Thursday, June 28, 2007

Book Review: The Way to Rainy Mountain

June 28, 2007

"A single knoll rises out of the plain in Oklahoma, north and west of the Wichita Range. For my people, the Kiowas, it is an old landmark, and they gave it thename Rainy Mountain. The hardest weather in the world is there. ... To look upon that landscape in the early morning, with the sun at your back, is to lose the sense of proportion. Your imagination comes to life, and this, you think, is where Creation was begun."

So begins N. Scott Momaday's tribute to the Kiowa people, retelling the Kiowa legends he heard from his grandmother, speculating on actual history, and--best of all--describing his own memories of the Kiowa life he knew as a child. This is a very short book--less than 100 pages--and excellent for a look into Native American life and the plight of the Kiowa tribe. The book consists of three parts on each 2-page spread: a myth, a piece of history, and Momaday's own reflections. His writing is simple and poetic:

"East of my grandmother's house the sun rises out of the plain. Once in his life a man ought to concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth, I believe. He ought to give himself up to a particular landscape;...He ought to recollect the glare of noon and all the colors of the dawn and dusk."

I read this book as part of a Minority Literature class in graduate school, and I revisited it because I was considering it for my American Literature class in the fall. Now I remember that I always intended to read Momaday's Pulitizer Prize winning novel House Made of Dawn, so I will add that to my reading list. And while the format isn't quite what I was after for my class as a novel, I will definitely include some of his reflections as part of our coursework.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Book Reviews: I Can Cut and Stick and More Than Moccasins

I love Usborne's series that includes I Can Cut and Stick. This was one of the first Usborne Books I ever bought, and when I became a consultant, I acquired the rest of the series. I gave up selling years ago, but Donna would be happy to help anyone who is looking for Usborne! I Can Cut and Stick was always my favorite of the series because the projects are so simple but yield fabulous results. Duncan was thrilled with this 20 minute project.

But as usual, I digress. It's back to a couple more hours of camp preparation and then a relaxing evening with my family, who think I have gone AWOL. Oh, and the most awesome Native American book we have found is called More Than Moccasins: A Kid's Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life. I highly recommend it for any Native American or American History study. It's packed full of crafts, food, games, toys, and other easy projects.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Closet Classics: A Rose for Emily

June 8, 2007

Say, "William Faulkner" and you'll hear groans. I am the one voice in that sea of groans that says, "I love Faulkner!" I really do. I understand that readers either love him or hate him. Unfortunately Faulkner is often misintroduced in that students are asked to read complicated tomes such The Sound and the FuryAbsalom, Absalom. Faulkner has novellas and short stories that are easier to read. The most widely anthologized Faulkner story is "A Rose for Emily." This is a Gothic horror tale, somewhat reminiscent of Poe, first published in 1930. The story is narrated by the townspeople, who have long whispered about the eccentric recluse, Miss Emily. They are tremendously gratified, upon her death, to discover the depth of her eccentricity.

Like many Faulkner tales, this takes place in his fictionalized Yoknapatawpha County, MIssissippi. "A Rose for Emily" is very accessible to the reader because at one level, it is a satisfyingly chilling tale. Faulkner wrote dozens of short stories and novels. You can see a list of his works here.

"A Rose for Emily" is not a typical Faulkner work. In general, his writing style is difficult for the casual reader or
. His sentences are long and hypnotic. You have to really concentrate to read a Faulkner novel., but the rewards are great. To be immersed in a novel that positively drips with Southern lyricism--and cynicism--is a tremendous experience.

About Faulkner:
William Faulkner is without dispute a literary giant. The Nobel Prize-winning novelist and short story writer is acclaimed throughout the world as one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers, one who transformed his native Mississippi into a setting in which he explored and challenged the human heart in all its complexities and mysteries. Faulkner never graduated from high school or received a college degree and lived in a small town in poorest state in the U.S., yet his works are recognized as among the greatest by an American.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Book Review: The Kite Runner

June 6, 2007

How have I missed this spectacular book by Khaled Hosseini until now? This is the heartbreaking, beautiful story of Amir and Hassan, two boys raised in the same Afghan household, but worlds apart. Amir is the privileged heir; Hassan is his servant. The story that follows is terribly painful to read, but worth every single paragraph. The book is full of the beauty and violence of a country, a father/son relationship, a friendship, a marriage, a community, a childhood--there is just so much to this book. The writing itself is superb, and the ending is truthful but gratifying. I'd put this on my Top 20 list, if I had such a thing.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Book Review: The Innocent Man

June 3, 2007

Subtitled "Murder and Injustice in a Small Town", this nonfiction book by John Grisham was the fascinating chronicle of how two guys in a small town in Oklahoma were wrongly convicted of a murder without a shred of evidence. The book focuses on Ron Williamson, the suspect who was ultimately sent to death row. The story is just unbelievable; sadly, it's a true story of one man's wasted life. I have read most of Grisham's novels, and most I find good for plot reading but predictable and full of unreal dialogue. I loved his memoir The Painted House and thought that his first novel, A Time to Kill, was exceptional. But I have to give Grisham more respect after reading The Innocent Man. His writing and research are excellent, and though this is nonfiction, it reads like a great crime story. I'm thinking Grisham needs to pursue writing nonfiction a little more often...