Westerns in 2018


I just recently finished two Westerns by Oregon authors that are outstanding.

Preamble: On the north and central Oregon coast many geographical names have native origins and there is a similar sound to them, Nehalem, Neahkahnie, Nestucca. Then oddly around the town of Tillamook there is a river named Trask, which doesn’t roll off the tongue like any other place name in that region. A couple summers ago I called out the clunky name to Andy as we drove over the Trask to get to Bayocean spit. But I didn’t think of it again until I saw the book Trask sitting on a shelf at Powells this summer.

Trask was written by Don Berry, a graduate of Reed College and whose cohort included beat poets and a beloved professor, Lloyd Reynolds, who is revered in local Portland lore.

Trask was Berry’s first novel and it was published in 1960 when he was just 28. It is a historical story of real-life trapper/explorer/homesteader Elbridge Trask. And Trask, I discovered, was one of the first white homesteaders on Tillamook Bay.

This book is an action-filled story that was meticulously researched by Berry. And Berry’s detailed work combined with his mad talent and love of Oregon resulted in a book that is considered by critics to be one of the best novels set in Oregon. The other novel cited in the same breath as Trask is Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey.

The story centers on Trask’s on-foot journey from Fort Clatsop in the early 1840s, near present day Seaside, Oregon, to meet with the Killamook natives. We learn in the first chapters that Trask has grown restless on the settled north coast and wants to see Murderer’s Harbor for himself. (Nowadays Murderer’s Harbor is less threateningly called, Tillamook Bay). And if Trask is lucky and happens to survive the overland journey, he plans to ask the Killamooks for permission to settle there. Trask sets out on this folly with two friendly Clatsop natives as his guides. And not unexpectedly the group endures bad weather, battles rugged landscapes, and gets spooked by occasional sightings of the unknown Killamooks, who are likely tracking their progress through the shadow-laden forest floor.

Present day Tillamook Bay – no longer Murderer’s Harbor.

Originally Lewis and Clark spelled the tribe’s name as Killamuck, but throughout the book Berry writes the name as Killamook, as it was sometimes used in the 19th century. In present time the name of the tribe has been altered to Tillamook.

I was bewitched by this novel and got caught up in the trek to Murderer’s Harbor with Berry’s spot-on descriptions of rain, forests, and the exhausting effort needed to climb wind-whipped headlands.

Read this book when you want an adrenaline charge and your mind’s eye to fill with a dark forested place steeped in spooked-out grey mist. Trask is an honored novel with a well-deserved reputation.

The second Western I read is The Half Life by Jonathan Raymond. It is Raymond’s first novel and was published in 2004. The book is only half of a Western because it is built around two separate narratives set 160 years apart –on the same ground.

The first story line takes place in 1820s Oregon Territory and begins by introducing Cookie Figowitz, a hapless cook working for a trapping party, who finds a naked stranger in the woods. Cookie immediately hides naked man away from the rest of the trappers. It seems the trappers are lost, and they are growing restless and angry over the dwindling food supplies as they wander day after day looking for the trading post. Cookie rightly fears for his and the stranger’s safety.

Over time the two men become fast friends. Henry, the naked man, complements Cookie’s personality. Where Cookie is shy, soft-spoken, and fearful, Henry is bold and has traveled the world, tussled with it, and is -when we first meet him in all his naked glory—hiding from Russian trappers who want to kill him.

Cookie and Henry concoct a plan to set off on a risky venture to China. There Cookie and Henry hope to sell castoreum, a beaver musk the two believe the Chinese marketplace will consume. Cookie and Henry move forward with the plan despite knowing strict Chinese law forbids common sailors from engaging in any type of trade with their citizens. High adventure ensues.

The second narrative begins 160 years later. Teenagers Tina and Trixie wander the same ground in Oregon where Cookie and Henry first met but now that ground is a disorganized tree-hugger commune comprised of cabins in random stages of disrepair and mustiness. Trixie has been banished to the commune after getting in trouble in California and is living with a family friend. Tina’s mother is out of work and plans to get it together while staying at the commune before starting  her career again. Tina’s more subdued personality and Trixie’s flamboyant and creative personality meld well, they complement one another. A friendship is born.

As time passes and their friendship deepens, Tina and Trixie create a detailed plan to make a movie. Then, during the surprisingly successful beginnings of their film project, two skeletons are found on the commune’s ground. And once again in this novel, high adventure ensures.

You probably know a little about the author, Jon Raymond. Raymond is one of those guys…he’s deeply talented and productive, so his name pops up frequently. He published a short-story collection Livability after The Half Life. And then he co-wrote two films from the collection, Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy. He also wrote the screenplays for Meeks’s Cutoff and Night Moves. He wrote the HBO miniseries, Mildred Pierce. He is an editor for Plazm magazine (https://plazm.com/ ). He grew up in Portland and lives here still.

If you have had exposure to any of Raymond’s work, you’ll know it is neither bright nor gooey. Raymond is at his best when he creates stories that emerge from breakdowns and extreme change. His stories often contain a juncture where we are likely to lose sight of the story’s  most vulnerable characters. And when he brings his readers to witness breaking points and loss, he is able to elicit a powerful empathy in us. Read Half-Life.


Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Sad ones

Sad Ones

David Patrick Moynihan said, “To be Irish is to know that in the end, the world will break your heart”.  I suggest that for a man of Irish roots, Moynihan is a bit of an optimist. Seems the world begins vigorously passing around its buckets of sorrow a little earlier than “the end”.

I don’t know if our karass (see Vonnegut for karass detail) needs any more sad stories, but I am confident a wise person would murmur something about how sorrow and sadness is essential for a life’s journey. I’ll reluctantly agree with this notion today, but no guarantees on how I’ll feel about it tomorrow.

Here are two well-crafted and sad books I recently read. Both deal in the random visitations of sorrow and loss, brutalizing characters with tender hearts and precious few resources.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa is a tale told by a cat. Okay, so animal narrative voices are often cheesy and gimmicky. But this one works. Maybe because this story is told simply and with a hint of cat crankiness in a voice so true it’s as if Arikawa has a second skill, cat channeling.

The heart of the story is this, Nana, a homeless tomcat, is rescued by a sweet soul named Satoru, who lives in Tokyo on his own. Once Nana and Satoru come to terms that they need one another (Nana is injured when the two first meet), the young man and cat live together for many years in contented domesticity. Then abruptly one day Satoru tells Nana they will be taking a journey together because as Satoru informs, “we can’t live together any more”.

Nana is dismayed he is not given a reason why but settles in to the road trip with his resilient cat heart.

rom the movie, Satoru and Nana on the road.

The story progresses with visits to three friends of Satoru’s who offer potential future homes for Nana. The pair discuss the options together when they are off alone, but of course not one meets the standard of Nana’s current home with a precious shared history and mutual devotion. Their road trip crisscrosses Japan in autumn. Nana takes detailed note of the light and colors and finds joy in the adventure as he develops a deeper understanding of Satoru’s past and his gentle ways.

“How could I ever leave him?” wonders Nana as his inherent cat stoicism begins to fail.

There are insights into Japanese culture and traditions throughout the story and little else has fed my desire to visit Japan than this book. But more importantly, I was amazed at how this simple tale was able to convey the universal experience of true friendship and what we will do for those we come to love –cats and humans alike.

Read this book and be prepared to call for Kleenex but don’t forget to count your lucky stars if you have had a similar life connection. This book was recently made into a movie, but I am not sure if we will see it in the US. Clips are on-line.

The title of the memoir Heartberries by Terese Marie Mailhot gave me the visual creeps but after hearing the author interviewed on radio, I knew I had to read it. But before we get there I want to talk about the movie, Wind River.

Wind River was released in 2017. It’s a modern western procedural set in cold cold Wyoming. Briefly the story is about a federal wildlife officer, a tracker, who works on the Wind River Indian Reservation. On a winter’s day the tracker finds a body of a young native women in the mountain snow. She is dead of course in the awful cold and her skull is beat in and she has been raped. She is found barefoot and the tracker sees her footprints and blood for miles. He takes time to acknowledge her warrior spirit before acting by bringing in additional help. It’s a good movie, violent certainly, but does a fine job telling a story about people we don’t hear much about in present time. I also learned something when the makers ran a note at the end of the movie. For Native American woman, the note informed, there are no statistics kept on the missing even though for every other demographic group this is standard. Consider that and the message it conveys to Native woman.

From Wind River, the tracker visits a father in mourning

Heartberries is a young Native woman’s story of her past which was replete with trauma and abuse. I bought this book because when I heard Mailhot interviewed on public radio her words stuck with me. She said this about forgiveness in that interview, “in white culture, forgiveness is synonymous with letting go.” But, Mailhot went on to explain, in her culture people carry pain and reconcile with it through ceremony which means, “pain is never framed like a problem with a solution.”  This book is Mailhot’s ceremonial reconciliation of her life’s journey.

Mailhot’s life was horrible, she was neglected, sexually abused, and married young only to escape into another awful family situation. She herself was horrible, she admits that in this book, sparing no kind words for herself.

Part of Heartberries was written in a mental hospital where Mailhot was recovering from a breakdown. Her writing is lyrical throughout this slim book, maybe too much so, but it may have been the only way to dull the retelling of her vicious life. Even with her lyrical writing, this book was hard for me to face each night. But her story deserves to be heard.

The author of Heartberies, Terese Marie Mailhot

Mailhot’s book does not look for solutions to changing the long arc of abuse and neglect of Native American women but it does move the discussion further into the light. I hope we hear more from her.

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Place of Memory

Languages die surprisingly often, and for a multitude of reasons. It is probable that most of the languages that die are so remote that they do so unrecorded, and so will be forever lost. According to a 2015 article in The New Republic, of the roughly 7,000 diverse languages now in existence, linguists predict that half will die over the next century. More aggressive forecasters assert that 80 to 90 percent of existing languages will die in roughly the same amount of time. A National Geographic (2012) article claimed that a discreet language dies about every 14 days.

Some languages are relatively rare, but they hang in there. For example, in Great Britain, some 5,000 people claim to be conversational in Cornish, one of three Brythonic (Celtic) languages. (Welsh and Breton are the other two.) But Cornish may boast fewer than a thousand fluent speakers, and perhaps far fewer — only 400-500. (By comparison, about 6,000 people are fluent in the Lakota language.)


The artist Gwenno has released a wonderful new record called Le Kov, sung entirely in Cornish. You may be sure that its pleasures will not be missed because of a language barrier. Gwenno Saunders was a member of the 2000s pop group The Pipettes. She then released a debut solo record as Gwenno called Y Dydd Olaf (2014) sung mainly in Welsh, with one song in Cornish. Le Kov is her second record.

Her influences enjoy a broad range, and there is a pervasive wooziness to the production that compliments all these stylistic influences. Piano is up front on some songs, with tidy string orchestrations and horns joining the act, so there is a distinct and groovy Bacharach vibe.

Fans of Broadcast and Stereolab will be rewarded by the confident and laid back la-la vocals. Some of the more dedicated electronic instrumental backing would be right at home on a Boards of Canada record.

Welsh singer Gruff Rhys, who fronted the marvelous Super Furry Animals, joins Gwenno on a song, and several of the rhythmic elements on Le Kov are reminiscent of SFA, with driving bass and drums.

I love it when an artist can mix so many influences and come up with something that still sounds so original. The title means “place of memory.” This page obsesses with memory and music’s ability to act as a portal both for remembrances, and the building of new memories. There is much here to set us free in our memory, despite the lack of lyrical understanding. It is just beautiful and it is a testimony to the power of music to transcend the sometimes confining nature of language. Its passion shines. Below is a link to a song from the record, called Jynn-amontya:

Le Kov by Gwenno.

Le Kov by Gwenno (2018 Heavenly Recordings).

Slow Life from Phantom Power by Super Furry Animals (2003 Epic).

9 March 2018 

Posted in Music | Leave a comment

Judy reads about Space

Like many people, I’m fascinated with space travel. I am in awe of astrophysics and the big brains of scientists who imagined space travel into real life. I marvel at the intelligence and the bravery of astronauts willing to be catapulted into the solar system strapped to rocket boosters and equally impressed with their ability to steer the craft expertly into orbit. The entire space program, from Earth to Milky Way, is a wonder to me.

But I am just a common person and my real questions about space travel are “what about that astronaut diaper?” and “how much worse is space sickness than drunken bed spins?”

Scott Kelly answers these shallow questions plus deeper ones in Endurance: a year in space, a lifetime of discovery. Scott Kelly is the U.S. astronaut who, along with the Russian Cosmonaut Mikhail Korniyenko, spent 340 days on the International Space Station (ISS) from 2015 to March 2016.

Mikhail Korniyenko and Scott Kelly spent almost an entire year living on the ISS.

Reviewers of this book indicated it was different than other books about space because Kelly told it like it is. It’s a tell-all about space-dwelling from the glamorous to the mundane – from rocket science to bodily functions. Truthfully, I read it for a glimpse into the day to day life on the ISS.

What I learned…The diaper is used because they spend so much time in situations which stopping to take a whiz is impossible without calling off time-sensitive operations such as rocket launch and space walking. Putting on and taking off a pressurized suit takes hours. I guess I thought those suits had so many bells and whistles, there’d be some sort of pee vacuum, but no, they just “diaper up” as Kelly casually refers to it.  Just part of the uniform. (I’ve read, since finishing Endurance, that a space suit with a built-in biffy is in development).

Space sickness?  Way worse than bed spins. But there is variability and while Kelly sustains mild nausea and vertigo, for some, violent symptoms can last for many days. Kelly tells of one astronaut who, upon arrival to the ISS, used up every NASA barf bag on the station. The bags are specially suction-rigged to contain the contents, so they had to make-shift a facsimile that would work just as well as the original. If they couldn’t, the astronauts would have had to chase down, capture, and clean all the floating vomit globules. They succeeded in fashioning a new bag.

The International Space Station (ISS)

But I also learned…the ISS is the largest peacetime international project in history. It has been in use for more than 14 years. So it has been more than fourteen years since all humans were on the Earth at once. In the time it has been in use, the ISS has been visited by more than 200 people from 16 nations. When astronauts of different nations are there at the same time, they must answer to their own bosses from their prospective governments. Even sharing the same garbage bin takes international negotiations and grand declarations of what can be done when nations work together.

And…the personnel on the ISS are some of the most elite pilots in the world, yet their day to day business is not piloting the station. There is essentially no flying or piloting to do. They run other people’s experiments (dissect mice, tend to space gardens, take photos). They complete mandatory exercise to maintain muscle mass.  They fulfil diplomatic duties such as skyping in on morning TV shows for interviews and writing blogs for school children. Also, importantly, they maintain equipment that could be their demise if not taken care of because, what might be a minor or medium emergency on earth, could end a mission—either by cutting it short, or by exploding the ISS and its inhabitants into outer space. They fix and repair the heating and air systems, “hygiene stations”, and the oxygen and co2 generators. They clean. Any floating bits of food, liquid, or bodily tissue must be captured because all substances floating in the station have potential to clog a filter or block a seal that keeps it pressurized and oxygenated. And on occasion they do basic dentistry and medical procedures so that lost crowns and ingrown toenails do not end in infection and sepsis requiring early return to Earth. On the ISS every detail must be attended to or the mission will fail. The inhabitants, no matter their nationality or government, must always be up for these tasks; they must always be on speaking terms, and trust each other’s’ capabilities in all kinds of situations. Their lives depend on each other.

Space research

I liked this book. I liked learning about how one becomes an astronaut. Aside from being smart in science and maths, and not at all claustrophobic, you have to be a pretty even-Steven kind of personality. I liked learning that even if you have what appears to be quite a glamorous, one of a kind, dream job…it is still a job after all. Sometimes you don’t feel like working and sometimes you disagree with your bosses. I liked reading about the special foods and treats the astronauts would bring and get as packages and share with each other each Friday evening, the one day a week they all took time to socialize and have a meal together. (The Russians shared an MRE they referred to as “appetizing appetizer,” which was not appetizing, Kelly reported.  And one cosmonaut brought his region’s traditional horse meat and horse milk to share.) I appreciated Kelly’s comparisons of real life in space to sci-fi movies. Sandra Bullock, floating through her spaceship in Gravity, was realistic, he said.  When a spacecraft docks onto another and the doors open immediately in a hissy mist to allow visitors aboard, however, is not. In real life, docking, depressurizing, and boarding takes 4 or more hours.  I liked learning that articles that have been out in space have a burnt smell about them.

But the book is not all “Dear Diary…” It is about the Year in Space Mission. Its purpose, among other things, was to obtain data regarding the sustained effects of micro-gravity on the human body. Scientists already know a fair amount about this. Micro-gravity is trouble for humans. Space-dwelling compromises the vestibular system (see “space sickness”), bone density, visual acuity, and the digestive system. Kelly writes about the effect of micro-gravity on him and his co-astronauts. So, with data from this mission, scientists will learn even more, and this information will help them plan and problem-solve for missions even farther away. Since Scott Kelly is an identical twin, his brother Mark (also an astronaut) will serve as his genetic control. Researchers should learn a lot about both the physiological and psychological effects of life in space through this rare opportunity for comparison.

Astronaut Twin Brothers

This book captured my imagination and got me contemplating human physiology in space as well as space cohabitation with other individuals, other cultures, and governments. Perhaps the civility and cooperation needed for survival on the teeny tiny scale of the ISS is the answer to the human condition on Earth and beyond.

The cosmos is within us. We are made of starstuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself—Carl Sagan.

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

Cathy’s Spring Reading 2018

Hello Scramblers:

And hello Spring! I’ve been enjoying our long and hesitant spring with a set of firsts. Take for instance a lot of what I have been reading.  All Our Wrong Todays is Elan Mastai’s first novel; it’s about time travel and it’s a treat. Put it on your list. And thanks Dan for sending this goodie my way.

Elan Mastai’s first novel

I enjoy science fiction books that shine a bright and happy light on our future; but don’t get me wrong, sci-fi stories filled with broken and clanging infrastructures and characters who rattle uneasily through the night because future society is broken – well those stories, I like those kinds of stories too. But if I could have a single wish, it would be one that secures a perfect future for us all. That future would come complete with a restored natural world, free education and technology along with a guaranteed living income for everyone. Oh yea, and with hovercraft and jetpacks for all. Amen.

In All our Wrong Todays the reader gets to experience both types of futures.

In All Our Wrong Todays 2016 looks pretty modern.

One morning the main character, Tom, wakes up in a 2016 world he doesn’t recognize. His 2016 was better, a nirvana really. Tom’s original world is a techno-utopian paradise. The reason why Tom’s 2016 is so much better than our 2016 is due solely to the invention of the Goettreider Engine in the 1960’s. The Goettreider Engine harnessed the power of the Earth’s rotation, which enabled humans to end all their earthly woes. The result: a Jetson world in 2016. Mastai highlights technology advancements and the universal availability of technology, which is great fodder for the story. I was so enchanted with Tom’s 2016 I wanted the narrative to extend to the bee population and the polar caps, but that wasn’t covered. Still, it didn’t take away from his story.

Just as the reader settles into the beautiful modern future, Tom who is not a solid thinker, makes a series of poor decisions that send him back in time (using his father’s untested time machine) to when Dr. Goettreider initially activates the engine. Tom’s interference results in the destruction of the engine, which in turn results in our lame 2016 world.

The remainder of the story is about Tom’s attempt to make things right as he travels back in forth in time to get the good 2016 back. The time travel loops got confusing to me, but the slowly changing 2016 scenarios were entertaining.

The tone in All Our Wrong Todays is lighthearted, the chapters (over 100 of them) are short and snappy. It’s a happy book even though the ‘crummy’ future is the now in which we currently live.

I read one review that compared Elan Mastai to Vonnegut. Nice comparison. And maybe not yet quite deserving but All Our Wrong Todays is clever in that way good science fiction can be when it is written with a light touch and a good amount of humor. Since this is just Mastai’s first published novel, let’s see if he continues down the Vonnegut path.

Another book I read during the earliest spring days was Educated by Tara Westover. It is her first book.

Educated is Westover’s life story and she tells a ‘can’t put it down’ tale about what it is like to be born to and grow up with survivalists. Surprise, it’s no barrel of monkeys.

The reader initially gets the sense that most people could pass the Westover house or meet the clan in a store and walk away thinking: eccentric or not my kind of life.

And that would probably be it. But scratch and sniff that household just a bit more (which is what Educated does) and anyone with a lick of sense would be bowled over by an olfactory tidal wave of very disturbed.

Westover’s youth was spent stockpiling canned goods and making herbal tinctures for her mother (who is a healer and midwife) and monitoring the whereabouts of her head-for-the-hills bag, packed in preparation for the end of the world. You see Westover’s father had convinced the family that the Feds were out to get them.

Westover was homeschooled but not really. Once she learned to read and write she spent most of her free time helping the family survive off the grid and prep for the Lord’s second coming.

The danger of living with mentally ill adults is that a child’s health and well-being is at constant risk because those in charge of making decisions shouldn’t be. Tara had six siblings, she was the youngest, and the first half of the book is filled with a series of dangerous, death-defying accidents that occur simply because of her parent’s muddied mental facilities. And then one of her brothers becomes physically violent towards Westover.

This book could be subtitled ‘My life without Social Services’ because Westover’s childhood is a march through increasingly dangerous situations. Situations that likely could have been prevented if the family had lived around stable citizens who would have likely contacted the authorities. She also begins to suffer greatly at the hands of her brother who may have inherited the family mental illness. It is maddening to read through the torture Westover experiences at the hand of her brother AND at the same time witness her parents, who reportedly love her very much, refuse to notice the abuse she endures. Finally, Tara’s survival instincts push her enough to get out of the house.

Westover’s educational experiences transform her life. She starts at Brigham Young and ends with advanced degrees from Cambridge. It is enjoyable to see Westover engage with society for the first time. Westover doesn’t know how to take class notes, she has never heard of the Holocaust and is offended by immodest clothes that women her age wear (e.g.; shorts). It goes on.

Throughout Westover’s transformation and exposure to the secular and scholarly world she cannot quit thinking of her parents and her home in the mountains of Idaho. She loves and misses them but her educational pursuits have put a broader barrier between them than just a physical one. Tara Westover’s successes are not the end of this story as the book continues to document the attempts Westover makes to connect back with her family.

I was fascinated with Tara Westover’s life story. She is a gifted storyteller and she sucked me in. I even followed up on her by listening to a recent podcast where she was interviewed by Michael Ian Black. Andy sat down and listened to the podcast with me. It hurt to hear her talk about her childhood with a thoughtfulness and grace that no one in her family had shown her. I wanted her to be angry. But instead there was a notable ache in her measured tone. It rang of pure desire to be accepted by her family.

The great George Saunders and his first novel.

Here are two other firsts:
George Saunders, who I believe is one of our greatest living American writers, released his first novel in 2017, Lincoln in the Bardo. I bought the book as soon as I could. But despite all my enthusiasm for the release of his first novel, I couldn’t finish it. This book was on nearly every ‘best of’ list last year and I couldn’t get through the first 100 pages.

The novel begins with the death of Abraham Lincoln’s 11-year-old son, Willie, who succumbs to typhoid fever in the White House one night while his parents host a state dinner. Willie’s body is taken immediately to a cemetery, but not buried. And it is not long before Lincoln arrives at the cemetery in the middle of the night to hold Willie’s body next to his and rage.

Cemeteries and Ghosts are a big part of Lincoln in the Bardo

Saunders weaves real-life accounts and reference material along with imagined narrations and false sources in alternating paragraphs to tell this story. There is also a community (a bardo) of ghosts that exist in the cemetery and who share their own stories, introduce Willie to the afterlife, and provide a running commentary to the readers on the ins and outs of daily existence for ghosts living in the cemetery.

Truthfully, Saunders’ unique style in this book became tedious for me very quickly. It was just too much; the numerous ghost voices, the continual references to real and imagined sources. The short paragraphs ended up only wearing me down and never caught my interest. (This is sharp contrast with my enjoyment of the short sassy paragraphs in All Our Wrong Todays). And then I bought the audio book, because I had heard wonderful things about the production and wasn’t willing quite yet to give up on Saunders’ book. But the same issues I had when reading the book were present in the audio version too. There were just too many voices even though those voices included Lena Dunham, David Sedaris, Julianne Moore, Ben Stiller and more. I simply could not get drawn into this story with all that yammering.

I am interested to hear from any Rocky Scrambler who completes the novel. Let me know what you think. I love Saunders’ writing so I am baffled by my inability to read his novel.

Finally, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is another book I am listening to through Audible. It is a powerful YA book from another first-time author. Whenever I slip on the earbuds to listen I am immediately drawn into the story and it is very hard for me walk away.

Briefly The Hate U Give is a story of a 16-year-old African-American girl named Starr who is caught between two worlds. Starr lives in a mostly black and poor urban neighborhood but she and her brothers go to a white prep school on the other side of town. The story begins when Starr is at a party where a gang dispute leads to gun shots and she flees with Khalil, a childhood friend. Starr and Khalil have nothing to do with the violence at the party but are stopped by a policeman on their way home. The cop shoots Khalil in front of Starr, and Khalil dies.

After that the book centers on Starr’s struggles with how best to advocate and honor Khalil when the investigation into the shooting begins. Another significant concern for Starr is how to honor Khalil without exposing her true self to her school friends.

The Hate U Give is being made into a movie. I am not sure if a movie can capture the nuances of Starr’s situation without overplaying the storyline. So, consider getting the book, in any form very soon.


Posted in Books | Leave a comment