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Literature, life, reflections on books read and books written. Photography and videologs are integral to the postings.
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1. Miranda Kephart, my niece, dazzles with a foxtrot (and turns 21)

My niece, Miranda Kephart, will soon turn 21. Having made her way to Yale with countless science credits and awards, Miranda soon emerged as a truly stellar ballroom dancer—learning the steps, and the artistry, at lightning speed. This foxtrot was filmed at Yale's 2014 Spring Show, and Miranda's old aunt (that would be me) watches it through teary eyes.

Happy Almost Birthday, Miranda.

And Happy Already Birthday, Owen. (Owen being Miranda's brother, who dazzled the Beth Blog World last year with this amazing Rubik's Cube performance and who is now settled in for his first year of college.)

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2. Elly P.: tween wonder

Yesterday, this:

A client sends a gift of blank notebooks in the wake of a job I gladly did (so many jobs, through so many years, I've done—but this gift, so unexpected). An author for whom I read and blurbed a debut novel sends a beautiful card and gift—wholly lovely thoughtfulness. The weather unfolded, magnificently. I wrote the first two pages of a book.

All of that was enough and then, end of day, an email from the impeccable Elly P. of Alaska-trip fame arrives. The world's top National Geo Junior Explorer who has a travel pedigree that outshines most, wears a camera around her neck like a pro, jumps into frigid bay water with nary a blink, and kept me company on a glorious boat with stories about herself and at least one fantastical story that she made up on the spot, while spreading Nutella across her breakfast toast.

Elly P. Elly P. All these weeks later, she writes to me.

Elly, you may have taken a bunch of photos of the crazy author lady with the untamed Alaska hair, but I've got pictures of you being your glorious intelligent, determined, clever, funny self. I've got these.

Magical camera. I'm in.

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3. upcoming, open, and free: September 4/rivers, gardens, ghosts/Radnor Memorial Library

The talk is written.
The doors will be open.
Rivers. Gardens. Ghosts.
Radnor Memorial Library
September 4, 2014

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4. baby steps/finding our way toward new projects

In Adamstown yesterday, I buy this pair of 19th century shoes. I bring them home. I add them to my small collection. I like the scars and worn buttons. I like imagining the child who yearned to run.

Which is precisely what I've been doing lately—imagining, yearning. We need time, I always think, between projects. We can't leave one thing and rush to another. I never have, never do. We have to figure out who we have become in the midst of making and who we are going to be next. We have to believe in the validity of our own work, its place in things. Write as if you are writing your last book, I always tell myself. Because someday it will be your last book.

I will want to believe that it mattered.

And so I buy a pair of shoes and study the scars. I turn stories over in my mind. Yes? No. What? For whom? What is going to matter now?

If no one but me reads the books I write next, will I still believe they were worth making?

They have to be.

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5. That someone who could change your life—Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs/Joshua Wolf Shenk

This weekend's New York Times Book Review fills me with desire. I imagine a lake house. I imagine time. I imagine a week with nothing but books and a notebook into which I might record my favorite lines.


That isn't here, or now. And so I find myself reading the first many chapters of the reviewed books instead, trying to narrow my choices for those days when I will have full reading time. In Joshua Wolf Shenk's Powers of Two, reviewed by Sarah Lewis, I find this bit of loveliness. I am, to be honest, a lone wolf much of the time—searching my limited brain for a next idea, having the conversation mostly in private, taking the long solo walk to breathe more substance in.

But there have been moments, projects, abbreviated eras when I've found myself in the midst of a heady collaboration. Someone to talk to. Someone who makes the small idea bigger or clearer than it began.

Shenk captures the feeling of that here:

When the quickening comes. When the air between us feels less like a gap than a passage. When we don't know what to say because there is so much to say. Or, conversely, when we know just what to say because somehow, weirdly, all the billions of impulses around thought and language suddenly coalesce and find a direction home.

Sometimes you meet someone who could change your life. Sometimes you feel that possibility. The sense that, in the presence of this celestial body, you fall into a new orbit; that the ground beneath you is more like a trampoline; that you may be able—with this new person—to create things more beautiful and useful, more fantastic and more real, than you ever could before.

How does this happen? What conditions of circumstance and temperament foster creative connection? In other words: Where and how does it begin? And which combinations of people make it most likely?

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6. Scenes of Hamlet—my husband's book of ceramics and still lives (now live on Blurb)

A few days ago I posted here about my husband's work as a ceramicist and photographer.

I can now share that exquisite work here. Bill made all of the pots, arranged, lit, and took the photographs, and designed the book, which he will soon be sharing with ceramics studios.

I, however, love the work so much that I have asked if I might share it with all of you.

The link to the Blurb book preview is here.

In a few weeks I'll be sharing Bill's new web site, which features this work, his 3D design work, and his photography.

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7. How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky/Lydia Netzer: Chicago Tribune Review

I want to love every book I read. I crack the spine eager with hope. I struggled, unfortunately, with Lydia Netzer's new novel, a book that has elsewhere earned raves as well as raised eyebrows.

My review of the book is now live in Printers Row Journal. It begins like this, below, and can be read in its entirety here.
If you are a reader intoxicated by the strange, a reader for whom conceits matter more than characters and song, then Lydia Netzer's "How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky" is the sort of book that may well live up to its billing as a funny valentine. If, on the other hand, you read in search of stories that ultimately transcend ideas, then this second novel by the best-selling author of "Shine Shine Shine" may furrow your brow.

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8. Honoring Greg Djanikian in the pages of the Pennsylvania Gazette

I felt blessed when Pennsylvania Gazette editor John Prendergast invited me to write a 3,000 word story about Greg Djanikian, who trusted me to teach at Penn, who talks with  me many spring-semester Tuesdays when I arrive early to teach, who inspired a key character in my forthcoming Florence novel One Thing Stolen, and who writes some of the most gorgeous poetry anywhere. I wrote of his most recent book, Dear Gravity, here.

To write this story I spent an afternoon in Greg's beautiful home (filled with the artistry of his wife), interviewed Stephen Dunn, Julia Alvarez, Al Filreis, and others, and returned to a dear student, Eric Xu, who brought valuable insights to the Greg's beloved teaching.

The story can be found here.

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9. Leah Apple, my beautiful student, shares her dance as a Fulbright Scholar on the island of Kinmen

The great privilege of teaching extraordinary students is that the semester of writing, reflection, and talk marks only the start of an involving conversation.

Last evening, Leah Apple, the hip-hop dancing Fulbright winner who enrolled in my second nonfiction class at Penn and whom you met here in a Philadelphia Inquirer story, came for dinner, bringing with her tales of her time in Kinmen, near the People's Republic of China. In a remote niche of that island, Leah met and taught English to children with whom she soon fell in love. Inevitably, they fell in love with her. Dance, "the universal language," became core to Leah's curriculum as she and her fellow Fulbright scholars prepared the children for a first-ever island flash mob.

This short film, shot and produced by Leah's friend Jonah Stern, tells the story of remote classrooms, willing children, and a young woman with a boundless soul.

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10. Meera Lee Patel: gift upon gift

Not long ago I posted here about an extremely gifted artist, Meera Lee Patel, whose delicate and soulful renderings of atmospheric worlds grace tea towels and greeting cards, tote bags and journals, even slingy chairs. You can find her work on Etsy and in Free People. You can follow her musings over Twitter, her process sketches on Instagram, her hope for the world in every line she draws, and next year Perigree Books will be releasing her book Being Me (But Better). I can't actually imagine a better Meera Lee, but I'm eagerly anticipating her book.

Yesterday, as a cadre of painters and window caulkers and windowsill fixers and stucco men finished the rescue of my modest bungalow home, a gift arrived from Meera, a package of most precious things. Number 37 of 50 of her keepsake Elephant and Moon (her illustrated story of an elephant seeking his place in the world). A handmade card: Grateful. A postcard. Her long-lettered words to me. She is so utterly embrace-able, this Meera Lee. And I am enormously lucky to have her in my life.

For look, above, at what she makes.

Soon, here, you'll find another inimitable work of art from Meera Lee, for Chronicle Books had the extraordinary stroke of genius to hire her as the cover artist for One Thing Stolen, the Florence novel due out next April. I've not yet seen the final cover. I have seen the intricate, intelligent watercolor. I can't wait to hold this book in my hand, for Meera's reading of the novel was so astute; her discovery of the small details make her cover illustration sing.

One Thing Stolen, which has a rare neurological disease at its heart, was not an easy book to write; it was, in fact, heartbreaking as I imagined myself inside the mind of frightened young girl. It emerged out of many drafts and deep considering. I stumbled until at last I found the light, and then I waited. Before I'd even seen a glimpse of Meera's cover art, I'd heard from Meera—words from a reader that will always matter to me.

Gift upon gift upon gift. And then yesterday's package.

When the cover art is ready for sharing, you will find it along with an interview with Meera here. Between now and then, Meera, the atmosphere is, as you write in Elephant and Moon, "feelings and fabrics from lifetimes before."

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11. returning to failed projects so that I might understand the failures

In between reading and thinking, cleaning and restoring the house, and trying new recipes out on friends who accept the dare, I am reading the work of yesteryears—the pages upon pages that were never published. What went wrong? What must I not do again as I ponder the possibility of new stories?

Sometimes I find passages, written as fiction, that return me to real life. Here is a boy and the paragraph I wrote for him inside a novel I never published. The place is San Miguel.
Nothing was neutral in San Miguel.  The place was full of opinions—the murmur of fountains behind padlocked doors, the inscription of grills high on windows, the casual flamboyance of the mariachi men, the coruscation, in the distance, of abandoned mining towns.  The lintels above the ornate doors were carved with news of vanished families, rose spires pierced the sky, the smoke of the helotes carts was weather, and every day a boy wearing a yellow cabled sweater and shiny shoes carried a moose puppet across the cobbles of the town.
 “Where do you think he’s going?"
“I don’t know.”
“What do you think he wants?”

The failure here? The static quality of the dialogue. Too much like a poem, which is not how real people speak.

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12. Richard Bausch on sophisticated fiction

In today's Printers Row Journal, Kevin Nance interviews Richard Bausch about his new novel, Before, During, After. Complexity, Bausch suggests, separates serious fiction from other forms of entertainment. And I think, yes. Complexity. That's the word.

Q: The other intersection between public and private history in “Before, During, After” is indicated in the title. There’s a way in which these great calamities that happen — in my parents’ generation it was the Kennedy assassination, in my own generation it was 9/11 — seem like points of demarcation, watershed moments that define “before” and “after.”    

A: Yes, and it has to do with the discovery of complexity and the fact that there’s evil in the world — things that no amount of study or work or will or effort can change one bit, and we just have to somehow live with it. I think that’s what separates serious, sophisticated fiction from more trivial kinds of entertainment — although it all had better entertain or it’s a failure, no matter what its intent. 
    It’s all honorable and good, I should say; there’s no such thing as fiction writing that’s immoral — I don’t believe that at all. If it diverts and tells a story that involves the reader, it’s a good thing. If it’s boring, that’s different, but that’s another kettle of fish that has nothing to do with what the activity really is. I mean, Stephen King, who’s begun to get some cachet as the excellent storyteller that he is, used to be dismissed out of hand as some sort of hack. But if you read the guy, he can write like hell. There’s an aspect of what he does that could be defined as genre writing, but even that shows real thought and real intention, and people are starting to notice that.

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13. living my own unpublished novel: a torn page

My last night was much like one I'd written of years ago, in one of the many unpublished novels that sit here, quiet.
            In the family room she slowly navigates toward the two-piece chaise lounge and moves it, one piece at a time, toward the window.  Right up against the window, facing the moon, which now hangs unobstructed in the after-hours sky—a perfect half, an orange color — amidst the vague white constellations.  She had always wished for a hole in the roof of her house so that she could lie, in any weather, beneath the moon, but this, tonight, is a good enough solution—the window up, the night blowing in, the mystery of the house across the street.  She settles back into the thin, sleek leather cushion and twines her hands together at her waist, the posture of prayer.  She holds her eyes open as long as she can, and then she closes them but doesn’t sleep and doesn’t dream, just listens.  There is the soprano pulse of crickets near.  A mole in leaves, making for cover.  Bird call, and also bird wing.  Perhaps the snuffing out of a candle now, on a table, in a house.  She can differentiate the sounds, but how much better is it, after all, to let them play, orchestral. 

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14. Lost and Found: a poem I wrote years ago, for a neighbor I still love

Yesterday a former neighbor visited me. There are miles between us now. There's never any distance.

She has been wondering what had become of a poem I'd written for her children years ago, when our houses sat side by side.

I said I'd look for it.

Boxes, photos, so much attic dust later, I found it.

Soup, this one deserved its own blog post.

To us. To then.

Thank you.

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15. Us. Then.

I have been hunting through old photos and treasures—seeking a lost poem for a friend.

The poem is still lost.

But this was found.

I have loved every inch of being a mother to this son. And I still do.

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16. My husband's book: Shades of Hamlet/ceramics as still lives

This summer a quiet new book has unfolded in the studio space behind our house. Shades of Hamlet is a collection of ceramic works presented as a series of still life photographs accompanied by excerpts from Shakespeare's "Hamlet." William Sulit, my husband, made the ceramics, staged and lit them, photographed them, and designed these most exquisite pages.

I share a glimpse of that today.

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17. In this sweet month of books, Leslie Jamison (THE EMPATHY EXAMS) thrills me, too

I said I would give myself August just to be. To read the books I choose to read. To think the thoughts I choose to think. To daydream. To celebrate the achievements of others.

To chase nothing that cannot wait until September.

To worry not about mounting bills, disappearing clients, uncertainties.

To let the world come to me, which is to say all those hummingbirds, and so many wonderful friends, and conversations with my son, and a stirring quiet thrill over the art my husband is making, which I will, in time, share with you.

And what a glorious few weeks it has been. Not just the conversations, but the books—one outstanding book after another (it all began with Anthony Doerr) after another and more and more. The tiny blue bucket of my life had gone catastrophically dry. There is the gentle slosh of water once more.

Today I read Leslie Jamison's The Empathy Exams. Today I marvel at her precision—these memoiristic essays, these life investigations, these raw enchantments of ideas. How do we care for others? How do we respond to quiet hopes and shrill demands?

There's just so much here. But for today, right now, this, from a conversation Jamison has with Merve Emre in Paris Review Daily. The sort of thing that I must read at once to the next students I have, in the month that won't be August.
In certain ways, as a writer, you do profit off your own experiences of pain. There's an inspirational way to see that profit—turning pain into beauty—and a cynical way to see it—"wound dwelling" in some corrosive or self pitying way. For me, the honest vision dwells somewhere in between.

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18. River Dreams: History, Hope, and the Imagination: Two Upcoming Keynotes

A few days ago, I wrote of an upcoming September 4 talk at Radnor Memorial Library, open to the public, about my ghosts (which is to say my two Chanticleer inspired books) and my river (Flow).

Today I'm posting information for two keynote addresses I'll be giving in honor of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area's 2014 River of the Year Lecture series, on October 14 and 16. Details and registration for these free events are here.

I hope you'll join us.

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19. shaping the past, distancing ourselves: George Packer and David Brooks

Two recent pieces by George Packer and David Brooks reflect on the ways we delineate and shape the past. We must distort because we must compress, Packer tells us, but there are consequences. Brooks, relying on science such as Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, suggests that meaningful perspective is best gained by putting time and distance between ourselves and our histories.

I tag the key quotes here—to save them for myself, to share them with you, to ask what you think of it all.
The nature of historical writing, of memory itself, is to distort by selecting and compressing events, making the past seem more dramatic and coherent than it ever was.... Narrative history, in bringing the past to life, asks us only to forget about the other turns we might have made. — George Packer, "The Uses of Division," The New Yorker, August 11/18 2014
When people examine themselves from too close, they often end up ruminating or oversimplifying. Rumination is like that middle-of-the-night thinking — when the rest of the world is hidden by darkness and the mind descends into a spiral of endless reaction to itself. People have repetitive thoughts, but don’t take action. Depressed ruminators end up making themselves more depressed.... We are better self-perceivers if we can create distance and see the general contours of our emergent system selves — rather than trying to unpack constituent parts. This can be done in several ways. — David Brooks, "Introspective or Narcissistic?", The New York Times, August 7, 2014

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20. chasing the moon—and avoiding the siren's song of historical research

Last night I went in search of the super moon. Drove up and down Lancaster Avenue only to return home to discover that the best views were from my own front lawn.

Earlier this week, Adam Levine, a dear friend, a water guy, a streams and sewer guy, and a man who possesses (I believe) the most complete knowledge of my city's vast and dispersed historical archives, came for an afternoon of cupcakes and talk. We drifted, as we tend to, toward talk of recently found photographs, newly discovered treasure troves, the idea of the lost and found inside the city's libraries and files. At one point we began to talk about how generative research is in the early stages of making a book—and how potentially paralyzing later on.

Earlier this morning, reading this week's edition of Printers Row (Chicago Tribune) rather than writing the the Tribune essay now due (an occupational hazard), I came upon an essay describing a new book—Curiosity's Cats: Writers on Research (edited by Bruce Joshua Miller). A must-buy, I'm already thinking.

And there, tumbling out of the end of the essay (penned by Miller himself), was the very sentiment Adam and I agreed on Thursday afternoon. I can't adequately express how wholeheartedly I agree with this thought. I pass it on to you:
My advice to writers is “research but write.” Don’t wait until you have gathered every conceivable fact or explored every area of interest. Put the collection away and start typing. Avoid what the novelist Margot Livesey calls in her essay, research’s “siren song.”

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21. where is man's truth to be found?

All of us have had the experience of a sudden joy that came when nothing in the world had forewarned us of its coming—a joy so thrilling that if it was born of misery we remembered even the misery with tenderness. All of us, on seeing old friends again, have remembered with happiness the trials we lived through with those friends. Of what can we be certain except this—that we are fertilized by mysterious circumstances? Where is man's truth to be found?
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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22. Introducing NONE OF THE ABOVE, a debut novel by my friend, I.W. Gregorio

In November 2009, Ariel Levy, a New Yorker writer, wrote an essay about the runner Caster Semenya ("Either/Or"). She was South African, a world champion, a "natural." She had a body built for speed, a body, Levy tells us, that got some whispers started:

Semenya is breathtakingly butch. Her torso is like the chest plate on a suit of armor. She has a strong jawline, and a build that slides straight from her ribs to her hips. “What I knew is that wherever we go, whenever she made her first appearance, people were somehow gossiping, saying, ‘No, no, she is not a girl,’ ” Phineas Sako said, rubbing the gray stubble on his chin. “ ‘It looks like a boy’—that’s the right words—they used to say, ‘It looks like a boy.’ Some even asked me as a coach, and I would confirm: it’s a girl. At times, she’d get upset. But, eventually, she was just used to such things.” Semenya became accustomed to visiting the bathroom with a member of a competing team so that they could look at her private parts and then get on with the race. “They are doubting me,” she would explain to her coaches, as she headed off the field toward the lavatory.

I remember reading this story front to back the day that issue of The New Yorker arrived. I felt compassion—that's what I felt—for a young athlete who was working hard and running fast and doubted. For a human being who'd had nothing to say about the nature of the body she'd been born with, who was living out the dream she had, who was being dogged and thwarted by questions. Caster Semenya was a runner. She had committed no crime. And yet there was her story—in headlines, in gossip. What were her choices, after all?

Later this year, I.W. Gregorio, a beloved physician, a former student of one of my dearest friends (Karen Rile), a joyous presence at many book launches and festivals, and a leading voice in the We Need Diverse Books initiative that has packed rooms at the BEA and the LA SCBWI, will launch a book called NONE OF THE ABOVE. This YA novel is about a high school runner—a beautiful girl with a boyfriend, a popular teen—who finds herself having this conversation with the physician who has examined her:

"So, Kristin," Dr. Shah said, "In that ultrasound I just did I wasn't able to find your uterus – your womb – at all."
"What do you mean?" I stared at her blankly.
"I want you to think back to all your visits to doctors in the past. Did anyone ever mention anything to you about something called Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, or AIS?"
"No," I said, panic rising. "What is that? It's not some kind of cancer, is it?"
"Oh, no," Dr. Shah said. "It's not anything like that. It's just a...a unique genetic syndrome that causes an intersex state - where a person looks outwardly like a female, but has some of the internal characteristics of a male."
"What do you mean, internal? Like my brain?" My chest tightened. What else could it be?
Dr. Shah's mouth opened, but then she paused, as if she wasn't sure whether she should go on. I was still trying to understand what she'd said, so I focused on her mouth as if that would allow me to understand better. I noticed that her lip-liner was a shade too dark for her lipstick. "Kristin. Miss Lattimer," she said. Why was she being so formal all the sudden?
"I think that you may be..." Dr. Shah stopped again and fingered nervously at the lanyard of her ID badge, and at her awkwardness I felt a sudden surge of sympathy toward her. So I swallowed and put on my listening face, and was smiling when Dr. Shah gathered herself and, on the third try, said what she had to say. 
"Miss Lattimer, I think that you might be what some people call a 'hermaphrodite.'"
What do the words mean? What does the diagnosis tell Kristin about who she really is? How will it change her life, what medical choices does she have, who will love the "who" of her? These are the questions Gregorio sensitively and compellingly addresses as this story unfolds—bit by bit, choice by choice, reckoning by reckoning. It takes a physician of Gregorio's knowledge and skill to tell this story. It takes, as well, a compassionate heart, and Ilene has that in spades. Ilene has not written this story to exploit. She has written it so that others might understand a condition that is more common than we think, a dilemma many young people and their parents face.

We Need More Diverse Books, and None of the Above is one of them. I share my blurb for Gregorio's book here, and wish her greatest success as her story moves into the world.

Like the beloved physician she is, I.W Gregorio brings rare knowledge and acute empathy to the illumination of an anatomical difference—and to the teens who discover, in the nick of time, the saving grace of knowing and being one’s truest self. A book unlike any other.

— Beth Kephart, author of Going Over and Small Damages

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23. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe/Benjamin Alire Saenz: Reflections

Sunday afternoon I went off exploring. Found my way to the Chester Valley Trail and walked (and walked). Found my way to a bookstore. Found myself driving home with a copy of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe in hand.

Hours before, I'd had no plans. Suddenly I had a walk and a new book.

A book I loved.

Because this novel comes from such an honest, non-exploitative place. Because I believed in these two Mexican-American boys, finding their way into a deep friendship. Because there are no gimmicks here, no oft-returning tropes, no Big Concepts that flash like advertisements in the pages. Because both Aristotle and Dante have parents who love them, parents who look out for them, parents who give them room but also make them talk, parents who care most for their children's well-being. No schmaltz. No simplifying. No plot just for the sake of plot. A real, believable story about kids trying to learn about themselves.

I was reading, and I was saying Yes. Yes. Yes. I was reading, and I was thinking: Mr. Saenz, you deserve every award you have received for this book.

Here is Aristotle (Ari) talking to Dante's mom. We have companionship. We have compassion. We have love, but we have as well the fact that love is hard. Love is ridiculously hard. To give. To receive. To keep. Saenz knows that. He doesn't have to scream it, tag it, trick it, cute it. He just calls it like it is.
"You're a part of this family," she said. "There's no use fighting it."

"I'm sure I'll disappoint you someday, Mrs. Quintana."

"No," she said. And even though her voice could be so firm, right then her voice was almost as kind as my own mother's. You're so hard on yourself, Ari."

I shrugged. "Maybe that's just the way it is with me."

She smiled at me. "Dante's not the only one who missed you."

It was the most beautiful thing an adult who wasn't my mom or dad had ever said to me. And I knew that there was something about me that Mrs. Quintana saw and loved. And even though I felt it was a beautiful thing, I also felt it was a weight. Not that she meant it to be a weight. But love was always something heavy for me. Something I had to carry.

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24. Nobody is Ever Missing/Catherine Lacey: Reflections

I don't always agree with the conclusions New York Times book reviewer Dwight Garner draws, but I am perpetually eager for his missives. He digs in deep. He reads and writes on full throttle. He doesn't look back over his shoulder. Garner's recent review of Catherine Lacey's debut novel Nobody is Ever Missing is the reason I bought the book. Lacey's spellbinding talent is the reason I read it through in a single rainy afternoon.

The novel is a no holds barred, desperate unwinding of a woman, Elyria, who leaves her life behind and tells no one where she's going. She has a one-way airline ticket to New Zealand. She has a husband, a mother, a sister who is no longer alive, a job, the trappings of an ordinary life. Trappings. That's the word. She's fleeing the trappings of her life.

She gets off the plane. She has the vaguest of plans. She wants to be alone, leave her alone, leave her to her thoughts, watch as her thoughts unwind, as she does, as she questions everything in sentences and paragraphs that go long across the page. She doesn't wish to be with people, only near them. She doesn't tell her story, doesn't even know her story, addresses her Husband, with whom, in time, over the long-distance wire, on more than one paralyzing occasion, she will briefly speak. The depth of his outrage becomes the novel's deepest silence.

One thing happens, another thing happens, Elly is a young woman taking chances, a human being increasingly alone. She was the original abandon-er. Now the world is abandoning her. She keeps trying to put a stake in the ground. She gives up on Time.
... everyone walks around thinking nothing is going to happen right up to the moment when something does happen, just like time, how it's here one minute and we don't notice it till it's gone—no, it's not like that, I would tell the tree branches if I was the type of person who talked to tree branches or imagined a monologue for a tree's branches—no, time is a thing that is always almost a thing that is never here and never gone and never yours and never anyone's and we're all trying to get a hand clutched tight around time and no one will, so why can't we call a truce, now, Time? I am not asking, I am just saying—I'm calling a truce with time. Truce.
Yes, sure, not everyone will seek out a book that unwinds and unwinds and unwinds and carries itself forward on rafts of blistering thought and sudden violence and utter lonesomeness. Not everyone. But, Lord. Let's make room for Catherine Lacey and her ferocious determination to see this story through, to not rescue it for the Hollywood ending, to take Alone to its final restless resting place. Let's make room for this young novelist, who can do just about anything with words.

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25. Going Over voted into 100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime: Readers' Picks

The 100 Children's Books to Read in a Lifetime/Readers' Picks begins like this: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Charlotte's Web, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Where the Wild Things Are, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Goodnight Moon, The Cat in the Hat, A Wrinkle in Time, Little Women, The Hobbit, Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Secret Garden, The Very Hungry Caterpillar....

And then, some sixty books in, Going Over, published by the ever-fabulous Chronicle Books. 

To those who have read, who have cared, who have taken a moment — you know who you are. To Tamra Tuller and Sally Kim and Lara Starr and Jaime Wong and Taylor Norman and Amy Rennert and Ellen Trachtenberg ....

I am incredibly grateful.

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