Posts Tagged ‘books’

Things I Learned From Bob Garner’s New Book

Bob Garner is kind of a joke between Steven and I. I always DVR the show North Carolina Weekend on the local PBS affiliate because sometimes it gives me ideas about cool things to do. Also, I have become fake-frenemies with everyone on it. For instance, when the host, Deborah Holt Noel, has her coworkers going to some wooden duck museum while she gets to check out the hottest new restaurant in Raleigh, YEAH, I SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING, GIRL. It’s fine. I would abuse my power too, if I had any.

But Bob Garner is definitely the most hilarious part of North Carolina Weekend. He reviews restaurants in the measured, dulcet tones of Mitch McConnell. It’s basically watching an old guy eat and then proclaiming everything delicious, so Top Chef it’s not. He never has complaints, and you can only tell the variation in the dishes based on the noises he makes, usually some variation of “Mmmmmmm-mmmmmm”. But is it with his eyes closed or open? Does he turn his face upward towards the camera as if basking in the pure, heavenly perfection of this fish sandwich/hushpuppy/pie? Clearly I have too much time on my hands.

Then one day at the library I noticed he’d written a book:

The Book

The Book

FOODS THAT MAKE YOU SAY MMM-MMM!!!!!!! I had to check it out. There are definitely some good recipes inside, but most of it is history and information about various North Carolina foods. I actually learned a lot. Including:

1. Bob Garner completely owns being Bob Garner

BOB GARNER KNOWS THAT HE IS SEMI-RIDICULOUS!!!!! This changes everything. Check out this author photo:

This man knows exactly what he's doing

This man knows exactly what he’s doing

The fact that Bob Garner is in on the joke that is Bob Garner is amazing. I feel less bad for mimicking him stupidly whenever Steven makes me a smoothie now. Plus, he actually does seem to know a lot of stuff about North Carolina foods. I should have known that WUNC wouldn’t put just any old dude in front of a camera to eat pimento cheese.

2. Atkinson Milling

This mill is an hour from my house, and has been operating since 1757!!! These are two invaluable facts for me to know.

And it looks pretty!

And it looks pretty!

The grinding of the cornmeal is still done with water power, and it’s the only remaining water-powered mill in a four county area (at least)!

3. Muscadine and scuppernongs

These are the two kinds of grapes native to North Carolina! They make delicious wine, but I didn’t know that a scuppernong is actually a type of muscadine. “North Carolinians refer to any bronze- or greenish-hued muscadines as scuppernongs… because many cuttings of what was first simply called “the big white grape” were planted and cultivated during the 1700s around Asupernung river” (52).

They are "about the size of a hog's eye"

They are “about the size of a hog’s eye”

Apparently these grapes are also one of the healthiest and sweetest varieties in the world. The hot, humid climate of eastern NC is prone to fungal diseases, so the grapes produce extra antioxidants to protect themselves. Bob Garner also provides recipes from the annual North Carolina Muscadine Harvest Festival, which is awesome because I really only knew about them from wine. This includes Sparkling Oatmeal Muffins, Chicken Vegetable Kabobs with Muscadine Barbecue Sauce, Muscadine Nachos, and Muscadine Grape Hull Pie.

4. National Banana Pudding Festival

Oh my god y’all there is a National Banana Pudding Festival and it is in Centerville, Tennessee! THAT IS LIKE HALF AN HOUR FROM WHERE MY PARENTS ARE GOING TO RETIRE OMG.

This is just all I want out of life

This is just all I want out of life

What I’m saying is, Banana Pudding Festival 2017, I AM IN.

5. Texas Pete

I don’t want to alarm you, but Texas Pete is actually from North Carolina.



The company started as a barbecue stand in 1929 in Winston-Salem. The red pepper sauce was apparently almost named “Mexian Joe” except DAMNIT, WE ARE AMERICAN AND PROUD or something. Steven was crushed to lose yet another piece of his Texas pride.

Women need pink for reading comprehension

So here’s a book I found at the library:

Essential Car Care for Women!

Essential Car Care for Women!

Dudes, you don’t need this. You were born knowing how a four stroke combustion engine works. But ladies, in the name of equality, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Literally that’s how the back justifies itself:

Despite the many advances women have made since the internal combustion engine was invented, there is still one widely held belief that won’t seem to go away: “When it comes to cars, women should just leave it to the men.” In Essential Care Care for Women, ESPN NASCAR pit reporter Jamie Little and Discovery Channel “Turbo Expert” Danielle McCormick team up to dispel this myth once and for all

Because a special pink book for women really dispels the myth that they know fuck-all about cars and can never learn. Or maybe we just can’t learn without someone condescending to us! It’s true that I have trouble understanding text that’s not pink.

Finally someone understands my lady-needs

Finally someone understands my lady-needs

And yet, to my knowledge, this hasn’t made it on to any challenged book lists. I feel like debating this would be a better use of our time than freaking out about classical breasts on the cover of The Awakening.

Challenged Books: The Popularity Papers

Hey team!

Sorry I have been failing at my 2014 goal of posting a blogpost every week. Moving is stressful and I’ve lacked the internet for 5 days now (currently at the library like a cool kid)! And I’m mainly posting this just to prove that I did in fact read a challenged book each week of September.

The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow

The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow

This book was super cute!! It reminded me a lot of the Ameila’s Notebook series by Marissa Moss I remember buying from my elementary school book fair, full of hand-drawn pictures and text to look like handwriting. The story chronicles two 5th grade girls’ attempts to watch the popular girls and figure out how to become popular themselves. It’s pretty standard older-elementary/early-middle school themes about friendship and acceptance and maybe just discovering some boys are not gross (maybe). The only reason it was challenged was because one of the protagonists has two dads.

Previously: The Bluest Eye and The Color Purple

Challenged Books: The Bluest Eye and The Color Purple

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Recently East Wake High School, about 30 minutes from my apartment, banned the use of The Bluest Eye in English classrooms after parental complaints, and relegated The Color Purple to alternate assignment lists. I hadn’t read either of these before, and I was excited for the excuse to get some more Toni Morrison in my life. In the end, I think I liked Alice Walker better, but I can see why these books are often taught together, as they treat similar themes in different ways.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I get why some people objected to these books. They deal with serious topics and harsh realities that we wish didn’t exist. You should feel uncomfortable reading these books, because the reality experienced by the characters is upsetting. It’s not the kind of book someone picks up for a fun escape, and therefore might be largely ignored for the majority of casual readers outside a classroom context. And I think that’s why it’s important for books like these to be read. For anyone dealing with the issues of poverty, racism, and abuse in their own lives, it’s important to see themselves in literature, realize that they’re struggles aren’t their’s alone. Breaking free of the isolating nature of these problems is the first step to overcoming them. For any of us lucky enough not to have to face those issues firsthand, books like these teach us empathy. It’s one thing to read statistics or factual reports about other people’s problems, but works of fiction can get us to feel for them and really understand their lives in ways that news reports often can’t. I really think the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position is one of the greatest assets to becoming a compassionate human, and reading literature outside of our comfort zone is an important way to gain that skill. That’s why I’m grateful to my high school curriculum, for assigning books I definitely would not have picked up on my own even though I’m an avid reader, about characters whose lives were so distant from mine that their struggles shouldn’t have been able to touch me. Good writers can take us outside our own narrow experience and broaden our worldview in a way that’s needed more than ever as society becomes more interconnected and global.

So, I’m sad that these books won’t be able to change lives, but I’m happy that the controversy at least let them change mine.

Previously: A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl

Challenged Books: A Bad Boy Can be Good For A Girl

A Bad Boy Can Be Good For a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

A Bad Boy Can Be Good For a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone

I thought I’d start my Banned Books month with this book, because it was a quick read and challenged right here in North Carolina! A mother wanted it removed from the Currituck High School library because of its “pornographic” nature. By that I assume she means that some people have vague sex. The challenge went all the way to the Currituck County Board of Education, which voted 4-1 to retain the book.

I’m really glad, because I think some girls truly need this book. It’s not just about sex–although, really, what teen hasn’t felt pressure to have sex/not have sex and wondered the best way to deal with it? This book shows three different girls dealing with the same player senior boy in different ways. All of them get hurt, but all of them also come out stronger. That’s why a bad boy can be good for a girl.

I hope
next time
(because, unfortunately, you know there’s going to be
a next time),
I’ll be smarter.
Oh god, please let me act
as smart as
I am. (67)

I really like this message. Yeah, you fell too hard for a guy who didn’t deserve you. He took advantage of you and then left you. Maybe that was a mistake, but you’ve just got to learn from it and move on. I really love how Stone captures perfectly the feeling of being emotionally manipulated:

but also how totally
he made me feel.
I’m hoping that by remembering that,
as much as I’d like to forget it,
it’ll help keep me from ever
letting a boy
make me feel like
again. (71)

By describing the experience so poignantly, and then showing a character moving on and becoming stronger from it, Stone hopefully gives other girls hope. You are not alone. You’re not “stupid” or wrong because some guy manipulated you. Even if he was just using you for sex but you liked the sex, that doesn’t make you a bad person:

Am I a whore because I like sex? Or because I did it too soon? Or too much? Nobody ever calls boys whores. Why is that? (141)

I think this is why the book was challenged. Not all of the girls give in to the “bad boy”‘s manipulation and agree to have sex with him. Not all of them really regret the sex either. Calling out this double standard of male player/female whore is so important to avoid a lot of unnecessary angst, anxiety, and sexual dysfunction.

The book also has some surprisingly real Real Talk about this, the difference that still exists between societal views of men and women as sexual creatures. How men and boys are encouraged to be predatory, viewing women as sexual objects instead of people to connect with:

“What, it’s a sin to tell a guy how you feel?” I’m really crying now.

“No, of course not, but you really should wait for him to say it first,” she says.

“Why? That’s so stupid! And I don’t even know if I meant it, it’s just–how do you make love and then not say ‘I love you’?” I blubber.

“Sweetie, we call it making love, they don’t,” she says.

The phrase “nail her” flashes
like a huge neon sign in my brain.

I definitely think I’m going to throw up.(205)

Ahhhhhhhh this really happens so often, especially to girls just discovering their sexuality or first relationships, before experience makes them wary. And it sucks that we need a whole book to warn girls and help them deal, but you know this has helped so many readers, just like the girls help each other in the story:

“Can I help you?” I say.
“No, but I’m hoping I can help you… because it wasn’t your fault,” she says.

I try to say “I know that,”
but I’m choking on my words through the tears.
She definitely hit a nerve.(215)

The girls in the book gain a sort of camaraderie after seeking each other out and seeing that the same boy used the same techniques on all of them before dumping them immediately after getting what he wanted. Seeing that they weren’t alone, and that “it wasn’t your fault”, is incredibly important because society tends to put the majority of blame on women, even when they are the victims of sex crimes. Though this book doesn’t address rape, it definitely includes emotional and sexual manipulation, and a boy spouting off the normal bullshit boys this age always try. “I need it,” “we’ve been together so long,” “you can’t just leave me like this”… all to say, one way or another, “you owe this to me.” And then, whether she gives in to the guilt or not, she ends up abandoned and usually shamed by the rest of the school for being a “slut”. This bullshit happens all the time, and the only way to make it stop is to address it honestly, in conversations and in books like this.

The more I read, the more I realize
I’m not alone.
And it helps.
It really
helps. (217)

That’s why it’s important for this book to stay in the library. Not talking about these problems only makes them worse.

Also, my copy of this book had an amazing commentary someone has written in after Part 1:

Seeing someone called A BUT is like a flashback to Middle School Patricia. Although she knew how to spell it

Seeing someone called A BUT is like a flashback to Middle School Patricia. Although she knew how to spell it

this is a bout a gril Named Josie going out with a guy and he is jest useing Josie. So he is a toldle but!!! then they Break UP. the End

Previously: Banned Books Week 2014

Banned Books Week 2014!

You know I am already getting pumped for Banned Books Week September 21st-27th. It’s the only thing that reigns in my Halloween enthusiasm till a more appropriate time. I think I’ve shared the 2013 Most Frequently Challenged Book List with you before, but here it is again:

Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

Each year the ALA also puts out a more informative list with examples and more details about the cases as part of the press kit. This year’s list concerns challenges from May 2013 to March 2014, and I went through and listed them all out in spreadsheet form to see how many I had already read (you know I love a good spreadsheet). This year, I’d already read 10 of the 28 titles listed, and here they are:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
I listened to the audiobook (read by the author) which I still think is the best way to enjoy this book. My writeup of it is here.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
We read selections from this book in 7th grade, but, like most of the girls in my class, I ended up checking the real book out from the library (particularly after hearing about how there were BOOBS in it–the very section usually brought up in its challenges)
Bless Me, Ultima by Rodolfo Anaya
I read this in a young adult lit class during a section on banned books. I guess because if you practice a religion other than straight-up, mainline Christianity, someone’s going to have a problem with it.
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
I read this last year as part of my 200 books! It even made the Pretty List! Rainbow Rowell’s depiction of an abusive stepfather and poverty are scarily real. So by all means let’s restrict access for kids it might actually help.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I read this in Scotland when I had copious free time, little money, and access to only an academic library.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
I HAD A TEST ON THIS BOOK ON THE 3RD DAY OF SCHOOL, 11TH GRADE. Because St. Pete IB was hardcore about their summer reading list, once upon a time. House of the Spirits is my go to book for “naughtiest thing I read for school” due to all the sex and rape and reanimated mummy porn and whatnot. I usually follow this with “… and if I’m not scarred for life, I think whoever is reading The Awakening right now will be fine.” I was SO THRILLED to learn that other schools are getting their magical realist game on. This was the first magical realist text I ever read. Never looked back
Intensely Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
I read the whole Alice series two years ago because they end up on these lists so often. I can’t say I found any of them very shocking, but a bunch of them did end up on my Ugly List that year.
The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
This is a picture book about an Iraqi librarian trying to save the books in the library from fire/bombing during the Iraq War. The illustrations are beautiful! And, of course, it’s a true story.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I read this for this project like four years ago before it was a movie or anything! Remember how we had a heart to heart about it? And Brian’s comments were flagged by my homophobic spam filter? Truly a simpler time.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
I think I read this for a graphic novel project? This was actually my favorite case I read about in the press kit this year. Here is the quote of the story:

Removed, via a district directive, from all Chicago, Ill. public schools (2013) due to “graphic illustrations and language” and concerns about “developmental preparedness” and “student readiness.” Seventh- and eleventh-grade students study the graphic novel about the author’s experience growing up in Iran during the Iranian revolution as part of Chicago Public Schools’ Literacy Content Framework. As the news spread of the directive, students mobilized a media campaign in opposition to “banning a book that’s all about the freedom of speech.” Students took to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, checked out all library copies of the book, wrote blogs, sent e-mails, wrote investigative articles for the student newspaper, contacted the author, staged protests, and appeared on local radio and television programs. Eventually the school issued a letter telling high school principals to disregard the earlier order to pull the book.

I love this one the most because when you research cases of books being challenged, you hear a lot from angry parents, some from defensive librarians and teachers, and, most of the time, absolutely nothing from actual students. I love that these students recognized this hypocrisy, and cared enough to do something about it! But I also love hearing their opinion about the book challenge in general, since the literature’s effect on them is the whole point of all of this.

Anyway, of the challenges I read about this year, I decided to concentrate first on those challenged around here, in North Carolina. Which is timely because there was just an article in the paper about The Bluest Eye being pulled right here in my county! Stay tuned.

August Books

This month I only got through 5 books, which means I still have 27 more to go. 72% done!

Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow

Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow

Title: Sorrow’s Knot
Author: Erin Bow
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.97/5
My Rating: 5/5

This book was awesome. From the description, I wasn’t sure what to expect, and that’s because this book is so hard to describe. It reminded me a little of Garth Nix’s Sabriel, in that a young girl with great power has to hold back the dead, but the society portrayed in Sorrow’s Knot is much more tribal, and exists much more on the edge of extinction than even Nix’s Old Kingdom. The Free Women of the Forest have always kept back the dead by tying intricate knots to bind them. Rigid rules keep the women of the tribe safe, but also, in a way, keep them imprisoned. This book didn’t follow the narrative I thought it would, which made me love it. People die, not in some dramatic plot-point way, just… stupidly and suddenly, like in real life. It also has some really subtle yet great messages about the power of story and the meaning of “powerless”. I really hope it becomes a series because I am hella interested in learning more about this world.

Taste by Kate Colquhoun

Taste by Kate Colquhoun

Title: Taste: The Story of Britain through its Cooking
Author: Kate Colquhoun
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.78/5
My Rating: 4/5

Holla culinary history!! I am always down with learning more about the flamingos and crazy gelatin crap people used to eat.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Title: My Life Next Door
Author: Huntley Fitzpatrick
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.07/5
My Rating: 3/5

This was a pretty typical YA romance, drawing heavily on Romeo and Juliet (minus all the stupidity). The girl’s mom is a neat-freak senator, the boy comes from a ramshackle, loud, giant, messy family. TRUE LOVE. You know the drill.

Le Bleu est une Couleur Chaude

Le Bleu est une Couleur Chaude

Title: Le Bleu est une couleur chaude (Blue is the Warmest Color)
Author: Julie Maroh
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.01/5
My Rating: 3/5

The story in this book was kind of whatever, but the art was beautiful, and the way color was used was very powerful. Since I had to buy it, I opted for the English translation, although really the dialog was so sparse, I feel like I could have done it in French.

Decided Not to Read

Title: Cabinet of Earths
Author: Anne Nesbet

Previously: July Books
Next: September Books

July Books

This month I got through 7 books, which means I’m 67% done! Only 32 more to go!

Tequila Mockingbird by Tim Federle

Tequila Mockingbird by Tim Federle

Title: Tequila Mockingbird
Author: Tim Federle
My Rating: 5/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.22/5

This book is full of amazing drink recipes based on literature, most of which are named with amazing puns! Yes!!!

Book of 1000 Days by Shannon Hale

Book of 1000 Days by Shannon Hale

Title: Book of a Thousand Days
Author: Shannon Hale
My Rating: 4/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.94/5

I almost quit this book halfway through, but I’m glad I kept going because it went to a place I did not expect. It’s written from the point of view of a maid, shut up in a tower with her mistress who refused to marry the man her father picked out for her. It reminded me a lot of Mulan, I guess because there’s an invading army led by a total creeper, a lot of assuming false identities, and unconventional uses of power.

Notorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll

Notorious Royal Marriages by Leslie Carroll

Title: Notorious Royal Marriages
Author: Leslie Carroll
My Rating: 4/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.90/5

This book was pretty chatty, which I like. I learned some things I didn’t know. I wish it had included even one non-European example. Or that it had included more royals from countries besides England. I know all about that already, thanks.

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

Title: 172 Hours on the Moon
Author: Johan Harstad
My Rating: 2/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.61/5

This book is completely ridiculous. Completely. The only reason I gave it a 2 was because the concept of creepy evil doppelgangers is incredibly creepy, whether they are on the moon or otherwise. So, yes, there were one or two parts of this book that definitely creeped me out. But overall it is pretty hilarious bad. NASA decides to send three non-US teenagers to their secret moon base for a publicity stunt, except that the things on the moon that caused the base’s abandonment in the first place are–surprise!–still there and bent on killing everyone. One of the most hilarious things about the book is the author’s stereotypical treatment of teen girls that he never bothers to flesh out fully. “But what would I do on the moon? There’s nowhere to shop!”

It by Stephen King

It by Stephen King

Title: It
Author: Stephen King
My Rating: 1/5
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.06/5

Some parts of this book were legitimately creepy. I wasn’t as scared as I thought I would be, probably because jump scares don’t work as well in literature compared to film. The characters were less like cardboard cutouts than a typical King novel, and I liked the non-chronological storytelling. Unfortunately, I can’t get over the completely random sex scene towards the end where seven 11-year-olds decide to bang in a sewer tunnel they’re supposed to be escaping for vague “This way we’ll always be friends” reasons. And the implication that this was the way the one girl character was able to “save” the others. No thanks forever.

The Ones I Decided Not to Read

Title: The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door
Author: Karen Finneyfrock
GoodReads’ Rating: 3.73/5

Title: Winger
Author: Andrew Smith
GoodReads’ Rating: 4.2/5

Previously: June Books
Next: August Books

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