do join efforts to make this happen.

$2.00 is an important book at a very crucial time, especially as we get closer to the 2016 Presidential election, and a book I highly recommend.

Shelf Discovery-The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick

shelf discovery“We Must, We Must, We Must Increase Our Bust”

In her “Fine Lines” column on the website Jezebel, Lizzie Skurnick re-read many of the novels she loved as a young girl, looking at them through the eyes of an adult. Now many of these (somewhat altered) essays are in book form in Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading. Ms. Skurnick is no stranger to young adult books. Not only is she a reader but she’s also a writer of some of the Sweet Valley High books. She also brings along writers like Meg Cabot, Jennifer Weiner and Cecily von Ziegesar for the ride down memory lane.

Shelf Discovery does not cover the books we had to read for school, books by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Eyre and Austen. No, this book covers the books that weren’t on any teacher-approved reading list. These are the books that kept us up long after our bed time or the books we hid behind our text books during social studies. These are the books we loaned to our friends only to get them back with tattered covers and dog-eared pages. Well, at least this happened to me when I loaned my copy of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by uber-goddess Judy Blume to all my friends in Miss Wilson’s fifth grade class.

Not surprisingly, Judy Blume’s books are reviewed in Shelf Discovery as are the Little House books. Skurnick also takes a look back at books like A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene, The Cat Ate My Gym Suit by Paula Danziger and I Am the Cheese by Robert Cormier. Shelf Discovery covers books that were considered too old for us but we read them anyway like Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear and VC Andrew’s My Sweet Audrina. And books that I thought only I had read like To All My Fans With Love, From Sylvie by Ellen Conford and To Take a Dare by Paul Zindel and Crescent Dragonwagon are also covered.

These essays are thoughtful, reflective and funny, and brought back a lot of memories. Not only of reading these books, but also how they made me feel and how they inspired talk among my gaggle of girlfriends. I loved reading the Little House books, feeling some cheesehead pride because Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in Wisconsin. And I was quite comforted to know I wasn’t only the one who found Laura’s sister Mary an insufferable prissy-pants though I never went as far as to call her a “fucking bitch” like Skurnick does.

And where would we be without Judy Blume? Sure, some people want to ban her books, but to most of us, we loved Judy Blume because she introduced us to characters we could actually relate to. These were characters who experienced divorce or the death of a parent. They dealt with sexism, favored siblings and peer pressue. They questioned religion. They also dealt with the difficulties of growing up, physically, mentally and emotionally. Blume did not hesitate to make her main characters somewhat unlikable such as the protagonist in Blubber, Jill, who bullies Linda for being fat. And then there was Tony from Then Again, Maybe I Won’t who spied on his friend’s hot sister with his binoculars. What a perv!!!

Long before Gossip Girl, the books covered in Shelf Discovery introduced us to the world of S.E.X! Forever proved a girl could have sex and not get pregnant the first time or become a raving lunatic. It also kept generations of women from naming their male offspring Ralph. Wifey totally had a dirty mind. Flowers in the Attic introduced us the idea of brother/sister sex long before the Jerry Springer Show. And Katy Perry may have thought she was so lesbian chic when she sang, “I Kissed a Girl” but Jaret and Peggy were getting it on thirty years earlier in Sandra Scoppetone’s Happy Endings Are All Alike.

I’m not familiar with all of the books featured in Shelf-Discovery, but many of you might be. And I’m also not a fan of some of the books I did read. I wanted to fling Go Ask Alice across my teen-age bedroom. Even back then I knew it was a load of shite, and Go Ask Alice, which was allegedly based on the real diary of a teen girl messed up on drugs, was debunked several years ago.

I was also amazed to find out that many of the books we enjoyed as kids are now being enjoyed by today’s kids. Sure, kids have their Harry Potter and their Twilight books, but Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret also resonates with them. While visiting Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, Meg Cabot sheepishly tells the girls she is re-reading the Judy Blume classic. She expected blank stares from the students, but instead she got thunderous applause and cheers. Even though these girls live half a world away from suburban New Jersey, they totally adore Margaret. I still adore Margaret.

Reading Shelf Discovery reminded me why books always meant so much to me growing up (and still do). How fun was Sally J Freedman? And was I the only one who though Rosemary from Sister of the Bride was way too young to get married? But at least my mom and dad never sent me off to boarding school to die like the awful parents in The Grounding of Group 6. If you’re looking for a literary walk down memory lane and more than “seven minutes in heaven” you can’t go wrong with Shelf Discovery.

Book Marks

bookmarks obamaFifteen books to read this fall written by some pretty fierce femmes. I know I can’t wait to read Gloria Steinem’s latest.

And the winner of the Man Booker Prize is Jamaican novelist, Marlon James.

Coloring books based on the TV shows “Game of Thrones” and “Outlander.”

Actor Jesse “The Social Network” Eisenberg to visit Milwaukee’s very own Boswell Book Company.

If a lady is reading a book in public maybe you shouldn’t bother her.

Being a total introvert and a writer I can’t help but love this blogger’s post

Common writing mistakes copyeditors notice the most.

Have your next date at a library.

From reading to reels these young adult novels are on their way to the silver screen.