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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: "Yellow"

The Tech Museum, San Jose, CA
Is it me, or is "Museum of Innovation" just a bit of an oxymoron?
Wordless Wednesday Linkup



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

(Audio)Book Talk: ALL JOY AND NO FUN, by Jennifer Senior

ALL JOY AND NO FUN by Jennifer Senior via Indiebound.org (affiliate link) All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
Jennifer Senior (Twitter)
Audiobook read by the author
Ecco (January 2014), Hardcover (ISBN 0062072226 / 9780062072221)
Nonfiction: Sociology, 320 pages
Source: Purchased audiobook (Harper Audio, January 2014, ISBN 9780062308634; Audible ASIN B00H8QSIFS)

Jennifer Senior’s provocatively-titled New York magazine article from July 2010, “All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting” contained much of what makes up the introduction to her 2014 book, which reframes the proposition of “all joy and no fun” with the more encompassing, less incendiary subtitle “The Paradox of Modern Parenthood.” The shift is subtle but significant, reflecting a focus on the state of having children rather than the actions of raising them. Senior’s goal is to examine, through research and personal stories, how the various stages of raising children profoundly affect the lives of parents.

Senior frequently points out that most of what she discusses in All Joy and No Fun is primarily relevant to middle-class families. While the middle class in the early 21st century may be a shrinking demographic, it remains the one for which the experience of family life has changed the most notably over the past hundred years, and it’s also the one most likely, for various reasons, to analyze and question how those changes are affecting them. Being in a position where one gets to make choices about work and lifestyle and bringing up a family means you’re also in a position to second-guess and feel conflicted about those choices:
“A few generations ago, people weren’t stopping to contemplate whether having a child would make them happy. Having children was simply what you did. And we are lucky, today, to have choices about these matters. But the abundance of choices—whether to have kids, when, how many—may be one of the reasons parents are less happy…When people wait to have children, they’re also bringing different sensibilities to the enterprise. They’ve spent their adult lives as professionals, believing there’s a right way and a wrong way of doing things; now they’re applying the same logic to the family-expansion business, and they’re surrounded by a marketplace that only affirms and reinforces this idea.”
The chapter on “concerted cultivation”–the educational and extracurricular race that comprises many families’ weekly calendars–seems to speak to this pretty directly, and is probably the section that best captures many of the beliefs and practices (and stereotypes) of modern middle-class family life. However, I was most intrigued by two sections of the book that get into areas that are less often discussed in the context of parenthood: marriage and adolescence.

The ways in which children affect and reshape the relationship between their parents are many and mixed, and they aren’t always a big part of the social conversation about family, because they’re not entirely comfortable to consider. (That said, awareness of those effects may be part of why some couples decide to be “child-free.”)

The reasons we see less conversation among, and about, parents with adolescents may include the variety of experience–there are fewer commonalities and more complexity among teens than among babies and toddlers, and that extends to those living with and raising them–and concerns about autonomy. Regarding that last point, Senior discloses that the “Adolescence” chapter is the only one in which she uses pseudonyms in the personal stories she recounts, but the stories matter more than the names associated with them. Since this is the phase of parenthood I'm closest to right now--my stepson, the youngest of the three kids my husband and I have between us, is just starting high school this year--this chapter had the highest "click" factor for me, including some discussion about connections between having teenagers at home and parental "midlife crisis" behavior that I really wish I'd been aware of about fifteen years ago.

While my years of actively parenting are winding down, I’ve spent just about my entire adult life as a parent (that’s what happens when you have a baby at 20). The norms of parenting have changed in many ways during my time as a parent, although some have changed less than I might have expected–there are still daily debates over working vs. at-home mothers and breastfeeding vs. bottles. That said, it’s the fact that we have choices that allows these debates to happen. However, these debates are about the practices and practicalities of parenting and seldom touch on the experience and context of parenthood. It’s the focus on the latter that makes All Joy and No Fun valuable and important reading. It’s insightful and thought-provoking, and would be an excellent choice for parents who have the time to be in book clubs. The author reads the audiobook herself, and her delivery makes the research approachable, the personal stories more relatable, and reinforces the book’s nonjudgmental tone. Modern parenthood may feel like all joy and no fun sometimes, but Jennifer Senior finds some hope in there too.

Rating: Book and Audio, 4 of 5

Audiobook discussion on The 3 Rs Blog ALL JOY AND NO FUN: THE PARADOX OF MODERN PARENTHOOD by Jennifer Senior


Book description, from the publisher’s website
Thousands of books have examined the effects of parents on their children. But almost none have thought to ask: What are the effects of children on their parents? 
In All Joy and No Fun, award-winning journalist Jennifer Senior tries to tackle this question, isolating and analyzing the many ways in which children reshape their parents’ lives, whether it’s their marriages, their jobs, their habits, their hobbies, their friendships, or their internal senses of self. She argues that changes in the last half century have radically altered the roles of today’s mothers and fathers, making their mandates at once more complex and far less clear. Recruiting from a wide variety of sources—in history, sociology, economics, psychology, philosophy, and anthropology—she dissects both the timeless strains of parenting and the ones that are brand new, and then brings her research to life in the homes of ordinary parents around the country. The result is an unforgettable series of family portraits, starting with parents of young children and progressing to parents of teens. Through lively and accessible storytelling, Senior follows these mothers and fathers as they wrestle with some of parenthood’s deepest vexations—and luxuriate in some of its finest rewards. 
Meticulously researched yet imbued with emotional intelligence, All Joy and No Fun makes us reconsider some of our culture’s most basic beliefs about parenthood, all while illuminating the profound ways children deepen and add purpose to our lives. By focusing on parenthood, rather than parenting, the book is original and essential reading for mothers and fathers of today—and tomorrow.
From the Introduction:

"There’s the parenting life of our fantasies. and there’s the parenting life of our banal, on-the-ground realities. Right now, there’s little question which one Angelina Holder is living. Eli, her three-year-old son, has just announced he’s wet his shorts.

"‘Okay,’ says Angie, barely looking up. She’s on a schedule, making Shake ‘n’ Bake chicken parmesan for lunch. Her evening shift at the hospital begins at 3:00 PM. ‘Go upstairs and change.’

"Eli is standing on a chair in the kitchen, picking at blackberries. ‘I can’t.’
"‘Why not?’

"‘I can’t.’

"‘I think you can, You’re a big boy.’

"‘I can’t.’

"Angie unpeels the oven mitt from her hand. ‘What is Mommy doing?’

"‘Changing me.’

“‘No, I’m cooking, So we’re in a pickle.’”

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

What's What: A Late-Sunday Salon Post for August 17


The Sunday Salon on The 3 Rs Blog

What I’m reading
  • in print / on screen
I finished reading The Interestings on the iPad yesterday, and resumed my long-dormant reading of Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World, which I started back in the spring. I can’t recall setting it aside for any particular reason–OK, truthfully, maybe it was because I’d gotten to the Twilight section–but the piece I’m working on about our “Summer of Supernatural” has inspired me to get back into it. I’m thinking that there’s a good themed-content week there.

I am not reading anything in print at the moment, which feels a little strange. I’m only doing one September review for Shelf Awareness, and since that book won’t be out till late in the month, I’ve been taking it a little easy this week. I should change that this week…but to be honest, not a lot’s really calling to me these days. End-of-summer doldrums, I suppose…is it just me, or are you feeling them too?
  • on audio
I can’t find the review that made me decide I wanted to listen to Judy Greer’s I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star, but I’ve been really enjoying it. A steadily working character actress who has played a lot of “best friend” roles, Greer comes across as…well, friendly; down-to-earth and very likable. I should finish this one during commute time in the next day or two, and I think my next audio will be in a similar vein, as it will probably be Rob Lowe’s Love Life. After two consecutive celebrity memoirs, chances are that I'll be ready for something a little weightier.


What I’m writing

I have designated today as “catch up on reviews day,” so guess what I’m doing after I get this posted?


What caught my eye this week

Wise reflections in the aftermath of Robin Williams’ death
“Pirouette On A Tightrope: On Addiction and Depression”  
“Robin Williams, Matt Walsh, Joy and Silence”
And thoughts about changing how we live on our online lives
“How To Take a Social Media Vacation” 
"I Quit Liking Things On Facebook for Two Weeks. Here’s How It Changed My View of Humanity.”

What Else is New?

I’m not sorry I went to BEA this year. And I’m not sorry I went to BlogHer’14. But I am regretting that I did those in place of an actual vacation this year, and I’m pretty sure that’s why I’ve got a case of the late-summer blahs.

Gratuitous Photo of the Week

"Morning has broken" on The 3 Rs Blog via Instagram (@florinda3rs)
"Morning has broken"...and gotten a lot of Instagram likes




Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Talk: A SONG FOR ISSY BRADLEY, by Carys Bray

A SONG FOR ISSY BRADLEY by Carys Bray, via Indiebound.org (affiliate link) A Song for Issy Bradley: A Novel
Carys Bray (Twitter) (Facebook)
Ballantine Books (August 12, 2014), Hardcover (ISBN 0553390880 / 9780553390889)
Fiction, 352 pages, $26.00

A version of this review was previously published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (August 12, 2014). Shelf Awareness provided me with a publisher-furnished galley to facilitate the review, and compensated me for the review they received and posted.

Faith, guilt, family responsibilities and cultural norms overlap and clash in Carys Bray's debut novel. A Song for Issy Bradley explores the effects of the sudden death of its youngest member on a Mormon family living on the English coast.

As a convert to the Mormon church, Claire Bradley has often found life as a bishop's wife challenging, but when four-year-old Issy is suddenly and fatally stricken with meningitis, she no longer has any strength for, or interest in, the struggle. The child could not be saved by her father's blessing, and Claire retreats to blame herself and her weak faith for that, doubling the loss to the rest of the family. Rather than providing the comfort they might have expected, their beliefs complicate the responses of both Claire and her husband Ian to the death of their youngest; Bray's depiction of Claire's grief is particularly stark and affecting.

Meanwhile, the older Bradley children, Zipporah and Al, are adrift and resentful of the expectations that their community and their father have placed on them in the wake of the family's loss, and their younger brother Jacob, with a seven-year-old's understanding of his church's teachings, is intent on making a miracle happen to set things right for his family.

The family's Mormon identity is central to A Song For Issy Bradley. Bray's portrayal of a community practicing this American-born faith in England offers a fresh and particular perspective on it. At the same time, her rendering of a family finding its way through grief strikes a universal, and sympathetic, chord.

Book discussion: A SONG FOR ISSY BRADLEY on The 3 Rs Blog


Book description, from the publisher's website
The Bradleys see the world as a place where miracles are possible, and where nothing is more important than family. This is their story. 
It is the story of Ian Bradley—husband, father, math teacher, and Mormon bishop—and his unshakable belief that everything will turn out all right if he can only endure to the end, like the pioneers did. It is the story of his wife, Claire, her lonely wait for a sign from God, and her desperate need for life to pause while she comes to terms with tragedy. 
And it is the story of their children: sixteen-year-old Zippy, experiencing the throes of first love; cynical fourteen-year-old Al, who would rather play soccer than read the Book of Mormon; and seven-year-old Jacob, whose faith is bigger than a mustard seed—probably bigger than a toffee candy, he thinks—and which he’s planning to use to mend his broken family with a miracle. 
Intensely moving, unexpectedly funny, and deeply observed, A Song for Issy Bradley explores the outer reaches of doubt and faith, and of a family trying to figure out how to carry on when the innermost workings of their world have broken apart.
Opening lines:

"Claire dreams she is walking along a beach with the Lord. She cannot humble herself and speak nicely so they progress in silence. The sand is hard and damp, puddled in places; its ripples bump her bare feet. They walk until He stops and presses a gentle hand to her arm.

"'Please come back. I love you.'

"The words whisper along the tiny hairs of Claire's inner ear. Did someone sneak into the bedroom, touch her arm and murmur I love you? She lies as still as she can, in case someone is there, hoping to talk to her. If they think she is asleep they will go away and leave her alone."

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: End of Summer

Technically, we've still got several weeks of the season left, but in practical terms, most of us probably don't.

Dog dozing in the sun on a Wordless Wednesday at The 3Rs Blog
Seasons make no difference to Bel. She gets to do this every day.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Talk: THIS IS THE WATER, by Yannick Murphy

THIS IS THE WATER by Yannick Murphy via Indiebound.org This Is the Water: A Novel
Yannick Murphy
Harper Perennial (July 29, 2014), Trade paper (ISBN 0062294903 / 9780062294906)
Fiction, 352 pages

A version of this review was previously published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (August 1, 2014)Shelf Awareness provided me with a publisher-furnished galley to facilitate the review, and compensated me for the review they received and posted.

In This Is the Water, Yannick Murphy (The Call) explores the effects of the shocking, seemingly random killing of one of its stars on a community swim team and, more significantly, on the swim-team parents.

Annie, the mother of two girls on the team, is torn between conflicted feelings over her brother's recent suicide and her fears for her daughters, and finds her life further complicated by an attraction to Paul, the father of another swimmer. Paul has entrusted Annie with a secret that he's kept for over twenty-five years--one that may hold a key to the recent murder of their daughters' teammate--and this knowledge both draws Annie closer to Paul and makes her urge him to share what he knows with the police, as well as with his wife Chris. Before the murder, Chris was convinced Paul was having an affair; she was wrong then, but even as that becomes more of a possibility, those worries have been pushed aside by her own growing obsession with the killer.

Murphy presents scenes in a snapshot-like manner, set up by the "this is the ..." construction used in the novel's title, that tell the reader which characters are present and what they're thinking and doing. Annie is a photographer, and her sections are narrated in the second person--"this is you"---almost as if she's looking back over her own pictures of a particularly disturbing swim-team season. The style feels choppy at times--not unlike the water churned up during a swim meet--but works to amplify the tensions created by the plot and the shifts in the characters' relationships with one another. This Is the Water is a chilling combination of crime and domestic drama, and its effects linger.

THIS IS THE WATER by Yannick Murphy discussed on The 3 Rs Blog

Book description, from the publisher's website:
In a quiet New England community members of a swim team and their dedicated parents are preparing for a home meet. The most that Annie, a swim-mom of two girls, has to worry about is whether or not she fed her daughters enough carbs the night before; why her husband, Thomas, hasn’t kissed her in ages; and why she can’t get over the loss of her brother who shot himself a few years ago. 
But Annie’s world is about to change. From the bleachers, looking down at the swimmers, a dark haired man watches a girl. No one notices him. Annie is busy getting to know Paul, who flirts with Annie despite the fact that he’s married to her friend Chris, and despite Annie’s greying hair and crow’s feet. Chris is busy trying to discover whether or not Paul is really having an affair, and the swimmers are trying to shave milliseconds off their race times by squeezing themselves into skin-tight bathing suits and visualizing themselves winning their races. 
When a girl on the team is murdered at a nearby highway rest stop—the same rest stop where Paul made a gruesome discovery years ago—the parents suddenly find themselves adrift. Paul turns to Annie for comfort. Annie finds herself falling in love. Chris becomes obsessed with unmasking the killer. 
With a serial killer now too close for comfort, Annie and her fellow swim-parents must make choices about where their loyalties lie. As a series of startling events unfold, Annie discovers what it means to follow your intuition, even if love, as well as lives, could be lost.
Opening lines:

"This is the water, lapping the edge of the pool, coming up in small waves as children race through it. This is the swim mom named Dinah wearing the team shirt with a whale logo on it, yelling at her daughter Jessie to swim faster. This is Jessie who cannot hear Dinah because Jessie is in the water. Jessie is singing a song to herself. She is singing 'This old man, he played one. He played knick knack on his thumb.' Dinah is red in the face, standing in the stands. Dinah moves her hand in the air as if to help hurry her daughter along. Behind the starting blocks the water comes up over the edge of the pool and splashes the parents who are timing on deck."

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

"What's What" in the Sunday Salon: August 10, 2014

"What's What" updates in the Sunday Salon

What I’m reading
  • in print / on screen
I’m in between print reads at the moment. I finished a very thought-provoking galley yesterday morning, which I’ve submitted for a Shelf Awareness review. I always repost those here, but this one will either have a lot of “reaction” added to it when I do, or it will get two posts devoted to it. The book is Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto by Steve Almond. As it happens, I actually am “against football”–the book gave me a lot to think about, which I think is absolutely what it intends, and which is why I found much more to say about it that a Shelf review will accommodate.

The September galleys are calling now–I don’t have too many to consider for Shelf Awareness, but I think most of the books I brought back from BEA are coming out in either September or October. I’ll get started on one or two of those by the end of the weekend, but I still haven’t decided which.

I set aside The Interestings to meet that Shelf deadline, but I’ve picked it back up again now; I’m about two-thirds done with the e-book.
  • on audio
Since my last “What’s What” Salon post, I’ve started and finished All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by journalist Jennifer Senior. It’s an extension of an article published in New York magazine in July 2010–at that time, with the far more provocative subtitle “Why Parents Hate Parenting”–and this particular parent found it perceptive and eye-opening. There will probably be two posts around this one, too.

What I’m watching

We’re seeing Guardians of the Galaxy for the second time today, since my stepson wasn’t with us when we went last weekend. I’m fully expecting to enjoy it at least as much as I did the first time, and possibly more. On Thursday, we have tickets to another "Rifftrax Live!" show–this time they’re riffing the 1998 remake of Godzilla. I’ve never seen it, but I’ve been assured that it’s ripe for major mockery, so I’m quite looking forward to this.

TV-wise, this has definitely been a Supernatural summer at my house, and I’m working on a post about that, too. (We’re almost halfway through the seventh season on Netflix now…and so far, it’s not my favorite.)

And we have a little less than two weeks until the arrival of the Twelfth Doctor!

What I’m writing

I think I just covered that–right now, it seems to concern what I’m reading and watching.

What Else is New?

–This is actually a little old, or at least left over, as opposed to “new”:

I’ve been running a giveaway for three free months of the Next Issue magazine app since last week. I have three codes to share, but so far there’s only been ONE entry. My original announcement said I’d pick winners today, and so one code will be awarded to Candace of Beth Fish Reads.

I’m going to keep the giveaway open for at least one more week, or until there are at least two more entries, whichever comes later. You can read more about it, and access the entry form, in the announcement post from last Sunday

–This is new(ish), though:

Aarti of Booklust is making some changes to the “A More Diverse Universe” reading event she’s hosted since 2012. This year, #Diversiverse, which will take place during the last two weeks of September, is a reading challenge rather than a blog tour, and it’s not focused on speculative fiction any more: now it’s about “expanding your reading universe” to include authors of color across all genres.

Not long ago, Thien-Kim at From Left to Write Book Club recognized that #AdultsNeedDiverseBooksToo and challenged her own readers to read and recommend them.

I decided that these two boosters of reading diversely needed to know each other, and this week I introduced them on Twitter. Connecting people with similar goals and interests is one of my favorite things about living the online life, and I really hope these two will be able to join forces somehow.

Gratuitous Photo of the Week

what do you see in this cloud?
What do you see in this cloud?