Posts Tagged ‘football’

It’s nearly April – and the weather is teasing us, as usual. But the books are getting me through. Here’s what I have been reading to close out the month:

Forward Me Back to You, Mitali Perkins
I love Mitali’s sensitively written novels about teenagers finding their place in the world. This one follows Kat – a tough-talking biracial girl from California who’s recovering from an assault – and Robin, a Boston boy adopted from India as a toddler by white parents. When they go to Kolkata on a summer service trip, things change in powerful ways for both of them. I could not put this down; it felt so realistic and layered and often funny. Found at Copper Dog Books last summer.

The Golden Season, Madeline Kay Sneed
Sneed’s gorgeous, thoughtful debut novel follows Emmy Quinn, a West Texas girl who makes the difficult decision to come out to her football-coach dad (and by extension the whole town) during her college years. The narrative captures my Texas – the relentless dry heat, the football obsession, the bless-your-heart church ladies and the surprising beauty – so well. Fantastic. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 31).

Sisters in Arms, Kaia Alderson
Eliza Jones and Grace Steele come from very different Harlem backgrounds. When they both sign up to serve in the WAC, they find themselves thrown together through training camp in Iowa and in all kinds of difficult circumstances. Fascinating, layered historical fiction about Black women serving in World War II. Found at Bookmans in Tucson.

Kind of a Big Deal, Shannon Hale
A girlfriend was reading this YA novel, so I picked it up at the library and flew through it. Teenage theatre star Josie Pie dropped out of high school to make it on Broadway, but she flopped and is now hiding out in Montana. She discovers a strange ability to jump into books – which makes her (further) question her current choices. This one took some odd turns, but it’s a fun story.

A Valiant Deceit, Stephanie Graves
Olive Bright is eagerly training pigeons for the war effort – and reluctantly faking a relationship with her commanding officer. When another officer turns up murdered, Olive (of course) wants to investigate. I loved this second cozy British WWII mystery following Olive, her birds and the village community of Pipley.

The Stubborn Light of Things: A Nature Diary, Melissa Harrison
Harrison is a noticer – and this collection of her columns from The Times shares her observations from rambles in London, where she used to live, and rural Suffolk, where she lives now. Beautiful, thoughtful and wise. Found at the wonderful Book Catapult in San Diego.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

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book water glass lunch Somali food

A Walking Life: Reclaiming Our Health and Our Freedom, One Step at a Time, Antonia Malchik
Walking is a fundamentally human activity. But worldwide, humans – especially those living in cities – are losing the access and ability to walk. Malchik delves into the dangers of a non-walking life and explores the social, political, physical and spiritual implications of reclaiming walking. Well-researched and engaging – and as a walker/runner, of course I loved it. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 7).

The Precious One, Marisa de los Santos
I adore de los Santos’ novels, and I loved diving back into this one: the story of Taisy and Willow, estranged half sisters who gradually, grudgingly become friends in spite of their (shared) tyrannical father. So much wisdom here about love and family and courage.

When the Men Were Gone, Marjorie Herrera Lewis
This was a total impulse buy at B&N: an engaging novel about a female high school football coach in Brownwood, Texas, during WWII. I grew up not far from (and went to college even closer to) Brownwood, and I spent many Friday nights in the stands with the marching band. I loved the story of Tylene Wilson and how she stepped up to coach the Brownwood Lions.

Brave, Not Perfect: Fear Less, Fail More, and Live Bolder, Reshma Saujani
Saujani is the founder of Girls Who Code (and an alumna of my former workplace, HKS). This book delves into the conditioning women receive to be perfect and pleasing, and how we can change that wiring to be brave. I loved – and related to – so much of what she wrote about. Worth reading and revisiting. (Found at the wonderful Book Catapult in San Diego.)

The Stationery Shop, Marjan Kamali
Tehran, 1953: Bahman and Roya, two teenagers who both frequent Mr. Fakhri’s stationery shop fall in love among the stacks, and plan to get married. But then Bahman disappears, and their lives take entirely different trajectories. Decades later, they cross paths again near Boston, and must unravel the truth of that long-ago missed meeting. Powerful and well written; Kamali’s descriptions of Persian food are mouthwatering and her characters are flawed and real. I loved (and reviewed) Kamali’s first novel, Together Tea, which is sweet and engaging, but this one is on another level. To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 18).

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious, Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Doreen Green – aka Squirrel Girl – is back, trying to fight crime in the neighborhood and survive middle school. This second novel wasn’t as strong as the first, but I like Doreen and her friend Ana Sofia. The group texts with the Avengers are the best part.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

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lido book tea toast breakfast table

The second half of July has been fast. The freelance work and other activities have been piling up, to my delight. And so have the books (as always).

Here’s the latest roundup:

At the Wolf’s Table, Rosella Postorino
Adolf Hitler famously feared death by poisoning, so he conscripted a handful of women to taste his food. Postorino’s novel imagines the story of one of them, Rosa Sauer, whose parents are dead and whose husband is missing in action. A somber, compelling, troubling account of wartime, complicity and wrestling with the consequences of one’s actions. Really well written. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 2019).

An Argumentation of Historians, Jodi Taylor
Max and her crew of time-traveling historians are back: scything up and down the timeline, from medieval England to ancient Persepolis. When Max finds herself stranded in 1399, she must adapt to an entirely new life, but there’s always a chance she’ll be rescued – isn’t there? This British sci-fi-ish series is so much fun, though I agree with a friend who said they need a new villain.

Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, Amy Stewart
Constance Kopp, lady deputy sheriff of Hackensack, N.J., is doing her best to keep on keeping on: watching over her female inmates, checking in on probationers, chasing down the occasional thief, and supporting her two sisters. But 1916 is a contentious (local) election year, and a lot of men aren’t too happy about Constance’s position anyhow. A smart, witty entry in this great series. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 11).

Never Ran, Never Will: Boyhood and Football in a Changing American Inner City, Albert Samaha
The Mo Better Jaguars of Brownsville, Brooklyn, are a longtime Pee Wee football powerhouse. Samaha’s book traces their story over two recent seasons, addressing the systemic  forces of racism and gentrification, the effects of family and school issues, recent research on concussions, and the spirit and grit of these young boys and their families. Reminded me strongly of Amy Bass’ One Goal, which I loved. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 4).

This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind, Ivan Doig
A friend passed on this memoir last summer and I finally got to it. Doig sets down the story of his childhood: raised by his father and grandmother, doing ranching work in rural Montana. Thoughtful and quiet, with so many good sentences and insights into how we are shaped by our families and landscapes. Well worthwhile. Part of my nonfiction #unreadshelfproject.

The Lido, Libby Page
Rosemary Peterson, 86, has been swimming at her local lido (an outdoor pool in Brixton, London) nearly all her life. When the lido is threatened with closure, she joins forces with Kate, an anxious young journalist, and their community to try and save it. A charming, hopeful story of unlikely friendship and banding together to fight for what matters. I also loved Rosemary’s memories of life in London during the war, and her long, contented marriage to her husband, George. Just wonderful.

League of Archers, Eva Howard
Elinor Dray, orphan and novice nun, has grown up hearing stories of the great Robin Hood. But when he’s killed in front of Ellie’s eyes, and she’s accused of the crime, Ellie and her friends (the titular league) take to the forest to continue Robin’s work and contact his Merry Men. I love a Robin Hood story and I wanted to love this one, but the pacing and plot didn’t quite work for me.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

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Again with the late-to-the-TV-party thing.  (If you’ve read about my love for Friends, Gilmore Girls and The Muppet Show, you won’t be too surprised.)

Friday Night Lights aired its final episode a few weeks ago. About a week later (not actually knowing the finale had just aired), J and I decided to watch the first few episodes.

Well. We were hooked instantly. And we’ve been regularly visiting Dillon, Texas, ever since.

The biggest surprise is why it took us this long to start watching the show. Because although Dillon is fictional, in some ways it might as well be Midland, where I grew up. Long before I joined the Midland High marching band, my internal compass, and almost everyone else’s, pointed toward Midland Memorial Stadium on Friday nights.

Our football team does not have a storied history, like the Permian Panthers down the road in Odessa (subjects of the original Friday Night Lights book and film). The year I was in eighth grade, my neighbor Steven was one of the star seniors on the MHS team, and I don’t think they won a single game. Their losses were made more bitter by the stunning success of our crosstown rivals, the Lee Rebels, who won State three times when I was a teenager. (My sister – unbelievably – married a Lee grad, but I don’t think she will ever sit on the Lee side at the crosstown game.)

No matter what the scoreboard says, or what colors you wear, the culture of football in Midland runs deep. We idolized the boys who wore those jerseys on Friday nights; we shook our heads when some of them (always players from Lee, of course) got bailed out of trouble by their coaches. And when the Bulldogs made the playoffs in 2002 (for the first time in I won’t tell you how long) and went all the way to State, the whole town went wild for them. I was in college by then, but I made it to nine of that season’s sixteen games, and sang the alma mater with tears in my eyes. (And watched my sister, that year’s Student Council president, walk out onto the field at Texas Stadium to exchange goodwill gifts with the other team.)

Admittedly, the culture in a two-high-school town, or in a big city like Dallas where my husband grew up (their town had six high schools), is a bit different than somewhere like Dillon. But the show still captures the West Texas football culture, and does it so authentically that I keep thinking (and saying to J): I know these people.

I know that coach, his eyes squinting in the West Texas sun, doling out equal parts praise and tough love to his team. I know those boys, cast in a role they aren’t quite prepared for, blinded by the glare of stadium lights and bent under the weight of a whole town’s expectations for them. I know those women, with their perfectly styled hair and their manicures and their loud laughter and high-pitched “How are youuuuu’s?.” And yes, I know those people who roll their eyes at the whole football culture, but who get caught up in it anyway, whether by choice or family connection or because it’s useless to resist.

As Serenity said a few weeks ago, local sports are my favorite because of the heart, and because of the stories. I loved watching the Midland High Bulldogs because I knew them. I’d been watching some of them play football since fourth grade, when my sister was a cheerleader for the local peewee league. They came over to our house on the weekends, and some of them were in my youth group. I knew their stories, and football was a vital part of those stories. Which is why I love watching Matt Saracen and Tim Riggins and the other guys on Friday Night Lights. I know their stories. And football is a main character in all of them.

Admittedly, this is hard to understand if you’re not from Texas, or if you don’t care for sports, or if you didn’t grow up in a small town. But if you are or you do or you did, you understand the magnetic pull of a show like Friday Night Lights. And for a small-town Texas girl like me, well, this show resonates so deeply I can’t even explain it to you. From the sunset-soaked skies of the opening credits to the flashes of blue and gold on the field, to Coach Taylor’s look of steely determination and the quiet integrity of these boys who are learning what it means to be men, I love this show. And no wonder. I grew up here. These are my people.

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