Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Books and Bread

A couple of weeks ago I hit the downslope to 40 and to celebrate, I ordered myself four books I’ve been wanting to read, but couldn’t get through interlibrary load. Unbelievably, I was able to find them all used, so I didn’t have to break any Buy Nothing rules (I did feel a twinge of guilt at the authors not getting my contribution to their royalties).

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I’ve been experimenting with Mark Bitman’s no-knead bread, with mixed success. This book takes a similar principle, but simplifies the process even further.

In the first weekend I had the book, I made three boules, two baguettes, a ciabatta and two pizzas--all delicious and easy (although the baguettes did come out slightly flat). Next I am going to try the whole wheat sandwich bread, because there’s only so much white bread a person can eat in one weekend (groan).

The Maternal is Political. I am only partway through this book, but I have loved every essay I’ve read so far--I feel so jazzed, so fired up, so “Right on Sistah!” when I read it. Not only is it really good writing by a variety of women--both writers and politicians--but it’s so varied in what constitutes politics and the political, in how these moms got involved or how they express it. Go read it now. And then go vote.

The Creative Family. I admit it, I’m something of a Soulemama addict. I go to her sight like some women turn to fashion magazines--to fuel my sense of inadequacy…so of course I was dying to read this book. I’m only partway through and while I agree with most of what she says about parenting and creativity, the way she says it rubs me the wrong way. The writing style is kind of condescending (it reminds me of when we write for the public at work-- “if you use the word ’we’ instead of ’you’ people won’t feel like you’re preaching.”) Still, it has a lot of neat project ideas in it (some of which I have already borrowed from her website), and I’m looking forward to trying the homemade glue (we’re almost out of Elmer’s and I’m slightly disturbed by that cow on the label--is that what the glue is made out of??). Also, even though reading Soulemama’s blog has promoted my inferiority complex, it’s pushed me to try harder to be creative and try more projects both with and for my kids and for myself.

Road Map to Holland. I first encountered Jennifer Graf Groneberg’s writing on Mamazine, and later found my way to her blog and Parent Dish Column. I was drawn to her writing by her beautiful prose and her unassuming honesty. I was especially interested in reading this book because her life parellel mine in some ways--three boys, one set of twins, four years between the older boy and his brothers--but diverges in that her twins were born prematurely and one of them has Down syndrome. But I also wanted to read it because of Jennifer’s lovely writing style, because I always enjoy a good motherhood memoir, because her casual references to the light in the cottonwoods or the change in the aspen leaves near her Montana home always give me a twinge of homesickness for my own native Colorado (a twinge I relish like a tongue probing a toothache), and because I was curious…curious to know if life with a baby with Down syndrome was that different from my own life, and if so how and why?

I devoured Roadmap to Holland in the first three days after it arrived, staying up too late at night. Jennifer’s writing has the power to bring her reader directly into the moment with her. I was in agony when, at the end of Chapter 3 the twins were still in the NICU (they are home by Chapter 5), and even though I did not have the complications of premature birth or an earth-shifting diagnosis, the book took me right back into those early months of bone-aching exhaustion, the confusion, the sense of being overwhelmed, that filling out a form or making a phone call was almost a Herculean feat.
I appreciate her stark honesty about her own emotions--shock, confusion, anger, guilt, sadness and how these emotions evolved over time, doubling back on each other (at one point the physical therapist says that development doesn’t take place in a straight line, but in circles with overlap; it’s almost as if emotions progress in the same fashion)--and how the story ends on a note of forgiveness. I also appreciate knowing more about Down syndrome and the challenges--and joys--the families of children with Down syndrome experience.


P.S. New post up at Capital Walks.


  1. Happy Birthday!

    I loved The Maternal Is Political so much. Now I want to read Roadmap To Holland, too!

  2. Andrea, you cover the Mama-lit front so I don't have to. I love birth stories when they go well or with just a taste of danger. I like them so much that I'd like to edit a book of home birth stories someday. But that's my limit.
    Since becoming a mother, when I read (or see a film) about babies or children who are sick or hurt or lost, I want to fold up from the pain.

  3. Books are bread! Bread for the soul. Thank you for reading my book, and for writing about it with such care and love.



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