Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury *spoiler alert*

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On the surface, this speculative fiction classic (birthed from a short story “The Fireman”) told of Guy Montag who started to question his job about burning books and questioning the totalitarian thinking of censorship. However, the more you read into it, the more I understood this book as how watching TV rots your brain. You become less intellectual as you watch TV, and the government made sure to keep you that way by banning books and punishing anyone who had/hid books in their house by burning all their stuff. Not just the books, but their entire house was burnt to a crisp and then you were arrested.

This book started off really weird for me. I couldn’t really get into it at first, and I was trying to figure out what was going on in the book in the first chapter. I understood the premise of the book going in, but I was lost in the first chapter.

This is a dystopian world in which books have been banned under “censorship.” People were not allowed to read books. However, I didn’t get as to why they became banned. Maybe I missed that part in the book? I also understood that television was king during this time, and that people lived their lives through the TV set. No one was reading books anymore because they were all watching TV, but the author never informed the readers why the books became outlawed and left it up to the readers’ interpretation.

Guy Montag is basically living in a fog, going through his life day to day not questioning why they were burning houses that had books in them until he met Clarisse who jarred his mind into thinking more about what he was doing. He also started to think about the meaning of what his actions were doing when the firefighters burned a woman’s house with her in the house. He couldn’t understand who would want to burn up with their books. He then believed that something more was inside of books and he wanted to know for himself.

“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man?”

This quote shows that people were afraid of what books could do to someone. As if books took over your mind or made you do things that you weren’t supposed to do… like think?

People went missing because of books (Clarisse). His wife, Mildred, almost committed accidental suicide because she was so “brain dead” from watching too much TV. No one talked to each other. They all just sat around talking to people in the TV. Other people like Faber, were in hiding so as to keep the memory of books alive.

When Guy started to question his actions at his job after he stole a book from one of the houses he set fire, his boss started to suspect something because he wasn’t just blindly doing his job without question anymore. He was thinking about his actions, he was questioning the history of his occupation, and he was starting to have his own thoughts.

There were Mechanical Hounds spying on citizens who were suspected of hiding books, and neighbors who turned you in, were the ways in which people got caught. The fire department would then be called out to burn your books and everything else, destroying all that you had, while arresting you and throwing you in jail or killing you, as if you committed treason.

Ironically this book is a banned book, talking about banned books. Unfortunately this book didn’t really do much for me. I couldn’t really get into it at the beginning and felt lost floundering around in the first section of the book. The book was written in the 1950s, in speculative fiction portraying some futuristic world in which books would become obsolete and banned because of their content and how they invoked thought into people. Overall I would rate this a low 3 for me.

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What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About – edited by Michele Filgate

What My Mother and I Don't Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence

What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence by Michele Filgate

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary of “What my Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence.”

Excerpt from Vivek Tejuja’s review: “What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About is a compilation of essays by fifteen writers, edited by Michele Filgate. As the title suggests it is about breaking the silence. It is about talking to our mothers about what matters or has mattered the most. The collection starts with Michele’s essay about being abused by her stepfather. This took her almost more than a decade to write about and then to think how it would affect her relationship with her mother. This in turn encouraged her to reach out to other writers and see how they look at their relationships with their mothers.”

This book called to me because the relationship between my mother and I is strained. I believe it all changed once I hit puberty (around 13) and it hasn’t been the same since.

The book ranges from great to toxic and to non-existent relationships with mothers and their children. The writers are all trying to articulate the lessons learned or not learned from their parental relationship from their mothers, and how it has affected them as children and adults and also to the writers’ own children or reasons why they do not have children. This book is a brutal and honest reflection of how important mothers are to their children, and the effect the relationship has on both parties.

Reading this collection forced me to look at my own relationship with my mother and the relationships I have with my own daughters.

“Our mothers are our first homes, and that is why we’re always trying to return to them. To know what it is like to have one place where we belonged. Where we fit.” (Michele Filgate) When I read this in her essay, I stopped to think about that… and it is true for my daughters. Being that they are young now, they always come to mommy for everything. However, as they get older, I know that they will venture off to their own lives and occasionally come back every now and then to refill up on “home.” However, with me and my mother, I had that feeling… to refill up on “home,” but she made it like a hostile work environment for me that even though I wanted to come home, I couldn’t stay long. Something always went wrong. She or I said the wrong things, had the wrong attitude, and the feeling I was looking for at home, was always contaminated. Reading this particular essay from Michele Filgate made me want to be a better mother to my own daughters to ensure that we continue to have a good relationship. Not what me and my mother have, but something that is healthy, life giving, and joyful.

“Silence is what fills the gap between my mother and me. All of the things we haven’t said to each other, because it’s too painful to articulate.” (Michele Filgate). My mother now lives with me. Initially out of necessity because of situations in her life, but I thought it would also be good for her and my oldest daughter to bond and develop a relationship as granddaughter and grandmother. I already knew our relationship was beyond fixing at that point, but I was willing to put that all aside for my daughter(s). However, as she’s lived with us now almost 2 years, our relationship has not gotten any better. Her being here shines a light on our estranged and strained relationship to the point where it’s blatantly obvious to the both of us. It’s too painful to bring up the past and what caused our rift, and she acts as if nothing has ever happened between us. However, I’m always upset about why we don’t have a good relationship, but I simply refuse to discuss our relationship problems with her because she’s so far in denial that she’s done any wrong that I don’t have the energy to get to the bottom of the problems.

There was one time where I came home after having been involved in domestic abuse from my ex-husband. I cried and showed her the bruises. I told her all about our problems and what led up to the violence in our home. My mother told me to go back to my husband. This is what me and my mother don’t talk about. I have never forgiven her for this, and to this day she hasn’t apologized for this “sound” advice, for which I suffered for 7 more years of his abuse trying to disengage myself from this marriage.

My mother was the mother everyone else wanted, but me. She catered to all the children on our street and in church, but at home I didn’t feel like I received all of her at all.

Lynn Steger Strong says it best: “There is a gaping hole perhaps for all of us, where our mother does not match up with “mother” as we believe it’s meant to mean and all it’s meant to give us.” For this I want to be a better parent to my two girls. I don’t want that gaping hole where I could have been better and was not. I have this fear that I will turn out to be just like my mother, and that terrifies me. My mother just does not get me at all. In my mind I thought she treated me like a coworker, but she actually treats them better than she does her own children. She treats me like a roommate that she found off the street.

[My mother] “has not wanted to unpack or parse through our sameness, if only because I always start with wanting to address the ways that we have grown apart. She does not much like to talk about her feelings. She gets anxious when I ask her to consider what there is and is not behind and between us; she almost always feels attacked.” (Lynn Steger Strong)

This essay talks about regret, pain, feelings of love, closeness, estrangement, abuse, expectations, and disappointments. All of which exists in many of our relationships with our mothers. It was a raw and honest account of trying to discuss what goes silent between the parental relationships with mothers and children and what we say or don’t say in order to keep the peace, continue being loved, or just unable to talk about honestly without judgment or recourse.

What I didn’t really like about this book was that some of the essays didn’t really fit into the overall main theme of the rest of the essays and it seemed out of place. However, the essays were all well-written and explored some real pain and breaking the silence of what went wrong in their relationship.

Some of my favorite essays were:

– Michele Filgate – What my Mother and I Don’t Talk About
– Lynn Steger Strong – The Same Story About My Mom
– Melissa Febos – Thesmophoria
– Carmen Maria Machado – Mother Tongue
-Julianna Baggot – Nothing Left Unsaid

We all go through this. We have all been there. This book if anything speaks to all of us and will for sure make you thoughtfully explore the relationship between you and your mother. You may want to reach out to talk after reading this book or write your own essay about what you and your mother don’t talk about. This book was a 4. I recommend this to everyone cause we all have moms. Whether your relationship is good or bad you can still glean something from thoughtfully reflecting on these essays and reading through these accounts.

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We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ta-Nehisi Coates brings out all the truths in this one.

I took notes, I learned new words, I learned some new historical facts, I learned about American politics. I got schooled on the theory of “a rising tide lifts all boats,” and I learned about the deep-seated racism behind the scenes, obvious, and in-your-face blunt trauma racism that was reminiscent of the times after the reconstruction period to when President Barack Obama was in office.

In my opinion, this book was dark. Dark in the sense that there was no happy ending, no shining star, and no silver lining. This book was filled with hopelessness, dread, foreboding, warnings, and overwhelming depression. Being black in America is beautiful and not beautiful all at the same time. It is not for the weak or the strong, if you get what I mean. We should have never been here, but here we are… descendants of those who built this land. Whose blood we walk on. Who’s bodies are buried beneath us. Who’s children are scattered like chaff in the wind. Who was kidnapped against their will to perform back-breaking free labor until they literally died. Treated worse than animals.

Coates talks of the 8 eight years that Obama was president. He talks of how America was handed to Barack as something raggedy that no one wanted. However, Barack used the power he had to create a legacy for all Americans regardless of race. Despite racism. Despite being blocked by Congress on every front. Despite every positive thing he’s ever wanted for America to be denied, kicked down the street and spit on by old white men… He made the most he could do with what he had.

Reading this book though, made me feel like there is no hope for my black life. No matter what, white people are going to hate me. I won’t be good enough, and any one white person could ruin my life with a lie or an alleged accusation. America has created “a robbery so large that it is written in our very names.” We live in a kleptocracy with chicanery, and as an anathema. White folks do not even want us to RESEARCH the possibility of solutions to reparations to descendants of slaves. Through all this, “black people keep on making it, white people keep on taking it.”

Black people will always have to be twice as good to get half as far as white people. Why? Because American = White. We, as black people have to deal with redlining (still happening today). White people feel threatened that their way of life will be confiscated by Good Negro Government. And “for most African Americans, white people exist either as a direct or as indirect force for bad in their lives.” White people are only defending their historical privileges of whiteness. Coates and other politicians believe that President Barack Obama created the monster that we have today sitting in the white house. How? Because of the very nature of him being black. The pariah that is occupying the white house now, will be “exposing the patina of decency for what it is and revealing just how much a demagogue can get away with.”

“The model for America’s original identity politics was set. Black lives literally did not matter and could be cast aside altogether as the price for even incremental gains for the white masses.”

I felt depressed and overwhelmed reading this book. Learning that Coates is an atheist though helped me to understand why there is no hope in this book. There are no solutions to what he has outlined to be the problems in the United States. It seems as if racism and hatred towards blacks will forever be a thing. The more you read this book, the more you tend to think that would be the truth. White people voted against their own interest in order to not have anything to do with what President Obama wanted to implement in the United States. Now as we all can see, his legacy is being dismantled one step at a time. What do black people have to look forward to if we stand by and let this happen? Absolutely nothing.

This book also told of how the 12 years of reconstruction lead into a war against black people. The presidency of Barack Obama also lead into a continued war against black people and all minority groups… spearheaded by the biggest white suprematist there is… Donald Trump.

Overall, this book is a 4. It was not too academic or filled with history or statistics to get boring. However, it does provide quick history lessons to keep you on your toes. The book, in my opinion, is a bit dark and does not give any solutions, nor does it shed any hope or light to black readers. It is as if we are doomed forever to our black, redlined ghettos. I would have liked his mind to give a few ideas of what could be (even if hypothetical) just to hear something uplifting and not so doomsday’ish.

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