Tag Archives: Non-Fiction

Book Review: I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui

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Rating: B-/ Before I read this book, I knew nothing about Yemen, not even where on the map it was, and I didn’t have the foggiest idea of what life was like there. I learned from Nujood Ali’s memoir that Yemen is a Middle Eastern country with the very traditional values that often come hand-in-hand with Islam. In Yemen young girls are often married off at an extremely young age, and that’s what happened to Nujood, when her parents fell upon hard times and her father sold her into marriage to a grown man in order to scrounge up enough money to live on. Continue reading Book Review: I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphine Minoui

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Book Review: Finding Fish by Antwone Quenton Fisher

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Rating: B+/ I watched the movie based on this story, Antwone Fisher, when I was twelve or thirteen, and even though maybe I was a little young for the film’s heavy themes, the plot stuck with me for years. I had the memoir on my shelf for years and had unsuccessfully tried to get through it once when one day I remembered it and impulsively decided to pick it up. It’s hard to call this an ‘inspirational’ story, because of the severity of abuse the author, Antwone Fisher, suffers as a child. However it’s a book that makes you think about the resilience of the human spirit, and it’s impossible to not a little in awe of Fisher. He’s had a fascinating life, and he seems to have bounced back from his abusive childhood with a great deal of candor and strength. Continue reading Book Review: Finding Fish by Antwone Quenton Fisher

Book Review: January First by Michael Schofield

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Rating: B-/ I feel weird criticizing this book. The author has obviously been to hell and back, so pointing out his shortcomings feels a bit like kicking a puppy. January First is the alternately powerful and frustrating true story of the writer’s five-year-old daughter’s horrific struggle with childhood Schizophrenia and her subsequent diagnosis and treatment. The little girl, January, initially seems to be hugely creative and imaginative, and has a host of imaginary friends at her disposal. Later her father Michael discovers that the ‘imaginary friends’ are in fact paranoid hallucinations who, although sometimes comforting, force January to act out violently against her parents and baby brother, Bodhi. Continue reading Book Review: January First by Michael Schofield

Book Review: Lucky by Alice Sebold

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Rating: A-/ Over the last few years, but particularly since Trump’s vile ‘grab ’em by the pussy’ comments recently resurfaced in the form of a viral video, sexual assault has been a commonly discussed topic in the American media. Most people would probably agree that it’s a subject that needs to be talked about, and incidents like Brock Turner’s trial have brought to life time and again the rampant issues concerning sexual violence against women and the justice system. Continue reading Book Review: Lucky by Alice Sebold

Book Review: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

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Rating: B+/ I’ve been having a creative dry spell lately, ever since I finished a novella I was writing and became completely stumped over what to work on next. My mom encouraged me to read this book, a copy of which she had bought me a couple of years ago and which has spent ever since just kind of gathering dust with all my hundreds of other books on the shelves in my room. I hadn’t read a book all the way through in several months, lacking the concentration and patience, but I completed this short, sweet bit of autobiographical non-fiction by one of my mom’s favorite authors within three days without hardly trying. I found it an easy and leisurely read, and in the end, I was glad I took the time with it. Continue reading Book Review: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

The Tricky Part by Martin Moran

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Memoirist Martin Moran has a skillful touch when it comes to prose, but “The Tricky Part” is so disturbing and sad that it will probably end up being a read-only-once book for most people. What makes “The Tricky Part” different from most sexual abuse stories that feature heavily in books and TV and get paraded around the media is Moran’s ambivalent feelings toward his molester. It also makes it a whole lot more interesting than the average pervs-messing-around-with-kids book.

When Martin was twelve, he was an eager-to-please, bright-eyed boy who had his whole life to discover sex and intimacy all in due time. His camp counselor, Bob, took all that away from him. And yet… and yet what? Martin fell for Bob. He was a quite willing participant in a ‘relationship’ (a love affair only in the loosest sense) that lasted several years. Of course a twelve-year-old child cannot consent to sex with a thirty-something-year-old-man, but Martin believed he had something special with his abuser. He loved him. He hated him. He was so fucking confused and he sook out his attention like a moth to the flame, even when it was destroying him.

He felt like Bob’s one and only, even when there was a harem of young boys slipping in and out of Bob’s designated love nests under Martin’s nose. After a fraught adulthood rife with dysfunction and sex addiction, Martin decided to seek out his abuser. This is his story. The first half of this book can be a little hard to read because of the graphic depiction of pedophilia, but it articulates 12-year-old Martin’s confusion and desperation well. This isn’t just a tawdry ripped-from-the-headlines abuse story, it strikes the reader as extremely brave and cathartic for Moran to write.

Moreover, it is interesting to see how Moran got a career in musical theater and came to balance his childhood Catholic beliefs with skepticism and new-age curiosity. Martin is an extremely interesting person, though you can tell he’s been through the ringer emotionally and sexually. You might not agree with everything he does (trying to fuck a fifteen-year-old boy in the men’s lavatory anyone?) and his continual dishonesty to his lover, Henry, is as heartbreaking as it is reprehensible (I’d be so done with him for cheating on me multiple times with guys he didn’t even like, let alone want an intimate relationship with; but Henry never seems to give up on Martin.)

However, you can’t help but feel for Martin. I don’t think his continual abuse at the hands of Bob is an excuse to cheat on his lover repeatedly, but it helps you understand the heartbreaking compulsion that overtakes him again and again. It’s like what Atticus FInch said in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” You step into someone’s shoes and walk around in them. Books help you do that, which is part of what is so great about them. You look at someone’s action from the outside (like Moran’s infidelity) and you go “wow, that’s dickish” but looking inside his mind by reading something he wrote helps you understand.

The second half of “The Tricky Part” is more about Moran’s therapy and gradual healing, which is easier to read psychologically but can get a little wordy in terms of mental health and dream analysis. Despite the transitions between Moran’s childhood and adulthood the two pieces of the book fit together pretty well. It will come as a relief to hear less about Bob in the later chapters. He is truly a monstrous human being.

This book will twist your gut. It will break your heart. It might even make you laugh sporadically. It will make you wish Martin had castrated his abuser for the emotional damage he eked out, rather than forgiving him his transgression. But bloody revenge, as good as it might feel at the time, does not salve the soul like forgiveness does. Forgiveness isn’t just ‘letting it go’ or ‘pretending it never happened.’ It’s healing. And Martin needed all the healing he could get. He couldn’t just be two broken halves of a whole his entire life.

“The Tricky Part” isn’t my favorite memoir, but it’s one of the rawest and most honest. Martin Moran lays bare his soul all to see. There’s nothing not brave about that. I recommend this book to those interested in the effects of childhood sexual abuse and readers of memoirs in general.

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Nobody Nowhere: The Extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic by Donna Williams

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There are so few books about Autism Spectrum Disorders written from a female perspective, especially of those few published in the 80’s and 90’s, when Autism was still considered a mysterious malady and high-functioning ASD and Asperger’s had barely even entered the picture.

And although it would be unfair and inaccurate to apply autobiographer Donna Williams’ insights about her condition to all diagnosed youngsters (with all due respect, the diagnosis of Autism was barely skimming the surface of Williams’ issues,) “Nobody Nowhere” is an emotional roller-coaster with the heart-grabbing readability of the best fiction.

Donna was born to an abusive and negligent middle-class family and early into childhood it was apparent that something was very ‘off’ about the little girl. Donna records her attempts to be like ‘everyone else’ culminating in channeling the character of Carol, a mirthful but shallow persona; her struggles with her cruel mother and older brother and her painful school days.

She takes us through trials and failures, relationships with good men and bad, and her gradual journey to self-insight and recovery. At no point does Donna blame her fraught relationship with her mother as a ‘reason’ for her Autism Spectrum Disorder (Donna did not know she had Autism until her late twenties and merely feared she was ‘mad.’)

Instead she speculates that a world lacking warmth and a real sense of family taught her to be independent and took her on an important journey. In the meantime, the abused and dejected Donna dabbled in self-destructive behavior including self-mutilation and deliberate self-soiling, and was repeatedly treated like crap by guys who saw her as an easy target. However, she also recounts experiences with kind people, even complete strangers, who attempted to offer support to this wild troubled girl through her times of turmoil.

I you can get through the two introductions at the beginning (dry!,) “Nobody Nowhere” is actually a involving read. I helps if the reader has an interest in abnormal psychology and/or Autism, but author Donna Williams had a truly fascinating (if singularly unfortunate) early life. While many of her ‘symptoms’ are most definitely not typical for the majority of Autistic young people, one must remember that Donna is ultimately not representing anyone but herself in this intense life story.

I wouldn’t recommend this book as a manual for ‘understanding’ Autism (though I would not necessarily recommend any one book for understanding Autism,) but I would heartily suggest it for building upon what you know about the disorder and also early trauma as well as child psychology in general.

I was saddened to hear about Donna Williams’ breast cancer on her personal blog. I felt almost like I was hearing bad news about a friend, though of course I had never met her. I was also angry. How much bad luck can one person get? ( I am not referring chiefly to her Autism but instead to her  abusive upbringing and her emotional issues, which I consider related yet separate.)

On the other hand, she’s apparently married to a good man and feels content with her sense of self. I wish the best for Donna and I will read her other books (“Somebody Somewhere,” this book’s sequel, and “Like Color to the Blind”) when I get a chance.