Book Review: The Children’s Crusade

The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer

The Children’s Crusade: A Novel by Ann Packer (New York: Scribner, 2015. 440 pp) Ann Packer was born in Stanford, California and attended Yale University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has received fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing, the Michener-Copernicus Society, and the National Endowment of the Arts. Her work has earned her many prizes, including the Kate Chopin Literary Award. She divides her time between the Bay Area, New York, and Maine. From Milk to Solids The shift from childhood to adulthood offers a profound sense of understanding about the pressures of parenting. The circumstances and behaviors once labeled oppressive and unfair become notes of grace, understood in intention. Parenting is difficult. It makes sense when… Read More →

Film Review: The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner written by Anita Doron and Deborah Ellis and directed by Nora Twomey (Aircraft Pictures, Cartoon Saloon, Mélusine Productions, PG-13, 94 min) Starring Saara Chaudry, Soma Chhaya, Noorin Gulamgaus, Laara Sadiq, Shaista Latif, Ali Badshah, and Ali Kazmi. A Hypothetical Nightmare Imagine for a second a hypothetical nightmare. You, by your appearance alone, are unable to enter the public sphere. The marketplace, the agora where locals buy and sell goods is off limits. What would you do, especially if the government does little to support the marginalized and the least of these? Would you risk punishment or death to find food? Or would you wither away at home, hoping for charity? Fortunately, many people in America never need to… Read More →

Film Review: A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story written and directed by David Lowery (A24, Sailor Bear, Zero Trans Fats Productions, Ideaman Studios, R, 92 min) Starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. I Will Follow You into the Dark Reflections on the afterlife can leave unsettling inferences unsaid. If heaven is more than just a place on earth, then what will we do? With whom will we spend time? How does a consciousness known only in the linear encounter and operate in the infinite? In my younger years, I always feared the afterlife my faith tradition composed. The notion of sitting in God’s glory and worshipping forever seems utterly dull. But, compared to eternal damnation, I guess a boring existence is an upgrade? The ghost… Read More →

Film Review: The Big Sick

The Big Sick

The Big Sick written by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani and directed by Michael Showalter (Amazon Studios, Apatow Productions, FilmNation Entertainment, Story Ink, R, 120 min) Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, and Ray Romano. In Consideration of Social Pressures What will they think? Why are social pressures so demanding of our thoughts and actions? Isn’t it odd how human beings avoid decisions with clearly pleasurable results if only because the inner life of another might disapprove? Have you ever stopped to consider how many experiences and relationships have been lost to the hypothetical judgment of a friend or relative? Why do we do it? Why, for all that is good and holy, does it ever matter what… Read More →

Book Review: Freedom

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

Freedom: A Novel by Jonathan Franzen (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2010. 576 pp) Jonathan Franzen is an American author. He graduated from Swarthmore College with a degree in German. Franzen has received widespread acclaim for his book, The Corrections. He has won the National Book Award and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. He lives in New York City and Santa Cruz, California. Realism Nut Crackers Realism is a tough nut to crack. Especially in literary fiction where the growth of the character is largely internal, too many convenient turns in a plot illustrate sloppiness and remove the suspension of disbelief. How often have you noticed a convenient plot detail in a television series where said event doesn’t… Read More →

Book Review: The Nix

The Nix by Nathan Hill

The Nix: A Novel by Nathan Hill (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 640 pp) Born in Iowa, Nathan Hill earned his BA in English from the University of Iowa and his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Hill’s debut novel, The Nix, was a finalist for the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction from the Los Angeles Times. Hill’s writing has been published in The Iowa Review, Agni, The Gettysburg Review, The Denver Quarterly, and Fiction. Hill is an Associate Professor of English at the University of St. Thomas and lives in Naples, Florida. History Written through Familial Relationship That person is someone’s daughter. The phrase often emerges in conversation where one party hopes to place… Read More →

Film Review: Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan (Affleck/Middleton Project, B Story, Big Indie Pictures, R, 137 min) Starring Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Williams, Gretchen Mol, and Lucas Hedges. Armchair Psychology Putting on my armchair psychologist bow tie, I’ll make an unfounded proclamation: we link emotional resonance to physical location. For example, we develop deep, nostalgic feelings for locations around the campus of our alma mater. Personally, my wedding location conjures feelings of love and joy. The sights, sounds, and smells of an area lodge deep in our souls. While watching the acclaimed Manchester by the Sea, I kept thinking about this phenomenon. New England Meets the Atlantic Set in New England, Manchester by the Sea depicts… Read More →

Book Review: Here I Am

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer

Here I Am: A Novel by Jonathan Safran Foer (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2016. 592 pp) Born in Washington, D.C., Jonathan Safran Foer attended Princeton University earning a degree in philosophy. While at Princeton, Foer developed a senior thesis around the life of his Holocaust surviving grandfather. Eventually, this thesis became Foer’s first published book titled, Everything Is Illuminated. The book received critical acclaim winning the National Jewish Book Award and a Guardian First Book Award. Eventually, the novel was adapted into a film starring Elijah Wood. Foer’s second novel, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: A Novel garnered both praise and derision for its use of 9/11 as a narrative tool and its use of visual writing. Foer… Read More →

Film Review: Brooklyn

Brooklyn

Brooklyn written by Nick Hornby, directed by John Crowley (Wildgaze Films, BBC Films, Parallel Film Productions, PG-13, 117 min) Starring Saoirse Ronan, Emory Conan, Jim Broadbent, Fiona Glascott, Jane Brennan, and Domhnall Gleeson. A Nation of Immigrants We are a nation of immigrants. The farther we move from our nation’s inception, the hazier this fact becomes. But truthfully, the majority of the American population can trace its roots back to a voyage across the Atlantic. On my father’s side, the dominant story establishes itself with early roots. A Thomas Jefferson Richards braced tempestuous waters in the chilly Atlantic on a “Mayflower.” In my younger years, I wanted to believe TJR represented the first pilgrims. I haven’t done enough digging for… Read More →

Book Review: LaRose

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

LaRose: A Novel by Louise Erdrich (New York: Harper, 2016. 384 pp) Louise Erdrich lives with her family in Minnesota and is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore. She is also the bestselling author of many critically acclaimed novels for adults, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves and the National Book Award finalist The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. She is also the author of the picture book Grandmother’s Pigeon, illustrated by Jim LaMarche. Woke Context plays an important role in the consumption of art. Outside of one-off art installations or performances, a reaction to any specific art form may transform over the years. NeverEnding Story played differently in my childhood… Read More →