A brief, charming little story

Sure, why not.

My wife is out of town again, through Friday this time, and as he tends to do when one of us is out of town the boy has requested to sleep in the “big bed.” I put him off last night because for a five-year-old he takes up an astonishing amount of room and is somewhat less receptive than my wife to the occasional nudge if he strays past his side of the bed.

(For the record, I have no idea how receptive I am to such nudges.  I’m sure I do it too.)

My wife is reading IT for about the hojillionth time right now in preparation for the upcoming movie.  We have at least three copies of the book in the house and two of them are on her nightstand– the paperback copy she started reading, and the hardback she ganked from her parents when she realized that reading a thousand pages of the tiny print in the paperback might not be in her eyes’ best interest.

As I’m reading the boy his bedtime stories, he notices the books and asks if tomorrow I can read IT to him instead of, oh, Disney’s 5-Minute Fairy Tales or whatevertheshit.


“Why not?”

“It’s too scary for you.  You can read it when you’re old enough,” I say to him, reflecting upon the fact that my first Stephen King book was Misery, published in 1987, and therefore first read (I stole my grandmother’s copy on an overnight visit, and I was 2/3 done with it before she realized what I was reading, well past the point where she could have objected) when I was in fifth grade.  I went on a serious King bender after that and so it couldn’t have been much longer before I got to IT.

“Oh, okay,” he says.  “They taught me to read yesterday at school.  I can do that now.  Can I read it to myself?”

I think about this for a second.

“Sure.  You can start tomorrow, though.”

“Okay,” he says, and hands me the fairy tales book, apparently satisfied.

I’m really gonna feel ridiculous if he actually did learn to read yesterday, I imagine.

#REVIEW: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

32075671One of our local radio stations does a bit called Group Therapy in the morning, which is usually airing just as I’m driving the boy to school.  The general pattern is this: they pose a problem, submitted by a listener, that should generally be easily dealt with by anyone with an average middle schooler’s level of sophistication and emotional intelligence.  They do not provide enough information about the problem to allow listeners to give useful advice, and people who like hearing their voices or names on the radio submit useless advice on Facebook or on the air so that the person involved can do whatever they were going to do anyway.

I’m going to start listening to Pandora more in the morning, is what I’m saying.

This morning’s problem was as follows: a parent’s 11-year-old has stolen their credit card, for the second time.  It wasn’t made perfectly clear, but it seems that as of the time of the advice-asking, the boy still had the card.  He had used it to buy $50 worth of drinks and snacks from a local convenience store and not to, say, order hundreds of dollars worth of electronics from somewhere, which is what you’d think most kids would do with a credit card they’d stolen.  Anyway, this parent had reported the card stolen, and apparently under the (incorrect) idea that the police would show up if the kid attempted to use the card again– which, yeah, right— was wondering if he/she should just talk to his/her kid or let the police “scare him straight.”

And all I could think of, listening to this, was that the person asking for advice and every single one of the dumb motherfuckers providing (generally approving) advice for the latter piece of advice had to be white.  Because every black parent in America knows that you do not let the police anywhere near your child unless someone is guaranteed to die if you don’t.  There are no optional encounters with the police.  Fuck, I’m white and I live in a nice neighborhood and I’m never calling the police again unless somebody is under serious immediate physical threat.  And you’re gonna call the police on your baby because of a $50 credit card bill?  Your privilege is not only showing, it’s leaking out of the dashboard of my car, and I ought to be able to charge somebody to clean that shit up.

(Leave aside the ridiculous notions that 1) the police care about a $50 fraudulent credit card charge because they have nothing else to do and 2) they have time to help you with relatively routine parenting decisions.)

Which brings me to Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, or THUG for short.  The title of the book is a Tupac reference; Pac was fond of the backronym, explaining, for example, that “nigga” stood for “Never Ignorant, Getting Goals Accomplished.”  “Thug Life,” to Tupac, meant “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody,” and the meaning of that phrase is discussed throughout the book.

The story is told through the eyes of Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old black girl.  Starr is the sole witness when a policeman murders one of her oldest friends during a traffic stop.  Her friend, Khalil, was unarmed and unresisting when he was shot.  The rest of the book spins out from that one moment; the different sections are even dated by it: “Three Weeks After It Happens,” and such.

You can probably predict the overall story beats from the premise, right?  America knows this story pretty Goddamn well by now, and the tension here is less from what happens (anybody want to put money down on whether the cop is exonerated by the grand jury or not?) than how the people in the book react to it.  Starr herself is a fascinating character; she lives in a rough neighborhood but her parents scrape and save to send her to a private school 45 minutes away, so many of her best friends aren’t black and she thinks of herself as being two different people, one at school and one at home.    Her uncle is a police officer, her father a former gang member.  Khalil himself has a complicated backstory, and the book dives into the inevitable attempt by the media and the police to slander him and make him responsible for his own murder.  For a large portion of the story Starr’s school friends and her (white) boyfriend aren’t aware that she’s the anonymous witness the news keeps referring to, and the way she reacts to their treatment of Khalil’s death is complex and fascinating.  Her navigation through the web of relationships and identities she’s struggling with throughout the book is a pleasure to read.

I recommend books here all the time; I rarely bother to review anything I didn’t love unless I think I can hate it in an entertaining way, but it’s not terribly often that I use the word important to describe a book that I’ve read.  You need to read THUG, and you need to get THUG into the hands of as many other people as you can, particularly young people.  Angie Thomas’ writing is crisp and clear, Starr herself is a wonderful character, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more work by this author.  Go read this book.  Do it right now.

Pre-review: THE HATE U GIVE, by Angie Thomas

I hav32075671.jpgen’t been around much lately– I’ve had a distinct lack of things to say, to be honest– and this post isn’t going to change things all that much, but at the moment I’m halfway through Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and I figure I may as well start right now: this book is a big fucking deal, and a whole goddamn lot of people who aren’t reading it need to be.   This book is fucking important in a way that nothing I’ve read in a while really has been, and I know I’m frequently all sorts of ebullient whenever I write about a book around here, but take this seriously.

Full post incoming once I finish it, of course.  I can imagine a world where the back half goes pear-shaped, but I don’t know that it even matters.  I can’t imagine it going sour enough that I wouldn’t be recommending this to everyone I could find when I was done with it.

On failing at furniture (but winning as a parent)

17807250_10155240324264066_2185027498056837242_o.jpgThis is what happens when you have a kid who likes books and two parents who really like books but you cheap out on the bookshelf in his room and buy a piece of flatpacked, chipboard junk from Target instead of a proper bookshelf for your kid: one night, as your wife is putting the boy to bed, the fucking thing explodes.

And then you have to go into your job at an Actual Furniture Store on your day off and order your kid a new bookshelf, because hell if I’ll let this nonsense happen again.

He’s five.  I was reading more or less fluently by the time I was his age; he’s a bit behind where I was, but I suspect he can actually read basic sight words better than he lets on.  His school doesn’t start explicit reading instruction until next year, I think, and I’m fine with letting him/them take his/their time.  We (mostly my wife) read to him every single night, and he occasionally gets mad at me when I go to the comic shop if I don’t bring him with me and don’t buy him anything– and it’s not because he wants the toys.  There are tons of kids’ books in the basement from my years of teaching; he’s inherited all of them as soon as he can actually read them.  I’m looking forward to it.  I don’t know that he’ll ever turn into the fan of the written word that I am, and I’m going to try not to push him into it too much.  But it would be nice if he’d get around to learning to read.  🙂

The slump appears to have broken at work.  I did more business yesterday than in the two full weeks before then, and did as much today as I did all last week.  I’m already at an above-average week and the weekend hasn’t hit yet.  Which: good.  I was getting tired of feeling like I suck at my job, especially after a solid week of training that was supposedly going to make me better at it.

I have thoughts about diversity and comic books.  I may share them with you, tomorrow.

In which I think about the future

51chrfXHMNL._SX277_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgI did something the other day that I haven’t managed to do in years:  I cleared out my Unread Books shelf in my bedroom.  It has been damn near a decade since I had less than at least a couple of books on that shelf waiting to be gotten to, and there have been plenty of times where the shelf was literally the entire shelf.

What can I say; I buy books.  Lots of them.

Anyway, I had a problem: the last book on that shelf was Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, which is a book that I both 1) ought to read and 2) genuinely want to read.  However, I’ve discovered over the last few days that I absolutely do not have the necessary headspace available to handle reading Hannah Arendt.  This is depressing but true; I can’t do heavy nonfiction right now, and heavy nonfiction about antisemitism and totalitarianism is just not a thing I’m capable of.  So that’s gonna end up DNFed until I’m in a place where I can reflect and think more clearly.  I’ll get to it eventually.

Last night as I was having those thoughts about reading it occurred to me that somehow, despite being a fan of science fiction and fantasy for forty years, I’ve never read anything by Terry Pratchett.  I quickly downloaded The Color of Magic to my Kindle and read the first hundred or so pages last night.  And, well, now I think my project for 2017 is going to be to read every single Discworld book.  This somewhat conflicts with my previously-set goal to keep books by straight white men to no more than 30% or so of my reading.  I may amend that to no more than thirty percent of the authors being straight white men.  This sort of feels like a cheat but it’s my goals and my rules and I figure I can probably change them on the fly if I damn well feel like it.

What do you think?  Is 2017 the Year of Terry Pratchett?  Should I go for it?