This month’s entry includes two pieces of news (And book reviews? How is that for a bargain?). Both items explain why this was a light month of reading for me.
But! I’m going to make you read through my brief reviews first.
Dearest Creature by Amy Gerstler
I have been on an Amy Gerstler kick lately, and Dearest Creature is probably my favorite of hers. In it, she travels through different stages of “womanhood” and complicates the easy ways in which the patriarchy describes women. Take these lines from “Mrs. Monster Pens Her Memoirs,” which is in the final section of the book “Elegy”:
And I demand to know:/who stuffed me into this old-lady suit and how/do I burst out now–unzip it and step free?
While she is talking about Frankenstein’s Monster’s unnamed wife, who among us (over the age of 35) cannot relate to this demand? It seems to perfectly complement this advice from the final poem, “Midlife Lullaby”:
Fear not the tarnish and diminishments of age/ or its insane revelations as you creak, leak, and freak/ your way to the grave. Never relinquish ties/ to exiles, to juiced-up boozers and the bamboozled.
Just pick up a copy.
Women Who Love Psychopaths by Sandra Brown
I mentioned this book last month, as I started it right after I finished The Human Magnet Syndrome. Other than some overwrought and disturbing language (where Brown argues psychopaths fit the biblical definition of evil; take it easy, Doctor), this is one of the best books I’ve read on the topic of psychopaths and what makes them so attractive to certain people.
Brown used a relatively small research size (75 hetero-normative women), but since their stories were so shockingly similar (both to each other’s and my own), I think the size served this topic (though it deserves more examinations going forward). A proofreader would have been helpful, but this is an important resource guide for everyone. I wish I had learned about psychopaths BEFORE I found myself in the grips of a relationship with one. Narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths do show early signs of their pathology. Since they won’t change, it’s important to recognize these signs early and take steps to protect yourself, whether the individual is a lover or a friend.
Okay, stepping off the soapbox and jumping into:
Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill
Speaking of evil, if you find yourself depressed reading this blog tonight, imagine how I felt getting through these last two books.
Beyond Belief is Jenna Miscavige Hill’s first-person account of growing up inside Scientology. At the age of four, her parents left her and her older brother in the hands of other Scientology members when they joined Sea Org. What Jenna and her brother faced is some of the most appalling abuse I have read outside of a V.C. Andrews novel. These kids were forced to perform manual labor that would break down a grown man–and they performed that labor for 12+ hours a day. What did they do during their “breaks?” They faced emotional abuse from “teachers” as they slogged through the works of L. Ron Hubbard. They were given little food, only allowed about five hours of sleep per night and were forced to sign a contract promising their souls to Scientology for a billion years.
And these were the most pleasant years of her life. It got worse when she became a tween.
If you think Scientology is funny and that Tom Cruise is just a crazy character, I recommend this book. Jenna is the niece of the head of Scientology, David Miscavige. Because she was his niece, I think she actually took less abuse than some of the other kids… and I treat strange animals better than this little girl was treated.
Well-written. Jenna is so brave for telling her story.
The Heart of Meditation by H.H. Dalai Lama XIV
I have read several of H.H.’s works, but I did not care as much for this one as I have the others–mainly because it was well above my head. H.H. breaks down an advanced practice by the 19th Century saint Patrul Rinpoche. This is not my first go at Tibetan Buddhism and certainly not at advanced meditation, but some of the concepts were hard to grasp. Basically, it is a guide for reaching Innermost Awareness, at which point you will reach enlightenment. Since the goal is so ambitious, I’m not beating myself up too much for not reaching it in this lifetime.
If you are further along your spiritual path, you may get more out of this one than me.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
It’s no secret that I have a massive celebrity crush on Trevor Noah, so I saved the best for last this month. Trevor chooses an interesting path for his memoirs. He starts each chapter with a brief lesson about apartheid and South Africa and then presents an essay about something that happened in his own life that represents the greater political climate at the time. Some of the essays were stronger than others, but overall this book was a joy to read. I laughed; I cried. I learned a lot about Trevor Noah and about a part of the world I knew little about before. Highly recommended!
I hope you’re all still with me! Here’s the promised news. I didn’t read as many books as I normally do this month for two reasons.
First, I have registered to take a 200-hour yoga teacher training class this summer! This has been a dream of mine for at least the past 10 years, so this is a pretty big deal for me (I started doing yoga 25 years ago). As a part of my training, we have to read several texts about the “bigger picture” of yoga–not just the asanasas (physical practices) but also the mental and spiritual practices that are “real” yoga (for lack of a better term; all yoga is real). I’m working my way through several of these texts (which I’ll review when finished), so it’s cutting into my strictly “pleasure” reading.
Secondly, I started writing a book of my own this month! It is a total, rip-roaring mess of a draft, but I hope to at least complete the basic plot by the end of May. To give myself time to write, I’ve been going to bed early and waking up at 6 to write before work. Because I’m getting to sleep earlier, I cannot read as late into the night as usual.
Those are my reviews and my news. I know I phoned it in last week, but I plan to deliver at least two new articles a week, and our guest blogger starts tomorrow.
Did you read anything good (or bad) this month? If so, comment below.