Mindful + Minimal

Book Reviews #1

BooksMarisol DahlComment

First Women: The Grace and Power of America's Modern First Ladies

Kate Andersen Brower | 2016

"Brower offers new insights into this privileged group of remarkable women, including Jacqueline Kennedy, Lady Bird Johnson, Patricia Nixon, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama. The stories she shares range from the heartwarming to the shocking and tragic, exploring everything from the first ladies’ political crusades to their rivalries with Washington figures; from their friendships with other first ladies to their public and private relationships with their husbands." [Link

The Sociology major in me could not put this book down. It's a fascinating look at how such a diverse group of women—with their own histories, ambitions, ideals, and political views—are so uniquely bonded by their defining role as first lady. Kate Andersen Brower's research process is interesting to read about in itself. Though many other reviews note the author's bias, I found the book offered a refreshingly balanced look at the strengths and flaws of each first lady featured. 

The Girl Who Fell From The Sky

Heidi Durrow | 2011

"Rachel, the daughter of a Danish mother and a black G.I., becomes the sole survivor of a family tragedy after a fateful morning on their Chicago rooftop. Forced to move to a new city, with her strict African American grandmother as her guardian, Rachel is thrust for the first time into a mostly black community, where her light brown skin, blue eyes, and beauty bring a constant stream of attention her way. It’s there, as she grows up and tries to swallow her grief, that she comes to understand how the mystery and tragedy of her mother might be connected to her own uncertain identity." [Link]

Told from alternating points of view, The Girl Who Fell From the Sky is a beautiful story of a young girl's awakening through tragedy—forced to confront her identity and how she fits in with her extended family and new community. Rachel's youth is portrayed through simple prose, drawing the reader to dissect the clashes of race, class, generations, and culture that lie just underneath. 

The Opposite of Loneliness

Marina Keegan | 2014

"Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at The New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash. She left behind a rich, deeply expansive trove of writing that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation." [Link]

It is important to understand the circumstances under which this book was published—that's what makes it particularly powerful and engaging. Marina Keegan was devoted to the art of writing and determined to make a living in what many would say is a dying industry. Her stories and essays are rich and demonstrate a wisdom I don't think very many people our age have yet. As someone who finished her freshman year at Yale just as Keegan was graduating, I felt particularly close to the themes and references within the book.