Book Reviews

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed – Book Review

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The death of my mother was the thing that made me believe the most deeply in my safety. Nothing bad could happen to me, I thought. The worst thing already had.


For years, I feared this book. I was first introduced to Cheryl Strayed in my college Creative Nonfiction class a few years back. I read her essay The Love of My Life and it gutted me. You see, I had that class one month after my mom passed away. Just like Cheryl Strayed, I was 22 when terminal cancer viciously stole my mom away from my life. Reading her essay brought me to tears, but it also opened a gateway for me to express my mixed emotions about losing my mom, who had also been the love of my life, as well as someone who had deeply wounded me at the age of 5 by leaving me with my grandparents while she moved thousands of miles away. Her essay was magnificent. It was raw and it was beautiful and it was exactly what I needed to read.

I feared that if I read this book, in which Cheryl Strayed goes on an incredible journey to try to face her demons after her mother’s death, I would feel lost. I thought that I would feel tremendously inferior to her because I haven’t done anything significant since my mom died. I graduated college, sure, but I’ve mostly just been battling my mental illnesses ever since that fateful day I saw her die. Reading Wild was difficult. It was impossible to read it without comparing her experience to mine. I kept asking myself: Did I do enough for my mom while she was alive? Because I avoided her during her last few months alive. I lived in denial. And Cheryl Strayed stuck around through the most difficult times. I knew deep down that this wasn’t the book’s intention. I shouldn’t be doing this. But it was practically impossible.

So I read, and I cried, and I wanted nothing more than to turn back time so I could be a better daughter for my dying mom. I know I should really talk about the book. This book isn’t just about Cheryl’s mom dying. It’s about Cheryl’s outstanding strength as she hiked over a thousand miles across the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s about her determination through the hardest of times. It’s about the wonderful and terrible people she encountered along the way. It’s about letting go and moving on. That is the beauty of this book. Certain aspects will touch people in different ways. I think there’s something here for everyone. If not a lesson, at least you’ll be entertained by the adventure.

 

What if I forgave myself?


I loved the way it was written, with the small flashbacks to her life before the PCT. I loved how it was all woven so creatively together. I felt like I was right there with her, every step of the way. I’m glad I was able to pick this up, even though it made me relive things I didn’t want to dig up. But I think it was good in the end. It was worth it.

4 stars

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Personal, Uncategorized

Spotlight: Ruru Reads

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Hello, everyone! This is Isis. I just wanted to let you guys know about this really great online magazine called Ruru Reads. It’s dedicated to publish works of fiction, poetry, and and nonfiction by Indigenous people and people of color. They already have a lot of works on the website, including one of my fiction short stories, Summer Soundtrack. You should all check it out and give it some love. If you want to submit to them, here is the link to their submissions page.

It’s so cool to see a magazine dedicate to raising the voices of marginalized groups of people. I hope you support this growing website. Thank you!

-Isis

Personal

From Fiction to Non-Fiction

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This year, I’m taking my first non-fiction class ever. I’m currently on my senior year of college toward my English degree, and so when I had to pick between non-fiction and poetry to fill my creative writing requirement, I chose non-fiction. I was dreading that class simply because I thought I knew everything there was to know about non-fiction, and I didn’t want anything to do with it. Still, I figured it would be much easier to tackle than poetry. Regardless of my motivation, I’m so glad I discovered the beauty of non-fiction.

Most of my writing life has been dedicated to writing fiction stories. I started with fiction novels and slowly drifted to short stories. Both of these gave me so much satisfaction. I learned to craft my own stories, create my own characters, maintain consistencies, and manage plots. There are by far many fiction writing tools, and it’s been a long and winding road to try to learn them all. I thought the switch to non-fiction creative writing would be a disaster, but it has been an incredible learning experience so far.

The first assumption I had wrong when it came to non-fiction writing is that everything is strong hard facts, centered in the truth and nothing but the truth. I pictured journalism whenever I thought of non-fiction, and that’s just not my cup of tea. However, I’ve come to learn that there’s a thin line (highly debated) between what is essentially true in non-fiction, and what isn’t. I learned that many essayist do happen to alter details or slightly bend the truth when it’s most convenient on their essays/memoirs. And that was liberating.

This is not to say I’ve used this approach a lot. I tend to stick to the truth, as I remember it, of course. In the course of the semester, I’ve written two fiction stories, and about ten non-fiction essays. I’ve measured my improvement in the latter because of all the work I’ve done, and I’ve created pieces that I’m proud of. Although, I wouldn’t be willing to share many of my essays as easily as I share my short stories. That’s something I still have to work on. But through my journey in non-fiction, I’ve learned that I have more to offer when it comes to writing. I have written about so many things, people, experiences that I never would have written about had I not taken this class. Some of these essays have been difficult to write, but they ended up being some of my favorites.

I still adore fiction writing. It’s my first love. I will always want to write fiction because I have too many fictional characters living in my head that need to be written down. But I’m going to focus on essays as well, and maybe someday, a long memoir. The thing about non-fiction is that there aren’t that many rules. Sure, there are different forms and presentations and tools, same as with fiction, but it’s so interesting playing with my own reality, however twisted it has become over the years. Memories change, and I write them as I remember them. And every time I write them down, I can let go of them a little bit. Sometimes, that’s necessary.

Book Reviews

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling – Book Review

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“Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled.”

There are many reasons why I love Mindy Kaling, but this review isn’t about her, it’s about her book. So, instead of listing the many reasons why I love Mindy Kaling, I will talk about why I loved her book so much.

Honesty is something I highly value, and this book floods with it. Mindy talks about her life, her friends, her work, her adventures–both the good and the completely embarrassing. There are informative essays about college frats and sororities, fancy White House dinners, sex scenes on screen, soup snakes, and (my favorite) confidence.

In each of these essays, Mindy taught me valuable lessons that ultimately narrow down to having a positive attitude and knowing what makes you happy so that you can work towards achieving it. I really loved the way she expressed her insecurities while at the same time showcasing her confidence. Though that might sound like a paradox, I think it’s naive to believe no confident person has insecurities that sometimes fall through the cracks. And the reason for that is that no one is perfect. Yet the media tries to point fingers to celebrities imperfections and blow things out of proportions for entertainment. This is why books like these are important.

As an aspiring author and TV writer, I look up to Mindy, and I always have. She gives me hope and motivation that someday I will be as successful as her. Me, a young woman, a minority, who loves to make people laugh. It’s people like Mindy that make this world a better place. Yes, I know I diverted from talking about the book, but I couldn’t help myself. I love Mindy Kaling. Her audacity and fierceness is inspiring.

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