Showing posts with label Memoir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Memoir. Show all posts

Monday, September 4, 2023

Sunshine by Jarrett J. Krosoczka


Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Realistic Fiction
Source: I purchased a copy. The opinions expressed here are my own.

I am not a real big reader of graphic novels. However, as part of my classroom challenge with my students I had to read a graphic novel. I chose this one because I had read his former book, "Hey Kiddo". I enjoyed this book even more and can't wait for my students to read it.  This is the author's true story of a year in high school when he worked at a summer camp for students who had cancer.  The way he was able to inspire those he worked with was amazing. What was more amazing was the way these kids inspired and changed his life.  It is not an easy book to read due to the topic. I found myself moved to tears throughout the book. The author doesn't sugar coat things, not even his own tough life. He was raised by his grandparents. The reasons can be found by reading this book.  I highly recommend it

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Punching Bag by Rex Ogle

Genre: Middle Grade, Young Adult, Memoir
Source: I own a copy

If you thought the first book "Free Lunch" by Rex Ogle was hard to read, wait until you read this. We get a glimpse into Rex's life in his first book.We see the poverty, shame, bullying he goes through in middle school. We see the issues he has with his father and mother. Nothing prepares you for the second book. In this book we see what it was like to live in a home filled with violence. What it is like to be the older sibling who practically raises the younger one. What it is like to protect the younger one from the violence that is so often taken out on the author. We see a side of mental illness that so many kids today deal with. Why is it that it is taboo to talk about these things?

After reading Rex Ogle's first book I bought the second one to put on my shelves. I live in a district where this year a house bill is making it difficult to keep books on our shelves.  I fear each day some kid will read this book, a parent will pick it up, complain to the school board and it will be banned. Why do I fear this? This book is open, honest and raw. Ogle doesn't sugar  coat his experiences to make them less traumatizing. He wrote this in such an honest way you feel his pain. That he was able to overcome so much is amazing in itself. I know there are kids out there who live through abuse daily. This book with its darkness also shows a side of hope. It shows the reader that no matter where they are in life there is always hope.  For me it is important to get this into the hands of children everywhere. It is important that there is a resource for those we may never know are hurting. This is a must read.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Free Lunch by Rex Ogle

Genre: Middle Grade, Memoir
Source:  Purchased a copy

Free Lunch – Rex Ogle

Genre: Middle Grade, Memoir

Source:  I purchased a copy

Middle school is tough. Most sixth graders feel like a fish out of water on the first day. There are class changes, often it is a new school and then, there is lunch. For Rex Ogle his first year in sixth grade is made tougher by the fact his mom has signed him up for free lunch at his school. He must tell the lunch lady each time he gets lunch that he is on the free program. This is such an embarrassment for him, especially since he has to shout it since the lunch lady can’t hear him. Rex has told his story so honestly it is raw. You feel for him when they are evicted and must live in government housing. It wasn’t bad enough everyone he was once friends with knows he gets free lunch. Their new housing sits close enough to the school that everyone will soon know how poor he is.  As a teacher I found myself very irritated at the teacher who decided Rex would be a trouble maker simply on first impressions. I am not na├»ve enough to think that all teachers are compassionate. I have worked with many teachers that made me wonder why they became a teacher. It wasn’t because they truly loved children. Their behavior told a different story. This story resonates with all kids at all levels. I understood how Rex felt. We went through a financial crisis when I was a teen. I chose not to eat lunch and tell others I just wasn’t hungry. It was less embarrassing. Poverty hits children of all colors and all ages. Thankfully today, students scan their ID card for lunch. No one needs to know if they get free lunch or not. This book has a long waiting list in my class. I recommend it to all teens.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Broken Roads: Returning to My Amish Father by Ira Wagler

Genre: Adult, Amish, Memoir
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Ira Wagler left his Amish background. This is something he did with lots of thought. For those who are not familiar with the Amish, leaving results in shunning. Essentially there is not much interaction between the family and the child who has decided to leave.  This doesn’t mean they can’t visit. The family always holds out hope that the one who left will come to their senses and return to their faith.
In this second book by Ira we get what I believe is a deeper look into his life after leaving. It begins with his reason for telling this story. On this occasion, he is preparing to go back home because his father is dying. He wasn’t the only one who left.  He is representing those siblings who left and can’t go back. He would go back to visit his family. There was always an admonishment to come. The title is very appropriate. Through the book, we see how the path he traveled through life was like a broken road. Through sharing his life with the public we see that no matter what our path looks like, no matter how broken it is, there is always hope. He shared both the good and bad decisions he made. He showed how far he strayed and how God always led him back.  This is not a book that is written in a strict chronological order. It felt more like sitting and having a conversation with the author where he shares stories as one thing connects to another.  I read this in just a couple of hours. I didn’t want to put it down.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Young Adult/Adult, Memoir
Source: I purchased a copy

I often wondered how Laurie could write such raw, emotional and spot on books. After reading Shout I understood how her writing has evolved. The authentic voice in each book came out of her own pain and experiences. Shout is one of those books that reaches inside of you and grabs your guts and twists them. It is painful yet for some of us it is also a release. You know that someone has grabbed hold of your guts to help untangle them. That  is what this book does. I met Laurie years ago at an English conference. I stood in line with her book "Speak" to get it signed. I handed it to her but would not look at her. She held on to the book as she handed it back forcing me to look up at her. Then she said, "You're Melinda." My lip quivered as tears slid down my face. She hugged me and and for the first time I felt the strength to do something.  Laurie never knew how she helped me.  My abuser was a family member.  My meeting with her gave me the courage to put myself into counseling. The next time I saw that family member I pulled them aside.  They had long ago sought counseling for the incident. At the time I felt so dirty and ashamed that I didn't want anyone to know. and I didn't want anyone to talk to me about it. My mantra was, "God forgave them so it's done and over with." For me it wasn't. On that day I walked up to them and told them. "God forgave you and so have I, but I haven't dealt with it. I'm doing that right now. Understand there will days that I hate you as I go through this process. There are days you can't talk to me or hug me or anything else. I hope you will respect that."  They sidestepped and said they would do whatever to help me heal." That was not what I expected. Healing is a long process. If you read Laurie's book you will understand it. We all have to find our path and our voice.

Laurie's book is raw. It takes you through her painful life. It takes you through the events that led up to her getting her voice back. I read and thought about the different people and events in my own life that paralleled hers. My family life unlike hers was not as volatile.  My parents were very strict Christians. This is one reason I suffered so long. As Christians we were told you  don't talk about certain things. You let things go and let God handle it.  I walked through each painful moment with her.  When she is accepted as an exchange student she became a new person. She was away from her old life and was given  the opportunity to see what a healthy life is like. She was given the strength to grow and become the person she is today. This event put her on the path to healing. It is never done and over but you gain the strength to move on.

I know of no other author who's books have helped both students and adults as much as Laurie's books. I highly recommend her book "Shout".  It explains so much about the other books. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Death March Escape: The Remarkable Story of a Man Who Twice Escaped the Nazi Holocaust by Jack J. Hersch

Genre: Nonfiction, Biography, Memoir
Source: I received an advanced copy from Netgalley. The opinions expressed here are my own.

I have never been able to read a book about Holocaust survivors without getting emotional. As an eighth grade English teacher we have a unit that touches on the Holocaust. When I taught ninth grade English we read Night and other stories about the Holocaust. I have over the years met only one survivor. The only part of her story that stuck with me was the death march she was taken on. To me this is more terrifying than the camps. You may wonder why. In this case the author’s father had the realization that they would soon be freed by the allies. How many of them lost all hope when they were removed from the camp and taken on these long death marches?
The author’s father was like many survivors who talked about their imprisonment, treatment and survival while leaving out so much. I have always wondered why they did this. Were they trying to spare their family the pain that they still felt?
After learning from a relative that a picture of his father at a  death camp was up on a website, Jack sets off on a journey to fill in the blanks of his father’s life.  He eventually walked the same path his father took. He wanted to understand his father’s experiences. It is my opinion that you can walk the path your parent’s took and learn so much more than you  originally knew. I also believe that unless you were actually there that there is no way you can completely understand the horrors.  This is a non-fiction story that I highly recommend. We need more voices to tell these stories as the survivors are all beginning to die off. Who will be left to speak for all those who lost their lives during these horrible year?

Friday, March 30, 2018

GUTS by Janet Buttenwieser

Genre: Adult, Memoir
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Most of us face one major incident in our life if we are lucky. Imagine that you not only have a serious illness but you have also had to suffer a loss and infertility. For a lot of people I know having to deal with just one of those things would be enough to turn their life upside down to the point that they couldn’t deal with it.  Here we have a woman who has faced so many issues yet through her story we find hope. Janet Buttenwieser’s memoir shows true courage. When faced with and treated for years for a mis-diagnosed illness, Janet pushed on. Beside her all the way was the man who would eventually become her husband, Matt.  What stood out to me so much was the true love he showed for her. When finally properly diagnosed and needing a colostomy bag, Matt didn’t shy away he continued to take care of Janet and encourage her. I’ve known two people with colostomy bags and both of them had spouses that embraced and encouraged them. 
Janet’s best friend Beth taught her how to live life to the fullest. She is the type of friend you need who teaches you how to stand up for yourself.  Her passing strengthened Janet even though I don’t think she realized it at the time.  All of us need a friend like that in our lives.
Then there are the children who came into Matt and Janet’s lives. I would love to see where they are today and how their lives have changed. I would venture to say that their lives are so much richer because of who their parents are.  If there is one lesson to be learned from this memoir it would be to learn to live life to the fullest no matter what your circumstances.  I really enjoyed this book. It is an emotional read.  Janet is one of those people who is able to weave words and feelings together to create a painted masterpiece.  I highly recommend this book.
Connect with Janet

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Strange Ways of Providence in My Life by Krystyna Carmi

Genre: Adult, Memoir
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Once I started this book I couldn’t stop reading it.  At times it was difficult to read.  The fact that someone as young as Krystyna was when she went through all of these terrible events survived is a testament to her faith.  Raised a Jew she was interested in her Catholic friends religion. She kept her knowledge secret. This and her mom’s statement that “God protects  orphans”, helped carry her through this hardship.  For those who want to read  a clean cut memoir that takes them from point A to point B smoothly, you need to know that this doesn’t happen in this book.  I believe that is why I enjoyed it.  It reads like someone who is telling a story and remembers it in bits a pieces. The author has done an excellent job of putting things in chronological order. However, It is obvious that there are gaps in her memory. This makes it seem even more authentic. We remember things  and then what we remember triggers another memory. However, we don’t want to interrupt our story so we throw that thought in and tell our audience we will discuss it in more detail later.   So many people who have survived the Holocaust came out bitter.  No life was not easy and was not fair to the author. However, she took the lessons learned and used them in a positive way to shape her life.

We teach about the Holocaust in our eighth and ninth grade English Language Arts Classes.  This is definitely a book I will put on my shelves at school. It is another voice added to so many. Yet this is told in a manner my students will definitely be able to understand.  I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My Sister’s Mother: A Memoir of War, Exile, and Stalin’s Siberia by Donna Solecka Urbikas

Genre: Adult, Memoir
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

After reading this book I was able to see that this type of thing is still going on today. Donna’s mother and sister lived in Poland during World War II.  They were plucked out of Poland and sent to a hard labor camp in Siberia. They grew very close as they fought to survive day by day. The experienced starvation, sickness and hard labor.  Years later after they had made it to the United States we learn that they have a relationship that Donna doesn’t have with either of them. The reason is that their time in Siberia created a bond that children to come later could never form with either of them. Their lives and the lives of those to come later were colored by those very experiences.  Now when I see the news and read about the refugees who were forced to flee their land I understand that those experiences will color their life. Those are memories that they will always have and will always influence future decisions as well as future children. I don’t think I ever considered how events like this would affect children not yet born.  It was eye opening to say the least. This is a very good book, yet at times tough to read. It made me realize how good so many of us have it with the freedoms we take for granted and the relationships we build with our families. I whole-heartedly recommend this book.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Lord’s Hill: A Place Only God Could Save Me From Based on a True Story by Maggie Miller

Genre:  Adult Memoir
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

We all have problems. It is how we look at and handle those problems that shape us into the person that we are. Maggie Miller lived a life filled with abuse, fear and abandonment.  She lived in survival mode most of her life. Maggie kept searching for someone to help her with her problems only to find more of the same.  Many in her life truly loved her, but were stuck in the same patterns she was stuck in. She searched for and found God and a few wonderful people to help guide her. One thing that I had to really think about was forgiveness. I thought about my first marriage. I realized that even though I’ve been remarried for almost twenty-four years, as I would talk about things that happened in my first marriage I would become almost as angry as I was before. I had to ask if I had truly forgiven or just paid it lip service. There are lessons to be learned from this wonderful woman. She is not just telling her story. She is giving all of us hope no matter what our journey is.  This is one of those books you want to pass along and have them pass along. You never know who it will help.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

In Love and War – Evelyn Smith

Genre: Adult, Memoir
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

I have reviewed several memoirs.  This one made me contemplate many things. This is the life story of a woman who fell in love with a young Navy soldier. They married before he shipped off to Korea. What was supposed to be three months turned into almost a year of separation.  From the beginning I saw how strong a woman she was.  It made me wonder why she would give in to her husband’s thoughts on everything.  Then I looked at the time period.  I wasn’t born until the late 50’s. Even then young ladies were expected to behave a certain way. Women ‘had their place’ in society.  I was surprised at how long she and her husband John were together.  I wondered how she could have been so blind to the signs that things were not well with her marriage.  Then I thought about my own first marriage and was suddenly able to identify with her.  She did find love again.  That didn’t mean things were real smooth.  I understood the “first marriage baggage”.  This story made me ponder several things.  When my son, newly married, joined the army his new wife was ecstatic.  She had all of these ideas of what army life would be like. We tried to tell her about the loneliness she would feel when he was gone, even with family to surround her.  He wasn’t even shipped out of the states when she left him.  He found another woman shortly thereafter who embraced the military life he loved. She supported him when he was shipped to South Korea. I thought about Evelyn’s concern while her husband was there. As a mother I was worried when my son was stationed there so close to the demilitarized zone. 

I felt very sad for her and the relationship she lost with her daughter. I have a relationship with my daughter, but she is closer to her father her left me and the kids for another woman. I don’t understand why her daughter treated her the way she did. However, I drew strength from her story.  The old saying that nothing is fair in love and war rang so true.  I applaud this author and the strength her story shows to women everywhere, no matter what their walk in life.  This was a wonderful story. Through heartache comes strength and hope.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

Genre: Adult, Memoir
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The Opinions expressed here are my own.

Imagine you are a successful reporter in New York City and that you are only 24 when suddenly you know something is wrong. You are having several physical issues and mental issues and no one seems to be able to correctly tell you what is happening.  This is what happened to Susannah Cahalan.  She had an inflammation of her brain, yet was misdiagnosed many times. People start to believe with her symptoms that she has an alcohol problem, or is schizophrenic.  Her dad is the one person who stands behind her and believes there is something physically, not mentally wrong with her.  She finally finds a doctor who does one simple test and proves her condition is physical.  It is confirmed by another doctor and true treatment begins.  It is scary to find out there are so many auto-immune diseases out there that go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. How many people are institutionalized because of this type of situation?  Susannah was one of the lucky ones because she had such a strong support system and they were determined to find the cause.  This was both a scary and uplifting book as we find hope in doctors like hers.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A Light Shining in the Darkness by Karen A. Cooper

Genre: Adult, Christian, Memoir
Source: I received a copy to facilitate my review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Not everyone has a great start in life. For Karen Cooper she lived life with an abusive father. Unfortunately her past problems shaped her adult life. She found herself pregnant and gave up the child, and shortly thereafter found herself pregnant again. Marriage to the baby's father doesn't fix anything, it makes things worse. A few weeks after her child is born he dies of SIDS.  Karen continues to show how she kept a part of her life a lie and hidden while still making the same kinds of mistakes. This seems like such a dark and troubling book until Karen reaches a point where she lets God into her life. Things begin to change. That doesn't mean her life is all roses. She still struggles and forgets like so many of us during trials, to lean on God.

Although this book starts out dark and tragic, the ending is completely the opposite. Karen has shown through her memoir that no matter how low we get, God can lift us up out of the darkness to higher places. This is a definite must read.