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Infinite Country by Patricia Engel | Thoughts

   Published : 2021   ||    Format : print   ||    Location : Colombia ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆   What was it about the country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy? The previous month, on its own soil, an American man went to his job at a plant and gunned down fourteen coworkers, and last spring alone there were four different school shootings. A nation at war with itself, yet people still spoke of it as some kind of paradise.. Thoughts : Infinite Country follows two characters - young Talia, who at the beginning of this book, escapes a girl’s reform school in North Colombia so that she can make her previously booked flight to the US. Before she can do that, she needs to travel many miles to reach her father and get her ticket to the rest of her family. As we follow Talia’s treacherous journey south, we learn about how she ended up in the reform school in the first place and why half her family resides in the US. Infinite Country tells the story of her family through the other protagonist, El

Two Essay Collections you should read right now | Thoughts

Last month, I read two essay collections that I loved tremendously. I usually do enjoy reading essays - they are among my most favorite nonfiction categories.

Nothing Like I Imagined by Mindy Kaling

Published in: 2020
Format read in: ebook
Location: US
Rating: 4/5

Why I read it: Truly chance. I was looking for another book on Amazon when I came across these Prime freebies. Of course, I grabbed them.

One line review: Wonderful essays about what it means to be an Indian American, a parent, (not) being religious, and famous.

Who should read it: If you are a Mindy fan, you will enjoy these.

I have not read Mindy's previous books so I don't know how similar (or not) these essays are to those. These six short books are each focused on a different topic - parenting was a predominant theme, but the essays also spanned religion, relationships, fame, and her mother. Each book had 1-3 essays - all very endearing and funny. My favorite was Kind of Hindu, which is a book I identified with strongly. Mindy wasn't a religious person but she would say she was Hindu because that's the faith she grew up in and not because she connected with it. However, once she had her daughter, religion suddenly felt important to have. Should she be introducing her daughter to her faith or let her figure it out for herself and possibly make disagreeable choices? 

In Help is on the Way, she talks about planning childcare for her daughter - her late mom probably would have disagreed with getting a nanny or similar - after all, she and many mothers before her did not get outside help, this was all managed within the family. And yet, when she does decide to get help, she finds that it's one of the best decisions she ever made.

I appreciated how she doesn't hide the fact that she is a celebrity - there is some name throwing. However, despite or rather because of the lack of pretense, she felt very down-to-earth in her writing. I will need to attempt to read her previous books.

Rage Against the Minivan by Kristen Howerton

Published in: 2020
Format read in: ebook
Location: US, Haiti
Rating: 4/5

Why I read it: I was so sure I would never own a minivan and I can not imagine my life without one anymore. (This book talks nothing about minivans. I just liked the title.)

One line review: One of the better parenting memoir / essay collections that I have read and could connect with.

Who should read it: If you are a parent, I think you will tremendously enjoy Howerton's book. 

I honestly picked this book because of the title. It really is the name of Howerton's blog, which is just as charming. Rage Against the Minivan is a collection of essays documenting Howerton's various experiences around parenting, getting pregnant, and adoption. When Howerton experienced quite a few miscarriages, she was sure it was a sign that she should go ahead with adoption - something she had always wanted to do. Over the next four years, she adopts two kids and also gives birth to two as well. At one point, she had four kids under 4 in her house. 

I would be very hard pressed to pick a favorite essay - I loved so many of them. Some made me laugh, others made me cry, but they all connected with me in a way I cannot explain well. She talks about a wide swath of topics related to being a parent - doing more, doing less, working, playing, loving, fighting. She talks about how race is a big part of their daily experiences (her two adopted children are black). There was one essay that particularly struck me hard - she talks about hearing a noise one night and calling 911. The cops come and check out her house to trace the source of the noise. During this time, her elder son, then around 10 years old, comes running down to her. Nothing happens that night but that's when she realizes how this might appear to the white cop - a tall black boy (almost a man) in the house of a white family? 

This may be a parenting memoir but it's also a very raw, very honest account of Howerton's life as a parent. I didn't expect to love it as much as I did, but I found myself rooting for her strongly, and wanting to be her friend.