On of the things I love to do when a book has really effected me is, write to the author and let them know. I wrote a letter to Susan Herrera, author of Mango Elephants In the Sun, a book I reviewed in this blog. She wrote back:
Thank you sooooooo very much for your e-mail. I really needed to hear that!!! I am just finishing up the next book and sometimes doubt my abilities as a writer. I will keep these words and look at them when I feel stuck and unable to get to the next place in the writing.
AIDS wasn’t a big issue where I was – at least I was totally unaware of it with my own eyes. Doc talked about two patients who had AIDS but they were from the Southern part of the country.
I hope you enjoyed your Americorps experience. Maybe you will write about it someday.
Thank you for the postings on the website. It is so thoughtful and supportive. Please look for Laughing Girl Howling Woman to come out in 2006.
(Isn't that awesome? Always remember, if you love someone's work, give them the compliement! And that's one to grow on!
I read The Burn Journals after my best friend told me I needed to read it. Her and I have our own sort of private book club going... we're always swapping books. Anyway, The Burn Journals is a true story, and it begins as a 14-year-old boy, feeling upset with the world and at himself and worried about getting in trouble for a minor crime he has recently committed, decides to kill himself. He has attempted suicide before, but obviously all of his attempts resulted in him sheepishly waking up the next day feeling alright. The boy decides he needs a foolproof way to kill himself, and decides that the best way to do this would be to douse himself in gasoline and set himself on fire.
This action changes the boy's life forever. Just barely surviving the fire, Brent is forced to face up to what he has done and why. At the same time as he is undergoing a painful physical recovery, he is also undergoing the pain of realizing what his family is going through, and figuring out what life means to him. The Burn Journals follows Brent as he heals, both physically and emotionally.
One of the things that The Burn Journals made me think about is the fact that people take each other for granted, and even hurt the people they love. Yet when that person is taken away from them... or nearly taken away, for that matter... the people around him will realize how much they loved that person, and never be able to take him for granted again. Who hasn't gone through a time in their life when, after a fight with parents, siblings, friends, spouse, or children, they found themself thinking, "What if I get killed in a car accident tonight? Then they'll feel bad! Then they'll wish they had been nicer to me!" It sounds like the self-indulgent thoughts of an angry adolescent... but in reality, those words are very true. Often, you have to lose something, or face losing it, to find out how much you want it in the first place.
The Burn Journals will give you a new perspective on your life and your loved ones. Everyone, in every walk of life, should read this book.
Dear everyone, Because I want to be a foster parent some day and I am interested in all of children's causes, I like to read all the books in the adoption section of the library or book store. I don't usually read the ones about international adoption, for some reason, but this particular book caught my eye! It is about a very special little Chinese girl who, after being adopted by an American family, could not rest until she had also made sure that a younger child she had cared for at the orphanage was also adopted. This true story is told from the point of view of Cindy, a mother whose blended family already includes three older stepchildren, a biological daughter with her new husband, and a baby daughter adpoted from China. Cindy and her husband decide to expand their family once again and adopt another child from China. They fall in love with a child named Lou Jiao, a 3-year-old girl who they will eventually give the American name Jaclyn. At the very overcrowded Chinese orphanage, Jaclyn has been given the job of caring for an infant boy she calls Xiao Mei Mei. Jaclyn was in charge of getting Xiao Mei Mei up every day, dressing and bathing him, feeding him, and doing much of the things that a parent would do. Consequently, little Jaclyn has grown to feel like a parent to Xiao Mei Mei, and she loves him with all her heart. Like all of the children at the orphanage, Jaclyn is hopeful that she will be adopted someday. But when the day comes, she is crestfallen to have to leave Xiao Mei Mei behind. She cries for him each night, and prays for him to find his own family. As she begins to speak more English, the tiny girl is better able to verbalize how she feels about Xiao Mei Mei, her concerns that without her protection he will be bullied by other children and punished by orphanage staff, and her guilt about leaving him. She begins to campaign for her own adoptive mother to go back to China and retrieve Xiao Mei Mei. Through Jaclyn, Cindy begins to fall in love with the child that her daughter calls "my baby". Although all odds seem to be against it, Cindy joins Jaclyn's quest to bring Xiao Mei Mei to America and make him part of the family. The Waiting Child is a very sweet and sad story about a loveable and unforgettable little girl. Although my plan has always been to provide foster care and hopefully adoption to American children who've been abused, this book made me want to consider also adopting a child from China. Jaclyn's hope is that every orphan in China will someday have a real family... In the USA, or elsewhere... and I hope that this book will help to make her dream come true!
Mango Elephants In the Sun is about a young woman who, in order to escape memories of a dysfunctional childhood and an abusive husband, joins Peace Corps. She is sent to a small village in Africa, where she will work as a high school teacher. The story follows Susana's initial culture shock, as she struggles to get used to having to draw her own water from a well, kill her own animals for food, and deal with a lack of things people in the United States take for granted such as grocery stores, cars, movies, etc. She also gets some hard lessons about how some cultures view females; when one of her female students becomes very ill, the students' family refuses to spend the time and money to take the girl to the doctor, because she is, after all, only a girl. Another female student is determined to learn how to ride a bike, but must leanr in secret because in their culture women are not allowed to ride bikes.
But however harsh life is in Africa, the people of the village do offer some very true commentary about life in the United States. In one chapter, Susana is explaining to some newfound African friends about how, in the United States, a person can put their dirty dishes into a machine and have them washed just by pressing a button... and how one can buy their meat already killed and pleaned, on a styrafoam plate. (One person inquires, confused, "And do they eat the styrafoam too>?") When the Africans muse that all people in the United States must be very rich, Susana tries to explain the homelessness and poverty that exists in the United States. The Africans are bewildered by this new idea of the United States. They tell Susana, "Maybe your country should not worry about having their dinners prepared for them, and their idshes washed for them, until everyone in the country has a home." Mango Elephants In the Sun gave me a new appreciation for the things I do have, and Made it hard for me to complain about the small things I don't have. However, after reading the book, one thing I was envious of was of the strong communities in the villages in Africa. There are lots of problems in Africa... yet in Susana's village, everyone stuck together and helped one another. When one woman in the village had a little son die, the entire village came together to cry with the woman in a sort of ceremony. The saying "It takes a village" comes from Africa, and it seems that in Africa it really does ring true.
Dear everyone, I have been reading this book by Julia Butterfly Hill, and it is a true story of a girl who lived in a huge Redwood tree for two years. It actually happened very close to where my little brother lives in Eureka, California. You see the redwoods are these huge, ancient trees that seem to reach up to the sky, and some of them are so thick that you can drive through them. When they get struck by lightening their insides get hollowed out, but they continue to live. I have pictures of myself and my brother inside redwood trees. Anyway the Pacific Lumber Corporation takes advantage of these redwood trees by chopping them down in mass quantities. Not only does that destroy trees that have been on Earth since beofre Jesus or anyone, but they also destroy homes of many endangered species. Plus. since the trees hold the dirt down , there was a neighborhood that got completely wiped out by a mudslide because a hill had been so wiped clean of treas that there was nothing to keep the mud grounded. Anyway there was this protest going on and people built a fort up in one of the tallest Redwood trees, which they named Luna. Mostly people were taking turns staying in the tree, so that there would always be someone in the tree. The idea was to keep the lumberjacks from chopping down the tree, and meanwhile other activists would be trying to put pressure on politicians to keep the tree and surrounding trees from being cut down at all. There was this girl Julia who volunteered to go up in the treewith some other people... but after other people lost interest or gave up, Julia stayed. Everyone had nature names that they used in public, sort of like street names to prevent them from being arrested and stuff. So her name was Butterfly. And she stayed up in the tree for two years, never ever getting down. At one point she really didn't even have anything to eat, because the lumberjacks decided to try to starve her out of the tree so they wouldn't let anyone bring her supplies. But once more people knew about her, people she didn't even know were always bringing her stuff. When I was in California I heard stories of Julia Butterfly and she is sort of like a legend. I have not finished the book yet. In real life I heard that the tree eventually got cut down, but I also heard from other people that the tree is still standing. So I can't wait to finish the book and find out why she eventually came out of the tree, and whether the tree is still standing. It is another one of those "Life-changing" books that makes me want to take a second look at everything I do. It makes me want to start recycling, start eating natural foods (as I was reading the book last night at school I was eating a big french toast, egg and sausage sandwich from the satellite cafe, and it was already sort of disgusting... I had thought it looked so good in the oven thing but really it was cold and soggy and greasy and nasty... and as I read the book and chewed my grease sandwich I felt like puking. it back up and getting my money back.) I am going to finish the book and then I am going to write a letter to Julia Butterfly and maybe I will send her a picture of me inside a tree in California.