Books to Read

Recently I’ve been reading memoirs and biographies, taking a little break from fiction. Reading across genres is a great way to expand my thinking, and I often gain some nugget of wisdom and self-awareness from the experiences of other people who have written thoughtfully about their own lives.

Can't we Be Friends book cover. Photos of Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald

One of my recent reads is Can’t We Be Friends, a retrospective on the friendship between Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald – a novel based on real life. I knew that Marilyn and Ella were friends and contemporaries, but I didn’t know how deep the friendship went until I read this book. I also didn’t know the extent of the addiction issues that Marilyn had, nor the emotional and mental abuse she suffered during her marriage to Arthur Miller. While I can still admire and respect his talent as a writer, knowing how he treated Marilyn has tarnished him as a human being.

Back the day I was never a huge fan of Marilyn Monroe, and I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been a big fan of Ella Fitzgerald, and through her eyes in this book I gained an appreciation for Marilyn. As an actress, she was a very hard worker and dedicated to her craft, something that a lot of people didn’t appreciate at the time, labeling her as just a difficult actress to work with.

My take-away from Can’t We Be Friends is the importance of having a strong friendship that can sustain us through anything, as well as the importance of having friends who lift us up as opposed to tearing us apart.

I received an ARC of the book from NetGalley for review, and the book releases March 5, 2024

Book cover for Wake Up with Purpose, What I've Learned in my First Hundred Years. Photo of Sister Jean, smiling woman with white hair.

Another book that I just finished is titled Wake Up With Purpose: What I’ve Learned in my First Hundred Years by Sister Jean with Seth Davis. She is an amazing woman, 102 years old when the book was written. She is the chaplain for the Loyola Chicago men’s basketball team, the Ramblers, a position she held for 16 years since she “retired” from her academic career as an educator, counselor, administrator and the many other roles she assumed throughout her years in the religious community of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Reading her book I was so amazed at not only her longevity, but what she has accomplished during her extensive career. She spent many years as a coach of women’s basketball and has always had a strong affinity for the sport.

Other than when I played basketball in high school intramural competitions, I’ve never had much of an interest in basketball. It’s just one step above golf as my least favorite sport to watch or generate any excitement about. So it was interesting to see the sport through the eyes of Sister Jean, who is such an avid fan and who still continues to attend the games that the Loyola men’s basketball team plays. And her excitement when the Ramblers got to play in March madness in 2018 was contagious.

My take-away from Wake up With Purpose was how basketball reflects life – both are a team endeavor, as well as the importance of accepting whatever life throws at you with grace and even some enthusiasm. (Something I struggle with all the time – that acceptance.) The book released in February, 2023, and I borrowed a copy from my local library.

Cover image for The Same River Twice by Alice Walker. Black and White picture of a river flowing past an embankment with trees on either side.

With the release of a new film version of “The Color Purple” I was interested in reading Alice Walker’s book, The Same River Twice. It’s part memoir and part a tribute to the book and the first movie, directed by Steven Spielberg. While Walker did have issues with the final version of that film, she respected Spielberg and the talented cast.

The parts of her novel that take place in West Africa are particularly important to Alice Walker, who wanted to show the horrible way that blacks have been treated in that country. In the book, she includes an article entitled “Erasing a Black Spot,” written by D.D. Guttenplan with Peter Younghusband. The article first appeared in the Cape Town Newsweek December 12th 1983.

The article deals with the forceful removal of 2000 members of the Bakwena tribe from a community that was referred to as a “black spot” in an all white area. The government bulldozed the village, giving the people seven days to leave. Bishop Desmond Tutu referred to that forced removal, “As evil and immoral as Nazism.”

I’ve had only a passing knowledge of the history of Africa and the impact of Apartheid on the people of the various countries, but reading this section of Walker’s book led me on an Internet search that was most enlightening. It is just another example of how people of color have been pushed off their land, killed, and discriminated against all over the world.

A sad truth indeed.

I’m only about a third of the way through the book, and so far my take-away is an appreciation for the inside look at a story, The Color Purple, that I’ve enjoyed reading and seeing on the big screen, as well as appreciation for broadening my world view. The Same River Twice was first released in 1996, and I borrowed a copy from my library.

That’s all from me for today, folks. I have a busy week ahead with doctor appointments, one of the perks of getting older we get to see our doctors more often. 🙂 In between, I hope to get some writing done. Whatever your week holds, be happy and be safe.

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