New at Peter White Public Library
I’m the new face in the Circulation Department at the Peter White Public Library. When checking out library materials, between the “Hi! How are you?” and the “Have a good day!” a conversation often develops, if not about the weather, likely about a book, movie, or something happening. During the transaction, a connection often occurs, however briefly, to share our stories. In that spirit, I share with you some new non-fiction books full of personal stories, all written by women.
Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home: A Memoir by Natalie Goldberg
This book is full of such interesting stories, and through them we learn about Natalie and the people who surround her. Natalie, a well-known author and writing practice educator, wrote two books about her cancer experience. She wrote The Great Spring (below) during cancer treatment and this book afterward. She writes, “A writer gets to live twice. First we live, and then we write about what we have lived… Often the second time is the real life for a writer. It is then we get to claim our existence.” Being a cancer patient is scary and she writes about how she “…surrendered my animal body, like a prey animal when it knows it’s caught. No escape. My body was no longer mine.” We often hear of folks who “battle” cancer. Natalie talks about how she stopped struggling and started letting the experience pass through her. She was able to find “…a small victory in the center of cancer–to forget it, leave it, and do what I love.” Anyone who has endured medical procedures can relate to Natalie’s experiences and may find her story helpful.
(new adult nonfiction 362.1969Go)
The Great Spring: Writing, Zen, and This Zigzag Life by Natalie Goldberg
When faced with your own mortality, you cling to life. Natalie says that the title of this book “…signifies the great rushing of energy that arrives when you think no life will ever come again.” While facing cancer treatment, and in the midst of her own Great Spring, Natalie wrote her personal stories. Some of Natalie’s experiences are full of adventure, like when she takes a wrong turn while hiking the Stone Lions ruins in Bandelier National Monument, or when she gets badly bitten by an angry guard dog in France. I latched onto the story of her time in Japan, visiting the Kumamoto City memorial of Musashi, a great sword fighter. The memorial inscription was translated to say that the sword fighter died lonely. She learned that, according to local custom, loneliness “had a different quality than our dreaded isolation. More like one with the void, alone with the Alone, no longer separate from anything.” I’d never thought of loneliness in this way. In her story about Zen meditation, Natalie describes a “koan” as a “short teaching story from eighth- or ninth-century China that is designed to cut through the conditioned ways of thinking, enabling a person to experience one’s true nature.” To me, The Great Spring is full of koans from Natalie’s life. She sorts her stories into categories of searching, wandering, zigzagging, losing, and leaping. In some of the stories, she hints at the lesson. In other stories, the lesson is less clear and you need to figure it out for yourself.
(new adult nonfiction 308.02Go)
Braving The Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown
This book exists in part due to the author’s own life-changing experience in college when she was introduced to the work of Maya Angelou. Brown disagrees strongly with Angelou’s line, “You are free when you realize that you belong no place–you belong every place–no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.” This line haunts Brown and she works very hard to understand it. Eventually, through her research, she understands the idea and shares her concept of the “wild heart” and how true belonging comes from belonging to oneself first. The narrative allows for a view that has no need for a constant judging of whether you or others “fit in” or not. What I like most about the book is that, it is in part, a guide on how to take a brave step toward our differences while being curious and civil.
(new adult nonfiction 158.2Br)
Maeve in America: Essays By a Girl From Somewhere Else by Maeve Higgins
Maeve Higgins, a comedian and writer, immigrated to New York City from Cobh Ireland in January, 2014. Her essays describe her experiences as a traveling comedian, a podcast producer, an immigrant, and more. She’s new to America and her observations about Americans are eye-opening. While finding America, she finds herself and her vulnerability along the way. I picked up this book expecting lots of laughs and a lighter read, but her essays include both the highs and lows of life, describing a comedy workshop in Iraq, swimming with Dolphins off the coast of New Zealand, struggling with depression, loving her family, and losing financial support for her podcast. She writes, “Each life is a deep mine of events and emotions that is ours to dig up and use if we wish to. What we find in that mine might feel too heavy to be excavated, or be broken into such tiny pieces they seem worthless, but that doesn’t matter. The trick is to polish those pieces up, to make them shine with the laughter of recognition, of realizing that we are not alone, that we have this common language.”
(new adult nonfiction 792.7028Hi)
By Tonia Bickford