• What are you reading?
The Good Lord Bird, by James McBride. I like the voice, which makes me think of Mark Twain. John Brown is preposterous enough to be a Mark Twain character, with his freakish good luck and his inexplicable charisma, and I find it very easy to believe that when he mistakes Henry, the narrator, for a girl, he bulldozes over every attempt to correct him until everyone, including Henry, falls into line. But of course John Brown isn't a Mark Twain character: when he decides that a family he came across at random are pro-slavery, he is equally impervious to correction, and he murders them.
I would be happier reading this book if someone could assure me that Henry, who is the only child, the only Black person, and the only person in women's clothing living with John Brown's army, doesn't get raped.
• What did you recently finish reading?
Yes Please, by Amy Poehler. It's no Bossypants, but I enjoyed it. The bit I liked best was about needing to apologize.
I was a shitty version of myself. The shadow side. I made a lot of noise because I felt bad about hurting someone's feelings and I didn't want to get quiet and really figure out how I felt. I was afraid to lie down and put my hand on my heart and hear the tiny voice whispering inside me saying that I had screwed up.I like how accurately she voices the truths that she wishes were not true, in her apology letter from the head, and how unashamedly sincere she is about the part that she wishes were the whole truth, in her apology letter from the heart.
Your brain is not your friend when you need to apologize. Your brain and your ego and your intellect all remind you of the "facts." I kept telling myself that the only thing I was guilty of was not paying attention. Sure, I was being self-absorbed and insensitive, but who isn't? Sure, I should have been more on top of what I was saying, but wasn't that somebody else's job? Didn't everyone know how busy I was? Didn't Marianne and Chris take into consideration what a NICE PERSON I was? My brain shouted these things loud and clear. My heart quietly told a different story.
I like this even though it is not at all how I conceptualize my parts. When I discover that I owe someone an apology, the hurt of being criticized, the anger at being hurt, the shame of being in the wrong, those are all heart things. They are feelings, things I perceive directly. Looking at the situation from the other person's point of view; figuring out the difference between what she could see (my actions) and what she could not (my intentions, my history of being a NICE PERSON); trying to imagine what she felt about it; these are all head things, things I get by thinking. I don't perceive them directly. I don't perceive them at all unless I seek them out. Still, this is a useful step in my lifelong quest to learn how to apologize and how to forgive.
• What do you think you’ll read next?
The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker.
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