Fixing Books

Today, my son finally ripped a library book. I’ve been expecting this for the past year or so (as long as I’ve been getting him library books), but he’s been surprisingly respectful so far. Today, however, he got bored waiting for me to read G is for Gzonk (which I was hoping not to have to read at all), and he experimentally ripped a few inches of the page.

So I gave him a time out (which he loves), then considered making him return all the library books without checking any out (which would be torture for me, because I would have to read the same old books we have), and at my husband’s suggestion, settled on making him “pay” for the damages.

And by that, I mean I made him do some extra chores and paid him small change for them. Then we took a little plastic container (filled with his glorious 40 cents) to the librarian.

“Will you tell the librarian what happened?” I asked.

The librarian patiently waited while I prodded a “I ripped a book” out of him.

She started to tell him it was no big deal, but I gave her a look and whispered, “I know, but I’m trying to teach him a lesson.”

She nodded knowingly, then wiped the smile off her face and said thoughtfully to my son, “Well, thank you for telling me. We’ll fix it with some tape.”

“Give her the money,” I said.

She started to protest again, and I whispered, “It’s just 40 cents. Just take it.”

She nodded again and took the money, thanking John for his responsibility. John actually looked really concerned about the book, and I gave him a hug and thanked him for fixing the problem. And then we went about our normal library activities of checking out about a bazillion books. ♦


Setting the Record Straight: Blacks & the Mormon Priesthood

Up until 1978, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon church) restricted priesthood ordination. That’s not all that odd; most religions have some restrictions placed on ordination, such as sex, education, or behavior. But the odd thing about this restriction was that all worthy male church members were permitted to be ordained except those of African origin.

This policy was, and has been, controversial, and led to speculation and false doctrine. If the policy wasn’t inspired, why was it in place? And if it was inspired, why would God restrict a certain race from exercising the priesthood? Some speculated that Black church members were (for some unknown reason) unworthy of ordination. Others speculated that God was waiting for the right time to lift the ban.


Setting the Record Straight: Blacks & the Mormon Priesthood is part of a larger series (Setting the Record Straight) that addresses some of the controversial issues in Mormonism, both cultural and doctrinal. I’ve read a few books in this series, and I’m going to go ahead and say the quality of the book depends entirely on the author; some of them are great, and some of them are not. This one is great.

Marcus Martins, the author, is a prominent Black church member who grew up before the priesthood ban was lifted. He talks about his own bitterness about the ban, as well as his father’s faith that he should live worthy to receive the priesthood as soon as the ban was lifted. He talks about what a privilege it is for anyone to be able to exercise God’s power. He talks about some of the blatantly false doctrine he’s heard as a religion professor, and some of the questions he’s had to answer from people who questioned his faith. He also talks about how strange it was for his family to convert from another Christian faith to one where the White church members often looked down on them for … reasons. Reasons that nobody could really define, but everyone assumed were there.

I think the power of this book is that it doesn’t have answers—and doesn’t pretend to. What Martins does is point out that most of the false doctrine floating around in Mormon circles comes from “finding” answers where there are none. Martins doesn’t know why he wasn’t allowed to hold the priesthood until 1978. He doesn’t pretend to know why. And he still believes this is God’s church. But what he does do throughout the book is show how people insisting on finding the answer (and then imposing their answer on others) led to misunderstandings of doctrine.

I think this is a great book for anyone—regardless of whether you’re LDS or not—who’s interested in learning about other faiths. It talks about how wrong we can be, and how much better it is to admit we don’t know everything. It also has a very forgiving tone; he points out the racism he’s encountered and encourages everybody to be better. He talks about how important diversity of races, cultures, and experiences can be in a growing worldwide church. But he isn’t bitter; he’s just helping to solve the problem. I love his attitude of moving forward, rather than dwelling on pain. ♦

An Embarrassment of Pandas

I don’t usually tell people what my works in progress are. This is for several reasons. One is that I want the creative license to dramatically change my writing at the drop of a hat. That means I don’t want people to say, “But I really liked that idea! (or character, or what-have-you.)

Another reason is because I figure there are only a few select people who really care about the writing before it’s finished.

But the biggest reason is probably that when people know I’m working on a project, they ask me how it’s going. And then I stress out about it, because sometimes it’s not going so well. Or not going at all. Or I’ve completely abandoned it and started something new. Long story short, I don’t tell people about my works in progress because I’d rather give someone a pleasant surprise than look like a flake.

So… I have a pleasant surprise! I’ve just finished a book! It’s a poetry collection inspired by the absurd names we have for animals. For example, a group of crows is called a murder. A group of sharks is a shiver. Monkeys literally come in barrels. And the book is called An Embarrassment of Pandas. (Yes, that’s the real name for a group of pandas.)

And—added bonus—my good friend Holly Black agreed to do the illustrations for me (which is why that panda on the front cover looks so svelte and put-together.) The whole thing ended up with a kind of Shel Silverstein flavor, if I may flatter myself.

I’ve got a book signing here in Provo on Dec. 2 (and I’m only freaking out about it a little bit.) The event is at 11am at Pioneer Book (450 W Center Street), and there will be snacks. Obviously. The book is perfect for poetry readers of all ages, so everybody’s welcome.

And if you want to buy it online, click here!


I Explain a Few Things

i explain a few things

I Explain a Few Things is a collection by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. I read a collection of his love poems earlier in the year (or was it last year?) and I liked it okay—but I felt like I might like him a little more if he were being a little less romantic and more matter-of-fact. So I picked this one up, hoping it would be a collection of non-love poems.

Here’s my impression: Pablo Neruda really liked Federico García Lorca. I figured this out because he wrote an ode to Lorca. (I’m clever, aren’t I?) But in addition to writing about Lorca, he also writes a lot like him.

I read Lorca’s collected works a while ago for my world-reading challenge. Lorca is a well-known Spanish poet, who wrote some brilliant lines and then buried them in a mountain of absolute garbage. Forgive me. But I really didn’t like Lorca. He just didn’t make any sense.

The good news is this: Neruda made sense. He still used a lot of the unexpected word combinations that Lorca inspired. And Neruda still wrote sentences that didn’t make any sense. But when you look at the poem on the whole, you at least get a full picture of the mood, the idea that Neruda was trying to convey. A few poems lost me, but most of them were fairly easy to follow; I could even follow a few of them in Spanish. (This is a bilingual edition.)

So if you want some good poetry dripping with metaphor, pick up Neruda. And if you want something even less mundane, go ahead and try Lorca. ♦


¡No bájes al sótano!


Okay, guys. I’m learning Spanish. And I’m reading books in Spanish to help. But I’m kind of new at writing in Spanish, so here goes.

¡No bajes al sótano! es un libro de R.L. Stine, el autor de la serie Escalofríos. Son libros muy buenos para niños que les gustan libros de horror, y los leía cuando era niña. Ahora, estoy estudiando español, y leí este libro en español para practicar.

El libro cuenta de una niña, Margaret, y su hermano Charlie. El padre de ellos es un científico, y durante la mayor parte del día, está en el sótano. Pero cosas extrañas comienzan, y el padre de ellos comienza a cambiar…

Para un niño, es terrorífico. Para un adulto, es aburrido. Para un estudiante de español, es buena práctica. ♦

Fullmetal Alchemist

fullmetal alchemist


So back in high school, my friend Latecia kept telling me I needed to watch Fullmetal Alchemist. Something about how it was awesome. And a lot more about how the main character reminded her of me. Apparently he was really short and flew into a rage if you mentioned his height.

This usually just made me fly into a rage about my height, and I never got around to watching the show. I wasn’t really into anime, anyway.

Well, now I’ve married an anime buff, and he keeps trying to get me into the genre. I knew nothing about anime except that the only kids who watched it were really weird (except you, Latecia, obviously.) And Ethan introduced me with Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo, a show about a huge dude with a blonde Afro who fights crime(?) with his nose hairs. It didn’t go over well.

After a while, Ethan realized I might want a little more substance, and switched his tactic. After blowing all his bookstore credit on a complete set of the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, he started trying to sell me on the plotline: boys use alchemy to try to bring their mother back to life and everything goes wrong. That sounded a lot better than Bobobo, and I agreed to read one.

One was interesting, so I read another.

Twenty-seven gripping volumes later, I can’t begin to tell you how good this author is at political intrigue. I don’t even know who was pulling which government strings, but I can tell I would be getting my questions answered if I read it all over again. And her world-building skills are amazing. She has specific rules to how this alchemy works, she follows those rules, and occasionally blows your mind by breaking them. And then blows your mind again by explaining exactly how she broke them, and which rules she was actually following the whole time.

If you’re not into manga, start with this one. If you’re into manga and you haven’t read this one yet, get to it. And if you’re not remotely concerned with manga but you want a fantastic story about politics, genocide, humanity, and also some middle-grade goofing around, go read it. It’s good. ♦

Virtue and Vice: A Dictionary of the Good Life

virtue and vice

I love C.S. Lewis. But his (nonfiction) writing is super dense, so I tend to pick up those little collections they print—the ones in large print, with condensed versions of his longer works. Cheating? Maybe. But I’m not in school anymore, so who’s gonna tell the teacher?

Anyways. Virtue and Vice claims to be A Dictionary of the Good Life. This is not “the good life” chilling on a yacht drinking a cold one. We’re talking “good” as opposed to evil. It’s a dictionary of basic religious words for people who want to be good people. And it wasn’t actually compiled by C.S. Lewis; he wrote all the content, but it’s a quote book collected by somebody else.

Overall, I would say this book is worth reading. It won’t take long, and it will make you think. The overall result, however, was that I ended up skimming some rather obvious stuff (and some stuff I’d already read elsewhere), and then getting to parts I liked and wishing I had the rest of the source material. If you want to know which C.S. Lewis book (or article) you’d like to pick up next, go ahead and start with this, then check out the bibliography in the back. But if you want the heavy stuff, go ahead and skip this one.

I’ll leave you with my favorite quote (that I need to look up now in the original article):

“If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”