Amanda Gates

Four Books One Post: No Biking in the House, Lost in Shangri-La, Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, and Dreams of Joy

One of my goals for 2012 was to read 25 books. I’m at 21.5 right now, so I might just fall short, unless reading Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel several times a week counts for anything. Anyway, I’ve neglected to update here about my most recent reads, so here’re a few:

No Biking in the House without a Helmet: Journalist and author Melissa Fay Greene writes this memoir about her (and her husband’s) journey through parenthood. They had children of their own, yet once those children started growing, the Greene’s felt they had more parenting to offer. Greene writes about her learning process through the adoption system and then of each subsequent adoption of children from both Bulgaria and Ethiopia. I liked the book a lot. Here’s what I wrote on Goodreads:

"While the book dragged in a few places (some chapters felt unnecessary or redundant), I really enjoyed the extended peek into this blended family. I learned quite a bit about adoption. I also really respected this couple's parenting of all their children. They set high expectations, but didn't hover. They swore, laughed off things like broken lamps or windows, empathized with the loss of a rodent-like pet, etc. They seemed fairly laid back, in general, and their kids turned out to be respectful, highly intelligent, accepting individuals. I admired the way the parents kept their adopted children's culture and extended family in the forefront and the fact that they gave hundreds of dollars to parents/grandparents/cousins in Ethiopia (which was mere pennies to the former, but an EDUCATION for latter). The response was always, "Of course we can help. Here you go." Amazing.

Of course, this is a very well-off family (when the dad is a defense attorney for NFL stars, I'm guessing you make some bank), who can afford trips to Africa many times in life. Not everyone has this ability, of course, but if adoption is something you're curious about, she sheds some light, for sure. And even offers some tips on blending families like this."

Lost in Shangri-La: Another WWII book, which if you’ve read about my book choices in the last five years, you know I’ve veered this way several times. However, this was a book from even another aspect of the war (not Japan or Europe, like many others), and tells of the true story of a sightseeing plane crash on the island of New Guinea where all but three WWII servicemen and women passengers were killed. Those three who survived (two men, one awesome lady) had quite the experience, first surviving and then getting rescued. While this wasn’t as gripping as a book like Unbroken, it was still good; I liked the people and I liked learning about the natives of New Guinea (who had no idea how this war, and this plane crash, was going to change their lives forever, unfortunately).

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: I’d heard Elna Baker on This American Life before, but I didn’t put two and two together until about halfway through the book. Baker takes us through her struggle with her faith (Mormonism) and her body image (she was overweight, then lost a bunch) and her love life (which directly corresponded with the previous two struggles). She’s a comedian, so there’s a lot of self-deprecating humor in the book, which makes for an enjoyable memoir in my opinion. Learning about Mormonism through her eyes was definitely interesting, but I’m still not quite sure, even after the book, how she feels about it. Though, it’s a strict religion (she says if she were to leave, for example, she couldn’t attend her sibling’s wedding), so I can see why she struggles so much. Her love life dominates the book, because being a virgin Mormon in a “Sex and the City” New York City is a pretty hard thing to be, it seems. In the end, it was a quick, funny read, with some heart, but also felt like “another funny lady writes a book.”

Dreams of Joy: I read Shanghai Girls more than a year ago, and at the end of my copy there was a teaser for Dreams of Joy, its sequel. The teaser grabbed me enough to put this book on my Kindle library list and it finally came through. I don’t want to give a ton away, especially if you haven’t read ‘Girls’ first. But this book gives us a peek into Communist China in the late 1950s (another topic I haven’t read a ton about) and, wow, China was a scary place then. The story was not uplifting by any means, however the parts that really resonated with me were about the love between a mother and her daughter, or more so about the lengths a mother will go to save/protect/support her child. It was amazing lengths, and I could relate, as a mother myself, but also as a daughter. While it started out a touch slow (lots of build up, which was necessary in the end), I actually think I enjoyed this book better than its prequel.




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