Changed My Mind

I really wanted to get into Nafisi’s memoir. I even attempted to push toward page 100, but I just couldn’t do it. I am officially giving up. While reading, I imagined myself flipping through various other unread books that sit patiently on my bookshelves. As I slowly turned the pages of this memoir, I hoped to suddenly become interested in the characters. I wished that just one would stand out for me and force me to keep reading to learn more about her/him, but it never happened. The characters blend and mesh together. For me the character names were just that…names on a page. No scene visuals appeared in my head. I couldn’t hear the characters talking. Nothing. There is no timeline or particular focus, so the author randomly bounces around from present to past. Every now and then she’ll mention the assigned book that her selected students are reading, probably only because she forgot that was supposed to be the focus of the book. So, short of 100 pages, I’ve decided to put Reading L… in Tehran down. Sorry to disappoint and hopefully this won’t become a summer reading habit.

Next on the list is Obama’s book, which is currently a bestseller. After reading two duds, I just don’t know if I can take a chance on another slow moving story. I might have to read a few of my personally selected fiction books and come back around to books others have recommended. I’m going to read the first page of Obama’s book and make a quick, on the spot decision.We’ll see.

I love my boyfriend, but he’s a History major (who finds historical documents entertaining and fun-lol) and I’m an English major. Sometimes it just comes down to two people having two different tastes–maybe even tolerance levels.

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9 thoughts on “Changed My Mind

  1. Hi – will you please read the question I left you on the May 21st page about Khaled Hosseini? Also, did you read Barack’s book The Audacity of Hope? It was good, but he is young and doesn’t have a giant-sized story – YET. Still, I would recommend it.

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  2. Hello Melony. I’m going to repost your comment here and then follow-up with my reply:

    “I love the title of your blog and its design is fantastic. I do want to ask you a difficult question, though, if you would allow me to. I read an archived post in which you talked about the fact that there are so few black authors on the bestseller list. I am asking because I am a book reviewer for a newspaper and I realize that in the past two years I have done only a limited number of books by black authors: The Autobiography of Frederick Douglass, Invisible Man, Things Fall Apart, and On Beauty are some I can think of that I have reviewed. Sometimes I stay away from black literature I am not very familiar with because I don’t want to offend my African American readers with faulty analysis – don’t want them to think I am lame or full of b.s., like what’s this white chick doin’ tryin’ to talk about black issues… I don’t want to think in terms of black and white, or color at all, as in “I didn’t think I would like this because he’s Afghani,” or “I can’t relate to books written by (black) (white) people.” Why do you think we persist in dividing ourselves up by colors? Maybe, too, the really successful books which become classic literature aren’t about color at all, but about the human experience? As far as I know there is only one race of man – homo sapiens, and we all belong to it. I am not asking to be sarcastic or offend anyone at all, but to get at some real answers. Nobody ever asks, and if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. Thanks.”

    I am not sure what your question is here. Are you asking about my comment concerning there being so few black authors on the bestseller list? I found it interesting that the books you previously reviewed for your newspaper were books from your typical high school literary canon. These are the books that White America has access to. How often do you stroll through the African-American fiction section at bookstores (that have one) or look at websites with an African-American literary focus? Do you ever wonder what African-Americans are reading? As a book lover, I don’t shy away from literature that I am not very familiar with. I’m open to giving most books a chance regardless of the color of the author or characters.

    If each book we read features human characters, aren’t they all in some way about human experiences? When do we choose to identify them as black and white literature? Who applies these labels and what purpose do they serve? To address your fears of reviewing black literature, when I read book reviews, I don’t really care about the color of the reviewer–unless they say something that seems out of line. Another one of your questions was why do we persist in dividing ourselves up by colors? I don’t think this is a question that African-Americans tend to ask themselves, honestly. I think people in general tend to gravitate toward things that they are most comfortable with, whether that be books or other people. I hope I answered your question. If not, please feel free to pose it again. Thanks for the compliments and comments on the site! I wasn’t offended by your question and I hope you weren’t offended by my reply. You’re right, if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

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  3. I’m back with one more reply to your comments, Melony. I haven’t read Obama’s other book, but I’ve glanced at it in all its thickness on my boyfriend’s shelf. It is not on my list of future reads. 😉

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  4. Thanks for replying so quickly. I am sorry – my question was definitely ambiguous. Before you castigate the African American novels I reviewed into the hell of the high school literary canon, let me explain. I have bachelors and masters degrees in Latin and Classics and a masters degree in African Studies, particularly ancient Roman Africa. I teach Latin in an at risk, low income, high minority population high school in a town that devalues education and in which there is little parental support and almost no support for our black students. I use my newspaper column to educate parents to the literature which their children read for the AP curriculum.

    Yes, I think my question was why do we think in terms of color when selecting a book, and about your bone to pick with USA Today. I think you are right, what we feel comfortable with is what we choose. You did ask how often do I stroll through the African American section – very often. Read a web site devoted to African American literature – I’ve read several of the ones you have listed on your blogroll. And I do wonder what my African American friends and readers are reading quite often. The fact that you felt compelled to ask me highlights the divisiveness we really do have in our country.

    But, no, if there are human characters in a book, it does not mean the book articulates the human experience well enough to become a classic piece of literature. I read your suggested book by John Ridley about Jackie Mann. While that is probably not going to be the classic that Narrative of the Life of a Slave is, it does have the qualities of a classic which transcend color. People of all colors go through what he endured. But, maybe ultimately what I want to know is a question you asked in your reply – who applies these labels? Maybe we all do?

    Thanks again for your swift reply. Kepp up the great work – you have an excellent blog.

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  5. Naysue please don’t take my comments as offensive. In my first post on your blog I asked how you maintain discipline as a reader. You said you just plow through books one at a time.

    So far you have put down two books midway without reaching their conclusions. This may be an anomaly for you. But doesn’t serious reading require much more effort than what you’ve demonstrated thus far?

    To me reading like writing or physical exercise is a solitary effort. To wait for the author to transport you nirvana is unrealistic. That’s why movies and television and radio to a lesser extent will always trump books in the realm of immediate emotional impact. It’s easier to register a character on screen or voice on radio.

    Reading is much more deliberate. Like the written word it has to be considered in context with what you bring as an individual. That is why the classics are so important in literature. Each novelist and reader knowingly or unknowingly builds on the bricks and mortar of the past.

    I’m drawn to word choices or phrasing. The opening lines of Their Eyes Were Watching God just leave me stunned. How did Zora dream up such poetry? I’m always simultaneously perusing through the dictionary amazed at an author’s word selection like ochre.

    Sure characters remain important. I definitely love the Hannibal Lechter series of novels. But I don’t use one standard. Some books provide sheer excitement or entertainment through plot lines or characters. I just read a page turner of a ghost story, Heart Shaped Box, by Joe Hill who is Stephen King’s son. Yet other books require time to be digested.

    I don’t believe that one must subordinate their reading preferences to consensus makers or literary critics. I do feel however that serious reading requires stamina and mental gymnastics on the part of the reader.

    As usual your blog provokes deep thoghts and passions. Keep up the good work.

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  6. Melony – Now that you have further explained why you selected certain books, I understand. As a former teacher of low-income/at-risk/minority youth I also feel your struggle. Since we are both book lovers, I would be very interested in hearing some of your own book recommendations. It will give me an opportunity to see where you’re really coming from—and it doesn’t matter if they’re all White, Hispanic, Asian, or Black literature.  Again, thank you for your comments. I’m just a blogger posting my opinions, I never would have imagined that I would receive these types of questions and comments. Your words and compliments are appreciated more than you know.
    Submariner – You always have to be weary when someone begins a statement with, “please don’t take my comments as offensive.” *Wink*
    So, as an avid reader are you not allowed to lose interest (or never gain interest) in a book? This year, I have read nineteen books while working a very stressful full-time job. My goal was to finish as many books as possible (even classics that I was embarrassed to admit I had not read) before starting my graduate program in the fall. As expected, when school begins I will be forced to read and complete numerous books. I am positive that I will not enjoy every single one, but the choice of putting it down will not be available to me. Usually, I can complete a book in at least two or three days if I really enjoy it. If I’m not feeling a book, then it takes much longer than that—weeks even. Therefore, the time that it takes to complete a book that doesn’t spark my interest if I were to push on would cut into time for other books that I might enjoy.
    Lately, the issue with my reading has been that I am not personally selecting these books. I am allowing my curiosity of what makes a book a bestseller/critically acclaimed/award winner to make selections for me. I also am relying on the suggestions from close friends who are very different from me and have very different life experiences, opinions, and tastes. This method of selecting books has been similar to gambling in Las Vegas. Sometimes you get lucky and other times you leave the table disappointed and beating yourself up.
    I will admit, it is a disgrace to have a blog where I claim to be a book lover and here I haven’t even finished two out of the twenty-one books I have read this year. Yet, when I go to Amazon I’m always pleased to see that there are other avid readers like me who haven’t finished these books either. As I have progressed into an avid read, I honestly feel like there is not enough time in my life (no joke, I’m being serious) to waste on books that don’t grip, inspire, motivate, stimulate, draw, entertain, sadden, paint-a-picture, etc.
    Thank you for your comments. Now that I know someone is watching and making tabs on the novels I choose not to complete, I will do better.  (kidding)

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  7. Hey, Naysue. These are my favorite books I have reviewed: both Hosseini books will appear in the article this Wednesday;
    Vonnegut
    Eat, Pray, Love
    No Country for Old Men
    Confederacy of Dunces
    Shadow of the Wind
    Milagro Beanfield War
    1984 and Finding George Orwell in Burma
    The History of Love
    Bless Me, Ultima
    The Idiot
    Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
    The Birth of Venus
    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
    The Souls of Black Folk (W.E.B. Dubois was a Latin prof, you know:)
    The Book Thief
    Frederick Douglass

    Those are just a few of my favorites. There have been too many articles to list them all!

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  8. Naysue you’re right. Life is too short to read everything so one has to be selective. The great thing is that reading is an activity that can range from frivolity to high intellectual pursuit. For me reading takes the place of going to church as a spiritual exercise.

    Reading can be much like running. There are times when I’m cruising and times when every corpuscle is required to not only endure but overcome fatigue. Sometimes I do put books down never to return to them again.

    My habit has been to read two or three books simultaneously and allow my mood to dictate how to partition my time. I also watch C-SPAN BookTV or read reviews and blogs like yours for inspiration. It is reassuring for me to look at your reading list and see that some books intersect with my own picks. (By the way I have always wanted to read Tayari Jones. I hear good things about her.)

    Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. As a reader and/or writer (I think you’re a budding writer but I might be mistaken) how much are you willing to suffer? I hardly think of myself as exemplary but I develop my skill as a reader through a process of accretion. I try to go outside of my comfort zone. Kind of like lifting weights or running. Somethings are beyond my capacity but I’m willing to challenge myself. If I read something bad I try to think why is it bad or how would another author make it better.

    Again my purpose is not to be churlish. Unfortunately, I don’t get the opportunity to engage in literary discussions so this is a lot of fun for me. I also enjoyed your exchange with Melony.

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  9. I ahve enjoyed your exchange, as well, submariner. Have you read More Liberty Means Less Government, by any chance? It is by Walter Williams, a professor at George Mason University. It’s not a novel, but something like a 200+ page monograph put out by the Hoover Institute, although you can order it from Amazon. I was thinking of reviewing it for my column which will run on July 4th along with Iacocca’s new book Where Have All The Leaders Gone. Naysue, has your boyfriend heard of him?

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