Documenting family history is incredibly important. If you don’t, your family’s history will disappear and you may never discover what happened or what led you to where you are in life. Emei Burell examines her mother’s past in We Served the People: My Mother’s Stories, a graphic history of life during China’s Cultural Revolution and the impact it had on lives after it ended.
At the beginning of this graphic biography, Burrell notes that this is the story of her mother’s experience and is her mother’s story – her story doesn’t speak for everyone. She was an adolescent at the time, just 14-years old, about to graduate from 7th grade when her life suddenly and drastically changed. First her school was shut down with the teachers forced to stay in the school and not allowed to return home. She and her fellow students still had to come to school, but there was no actual learning taking place. Flash forward to 1968 when Mao ZeDong launched the Down to the Countryside Movement. That meant that all educated youth were forced to go to the countryside to be reeducated by the poorest lower and middle peasants so they could learn what China really is. They didn’t have a choice not to go, but she avoided leaving until 1969 when she ended up in Yunnan and was stuck there for ten years until the end of the Cultural Revolution. Her mother was officially a rusticated youth in Yunnan.
Throughout this book, Burell pairs her drawings with her mother’s words and photographs from that time. Those photographs add a connection to the story that readers may not have otherwise had with the drawings alone. Her mother’s stories depict how she ended up as one of the few truck-driving women during the Down to the Countryside Movement. Her life growing up in mid-1960s Communist China was rough, yet she managed to survive and thrive while living in a time of massive political upheaval. Determined to get her fair share, she wasn’t afraid to fight for what she wanted. She found ways to work the system, get an education, and eventually leave China like she always planned.
I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic biography. The Cultural Revolution in China was not something I had much knowledge of before I started reading this, but this book has pushed me down a rabbit hole to learn more about this time period and the millions of lives that were lost.
Making friends as an adult is difficult. Sophie Littlefield and Lauren Gershell talk about the delicate balance between friends and enemies, as well as the different lengths that people are willing to do to in order to make friends in their newest book, That’s What Frenemies Are For. Hidden motives abound for all in this novel that grabs you by your private school, Manhattan socialite education and refuses to let go.
That’s What Frenemies Are For by Sophie Littlefield and Lauren Gershell talks about how easily influence and cache in different groups can change as readers follow the life of a Manhattan socialite who finds the next biggest craze in the form of a peppy spin instructor and an underperforming fitness studio. Her decision to rehabilitate the studio and the instructor in order to impress her friends and get back her social cache proves to turn into more than she can handle.
Julia Summers has it all: two children who love her, an adoring husband with a successful job, an apartment in the city, and a house in the Hamptons. Having finally made it to the top of her friend group, Julia influences almost everything the group does. Nothing happens without her approval or without her knowing about it. As a result, Julia is stunned when she finds others in her friend group suddenly vying for her position of power and cutting her out of decisions. When everyone starts to head to the Hamptons for the summer, Julia’s family is stuck in the city when catastrophe hits their Hamptons’ house.
Stuck in the city for the summer, Julia is desperate to reinvent herself before her friends come back. Looking for the newest fad, Julia finds Flame. Flame is the biggest new elite fitness craze that has the possibility to be even better if they just changed a few things. While going to Flame, Julia takes classes from Tatum, a giggly, energetic instructor who Julia decides to transform in the guise of improving Flame’s profit margin and helping to get the word out about the business.
Julia takes on the task to overhaul Flame and Tatum, but in a sneaky way that she hopes isn’t completely obvious to everyone around her. Things slowly start to spiral out of Julia’s control when she discovers that Tatum isn’t as docile as she initially thought. Julia’s comeback doesn’t go as expected and Tatum starts to take over everything herself.
With Julia’s relationships with her friends in turmoil, Julia turns to her family for comfort. Much to her surprise, her husband’s business goes belly up in a most unexpected way. Left with almost no support system and friends who have completely turned their backs on her, Julia has to rethink everything that she had previously held so dear. What does she really want out of life? What is most important to her? Is her perfect life worth it?
Choosing Civility by P.M. Forni is the basis for initiatives by cities and libraries across the county. A slim volume, it has concrete ideas for individuals and for the community at large.
The author talks about the difference between manners and civility, and makes the case that good manners are the tools to promote civility. Manners have gotten a reputation as something that are phony and ineffectual, but, in fact, the purpose of good manners is to show that you think the best of those you encounter and you assume they have only the best motives. You can’t control the rude and callous behavior of those around you, but you can choose to do everything you can, large and small, to make the world a more positive place. This philosophy, in fact, has been shown to increase one’s own happiness.
Being able to have some control over one’s daily interactions is a powerful idea.
The website of the American Library Association promotes Civility & Diversity: “When it comes to finding information and instruction for how to become more civil, there is probably no better source … than Emily Post’s Etiquette. ” In the workplace, a civil atmosphere promotes customer satisfaction “when co-workers work together, they work better, enriching our users’ experiences.”
I’m going back to “Gramma” School. Yup, this month we were blessed with a new grandson, so I’m looking forward to spending some time with the little guy and his big sister. Being a grandmother really is one of the best things in life!
However, I’ve discovered (surprise, surprise) that a few things have changed over the last 30 years, so it seems that one must approach this “parenting-that- is-grand” phase with a life-long learning approach. One aspect that is usually different – though not always – is that grandparents have more time. For me, this rings especially true with reading. As a former teacher, I knew the “read-it-again” rule about re-reading books that kids like, because they learn from the repitition. With my own children, I probably managed 3 or 4 read-it-agains in one sitting. But as a grandparent, I’ve read and re-read certain books 8 or 9 times — or at least so many times that I was certain we had both memorized it and that I was going to go insane if I read it again. (I copped out and suggested that maybe Grandpa could read it again after bathtime.)
Oh — you want to know what that book was? Well, it’s Martha Doesn’t Say Sorry by Samatha Berger. It’s a delightful little picture book with lots of pink coloring, though I could never figure out if Martha was a seal or a weasel or what kind of animal she was, other than a cute one. And why did my precious, perfectly behaved granddaughter want to read that particular book so many times? I’ll never know. I didn’t ask. Oh, yeah, that’s just one of the other little rules I’ve learned in Gramma School.
Are you planning a wedding? If so, you might find these titles helpful.
Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding, written by Judith Martin (aka Miss Manners) and her recently married daughter, Jacobina, is done in the traditional “Dear Miss Manners” question and answer style. This in itself is pretty entertaining … well, don’t we all secretly find another person’s dilemma or faux pas a little humorous? Right, as long as it’s not us!
Interspersed throughout are practical, informative comments. For example, “Wedding as Fundraiser” is listed as one of Three Terrible Ideas (the title for chapter three.) Times have changed, but hospitality still takes the cake.
Another book I wished I had read before my son got married (sigh –it was published a year later) Anyway, Mother of the Groom by Sharon Naylor is packed full of practical insights. It’s not just about the rehearsal dinner anymore! And no, you don’t have to shut up and wear beige. Well, you don’t want to upstage the bride and critical comments are best kept to yourself — so I guess it is still kind of true.
Have fun planning!