Review: Un-Ashamed

“I started spending time in the library, researching books on religion and philosophy.” page 56

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Un-Ashamed by Lecrae Moore, with Jonathan Merritt.
B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennessee, 2016.
Autobiography, 204 pages including notes (211 pages including blank note space).

The autobiography of a “Christian rapper” who successfully transitioned to general rap spaces and overcame many personal challenges.

Un-Ashamed Lecrae resized
Un-Ashamed by Lecrae.

This one is from the library.  I knew it was somewhat religious, but didn’t realize just how Christian it was.  There definitely were points that could apply to everyone, but it also was very heavy on religion.  For example, his conversion experience takes up most of a chapter, while other aspects of his life are given much less detail.  Lecrae sees his life through the filter of Christianity and views everything with God’s purpose in mind.

I’ve reviewed other books that deal with religion: with a religious main character, attempting to educate others about a misunderstood religion, a character discovering their religious identity, and even tackling a non-fiction topic from a religious perspective.  After some debate, I elected to review this book, since I did finish it, and it fits the main objective of my blog (to review books by/about marginalized groups).

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Review: I’ll Scream Later

“In February of 1987 when I went on Nightline to discuss Gallaudet University’s controversial Deaf President Now movement, the show was captioned for the first time. Anchor Ted Koppel used most of the intro to explain to the audience about the captioning they would see – technically open captioning, since anyone could see it – interpreters they would hear, signing they would also see.” page 182

I’ll Scream Later by Marlee Matlin, with Betsy Sharkey.
Originally published 2009 Handjive Productions, my edition Gallery Books, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2010.
Autobiography/memoir, 327 pages.
Not leveled.

Marlee Matlin is one of the few Deaf performers well-known to hearing audiences, but there are also many other aspects of her life and self.  She was catapulted to fame with a Best Actress Oscar on Children of a Lesser God.  Now twenty years later, she’s written a tell-all memoir about drug addiction, abusive relationships, and more.

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This was a book full of surprises.  I was moved by what an important part her Jewish faith has played in her life, especially how her childhood synagogue was fully inclusive as a hearing/Deaf worship space, with a signing rabbi.  How beautiful that her early use of language included a rich religious environment where she was able to learn about God through her own language, ASL.

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Review: Dave the Potter

“To us / it is just dirt, / the ground we walk on. / Scoop up a handful. / The gritty grains slip / between your fingers.” page 3

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier.
Little, Brown, and Company Hachette Book Group, New York, 2010.
Picture book biography, 40 pages including end notes.
Winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, 2011.
2011 Caldecott Honor recipient.
Lexile:  AD1100L (What does AD mean in Lexile?)
AR Level:  6.0 (worth 0.5 points) .

Dave the Potter was a real-life African-American slave and artist.  He must have been incredibly strong, because he was able to successfully make pots as large as forty gallons.  He knew how to read and write, because he marked poems into the sides of some of his pots.  Beyond that we may never know many of the details of his life.

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This book came up several times before I bought it.  The first time, it was mistakenly labeled as fiction.  Later I realized it was non-fiction and added it to the bottom of my TBR.  After reading When the Beat Was Born by the same author, I decided to purchase this book, knowing that the writing would be excellent.  And I loved it!

Since so little is definitively known about Dave, this book focuses on the process of making his pottery that Dave would likely have gone through, using sparse poetry, detailed and realistic images of the process, and collage backgrounds imagining the world he inhabited.

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Review: Redefining Realness

“The boundaries of gender, I was taught, were unmovable, like the glistening white rocks that surrounded Grandma’s crawfish ponds.” page 77

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love, and So Much More by Janet Mock.
Atria, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2014.
Memoir, 263 pages including acknowledgements.
Not leveled.

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I’d seen this book recommended multiple places before I finally bought it.  The tagline says “You will be changed by this book” and I have to say, that is entirely accurate.  Janet Mock is diverse and disadvantaged in so many ways – part Hawaiian, part African-American, transgender, from impoverished circumstances, a former sex worker, abused and traumatized as a child.  Yet out of this mix she has formed something gorgeous.

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Review: As Nature Made Him

“Today, with the twins having rejoined each other on the same side of the gender divide, the stark physical differences between them eerily testify to all that David has been through.” page 57

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl by John Colapinto.
Harper Perennial, Harper Collins, 2000, my edition 2006.
Nonfiction, 289 pages plus 18 pages of extras.
Not Leveled.

This is the story of an identical twin boy whose botched circumcision altered the course of his life (and many other children) forever.  When his parents desperately sought help, they connected with  researcher John Money, who believed gender was entirely fluid and culturally constructed and who encouraged them to reassign the baby’s sex.  Intact twin Brian was raised in his birth gender, while baby boy Bruce was raised as Brenda.  The results have had a long-term effect on gender theory and treatment of transgender and intersex children in North America.

As Nature Made Him

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Review: Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

“Yet here she was, three months later, with a full-fledged tumor. Either her doctors had missed it during her last exams – which seemed impossible – or it had grown at a terrifying rate.” page 17

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
Broadway Books, Crown Publishing Group, Penguin Random House, New York, 2010.
My edition 2011, some portions published as early as 2000.
Nonfiction, 381 pages including notes, index, and reading group guide.
Lexile:  1140L  .
AR Level:  8.0 (worth 18.0 points) .

Henrietta Lacks had an usual type of cancer.  Cells from this cancer were able to become the first immortal cell line and have been invaluable to many scientific discoveries and advancements in the past century.  But Henrietta was also a working-class black woman whose family was not informed of the existence of this cell line, and who died misdiagnosed.  This book manages to tell three stories: the story of Henrietta and the Lacks family, the story of her famous and scientifically important cells, and the story of the reporter’s own experiences interacting with the family.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The movie tie-in cover tricked me.  I needed to grab a Target pick quickly, so I grabbed this book without realizing it was one I had flagged as do not purchase/obtain from friend or library.  As you can tell, reading this book was something I was conflicted about, and after finishing it, I remain deeply conflicted and uncertain if I can recommend it (though I know a great deal more about the HeLa controversies than I did before reading this).

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Review: Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

“Mrs. Sikelo took me behind a curtain to a smaller room, where three floor-to-ceiling shelves were filled with books. It smelled sweet and musty, like nothing I’d ever encountered.” page 161

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer.
William Morrow, HarperCollins, New York, 2009.  My P.S. edition 2010.
New York Times Bestseller.
Lexile:  960L  .
AR Level:  6.4 (worth 15.0 points)  .
NOTE: There are three books with this title.  This review is of the adult edition.  There is also a picture book and a young reader’s edition chapter book.

William Kamkwamba had access to a small library and a scrapyard full of parts, and a dream – to ensure that his family would never starve again.  Against all odds and despite ridicule, he built a windmill and brought electricity to his family’s rural Malawian home.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

This book surprised me.  I knew the basic premise – boy builds windmill with scrap parts to bring change to his village.  But I didn’t realize that this was actually the story of Kamkwamba’s life, which starts long before windmills were even a gleam in his eye.

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