shy history book review: falling for the girl who fell

Have I mentioned how awesome my bday month has been?  There were, of course, the gifts – and the friends – and the homemade red velvet cake – all delightfully spread throughout the month to give a special savor to March, this year.  Shoot, even Psych got in on the act, saving the best episode this season (Mr. Yin Presents) for my actual birthday.

It began in February, when I inexplicably went on a book-buying frenzy [a few times a year it must be done], and randomly picked up a slim, dark blue, hardcover with a simple cover art and an intriguing title: The Girl Who Fell From the Sky.  I hadn’t heard of it, but read the blurb, and paged through to get a feel for the writing.  [This is how I choose all the books I read.]  The blurb grabbed my attention, immediately:  “Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on a Chicago rooftop.  Forced to move to a new and strange city, with her strict African American grandmother as her new guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin,  startling blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way.”

Maybe it shouldn’t have – but it’s so rare that I come across a book with a biracial heroine …umm…I can’t even think of another one right now – but maybe I’ve read one…I’m sure I have…I think.  Anyway, I read this book (this month) and really enjoyed it.

The style of writing make the book an easy read, even with some heavy stuff going on – and I have to admit there was a moment when I put the book down and just cried.  That’s not normal for me.  I was crying on behalf of the father, and I couldn’t stop.  So there I sat, in the Ford reading room, as I waited for my car’s oil change/checkup to be completed, crying over a book.

There are a few similarities between the protagonist and I, considering we have white moms and black dads, and our parents met in Germany.  But this girl who fell – while I see some aspects of myself in her, her story is miles apart from my own.

I remember growing up not-quite-white.  To borrow a quote from Thea I just saw tonight:

I definitely got the “the world will be yours message!” from my white mama. Imagine how confused I was when it didn’t work out. But I digress.

This is exactly the message I got.  The message Rachel’s mama started out believing.  The message Rachel started out believing.  I’ve been muddling my way through this race-crazy world ever since I landed on solid ground.  My head sometimes still likes to take off for the clouds, but it’s different now.  When I was little, sometimes I would actually forget I was brown.  And I wasn’t prepared for the way the world worked.  I’ve always been optimistic, prone to giving people the benefit of the doubt, and willing to be friends with anyone who wanted to be friends with me.  This often lead to overlooking comments, or the trends of who my friends’ friends were.

Our ideas of what life is like – what our lives will be like – are so shaped by the pictures we get from our parents, and mine was no different.  I imagined great and wonderful things – a possible presidency even, prior to understanding the hellacious nature of the job.  And really, when I was very young, most of what my parents focused on was teaching me that no one could keep me from doing whatever I wanted to do, just because I was a girl.  We didn’t really talk about color in our house until I was older. And even then, it was only dad, saying that he wanted to prepare us for things that mom hadn’t had to go through – for a world that would see us differently that it had seen her. But by then I was unreceptive, largely because we hadn’t talked about it when I was younger, and I was inclined to disbelieve comments about prejudice inherent in the system.

I finally started catching glimmers of de facto life in seventh grade, when my best friend in school – a fellow nerd – and I were talking about people in our class we thought were cute/we’d like to date.  He suggested a 10th grade boy for me, because he was one of the only two brown guys at school [the other being in K4]. (I decided not to mention my crushes on guys that were actually in our grade.)  Then, when I called a friend from my first yr in college and she told me they’d brought another brown girl into the program to replace me/fill the quota, I laughed.  She didn’t.  She told me she was serious.  But I was just scratching the surface.

I’ve learned a lot in the meantime.  Nothing like real-world demonstrations [i.e. The School of Hard Knocks] to speed your education in the ways of privilege. And being able to talk about issues with my dad [even though his feminism is full of holes] helps me get perspective on a lot of things that I’m just beginning to understand.  But I’m still optimistic.  Hopelessly.

And I notice the girl who fell has got two long braids just like I used to – and I’m glad my daddy was there to catch me when I fell.

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vaca wrap-up: HH ’09

Being back home is a wonderful thing, but I had a fabulous time at the beach last week.  I was there with family and of course we all had our moments…days, even…but still – great trip.  I kinda wish I’d taken the Mustang – everybody looks better getting out of a Mustang than a Corolla.  But it’s two doors, and didn’t need the extra mileage anyway, so it’s all good.

The place we stayed this year [a trilevel 2BR/2 bath w/deck and view of trees and a stream] was a bazillion times better than last year [a studio/closet in a hugely built-up area (ie. view of parking lot)].  Privacy and space make getting along with family SO much easier.  Especially if they snore.  Loudly.

My dad was there to relax.  My sister and I were there to shop and hang out at the beach.  We all accomplished our goals.

We shopped, snacked, and watched the Hannah Montana movie.  Which is not that bad.  I mean, if you settle in for the cheese of it, it’s actually really fun.  Because I like to let my inner dork free sometimes, I suggested we learn the dance from the movie – it’s quite involved, but totally fun to try.

We mastered everything up to the first zig zag part, then we decided we’d sweated enough and hit the showers.  But we laughed a lot.  And if you can’t be corny with your sister – well shoot, I feel sorry for ya.

Went to the beach at midday and got burnt up on the sand. [And by the sun, I found out later.]  But had fun actually swimming in the ocean.  There were hardly any waves and the water was shallow for hundreds of feet, so it woulda been cool for kids, but I coulda used a few more waves.  Every day we got a few more waves tan the day before, so that was nice.

So besides shopping and hanging at the beach, I got some reading done:

bitch fall 09wedding girl

super in the city Loved it all!

After passing a hog on the side of the road on the drive down, seeing an alligator in the stream behind our place, and the bunch of pelicans that kept divebombing the waves a hundred yards or so from where we swam, I felt like my nature communion quotient had been satisfied.

Then I had the lovely privilege of getting to play vball on Saturday night -which was just as fab as it sounds [if you love vball like I do].  I jammed a finger, but otherwise enjoyed myself immensely.

And finally I made it home last night – just in time to watch some crazy people on the VMAs.  Another successful vacation over, another day at work looms.

summer, so far

imagine the inside glowing orangey-red hot - kinda like the sun

imagine the inside glowing orangey-red hot - kinda like the sun

My life has been topsy turvy for quite a while, and I’m starting to feel like I’m on an even keel again now.  Or…getting there.  I think I briefly mentioned the project from hell that lasted close to 2 years and was almost responsible for me quitting/getting fired.  Thank God that’s complete.  It was a nightmare, mostly because of my boss and our really awful communication, but I think most of that is over – now that the method works and the results have been reported.

It seems that I’ve been living on the AA [atomic absorption spectrophotometer] at work for the last two years, and once I finished the project from hell, I started on a rush project with more method development work – some on the AA and some in a muffle furnace.  It turned out I’d need a high-temperature burner and nitrous oxide for the AA work [which translates into super heat and 2 foot(!) flames], and 1000°C in the furnace.  I did what I could, put in some long hours, and pretty much got it done.  We’re looking at some alternate methods for that furnace fiasco, though.

imagine the flame another foot and a half taller and a bit redder

imagine the flame another foot and a half taller and a bit redder

So craziness at work has been contributing to weirdness for a while.  Not to mention random schedule changes from 8 to 10 hour workdays and back again.

But then I’ve had some weirdness going on with some friends, too.  Folks that I’d gotten really close with and now seem like they’re avoiding those of us that had gotten close with them.  I figure it’s something personal that’s going on with them, but it can be frustrating too.

I bought the Mustang – which I love love love to drive.  But I put a little too much on the principal last month, and now I’m strapped til my next paycheck.  I definitely want to pay it off as soon as possible, but I’m not aure how soon that will actually be.  The actual payments aren’t bad at all, but I think I got a little too ambitious last week.  Now it stings, a little.

But I just want to go places in this car.  It’s freaking hot, and I just want to drive it.  I’d actually like to take it some place new, cuz the drive to ATL is kinda boring.

I’m supposed to be reading The Color of Wealth, but I’m being delinquent about it cuz it’s so heavy.  And since I’ve been getting home late a lot, I’ve been watching a lot of random tv.  I just watched “Millionaire Matchmaker” for goodness’ sake.

I did get some shoes that I wanted [Converse All-Stars and some white church shoes], along with a few clothes to make sure I’m ready for my Labor Day vaca.  I cannot wait for a whole. week. off.  At the beach, no less.

Right now, I’m trying to figure out if I want to plan anything else for my dad’s 65th bday next month, or if a BBQ is sufficient.

unraveledMy mind flits from one thing to the next [as does this post] cuz I’m a bit sleep-deprived and I’m getting used to 8-hr days again. But my Fourth was lovely!  I went to the itty-bitty town nearby to see fireworks [since my town couldn’t afford them this year] and had a good time doing that.  Then I stayed up talking with a friend until ~3:30am that night [Sunday morning].  So of course, that threw off my sleep pattern, and last night I stayed up til ~3 reading a book. [And Then Everything Unraveled by Jennifer Sturman, whom I really enjoy as a fun mystery writer.  It was good, but I suggest waiting until the sequel is published – it’s a quick read and when you get to the end, you just have to wait for the next book anyway…]

Oh and I’ve seen two(!) movies in theaters in the last couple months – Star Trek and Up.  And I’m seriously considering going to see The Proposal.  Just cuz it looks funny.  Betty White, Sandra Bullock, and Ryan Reynolds – sounds good to me.  Of course, I’ve been wanting to see the new Maya Rudolph movie Away We Go as soon as I heard about it.  I want to support her in everything, because I LOVE her.  I thought she didn’t get enough sketches to showcase her talent on SNL, but then there are a lot of misses on SNL.

And then of course, Michael died.  And some people don’t understand why it impacted so many of us.  Some folks at work were like – why are people crying?  They said they never had an emotional connection to him or his music.  And it never really occurred to me that that’s what it was for me.  But that’s exactly it.  So on the eve of his funeral, I’m sending encouraging thoughts out to his family and close friends.  Those of us who shared that emotional connection can dig out Dangerous and listen to “Gone Too Soon” one more time.  In the mean time, remember.

necessarily uncomfortable reading

I highly recommend it

I highly recommend it

My father has always been interested in economics/money/business issues, and being a black man, has of course dealt with those issues as they intersect with race.  So a couple months ago, when I saw that Latoya was reading a book called The Color of Wealth: the story behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide, I knew it’d be something he should read.  So I recommended it, and he bought it, read it, and loved it.  I wanted to read it, too, and by the time he was done with it – he definitely wanted me to read it.

So I started the book last month.  It’s only 291 pages, so I could get through that fairly quickly – except for the subject matter.

The book begins with an overview:  an introduction to the premise of the book, why it is important to look at the racial wealth divide in this country with a more critical gaze, and spotlights how ignorant most of us are about the facts behind the current state of US wealth.  I could totally get down with this.  I learned a lot, and got to laugh a little.

I was actually on a plane [with my mom] at the time, and I kept stopping to show her things, because it was so interesting.

Then I began to read chapter 2: Land Rich, Dirt Poor: Challenges to Asset Building in Native America. A few pages later I got to the section on colonization and treaty making, and I got tears in my eyes.  I tried to keep going, but I couldn’t.

I put the book down and didn’t pick it up again for a month.

Dad kept asking me how things were going with the book, I kept telling him that I hadn’t really looked at it in a while.  I told him how upset I was when reading about the atrocities of the US government against Native Americans.  This one chapter was bringing out a lot of uncomfortable feelings for me.

Finally, last week, I picked up the book again.  Made a little headway, and put it back down – still not done with chapter 2.  This morning, I told myself to just read it and get through it…and to write about why it was so hard to do.

Continue reading

AI

Artificial Intelligence American Idol is back on the air. These first few shows will continue the tradition of deeply humiliating many would-be stars as they pour their hearts out in front of Paula, Randy, and Simon.

I always feel guilty about watching these shows, and for the most part, simply fast-forward until I get to a good singer. [I love my DVR] But sometimes, I watch it all [or almost all]. Tonight’s inaugural episode was one such episode. I fast forwarded through a bit – I’m not really into getting to know all these people’s stories if they’re not gonna at least be in the top 24, so I just skip all that crap.

As this is the 7th season, we’re in for more of the same-ol, same-ol, tho. So there’ll be costumes to distract us from horrible voices, costumes to just get on tv, and clothes that look like costumes but are actually the chosen fashion of the contestants. As I do every year, I ask myself – do we really want to be on tv that bad? Really?

One guy showed up in a cape – to cover some strange body accessories framing a prodigious amount of chest hair. Simon was ready to dismiss strictly based on the “costume” reveal. And in this case, I’d have to say that’d have been the best option. Instead, Randy and Paula tried to be nice…kinda…and Paula made a comment about how distracting the chest hair was. The contestant actually offered to wax it and come back. She said, fine; Randy agreed; he went to find someone to wax him. This guy dutifully got his chest waxed – I mean…I know guys – who have hair – who have less hair on their heads. Shoot, I think this guy might’ve had about the same amt of hair on his head. Just terrible. Cuz you KNOW that hurt. Bad. And they let him come back, and of course he couldn’t sing. What a waste.

There was a girl who gave Napoleon Dynamite a run for his money. She could carry a tune, but she didn’t have a lot of control. All-in-all, just not show material. Not cuz she was a weirdo…I don’t think. Although I may have a subconscious ‘weirdo’ issue. There’s no telling. I think it was just her singing style and vocal control that just wasn’t where I think it should be. She kinda went ballistic once she left the judges, though. Started a diatribe about how they won’t let through any female dorks on the show. And, that is kinda true. There does seem to be a general formula. Continue reading