A Year of Reading: Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo
“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”
— Max de Pree
I’ve been selecting a book to read each month from A Year of Reading, a nifty little guide that provides five options every month based on a theme. The books included are diverse in author and in genre, so I’m challenging myself to read more out of the box. Now, I’m a fairly eclectic reader anyway, but this challenge helps me to read more books by authors of color, and in different formats than I would normally pick up. January’s The Principles of Uncertainty for example, is mostly artwork, such as paintings and photography, with written musings along the way.
February featured comedian, Aziz Ansari, and his take on Modern Romance.
March was a particular favorite read of mine on the topic of justice with Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy.
Playing catch up, this month’s review features the theme from April: Creative Spirit.
Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo
I am at my core, a lover of memoir. I am in awe of fiction writers as I personally find it difficult to write fiction. I often think the truth is stranger than fiction and many of the craziest scenes or details in fiction books come from truth. For example, in Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, there’s a bit about a dead hippo the ringmaster keeps parading about during the circus, pretending the hippo is swimming in its tank. The hippo was in formaldehyde, and Gruen learned about the trick from a past employee of a real, traveling circus.
What Harjo has done with her memoir, Crazy Brave, is phenomenal, and as A Year of Reading suggests, it should be read aloud.
A well recognized poet, Harjo’s memoir encompasses story, lyric, and poem.
Overview from Goodreads:
In this transcendent memoir, grounded in tribal myth and ancestry, music and poetry, Joy Harjo, one of our leading Native American voices, details her journey to becoming a poet. Born in Oklahoma, the end place of the Trail of Tears, Harjo grew up learning to dodge an abusive stepfather by finding shelter in her imagination, a deep spiritual life, and connection with the natural world. She attended an Indian arts boarding school, where she nourished an appreciation for painting, music, and poetry; gave birth while still a teenager; and struggled on her own as a single mother, eventually finding her poetic voice. Narrating the complexities of betrayal and love, Crazy Brave is a memoir about family and the breaking apart necessary in finding a voice. Harjo’s tale of a hardscrabble youth, young adulthood, and transformation into an award-winning poet and musician is haunting, unique, and visionary.
I’m discovering more and more lyric novels lately. Books that tell a story, but do so partially, or completely, in poetry format. Rising authors like Jason Reynolds are doing so, using spoken word to communicate his tale. And in my own neck of the woods, artist and author Mai Chao shared the story of her Hmoob parents fleeing the Secret War, living in a refugee camp, and immigrating to America, in her beautiful lyric novel, Gathering Fireflies.
Harjo’s work is partially written in verse, and part traditional storytelling. It is beautifully oriented around directions (north, south, east, west), and place (her home of Oklahoma).
This book was a decadent treat for the wordsmith in me. Harjo’s writing comes from a place of loss, misdirection, and unknowing followed by the grace of time, perspective, and truth. In her own words:
“A story matrix connects all of us.
There are rules, processes, and circles of responsibility in this world. And the story begins exactly where it is supposed to begin. We cannot skip any part.”
― Joy Harjo, Crazy Brave
I recommend Crazy Brave for any artists out there. Harjo’s story, and her work, is utmost about resilience, and it inspired me. And for bookworms, if you haven’t yet checked out a lyric novel or memoir, consider this a jewel of an introduction to the craft.
It really should be read aloud.
Have you ever checked out a lyric piece of work?
What did you think of the genre?
What other books for artists, or on creativity, do you recommend?
Top Ten Books On My Spring To Be Read List
What books are on your to read list right now?
The recent signs of spring have me extra energized to tackle my To Be Read Pile. I’m a pretty avid reader, and I recently discovered the blog, The Broke and the Bookish, who hosts a Top Ten list every Tuesday focused on various book themes. Today we’re talking about the Top Ten Books On Our Spring To Be Read List. I don’t know about you, but I have the hardest time whittling down what book to read next because I want to read All. The. Books!!^$?!
If I drink All. The. Coffee. I will never have to sleep again!
I can just read and read and read and read…
Hmm, maybe not.
But here are the Top Ten Books on my Spring To Be Read List:
1. Persuasion by Jane Austen
The last of Jane Austen’s six novels I have yet to read. Once I finish the story of Anne Eliot I will have completed her most well known works and can move on to some of her novellas like Sandition and Lady Susan. Judging from the film versions I’ve seen (many times), Captain Wentworth is indeed worth waiting for.
2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Claimed as the new Eleanor & Park meets The Fault in our Stars, I’ve been hungry to read this book for awhile but busy finishing up some other titles. I even bought this one in hardcover. I don’t even really like hardcover. I’m a paperback girl. I just wanted to read this one that badly. It’s the story of two teens – one a total loner who contemplates death and looks to the future with a strict eye, the other a free spirit who lives in the moment and sees life as an adventure. Their worlds are about to collide. I want to find out what happens!
3. Cress by Marissa Meyer
The third book in The Lunar Chronicles; I’m committed now. I absolutely loved the first book, Cinder. I thought the second book, Scarlet, was ok. But friends assure me that Cress is worth the read. A futuristic spinoff of classic fairytales, this is the continuing adventure of a cyborg named Cinder who is on the run after the evil Lunar Queen, Levana, has a call out for her head and plans to marry the good-intentioned Emperor Kai. With the help of some fellow misfits, will Cinder overtake Levana before the Queen takes over their world?
4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
It’s been too long since I’ve read any Neil Gaiman and I must remedy that. What’s more intriguing than a pond that becomes an ocean? As a middle-aged man returns home for a funeral, he is reminded of the people he grew up with and the stories they each told.
5. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Bestseller in the early 2000’s, all my friends read this one, but I didn’t. I was afraid I couldn’t handle the subject matter. But this winter I happened upon the book in a Little Free Library near my house and decided it was time I checked it out. Despite its serious subject matter, I’m really looking forward to reading this one.
6. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Long before there was Christian Grey, the leading man with the wealth and power was Dorian Gray. A favorite old film of mine, the black and white version of course, I’m excited to read the novel for the first time. This title was selected by my book club as our classic this year and I’m really looking forward to our discussion.
7. The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless
Another book I had to get in hardcover because I couldn’t wait. I’m a huge fan of author Jon Krakauer, who wrote Into the Wild, the story of Chris McCandless. Now, Chris’s sister, Carine, has written her own telling of her family’s history and the days leading up to her brother’s nomadic life.
8. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
A few years ago I had a year of comedy, where half of the books I read were humorous memoirs. I think this year may be my year of YA. I’ve got so many young adult books on my list. And one of them is Eleanor & Park. Even the colored pencil sketch cover looks like spring to me. How could I possibly say no to a love story between two misfit teens when the leading lady has red hair?
9. Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova
I’m not shy about admitting the fact that I disliked Jane Eyre. I know, I know, such sacrilege from an English major! What can I say? I’m more of a Heathcliffe/Wuthering Heights kinda girl. However, I really enjoyed This House is Haunted which is an adaptation of Jane Eyre, and Wildalone has some notes of Eyre as well. I do enjoy a good paranormal read and this one seems intriguing!
10. The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
I’m embarrassed to admit how long this beautiful book has sat on my TBR shelf. It’s been an alternate in the TBR Challenge for 2 years and since I never had to use my alternates I didn’t get to it. This year I made it part of my challenge, determined to finally read it. I love the idea that the lead character can see ghosts by cooking up recipes from them. And this is what sets her off on a journey of family secrets.
That’s my Top 10 books to read this spring.
What titles are on your spring list?
55 Things To Do in Fall
Fall is my favorite season of the year. It’s one of the few things that make living in the Northern states worthwhile and putting up with snow – our autumn is completely and utterly GORGEOUS!
Let’s go enjoy it!
55 Things To Do in Fall
1. Make soup.
2. Decorate for Halloween
3. Drink apple cider.
4. Write a poem about the beauty of autumn.
5. Snuggle under the covers.
6. Visit a pumpkin patch.
7. Change over your closets – delight in a new wardrobe.
8. Start reading a really thick book.
9. Learn to make a great cup of tea.
10. Deal with having to wear socks again.
11. Buy fun socks.
12. Watch monster movies.
13. Wear a cozy sweater.
14. Cheer for Football Season.
15. Carve pumpkins.
16. Drink red wine.
17. Go apple picking.
18. Tune in for your favorite TV show’s fall premiere.
19. Rake your neighbor’s yard, invite them to jump in the leaf piles with you.
20. Make and then devour pumpkin bars.
21. Light a candle or 20.
22. Take a long, relaxing bath.
23. Delight in the absurd weather changes that allow for mittens and flip flops at the same time.
24. Go hiking and enjoy the fall colors.
25. Spider web your house…at your own risk.
26. Make leaf rubbings – use them as stationary.
27. Wear slippers on your day off.
28. Enjoy a mug of hot cocoa – and as many marshmallows as your heart desires.
29. Host a Halloween party.
30. Eat only orange and black foods for a day.
31. Have a campfire.
32. Put flannel sheets on your bed.
33. Watch or read The Walking Dead.
34. Attend a live theater performance or concert.
35. Drink a pumpkin spice latte.
36. Have a Sunday Funday.
37. Marathon watch horror movies on AMC’s Fear Fest.
38. Participate in the wacky holidays.
- October 11th: Take Your Teddy Bear to Work Day
- October 12th: Moment of Frustration Day
- October 14th: Be Bald and Free Day
- October 17th: Wear Something Gaudy Day
- October 21st: Count Your Buttons Day
- October 21st: National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day
- October 25th: Punk for a Day Day
- October 29th: National Frankenstein Day
- October 30th: National Candy Corn Day
- October 31st: Increase Your Psychic Powers Day
39. Watch your favorite trilogies.
40. Keep warm with a steamy romance novel.
41. Hold a pint of beer with fingerless gloves.
42. Plan your Halloween costume.
43. Write a long letter to a friend.
44. Plan your Thanksgiving menu.
45. Try to avoid getting a cold.
46. Name your pumpkins.
Meet Ezekiel, Clay Matthews, Penelope, Rex,
Constantine, Goliath, and Niles.
Missing: Paco and Abendego
47. Experience the bizarre horror musical that is Repo!: The Genetic Opera.
48. Buy in-season vegetables. SQUASH!!!
49. Eat apple pie.
50. Go for a hayride.
51. Have a chili cook off.
52. Visit a haunted house, graveyard, or corn maze.
53. Hand out candy for Trick or Treat.
54. Spend time with family. No social media/phones/computers allowed.
55. Get Thankful with a gratitude journal.
What are your favorite things about fall season?