On ‘For All of Us, One Today’

For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's JourneyFor All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey by Richard Blanco

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A good friend of mine (and poet himself) attended a reading by Richard Blanco and had him sign a copy of this little gem of a story for my husband (a Cuban) and I. It was a lovely surprise to receive in the mail. And, one made all the more meaningful for the various connections and parallels with my own little part of the world.

As an immigrant to another country myself, married to a one-time immigrant to the US, there is so much that resonates with me in this particular journey and story. Blanco’s poems are lovely and meaningful. And, I can see now why he was chosen as the inaugural poet.

Aside from the poems and process of being inaugural poet, the more inspiring bit is his devotion and inspiration to making poetry more relevant and visible in contemporary American life in the wake of his experience. Rather than boasting about being selected as inaugural poet, he desires to do good with that voice gained as a result. And, to give voice to all those whom he influenced and inspired with his poem.

We are a country of immigrants, some newer and some far removed from their ancestors who first stepped foot on North American soil. But, the majority of us are from elsewhere. Embracing that unique mixture and shared reality and history is what makes us truly great to my mind. What a fitting way to acknowledge that diversity and shared history through the selection of Blanco as inaugural poet.

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On ‘Where Men Win Glory’

Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat TillmanWhere Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can’t remember which Krakauer book I read first—Into Thin Air or Into the Wild. Whichever it was matters little at this point. What is clear is that he is a singularly gifted story teller and a meticulous researcher when it comes to uncovering what he can of whatever truth remains hidden.

This book is utterly gut-wrenching. And, yet, like several of his other works absolutely crucial reading.

I’m not a football fan at all, and can’t claim to have been aware of Pat Tillman or his talents as a player, let alone what team he played for. His name was only familiar to me because, like many, I’d read stories or headlines about the former NFL player-turned Ranger in the wake of 9/11. And, how he tragically lost his life serving in the Armed Forces in Afghanistan.

To learn the details, or what we can, of what ultimately occured in Afghanistan to an individual with unimaginable integrity and bravery leaves me further enraged beyond words by wars that never should have been launched. To read the lengths high-ranking individuals went to to keep key details regarding the circumstances of his death not just from the public but from Tillman’s family leaves me sickened. What an obscene and callous slight to the ultimate sacrifice he made, and what an utter disgrace to his memory.

This book will remain with me for quite some time. Part Two features a quote from Chris Hedges that haunts me and should haunt all, particularly those who make decisions regarding the willingness of a nation to enter any war: ‘War is always about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics and of troops by politicians.’

As much as Pat Tillman lived by a measure of integrity and honesty and goodness which we’d all do well to emulate, so many have betrayed him and what he so courageously chose to serve for. He wasn’t merely a jock joining a war he necessarily believed in. He was a thoughtful, principled, learned man who served a cause he thought to be a part of the greater good. His memory and legacy deserve infinitely more than the betrayal they’ve received.

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Furiously Happy

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible ThingsFuriously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My introduction to Jenny Lawson began with Beyoncé, the Giant Metal Chicken. Need I say more?

I loved this book. And, I love The Bloggess for simply being her wonderfully wacky self. Several chapters in this particular book resonated with me quite deeply, largely because of her brutal honesty and clarity in writing about her own mental illness. Anyone who has struggled with that voice in their head will know how pernicious it can be. But, in her writing, she makes the reality of living with and dealing with those highs and lows a little more accessible for those who love someone battling the nonsense in their head. And, for that alone, I am grateful to her.

We’re all a little weird. We’re all incredibly quirky. And, we’re all equally wonderful in our uniqueness, whether we struggle with health issues or not. And, when we can, we should all be furiously happy.

And, we should plant giant metal chickens all over place, because why the hell not?!

Giant chickens for the masses

An army of metal chickens spotted in Menton, France, Spring 2014.

 

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Giving voice to survivors of sexual assault

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College TownMissoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You’d have to be living under a rock this year to avoid stories of entitled, young male athletes sexually assaulting young women and serving little or no jail time for such crimes.

Missoula, Montana may not be unique in the number of young women who are vilified or simply not believed when they step forward naming their assailants. Jon Krakauer gives those young women who’ve survived rape a powerful voice, one we should all listen and respond to.

Whatever we are teaching young men, it shouldn’t be that they can get away with rape. From prosecutors to communities, we all have a responsibility to clearly and definitively say, ‘this is not okay’. Perhaps, we’ve woken up in the wake of cases like Brock Turner’s outrageously light sentence for sexually assaulting an unconscious young woman. Judging by the reactions and words of his father — diminishing rape to a mere ‘20 minutes of action‘ — as well as some of the reactions and character assassinations all too common in Missoula and elsewhere, we have a long way to go.

Whilst Krakauer pens a particularly difficult book to read given the understandably horrendous descriptions and details throughout, it’s an incredibly important read. We need to listen to those who come forward after being sexually assaulted. We need to approach their assaults from a place of belief and seeking truth and justice rather than giving their attackers the benefit of the doubt. Otherwise, the shame and guilt and fear each woman experienced in the immediate aftermath of their living nightmares will never heal. They will never find peace.

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