“Let the wild rumpus start!”

“Let the wild rumpus start!”

Happy Birthday, Maurice Sendak!

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“king of all wild things.”- Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak

This beloved children’s author and illustrator turns 89 today, or at least he would have if he had not passed away in 2012. Best known for his book Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak has influenced children’s literature in so many ways. The story of Max and his adventures in the wild forest with its wild creatures is one of my favorites. Dressed in a wolf costume, Max lives out his wildest dreams of adventure and reveling with his new friends, he is eventually crowned the King of the Wild Things. Donning a wild crown, Max eventually decides to return back home to find a hot dinner waiting for him. Filled with such beautiful illustrations and enduring lines, Where the Wild Things Are encourages adults and children alike to give in to their sense of adventure and wildness.

Another favorite is Little Bear, a series about a bear and his family that Maurice Sendak illustrated. Little Bear goes on many adventures with his woodland friends, loves his mother and father, who is a sea captain, and is just a generally lovable little bear. The illustrations are less fantastical than those found in Where the Wild Things Are, but both are uniquely and beautifully Sendak.

If you have little ones, read them these books today and relish the illustrations and imagination of a truly unique artist. If you don’t have little ones running around, “let the wild rumpus start” all on your own!

Looking for another way to celebrate Sendak’s big day? Check out some of my favorite Wild Things-themed goods at the links below.

How cute are these max crowns? Perfect for a photo shoot, dress up, birthday party– the only limit is your imagination.

Wild things t-shirt? Yes, please. Wild things t-shirt for grown up dudes? YES, PLEASE!!! Wild things t-shirts for the whole family? I can’t even deal…

Awesome advice for a little boy or girl. Make sure they can see it everyday with this nursery decor. Let the wild rumpus start!

Looking for something a little sweeter? Tell them how much you love them with this nursery decor.  I’ll eat you up, I love you so.

Wild things matryoshka nesting dolls.  Need I say more?

Get your own copy of Where the Wild Things Are here.  Little Bear can be found here.

 

Happy Birthday, Maurice Sendak! May we all act a little more like a wild thing today and everyday in your honor.

 

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

I finished Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks just last week and I was pleasantly surprised at how I felt about the book. I expected to trudge through another book about biology and science (not my favorites) because I was tangentially interested in the topic of medical ethics. But I was surprised to find how drawn I was to the human element of the story. Contrary to the title, much of the book takes place after the actual life of Henrietta Lacks… or does it?

Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman who grew up in poverty in Baltimore, died in 1951. But part of her, specifically the cells taken from her cancerous tumor and cultured in labs by scientists all over the world, are still alive in 2017. It is this dichotomy of being that her family, as well as the reader, struggles to understand even years later.

Never before have I rooted for a journalist like I rooted for Rebecca Skloot. As a writer myself, I have a love/hate relationship with the urge to invade other peoples’ lives for the story that they have to tell. I understand it, even if it makes me squirm sometimes. The fact is, people are interesting and I love to hear their stories. I find myself wondering if others would react the same way that I did or if they would have different insights. Enter the squirmy feelings of sharing others’ stories, something intensely personal that can feel inauthentic if not done well. I started reading this book expecting the same of Rebecca. And at first, that’s exactly how I felt. I questioned her motives. I scoffed at her repeated attempts to get Henrietta’s family to give her any insight into their mother’s life. But reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, I found myself feeling her highs (the first time Deborah and Zakariyya saw Henrietta’s cells!) as well as her lows (the often unpredictable reception she got from the Lacks family). Her narration of a largely scientific story was entirely human. Like the Lacks family, she felt a drive to learn about Henrietta’s life. Hers was a need not just to share the story, as I expected, but to honor the woman.

This was made all the more complicated by the invasion of privacy into Henrietta’s life when doctors collected her cells without obtaining her consent in the first place. Although a standard practice at the time (and it is crucial to remember that fact when reading Skloot’s account), it has since raised many questions about informed consent and medical research. What are the ethical ramifications of scientists using Henrietta’s cells without her consent? How has this decision impacted medicine today? An interesting fact included in the Afterword states that “storing blood and tissues for research did not legally require informed consent” due to the legal differentiation between human research and tissue research. I was surprised to learn that after all this time and objection, informed consent was still not required to conduct research on a person’s cells. I am curious to see what impact Skloot’s book and the awareness it has generated has on scientific practices and law.

As a whole, I enjoyed the book, both for the knowledge I gained about the medical community as well as the stories I read about the Lacks family. I would recommend this book as an interesting and somewhat scientific read, with a touching human element. It didn’t change my life and probably won’t end up on my top recommended reading list but it is a solid book written by a skilled and compassionate journalist– yes, they do exist! My hat goes off to Rebecca Skloot for her perseverance in getting Henrietta’s story and her personal touch in sharing it.

Questions to continue your discussion:

  • How did race relations in Baltimore impact the process of Henrietta’s treatment and subsequent research conducted using her cells?
  • How did education impact the same?
  • How would you characterize the relationship between the Lacks family and the doctors at Johns Hopkins?
  • What do you think would happen in today’s world? Are there any similar ethical dilemmas facing scientists or academics?

Read the New York Times’ Sunday Book Review here.

Goodreads reviews summary and review here.

Read the New York Times’ review of the HBO based-on-the-book (which was an account-of-real-life) movie here. If you have watched the movie, what did you think? Was it as true to the book and the book was to the real-life account? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Our next book

We officially have our first book club selection of 2017. What are we reading?

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot! 

Why choose a nonfiction book? Don’t we normally revel in our fiction selections? Oh yes, we do. That is true. But we are also a science-loving bunch. And Skloot’s book, although nonfiction, reads like a story, a real page-turner. Skloot’s account of the cells and research that were so influential in the development of modern medicine, vaccinations, and cancer treatments is unique among the many papers that have been published about HeLa. She focuses on the woman behind the science, including what is known of her personal history, her family story, and the legacy of her life. And it is a fascinating story.

As you read, consider the following questions.

  • What are the ethical ramifications of scientists using Henrietta’s cells without her consent? How has this decision impacted medicine today?
  • How did race relations in Baltimore impact the process of Henrietta’s treatment and subsequent research conducted using her cells?
  • How did education impact the same?
  • How would you characterize the relationship between the Lacks family and the doctors at Johns Hopkins?
  • What do you think would happen in today’s world? Are there any similar ethical dilemmas facing scientists or academics?

Join us for our discussion on May 29th!

I’m back!

That’s right, I’m back! After a 2+ year hiatus, I’m officially back to the book club. This time, I have experience as a Special Educator under my belt, a 6 month old stealing my reading time, and another baby on the way. With a growing family, reading is my sacred “me time”– I know all you parents can relate.

Now I’m writing from sunny Monterey, California. Well, sunny today at least. Monterey can get gray and cloudy during the winter months. But, we are loving it here and soaking in every moment that we get in this charming city. The book club has also scattered to new corners of the world. Check our map to see where we all are!

We’re also reading new books. Of course, we always love the classics but there are so many new titles out there for us to weigh in on. Check back soon to see our first review of the new and improved Home Book Club.

Denise Kiernan Event!

Remember when we read Denise Kiernan’s The Girls of Atomic City?  If you enjoyed our discussion, I know you’ll be excited to hear about the upcoming discussion featuring Denise Kiernan herself! She’ll be speaking across the country throughout the year and coming to visit us here in Virginia in the next few weeks! A full range of dates and locations are available at her website, but here are the highlights for The Home Book Club members living in Virginia.

March 13th: 7:30 PM at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA

March 21st: 2:00 PM at the New Dominion Bookshop in Charlottesville, VA

March 22nd: 2:00 PM at the Omni Hotel in Charlottesville, VA

See the book club discussion Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Building a Community

Are you interested in giving back to your community? Can you use your love of language and communication to help others enrich their lives and learning? If this sounds like you, consider volunteering at your local library, leading an English as a Second Language (ESL)  group or tutoring session. If you’re in the Northern Virginia area, there’s a great opportunity right in your backyard! Every branch of the Loudoun County Public Library hosts ESL Conversation groups as well as pairs talented volunteers with interested students for one-on-one tutoring.

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The Gum Springs location is looking for volunteers to work as tutors and group leaders. Contact them via email or by phone. What a great opportunity to share your passion for reading with others! Plus, their new facility is beautiful. Help them celebrate their first “birthday” by contributing your time and talent to their wonderful program.

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Visit the Loudoun County Public Library website for more information and to find out how you can volunteer.

The Home Book Club has some exciting new projects coming up. Everything is still in development but it will be here soon, I promise! Here’s a hint: it’s related to this post and will offer a ton of opportunities for everyone to keep loving literature and learning new things!

Our next book!

Our next book is a recommendation from the local Loudoun County Virginia Public Library.

13438524Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior “transfixes from its opening scene, when a young woman’s narrow experience of life is thrown wide with the force of a raging fire.”

I went with this recommendation in part due to the important topics-big and small-included in this acclaimed novel. From the role of science in a faith-based community to the evolution of one woman’s identity through her life, Kingsolver takes on world-changing issues and life-changing experiences with the same brave gusto. These were the reasons that I picked up the novel, but the the luxurious language Kingsolver uses to portray such poignant themes was the reason I kept hanging onto it.  “In the lyrical language of her native Appalachia,” Kingsolver brings the sublime to the most mundane and everyday task.

We’ll be discussing this book on March 12th. Pick up your copy today and join us here to bring the sublime to our discussion.

Read the New York Times Sunday Book Review of Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior here.