Author Archives: Andrea Sigetich

Breath

James Nestor |  Nonfiction, 2020

280 pages

two-hearts

This is an interesting book, presenting some potentially useful ideas and posing interesting questions.  It also infuses a history of yoga and meditation practices, which were originally developed as breath practices.  However, the book seriously lacks in real medical double-blind studies, and is over-reliant on the author’s and others’ anecdotal evidence.

As I progressed, Breath moved from four hearts for its interesting hypotheses, to three hearts for its complete lack of statistical evidence, to two hearts as the techniques for “better breathing” grew more and more bizarre.  Like giving a woman 35% carbon dioxide through an inhaler bag to spark her fear, because she had never felt fear and kept putting herself in danger.

Among the more useful health/breathing considerations, if you do only one thing, learn to breathe in for 5.5 seconds and breathe out for 5.5 seconds, for a total of 5.5 breaths per minute.  Here is a simple tool to help.  https://www.google.com/search?q=breathing+exercise

So, read if you are interested, but not if you are looking for sound medical advice.

01/21

 

Hood Feminism

Mikki Kendall| Nonfiction, 2020

288pages

four-hearts

Deenie was a roommate senior year in college.  She introduced me to the concept of feminism.  Being one of a handful of women in the Business School at the University of Michigan, I immediately glommed on to what she was teaching me.  That was 46 years ago.

Hood Feminism is like a long consciousness-raising session on feminism, elaborating on all the ways we (White & privileged) feminists have ignored the full scope of women in the world, and have let women down.  I love what Kendall says in her interview with Trevor Noah (yes, surely worth the 7:10 commitment...) https://youtu.be/D4DaBn4uHi4  “If we are going to do feminism for all women, we have to make sure that the poorest women have everything they need to survive.”

In Hood Feminism, Kendall addresses a myriad of topics, including, but not limited to, hunger, murder, housing, gun violence, reproductive justice, poverty, parenting, education, patriarchy, allies, fears, and fierceness.

If you consider yourself a feminist, and/or simply are committed to social justice, this is a book you must read.  It will expand your perspective significantly.  At least, it did mine.

 

Desert Notebooks

Ben Ehreneich  |  Nonfiction

2020, 325 pages

I am sad to write three low-hearts reviews in a row, but that is what the pages have offered me.

Desert Notebooks is a very distinctive book.  The author interweaves science, creation myths, ancient history, Greek mythology, Native American traditional stories, and present-day experiences of the desert to explore the nature of time and the existential crisis of climate change.

Huh?  What is she saying?  I cannot be much clearer.  It is challenging to explain this book.

There are moments of lucidity and clarity when the author returns to the present day and makes sense of the ancient tales he just retold.  But those moments happen every dozen(?) pages or so.  And I am tiring of reading different interpretations of Lilith.  I have given this a respectable try ... 88 pages.  And I am going to abandon it now.

(BTW, my next two books appear as auspicious as my last three, so you can expect Dusty Shelves to end the year with a dearth of hearts. Sigh.)

Posted 12/20

 

 

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Beyond Your Bubble

Tania Israel  |  Nonfiction

2020, 175 pages

Oh, I am so disappointed.  I was hoping this book would tell me how to find people to engage in dialogue with, beyond my liberal/progressive bubble.  Instead, it teaches how to be in dialogue ... how to listen, to talk, to manage emotions, and to understand others.  Absolutely useful and important skills!  Just not what I was seeking.   All that is useful to me is a list of three resources in the “additional resources” section at the end.

Posted 12/20

 

 

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The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist

Adrian Tomine |  Biographical, 2020

162 pages

two-hearts

Longtime Dusty Shelves readers know my fatal flaw.  I don’t often find the written word funny.  A few reviewer's comments on this book: “painfully honest and often hilarious” and “deeply aware, darkly funny ...”

I did not find a single pane of this graphic novel funny.  I just found it depressing.  And sad.  Amen.  The end.  No recommendation from me!

NYT 100 Best Books of 2020.  (Again, NYT disappoints).

 

 

A Burning

Megha Majumdar | Fiction,  2020

293 pages

three-hearts

I wouldn’t quite deem A Burning “electrifying” or “all-consuming,” words used by some reviewers.  I would call it a good story.  Good, but not great.

This is the tale of three people in modern day India:  Jivan, a young Muslin woman, is falsely accused of a horrific crime and thrown in jail; PT Sir, a gym teacher at the local school seems to lose touch with his moral compass, bit by bit, page by page; Lovely, a hijra, is an appealing and endearing young woman(?), an impoverished beggar, who aspires to be an actress, and around whom the emotional story evolves.

Majumdar’s character development, in this, her debut novel, is astounding.  These three figures are unique, strong, and distinguishable in their differences and depth.  I very much enjoyed getting to know each of them.

As I mentioned in my opening statement, I did like the story and learning about the injustices ever-present in India; I simply did not find it a page-turner.  It is a rather quick read, and I recommend it.  I look forward to your comments and thoughts and reactions, especially from those of you who may love this book dearly...

 

The Adventurer’s Son

Roman Dial | Nonfiction, 2020

355 pages

four-hearts

This book is a sleeper, in my opinion; at least for those of who revel in true outdoor adventures.  It was recommended by my library in their “Armchair Travel” newsletter. And it deserves greater visibility.

Cody Roman Dial disappears in the back-country of Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica, known as “the most biologically intense place on earth.”  This park is so wild, it is illegal to enter it without a guide. Yes, our heroes break the law.  This is the story, written by his father, of a father’s search for his son, filled with adventure and mystery, after Cody misses his “out date,” July 15, 2014.

But first, for almost half of the book, we watch Roman Dial and his wife Peggy raise Cody and his younger sister Jazz.  Ice climbing, pack rafting, obsessed with animals and flora, adventure finders, mountain climbing, camping, skiing, hiking long distances are just some of what the Dial family explores together.  There is such a huge, shared love for the natural world, it will take your breath away.

This is a slow read, to be savored.  I became lost in the physical descriptions of places the Dials traveled that bear no resemblance to the United States geography I know well. Borneo, the northwest corner of Australia, Gunung Palung, Guatemala, Mexico, Tasmania, Bhutan, and many locales such as the Brooks Range, Usibelli, and Umnak Island in their home state of Alaska.  I was enthralled with the descriptions of animals and plants I could not even picture, they were so different from what we encounter locally.

Dial is not an author ... he tells a realistic and beautiful story.  This isn’t the best writing I have read, and perhaps his penchant for descriptions may derail a reader or two.  As a non-scientist, however, I found none of his writing above my head or off-putting.  Simply, it was fascinating.

Do I rate this three hearts or four?  I would only go with three because I know not all my blog readers are as enamored of wilderness adventures as I am.  However, that would do The Adventurer’s Son a disservice.  I will stay with a solid four hearts and recommend this book with enthusiasm.

 

There There

Tommy Orange | Fiction, 2019

304 pages

four-hearts

There There astounded me.  It rearranges what you might think about Urban Native Americans and their lives, identities or lack of identities, passions, families, loves.  Twelve independent people make their way to a powwow in the town where they all live, Oakland, California.  They have vastly different reasons for being there, and different expectations.  And yet in so many ways, their lives overlap.

Orange’s character development is magnificent.  I feel as though I know some of these characters intimately ... and yet, I know them not at all, for their experiences are so counter to my experiences.

“You were white, you were brown, you were red, you were dust.”  I don’t fully understand this statement, and yet, it feels quite important.  I was surprised to learn about how different people saw themselves, as more or less Indian, depending in large part on how their parents/caregivers viewed being Native.  Some wanted it hidden, discouraged, ignored.  Some wanted it understood and embraced.  Some didn’t care one way or the other.  All dealt with their Indianness.  “Indianing” by the way, is a word that Orange coined – (defined in my own words ) as taking on attributes or culture or attitudes or clothes or gestures to appear Indian, for yourself or for others.  How “much” are you Indian?

Interestingly, while most of the profiles are written in first person, some are third, and a few even in second person.  Fascinating mix.  I wonder how he decided?  When you read this, pay special attention to the “prologue” and the “interlude.”  They inform the story significantly.

Another superb debut novel.  There There is a book I could read again.  I do hope you read and enjoy it.  And please write your thoughts here.

 

Save Me the Plums

Ruth Reichl | Nonfiction Memoir,  2019

288 pages

three-hearts

LA Times food critic Ruth Reichl catapults into the opulent, gastronomically eloquent, ostentatious world of billionaires, Gourmet magazine and its owner, Condé Nast.

It is astounding to read of her experiences entering this whole new world and working to find her place.  And then, as the book progresses, we are witnesses as she shakes up the staid Gourmet magazine and it becomes more radical and more relevant.  This is a respite from the last few books I read, which were ponderous and serious (Me and White Supremacy and An Indigenous Peoples’ Guide to American History).  Save Me the Plums is light and easy to read.

However, its gift is also its demise.  It is too light. Reichl, surprisingly for a memoir author, is not transparent or reflective.  She tells us what occurs, but she doesn’t tell us how she feels about it or what she is thinking.  One example is when she receives pressure in this new New York world of hers, to buy a $6500 dress.  She eventually decides, which we learn about, but we don’t read of her internal conflict, or her values, or her feelings, or even her decision-making process.  She is either a poor writer or a shallow writer, and I am inclined toward the latter because her descriptions of food and their tastes and textures are positively mouth-wateringly yummy.  Her lack of real authenticity and depth moved this book from four hearts to three for me.

She also repeats a perspective that has shown up in a few books I have read recently. Authors sometimes enter the corporate world and write about it as if they are the first to discover and reveal the machinations of big business.  What she writes of is neither new nor news.  It is boring if you have spent 40 years of your career interacting with big corporations, and I find the surprise and fascination of these authors to be naïve.

Read Save Me the Plums for the fun, the grandiosity, and the almost tactile delight of exploring new foods.  But don’t read it for insight into a food celebrity or you will be disappointed.

From “Booked in Bend” book club list for 2020.

 

 

Me and White Supremacy

Layla F. Saad | Nonfiction, 2020

256 pages

four-hearts

For 28 days, addressing 28 topics associated with white supremacy, such as power, relationships, and white silence, Me and White Supremacy follows this pattern: “What is <topic>? “How does it show up?” and “Why do you need to look at it?” Then she presents “Reflection time journal prompts” intended to guide you through the 28 days of this workbook, keeping a journal as you proceed.

At first I was very frustrated with this book.  For the first few days, the introspective questions she asked were too obvious; too simple.  They were about behaviors or attitudes I left behind in college. I wanted juicier, more insightful questions that would make me ponder and think and reflect and re-examine my attitudes and actions.

Be careful what you ask for.  As I progressed in the book, the questions did get tougher and inspire more self-examination.  About day 19, everything shifted for me. Chapter 19 is about “optical allyship.”  In my own words, “optical allyship” is about saying the right things, and believing the right things, but not ever doing the very hard work to break the systems of power that oppress.  It is to be visible as an ally, but only in tone, voice, attitude, and not action.

I realized that I have been more than an optical ally to the LGBTQ+ community.  I have marched.  I have worked to change corporate policies and practices.  I collected signatures in freezing temperatures for a ballot measure to create marriage equality in Oregon.  I have coached leaders in the LGBTQ+ movement.  I have had numerous meaningful conversations.  And I have examined my own sexual orientation and its relationship to being in community with others.  Now, I am not intending to say this is sufficient work nor am I lauding what bits I have done. My point is, as haven’t done anything, taken any significant action, to be proud of in support of BIPOC.  I have been merely an optical ally.  Wow.

I have seen a model of resources for White people that identifies six stages of growth and development of White privilege consciousness.  This book is recommended in stage three.  The next book on my list for this topic is How to be an Anti-Racist, which is a stage four resource.

What can I say?  Of course I recommend this book, at least to my White readers.  Know that it will take you a while to read and journal your way through this small book.  You can scroll through my blog to see some other books on this topic, but there are many, many more resources than what I have read.  I have been inspired since the events of this summer ... I hope some of you are, too. There is work to be done.   Please let us know here on Dusty Shelves what you discover!