July Book Club Pick: Out of My Mind

July Book Club Pick: Out of My MindOut of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Published by Simon and Schuster on 2012-05-01
Genres: Family, General, Social Issues, Special Needs, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Goodreads
AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
If there is one book teens and parents (and everyone else) should read this year, Out of My Mind should be it” (Denver Post).

Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom—the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged, because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it…somehow. In this breakthrough story—reminiscent of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly—from multiple Coretta Scott King Award-winner Sharon Draper, readers will come to know a brilliant mind and a brave spirit who will change forever how they look at anyone with a disability.

oomm-students

I wanted to remind everyone that the next book club pick is Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind. I know it’s hard to find the time to read in the summer, but I’m excited to read this book for a few reasons.

  1. A fourth grader recommended it to me last year during the weeks I read Wonder. She says that if you love Wonder (she did) you’ll love Out of My Mind. I always appreciate a book recommendation from a child, so of course I’m going to read it and report back to her.
  2. I’m always looking for books to add to the library, and middle school books are especially challenging. I’ve found that many of the “popular” books assume middle schoolers live for farts and slapstick comedy. And okay, they do love farts and slapstick, but they are also more than willing to tackle tough issues.
  3. We haven’t yet read a book about a child with special needs, especially from the perspective of the child.
  4. If you have or know children between 9-14 years of age, this is a book you can read and pass on or read together. Parent/child bonding time! I’m going to give this book on to Mikey when I’m done. Then, I’m going to read the middle school version of Game of Thrones he loves so much. (Hmmm. Possible book club pick?)
  5. The discussion date for this book is AUGUST 7, 2014. You’ll see a post about the book on that day, and people can share their thoughts in the comment section. Please, please join us! Everyone is welcome, even if you never read the blog. :)

    In One Person: Discussion!

    In One Person: Discussion!In One Person by John Irving
    Published by Simon and Schuster on 2012-05-08
    Genres: Fiction, Gay, General, Literary, Political
    Pages: 448
    Goodreads
    three-stars

    I finally figured out what bothers me about John Green, and all it took was several years and In One Person by John Irving.

    Starting a book review by mentioning the dislike of another, entirely different, author may seem strange, but I think it’s fitting for a book like In One Person. The first few chapters of the book seemed disjointed and confused. The narrator, Billy, was talking about his childhood, his adulthood, and the times in between. He spoke of relationships with men and women and people in between. I couldn’t follow the flow of the story. I was totally and utterly confused. Later, I realized that was the point. I was confused like Billy once was. As the novel progressed, Billy was more direct, easier to understand and more confident. The books seemed less simpering and apologetic.

    I chose this book for two reasons. First, for all the books we’ve read in multiple genres and formats, we hadn’t yet read a book that discussed, as its main focus, the LGBTQ community. That seemed like an obvious hole and a missed opportunity to explore topics or situations with which some of us may be unfamiliar.

    The second reason I chose In One Person is because John Irving is a difficult author to love, though I do. His writing, I’ve found, is hit and miss. Sometimes he’s brilliant, and sometimes he’s dull. I slogged through Until I Find You and came close to hating The Fourth Hand. (Irving came close to betraying me with that book. I didn’t read his next release.)

    I know exactly where I was when I read my first Irving novel. I was on my way home from Lake Tahoe and the book was A Widow for One Year. It was 1998. I read that book from cover to cover. I couldn’t put it down. I loved it. I got that rush you get when you read a book that inspires you. It’s not the same feeling you get when you read something really entertaining. Those books, too, you can’t put down. An inspiring book is more about reading someone you could never measure up to, but you wouldn’t miss it for the world. There are passages from that book I can still recite.

    “…there is no nakedness that compares to being naked in front of someone for the first time.”

    “It was a sound like someone trying not to make a sound.”

    “Of course, if I write a first-person novel about a woman writer, I am inviting every book reviewer to apply the autobiographical label — to conclude that I am writing about myself. But one must never not write a certain kind of novel out of fear of what the reaction to it will be.”

    That last one I don’t actually remember, but if you’ve read John Irving, it’s says as much about John Irving as anything could.

    I read every other John Irving book I could find when I got home. Like most of the world, my favorite was A Prayer for Owen Meany. That book. I’m still searching for a book I love as much.

    “I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice. Not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God. I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”

    “Your memory is a monster; you forget—it doesn’t. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you—and summons them to your recall with will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!”

    “I want to go on being a student,” I told him. “I want to be a teacher. I’m just a reader,” I said.

    “DON’T SOUND SO ASHAMED,” he said. “READING IS A GIFT.”

    “I learned it from you,” I told him.

    “IT DOESN’T MATTER WHERE YOU LEARNED IT- IT’S A GIFT. IF YOU CARE ABOUT SOMETHING, YOU HAVE TO PROTECT IT. IF YOU’RE LUCKY ENOUGH TO FIND A WAY OF LIFE YOU LOVE, YOU HAVE TO FIND THE COURAGE TO LIVE IT.”

    My favorite lines from In One Person:

    “people can’t, unhappily, invent their mooring posts, their lovers and their friends, anymore than they can invent their parents.”

    “Tom Atkins would be a safer choice for you than Kacques Kittredge, William” Miss Frost said. I knew this was true, too, though I didn’t find Atkins attractive–except in the way that someone who adores you can become a little attractive to you, over time. (But that almost never works out, does it?)”

    “Self-hatred is worse than loneliness.”

    “It happens to many teenagers-that moment when you feel full of resentment or distrust for those adults you once loved unquestioningly.”

    Like every John Irving book ever published, there are recurrent themes and narrative situations/locations. Irving often injects himself in his narratives, which often span decades. For example, there is almost always a main character who is a writer. The setting at some point will involve a New England all-boys preparatory school. Someone, at some point, is a “sexual outsider.” A parent, usually a father, is absent. Someone dies. There is wrestling. My God, there is always wrestling.

    Which brings me back to John Green. Like John Irving, Green repeats his themes and characters. There is always one or more characters with an odd habit or hobby. In Looking for Alaska, Miles memorizes the last words of famous people. Colin Singleton will only date girls named Katherine (with a K) in An Abundance of Katherines. And of course, in The Fault in Our Stars, Augustus Waters doesn’t smoke the cigarettes he holds between his lips. “It’s a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don’t give it the power to do its killing.”

    Oh, Lord. That brings me to what truly bothers me about John Green. I have never, ever, heard teens act as clever or communicate as well as the ones in John Green books. The dialog is so pithy, so perfect, so very much unlike almost all teenagers the world over.

    “Oh, I wouldn’t mind, Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”

    “I’m in love with you,” he said quietly.

    “Augustus,” I said.

    “I am,” he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.”

    “My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”

    “As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.”

    John Green is saccharine. Maybe the problem is with me. I’m don’t like cloying speeches or overly romantic gestures, nor am I swayed by pretty words or boys who don’t smoke metaphorical cigarettes. (Yes, I know his audience is far younger than I am, but even at that age I didn’t like perfectly clever.)

    John Irving is many things (overly masculine, predictable, sporadic, and arguably repetitive), but he is not sweet. Edmund White’s book endorsement sums it up well. “From the beginning of his career, Irving has always cherished our peculiarities–in a fierce, not a saccharine way.”

    In One Person was fierce. At times I didn’t like it, at times I was uncomfortable, and many, many times I was sad. I can’t go into it because I don’t want to reveal spoilers, but the last third of the book had me as close to tears as I ever get. That’s what I like about Irving books. Like them or not, they pull emotion out of me.

    “We read to know we’re not alone.”
    ― William Nicholson, Shadowlands

    Eating Animals: Discussion!

    Eating Animals

    There are 24 annotations in my copy of Eating Animals. The passages I highlighted were funny, like when Jonathan Safran Foer described his childhood visits with his grandmother.

    Growing up, my brother and I thought our grandmother was the greatest chef who ever lived. [...] And yet we were wordly enough kids to know that the Greatest Chef Who Ever Lived would probably have more than one recipe (chicken with carrots), and that most Great Recipes involved more than two ingredients. And why didn’t we question her when she told us that dark food is inherently healthier than light food, or that most of the nutrients are found in the peel or crust? (The sandwiches of those weekend stays were made with the saved ends of pumpernickel loaves.) She taught us that animals that are bigger than you are very good for you, animals that are smaller than you are good for you, fish (which aren’t animals) are fine for you, then tuna (which aren’t fish), then vegetables, fruits, cakes, cookies, and sodas. No foods are bad for you. Fats are healthy–all fats, always, in any quantity. Sugars are very healthy. The fatter a child is, the healthier it is–especially if it’s a boy. Lunch is not one meal, but three, to be eaten at 11:00, 12:30, and 3:00.

    Years and years from now, this is how Mikey and Nico will remember my mother.

    I highlighted passages that gave me pause, such as his description of his grandmother’s refusal to eat pork during World War II.

    “The worst it got was near the end. A lot of people died right at the end, and I didn’t know if I could make it another day. A farmer, a Russian, God bless him, he saw my condition, and he went into his house and came out with a piece of meat for me.”

    “He saved your life.”

    “I didn’t eat it.”

    “You didn’t eat it?”

    “It was pork. I wouldn’t eat pork.”

    “Why?”

    “What do you mean, why?”

    “What, because it wasn’t kosher?”

    “Of course.”

    “But not even to save your life?”

    “If nothing matters, there is nothing to save.”

    Of course I highlighted many passages on the abuse of animals in factory farms, even though this wasn’t new to me. When you have been as interested in veganism for as long as I have (I was vegan for two years in college and, oddly, have an impressive collection of vegan cookbooks) nothing much surprises you, other than your continued support of factory farming by eating meat. I knew about the male chicks (DO NOT click on that link unless you have a strong stomach), the pigs, the veal.

    I also highlighted what did surprise me, like how absolutely devastating animal agriculture is to the environment.

    Animal agriculture makes a 40% greater contribution to global warming than all transportation in the world combined; it is the number one cause of climate change.

    Or:

    According to the UN, the livestock sector is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, around 40 percent more than the entire transport sector–cars, trucks, planes, trains, and ships–combined. Animal agriculture is responsible for 37 percent of anthropogenic methan, which offers twenty-three times the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2, as well as 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide, which provides a staggering 296 times the GWP of CO2. The most current data even quantified the role of diet: omnivores contribute seven times the volume of greenhouse gases that vegans do.

    How very, very difficult it is to avoid factory farmed animals.

    Nintey-nine percent of all land animals eaten or used to produce milk and eggs in the United States are factory farmed. So although there are important exceptions, to speak about eating animals today is to speak about factory farming. [emphasis in the original]

    The impact animal agriculture has on biodiversity.

    For every ten tuna, sharks, and other large predatory fish that were in our oceans fifty to a hundred years ago, only one is left.

    [Shrimp] trawlers sweep up fish, sharks, rays, crabs, squid, scallops-typically about a hundred different fish and other species. Virtually all die…. The average trawling operation throws 80 to 90 percent of the sea animals it captures as bycatch overboard.

    The widespread human rights violations to which I contributed to with my cognitive dissonance.

    [The] annual turnover rates typically exceed 100%. [...] By the standards of the international human rights community, the typical working conditions in America’s slaughterhouses constitute human rights violations; for you, they constitute a crucial way to produce cheap meat and feed the world.

    The workers most likely to be caught in the net are undocumented immigrants, recent immigrants, and non-native speakers. Fast Food Nation, the movie, touches upon these issues. Regardless of your stance on immigration, no one deserves to be treated like animals.

    In fact, animals don’t deserve to be treated like animals–at least not factory farmed animals. This isn’t a belief limited to left-wing hippies, the privileged bourgeoisie, or extreme animal activists. Many political and religious authorities on both sides of the aisle and up and down the economic ladder have commented on the horrors of factory farms, including the Catholic Church.

    Animals are God’s creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless Him and give Him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals. [. . .] It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly.

    [W]e can see that they are given into our care, that we cannot just do whatever we want with them. Animals, too, are God’s creatures . [ . . .] Certainly, a sort of industrial use of creatures, so that geese are fed in such a way as to produce as large a liver as possible, or hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds, this degrading of living creatures to a commodity seems to me in fact to contradict the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.

    — Pope Benedict XVI

    [A]nimals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren. [T]hey are the fruit of the creative action of the Holy Spirit and merit respect [...] and are as near to God as men are. Animals have the breath of life and were given it by God. In this respect, man created by the hand of God is identical with all living creatures. [...] The existence therefore of all living creatures depends on the living spirit/breath of God that not only creates but also sustains and renews the face of the earth.

    —Saint Pope John Paul II

    I also found a quote by Pope Francis but I just searched for 30 minutes and can’t find it. Naturally.

    Many people continue to eat animal products after reading Eating Animals, and I believe that is because the book does not preach or command. It’s philosophical in nature and allows the reader to make the final decision. Key: the reader. How one eats is a personal decision, barring eating disorders and other obvious exceptions. Cannibalism = NOT OKAY.

    This brings me to the most amazing revelation I had when reading this book. If you follow me on instagram, you know I am fond of sharing screenshots of what I’m reading. I did that with Eating Animals on all my social media channels and discovered there is no faster way to lose followers (a term I still loathe, by the way). This surprised me. Why does anyone care what I do or don’t eat? Or read? Or say? Or think? To take issue with how one eats is like taking issue with how one spends their money, unless that person is proselytizing. Then they are kind of asking for it.

    After we got Buttercup, the boys decided they would no longer eat chicken. To quote Mikey, “I pet birds; I don’t eat birds.” I didn’t say much because they’re young enough to take on commitments the extent of which they don’t understand. Both boys have been on the receiving end of some teasing by both family and friends when they hear of their chicken-ban.

    I assumed they would cave at the first chicken dinner, but Nico surprised me. He went to a school function and the only meat option was chicken. He told the mom serving the meal that he didn’t eat chicken. When questioned he said, “Because I have a pet bird, and that would be like eating her ancestors.” He later said the same thing when he sat down with 1st and 8th graders. Then he enjoyed his “coleslaw, fruit, bread, and Sun Chips. And, uh, two pieces of cake.” I saw his 8th grade partner yesterday, and he couldn’t believe a 7 year old would pass up fried chicken.

    I can.

    Nico

    TL;DR
    ? I found this infographic on Eating Animals in a nutshell.

    truth-about-factory-farms

    The Phenomenally Indecisive Book Club | May, June, July, August 2014

    TPIBC-Square-Text-Logo full color
    Let’s do this! After the boring procedural stuff.

    • I’ll pick books 4-6 months in advance. This should give everyone time to get your copy from the library if you are not buying the books. Full disclosure: I will be linking to the books using my Amazon affiliate account. If you are a blogger, librarian, or bookseller, etc., consider signing up for sites like NetGalley or Edelweiss and read the ARCs.
    • Book discussions will occur here, in the comment section of my conversation-starter post on the first Thursday of the month.
    • Anyone can join in on the discussion. You do not need to be a regular reader of this blog. No dues, no subscriptions, no likes/follows/retweets required.

    And now, the books!

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    Book Club Schedule for May, June, July, August 2014

    May Book Club Pick

    Eating Animals | Jonathon Safran Foer
    Category: Essays
    Discussion: June 5, 2014

    Like many young Americans, Jonathan Safran Foer spent much of his teenage and college years oscillating between enthusiastic carnivore and occasional vegetarian. As he became a husband, and then a father, the moral dimensions of eating became increasingly important to him. Faced with the prospect of being unable to explain why we eat some animals and not others, Foer set out to explore the origins of many eating traditions and the fictions involved with creating them.

    Traveling to the darkest corners of our dining habits, Foer raises the unspoken question behind every fish we eat, every chicken we fry, and every burger we grill. Part memoir and part investigative report, Eating Animals is a book that, in the words of the Los Angeles Times, places Jonathan Safran Foer “at the table with our greatest philosophers.”

    June Book Club Pick

    In One Person | John Irving
    Category: Literature and Fiction
    Discussion: July 10, 2014 (Date extended due to holiday)

    “His most daringly political, sexually transgressive, and moving novel in well over a decade” (Vanity Fair).

    Winner of a 2013 Lambda Literary Award

    A New York Times bestselling novel of desire, secrecy, and sexual identity, In One Person is a story of unfulfilled love—tormented, funny, and affecting—and an impassioned embrace of our sexual differences. Billy, the bisexual narrator and main character of In One Person, tells the tragicomic story (lasting more than half a century) of his life as a “sexual suspect,” a phrase first used by John Irving in 1978 in his landmark novel of “terminal cases,” The World According to Garp.

    In One Person is a poignant tribute to Billy’s friends and lovers—a theatrical cast of characters who defy category and convention. Not least, In One Person is an intimate and unforgettable portrait of the solitariness of a bisexual man who is dedicated to making himself “worthwhile.”

    July Book Club Pick

    Out of My Mind | Sharon M. Draper
    Category: Young Readers (middle school)
    Discussion Date: August 7, 2014

    “If there is one book teens and parents (and everyone else) should read this year, Out of My Mind should be it” (Denver Post).

    Melody is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom—the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged, because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she’s determined to let everyone know it…somehow. In this breakthrough story—reminiscent of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly—from multiple Coretta Scott King Award-winner Sharon Draper, readers will come to know a brilliant mind and a brave spirit who will change forever how they look at anyone with a disability.

    August Book Club Pick

    We Were Liars | E. Lockhart
    Category: Young Adult
    Discussion Date: September 4, 2014

    “Thrilling, beautiful, and blisteringly smart, We Were Liars is utterly unforgettable.” – John Green, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fault in Our Stars

    A beautiful and distinguished family.
    A private island.
    A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
    A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
    A revolution. An accident. A secret.
    Lies upon lies.
    True love.
    The truth.

    We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
    Read it.
    And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

    Book Club

    TPIBC-Full-Logo all black

    I’ve had a few requests to bring it back. What do you think? Before I do, I’d like to get some feedback on procedure.

    I like the we read a wide variety of books. Last time, we ended up reading young adult, fantasy, cooking, politics/fashion, mystery, classical literature, science, short stories, dystopian, and much more. We really read almost anything and everything, but is it time to narrow our focus? Should we stick to a couple of genres, like young adult, or should that be a separate book club for those who are passionate about a genre?

    We kept the discussions to the blog, and I think that worked for people who don’t participate in social media. It also made it easy to reference back if someone read the book later. I’ve seen book clubs on Twitter, and so far I haven’t been impressed. It’s like walking into a room with 25 people talking at once. Facebook, eh. It’s also hard to keep track of what’s going on. I’m shooting for a redesign of this blog, hopefully this summer, and I’d like to add some comment features since we do have a pretty active community here. I love it when people talk amongst themselves.

    We had a set date, which I was able to stick to some of the time. I think a set date works best, and I will try to be better about sticking to my own deadlines. Honestly, I forget! I will put it in my calendar.

    I tried to pick books a month at a time. Towards the end, I tried 3 months at a time. That worked well. I have been debating picking out the books for an entire year in advance, but would that stifle our ability to tackle a new and interesting book, or should we do “bonus round” book clubs for books that come out and are too irresistible?

    Those are my thoughts on book club. I’m eager to hear yours. Thanks!

Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.