Devastating & Beautiful – The First Time She Drowned

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The First Time She Drowned is the first book I’ve read in a long time that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning. I couldn’t put it down. It drew me in with some of the most beautiful prose of any YA book I’ve ever read, and the plot is structured in such  a way that it keeps you guessing all the way through. Pretty clear clues are given early on as to a pivotal event in Cassie’s life, so the revelation isn’t a big surprise and it doesn’t need to be.

Written by former Hollywood actress Kerry Kletter, The First time She Drowned is a brilliant YA contemporary debut novel, but be warned that the protagonist Cassie endures genuine cruelty, the kind of cruelty that may be devastatingly familiar to you, the kind that may cause you to have to process the feelings it evokes. Too often, books exploit traumatic experiences for the sake of compelling plot lines. This book doesn’t do that. The First Time She Drowned doesn’t exist to aggravate old wounds; it gets blood flowing to emotional injuries so we can heal.

Rating: 5 stars

–Eve Messenger

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Not that we’re superstitious or anything but. . . #amwriting #writerslife

Never say writer's blog pic

 

And the Muslim Woman Sang

My mother was born in Fukuoka, Japan. She fell in love with an American soldier (my dad) and moved with him to a small northern Virginia town. Though she arrived there well after World War II, my mother came to know all too well the sideways glances and outright scorn of white people who viewed her as the enemy.

Here’s another true story. My best class in high school was Freshman English with Mrs. Kiyoko Bernard. Woven among our exploration of great literature were stories Mrs. Bernard shared with us about her life. Like the story about how she and her young Japanese-American husband were forced by the U.S. government into an internment camp during World War II. This remarkable woman who touched our lives with her humanity and her encouragement suffered the degradation of having to bear her first child in an internment camp.

In the heart of Little Tokyo in downtown Los Angeles is the Japanese American National Museum. JANM is beautiful, always clean, with many windows allowing in natural light, knowledgeable docents, and engaging Japanese cultural exhibits and activities. As a Japanese language teacher, I have taken my students on field trips there many times. But the museum’s purpose extends beyond expanding awareness of Japanese-American culture. Founded by survivors of Japanese internment camps who pooled government restitution money to build the museum, JANM exists as a reminder that, even in the land of the free, especially during the toxic climate of war, fear can drive the masses to ignore, subscribe to–even call for–foul human actions.

In 1942, by executive order of the president of the United States, everyone of Japanese descent, including natural-born U.S. citizens like Mrs. Bernard, were forced out of their homes, businesses, and schools. The lash of wartime anti-Japanese rhetoric fell swiftly. Here’s the story my dear friend and second mother Pauline once told. Pauline grew up in Bellflower, California, when it was still a small farming town. One morning in 1942, when Pauline was twelve, she arrived at school to find many of the classroom seats empty. To her horror, she realized that all of her Japanese friends were gone. Pauline’s parents and other good-hearted neighbors attempted to keep the land for the Japanese farmer friends. Others took advantage and bought the well-worked Japanese farms on the cheap.

Meanwhile, Japanese-American soldiers in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team were fighting and dying in Europe for the very country that was forcibly interring their family members.  38 years later, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter called for an investigation into the government’s internment action. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians determined that interring Japanese-Americans had been a clear violation of their human rights and was stoked by “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”

Here is another true story. It is not set in the 1940s or the 1960s or even the 1980s. It happened very recently in the large metropolitan area in which I live.

My old friend Luke, whom I’ve known since high school, has a lovely wife Cathy who’s always been kind and generous toward my family, especially my children. Cathy is very involved in her church. During winter break, she invited my daughter and me over to decorate Christmas cookies. Some of Cathy’s church friends were there. The political discussion became uncomfortable.

One of Cathy’s church friends shared this story:

Across the street from her a Muslim family had moved in, and the church friend felt very unsettled about this. One day the Muslim mother, a woman in her thirties, even crossed the street with her six-year-old daughter and rang the church friend’s doorbell. The church lady was terrified. She peered through the peephole and panicked. What should she do? Her husband was at work, leaving just her and her own young daughter at home, and a woman in a hijab was standing there on her doorstep with a little Muslim girl beside her.  So here’s what the frightened church lady did. Through her closed door, she insisted she would only open the door if the Muslim woman proved her patriotism by singing the national anthem.

And the Muslim woman sang.

 

 

–Eve Messenger

 

 

 

 

Library-Hopping Adventure #amwriting #amreading

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Huntington Beach Public Library – As an elementary school student, I used to ride my bike here and spend the afternoon reading books and magazines.

For a huge book nerd like me, libraries are a retreat, a sanctuary even. Sometimes, like today, a library can even be an adventure. Some libraries are tiny, old, and in need of fresh paint. Others are vast, with elevators, conference rooms, fancy patrons’ plaques on the wall, row after row of study carrels, sometimes with gardens and statuary on the grounds outside. As long as friendly books line the walls, I’m happy; I feel safe.

When I have time, I like to leave the house to write. With fewer distractions and a deliberate plan that includes getting dressed up and packing supplies (laptop, bottled water, sometimes notes), I usually accomplish a lot more. In the evenings and early mornings, I’ll write at Starbucks, but libraries are my preferred destination. Usually I write in our awesome, recently remodeled local library or sometimes at the university library a 15-minute walk from home. On the weekends, I might visit the regional library in the next city where a friend works as a children’s librarian.

I live 15 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, but today I happened to be in a coastal town called Corona del Mar. I had my laptop with me, so after completing my errand I decided to go on a little writing adventure to a library I’d never visited before. Thanks to Siri, it was easy to find the nearest library just a couple of miles away. I took the elevator up to the second floor and set up my laptop in a cozy alcove near a window overlooking a perfect Southern California day. A short while later a woman joined me in the alcove. She tapped away at her laptop, too, and it was nice to have writerly company.

I had so much fun today on my mini-adventure to a new library that now I want to library-hop every week. Maybe, with each new library I write in, I’ll take a picture and post it on my blog.

–Eve Messenger

Burn, Rewrite, Reread #amreading

Burn Write Re-Read

You know that game, “Kiss, Marry, Kill,” in which someone gives you the names of three guys (or girls) and you have to choose which ones you’d kiss, marry, or kill? Ever wondered what that game might be like played with books? Apparently, some creative book lover did because super duper, book-lovin’ Rae @ Bookmark Chronicles tagged me to play “Burn, Rewrite, Reread.”

Ooo, that sounds like fun, I thought.

But then I had to make the choices.

And it was really, really hard.

The Rules:

  • Randomly choose 3 books you’ve read. (Use the ‘random’ option on your Goodreads “read” shelf.*)
  • For each group of three books, decide which book you’d burn, rewrite, or reread. (A lot like “Kiss, Marry, Kill.”)
  • Repeat until you complete three rounds (or five) 🙂

Round 1:

BURN: 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma. I had high hopes for this book. That is all.  13132403

REWRITE: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. I actually liked We Were Liars, but according to the mixed reviews it’s kind of a love-it or hate-it read, so maybe a little rewrite would be in order.:)

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REREAD: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Redemption? Fantasy travels through past, present, and future? I will read or watch any, repeat, any version or retelling of this classic tale.

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  Round 2:

BURN: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver. Burn a book by one of my  favorite authors? How did this happen?!

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REWRITE: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. I enjoyed the story but wouldn’t have minded if the fantasy factor were kicked up a notch or two (more fae, please!) And the “dark” part could have been even more deliciously dark.

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REREAD: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. As M.C. Hammer once said, “Can’t touch this.”

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 Round 3:

BURN: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. The graphics were somewhat entertaining, but the story needed more substance. Probably perfect for a reluctant reader.

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REWRITE: The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The only reason I would choose to rewrite this classic is to make the language a tad bit more accessible to modern readers so more people can read and appreciate the powerful story and amazing protagonist as much as I do! Note to publishers (because obviously so many of them read this blog *clears throat*): please release a new edition with a not-hideous cover that does this story justice!

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REREAD: Wool by Hugh Howey. This book ran a little long, so I almost put it in the “rewrite” category, but the story never dragged, so I suppose it was exactly as long as it needed to be. Interesting story. 18626815

 Whew, now it’s someone else’s turn to “burn” and “rewrite” some of their book babies. Good luck!

I  Tag. . .

(Note: If you’ve already done this tag or are otherwise inundated, please don’t feel obligated. Also, if your name isn’t on the list but you really want to play “Burn, Write, Reread,” consider yourself tagged!)

Brittany @ The Grisha Lieutenant
Lila @ The Bookkeeper’s Secrets
 Jesalin @ –Blogging Everything Beautiful–
 Rebecca R. Vincent
Beth @ Betwixt these Pages
Sabrina Marsi Books
Astra @ A Stranger’s Guide to Novels
Michelle, Books and Movies Addict
Melanie Noelle Bernard
Frances Sims-Williams @ Nightjar’s Jar of Books

*To display a random list of books you’ve read, go to Goodreads and:

  1. Click on “my books.”
  2. On the left side of screen below bookshelves, click “read.”
  3. At the bottom of the screen in the “sort” box, choose “random.”
  4. Choose the first three books.
  5. Have fun!

The Classics Book Tag


Ah, classic literature, I’ve loved it since 9th grade when my beloved English teacher (“Mama B,” we called her) got me hooked. Today is my birthday, so I’m especially grateful to Charley @ BooksAndBakes for giving me this opportunity to walk down Classic Book Memory Lane by tapping me for this Classic Books tag. Here goes. . .

An overhyped classic you didn’t really like:

Anything by Ernest Hemingway (except The Old Man and the Sea). His sparse writing style and  testosterone-fueled navel-gazing just doesn’t suit me.

Favorite time period to read about:

1800s England–thanks in no small part to Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Charles Dickens.

Wuthering Heights

Favorite fairy tale:

I’m having a conniption trying to limit myself to one favorite fairy tale. Fairy tales are life! How to choose? I’ll compromise and say my favorite is any fairy tale with a princess in it. Wait, then there’s Jack and the Beanstalk. But that’s not my favorite. Hansel and Gretel? Rumpelstiltskin? No, how about anything by the Brothers Grimm? Does Peter Pan count as a fairy tale? Alright…I’ll go with Cinderella. Yes, I love the magic and how the good-hearted, mistreated girl gets her comeuppance.

Art by DylanBonner.deviantart.com

What is the most embarrassing classic you haven’t read? 

I am not proud to admit I’ve never read a Shakespearen play in its entirety. I’ve seen Shakespearean plays–does that count?

Top 5 classics you’d like to read soon:

  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Faust by Goethe
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Yes, that is six, which is five in book junkie terms.

Favorite modern book/series based on a classic:

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley (a modern retelling of King Lear). Not that I looooved A Thousand Acres, but it’s the only retelling of a classic book I’ve read that comes to mind.

Favorite movie version / TV series based on a classic:

1. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). Watching this movie honestly felt like seeing the book come to life.

2. Sense and Sensibility (1995)starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet, screenplay by Emma Thompson, directed by Ang Lee. Loved it!

Worst classic to movie adaptation:

A classic novel that made a big impression on me emotionally was The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne. Unfortunately, the movie adaptation with Demi Moore (who I’ve liked in other films) didn’t do the story justice.

Favorite edition(s) you would like to collect more classics from:

I’m not gonna lie, I do not understand this question.

An under-hyped classic you’d recommend to everyone:

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. It’s weird in the best way and masterfully written.

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I Nominate:

While I admit I’m really interested in reading your responses to this Classic Books tag, if you’re, y’know, busy getting ready for Valentine’s Day or whatever, feel free to pass. 🙂 –Eve

Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand Stories

Beth @ Betwixt-These-Pages

Millie Schmidt

Melanie Noelle Bernard

Whitney @ Brown Books & Green Tea

Brittany @ The Grisha Lieutenant

How to Tell if You’re a Book Junkie #amreading

Directions: Mark an ‘x’ for each statement that applies to you.

[ ] 1. In lines or at doctor’s offices, when everyone else around me is tapping out messages on their cell phones, my face is buried in a book.

[ ] 2. If a novel I’m reading has a plot twist I wholeheartedly disagree with, I will complain, out loud, to my book.

[ ] 3. When I discover a new book I’d like to read, the first thing I do is to list it as “want to read” on Goodreads. Then I blog about it. 🙂

[ ] 4. If I reach for a book, my household pets jump onto my favorite reading chair.

[ ] 5. My favorite historical figure is Booker T. Washington.

[ ] 6. When I meet new people, the first question I ask is, “What kinds of books do you like to read?”

[ ] 7. The only thing better than buying new books is when someone reads—and likes—a book I’ve recommended to them.

[ ] 8. The phrase “’book’ an appointment” confuses me.

[ ] 9. If I see someone mistreating a book, I will shield it with my body.

[ ] 10. I read posts entitled “How to Tell if You’re a Book Junkie.”

If you marked ONE OR MORE of the above boxes, you are a bookie junkie and are hereby awarded this badge. Wear it with pride. 🙂

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Happy reading!

–Eve Messenger