Blogs: Adults

No visit to memory lane is complete without a few moments of fascination and horror.  Remember your 20’s?  I do -- my first apartment, helpful or harmful roommates, dating, and encounters with people that have since turned into lifelong relationships. I love that I had so much energy and anything felt possible. I still love many of the people I encountered then.

So, it’s not surprising that I love the HBO series Girls created by Lena Dunham, a sometimes comedic and horrific drama. This series is a very entertaining guest that I want to invite into my living room.  Dunham’s girls explore connections with lovers, jobs, friendships and all the possibilities of life while trying to maintain and develop their self esteem in wild New York City. It’s the exciting and uncomfortable 20’s unveiled in all it’s shabby glory, something to witness and marvel at while discussing the thought-provoking topics that each episode brings up. Oh and she just wrote a funny and moving collection of essays called Not that Kind Of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "learned".  I’ve learned that I love what Lena Dunham creates and hope she keeps making books, movies and television for a long long time.

Film adaptations of popular books are usually eagerly anticipated happenings. There is a curiosity inherent in waiting to see just how beloved characters and settings, so well established in the mind’s eye, present themselves on the big screen. It can be very satisfying to see a movie character who is the embodiment of the person you have been imagining all along. On the other hand it can be deeply frustrating to see a film character say or do something that your well-established fantasy character would just never say or do.

Orange is the New Black dvd coverThe bigger challenge in accommodating a film translation is accepting the subtle or not-so-subtle changes to the story line that Hollywood feels it needs to make the movie work. Take, for example, the Netflix adaptation of Orange is the New Black, an episodic rendering of Piper Kerman’s 2010 memoir of her time in prison. Bored with her middle class life and fresh out of Smith College, Kerman took up with a group of artists-turned drug smugglers. In exchange for a world of first class travel and posh resorts, Kerman became a drug mule, delivering large cash payments to international drug bosses. Ten years after she quit the business, federal officers knocked on her apartment door and arrested her. She was sentenced to fifteen months in a minimum security women’s prison in Danbury, Connecticut.

The show is highly entertaining, with familiar characters come to life and new and interesting ones added to the mix. The film versionOrange is the New Black book jacket highlights and deeply embellishes the drama, which was much more subtle in the book. The book highlights Kerman as an adept lexicographer of prison life as well as someone who took a painful experience and made something of it. But the amped- up drama of television keeps viewers hooked and waiting (as I am, I admit) for season three.

I’m grateful to have read the book. It is an engaging and informative read and since the publication of the book, Kerman has become an outspoken advocate of prison reform. Part of her success of Orange is the New Black comes from indirectly highlighting some of the failures of the U.S. Prison system. By creating an emotional connection to these injustices through the book and through a highly-watched television series, Kerman has been a powerful advocate for change.

Beyond the potential discrepancies between book and film, it’s just plain interesting to see a beloved story come to life before our very eyes. So watch the show or read the book? Why not do both!

cup of teaMany mornings lately, I have had a date with an Earl. During the hot summer months I don't often crave his company. But when the rains begin, he once again becomes appealing. He is warm and steamy, he smells wonderful, and he gets my day off to a great start. When the Earl is not available, or I'm just not in the mood for his charm, I soothe myself with a robust English or Irish breakfast, or perhaps even some zesty orange and spice. And for those mornings when I need extra calming, green always does the trick.

This is your friendly reminder of the wonders of tea. Coffee is swell, but, to me, nothing beats a warm cuppa. The endless varieties only add to the pleasure. One of the best parts of my mornings is the daily choosing of the tea! Black (especially Earl Grey), green, white, or red, I can always find a tea to match my mood.  Then it's time to take in the aromas and flavors of the day's selection, a bit of peace and tranquility before the start of the day.

The library has many wonderful books about the history and culture of tea. If you are so inclined, check one out, brew yourself a steaming pot of your favorite blend, wrap yourself in a blanket in front of a rainy window, and lose yourself in the world of tea.

 

 

Guest blogger Jay H. works at the Gresham Library and shared this story of how useful the library’s language learning resources can be.

One of our patrons who visits once a week wanted to learn to speak Portuguese.  I showed her our Mango Connect language learning resource, which she was able to use on one of our computers.  Each week she would come and complete some more Portuguese lessons.  Flag of BrazilAfter a few weeks, she had completed all the lessons that Mango Connect had to offer, and asked me for more Portuguese learning resources!

As I chatted with her, she told me she was motivated to learn Portuguese so that she could speak to her daughter-in-law, who is from Brazil.  I was able to find more advanced Portuguese resources on CD audiobooks for her.  She kept at it, using our computer lab computers to listen to the CD's, and quietly practicing Portuguese as she learned.

Then one week, she reported that she had gone to visit her son and daugher-in-law, and her family was shocked when she could converse quite well in Portuguese!  It worked!  Cover of Pimsluer Portuguese III She continues to study, and is now on level III of Portuguese in the Pimsleur Language Programs.   She is grateful to her library for having such wonderful language learning resources.

Staff like Jay are ready to help you with Language Learning resources - however you visit the library. Ask us!

Sweater selfie of Cathy Carron's belle curve cardiganFall, It took you long enough to come around, but all is forgiven now that you’re here.  Let’s not waste another moment. It’s time to break out the yarn stash and get knitting! I know you year-round knitters are out there, but so far my knitting habit is strictly seasonal. It comes on strong only when the temperature drops and holds steady through the winter, though admittedly, it’s been slow to progress.  

The first year I did scarves: messy and uneven, with lots of irregularities that I tried to pass off as design features. They were presented to family who had the good sense to politely tuck them out of sight. Next it was hats: ribbed hats, striped hats, much too itchy baby hats, and one unintentionally slouchy Rastafarian hat.

Last year was known in my house as the year of the snood, and so this fall I’ve been determined to make a great leap forward: sweaters.  That was until I picked up Short Story: Chic Knits for Layering by Cathy Carron and my great leap has started instead, with an enthusiastic hop.Book jacket: Short story by Cathy Carron

The belle curve cardigan on page 82 proved to be the perfect middle step between knitting circular accessories and piecing together a sweater with sleeves.  It was relatively quick to knit up, has no seams and was knit on circular needles.  Most important, it passed the test of withstanding frequent interruptions and a five year old ‘helper’ without resulting in a wooly meltdown.

Carron is known for her knitting books, loaded with innovative patterns, ranging from basics with a twist, to over-the-top looks for more daring souls and this one is no different. So if you’re not quite ready to knit a sweater, but can’t in good conscience bestow another hat upon a family member, check out Carron’s Short Story and she’ll get you halfway there.

Looking for more tried and tested books for the novice knitter? Check out my list.

Before I lived in Oregon, Columbus Day was that nice three-day weekend that took the edge off the long working weeks between Labor Day and Thanksgiving (unless you work for an employer who believes Veterans Day is a holiday*). As a newly minted Oregonian, I had a job talking up workplace giving (most commonly associated with the United Way, although I was working for EarthShare) and I started out my pitch on October 8, 1990 mentioning that as an Italian-American, I was really missing the Columbus Day holiday. I cannot express how completely I lost my audience.  Welcome to Oregon, where the arrival of the Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus, to the Caribbean in 1492 is viewed a little more skeptically than it is on the Eastern Seaboard. (They have a parade in New York!)

Columbus Day is not a holiday in these parts.  Other cities or states have replaced it with recognition for the people who were residing on this continent when Columbus arrived, most recently our Seattle neighbors.  Most of Latin America celebrates the day as Día de la Raza (Day of the Latino [mixed Spanish and indigenous] People), commemorating the initial meeting of the two.  According to the article from the President of Mexico’s website linked in the previous sentence, the relationship between the indigenous people and their Spanish conquerors was different than that between the native North Americans and the northern Europeans who settled in what is now the United States, and is still worth celebrating.

The new United States held a small celebration in 1792 and a larger one 100 years later, according to the Library of Congress. This latter celebration ultimately led to the establishment of the national holiday by Franklin Roosevelt in 1934. But as the 500th anniversary approached in 1992, the eagerness to celebrate the “discovery” of the Americas had waned. Perhaps it’s time for the day to be consigned to history, or at least “downgraded” to a holiday a la St. Patrick’s Day (there’s another New York parade on that day, but it’s not a national holiday).

Take a moment this weekend to remember a great storm, Thanksgiving in Canada, other things Italian, or even Leif Ericson. Better yet, take a look at these books to see what life was like in the Americas before the arrival of Columbus.

In spite of everything, I'd still like that three-day weekend back.

*My employer, Multnomah County, believes this to be the case, but at the library we’re open on Veterans Day; we take an “official” holiday on the day before Christmas.
 

Here's a challenge for you: go to your favorite library. Stand away from the traffic. Take a deep breath, now center yourself. Head for your favorite section, cruise the shelves and pick out a book that you are gonna love. No book lists, reviews or friend recommendations allowed, just your innate good taste and curiosity.

If you have been good, maybe the spirits of literature will reward you with a Captain Alatriste tale:

Behold, a roCaptain Alatriste book jacketllicking tale of heroes with swords, hi-jinks in high places and the demands of honour. Wrap it up in writing as literary as it gets, and Bob's your uncle.  Arturo Perez-Reverte's title character is a native of seventeenth century Spain, the Golden Age. Captain Alatriste is hired to waylay and kill two English heretics as they arrive in Madrid. A career soldier who has been impoverished by an inexplicable outbreak of peace, he agrees. In a dark alley, el capitaine is about to do the deed when his pesky sense of nobility intervenes. He lets them go, pisses off some very big hombres and winds up in the sights of a state that likes to burn non-conformists at the stake. This of course gets him involved with the artists of the day.   The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet book jacket

Lope de Vega. Pedro Calderon de la Barca. Names ring a bell? They would if we were not predisposed to associate literature primarily with Anglo-Saxon names. No matter, join Capitaine Alatriste as he leads us into a new world of art to appreciate and explore; even if it must be done at the point of a fast riposte or parry.

In addition to Captain Alatriste, also try The Cavalier in the Yellow  Doublet  and The Club Dumas, a Perez-Reverte novel that's not part of the series. Enjoy.

 

Her bookjacketSometimes I need to read books that pierce my very soul, the more heart-wrenching the better. That’s when I turn to memoirs like Her by Christa Parravani. This is the tale of identical twins, Christa and Cara. It's the story of the connections between twins and what happens when you tragically lose that connection. And how someone can survive and grow from that tragedy. It's beautiful and powerful. For more heartbreaking stories of survival, try one of these.

And then there are times that I need snarky narrators that take me into their lives, lives so angst-filled that the only way to get through them is to revel in the What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding bookjackethumor. Kristin Newman’s, What I was Doing While You Were Breeding was just the book I needed recently. Newman is a TV comedy writer and it shows, in a good way. It’s a travel guide and memoir in one tidy package. She spent her time between writing gigs in her 20’s and 30’s, jetting off to exotic locales and meeting gorgeous men. Alright, I might have felt a little jealousy towards her; when I was that age, I was totally living paycheck-to-paycheck and the only place I jetted off to was my hometown in Ohio with a plane ticket purchased by my mom. Oh, wait a sec, that’s still pretty much the story of my life. But that aside, she’s a witty, breezy writer who reveals an awful lot about her experiences with quite a few men in a highly entertaining manner. It's a story about being free and reckless, traveling to fabulous lands, and it's hilarious.

If you’d like a few more snicker-worthy memoirs, check out my list here.

Istanbul is my favorite city to wander through. When I think of Istanbul I think of fishermen lining the Galata Bridge, crossing the Bosporus and the Golden Horn by ferry, moving from Europe to Asia and back again. It is a city of mosques and palaces, and where shops spill out onto the sidewalks. You wake to the call to prayer and spend your day immersed in history knowing that you are never far from a pastry shop.  It is also a great place to visit by way of a story. Try these for a taste of Istanbul.

A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler. Charles Latimer is a writer living in Istanbul between the wars. He gets a plot idea when the body of a notorious criminal washes up on the shore, but as he researches the story he starts to doubt that the body was really Dimitrios and sets out to find him.

Istanbul Passage book jacketIstanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon . It's 1945, WWII is over and the cold war is starting. Leon Bauer, an American businessman, has spent the war years in Istanbul. During the war he did odd jobs for the CIA. He is asked to help with the delivery of a Romanian the Americans want to keep from the Soviets. The delivery goes wrong, his CIA contact is dead and he has to decide what to do with the smuggledIstanbul Memories book jacket man with the Nazi past that everyone now wants.

Baksheesh by Aykol Esmahan is the story of Kati Hirschel. She runs the only mystery bookstore in Istanbul and is shopping for an apartment. A man is murdered in the apartment she wants to buy and she’s a suspect. The dead man was involved in shady business dealings and Kati starts to investigate.

On the serious side, Orhan Pamuk writes literary novels set in Istanbul.  He also wrote a memoir, Istanbul: Memories and the City, about growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in Istanbul.

 

View of a breast cancer cell as seen through a microscopeI was a bad cancer patient. My head scarves were more Bret Michaels than Jackie O. My diagnosis failed to inspire any cancer art and I shut down any peppy banter in the chemo lounge with my heavy shroud of humorlessness.

On my final day of treatment for breast cancer, my radiation nurses gave me a diploma and broke into song. For weeks, I’d witnessed other patients pass around cupcakes and give high fives at this moment. I couldn’t muster up the energy to play along. I was relieved, but also exhausted and profoundly sad. In the end, I just stared at them wearily and cried.

Cancer patients receive loads of unsolicited advice, but when a trusted friend suggested I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s essay about her own experience with breast cancer- Smile or Die: The Bright Side of Cancer, I sought it out immediately. Reading Ehrenreich’s essay was equivalent to releasing the greatest imaginable sigh of relief.

Though never good at feigning rosy optimism, Ehrenreich was the ally I needed to dismiss the cancer patient script of round the clock positivity and just be honest that it really sucked being a cancer patient and caring for a newborn.

Five years cancer-free, I've regained my humor and when pressed, can even come up with some positives to having survived cancer, other than the obvious surviving part. Even so, I still find comfort in other people's cancer stories that allow room for things beyond the expected bravery, juice cleanses and relentless optimism.

No two cancers and certainly, no two cancer patients are the same.  How we deal with the big C is likewise individual. Here are the stories that I’ve felt were candid and helpful to my experience. Which books have helped you come to terms with cancer?

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