On ‘They Say / I Say’

They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic WritingThey Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A colleague and friend of mine passed along this book’s citation, suggesting that it might be of interest to me for a new course I’m teaching on academic rhetoric and argumentation.

She could not have made a more apt book recommendation.

What a gem for those seeking to become better academic writers as well as for those guiding others to improve their writing skills and prose. Examining academic texts not simply as a report of findings but as a conversation amongst scholars helps to create clear and engaging texts, rather than prose that suffers from the inaccessibility label often lobbed at members of the academy and their manuscripts.

Indeed, I’m often asking my own students why academic texts shouldn’t engage readers, even those from fields and disciplines further removed from their own?

I’ll be recommending this to all of my students from now on. And, revisiting this book as I work to improve my own writing as well my classes.

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On ‘The Subversive Copy Editor

The Subversive Copy Editor, Second Edition: Advice from ChicagoThe Subversive Copy Editor, Second Edition: Advice from Chicago by Carol Fisher Saller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this book.

Copyediting and proofreading as a job entered my life rather unexpectedly and perhaps entirely because I was the only native English speaker in an office of Russians. Such skills have lead me down career paths I never envisioned, and at times upon completion of various gigs left me reeling from unending headaches or bursting with immense pride in equal measure.

Carol Fisher Saller is witty, insightful and brutally honest throughout this book. Reading her is like chatting with a trusted (and at times irritatingly correct) colleague and patient mentor.

Whether you want a look into what editors do, wish to embark on a career or vocation as a copy editor or just want an entertaining read abut a profession that is both vitally necessary and frequently dismissed, this is a great read.

Here’s to all those subversive copy editors. May we never run out of red ink.

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On ‘I Am Not Your Negro’

I Am Not Your NegroI Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I saw ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ during its only showing in Helsinki a few months ago at a film festival. I knew it would be a powerful documentary and commentary on race in America, both historically during the civil rights era and given contemporary events. I had no idea I’d still be so affected by some of those words and images today.

Given current happenings in the US, and specifically the events of this past weekend in Charlottesville, I keep returning to various scenes from the film and the eloquent anger and pain carried through Baldwin’s words, whether calmly spoken and delivered by himself decades ago or narrated by Samuel L Jackson. Medgar, Malcom and Martin were silenced, but Baldwin almost seems alive in the theatre or in the words printed in this book. I can only image how incredibly powerful his planned book would have been. In its absence, I’m grateful to at least have ‘I Am Not Your Negro’, along with all of his other works.

In a fevered state this afternoon, I came across this excerpt, and it seems so appropriate in this moment:

‘You never had to look at me.
I had to look at you.
I know more about you than you know about me.
Not everything that is faced can be changed;
but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’

Nothing can be changed until it is faced.

Nearly 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr was shot and killed, we appear to have regressed in our attempts in the US to face the brutal reality in the history of our nation. Until we face that reality—openly and honestly and completely—how many more Charlottesvilles will we witness?

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On ‘Ash & Quill’ by Rachel Caine

Ash and Quill (The Great Library #3)Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my god! What am I supposed to do until the next instalment comes out?!

I seriously love this series. I don’t know if it’s because it’s about something as compelling as a Great Library or the notion that books are trapped and controlled by individuals with less than noble and more than nefarious intentions. But, it’s a brilliant series to my mind and I’m enjoying these gems immensely.

What a perfect escape from the rest of the world, and, yet, oddly dystopian in its own right.

But, seriously, when is The Great Library #4 coming? Because I can’t wait to read more!

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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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