Posted in memoir, memories of houses, writers

Reading While Writing

MLK day copy.jpg for blog

Happy Martin Luther King day! I hope you all are well and taking some time to honor one our greatest American leaders.

Read any good books lately? I’m always reading even with a left eye that needs fixing. Here are a few of my recent favorite reads:

  •   Fire Shut up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow

Fantastic. Piercing. A timely memoir of male African-American lives  and family dynamics. Starts with newsman author planning to kill a haunting memory with a gun.  A relative molested him in childhood.  This is a book about personal accomplishment with an emotional resolution of trauma.  Blow, a Louisiana native reveals the torment of his childhood and his life journey to success.

He emerges from being “different” and grapples with his feelings and sensitivities.   He  achieves in sports, academics,  and then as a graphic producer for the Times. He’s tenacious. One reviewer calls it “electric.” I agree. Loved the writing style. I had no idea how vicious hazing is in colleges. After reading his book I believe the barbaric practice should be banned.

  • The Mockingbird Next Door Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills

Loved it! Writer granted interviews and was able to live next door to feisty, often self-deprecating, outrageously private Harper Lee. Just as fascinating is  her charismatic, focused sister, lawyer Alice Finch Lee. I just fell head over heels with Monroeville, Alabama (you can take Mockingbird tours there) and with Alice in the book. What a woman.

Mills, the author, was on leave from the Chicago Tribune due to complications with lupus. Mills used her talents to put together a real story of one of the most inspirational writers of our time. If you’re intrigued by Southern writers and culture, treat yourself to a most juicy book. Meet the real Harper Lee also known as “Nelle” by those close to her. She could be cantankerous and detested getting dressed up for functions.

Some claim the book was unauthorized. The permission issue hinges on two letters to Mills, one by Nelle and one by her sister Alice.  But what would I know? Read it for yourself. What do you think? I know the elderly, or at least I know mine. They don’t spend hours together, take road trips, or watch movies with just anyone.Harper Lee divided her residences between small town Alabama and New York City. Mills drives Lee up to New York City in her secondhand car.

Back to the elderly –they don’t take you to the hospital if they don’t like you. One has to be accepted into their lives by earning their trust. The Mockingbird Next Door is full of family history and friendships (Truman Capote) at its finest with all the inside details.  Congrats, Marja! Let the critics be jealous-I believe you.

I adore Southern writers (Arna Bontemps, Frank Yerby, Ernest J. Gaines, Alice Walker for example), and of course, Harper Lee with To Kill a Mockingbird. I don’t think life would be the same without Harper Lee’s classic contribution to writing, and subsequently, to film and theater.

  • Handling the Truth  On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart. I’m using this practical yet provocative book as a guide along with some others that I’ll talk about later on.  Each page is marked and underlined in my copy. My list of to-be-read books is growing because of all the memoirs cited in Handling the Truth. The author has written five memoirs and is a National Book Award finalist. If you’re writing a memoir or just enjoy writing tips, read or buy the book.

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Keep writing, keep journaling and let the creative juices flow!

Journal prompt: Write about what you are reading. What style appeals to you?