2014 Book Challenge Results

tumblr_static_bibliophileHappy New Year, and thank you for stopping by! 🙂 2015 is an exciting time for me at So It Must Be True, with health and wellness becoming one of the blog’s added focuses, as well as some brand new content. As a writer, I love to read in my spare time, and occasionally the books I read will inspire my blog posts!

Every year, I aim to read as much as I can, and I create annual recaps to share my book lists with readers!

While adjusting to full-time employment and a busy schedule, I haven’t had a ton of time to read for pleasure this year, but I am still happy to have enjoyed some great books! (Yes, I know I fell way short of my 50 book challenge, but hey – I really liked the books I did get to read!)

Below is a list of books I read this year, as well as any blog posts inspired by them. (Click for recaps from 2011, 2012 and 2013.) Let me know what great books you’ve enjoyed this year!

Books I’ve Read in 2014:

1. The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1/18/14)
2. Silent Dancing by Judith Ortiz Cofer (1/21/14) – The Stories We Tell Ourselves
3. I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts On Being A Woman by Nora Ephron (1/28/14)
4. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (2/20/14)
5. It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig (2/25/14)
6. Divergent by Veronica Roth (3/30/14)
7. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (4/30/14)
8. Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III (5/22/14)
9. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg (7/10/14)
10. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz (8/2/14) – How I Met Your Mother, Toltec Wisdom and Letting Go
11. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding (9/3/14)
12. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin (12/25/14)

Have you read any of these books? What are some of your favorite books you’ve read this year? What do you suggest for 2015?

Unfinished: The Tricky Thing About Closure

Lifetime_How-I-Met-Your-Mother_6_Unfinished_79899_LF_2013_HD_768x432-16x9“You need demarcation.”
“Demarcation?” I asked.
“It means a clear separation between two things,” he told me. “A solid end before a clean beginning. No murky borders. Clarity.”
Sarah Dessen, The Moon and More

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As I was binge-watching old episodes of How I Met Your Mother, I came across an episode in season six that struck a chord with me. In the episode Unfinished, Robin has recently broken up with Don, a boyfriend who had left for a job in Chicago just as things were getting serious. Robin experiences both anger and remorse as she deals with one of the most difficult break-ups of her life, concerned that she will never have closure, and that she and Don “will always be a loose end.”

closurelaw-smIt is a problem that so many of us face in our lives, whether we are going through a break-up or experiencing another monumental change. Within the realm of relationships, it is difficult to find closure if one or both parties aren’t ready to let go, and as much as we hate to admit it, we often aren’t ready. Lines of communication are kept open, words are minced to soften the blow and suddenly we find ourselves wondering where we would be if X, Y and Z had never happened. Things end in a way we don’t expect and don’t like, and the closure we yearn for is suddenly out of reach.

I remember at the end of my junior year of high school, I finished my cheerleading season with injuries and a few sub-par performances that my sophomore-self wouldn’t have been proud of. Because of my senior year schedule and my new position as a yearbook editor, I knew that cheerleading in my senior year was out of the question, but it was hard to wrap my head around the fact that my season hadn’t ended the way I wanted it. I was devastated, and considered forcing practices and games into my schedule so that I could end my cheerleading career on a brighter note, if only to gain the closure I so desperately needed.

delete-buttonOf course, I realized that would have been a mistake, and while I initially mourned the uniform and pom poms (bear with me, I was a teenager!), I eventually moved on. I had a successful year as a yearbook editor, and not re-joining the team gave me more time to write freelance articles locally. As an adult, I have never regretted the decision I was convinced I would regret at age seventeen.

In my college years and early twenties, I have been in situations that initially lacked closure as well – a break-up I wasn’t ready for, a perfect first date that never led to a second, jobs I applied to that never called back. I have craved closure and sometimes I have even gotten that closure thrown back at me in the worst possible way. However, I have also met new people along the way and even ended up at my dream job.

7fd7600e150ac1bce69b852d20676a53Throughout Unfinished, Robin struggles to erase Don’s phone number from her memory (and from her cell phone), but by the end of the episode, she forgets it. And just as Robin forgets Don’s number, you too will forget your ex’s nuances (or the job you didn’t get, or the sport you quit, etc.) in certain ways because your brain will be focused on something else: a hobby, perhaps, or someone new. Breaking up with closure can be a tricky thing, but it passes with time as you change your circumstances and create your own closure.

“And the heart,” says Judith Ortiz Cofer in her poem To a Daughter I Cannot Console, “like a well-constructed little boat, will resume its course toward hope.”

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

summer“I dream, I make up pictures of a summer’s afternoon.” – Virginia Woolf

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Last night, I began reading Silent Dancing, a memoir by Judith Ortiz Cofer (of whom I am a huge fan!). In the preface, she begins by comparing memories of her childhood to “one perfect summer’s afternoon,” in which it is easy to forget about the hurtful parts and simply remember the happier times. She discusses the need that many of us have, as we look back, “to study ourselves and our lives in retrospect; to understand what people and events formed us (and, yes, what and who hurt us too).”

As a writer, I often find myself piecing together memories and romanticizing some of the less glamorous parts of my life, perhaps to my own detriment. I think this is part of the human condition; we create these stories about our lives that become part of our intricate mythology, and the stories become so ingrained in us that we can’t remember which details are historically accurate and which are wishful thinking. A few images from my own mythology are hard to shake — a boy playing Death Cab for Cutie on guitar when I was sixteen; endless afternoons at a retro burger restaurant with four best friends; that summer when my life was a Sarah Dessen book, down to every last trope that makes its way into young adult novels.

Of course, the stories we tell ourselves can make us nostalgic for the past, and we often forget the struggles that we faced in those times. We think back to our former experiences, jobs, friendships and relationships and remember the perfect summer afternoons, not the thunderstorms or the sleepless nights or the doubt or the heartache that came along with them. When we forget these challenges or minimize them, however, we don’t learn from our mistakes or move on properly.

It is important for us not to take too many creative liberties when looking back, and to remember that life changes for a reason. We change. And we will never be able to grow or truly experience life if we are stuck in that one seemingly perfect afternoon forever.

Why Writers Are My New Rock Stars

Last week, I had the honor of meeting Judith Ortiz Cofer, whose work I have been reading in my Women in Literature class. (Some of you may recall my recent post about her poem To A Daughter I Cannot Console.) I swear, it felt like I was meeting a celebrity. Never before have I gotten to listen to an author whose work I’ve read and then meet him or her in person, so the whole experience was really exciting for the girl who has been striving to be a writer since she was born.

That reading took place on Thursday, April 14 and was one of the coolest things I’d done all week (which is saying something, since I also went to Typhoon Lagoon and Disney’s in-house ad agency). Both Judith and my professor, Cecilia Rodriguez Milanes, performed their work. I had never attended a reading before, but I know I will be doing that in the future… it was, for lack of a better word, awesome.

But the adventure wasn’t over. That following Saturday, my school held its annual book festival, pulling in authors from all over the country to talk to us about the themes of their work. Half of the panels I attended featured authors I’d never even heard of before, but it was an amazing experience and I learned a lot about the publishing world and writing in general from the talks they gave. Judith was there once again (I lent her my copy of her book during the panel! eeeee) and so was Vicki Forman, the author of This Lovely Life, which we also read in class recently. Having my books signed and getting to speak one-on-one with the writers was exciting, and it shed some light on the topics they write about as well as the processes they went through. My class also video-chatted with Vicki yesterday, which gave us the chance to ask her some of the tough questions.

To me, writers are like rock stars. I have been reading, more or less, since I was three or four years old, and so books have been more prevalent in my life than almost anything else. I love what I’m studying in school, but ultimately I want to just write books full time. Therefore, attending readings and author panels has been one of the most interesting things I have ever gotten the chance to do. In the past, authors were seen much more as celebrities — Arthur Miller was well-known for his marriage to Marilyn, for example, and Truman Capote traveled within Hollywood’s social circles — whereas now, the only writers we ever really hear about are J.K. Rowling, James Patterson and the not-so-beloved Stephanie Meyer.

Still, I am proud to have met some truly inspirational writers in the last week! One parting piece of advice to readers: college presents some wonderful opportunities, so take advantage of the ones that sound remotely interesting to you. I promise you will learn something from them!

Heartbreak and The Latin Deli

“And the heart, like a well-constructed little boat, will resume its course toward hope.” – Judith Ortiz Cofer, “To a Daughter I Cannot Console,” The Latin Deli

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Today in my Women in Literature class, as we broke into groups to discuss our latest anthology The Latin Deli, I couldn’t help but become drawn to its poem called “To a Daughter I Cannot Console.” Although I’m not by any means a fan of poetry, the works of Judith Ortiz Cofer really caught my attention, especially because of the real life situations and relationships that her book brings to light. In this particular poem, a woman (the speaker of the poem) tries to take care of her heartbroken teenage daughter. The speaker tries to explain to her daughter that things will be all right in the end, but naturally, the daughter does not believe this because of the pain she is currently going through.

Of course, when the speaker tries to remember the boy who broke her own heart at sixteen, she can barely even recall his face. Ultimately, she realizes that while “the storm surging within will abate – like all acts of God,” her daughter is still too young to realize this, and will have to undergo those hard feelings herself. As difficult as it is to watch her daughter endure such a disappointment, the speaker recognizes that her daughter will have to learn from life experience rather than merely a mother’s calming words.

The significant things in our lives are always changing. (Tweet this!) The things that are important to us on one day aren’t always the same things that are important to us a year later. When I look back at my high school experience, for example, I realize that the boy who broke my heart in a Spiderman costume right before Homecoming has become just a memory, a random story I’ve told a few friends in college (you can’t make these things up).

In other words, all of us have — at one point or another — been that sixteen-year-old girl, inconsolable over someone or something that has hurt us. But after the wounds have healed, we begin to forget that they were ever really there in the first place. We take on the role of the mother in the poem, optimistic that the passage of time will make everything better.

Therefore, when things haven’t gone our way, we have to keep on moving like that “well-constructed little boat,” and remind ourselves that soon enough, many of our disappointments will disintegrate into the stories we rarely think to tell.