Wednesday, November 8, 2017

You Don't Need to See to Cry

 It's now the second 9-weeks of school and I've finished reading four books. After completing Mosquitoland by David Arnold, I read Kids of Appetite—written by the same author—and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Last week, I picked up Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo; since then, I read 397 pages within 350 minutes. However, I want to focus today's blog on All the Light We Cannot See. Doerr's historical fiction novel about life during the Second Great War cleverly tells the same story from two completely different perspectives. He crafts the style in a way that the reader may understand the impact war can have on people from opposite sides. The book is 530 pages long and took me over two weeks to finish reading, but it was worth the time spent perusing through all of Doerr's extraordinary—and occasionally grim—details.

 There are two main protagonists in the book: a blind French girl named Marie-Laure Leblanc and a young German technician named Werner Pfennig. Midway through the story, Marie-Laure's widowed father, Daniel, is arrested during the war. This marks the first time Marie-Laure has ever been separated from her beloved father for a long period of time. Marie-Laure remembers her father promising her, "I will never leave you, not in a million years"; his promise only further distresses his daughter, who describes that "every second it feels as if her father slips farther away" (226). Doerr's inclusion of these two contrasting statements on the same page expresses how Marie-Laure feels betrayed by her own father for allowing the war to break his vow to her. Furthermore, Daniel ends up never returning home, leaving Marie-Laure with no knowledge of his whereabouts or fate even after the war ends. In Werner's case, he is the one leaving a loved one behind: his younger sister, Jutta. Due to his advanced understanding of technology, Werner is given the chance to attend a distinguished school at Schulpforta. Jutta disapproves of his decision to go; nevertheless, he departs from her and their home. The two are only able to communicate through inspected and censored letters. On one occasion Jutta writes to him, "Why don't you ever write" (267)? Her message shows how the familial bond between them grows strained the longer they are separated. Eventually, Werner is sent to the battlefield and dies towards the end of the novel. Years later, when Jutta is reminded of his death, it is described that "Only rarely does she loosen the seals enough to allow herself to think of Werner. In many ways, her memories of her brother have become things to lock away" (502). Despite Jutta's efforts to forget Werner, the pain of losing her only brother during the war still lingers in her heart. All the Light We Cannot See demonstrates how World War II broke apart many families—both French and German—and still affects them to this day.

 It's already been 72 years since the Second World War ended, so many of us don't understand the impact it had on those who lived through it. However, there are people alive today who share their accounts of having precious family members taken away from them in articles such as one posted by Euronews. One man—Şahin Musavi—shared, "My grandfather's father went to war in 1942 and didn't return. He was a Soviet soldier . . . my grandfather had not yet been born. He never saw his father." I can't imagine how a child would feel growing up without a father figure; I'd think that there'd be some feeling of emptiness in his or her life. Another submitter, Rose Balcom, recalls her father volunteering with the Royal Canadian Air Force while his three brothers were in the American military. She believes that her "grandparents must have said many prayers for their sons' safety"; unfortunately, "one [son], a paratrooper, was killed in Sicily in 1943," letting their prayers amount to naught. These hardships of war didn't apply only to families in the Allied nations; they expanded to even those of the Axis powers. In her own personal account, Karolina B-Alladyna explained how her German great-grandmother—who was living in Poland—lost her Jewish husband as he was "taken by the Nazis and never came back." She speculates that her great-grandfather was executed near Poznan. Another entry—sent by Anne Steinmetz—said, "I am a German, both my grandfathers were officers in the German Army. One died defending defending his home in Hannover . . . Every family in my country was tragically effected by both World wars and especially the Second." Upon reading all of these people's stories, it's obvious how much World War II had shaken their lives and families. Losing a parent, a child, a sibling, or a spouse takes its toll on a person. One can be German or French or American, but in the end, we are all human. We suffer from and endure the same as anyone else would in the face of war, of dread, of loss.

Citations:

Doerr, Anthony. All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel. New York: Scribner, 2014. Print.

Euronews. "Remembering World War II – Your Stories." Euronews. N.p., 07 May 2015. Web. 07 Nov. 2017. <http://www.euronews.com/2015/05/04/remembering-world-war-ii-your-stories>.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Psychotic, Not Psychopathic

 Hello! It has been quite a while since I've last posted a book blog, but I'm ready to hop back into the game! Over the past two weeks, I have finished Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, and I started reading Mosquitoland by David Arnold. Each day, I've been spending about an hour reading around 40 pages of Throne of Glass. Today I made it through 62 pages of Mosquitoland, which I have decided to make my multi-cultural fiction book; however, to say that it is merely a "for fun" book would be an insult to this novel, and for a good reason. Even within the first few chapters of the book, Arnold already captivates readers with a comedic, but dark, story about a young girl who is constantly wrestling with her own sanity.


 Our protagonist, Mary Iris Malone—or Mim—discovers that her biological mother is sick back in Cleveland, Ohio. Upon hearing this news, Mim immediately hops on a Greyhound bus and ventures out to see her sickly mother, abandoning everything in her life—except her apparent case of psychosis. Throughout the story, Arnold describes, in haunting detail, Mim's mental outbursts. But what's even more harrowing than her "illness" is the way her (now-remarried) father, Barry, treats her because of it. In Chapter 7 "A Metamorphosis Begun," Mim recalls a memory of her father researching her condition after witnessing another one of her symptoms. She remembers him conversing with her biological mother, Eve, about a medical book that he believes provides "a way to differentiate between psychotic behavior and pychopathic behahvior" (56), indicating his apprehension towards his own daughter. Depicting Mim's flashbacks as cold and gloomy as this one, Arnold sways the audience into sympathizing with the troubled teenager. Furthermore, his emphasis on the word "psychopathic" compared to "psychotic" demonstrates his desire for readers to understand that the two are NOT the same and shouldn't be mistaken for each other, as many people tend to do. This highlights how the main character is easily misunderstood just because of her medical diagnosis. However, it is not only characters like her father who regard her as crazy: Mim herself recognizes her own issues. In fact, at the very beginning of the entire novel in Chapter 1 "A Thing's Not A Thing Until You Say It Out Loud," she is outspoken about herself as she voices, "I am Mary Iris Malone, and I am not okay" (3). For her to start her entire story with that one phrase is enough to make any reader understand that the rest of the plot will center around her inner struggles before even flipping to the next page. I can't help but wonder whether Mim became aware of her condition due to her father's trepidation or not. Because of this, I'm compelled to ask myself, "What goes on in the mind of someone who knows they have psychosis?"

 As mentioned before, many people confuse "psychosis" with "psychopathy," when in reality they are completely different terms. According to Psychology Today, "psychosis is an umbrella term to describe the mental state of losing touch with reality." In Mosquitoland, this is evident in Mim's behavior as she often spaces out, lost in her own thoughts, before a supporting character nudges her to regain her grasp on reality. The article also states that "psychopathy is a personality disorder which consists of lack of empathy, impulsivity, recklessness, scrupulousness. callousness, and lying." Obviously, the two definitions share nothing in common, yet majority of society finds the need to associate both of them. We live in a world where stereotypes are unfortunately abundant: race, gender, religion, and yes, disorders are all targets of these stereotypes. Nowadays, it's true that many people claim baseless judgement is wrong and strive to rid the world of it. Nevertheless, as long as there are those who don't bother to communicate with others and attempt to understand their circumstances, misconceptions will remain. This fact is incredibly relevant to bearers of psychosis–or any mental disorder—whose difficulties directly correlate with their health. Since one's health can be such a sensitive topic, unaffected people are unwilling to openly talk about it. Despite this, we shouldn't just ignore the issue and create more fallacies. We shouldn't allow anyone to feel as if he or she is nothing but a freak of humanity, but instead try to put ourselves in his or her shoes and listen to what that person has to say about the condition. Otherwise, we'd only be producing more Mim Malones in our community—broken, lost, and misunderstood Mim Malones.

Citations:

Arnold, David. Mosquitoland. New York, Speak, 2016.

Kaufman, Scott Barry. “Psychotic Is Not the Same as Psychopathic.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 16 Mar. 2011.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Break Every Horcrux

 The end is near ... Hahaha no, I don't mean the end of the world. That's just silly. What I am talking about is my mission to finish reading J.K Rowling's entire Harry Potter series. I've finally gotten my hands on the seventh and last book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. Shout out to my English teacher, Ms. Mayo, for lending me the copy! I really appreciate it! Getting back on topic, the novel is 607 pages long and it's a little bit shorter than Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I won't say much, but I will say that I started reading on Thursday and 475 pages have already been read. That's well over three-fourths of the whole book, so you can probably guess how engrossed I've been while flipping through it. With all the intense action, compelling drama, and mind-blowing revelations, it's hard not to be completely absorbed. Amongst all the fascinating moments that appear throughout the adventure, one in particular caught my eye, one which involves a major character. No, it's not the brave and heroic protagonist, Harry Potter, otherwise known as "The Chosen One." It's not the book-smart Hermione Granger with her flawless witchcraft. It's Ron, the dim-witted, red-haired underdog and best friend to Harry. You may think I'm joking, but surprisingly the Weasley boy faces his own set of trials in the story.


 Earlier in the trio's quest for the Dark Lord Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes (objects containing parts of his soul that must be destroyed in order to defeat him), Ron and Harry get caught up in a serious argument, resulting in Ron abandoning the group and the mission. Regretting his decision, Ron returns just in time to save Harry from one of Voldemort's Horcruxes, restoring their friendship. In Chapter 19 "The Silver Doe," Harry encourages Ron to do the honors of destroying the Horcrux. However, the situation begins to go awry when Voldemort's partial soul belittles Ron, claiming that the ginger boy was "least loved, always, by the mother who craved a daughter ... least loved, now by the girl who prefers your [Ron's] friend ... second best, always, eternally overshadowed ..." (306). The Dark Lord's soul continues to tear at Ron's heart, saying that Ronald Weasley is "nothing, nothing, nothing" (307) compared to Harry Potter. In the end, Ron is able to overcome this obstacle and break the Horcrux; however, the traumatic experience leaves him utterly shaken. Who could blame him?

 I can sort of relate to Ron and his turmoil. Obviously, I've never had to listen to the mockery and denigration of an evil sorcerer's spirit living inside a small object, but I know what it feels like to be overshadowed. I'm the youngest member in my family of four. My father is popular among everyone we know, more athletic than anyone else at almost any sport, and favored in our church's choir. My mother is well-respected in our church for her work as childrens and youth ministry director. My brother Ryan is musically talented (drums, piano, singing), incredibly skilled with technology, and fawned over by girls left and right. Then there's me. No musical talent, no athletic skill, no genius-level IQ. There's always that feeling of insignificance which eats away at one's heart. Most people can't possibly understand what it's like to be irrelevant. Paltry. Small. Nothing. Some kids suffer from this lack of self-importance, even to the point of committing suicide. Thankfully, my case was never that severe. Nevertheless, those emotions still hurt. Everyone I knew usually recognized me as "Helen's son" or "Ryan's little brother." I was never acknowledged as Jacob. Everyone Ron knew considered him as "just another Weasley" or "Harry Potter's sidekick," but never as Ron. The connection I have with this character shows the author's capability to relate to her audience. J.K Rowling uses her character to remind the readers that there are others who can share that pain with them. However, she also reveals that in suffering, there is hope. In tears, there is joy. In that tunnel full of darkness, there is a light at the end. Just as Ron conjured up the will to conquer his doubts, we should also be willing face these internal issues head on.
Only you can break your Horcrux.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

I Didn't Choose The Assassin Life...

 Alright, so here's the deal. I still haven't gotten around to finishing the entire Harry Potter series, which I am incredibly eager to finish. Heck, I've even watched all the Harry Potter movies to relive the adventure. Well, all except for the movies based on the seventh book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. The novel is not in my hands at the moment, but I will find. I vow, with all my small, gross and beating organ of that which is called my heart, that I will read the final book, finish the series, and blog about if it's the last thing I do. In the meantime, I still need to blog about a book. So, I decided to read a book from the Night Angel Trilogy called The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks. I have to say I didn't really expect much from this story at first, but after reading through the entire book, I was really drawn into the plot. There are 645 pages, but reading them proved to be challenging, with new and unique vocabulary at every corner of the page and complex storylines every which way. In fact, it took me almost an entire month, about 150 pages a week, to complete the entire novel. Still, The Way of Shadows was an interesting read; I loved the characters, the conspiracies in the plot, and the sudden turn of events towards the end. The story follows the life a young boy named Azoth who basically lives on the streets in city where social class is completely divided. One day, the youngster is given a chance to have a better life under the guidance of wetboy Durzo Blint; however, Azoth has to leave everything and everyone important to him behind, take up the identity of noble Kylar Stern, and learn the arts of assassination and ways of the shadows.

 Although there's plenty of action and plot twists during the climax, it's around the beginning where I believe lies the more heartrending moments. Before Azoth becomes Kylar, he has only two friends: Jarl, a bisexual African-American boy, and Doll Girl, a girl with no voice. Azoth is in love with Doll Girl, but when things become chaotic at the guild where they live, Doll Girl is left beaten and scarred for life. Azoth is torn because he feels responsible for Doll Girl's injuries, but at the same time must leave her to train under Durzo Blint. In Chapter 15, when he disobeys Blint's orders and visits the recovering girl, he confesses that they will never see each other ever again. This leaves Doll Girl shocked and feeling abandoned. The wetboy-in-training turns to leave, but as he does so he hears the words, "Don't leave me...please" (123). These are the words which Kylar is haunted with for the majority of his new journey.

 Speechless. That's the only word I can use to describe my reaction at this scene...of course, I wasn't actually speaking when reading this chapter, but you get the point! Oh, and also no, I was not trying to use a play on words either. Anyway, for me this felt like one of the most crucial parts of the entire book. An 11-year-old boy having to choose between the love of his life, or freedom. That by itself is already dramatic enough, but discovering that Doll Girl, who is supposed to be mute, can talk makes the situation even more intense. How does one cope with that?! It's an almost impossible position to be in! If I were Azoth, I honestly would have absolutely no idea what I would do at that moment, and apparently he doesn't either because he makes a break for it and cries. It's impossible not to sympathize with him. It's impossible to not feel sorry for Doll Girl. The entire predicament is so well crafted and planned to create an unbelievably emotional atmosphere where no one wins. Both sides of the same coin leads to nothing but pain and suffering. The setting of the book itself pictures how unfair their world is, where only the rich and evil can survive, while the poor are left to rot. It's all so far-fetched that there's no way our society could ever be like that...or maybe it could. What we all need to realize is that there are people in the world who face these dilemmas every day. Christians who are kept hostage by ISIS in the east have to choose whether to stay faithful to God and die, or betray their lifestyle and live. Unhappy couples must decide whether they should divorce and ruin their families, or stay miserable for the sake of their children. I know that I suffer from having to pick whether I should eat chicken fingers from Raising Canes or a cheeseburger from In-N-Out. These are all impossible choices that devour people in indecision every day. So the question still remains: Would you say yes or no? Would you choose this or that? Would you stay with Doll Girl?
Or would you leave?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Canterbury Controversy

 I am now six books into the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, which is already more than eighty-five percent of the entire adventure read. I really do love this series. Honestly, you'd find me in the school library during block lunch thirty minutes every day binge-reading on Harry Potter only. I've finished both Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince within the past few weeks, leaving only the seventh and final book of the series left to indulge in. The problem is, that's the only novel that I don't already own! I can't even check it out from the school library either...#sadlife. No worries, I'll still find a copy somewhere and complete Harry Potter if it's the last thing I do! Until then, I'll probably just dive into a book that I already own. In fact, I already have one which I opened and finished, and that would be The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. It's apparently a Classic (and an AP one too) that entails the gathering of pilgrims at the Tabard Inn in Southwark who are all preparing for a pilgrimage to Canterbury. The novel is the compilation of ten different short stories, each told by a different character.

 One of the pilgrims, the Miller, engages in a tale about a jealous, controlling old carpenter whose young and attractive wife cheats on him with another man. In Chapter 3 "The Miller's Tale," the poor carpenter meets a bitter conclusion as everyone believes he is mad and his adulterous wife gets away with the affair, for "Thus was the carpenter's wife screwed, in spite of all his guarding and jealousy...this tale is done, and God save all the company!" (243). After reading "The Miller's Tale," I began to realize how dark the humor in Chaucer's work is. It's true that the carpenter received what he deserved, but it doesn't alter the fact that his wife committed adultery with another man. What's her punishment? Absolutely nothing! In a similar situation, another pilgrim known as the Merchant recalls a story about a respected knight whose lover also betrays his trust after he tragically goes blind. Miraculously, he is healed of his blindness, only to witness his spouse's unfaithfulness in an explicit liaison with a squire up in a pear tree. However, in Chapter 6 "The Merchant's Tale," as the knight confronts his wife, she tricks him by saying, "If you could see, certainly you would not utter these words to me; you have some glimmering but no perfect sight...You are dazed, dazed, good sir [she said]. This is the thanks I get for having made you see" (435). Men...they're so gullible, it's a shame. In the same fashion as "The Miller's Tale," the man is on the losing end while the girl gets away with everything. Though, this time the guy didn't even do anything wrong from what I know. I understand that the women in these passages are supposed to represent the call for change in gender inequality, but I just can't help but feel sorry for the men. All in all, I'm more sympathetic towards the males than inspired by the females. Then again, I'm not a woman, so I wouldn't understand the influence of "girl power." Nevertheless, if I were, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't cheat on my husband just because he loved me too much. The Canterbury Tales are told in a way that I just really can't get into. If I had to describe the plots, I would use a term I've learned from perusing through Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which is "poisoned honey." I always feel as though in every tale, there's never a happy ending for anyone except those who don't deserve it. It seems that the entire book is covered with controversial content, from pages 1 through 643. I'm sure that readers from earlier decades would find these stories hilarious; however, nowadays, we live in a world where even the tiniest amount of controversy can cause an uproar among people. Personally. I identify as someone who also doesn't find adultery, blasphemy, and murder very amusing at all. However, The Canterbury Tales have actually shown me one thing at least.
As humans, we all have room for improvement. To ensure that none of us encounter the same fate as many of the characters from these whimsical fables, we should fill that room up in an effort to shape ourselves into better people.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

When Life Gives You Lemons....You Go Pirate Hunting

 It's been about a month now, and I'm already almost finished reading the J.K. Rowling's fifth book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I zoomed through the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and I have to say that it was my favorite one out of all of them. In total, I've read over 2,400 pages of just Harry Potter in a single month! I feel like I should receive an award for that....maybe a can of Dr. Pepper or something. However, recently I decided to pick up and read a book that wasn't a part of the series. It is a Non-Fiction novel called Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship written by Robert Kurson. The book centers around two professional scuba divers, John Chatterton and John Mattera, who get a call from a friend about the existence of a legendary pirate ship from the seventeenth century: The "Golden Fleece." The ship was captained by the infamous Golden Age pirate, Joseph Bannister, who disappeared without a trace, making this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the duo to discover a lost treasure of the past.

 Before receiving the call, Chatterton and Mattera were already working on an extremely important project for the both of them. Going on the quest for the Golden Fleece would mean leaving behind everything they had been working on for years. The two finally decided to take the risk and set off on their new adventure to search for a ship that might not even exist, much to the surprise of many (including themselves). In Chapter 6 "Nowhere Left To Go," Mattera is questioned by a tourist of the island on which their headquarters were located for the trip. The tourist asks whether the explorers were going to find treasure, to which Mattera answers, "Treaure gets found all of the time....but a Golden Age pirate ship? That's once in a lifetime. That's forever" (75). As shown, Chatterton and Mattera don't show any regrets over quitting their previous job, for they accepted an even greater opportunity. This really emphasizes how sometimes people have to take risks in order to achieve big things.

 Not only do I really enjoy reading this book, but I also feel inspired by Chatterton and Mattera. Instead of taking the easy road, they jumped onto a train, persevering through the bumpy road to reach a better destination. I believe that their story could also encourage others to do things out of their comfort zones. Kids don't have to be afraid of making new friends at school. Those who dream of being an architect, lawyer, nurse, soldier, teacher, actor or actress can pursue their dreams. Guys could ask girls to prom and girls could ask guys. Sons and daughters may visit their parents in jail without fear. Without taking taking big steps, many of the greatest things in history wouldn't have occurred. Without risks, Abraham Lincoln wouldn't have declared all slaves as free men. Without risks, Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins wouldn't have been the first men to set foot on the moon. Without risks, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates wouldn't have separated to create the two biggest electronics companies in the world. Without risks, Anne Frank wouldn't have had her life story published on paper. Without risks, Dr. Jonas Stalk wouldn't have found a cure for the polio epidemic. Without risks, James Bond wouldn't be as awesome as he is today....okay, so maybe Bond isn't a real life figure. He's still pretty cool. Without risks, Christopher Columbus wouldn't have sailed the ocean blue in 1492 to discover the New World. Without risks, many more fellow Americans wouldn't have made it out of the World Trade Center alive on September 11, 2001. Without risks, Noah wouldn't have made the ark. Without risks, a couple of deep sea explorers wouldn't have left everything behind to search for a myth, and have their names remembered for one of the greatest discoveries in treasure-hunting history.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Even Wizards Cry

 I feel that my reading schedule is going well. I finished both Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets AND Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling within the last week. Added up, that´s about 500 pages read in one week! This series about Harry Potter´s journey as an upcoming wizard is so captivating and has never ceased to amaze me so far. I love the story, the protagonists, the twists and turns, everything! I just started to read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but haven´t read enough to know what the story is going to be. The first chapter is very different from the other beginnings of the books in the series, so I´m intrigued to see what Rowling has in store for this fourth work. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it touches the topic of the death of Harry's parents. Hogwart's headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, comforts Harry and shares a word of advice about loss.

 After successfully driving away the soul-feeding "dementors," Harry becomes disappointed that the one who had saved him from the dementors wasn't his father, but was in fact his future self. In Chapter 22 "Owl Post Again," Dumbledore assures him that he's never truly alone, asking him if he thinks that "the dead we loved ever truly leave us" and "that we don't recall them more clearly than ever in times of great trouble" (427). He encourages Harry that as long as he remembers his parents, they will always be there in his heart.

 I have lost people I've been close with before, and it sucks. I know other people who have lost people they've loved. My brother lost one of his best friends to heart failure when he was only 15 years old. I don't think that anyone should have to endure losing someone they love at that age...or ever. However, something like that is inevitable, and it really takes a toll on everyone. Reading about Harry's loss and how he has to cope with being the only orphan among his friends draws out the compassion and empathy from me as the reader. Because of this, it makes it all the more impactful when reading Dumbledore's words to Harry about the presence of those who aren't there. In my opinion, I agree with Dumbledore's statement whole-heartedly because it's so important to remember those who have been a part of your life. What if we were to just forget about them over time? It would be like pretending that they never existed. That's when the people we've lost truly depart from us. There will always be times when we feel down or feel like there's nothing left for us in this world, but if we keep the ones who we have shared splendid memories with cherished in our hearts, then they will truly be there for us in our times of struggle. In the end, how can the the souls of those who've passed ever rest in peace while we let ourselves fall into turmoil and lose our faith in, and memories of, them?