ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monthly Archive: October 2016

Thursday

27

October 2016

0

COMMENTS

Nobody Was Watching: My Hard-Fought Journey to the Top of the Soccer World by Carli Lloyd and Wayne Coffey

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

lloyd

A memoir. Written by a woman. About soccer. I’m surprised my local book store didn’t just automatically set it aside for me. This shit is my jam.

If you aren’t a fan of women’s soccer (and if you enjoy sports, you should check it out), you probably hadn’t heard of Carli Lloyd before last summer. She’s been playing for the US Women’s National Team since the early 2000s, but she stepped hard into the spotlight during the World Cup in Canada last year, when she scored three times in the final win over Japan, including a shot basically from mid-field.

Of the memoirs I’ve read recently that involve a co-writer, this one reads the smoothest. I don’t know Ms. Lloyd, and I haven’t seen her interviewed much, but the voice, while a bit stiff, feels genuine. The book follows her journey from player in her New Jersey hometown, through college, and into her professional career. It has much more soccer in it than Abbi Wambach’s memoir from earlier this year, and I loved that. Ms. Lloyd also discusses some of the same incidents that Ms. Wambach did, with a different perspective, which is fascinating for someone like me.

Ms. Lloyd is dedicated as hell, a hard worker, and talented. She says repeatedly she doesn’t like drama, but also says she tells it like it is, and in my experience drama and a lack of desire to choose one’s words carefully almost always go hand in hand. At the same time, I do think Ms. Lloyd is self-aware; she is open about her flaws and how they have impacted her life, especially her relationship with her immediate family (spoiler alert: it’s not a good one).

If you like sports and a bit of an underdog story, I think you’ll like this. But if you don’t enjoy sports, I think there might just be too much technical discussion for this to be a good read.

Sunday

23

October 2016

0

COMMENTS

Catching Homelessness by Josephine Ensign

Written by , Posted in Uncategorized

Three Stars

catching-homelessness

This is 2.5 stars for me, but I’m giving it three starts because of the first 150 pages of the book. However, I think the title is misleading, because this is much, much more about the true story of Ms. Ensign’s experience working in a clinic that served low income and homeless individuals in the mid-late 80s. That story is interesting, well-written and raises some great questions, but it is not the story that I think the blurb and the title suggest. Some spoilers below.

The first 150 pages or so are fascinating. Ms. Ensign opens this clinic with a grant, and runs it as the sole clinician. She is also the wife of a Christian who is pursuing seminary school, so she also has these expectations put upon to her to be a ‘good southern Christian woman.’ Reading about her patients, as well as her own awakening to what she wants in her life (spoiler alert: it isn’t to be with her husband) brings up so many great questions to pursue further. At one point the church becomes even more involved, reprimanding her for her counseling style with women who become pregnant out of marriage and people who have AIDS.

Ms. Ensign does end up without quality housing, but I find it odd that she doesn’t talk about that much. She lives in a storage facility on a camp her parents own, and apparently also lives in her car, but most of that is mentioned in passing. It feels almost like she ran out of steam, or felt that she didn’t want to reveal too much about that time in her life, yet the book was supposedly meant to be the insight of someone who has both served the homeless and experienced homeless herself. It just feels that the connections are missing. Especially because at one point she is working three jobs and then miraculously can just decide to turn one of those jobs into full-time work so she can have health insurance. And then … she moves to Seattle. We don’t learn why, or how that happens, or even when. It just feels so disjointed for the last 50 pages or so, and that bums me out. As this is Ms. Ensign’s first book, I think part of the blame lies with her editor.

Homelessness is such a huge issue in cities right now, and there are so many competing ideas about the root causes and the ways to support the individuals experiencing it, so I had such high hopes that this would be discussed deeply in this book. But it just wasn’t. And this seems like a huge missed opportunity.

Ms. Ensign now teaches at the University in my town, and is instructing students in the school of public health. In fact, this book was chosen as the one that incoming master’s students will be reading this fall. Unfortunately, there is an odd two- or three-page stretch of what I view as anti-feminist judgment of sex work (and the unironic use of the words “politically correct” as though that is a bad thing, which pisses me off) and those who provide non-judgmental health care to sex workers, so I’m saddened that young folks will be reading this book and being exposed to that thinking.

It is possible my opinion will change after book club this week, and if so, I’ll come back and amend this review, but for now, I just can’t recommend this book.

Monday

17

October 2016

0

COMMENTS

The Perfect Girl by Gilly Macmillan

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

I purchased The Perfect Girl at an airport newsstand because I’d heard good things about What She Knew, Ms. Macmillan’s previous novel. I ended up staying up really late finishing it the day after I bought it (I’m probably the only person who got 5 hours of sleep in Vegas not because of the gambling or the drinking, but because I wanted to finish a book).

However, even though I really enjoyed reading the book, I don’t actually think I liked the book. It is written the way many books seem to be these days (and I enjoy it) – something has happened, we go back in time and forward in time to get some glimpses and start to put together the Real Story. In this one, a teen named Zoe is a piano prodigy, and is performing a concert with her step-brother when someone comes into the church and screams at her. We quickly learn he is the father of someone Zoe killed – accidentally – a couple of years ago.

We also learn that by the end of the night Zoe’s mother will be dead.

We get chapters from the point of view of at least five characters, and the storytelling is engaging. But in the end, I kind of didn’t care that much, and found one of the storylines completely useless, and another a bit of a … I want to say cliché, but that’s not right. Honestly it felt a little like what I might do if I were writing a story when I was in middle school. Basically, one of the characters uses a film script to convey autobiographical information to another character. But there’s no need for it.

This is a fine time killer, and might even suck you in, but it’s nowhere near as interesting as other similar books, such as pretty much any in Liane Moriarty’s body of work.

Monday

3

October 2016

0

COMMENTS

In The Country We Love: My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero with Michelle Burford

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

diane-guerrero-posing-with-book

The Story
I want to start this review with a discussion of the story Ms. Guerrero tells. It is a fascinating, interesting, sweet and inspirational story. You likely know Ms. Guerrero from her roles on Jane the Virgin and Orange is the New Black – she’s tiny, Colombian and talented as hell. A couple of years ago, she shared that her parents had been deported after authorities learned they were undocumented. This left Ms. Guerrero – then 14 and a US citizen – to essentially fend for herself.

We learn about her childhood, which included fears that deportation might come. But reading it happen – and recognizing that the US government either didn’t know or didn’t care that their actions left a 14-year-old with nowhere to live – infuriated me. I was pissed on her behalf, mad at an immigration system that does this to thousands of families ever year. I was also impressed with her ability to finish high school, enroll in college, and eventual deal with unaddressed issues that her parents’ deportation had created inside her.

We also learn about how she made her way into acting as well as her decision to get publicly involved in immigration reform and other political issues. It’s a compelling tale but it wasn’t an entirely positive reading experience, as the second half of my review will explain.

The Telling
When you were in school, did you ever have the dreaded ‘group project?’ You know, the one where someone wouldn’t do anything, someone would do too much, and the rest of the group just tried to get a word in? And did any of those group projects involve a group PAPER? The way Ms. Guerrero’s story is told feels a bit like a group paper where one person did most of the writing, but someone else insisted on interjecting in each section. And their interjections might even be good (or perhaps better than the bulk of the paper), but they just don’t … flow? That’s how this book reads.

I didn’t realize until the acknowledgments that Ms. Guerrero had a co-author assist her. Ms. Burford has assisted a few other memoirists, so she seems like a good fit for this project; unfortunately, this book is a case where the two authors just don’t seem to have found a good flow or fit. I don’t know how much of this is Ms. Guerrero’s work and how much is Ms. Burford’s; did Ms. Guerrero tell her the story and Ms. Burford write it? Did Ms. Guerrero write it but Ms. Burford filled in some of the information to build out a longer story? Something else entirely? I don’t know, but I feel like it could have benefited from some stronger editing and cohesion.

There are certain things that come up – such as Ms. Guerrero’s depression and the serious ramifications – seemingly out of the blue, and are handled in a couple of pages without a lot of exploration. And I’m not saying she needs to provide more detail than she does; it’s more that the detail provided is so specific and jarring that it stands out. There’s no build or come down – it’d be like watching Law & Order with 30 seconds of Hairspray cut in, then returning right back to Law & Order. There’s nothing off or bad about either, but you’d probably be wondering what the hell that was about. Many chapters left me feeling that way.