A life story

We mark with light in the memory the few interviews we have had with souls that made our souls wiser, that spoke what we thought, that told us what we knew, that gave us leave to be what we inly are.”  – David Richo

I am covering a funeral tomorrow of a very special man to this community. He has let our journalists follow his everyday life, his struggle with illness and now, the final chapter, his death. We have shared in everything from his surprise birthday party to a date with his girlfriend. We’ve spent hours hanging out with his family at the hospital, in their home or out in the community at events. We have been witnesses to how many friends, family members and acquaintances he has touched in his lifetime. Though I am confident in my ability to cover this funeral because I am creating the video, I find myself daunted by our writer’s part in this story. How do you find the words to encompass a whole person? How do you do justice to someone who has touched so many people? Maybe it is simply because I am not a writer, but I would love and be completely intimidated by the honor of writing a person’s last chapter. How do you capture it all? The history, humor, hope, faith and everlasting love of a lifetime. I believe that the ability to write it, and write it well, is an amazing achievement.

So in honor of true stories of all shapes and sizes, of everyone who has had their life written down with the eloquence and emotion it deserves, I wanted to dedicate a post to some great new non-fiction.

  A STOLEN LIFE, by Jaycee Dugard. (Simon & Schuster, $24.99.) A woman tells of being kidnapped at the age of 11 and held prisoner for 18 years by a convicted rapist and his wife.

I have not started this book but it is on my TBR shelf. To not only experience something that difficult but to share it with the world? She sounds like an incredibly brave person and I can’t wait to read her story.

  UNBROKEN, by Laura Hillenbrand. (Random House, $27.) An Olympic runner’s story of survival as a prisoner of the Japanese in World War II.

I have just started Unbroken this week and I can tell you just from the first few chapters that this book is beautifully written. It has elegant imagery and moments I know will stay with me long after I’ve finished. You should see my copy, highlights galore.

  BOSSYPANTS, by Tina Fey. (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown, $26.99.) A memoir from the creator of “30 Rock.”

Though this is not so new anymore, it still deserves a mention because a lot of people I know haven’t read it yet. We do need the stories of survival, but we also need the stories that make us laugh.

  TURN RIGHT AT MACHU PICCHU by Mark Adams. (Dutton, $26.95.) Retracing the steps of the ancient city’s discoverers.

Sounds an interesting journey for those that have and have not visited Machu Picchu. It is an astonishing place that may be closed to the public soon because of too much tourism. So if you never get to see it, this book might be the next best thing.

Non-fiction is compelling because it is so often startlingly brave and true. To know that another person has struggled, has fought, has suffered and somehow, has triumphed, is a message we all need sometimes. The resilience and power of the human spirit is an important feat we all must witness, whether it be in our own everyday life, or in the lives of those whom we read about in books.

Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce, in case you haven’t read her books, is a great young adult author. Her books are intelligent, fun and empowering. I read her books when I was in junior high and I often re-read them for fun when the mood strikes me. I still enjoy them as much as I did then, which says a lot.

Her main characters are usually strong independent young women who are trying to follow their own path, often a path that society has not yet allowed them to take. In the Alanna series a young girl disguises herself as a boy for years to become a knight. In the Beka Cooper series, a young lady becomes a type of policemen (they are called dogs) through hard work and sheer determination. In the Immortals series, a young lady runs from the town that tries to kill her for her magic and learns to use it to help others.

Pierce’s young ladies are always refreshing. They have minds, skills and they do their best to use them to reach their goals. Her heroines, when compared to those in a lot of current YA literature, are full of depth, independence and humor. They are someone young women could actually look up too. They don’t wait around for a man to save them or fix their lives. They damn well do it themselves and the men can catch up later.. IF they able too. Not that Pierce doesn’t write about men, there are lots of men, good and bad, in these stories. The men are also full well-rounded characters that add to the charm of her books. Its just always so delightful to read a young adult book where girls think and act for themselves. In the current trend of vampire teen angst romances, I believe Pierce’s young ladies would stake the damn vampire and then go to college to get their degree.

In Tortall and Other Lands, we revisit with old friends and discover new ones. One story is narrated by Daine’s dragonling, Kitten from The Immortal’s series. Kitten discovers a woman living on the edge of society, abused by those in town for her magic and tries to help her. In another story, we see the effects of when Numair is forced to turn a man into a tree. Across the world, a tree is turned into a man and must learn to live like one. In the Student of Ostriches, a young girl learns to fight by watching how animals defend themselves. She learns to kick like ostriches and head butt like giraffes. When her sister is threatened, she defends her and by doing so figures out what she wants to do with her own life, become a Shang warrior. These stories and more make up this first series of short stories by Pierce.

Although this book is not as engrossing as Pierce’s usual writing, it is still an enjoyable collection to read. If you’ve never read her books before I’d suggest starting with the Alanna series which has always been a favorite of mine (and if you look at reviews, the rest of the world agrees.)

This book of short stories is definitely a good introduction to Tortall and to Pierce herself, but it is also a nice stopover for dedicated fans to read while waiting for something more.