Ever since finishing my book, I’ve felt adrift and wrong. This happens to me at the end of every big project — after graduating law school, after paying off my loans, after officially retiring — defeat takes over. I always expect to feel a sense of pride that never comes. It doesn’t help that there’s a voice inside my head that absolutely despises me. No matter where I go, there I am. No matter what I do, I’m still me.
Emails go unanswered. Texts go unanswered. The voice in my head trying to comfort me goes unanswered. I’ve gone through this enough times to know that it will pass. To help, I read more, retreating into different worlds.
So, yeah, here are some more book reviews.
Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama
I love Barack Obama with my entire soul, but I found this book — his first book — terribly boring. As the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review, a publisher offered him a book deal. This was before he became well known. He tells the story of his childhood and life through law school. Yawn.
Here are a few parts I underlined.
Like most first-time authors, I was filled with hope and despair upon the book’s publication-hope that the book might succeed beyond my youthful dreams, despair that I had failed to say anything worth saying.
I have to admit I had fleeting fantasies of my book, Operation Enough!, funding my life for a couple of years until I wrote another book. I also had terrible visions of people rolling their eyes in disgust at yet another personal finance book. In the end, like most things in life, it fell somewhere in the middle. Probably. I actually have no idea how many copies I’ve sold or what people think of it.
If one is a fish, one does not try to fly–one swims with other fish. One only knows what one knows. Perhaps if I were young today, I would not have accepted these things. Perhaps I would only care about my feelings, and falling in love. But that’s not the world I was raised in. I only know what I have seen. What I have not seen doesn’t make my heart heavy.
I don’t remember which relative of his he quotes here, but it’s an older female one in Africa talking about how the men chose their wives back in the day, without the woman’s input or consent. What a time to be alive that we can be picky and choosy with the type of life we want to live and the type of people we want to associate with. Our potential is so much bigger than anyone could have even dreamed of a few generations ago.
One man’s story of his life growing up in Appalachia. It’s a tale of poverty, violence, disappointment and strife. But he’s a hard worker and eventually gets into Yale Law School.
I’m not sure how much we can extrapolate from his book about others that live in this very poor region of the United States. He talks about jobs going unfilled because people are just lazy. He also explains something about those who voted overwhelmingly against Barack Obama. Obama’s existence threw in their face that they were failures. This country is a meritocracy. If this black man who talks so well and attends ivy leagues could rise to the top, why haven’t they? It’s easier to blame others and to concoct conspiracy theories that he’s a secret Muslim than to make the herculean effort to change their own lives. For a party that likes to preach about personal responsibility, it’s pure hypocrisy.
What separates the successful from the unsuccessful are the expectations that they had for their own lives. Yet the message of the right is increasingly: It’s not your fault that you’re a loser; it’s the government’s fault.
This book just made me angry. He writes well, but I still don’t understand that world at all. We get the government we deserve. The current government we have is certainly the government these people he portrays deserve.
This book is written by the priest mentioned in this article that I really like. It’s not overly religious, but I should not have read it at this stage in my life. There’s nobody in my life to ponder about. Here’s the only thing I highlighted from it.
Envy is a cruel motivator and the most useless of all the vices. It brings no pleasure. It only corrodes your spirit.
My spirit does feel a bit corroded.
Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff
I’ve read this book before, but checked it out again because I’ve been having a hard time being nice to myself lately, beating myself up for past wrongs and current failings. It didn’t really help because I don’t like the way the writer writes.
But she spouts wisdom. Self compassion is an incredibly valuable skill. Plus, it’s free! The things you tell yourself have an odd way of coming true. I don’t know how to do better.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Oh man. This book was hard to read. It’s an ambitious novel, telling the tale of generations of a family over more than a hundred years through to the present day. We start in Africa with two sisters. One marries a white man and lives in a castle in Africa. The other is sold into slavery and shipped off to America.
The strong pick on the weak and only very, very recently has this changed. Men controlled women. White people controlled black people. All people controlled animals.
This is another reminder that we as a species have made so much progress in such a short amount of time. It’s a good reminder when I despair that the world is going to shit. It’s actually a pretty amazing time to be alive.