Memoir Book review: The Invisible Girls

August 24, 2013

I enjoyed reading the book Invisible Girls by Sarah Thebarge.  Her memoir read like a diary, where I felt like I entered into her world and hardships.  The memoir was an interesting contrast and comparison between her personal struggles with breast cancer, spirituality, relationships and infertility with the struggles of a family (mother and five daughters) she met on the train from Somali.  Her honesty and ability to dig deep into her thoughts and feelings pulled me into her book, gaining new understandings along the way.

I have had many encounters with people from other countries including refuges.  Sarah, however, allowed me to really picture the culture and language clash with her details of everyday situations.  I was inspired by Sarah’s humility of what she didn’t know and her willingness to keep trying to help in a situation that wasn’t simple.

I could relate to many of the spiritual challenges Sarah talked about in her story.  Though I can see blessings all around me, it can be hard to feel God with health issues, unemployment and Cancer that is abundant with family and friends.  My mind and heart don’t always connect with the questions that only seem to provide a glimpse of answers when I look at the Sun and the Stars.  Many of the spiritual clichés that I have grown up with seem to bring further disconnect from the God in which I hope is watching over me.  I could feel my heart’s brokenness yet a glimpse of encouragement as her memoir seemed to illustrate a Spirit that resided within her.


Memoir Review: Runaway Girl by Carissa Phelps

June 7, 2013

I haven’t written a review for a while.  I have read through some powerful books, but can’t always recall the details when I am in writing mode.  The book Runaway Girl is not one to forget.  An incredible woman, beating the odds, and taking her experience and making an impact.

Carissa Phelps did not have an easy life.  Family problems led her to run away at 12 where she was led into prostitution by a pimp.  Many years on the streets, in people’s homes, institutions, and with family members was problematic.  It is a highly emotional book, especially having two daughters ages 12 and 14.  The heartache and struggles of Carissa puts you into her story.  throughout her book you see patterns of moving forward (away from destruction) and backwards as she continues to work through her trauma and current challenges.  Though it can seem like she is encountering some of the same situations again, you can also see the growth in her as she develops some coping strategies, understanding, strength and support from people who care about her.  It is a great portrayal of the slow path that leads to healing.  As she continues to develop confidence and find herself she pursues a path as an attorney and advocate.  A courageous woman who chose to humbly enter her own story to help others.

I was moved throughout this book.  A difficult read, that drew me in for more.  I am always encouraged when someone chooses to keep working through their trauma, and admitting its impact upon their life.  Sexual trauma has a significant impact, especially as a young child/teen.  I was struck by her ability to claim what happened for what it was:  A story of surviving sex trafficking vs her choosing to prostitute herself.  Many women and young girls are not really choosing this path.  Most of them have come from traumatic backgrounds (sexual and non-sexual) that make them vulnerable.  I have heard the term “I might as well get paid for it” before, and can understand this thinking.  Unfortunately this often involves way more than sex, and the road out isn’t always so simple.

I have had my share of traumas and situations where I have acted out of the trauma.  It isn’t easy to erase what can feel automatic at times, or to move in a direction that I believe is right, when I don’t always have guilt that should draw me away from destructive choices.  I see where much progress, understanding, and better choices have created much growth and healing in my life.  Learning from others’ stories is helpful.  Having a support network and people who love you with grace is huge.  When grace is given we can dig deeper to the darker places and find the light.

Thank you Carissa for sharing your story with us.  May we all find hope that there is a way out of any situation – no matter how bad it may seem.

 


Memoir Review: Promise Me by Nancy G. Brinker

March 19, 2013

Promise Me was an amazing book on so many levels.  Nancy G. Brinker is the founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization launched in honor of her sister who died of breast cancer.  Nancy shares of the struggle of losing her sister to breast cancer, her own battle with breast cancer, her research about breast cancer and the relationships that hold her along the way.  It is a must read for anyone who has or knows someone battling with cancer or someone wanting to make an impact for a cause.

Nancy writes in a way that most captures my attention, she writes from her heart.  Whether she is giving medical information, or walking you through her story, her passion and love is evident.  She draws me into her family, into her relationships, and the promise she made to her sister about making a difference for breast cancer.  Her mother, instills the necessity of making a difference and finding joy in serving others which is integrated in the heart and soul of Nancy’s life.

Throughout the book, Nancy gives some incredible information on breast cancer and research.  She shares stories from other survivors and various treatment options as well as the importance of advocating for yourself in the medical system.  The end of the book includes 11 pages of resources regarding financial, treatment, trials, diagnosis, and prevention.

 


Memoir Review: Grace, Gold and Glory by Gabrielle Douglas

March 19, 2013

I really enjoyed reading olympic gymnast, Gabrielle Douglas’ book.  My family and I loved watching her spirit and skill in the olympics.  My youngest daughter’s name is Gabrielle, so it added an extra dimension to our interest in following her.

What I loved most about reading her book is the positive outlook she has at such a young age.  Though she has had many challenges, she was honest about her struggles, and grateful to those who helped her along the way.  It is amazing to see how many people supported her on her journey, and aided in her being the success she is today.  At the same time, she was able to persevere with her faith, and inner strength, holding on to her dream.

This is a great book for both adults and tweens/teens.  It is an inspiring book for an athlete and people who have high aspirations.  Gabrielle is an example of someone who continues to be true to her values, whether she is struggling with daily life or a woman of great success.  Thanks Gabrielle for sharing with us.


Memoir Review: Torn by Justin Lee

February 18, 2013

I love hearing Justin share about his process of searching for truth in the Gay vs. Christian debate with humor and grace. Though this feels like my most political post yet, it really doesn’t need to be. Searching for truth is always the right path, and this generally involves looking at our own beliefs and biases.

Justin is a conservative Christian who is gay. He initially seeks to find a way to change his orientation through ex gay turned straight organizations. He asks a lot of questions, trying to understand from an intellectual and personal viewpoint. He is surprised to discover much of the testimonies of the ex gays, are giving half-truths, trying to bring hope to others, yet denying the reality of their experience. He seeks answers through the Christian community, and through the LGBT community, not always fitting in well with either. He also studies scripture to learn more about the context the Bible verses against gays were written from.

Justin has a great way of sharing his journey without criticizing other people. He asks questions, and seeks to understand the perspective and wisdom of other people, and to find the right path for himself while following his personal Christian beliefs. I see a man always striving for integrity and relationships built on truth. I admire him for stepping out on this issue, putting himself in the line of fire, so others can understand we aren’t the judge of who can and cannot be a Christian.

Before I read this book, I have had many of the same questions Justin Lee has about this battle of Christians against gays. Though I am a heterosexual, I disagree with the cruelty that has often come about from a rather young age for people with different sexual orientations. Many years ago, I encountered some pretty severe criticism from people, because as a Christian I have been open on this issue, and couldn’t honestly say I thought it was wrong to be gay. Having had close gay friends in the past, I saw the same spirituality and challenges in them, as others who were straight. I questioned many of the scriptures he reviewed, also recognizing how often woman can be treated with the same disrespect throughout the Bible, and many people take this as a cultural issue, not a moral one. Because I am human not God, I believe that it is better for me to focus on what is loving than on what is right, and trust that my Higher Power can be the one to teach each of us what is right.

I highly recommend everyone read this book and share it with others they know. Regardless of whether you agree with his truth, you will learn much about compassion, grace, the personal struggles, and seeking truth.


Memoir review: Crash Into Me by Liz Seccuro

February 18, 2013

I was deeply moved by reading Liz’s book Crash Into Me. It was an extremely difficult book to read, not because of her writing, but because of the treatment she received  during and after being sexually assaulted. She is an extremely courageous woman willing to share her story and look at the truth regardless of how dark it is. This is a highly significant book that I hope is read by students and facility in our schools and universities.

When Liz was a student at the University of Virginia in 1984, she was raped at a fraternity party. She immediately does the right thing by going straight to the hospital and to the college administration. However, most of the blame is placed on Liz and little action is done to report the incident to the police or to investigate what happened. Liz continues to fight for some sort of resolution, and none is granted. She chooses to focus on making the best she could of her college years, yet still effected by the tragedy of the rape and the aftermath.

In 2005, Liz receives an apology later from one of her rapists, William Beebe, apologizing for “harming her”. A correspondence and a search for justice begins to follow. William reaches out to her, twisting his understanding of the 9th step, seeking to make amends. (FYI, a rapist writing a letter to someone he raped, doesn’t make amends by sending a letter to the person he harmed causing more harm). Unfortunately his lack of understanding what he has done to her, his sudden appearance, and his inability to be completely truthful creates additional hardship. Liz, however, with the letter and the right support, is able to finally receive a glimmer of justice for what was done to her.

Often when I read a story, I am unable to remember much of it a short time later. I become engrossed in a story, then somehow can’t retain it. Liz’ memoir is not one of those stories. This is a book that will haunt me in the years to come as I prepare my daughters for college. I am so grateful that she was willing to share her story, to bring awareness on such a difficult topic, and to continue to stay strong in spite of all those who shamed her. The obstacles she faced were numerous, and most unnecessary. I can’t believe how many ignorant, selfish, dishonest people she had to face. Fortunately, she also met some amazing, compassionate, loving, wise people. May her future be filled with blessings as she brings a light to others facing the darkness. Thank you for sharing your story and bringing hope where it isn’t often found.


Memoir review: Believe by Eric LeGrand

February 18, 2013

I love reading inspiring books. I am drawn to the stories where people learn to live in the middle of challenging circumstances, share about their internal process, are humble and make a difference to those around them. Believe is one of these memoirs. Eric was a successful football player who was paralyzed after a tackle. Before his injury he was taught about values and commitment from his mom, raising him to be a person of integrity. His coaches taught him about team work, flexibility and the bigger picture.

With little hope for a future, he began a recovery program with the support of his therapists, friends, team-mates, family and faith. Eric chooses to look at the positive and hold on to his beliefs.  He sees the good in the people around him, and his relationships become stronger.  He is blessed by the kindness of strangers and fans as well cheering him on.

Eric’s Memoir is one of the most positive books I have read.  It was a pleasure to read, and helped me to see the importance of our outlook in life, and holding on to hope.  It isn’t easy struggling with aspects of life that I wish were easier.  At times I feel frustrated, angry at others, and disappointed with my perception of God.  However, when I look closely at the people who care, and see how they care, and the relationships I have, some of that frustration melts away, and gives me the strength to start another day.


Memoir Review: Crash by Carolyn Roy-Bornstein, MD

January 2, 2013

Crash was an amazing read. Carolyn is a fabulous writer who was able to draw you into her experience of her son’s serious accident by a drunk driver. Being a doctor she explores her struggle of dealing with her son’s injuries, the tragedy of being hit by a drunk driver, the girl-friends’ death, the medical issues that arise and making sense of her experience from both a doctor and family member perspective. She is honest, thoughtful, and inspiring.

One thing that struck me was the randomness of the accident. Many things in life can seem random, in the sense that everything can change in a moment. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a simple decision that turns costly. Even those who make poor choices, have a sense of randomness. Many people pay costly for their mistakes, or cause great harm, while others pay less outer consequences. Life isn’t always fair from our reality point. This can be a hard one for me to swallow. I strive for integrity, yet it doesn’t mean my life will be easy or pain-free.

Carolyn’s story was inspiring in the way she was able to grow from her experience and find the gold nuggets in all the losses. She strived to find the balance between doctor and patient, and to use this experience to make her a better doctor. The tragedy of her son’s injuries was brought in perspective by the death of his girlfriend. Her recognition of own lack of understanding of depression and brain injuries is very humbling, as she strives to learn more about a subject so relevant to her son and later becomes an advocate for people with Brain Injuries. She is honest in the struggle, yet looks for the positive, and grows closer to her family in the process. In the heart of the story, is Carolyn’s evidence of grace. “I don’t believe in fate. I believe we deal with the hand we are given. We make our own meaning. We find our own grace. Grace as a kind of acceptance. Grace as thankfulness. Grace as new meaning for a changed life.”

What a way to begin 2013, to move forward in grace. The year 2012 had many challenges and blessings, yet grace is what brings growth, love and humility. Through the health challenges, the healings, the relationships and losses, may grace help me live in the moment in a place of love, acceptance, gratitude and deeper understanding. I don’t know what 2013 will bring me. I can feel fear at the possibilities of financial struggles, health problems, and learning to navigate through relationships. At the same time, I trust that whatever arises, I will walk into it, grow, and becoming a greater person, more aware of the spirit within, around and above, and find the gold nuggets to receive and to give.

Happy New Year everyone. May grace abound to you.


Memoir Review My Sisters the Saints by Colleen Carroll Campbell

December 2, 2012

I loved reading My Sisters the Saints.  A great spiritual memoir, learning about the different saints and what makes them special.  Colleen writes an interesting book, as she shares her own spiritual questions and learning to apply spiritual principles to life’s challenges.  I could relate to many of her challenges, infertility, aging loved ones, making relationship decisions, and balancing personal desires when they seem to conflict.

Reading spiritual memoirs is one of my favorite ways to grow spiritually.  I love stepping into another person’s life and hearing how they live out their own beliefs and the way they process through them.  As she used books to learn about her mentors, I also use spiritual memoirs as role models to learn from.  Her book gave me both, memoirs in a memoir – gotta love that!  I am blessed to learn from her humility, her ability to dig deeper into the questions, and her desire to follow her heart and her values.  Thanks for a great read.


Memoir Review of Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu

December 2, 2012

I enjoyed reading the book Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu.  She honestly tells of her story in gymnastics and the struggles she experienced.  She is open and aware of many of her own battles, sharing her challenges in a self reflected way as she seeks to work through them.   It can be a hard book to read at times especially when hearing about the way she was treated by her father and professional coach.  She had some incredible coaches at times, and you can easily see how the positive influences impacted her.  Even the people who weren’t always kind, taught her valuable skills and traits that enhanced her career as she was open to learning from them.  It is encouraging to hear her story and her ability to succeed and find herself in spite of all the challenges.

Watching gymnastics is something I am often inspired by and am amazed at the dedication and heart many athletes have for the sport.  Often I want to give up in the personal and physical challenges, yet athletes learn how to work through these in order to accomplish their goals.  The passion they show for their sport seems to compel them to move forward.  Her story is a great reminder to me in learning to pick your battles, learning the lessons along the way, loving yourself, striving for the goal, and the great relationships that make all the difference.


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