Books of September

I don’t know if it’s just imagination induced because Halloween goods and pumpkin spice everything are in every store or if I actually feel a difference in the air. I’ve noticed a change that feels suspiciously like fall.

September reading has been slow. I feel like I haven’t finished a single thing.

I’ve been listening to the audio book for The Only Plane in the Sky by Garrett M. Graff. It’s noted accounts from the differing perspectives of people on 9/11. It’s incredibly sad, but also a learning experience. Hearing first hand what people saw, heard, and felt can be a bit unnerving. The point of views range from students from a near by school in New York to air traffic controllers who first realized the planes were hijacked to those at Ground Zero. What really has me intrigued are the thoughts of the Air Force pilots given the harrowing task of bringing down Flight 93. It was essentially their own suicide mission to save others on the ground.  Those brave pilots took to the skies that day willing to do anything to prevent another attack. In the end, the heroes on Flight 93 lost their lives trying to reclaim the plane from the hijackers but saved countless others. It has a full cast of narrators that do a great job. I recommend the audio book because I think it might be hard to follow otherwise. It’s really a stunning book.

 

When The Only Plane in the Sky gets to be too much, and I have to take a breather, I’ve also been listening to What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon. It’s historical fiction with a bit of time travel and romance set in Ireland. Visiting Ireland is at the top of my bucket list so selecting this one was easy. There are a lot of quotes by the poet Yeats. I’d forgotten how much I’d loved his words. The writer herself has no shortage of lovely lines in this book.  The narrators compliment each other, and I love the accents.

I’m also still reading The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson. Time has been an issue lately. It seems like life is picking back up after a lazy summer.

Our latest bookclub pick is Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. I’m excited about this one. I watched the movie on Netflix before I even knew there was a book.

I have a few other prospects on my radar. As always, I love recommendations.

Happy reading, folks.

 

Where Were You?

Every year on the anniversary of the worst act of terrorism our country has ever seen, possibly thousands of people answer the question, “Where were you?”

Where were you when life for an entire nation changed so drastically on what seemed to be an ordinary Tuesday morning?

I woke up that beautiful morning, had breakfast, and got on the school bus. I imagine I chatted with my friends on the bus and then at school. I imagine people in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia did much the same; got up, talked to loved ones, commuted, started their day.

I was in Ms. Sherman’s class when someone ran in and told Ms. Sherman that we needed to watch the news. When the TV illuminated, we saw the first Tower in flames. It was startling. I remember this cold feeling running through my body as if I had ice water in my blood. I was a week away from turning fifteen and had no idea at the loss of life or how many people were even in a building of that size. I’d hardly been out of Mississippi.

The second plane hit the Tower’s twin a few minutes later. That’s when it began to be clear that this was not a random accident. This was an attack.

By the time the news announced that the Pentagon had also been hit as well as a plane going down in a field in Pennsylvania, I was trembling. I remember students being all around, laughing, talking, and going about their day. I didn’t know what this would bring about, but I knew it was incredibly horrific and sad. The newscasters talked about the loss of the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people. My teenage mind couldn’t comprehend.

When the Towers fell, I remember watching the TV in horror with my heart pounding. Surely, I thought, anyone left alive in the buildings were able to evacuate. At fourteen, you still see the world as a movie. You hold out the hope that there’s always a hero to save the day. Many lives were saved that day by brave souls in uniforms as well as civilian clothing.

When I got home from school, I spent the evening hours on the phone with Tony. He was my best friend at the time. We hadn’t yet started dating. We watched the news and talked about the horrific the events of the day. Hundreds of people were missing. Their loved ones begged for any word of their fate and showed pictures of the missing on the news. Those photos showed people smiling during happy times. They were hearts and souls with dreams and hopes. They were gone in what seemed like an instant.
I searched the internet that night for information about the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The sheer size of the buildings left me reeling. I think that was when it began to register for me just how many people would have been inside, around, and involved with the Towers that morning. The Pentagon was left with a gaping, burning hole.
Ground Zero was still burning that night and would for the next 100 days. Videos of those who threw themselves to their death to escape the heat and flames haunted me. The thought of those trapped terrified me. What they must have experienced still makes me ache to think of it. Over the next months, I read the stories online. I read of people lost, those who were lost saving lives, and those who lived because someone saved them. I heard of people who heard last moments over the phone. I was shaken to my core.

Last night, I was thinking of the final count of the lives lost on that day.

2800+

I was living and going to school in a very small town on September 11, 2001. The town population was a little less than 2500. On that sad September day, there were more lives lost than there were lives in the town I lived in. That absolutely astounds me.

The losses continue after that day. There are those who can’t live with survivor’s guilt and those who develop illnesses from dust and chemicals.

Those who were lost lived, loved, were different races, genders, and lifestyles. They had children, were someone’s children, and left a staggering void in the hearts of those who knew and loved them. I hope they know the flood of love and unity our nation experienced after their losses. I hope they know that people like me who never knew them, have read their names, said a prayer for them, and remember their stories. After all, at the end of our lives, we all become stories. As long as I live, I’ll remember their stories.

The Storyteller’s Secret

The Storyteller's Secret

No spoilers. Read on.

I love stories. That was my favorite part of playing pretend as a child. Creating an entirely different life for myself in a different place was wonderful. I still play pretend in my mind while reading.

For most of this book, the setting is India. I was transported there as I listened to the audio book. In my mind, I was there for the Holi festival with the smells of spicy food and children’s laughter coloring the air. I felt the emotions of the characters.

The story is sad and lovely. It is emotional and left me holding my breath on several occasions. Although there is some romance, the majority of the story is about life, it’s struggles, the precious moments, and how unfair it can be.

The story begins with Jaya, a writer, who goes to India to “find herself” and explore her heritage. She finds Ravi. He was a servant to her grandmother. He tells her the story of Amisha, her grandmother. Amisha lives both upholding India’s traditions as well as pushing against them. As she goes through life and wades through all it’s seasons, she lives, loves, fails, and perseveres.

The story that Ravi tells Jaya is the best kind of story: one that has love, trial, and triumph. This story will be with me for a while.

I hope to read more by this author. Her writing is very descriptive and makes you feel what she is trying to convey. It has been some time since a story has captivated me in the way that this one did.

Some of my favorite quotes:

“My power became dependent on the height of my achievements.”

“When we reach, we always chance a fall.”

“But laws are slow to change what is in people’s hearts.”

 

 

Spoilers ahead.

 

 

 

 

I identified with the two women in this book in different ways.

Jaya stuggled with infertility. After three miscarriages, she needed to figure out who she was outside of being a mother. She went to India for her mother, to see her childhood home in hopes that it would explain her mother’s reserved nature and sometimes odd behavior. In finding out the truths of her mother’s life, I think it helped to heal Jaya. She explored destiny versus decision.

Amisha was a weaver of words. She invented a different life for herself in her imagination and spun stories to teach and entertain. She spoke to my heart and reminded me what a good character can be. She made the best of a not so great life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it.

 

Feelin’ Good

Birds flying high, you know how I feel
Sun in the sky, you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by, you know how I feel
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me, yeah
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life for me, ooh
And I’m feeling good

-Feeling Good, Nina Simone

The days have been passing fast. My birth month is upon me. This month will mark thirty three years that I’ve been alive. I came into the world exactly a month early, a 4 lb tiny thing with dark skin and hair.

Since then, I’ve lived to see blue skies and gray thunder heads. I’ve walked under moonlight and viewed in amazement a confetti of stars in inky skies. It’s amazing how you feel so big until you realize the vastness of the universe and how tiny you truly are. The Bible describes us as vapor. Here today and gone tomorrow. Carl Sagan reminds us that we are made of star stuff. We are made of ancient dust that defies our imaginations.

I’ve grown and learned, developed views and changed them. I’ve challenged everything I’ve thought I’ve known. I learn new things all the time and reach for knowledge when I don’t.

I’ve loved books and hated them. I’ve read them and relived them. I’ve lived among their pages to ease the aching of my heart or to revel in the joy of it. I’ve found it to be my purest joy, to read and also to be read. Words seem to make me, break me, or envelope me. They are my most favorite thing.

I’ve walked miles of concrete and grass, and planted flowers in my wake. I’ve watched them grow in delight and mourned them when they died. When the cold claims them, I look forward to their new growth in spring. It makes me realize that everything about me that dies yields new growth as well, eventually.

I’ve loved and lost, and loved and lasted. I’ve watched people I love fade away. I’ve watched new people to love be born. I’ve outlasted people who far deserve to live more than I do. I’ve known the desolate void they left behind.

I’ve cried an ocean of salty tears and have smiled so big that my eyes disappear. I’ve bared my teeth in anger and gentled my touch to comfort. I’ve lingered over a meal with friends and chugged coffee on the run. I’ve held open doors and closed windows to the cold.

I’ve known the hope of children and the loss of it not coming to pass. I’ve mourned children born of my heart. I’ve held onto their memory and cherished moments of their too short lives. I’ve loved them with an immeasurable love that will follow me into eternity.

I’ve held hate in my fist and told it that it has no place in my heart.

I’ve known the feel of grass on my bare feet and the sun on my face. I’ve felt the cleansing of the rain as I’ve stood in it’s fall. I’ve counted clouds on the wind and asked it to move the sails of my life. I’ve smelled jasmine and fresh turned dirt and loved them both.

I’ve loved a man with all my heart.

I’ve released a million faults and failures. I’ve overcome many fears. I embrace my own happiness and the future on the horizon. I’m looking forward to new years and adventures. The best is yet to come, and I’m feelin’ good.