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as small as a world

My name is Jo; I am a twenty-something trying to learn to live a life of purpose. Or just a life, period.

Friendly reminder that anyone born between 1985-1998 didn’t get their hogwarts letter because Voldemort’s ministry wiped out the record of muggleborns


(Source: tracey-hummel, via ponyxtales)

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 20 — Favorite Romance Book

Here’s a fairly recent “romantical” story that I really loved:

This book is an epistolary novel, a format my coworker likes to call “reading other people’s mail.” It’s one of my favorite types to read. The drama begins when a shy young man on an island off the coast of England sees a name written in a book he likes, and decides to track that person down. I mean, if that isn’t every book-lover’s romantic fantasy, I don’t know what is. I think of the lines from Billy Collins’ poem, “Marginalia”:

'how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

a few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil–
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet–
“Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”’

But what if HE DID MEET THE GIRL? That’s basically the plot of TGLaPPPS (yep, I went there), but throw in some WWII drama, weird island folk, and pushy literary agents. It’s totally romantic and heartwarming.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 19 — Favorite Book Turned into a Movie

Lots of my favorite books have been turned into movies; it seems to be an ever-growing trend. But my favorite film adaptation is:


Never in my life have I seen such a true adaptation. I read the book and loved it; I saw the movie and loved it. I don’t love everything they do, but the Coen brothers blew me away on this one. Watching the movie actually feels like reading the book— Cormac McCarthy’s descriptions of landscape and mood translate perfectly into a visual masterpiece. The book is not a happy one, but it is mesmerizing— it has a bizarre storyline and even more bizarre characters, played flawlessly by Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin. Recommend, recommend, recommend— both book and film.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 18 — A Book That Disappointed You

I was really excited about this one, because it promised so many things I love: Logic puzzles! Smart kids! Mystery! Can we hear it again, LOGIC?!

It’s not that this book didn’t deliver what was promised. It was just done in the most boring way possible. A group of four very diverse children encounter a problem, and solve it in different ways— over and over and over, in the same order every time. It’s completely mind-numbing. Young children might love this book, because some level of predictability can be comforting when you’re little. But I believe good children’s literature should be accessible at all ages and this book definitely wasn’t.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 17 — Favorite Quote from Your Favorite Book

This is a silly question. First of all, the “favorite book” prompt isn’t until day 30. Second, I don’t have a favorite book… Why do book lovers always insist on asking? They should know better. In lieu of of my “favorite” quote from my “favorite” book, have some favorite book quotes/passages (in general):

“The grass whispered under his body. He put his arm down, feeling the sheath of fuzz on it, and, far away, below, his toes creaking in his shoes. The wind sighed over his shelled ears. The world slipped bright over the glassy round of his eyeballs like images sparked in a crystal sphere. Flowers were sun and fiery spots of sky strewn through the woodland. Birds flickered like skipped stones across the vast inverted pond of heaven. His breath raked over his teeth, going in ice, coming out fire. Insects shocked the air with electric clearness. Ten thousand individual hairs grew a millionth of an inch on his head. He heard the twin hearts beating in each ear, the third heart beating in his throat, the two hearts throbbing his wrists, the real heart pounding his chest. The million pores on his body opened. I’m really alive! he thought. I never knew it before, or if I did I don’t remember!” - Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

“You don’t have time … That is the most bitter and the most beautiful piece of advice I can offer. If you don’t have what you want now, you don’t have what you want … Maybe you think you’ll be entitled to more happiness later by forgoing all of it now, but it doesn’t work that way. Happiness takes as much practice as unhappiness does. It’s by living that you live more. By waiting you wait more. Every waiting day makes your life a little less. Every lonely day makes you a little smaller. Every day you put off your life makes you less capable of living it.” - Ann Brashares, Sisterhood Everlasting

“What have we given?
My friend, blood shaking my heart
The awful daring of a moment’s surrender
Which an age of prudence can never retract
By this, and this only, we have existed.” - T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland

“I am no longer afraid of getting old. Indeed I can’t believe I ever said anything so stupid. So childish. So offensive and arrogant.
But mainly, so very, very stupid. I desperately want to grow old.” - Elizabeth Wein, Code Name Verity

Now presenting the series entitled: My Dog Falling out of Her Bed

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 16 — Your Favorite Female Character

Cassandra Mortmain (I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith).


As played by Romola Garai in the 2003 film adaptation:


In I Capture the Castle, Cassandra Mortmain is a 17-year-old living with her eccentric family in a decrepit old castle in England, circa the mid-1930s. When I first picked up this book at age 13, I didn’t know anything about it except the fact that I loved the title. I was expecting a medieval romance or fantasy story. Instead I got a 20th-century Austen-esque story that made me laugh out loud. It has everything. Wit, wisdom, castles, dances, poverty, wealth, a new-agey stepmom, a legit-crazy father, love-hexagons (really). I often list this as my favorite book (I have three copies— a first edition, a copy to read, and a copy to loan out), and the reason? CASSANDRA. God, you guys. I. Love. Cassandra. Mortmain. She is witty, bookish, smart, astute, wistful, and kind of plain. She lives in the shadow of her beautiful older sister— something I could definitely relate to throughout my teen years. The book is written in the form of Cassandra’s journal, and her innermost thoughts are freaking hilarious— I could give you a rundown of the whole story, but instead of doing that, I will just say this: Cassandra grows up in this book. Her journey from passive longing to assertive action is subtle and painful in a way only teenage girls could understand. She continues to inspire me to this day, and I’m still considering naming a child (or at least a dog) after her.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 15 — Your Favorite Male Character

There are a ton of characters that I love and that are complex and interesting, but my favorite, or at least the one that sticks out the most in my memory, is Seymour Glass.

If you didn’t like Catcher in the Rye, you still might like Salinger’s other three books. They (mostly) center around the Glass family, a bunch of pretentious, intelligent New Yorkers. (Sound real likable, huh…?) But really, Seymour is my favorite. He’s the oldest of seven children, described as a “spiritual savant.” You first meet him in Franny and Zooey, then go on to learn more bits and pieces about him in Nine StoriesRaise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: an Introduction is one of my favorite books of all time— with as few spoilers as possible, I’ll just say that the second half, Seymour, is a novella “written” by Seymour’s brother following his death. Buddy (Seymour’s brother) takes up the whole story trying to write a memoir/biography about Seymour’s life, struggling to put into words who his brother was. He stops and restarts and goes on tangents, and the whole thing is just a beautiful portrayal of grief and love and the unknowable nature of human beings. You leave the book feeling like you know Seymour through his brother’s eyes, fully aware that, just like Buddy, you really don’t know Seymour at all— and you feel the loss of his life and his individual nature acutely. He’s an extremely complex, sympathetic, interesting character, and he’ll make you appreciate all the people you know well, and who know you.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 14 — Book Turned Movie and Completely Desecrated

I’m not a huge proponent of hating on movies and television shows for tweaking minutiae to make a story better suited to a different medium. I think there are a lot of things you can change in a story without changing the story itself. Like all people, I like to whine when the characterization of my favorite people gets demolished (I’m looking at you, Jaime Lannister) or when my favorite scene gets cut. But I understand the changes necessitated in adapting a book for the screen, and for a wider audience. But one glaring exception did come to mind:

This is actually the only Jodi Picoult I’ve ever read, and I’m guessing it’s her most well-known. It’s a fantastic work, full of implications and complexities surrounding ethics and family and medicine. I really love this story, and I really love the ending. The way Picoult constructed the story so that the ending became inevitable was brilliant. In the movie, the ending was completely flipped on its head. I won’t say anything else because *spoilers*, so I’ll leave it at that. But anyway. So, so frustrating.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 13 — Your Favorite Writer

I didn’t even have to think about this one. Madeleine L’Engle is my favorite author:

I discovered Madeleine L’Engle by myself. I was in fifth grade, and the cover of A Wrinkle in Time caught my eye at the school library. When my dad saw me reading it, he got so excited— turns out he had a ton of L’Engle books in boxes in our basement. It was so fun that both my dad and I had discovered her books separately— and, as I found out, around the same age.

Madeleine wrote 46 books (that’s my count, at least), ranging from children’s picture books to religious nonfiction and poetry. I’ve read over 20 of them. I’m at the point where I almost feel as if I knew her personally. She has this way of weaving together science, art, spirituality, and humanity in a way that seems almost impossible. Her worlds are never small. Even the tiniest stories, like The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas, grasp at something infinite.

I love L’Engle’s writing for so many reasons. She writes about dogs like they’re people. She writes about children like they’re adults. She writes about parents like they’re people. She writes about God like he’s infinite and unfathomable (she doesn’t try to have all the answers).

There really is so much more about Madeleine’s books that I could say— I grew up reading her stories; I read A House Like a Lotus (a coming-of-age story; my favorite book of hers) when I was the same age as the narrator. I’m reading Two-Part Invention, L’Engle’s chronicle of her marriage, as I begin my own. I’ve looked to her stories for wisdom and belief for 15 years now. Her work is a huge part of who I am, and she will always, always be my favorite.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 12 — A Book That You Love But Hate at the Same Time

Ugh. This was such a hard category for me. I’ve picked this one, but I think I’m kind of fudging on my reasons:

I already got really long-winded on this photoset about how important The Millennium series is to me. You can read that if you want further details. But this is one of my favorite books of all time— I love the depiction of complicated, crazy-smart, sexual women; I love the men who respect them. I love the storyline and its complexity. I love the weirdly detailed menus of every meal every character eats… seriously. And I love the picture we get of modern-day Sweden, especially how often people are making and drinking and getting offered coffee. It’s actually a huge part of my heritage: coffee. For real.

What I hate: Not anything, really. I love every part of these books. But I hate that the violence in them is necessary. Which it is. These books would not be as powerful without the violence and injustice and exploitation that is presented— for that reason, I don’t hate it. But I hate that these books remind me of all the very real reasons I should be carrying mace around with me and taking boxing lessons. I hate how realistic this book is— I wish the world weren’t that way. I wish such horrible things didn’t happen.

But I love that Larsson, in his journalistic ways, has exposed some of that reality in the form of these crazy best-selling books— and hopefully made people more aware.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 11 — A Book That You Hated

When I was in junior high and high school, I was determined to read all the “classics.” I read this one before I was forced to read In Dubious Battle and The Pearl in school:

I hated all three. I feel justified in saying that John Steinbeck is my least favorite author. It’s not that I don’t “get” his writing— I understand the depictions of depressed America and the elusive American dream. I know why his characters seem more like beasts than people (dehumanization of the impoverished, etc.). I know why his work was and is important— but I have yet to read another author that is so unbelievably BORING. And I am of the firm belief that you can think a piece of art is important without actually liking it— this is my exhibit A.

From maggie-stiefvater's twitter. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

From maggie-stiefvater's twitter. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

what about Gaza and Ferguson John? do they not deserve your respect? you're such a hypocrite, i's disgusting asked by Anonymous


I think this is a deeply flawed way of looking at the world.

Now, I have talked about Ferguson, and I’ve talked about Gaza. (In fact, I’ve been writing and talking about Israel and Palestine for more than a decade.) But there are many important problems facing the world that I haven’t talked about: I haven’t talked much about the civil war in South Sudan, or the epidemic of suicide among American military personnel, or the persecution of Muslim Rohingya people in Myanmar.

Is that okay? Is it okay for me to talk about, say, racism in football and lowering infant mortality in Ethiopia? Or must we all agree to discuss only  whatever is currently the ascendant news story? Is it disrespectful to Ferguson protesters to talk about continued political oppression in Egypt now that we are no longer reblogging images of the protests in Tahrir Square? I think this is a false choice: If you are talking about Ferguson and I am talking about Ethiopian health care, neither of us is hurting the other.

I think the challenge for activists and philanthropists online is in paying sustained attention, not over days or weeks but over years and decades. And I worry that when we turn our attention constantly from one outrage to another we end up not investing the time and work to facilitate actual change. We say “THE WORLD IS WATCHING,” and it is…until it isn’t. We’ve seen this again and again in Gaza and the West Bank. We’re seeing it in Iran. We’re seeing it in South Sudan. And we’re seeing it in the U.S., from net neutrality to Katrina recovery.

The truth is, these problems are complicated, and when the outrage passes we’re left with big and tangled and nuanced problems. I feel that too often that’s when we stop paying attention, because it gets really hard and there’s always a shiny new problem somewhere else that’s merely outrageous. I hope you’re paying attention to Ferguson in five years, anon, and I hope I am, too. I also hope I’m paying attention to child death in Ethiopia. I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive.

I really don’t want to minimize the effectiveness of online activism, because I know that it works: To use a personal example, I’ve learned a TON from the LGBT+ and sexual assault survivor communities in recent years online. People on tumblr make fun of me for apologizing all the time, but I apologize all the time because I am learning all the time, and every day I’m like, “Oh, man, Current Me has realized that Previous Me was so wrong about this!”

But we can only learn when we can listen. And when you call me a hypocrite for talking about X instead of talking about Y, it makes it really hard to listen.

At times, online discourse to me feels like we just sit in a circle screaming at each other until people get their feelings hurt and withdraw from the conversation, which leaves us with ever-smaller echo chambers, until finally we’re left only with those who entirely agree with us. I don’t think that’s how the overall worldwide level of suck gets decreased.

I might be wrong, of course. I often am. But I think we have to find ways to embrace nuance and complexity online. It’s hard—very, very hard—to make the most generous, most accepting, most forgiving assumptions about others. But I also really do think it’s the best way forward.

Amen, amen, amen

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 10 — A Book That Reminds You of Home

Peace Like a River is one of those books that seemed like it found me, rather than the other way around. It was the summer of 2009 and I was about to embark on a 20+ hour bus trip to Washington, D.C. for my job. I was packing the day before and realized I had no book to bring with me. Running to the library, I spotted this one and remembered that someone at some point had recommended it to me, but I had forgotten who (I still can’t remember). I checked it out without looking at what it was about, and started reading it on the journey.

A journey it was. I was transported from from a road trip in mid-American summer heat to winter cold and snow in my home state, Minnesota. Leif Enger is from Minnesota, and it shows. He describes life there in a way that makes you really feel it, and for me, having grown up there, I was able to think: Yes. That’s my home.

That summer was extremely transformative. I was exploring a lot about who I am and what my life means; I was healing from past relationships and starting new ones (funny: I met my husband about a week before reading this book, but he wasn’t one of the [multiple] guys I was talking to at that point… *side-eyes my past self*). Those weeks of heat and change brought about a lot of spiritual discovery, raising questions and answering them; rediscovering belief. I distinctly remember sitting on a bus seat with my back against the window, reading this book and feeling so supremely transcendent that I actually looked up and gazed around the bus, trying to figure out if people could feel the same energy I felt. It all sounds pretty new-agey, which I am not, not really— but I credit this book with restoring a childlike faith in me. It reminded me of my belief that the world really is magical— in actual spiritual and mystical ways.

So yes, this book reminds me of home. Not only of my home in Minnesota, but a home that opens up in the deepest, truest parts of myself— the place my soul lives.

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