Book #132: Orange is the New Jungle

After a semester hiatus from reading every book assigned to me by my students, I opened my heart and my mind (and my time, my precious precious time) to new books.

A few students bring me books, and I start this one then that one but the one I can't put down is the one I didn't expect to love.

Here's how it came to be.

The student asks me (respectfully) if I had heard of Netflix and I forgive her for being so naive and  say YES and she asks if I heard of Orange is the New Black and I half shout I LOVE WHEN THE VAN CRASHES INTO .....  and the student sees that she and I share a great deal of common ground in loving the same story, so lets her fearful respectful face down and hands me the memoir that started the Netflix series.

I didn't think I'd love it. Ten pages in, I'm thinking it was too much like the series, and I'm feeling downright guilty for sitting on a sofa reading instead of going out and running.

  Fifty pages in, I'm thinking the sofa is a great place to be,  I can run later, and I would pick  Piper Kerman, the author, for a friend.

Two hundred pages in and I would vote for Piper for most major offices, and I'm praying she buys the house next door one day. Yes, she did a few bad things, but yes, she found her talents and gave boldly of herself in this book.

If you've watched the series, you'll love the book.

If you haven't watched the series, you'll still love the book.

(And seriously, if you haven't watched the series, c'mon, just watch it. Please. Just. Watch. It. There are three seasons and they will break your heart and make you laugh crying).

Piper Kerman has a wry forwardness that is two parts awesome, one part sexy and one part muckraker.

  I can imagine (hope?) US  history classes fifty years from now assigning this book and (hopefully) discussing the pivot away from incarceration being an answer or solution for anything.  I hope my grandchildren look back at this book like we look back at The Jungle  (a super gross-out expose of the meatpacking industry -- if you haven't read it, you should probably read it on an empty stomach) and say "wow, thank goodness this country found a way to do things better than that because THAT wasn't working...."

 I have no doubt I will fight this student over the book, and try hard to keep it so that I can share it with more people. If I lose that fight I will go out and buy a copy for myself so I can re-read it and lend it to someone who is in need of that exact story.

THIS is how to Pray: The Veterans Village Christmas Widget Story

Last semester I often had more volunteers at dinners than were actually "needed" so I created jobs for them -- ask him this, move that, take this to that over there - the usual.  One night I asked a student to take down a few basics from the Veterans just so we could know them  better - their name, where they were from, their birthday, what they wished they might get for the holidays.

The list has a bit of everything, including variations on the following:

  • a new life
  • a bank account that will never empty
  • happiness
  • a job
  • a trip around the world with.... (or to see...)
One of the Veterans asked for a widget. 
Now, OK, a widget in this case is NOT a widget, it is me trying to not give free advertising to the  gamethingy people so they are glorified.

 Imagine it was an iBoxWiiPs345PadGalaxy if that helps.
Does it? No. Ok. Widget it is. 

The Veteran who asked for the widget did not KNOW that the universe likes to answer prayers, and the more specific the prayer, the better.

 The Veteran who asked for the widget didn't know the student volunteer who was making the list was a Veteran himself who LOVED widgets and actually had a widget to SPARE.

This Christmas we brought all sorts of goodies to the Veterans -- clothes, appliances, gift cards, towels, cookware, sheets -- but only one Veteran got what he asked for.

The universe sent him the widget. And two controllers. It was awesome to behold. 

Book # 131: Bloodline

Bloodline on Nefllix might not be an actual movie but I'm counting it as one because a student adamantly assigned it to me (you will LOVE it! how have you NOT watched it? this is WHAT you TALK about? Seriously? Watch it NOW!) and because it has  13 chapters which therefore make it an unofficial book.

Every single person who adamantly recommended this book was right.  I do love the Caribbean and intrigue and fishing and money laundering.

I loved it.

I loved the pace, the building and resolution of smaller and bigger stories across chapters.

I loved how it was it was set in Islamorada with boats coming in and out, and how Miami felt like the Great Urban North.

I loved the realistic wardrobe of sun bleached Guy Harvey shirts and sundresses, I loved the dive bars and the windy waves and I especially loved watching the actors sweat in the real light of the really intense Caribbean sun.

I loved every part of this until it ended and I realized I was stuck back in a world without boats and fish and brothers.