Between the Lines Book Club: The Boys in the Boat

 

between the lines book club logoThis month we have a quick turnaround book-wise. We’ll be meeting to discuss The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, on 11/19/16 at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM.

The Boys in the Boat tells the story of the University of Washington’s efforts to win a gold in rowing at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The story focuses on Hitler’s efforts to convince the world that Germany was a benign power, and on the efforts of American Joe Rantz to survive the Depression and parental abandonment, finish college, and succeed in keeping his place on the crew team.

In this book trailer, at minute 1:10, you can see video of the incredible 1936 Olympic race:

 

If you have an hour, you can view the PBS documentary: The Boys of ’36, about the crew.

 

I hope you all enjoy this amazing story!

Between the Lines Book Club: Gilead and Transcendentalism

between the lines book club logoOur October book club selection is Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. If you are in the Sacramento area, please join us at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM on October 29, 2016.

Gilead is the story of Reverend Ames, his father, and his grandfather, and their approaches to war and civil rights. The book is profoundly influenced by transcendentalism.

Transcendentalism is a philosophical school of thought that developed in the late 1820s. It was made famous by, among other people, author Ralph Waldo Emerson. Other followers included Louisa May Alcott and her family, Margaret Fuller, Walt Whitman, and Henry David Thoreau.

Transcendentalism was a movement that was influenced by Romanticism, as well as by Indian religions. Transcendentalists believed that all people are inherently good, that nature is inherently good, and that the more self-reliant people are, the better they are. The movement was notable as being American in origin, and most of its followers were Americans. It was also notable for sparking a literary movement that mirrored its philopophical aims. Emerson’s magazine, The Dial, was a home to many new essays and stories by American writers.

In an article for The New Inquiry titled “The New Transcendentalist” Susan Salter Reynolds says,

I like to think of Robinson as a member of a merry band I call the New Transcendentalists, a group that builds on the luminous work of Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, Whitman, Melville, and others. The New Transcendentalists include, besides Robinson,  Wendell Berry, Thomas Merton, Mary Oliver, Rebecca Solnit, and others. I am sure that I have left names from both categories, New and Old, but the message is the same: belief in the human spirit and its capacity for community, generosity, and stewardship; in what Whitman called “radical uniqueness,” and in the vital connection to nature as a source of creativity and innovation. The effect is also the same: elevation, followed by freedom.

By tying her work, both consciously (Robinson is a big Emerson fan) and unconsciously to Transcendentalism, Robinson is able to explore the healing power of nature, the pros and cons of communities, and the role of faith in matters and large and small. She also gives her work a distinctly American feel by tying it to a rich legacy of American thought and American fiction.

Between the Lines Book Club: Voices From Annawadi

between the lines book club logoBetween the Lines Book Club will be meeting tomorrow (September 24, 2016) at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM to discuss Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo.

In this space, I’ve shared some interviews with Katherine Boo. After her book came out, people wanted to know how the book affected the neighborhood she wrote about (Annawadi, outside Mumbai). Here’s an interview in which she talks about the connection she has to the people of Annawadi, and how things have an have not changed. when asked if she still has a connection to people, she says this:

My husband (Sunil Khilnani) and I are still engaged with the community, funding education, training and emergency aid to help families get through health and other crises. Some students have risen heroically to the challenge of good private schools — schools where even the guards at the gates make them feel unwelcome.

“Inspiring” is an overused word, but those kids inspire me — seriously. But progress in communities like Annawadi is often incremental, given structural issues like the prevalence of disease and the almost total absence of permanent work.

As for individuals featured in the book, Manju now has a master’s degree, and she and her new husband run two tuition centers. She’s a very popular tutor, with a particular concern for poorer students. Manju’s brothers have become drivers — work they like — and are also doing well. The Husain family now owns a home and business outside of Mumbai, and four of the younger children are doing well in a private school that is considered the best in their area.

But one person I wrote about died of TB-related disease, and another is fighting an addiction. This is real life, not a fairy tale with a happy ending. And a month from now, the circumstances of the people I’ve just mentioned may be utterly different, because if there’s one constant in places like Annawadi, it’s change.

Reader’s will remember Manju’s drive to get an education. Manju has read the book, and in this thoughful peice for Dawn she talks about what she thinks of the book, and what her mother thinks of it:

“I have read the book, and I liked it even though it made me cry,” Manju, who speaks good English, told AFP in Annawadi, a slum located next to Mumbai’s international airport and tucked behind the five-star Hyatt Regency hotel.

“It is truth, not fiction,” she says. “Everyone in Annawadi knows. If I don’t say these things about my family, someone else will, so why let them gossip?”

If you are curious about what Annawadi looks like, here’s a very short video from 2012:

 

I hope you all enjoyed the book! See some of you on Saturday!

Between the Lines Book Club: Interviews with Katherine Boo

between the lines book club logoThis month we are reading Behind the Beautful Forevers by Katherine Boo. You can participate in book club by leaving comments after any book club post, or by meeting in person at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento, California. Our next meeting will be on September 24, 2016 at 10:30AM.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a non-ficiton work that reads like a novel. Katherine Boo, with the aid of translators, spent about three years getting to know the residents of Annawadi, a slum on the edge of Mumbai, India. This review by Amit Chaudhuri gives an Indian perspective on the book (Boo is an American who married an Indian).

In this interview at npr, Boo talks about life in the slum as compared to the village, what it was like being a blonde American in the slum, and the lives of women. I found this especially interesting:

“Often in journalism, stories about the poor began with a reporter going to an NGO and saying, ‘Tell me about the good work you’re doing, and let me follow you, and maybe if you could just pick out some real success stories, I’ll write about them.’ I think that those kind of stories do an injustice to the enormous amount of creative and enterprising problem-solving that low-income people do for themselves, that most of the ways that people get out of poverty in the United States, in India and anywhere else I’ve ever been is through their own imaginations and their own fortitude.”

In a Q&A on her wepage, Boo goes into a lot of detail about why she chose the topic she chose, her writing process, and how she wanted readers to see the people as more than objects of pity:

When I talk to friends about Annawadi experiences that haunt me, they’ll sometimes ask, Why didn’t you write about that? But I was intent that this book not be some dolorous registry of the most terrible things that had ever happened at Annawadi. A book like that wouldn’t have done justice to what Annawadi felt like, day to day. Annawadi life was also about flagpole ring-toss and tell-all sessions among teenaged girls at the public toilet and parents comforting and delighting in their children. It was Sunil and Sonu the Blinky Boy applying their rich imaginations to gathering trash and figuring out their place in the world.

Sunil and Sonu have tough, tough lives but if a reader comes away from this book thinking of them only as pathetic socioeconomic specimens I’ll have failed as a writer. They’re cool, interesting kids, and I want the reader to sense that, too. Because we can talk all we want about how corruption or indifference robs people of opportunity–of the promise our societies squander–but if we don’t really grasp the intelligences of those who are being denied, we’re not going to grasp the potential that’s being lost.

The video below has interviews with Katherine Boo and with Meera Syal, an actress in the National Theater’s stage adaptation of the book. It also has footage of Annawadi and it’s residents.

Between the Lines Book Club: Behind the Beautiful Forevers

between the lines book club logoThis month’s book club pick is Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. You can participate in book club by leaving comments after any book club post, or by meeting in person at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento, California. Our next meeting will be on September 24, 2016 at 10:30AM.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers  is a non-fiction book about a slum (Annawadi) on the edge of Mumbai, India. The author, Katherine Boo, is an American woman who lived in Mumbai with her Indian husband for several years. She spent over three years following the lives of Annawadi’s residents. By keeping the focus on the lives of specific characters, she gives the book the feeling of a novel with the rigor of a peice of journalism.

Next week I’ll be providing links to some interviews with Katherine Boo. In the meantine, I have reading to do!

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Between the Lines Book Club: Feminism in Girl on the Train

between the lines book club logoBetween the Lines Book Club will be meeting tomorrow, August 27, 2016, at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM.  The Girl on the Train is one of a string of thrillers involving women, including Gone Girl and The Woman in Cabin 10. All of these thrillers involve women in the context of parenting, marriages, romantic relationships, and familial relation ships. They’ve hit a nerve, and some say it’s because by presenting women as the center of the story, and by presenting the reader with women who are not victims, the books are feminist in nature.

In “Why Everyone’s Talking About The Girl on the Train,”  Claire Fallon states:

By using our assumptions about how women can and should behave to set up shocking plot twists, or by pushing these assumptions to the logical extreme, a thriller can make use of its genre conventions to undermine societal conventions. In these novels, within the gripping mystery at its heart, the inherent dangers of femininity in modern life are gently unearthed, dusted off, and presented for us to see clearly. As much progress as women have made in our society over the past century, it’s clear that many of us are still hungry for this dramatic explosion of the sexism around us.

Heroine Jones points out that the characters in The Girl on the Train grow through a point in which they define themelves by the men in their lives into a place of more independence:

Without spoiling anything, I want to comment on the feminism of The Girl on the Train.  The message on traditional gender roles is subtle at first but eventually comes forward as an important final note.  Throughout the novel, Hawkins’ female characters all see their worth through the eyes of men.  As the story comes to a close, though, they all seem to find some level of personal strength to do what they know they have to do.  In confronting their individual fears of rejection in some form, they take one firm step towards emancipating themselves from the destructively limiting gender roles which they had previously fully accepted.

At Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Elyse writes about the Gone Girl phenomena:

To me the killer in the basement is far less scary than a book that makes you question what the fuck is going on here? and by moving female characters out of the “victim” space and into something more complex and explored, it gives female characters more credit, makes them more human. The “innocent” blonde haired, blue eyed Midwestern girl gone missing will always draw readers — hell, it draws me — but I want my fiction to do more, to be a little bit more, and to give me the unexpected. I want more than the body in the woods. I want my female characters to be a little bit dangerous too.

Elyse lists several other books to try in the above article. She also reviewed The Woman in Cabin 10. In her review, it’s clear that The Woman in Cabin 10 deals with many of the same themes of manipulation that The Girl on the Train tackles:

Nilsson acts like Lo’s sleeplessness and antidepressants mean that Lo can’t be trusted to differentiate reality from fantasy, and the fact that she calls him on it is perfect. This is a common theme in mysteries/ thrillers/ horror fiction–you must be crazy! There’s not really a killer/ monster/ alien/ bigfoot hanging out here! Ooops I just got my face eaten, guess you were right. The thing is, most heroines don’t deal with their doubters are directly or forcefully as Lo.

What do you think? Did The Girl on the Train make you want to read more books in the genre? Do you think the book is feminist? Why or why not? Let us know in person tomorrow, or in the comments below!

Between the Lines Book Club: Interviews with Paula Hawkins

between the lines book club logoWelcome back to Between the Lines Book Club, where we are discussing The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. We will meet in person on August 27 at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM, to discuss the book. Meanwhile, leave your comments below!

Since publishing The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins has been widely interviewed. Below, here are links to some interviews with her:

NPR

The Guardian

You can see an interview with Paula Hawkins here:

 

 

Meanwhile, Emily Blunt has been doing some press for the movie adaptation, which opens on October 7. You can see Emily Blunt talk about why playing Rachel was so challenging, and see the trailer for the movie, at Today.com.