Thursday, July 29, 2010

Against Medical Advice

"As the agitation gets worse, I plead with my mother to make it go away. She tells me to try to wait it out, and I curse at her because she won't help me. I curse at my mother? There's another person inside of me, taking over."

Against Medical Advice is written by James Patterson and Hal Friedman. Hal's son, Cory was diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome at age 5. For that point, life drastically changed for the entire Friedman family. I have never know anyone with Tourette's, and I've actually only seen it portrayed on TV. This book reveals the depth of pain and frustration of this disorder from a first hand account. It the diary of a mind that cannot control the body. It is a fight for Cory. It is a fight for his family. Between doctor's visits, numerous prescriptions, psychiatrist's visits, school meetings and advice, the family's fight to overcome the disease is a battle that forges through Cory's high school graduation.

I believe in the importance of reading non-fiction for many reasons. It challenges me to learn about something I do not know much about. Usually, I choose to read nonfiction memoirs or biographies because I find firsthand accounts more engaging and personal. To know someone's story is to learn about humanity in a new light- the pain, the love, the struggle that we all go through.

I highly recommend Against Medical Advice for any reader. I cannot fathom a mother's role in her child's struggle with Tourette's. I respect any mother, father, sister or brother who live with their family through the terrors described in this book. More than anything else, this book is hope.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Help

Voices. This entire book is about perspectives and the voices of the characters. Each section contains a couple chapters from the view of each of the three women. For a writer, this has it be difficult. Each section must have it's own dialect and sound. Each character has different language and speech. For the reader this mechanism is highly effective in portraying contrasting perspectives.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett could be compared to another southern writer, William Faulkner, and his novel The Sound and the Fury. Faulkner also divides his novel into sections depending on the storyteller. While Stockett's novel moves chronologically, Faulkner's novel does not, as it instead pieces together the story by recounting the character's memories. They both employed first person point of views for each of their characters because the issue of voice was directly related to the story's theme. While I enjoyed Faulkner's ability to create his characters, I struggled to organize the story itself. Thankfully I studied his story in a classroom and was able to appreciate his writing through discussion and my professor's notes.

In The Help, the perspectives of each of the characters is part of the Stockett's theme. At the end of the book, she gives a little background to her story of growing up in Mississippi. She writes that her favorite line in the book is when Skeeter comes to realize what writing the book with these women was really like, "Wasn't that the point of the book? For women to realize, we are just two people. Not that much separates us. Not nearly as much as I'd thought."

The strength of these women is incredible. I cannot put myself in their shoes because the time and place that I live in is drastically different from Jackson, Mississippi in 1962. Not only that, but much has progressed since then. Today people do discriminate. People today judge unfairly and criticize each other. People today are stubborn and prideful. But the problems of today cannot be equalized with the issues in society in the South in the 60s. It was a part of the southern culture that should not be overlooked.

Beyond that, what I love most about this book is how real each of these women is. One is a daughter, another a mother, and the third is a mother and matron of her community. They each hold a different role among their peers. Each takes a big risk in agreeing to work on the project of telling their stories with a white woman. They are honest and it becames an inspiration among each other as well as the other readers in their own church.

This book is inspiring. It shows a woman who chooses to pursue what she wants and knows she can do. She may be discouraged and frustrated when she loses friends and approval, but nevertheless she values her purpose and the project more. She is not afraid to ask questions about why things are the way they are even though they had been that way for so long. She knows she will feel rejection. She knows that she may stumble and fail. She realizes that nothing is guaranteed to her and which could mean that all her time and effort is for also for nothing.

I find the character of Miss Skeeter inspiring. It is not that I want to be exactly like her, but rather that I could have the courage that she had to ask for the stories. This may mean failure, and Miss Skeeter realizes that but keeps going. At times she second guessed her choices, but in the end she always knew what she had to do.

I highly recommend this book. If you did not grow up in the South and have not studied Southern Lit, this is a good read because it portrays the culture quite vividly through the lives of these women and their families. I appreciate the author's work and her realization in the (attempted) understanding of this subject. It is an engrossing read packed full of descriptions and intriguing characters. Enjoy!