Monthly Archives: March 2010

Wrap Up Post: March Giveaways…and MANY THANKS!

I am deeply thankful to many people for helping to make March a successful month for Reading for a Cure. Without the generous support of authors, publishers and publicists I would not have been able to offer the amazing book giveaways in March. Thanks to each of you for supporting this important cause…

I also want to thank those who participated in OR are participating in Reading for a Cure – the participants, the sponsors, the one time donors…you are all helping to make a difference in the lives of children. For those of you just now learning about this cause, it is not to late to join as this is a YEAR LONG project. Visit this post on my blog to learn more.

Stay tuned for a quarterly update on Reading for a Cure!!

One Amazing Thing – Book Review

Cameron switched off both flashlights. But in spite of the claustrophobic dark that fell on them, Uma sensed a new alertness in her companions, a shrugging off of things they couldn’t control. They were ready to listen to one another. No, they were ready to listen to the story, which is sometimes greater than the person who speaks it. – from One Amazing Thing, page 70 –

One Amazing Thing begins in a nondescript passport and visa office where nine people are waiting to secure their travel papers to India: a black man named Cameron (who is a Vietnam Veteran), a Chinese woman (Jiang) and her granddaughter Lily, a young Muslim man named Tariq who is struggling to find his place in the world after 9-1-1, an older couple (Mr. and Mrs. Prichett) whose marriage is strained, Uma (a college girl) whose parents live in India, the visa office manager Mangalam and his assistant Malathi. Suddenly an earthquake strikes and the building collapses, trapping everyone. Immediately Cameron takes control, treating injuries, calming people and making a plan for survival. But as time slips by and water begins to fill the basement, panic and fear take hold and some turn on each other. Uma, a young woman who has learned the power of stories, suggests they sit together and share one amazing thing about their lives, something perhaps they have never shared before. The stories range from childhood abuse and loss to unrequited love and help give depth and understanding to each character who, until now, have mostly been viewed through the lens of stereotype and bias (for example, Cameron’s black skin makes some characters fearful of him being violent, and Tariq’s unkempt beard make others think he is a terrorist).

Divakaruni’s writing is fluid and at times beautiful – especially during the story-telling sections of the book.

“When had it happened? Looking back, I could not point to one special time and say, There! That’s what is amazing. We can change completely and not recognize it. We think terrible events have made us into stone. But love slips in like a chisel – and suddenly it is an ax, breaking us into pieces from the inside.” – from One Amazing Thing, page 90 –

As the characters reveal their backgrounds through one event in their life, the reader gains a deeper understanding of what motivates, frightens, and defines them. Divakaruni develops tension between the characters well, and creates a sense of urgency as the situation grows more serious and dangerous.

As a whole, however, I am not sure the novel worked as well as it could have. At times, the narrative felt like a linked collection of short stories, and the earthquake seemed like a prop in order for the characters to be revealed through story. In this way, the novel felt a bit contrived. The end of the book is abrupt and readers who like loose ends tied up will find themselves frustrated.

This is a short, quick read and I admit to being curious enough about the characters’ fates to keep reading. However, when the last page was turned, I felt oddly unsatisfied.

Divakaruni is an award winning and bestselling author of fifteen books, including the short story collection Arranged Marriage (winner of an American Book Award). Her writing is sublime and her character development admirable…and because of this, I am interested to read something else by this author even though this particular book did not totally work for me.

One Amazing Thing explores the themes of identity, class, story-telling as a way of healing, and coping in the face of crisis. Readers who like unique story set-ups and who enjoy linked short stories, might want to give this novel a try.

More reviews:

Have you read and reviewed this book? Drop me a comment with a link to your review and I’ll add it here.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review on my blog.

I’m All About Biology!

Cathy at Kittling Books asks: What Field of Science are you?

You Are Biology

You are a warm and connected person. You are interested in all living things – plants, animals, and humans.

Beyond just being curious about how creatures work, you’re driven to make the world a better place.

You would love to help cure diseases, or even just save a species from extinction.

If you can make anyone’s life a little more comfortable, you feel like you’ve done your job.

Winner: Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country Series

An Irish Country Doctor, by Patrick Taylor
ISBN 978-0-7653-1995-1
343 Pages
Published by Tor/Forge (2004, 2007)

An Irish Country Village, by Patrick Taylor
ISBN 978-0-7653-2023-0
419 Pages
Published by Tor/Forge (2008)

An Irish Country Christmas, by Patrick Taylor
ISBN 978-0-7653-2072-8
479 Pages
Published by Tor/Forge (2008)

Today’s giveaway for Reading for a Cure goes to ONE lucky winner who will receive the first three book in the Irish Country series by Patrick Taylor.  I chose one name randomly by assigning a number to each person who was either signed up to participate in Reading for a Cure, or who was sponsoring a participant, or who made a one-time donation to the Pediatric Foundation.  As far as I know only two people have earned a second chance by tweeting about the giveaways.  Here are the number assignments:

  1. Coconut Library
  2. J.T./Bibliofreak
  3. Natasha/Mawbooks
  4. Barbara
  5. Verbatim
  6. Frances Hunter
  7. Sari
  8. Beachreader
  9. Jen/Cooking for a Cure
  10. Kristen/BookNAround
  11. Laura/Musings
  12. Christine
  13. Nikki/Books N Such
  14. Frances Hunter
  15. Avalonne
  16. Annette/All Booked Up
  17. Kathrin/Secret Dreamworld of a Bookaholic
  18. Christina/Book Addict
  19. J.T./Bibliofreak
  20. Jaydek

And chose:

#8 – Beachreader – donor

Congratulations Beachreader!

I will be emailing you for your snail mail address.

This is the last March giveaway for this event – but stay tuned. I have more giveaways planned in the coming months.

It is NOT too late to join Reading for A Cure. Visit this post to learn how you can help raise money to find a cure for childhood cancer. You CAN make a difference in the life of a child.

Book Blogging in 2010

I have had this post in my drafts for several months now. Admittedly, I’ve been reluctant to post it because I don’t want my thoughts to be misconstrued. I don’t want people to think I’m being negative or overly critical…but, lately I have been reading a lot of posts about blogger burnout – bloggers who have been blogging for more than a couple of years and who are feeling overwhelmed and under-motivated; bloggers who can’t keep up anymore on their feed readers; bloggers who feel pressure to comment on every post; bloggers who are so swamped in commitments that they no longer want to read book reviews or be tempted to add to their overflowing to-be-read shelves; bloggers who believe if they don’t join all the social networks and participate in the big events, that their blogs will fall into that dark hole of obscurity.

I started blogging in February 2005 but did not discover the book blogging community until December 2006. I loved it – the closeness of the community, the reading challenges and events, the fresh perspectives on books. This was before the days of “free” books from publishers, before Twitter, before the focus on “traffic” and the numbers. Those new to blogging this year are in a completely different environment then I was when I started my blog. The number of book blogs out there in 2010 has probably quadrupled (or more) since 2006.

Some of the growth for book bloggers has been wonderful. Bloggers have etched out a place in the publishing industry and established themselves as legitimate reviewers who have a big impact on marketing. Publishers actively seek out bloggers to review the newest releases and most bloggers get more book review offers than they can reasonably accept. Readers have been rewarded with thousands of book giveaways. For book-a-holics, this is like having Christmas 365 days a year.

But there is a down side. Many book bloggers are now faced with toppling stacks of ARCs and review books they feel obligated to read – and find themselves mourning the days they simply selected books on a whim. I will be the first to admit, I have over-committed myself to reviews. I took a step this year to be more selective and lately have been declining about 80% of the book review offers. It helps me breathe a little easier these days!

And then there are the social networking sites – more seem to pop up every day. The chatter and updating goes on 24 hours a day. If I don’t check in on a site at least twice a day, I quickly find myself behind in the conversation. I joined Twitter last year because I felt some pressure to do so. I felt like if I wasn’t part of this new social network then my blog would fail. I quickly became overwhelmed with the rapid-fire tweets and the sheer numbers of people I felt I needed to “follow.” I also started feeling like Twitter was a digitalized version of the water cooler at work – a place where people gathered to gossip and create drama. To be fair, there are some good things happening on Twitter…but the drama stood out for me: the links to controversial posts, the criticism of events, which to me were not constructive. I rarely log into my Twitter account these days…and there are times I feel like the odd man out. I know I am missing some things, but I made a conscious choice to eliminate something which was causing me more stress than pleasure. It doesn’t seem to have damaged my stats, for which I am grateful.

I subscribe to more than 300 blogs in Google Reader. Crazy, right? Up until this year, I felt obligated to at least scan through every post and try to leave comments as often as possible. It became a chore. There were days when I opened my reader to find more than 1000 unread posts and it made me want to cry. Then I decided that I could make my own rules about blog reading and commenting. Nowadays, when the feed reader is out of control I simply click “mark all as read.” Sure, I miss some things, but my heart rate is slower, my blood pressure is lower and I don’t find myself glued to the computer for hours anymore. I have also allowed myself to de-stress about comments. I still comment, but only when I really have something to say. It is simply a reality of time. I do still respond to every comment posted to my blog – and will continue to do so.

So where does all this leave us?

Here is the reality for most people: we have families, pets, jobs, volunteer obligations, face-to-face friends and acquaintances, and a need for our own personal time. Wedged between all of that is the world of blogging and social networking which seems to be taking more and more time these days. We live in an instant gratification, digital world where communication is rapid fire and immediate. Yes, that can be fun…but it can also overwhelm our senses and steal away time we should be spending doing all those other things that make our lives full and rewarding.

No one can structure our lives for us and tell us where to spend our time. Only we can do that for ourselves. We have choices. We can set our own priorities. We don’t have to conform to rules about how to blog, how much to comment, which social network to join. The amount of “traffic” on our blogs is not necessarily the way to measure our success.

I made some very deliberate decisions in 2010 which have helped me regain my footing and allowed me to once again feel in control of my time.

  • I decline most offers for book reviews, selecting only those books which I really want to read.
  • I no longer feel as though I must join every new social networking site.
  • I gave myself permission to step out of the fray, take deeper breaths, and not always feel like I was missing the next big thing.
  • I decided to join fewer reading challenges this year.
  • I made a conscious decision to use my blog for good this year – to give back to others in some way that was meaningful to me (thus, my Reading for a Cure project).
  • I stopped blogging by the “rules” and started blogging the way it felt right for me.

It seems to be working. I feel less stressed, less overwhelmed. I have more energy for writing and reading and reviewing. I take more walks, play with my dog more, sleep a little later in the mornings. Don’t get me wrong – I still love to connect on line. I get excited about the new things happening (I cannot wait for the BEA and Book Blogger Convention in May). I am no where near wanting to give up this thing called book blogging. But I have discovered there is a limit to my time and energy. There CAN be too much of a good thing. Balance in life is as important as breathing.

What do YOU think?

Mailbox Monday – March 29, 2010

Welcome to the latest edition of Mailbox Monday hosted every week at The Printed Page.

Here is where I share the books which have arrived at my house over the last week.

Do you want to join Mailbox Monday? Simply visit Marcia’s blog today to get links to other readers’ mailboxes, and leave a link to yours!

Venom by Joan Brady arrived unsolicited from Simon & Schuster UK. This novel is a suspense-thriller which is the sequel to Bleedout. The book blurb reads: ‘Physicist Helen Freyl has just accepted a job offer from a giant pharmaceutical company who are close to finding a cure for radiation poisoning. But when the mysteriously sudden death of a colleague is followed by another, Helen begins to doubt her employers’ motives and realizes that her own life is in danger too.‘ Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

Joan Brady won the 1993 Whitbread Best Novel award for her novel Theory of War and was long listed in 1997 for the Orange Prize for her book Death Comes for Peter Pan. Although she has been highly recognized for her literary fiction, Brady prefers writing thrillers. Venom is due for release in the United States in August 2010 (it was released in the UK in February). To learn more about Joan Brady and her work, visit the author’s website.

Guest House by Barbara K. Richardson arrived via Anne at The Book Report Network (Authors on the Web). Guest House was published this month by Bay Tree Publishing. The press release reads: ‘Barbara K. Richardson introduces readers to successful real estate agent Melba Burns. After witnessing a horrific accident, Melba stops driving, quits her job and retreats to the safety of her newly purchased farmhouse. Her solitary life is overturned when shy, ingenious 10-year-old Matt enters the scene, drawing Melba into an unlikely road trip that changes everything.Read an excerpt here.

Barbara K. Richardson’s previous work has appeared in Northwest Review, Cimarron Review, Quarterly West and Dialogue. Barbara earned her MFA in Creative Writing at Eastern Washington University, where she studied with Ursula Hegi, Nance Van Winckel and John Keeble. To learn more about Richardson and her work, visit the author’s website.

Did anything exciting arrive at YOUR house this week?!?!?

I Never Told Anyone – Book Review

These women – and more – women whose courage gives me courage, whose lives are a testament to the strength and beauty of women – our rugged tenacity; our unwillingness, in the midst of widespread, smothering violence and a history of atrocities, to give up, give in, die – these women inspired me to collect these stories. In the process of writing, of saying what has not been said, of giving voice to the unnameable, we claim our experience. We are brave. We are no longer victims. We show what we have endured. We look at this reality in order to destroy it. – from the Introduction by Ellen Bass, page 24 –

Trigger warningthis book is about the experiences of women survivors of sexual abuse; many of the writings are graphic and emotional.

I Never Told Anyone: Writings by Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse is a tough book to read by anyone’s standards. Its creation grew out of a writer’s workshop in Santa Cruz, California after a woman shared her story of abuse. Ellen Bass and Louise Thornton along with several other women decided that stories like this should be shared in order to give voice to the sexually abused child. It is a powerful anthology which left me feeling angry, revolted, and extremely sad that we live in a society which allows this crime to continue at an alarming rate.

It is important to understand that the phenomenon of violence against women and children and the condoning of this violence is not simply a contemporary perversion but part of an ancient and pervasive worldwide tradition. – from Introduction by Ellen Bass, page 33 –

Why would anyone sit down and read these horrible, gut-wrenching stories? Most of us would prefer to avoid reading the details of a sexual assault on a child. We would prefer to look the other way while saying it is a terrible crime and should be eradicated. Many, myself included, want to lock these monsters up who would commit such a crime and never again have them see the light of day. But read about the crimes themselves? No, most of us do not want to do that. And yet, putting stories like this in writing allows the victims of such crimes a power over their tormentors and in turn, the stories make us face the reality of these crimes in order to put an end to them.

In this volume, we say no to that desecration. We look clearly at what sexual abuse and rape have meant to these women’s lives. We do not avert our eyes to avoid the pain. Statistics, for all the horror they imply, can be so vast that we shield ourselves from the individual lives they represent. We wanted to make the statistics real, to present the pain of the individual. At times the enormity overwhelmed us. It is not easy to open oneself to the knowledge that millions of children are raped. Our defenses rush to protect us from experiencing that pain. But we cannot close ourselves off and hope for the best. We are in danger. Our daughters are in danger. Even our sons are in danger. Behind each statistic, there is a child. She may be you. She may be your daughter. She may be your sister. She may be your friend. You cannot protect her until we can protect all children. – from the Introduction by Ellen Bass, pages 37-38 –

I can tell you that I struggled to read this book. I had to intersperse my reading of it with reading a light, funny novel. The pain between these pages is immense. It is horrifying. It is nearly incomprehensible. The women who share their stories in this book describe abuse which began when they were less than a year old and continued into their teen years. In many cases, the abuse was known by other adults who looked the other way. In all cases, the damage done was vast and life long. But despite all of this, something else came through in these stories – the courage and strength of these children who were now adults themselves; their refusal to accept their role as victim; their decision to share the details of their experiences in order to remove the power from their abusers; their belief that sharing their stories could help other women.

I struggled to rate this book. It is not an enjoyable read. It is dark and sad. But it is also a book which is necessary. Until we meet the individuals behind the statistics, until we really hear their stories, how can we find the rage and energy to fight to end this pervasive crime? How can we protect our children and grandchildren, our nieces, the children in our neighborhoods? This book enraged me. I think that is the point.

I think it is also important to point out that the writings contained in this book were also part of the healing of the women who wrote them. Writing their stories, giving voice to the unthinkable, gave their experiences validation and by revealing the crimes they could empower themselves to walk away from being a victim.

Because I could never talk about what had happened to me, it dominated my life. Then, through my writing, I discovered that I have an intellect that is not stupid but unstretched, a heart which can feel more than pain, a body that once again belongs to me. – by Maggie Hoyal, page 69 –

Anyone working in social services, as well as teachers or other professionals working with children, should read this book. But I will go further. Anyone who cares about children, who is horrified by violence against women and children, who want to strengthen our laws protecting women and children against violent crime, especially rape and sexual abuse…should read this book. We need to get angry. We need to pester our law makers incessantly. We need to speak out when child abusers are released back into our neighborhoods. We need to lobby for stronger laws and harsher punishments. We need to stop accepting the violence or believing that we cannot stop it. This book will help us to do those things.

Sunday Salon – March 28, 2010

March 28, 2010

10:30 AM

Good morning and welcome to this week’s edition of Sunday Salon:

Imagine some university library’s vast reading room. It’s filled with people–students and faculty and strangers who’ve wandered in. They’re seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them, and they’re all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they’ll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon’s literary intake….

We are waiting for the next big storm to strike – this is truly what springtime is like in the mountains. This storm is set to drop up to two feet of snow on us, along with hail, thunder, lightening, and probably a bucketful of cold rain. I suppose the good thing about that is it makes me want to stay inside and read!

Despite continuing to feel ill (and having a bunch of medical tests which indicate I am completely okay even though my body is telling me otherwise), I have managed to get in a lot of reading this week.

I posted my review of The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli along with a guest post by the author. This is a fantastic debut novel with complex characterizations and a plot which is quite different from most “war-based” novels. In fact, this novel is really less about the Vietnam War and more about the people and the country impacted by it. I love books like that – ones that surprise you by taking a different perspective and making one see a situation in a different light.

I read An Irish Country Girl by Patrick Taylor (read my review) in a few short days. This was my first exposure to Taylor’s Irish Country series and I enjoyed the lighthearted foray into Irish lore and magic. The book requires the reader to let loose their imagination (there is a magical realism element but it is firmly embedded in the legends of the Irish which made it easier for me to accept). I have the first three books in the series to read, and I will eventually get to them. In the meantime, if you want an opportunity to win those first three books, consider joining Reading for a Cure or sponsoring someone who has joined or making a donation to the Pediatric Cancer Foundation. You can read more on this post – but hurry, the contest ends on March 30th!

Next up on my reading stack was Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons (read my review). I had read Gibbons’ novel A Virtuous Woman a few years back (before I started reviewing books on my blog) and remembered really loving her style. So when this month’s Social Justice Challenge theme was child abuse and domestic violence, I decided to give Ellen Foster a read. Wow. This is a really intense book for its size (126 pages). It is told from the point of view of a ten year old girl (Ellen) who is abused by her father and must face the death of her mother and rejection by her blood relatives. Set in the south, it also takes a hard look at racism. I was really moved by this book, although I will be the first to admit, it was not always easy to read because of the subject matter.

Also for The Social Justice Challenge, I read I Never Told Anyone: Writings by Women Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse, edited by Ellen Bass and Louise Thornton. This is not the kind of book you read when you are feeling down. It is wrenching, sad, disturbing, and graphic…but it is important too. Giving a voice to the thousands of women survivors of sexual abuse, this book reveals the strength of women in the face of unspeakable crimes. It also shows how destructive the crime of sexual abuse is in our society. I should have a review of the book posted sometime today.

Because I Never Told Anyone was so dark, I needed to balance my reading with a light, chick-lit by one of my favorite authors. Get Lucky by Katherine Center will be in stores in April, and as with her previous novels, this one is not to be missed. I love well written women’s fiction and Katherine Center has quickly become an author whose books I don’t want to miss. I loved her first novel The Bright Side of Disaster (read my review) as well as her second novel Everyone is Beautiful (read my review), so it is no surprise I am loving Get Lucky too. Center is laugh-out-loud funny and develops characters who could be your best friend, your sister or your co-worker. You’ll have to wait until April 8th to read my review – that’s when I am touring the book for TLC Book Tours…but I can already tell you this is my favorite Center novel to date and I will be highly recommending it!

Up next on my stack is One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and then The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. I also still intend to read The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver and The Glass Room by Simon Mawer even though I didn’t get to them in time to discuss them in book groups (look for reviews of those books sometime in April).

Also in April, here are some of the books that have a high priority in my reading:

  • Impatient with Desire by Gabrielle Burton (watch for a giveaway of a signed copy sometime after the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon which is the April 10th)
  • Europa by Tim Parks
  • Therese Raquin by Emile Zola (I’ll be touring this book as part of The Classics Circuit on April 21st)
  • Chow Hounds by Ernie Ward, DVM (this is also for a TLC Book Tour on April 27th)
  • The Threadbare Heart by Jennie Nash (watch for a very cool Mother’s Day contest associated with this book in early May)
  • The Russian Dreambook of Color and Flight by Gina Ochsner
  • Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan

I am also excited to pull out some of my suspense-thrillers and mysteries for the 24 Hour Read-a-Thon.

Whew – that’s a lot of books, isn’t it?

What are your plans today? Do they involve reading a great book?

Winner: An Irish Country Girl

An Irish Country Girl, by Patrick Taylor
ISBN 978-0765320711
320 Pages
Published by Tor/Forge (January 2010)

Today’s giveaway for Reading for a Cure goes to another lucky winner who will receive a hard copy edition of  An Irish Country Girl by Patrick Taylor.  I chose one name randomly by assigning a number to each person who was either signed up to participate in Reading for a Cure, or who was sponsoring a participant, or who made a one-time donation to the Pediatric Foundation.  As far as I know only two people have earned a second chance by tweeting about the giveaways.  Here are the number assignments:

  1. Coconut Library
  2. J.T./Bibliofreak
  3. Natasha/Mawbooks
  4. Barbara
  5. Verbatim
  6. Frances Hunter
  7. Sari
  8. Beachreader
  9. Jen/Cooking for a Cure
  10. Kristen/BookNAround
  11. Laura/Musings
  12. Christine
  13. Nikki/Books N Such
  14. Frances Hunter
  15. Avalonne
  16. Annette/All Booked Up
  17. Kathrin/Secret Dreamworld of a Bookaholic
  18. Christina/Book Addict
  19. J.T./Bibliofreak
  20. Jaydek

And chose:

#9 – JEN from Cooking for a Cure

Congratulations Jen!

I will be emailing you for your snail mail address.

There will be a final giveaway drawing on March 30th for the first three books in Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country series…

It is NOT too late to join in the giveaways. Visit THIS POST to learn how YOU can become eligible to win books in March!

Ellen Foster – Book Review

When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. – from Ellen Foster, page 1 –

So what do you do when that spinning starts and the motion carries the time wild by you and you cannot stop to see one thing to grab and stop yourself? You stand still the best you can and say strong and loud for the circle of spinning to stop so you can walk away from the noise. That is how I walked then. – from Ellen Foster, page 110 –

When this novel opens in an unnamed Southern town, Ellen is ten years old and she is telling her story which is not always easy to hear. Ellen’s father is an abusive parent and spouse … he sits by and watches Ellen’s mother overdose on prescription medicine, then threatens to kill his daughter if she seeks help for her mother. Ellen curls up next to her mother and waits for her to die. Later, she runs to her aunt after her father attempts to molest her…but her safety, it turns out, is only guaranteed for a weekend after which her aunt returns her to her father’s care.

Aunt Betsy lets me off at the end of the path just like I ask and I walk the rest of the way to the house. I will just have to lock myself up is what I thought. If I have to stay here I can lock myself up. Push the chair up to the door and keep something in there to hit with just in case. – from Ellen Foster, page 42 –

As Ellen narrates her story, she moves back and forth from present day (living with a loving foster family) to her past. Ellen’s voice is unique – funny, determined, savvy. The story she tells is heartbreaking in its starkness, the abuse as much emotional as physical. I wanted to cry for her more than once. But Ellen is nothing but resilient and wise beyond her years, and she does not spend time crying for herself – she continually holds to her dreams and moves forward against the worst of odds.

I was moved by her friendship with a young black girl Starletta. Prejudice is still the norm and Ellen’s thoughts of her friend reflects this.

Starletta slides out of her chair and her mama says to take something you better eat.

Starletta is not big as a minute.

She came at me with a biscuit in her hand and held it to my face. No matter how good it looks to you it is still a colored biscuit. – from Ellen Foster, page 32 –

Later Ellen comes to terms with the rejection of her blood relatives in the aftermath of her abuse at her father’s hand, and in doing so, she grows to love and understand Starletta. She appreciates the difficulty of racism and finds her own struggles small compared to what Starletta and her family have had to deal with.

It is the same girl but I am old now I know it is not the germs you cannot see that slide off her lips and on to a glass then to your white lips that will hurt you or turn you colored. What you had better worry about though is the people you know and trusted they would be like you because you were all made in the same batch. You need to look over your shoulder at the one who is in charge of holding you up and see if that is a knife he has in his hand. And it might not be a colored hand. But it is a knife. – from Ellen Foster, page 85 –

In the end Ellen must save herself when the adults in her life fail to safeguard her future. She finally finds love and acceptance through the kindness of her “new mama”… a foster parent who opens her arms and heart to children who need her.

Ellen Foster is a stunning, simple book about domestic violence, abuse and racism through the eyes of a child. Ellen is a survivor by any definition. She uses her intelligence, wisdom, and wit to overcome things that a child should never have to overcome. I grew to love this character who beats the odds and eventually finds a home where she is accepted.

Kaye Gibbons has penned an important book which provides an honest, searing look into society’s most shameful crime – that of child abuse.

Highly recommended.