“You’re Going to Do… What?”

happy shit

Changes to life = changes to blog.

16 months ago I paid off my last debt. 25 years of credit card payments and 12.5 years of student loan payments… and then nothing. And some kind of bomb went off in my head.

I’d been working towards that moment for years – actively managing my spending so I could make large payments on my credit cards, and when those were gone to make HUGE payments on my student loan. But it wasn’t until my last debt was down to $1000 or so that I could FEEL IT. I was making more than twice what I needed to maintain my life without any debt to service.

I COULD *NEVER* HAVE A REAL JOB AGAIN.

This is the bolt of lightning that struck me in the shower (where all the best thinking happens). It’s not even very well constructed, as sentences go. What it means is that I could live the rest of my life and never again submit to the daily grind that passes as normal in America today. I’ve been rebelling against that grind for years now – quitting when I get bored, part-time jobs, etc. But this would be escape. Could be. If I wanted it to be. If I put half the energy in to making it so that I’ve been putting into trying to be content with 9-5 and living to work.

I could spend my days traveling, or sleeping, or reading, or writing. I could go visit my friend at the beach and stay an extra day if the sun made its first appearance the day I was supposed to leave. I could drive to my sister’s house and STAY THERE for weeks instead of spending 20 of my 96 hours off driving alone through beautiful country I can’t stop and enjoy because I’ve got to get back to work. I could travel the US visiting all those people I know that now live in places I’ve never been. I could work those travel-hacking tips I’ve been reading about and finally leave North America. I could stop being jealous of Frances Mayes and live a life that belongs in a travel memoir.

I struggled against that epiphany for months. Tried to go back to school instead – but that meant borrowing more money (a thing I believe I’m now genetically programmed to self-destruct rather than endure) or add another wheel to the rat race I was trying to escape. It flat-out just did not feel like any fun, and I could not make myself believe I wanted it.

This bolt, this bomb, this epiphany, this revelation – it would not be negotiated with. I could say yes or I could say no, but I could not say ‘well, maybe, but how about I hedge that bet with two more years of school and work and keep all this supposed-security I’ve got going right now?’ It would not be convinced that the way to freedom was to ADD MORE WORK, even if that work would be more interesting than regular work.

I don’t have the words to describe this feeling in my chest. Not in my chest  in every cell in my body. I call it a bolt because it was fast and overwhelming. I call it a bomb because it destroyed what was there before. I call it an epiphany because it took those pieces I’d always had and rearranged them into something new and amazing. I call it a revelation because it seemed so obvious once it arrived. But these are words about thinking and analyzing. This was not only thought, this was feeling.

This was JOY. THUNDERING, 5-ALARM, EARTH-SHATTERING JOY that took over my head and my body and invited me to consider a life where this kind of joy was not just possible, but likely to stick around.

And so I did. Consider it, that is. And I considered going back to school, and cutting my hours, and some other things I don’t even remember because IT WAS ALL BULLSHIT. How does ‘only working three days a week instead of four’ or ‘spending $20k on a MA in Literature’ compare to SOUL-QUAKING JOY?! Yeah, it doesn’t. So I quit considering and just said fuck it – I’m doing this.

I spent 2014 saving money (almost) as diligently as I was paying on my loans in 2013. Decided to work until the beginning of April (and, yes, many people made April Fool’s jokes!) and then STOP. I saved $12k in 14 months. I have a part-time job that doesn’t require my physical presence. I gave up my (wonderful) apartment Feb 1 to save more money, staying with friends in Portland until my final work day. I quit the best job I ever had, telling everyone that I was taking time off to travel until I couldn’t afford to do it anymore (because the long answer is way too much to explain in one go).  I culled my possessions down to a pick-up-truck’s worth (stored at my sister’s house in Montana) and drove out of Portland in the rain April 11.

My car and my stuff in my sister's truck - this photo contains all my material possessions.
My car and my stuff in my sister’s truck – this photo contains all my material possessions.

I woke up April 13, my 46th birthday, in Montana on Day One of Life Post-J.O.B.

Now what?

The Annotated 2013 Reading List

Emma by Jane Austen Bevy of Books

 

 

 

Emma – Jane Austen  RR

I love that the year started with Jane Austen.

 

Jack of Kinrowan – Charles de Lint  RR

I read this because I was talking to my son about books – he recently started reading for pleasure at the ripe old age of 24. This was one of the few (non-school, non-Harry Potter) books he’d ever read.

Dreams Underfoot – Charles de Lint  RR

Debt: the first 5000 years – David Graeber NF

This is a mind-altering book. It’s not a finance book, it’s an anthropology book about the human process of money and how we’ve used debt or money or whatever to share goods and services between ourselves. Completely changed how I relate to things like economic news and saving money. I read this for a book club I was in briefly – it lasted 3 months after I joined, coincidence?

Anil’s Ghost – Michael Ondaatje  RR
Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card (audio)

I liked Ender’s Game, but I loved this sequel. Much more about communities of people rather than individuals.

Telegraph Avenue – Michael Chabon

New Chabon!  Does not disappoint. It was a great year for new books from some of my uber-favorite authors

The Last Colony – John Scalzi
Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (audio) NF MM

Ms. Angelou’s first memoir. I liked the second one more, maybe because she’s my age rather than a young girl, as she is in this one. Still a great read.

Towers of Midnight – Brandon Sanderson/Robert Jordan RR
Memory of Light – Brandon Sanderson/Robert Jordan

Finally! The conclusion of the Wheel of Time. Did not disappoint, but I was sad to see it end.

My Life in France – Julia Child RR NF MM

This woman was living the life I’m looking for – traveling while working on something she was passionate about. Learning about herself while she learned about new places and new skills.

Kicking and Dreaming – Ann & Nancy Wilson NF

Their autobiography! Was wonderful, read more than half of it while sitting in the jury duty room in Portland.

Xenocide – Orson Scott Card (audio)

Also, good, but didn’t knock Speaker for the Dead out of first place.

Tapping the Dream Tree – Charles de Lint  RR
The Rules of Inheritance – Claire Bidwell Smith NF MM

Memoirs are my new thing – I blame Lidia Yuknavitch & Cheryl Strayed. This one is the story of an only child experiencing the loss of her mother as a young woman, and then her father a few years later.

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver Bevy of BooksFlight Behavior – Barbara Kingsolver
The Round House – Louise Erdrich

Seriously – new Kingsolver followed by new Erdrich – does NOT get any better. And these two are quite possibly the best that either has written. Incredible.

Fault of our Stars – John Green (audio)
Blue Desert – Charles Bowden RR NF

I had to re-read this because I was headed to Arizona with my sister. Just as powerful and well-written as I remember.

Z : A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Anne Fowler

This book made me hate Ernest Hemingway, and colored my opinion of F. Scott Fitzgerald forever.  The fictionalized account of Zelda Fitzgerald’s life (based on the real facts, with the empty spaces extrapolated). Now I see things like Midnight in Paris (a great flick) and think NO!! She was robbed! I was sitting by the pool in Arizona and PISSED at the way she was treated.

Traveling Mercies – Anne Lamott NF MM
Wizard Abroad – Diane Duane RR
So You Want to be a Wizard – Diane Duane RR
Deep Wizardry – Diane Duane RR
High Wizardry – Diane Duane RR
Wizard’s Holiday – Diane Duane RR
Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert RR NF MM
Children of the Mind – Orson Scott Card (audio)

Didn’t finish this one… just seemed to go on and on.

Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi NF MM
The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg (audio) NF

Another life-shaking book. How we develop habits, how we can substitute new ones for old ones. How data mining is allowing big business to use our habits to send business their way. Fascinating for anyone who likes psychology or wants to revamp their life.

Girlchild – Tupelo Hassman

This one read like a fantastic memoir. The writing was impressive.

Redshirts – John Scalzi (audio)

Redshirst by John Scalzi Bevy of Books

Every sci-fi geek seriously needs to read this. The ‘extras’ on a surprisingly-similar-to-the-Enterprise spaceship start to question why (for instance) the Captain goes on almost every away mission, but the only people who die are those wearing red shirts. Smart and funny.

Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal?  – Jeanette Winterson NF MM
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell (audio) RR NF

Somehow, his analysis never gets boring.

Un Lun Dun – China Miéville RR
The Summer Prince – Alaya Dawn Johnson

The first book of hers I’ve read – powerful writing and fantastic feminist speculative fiction.

Panopticon blog – Franklin Habit NF

Okay, it’s not a book – but it’s hella long and I read every post. 892 posts going back to 2005. A knitting blog written by a gay man in Chicago – I don’t knit, nor am I a man, or gay – but it is wonderful. I always seem to find awesome blogs just as their taking off and the bloggers are too busy to post any longer.

Chronology of Water – Lidia Yuknavitch RR NF MM
The Scar – China Miéville RR
The Magician – Lev Grossman (audio) RR
Yes, Chef – Marcus Samuelsson NF MM
Without a Summer – Mary Robinette Kowal

Jane Austen + magic. Seriously.

Kraken – China Miéville RR
Finding Your Way in a Wild New World – Martha Beck NF
Zoo City – Lauren Beukes RR
Manhood for Amateur – Michael Chabon (audio) RR NF MM
Shades of Milk & Honey – Mary Robinette Kowal
Glamour in Glass – Mary Robinette Kowal
Sleight – Kristen Kaschock

Another book that sucked you into a world you wanted to move to. Sad, powerful, a little trippy.

Wonder Boys – Michael Chabon RR
The Big Meow – Diane Duane
Beatrice & Virgil – Yann Martel
Eliza’s Daughter – Joan Aiken
Broken for You – Stephanie Kallos

Oh, oh yeah. My friend at work recommended this one – not knowing I had a thing for mosaics. Really great novel about healing what is broken without hiding the scars.

The Human Division – John Scalzi
Cooked – Michael Pollan (audio) NF

More Pollan goodness.

Sense & Sensibility – Jane Austen RR
Fearless: One Woman One Kayak One Continent – Joe Glickman NF

Fearless by Joe Glickman Bevy of Books

Impressive story of a woman who circumnavigated the continent of Australia in a kayak. Alone. With almost no support team. And broke the record.

A Visit to Highbury – Joan Austen – Leigh
Persuasion – Jane Austen RR
Death Comes to Pemberley – PD James RR
Among Others – Jo Walton RR
The God Engines – John Scalzi

Possibly my favorite Scalzi. Most of his are good sci-fi, this one is more trippy and mess-with-your head. I like that.

Love Medicine – Louse Erdrich RR
Later Days in Highbury – Joan Austen-Leigh
A Wizard Alone – Diane Duane
Beet Queen – Louise Erdrich RR
Pilgrimage – Annie Leibovitz NF

Had to read this because of something Lidia Yuknavitch said on Facebook. A book of amazing photos and essays.

Last Report of Miracles at Little No Horse – Louise Erdrich RR
Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again – David Foster Wallace NF

His reputation is not hyperbole, no one writes like this guy could.

My Foreign Cities – Elizabeth Scarboro NF
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

I picked this up in a fowl mood and headed for bed – read half of it before I could put it down.

A Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

Hated it. Only finished it so I could say that with no equivocation. Didn’t like it one bit.

Idoru – William Gibson RR
All Tomorrow’s Parties – William Gibson RR
Graphic Canon pt 1 – Russ Kick
Dirt Work – Christine Byl NF MM

Memoir of a woman who worked for the Park Service in Glacier National Park in Montana (just down the road from my sister’s house) and Denali National Park in AK. Woman working in a man’s world and kicking ass.

Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter (audio)
Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

Ocean at the end of the Lane Neil Gaiman Bevy of BooksNEW GAIMAN. And possibly better than American Gods, though very different. Loved this muchly.

A Dance of Dragons – George RR Martin RR
Growing up Female in America: Ten Lives – Ed. Eve Merriam NF MM
The Beautiful Struggle – Ta-Nehisi Coates NF MM

Again a book where the language transports you into this man’s world. He’s a columnist at The Atlantic and knocks me out with his analysis and his writing.

The Dragon Reborn – Robert Jordan
Eye of the World – Robert Jordan
Knife of Dreams – Robert Jordan
Tower of Midnight – Brandon Sanderson/ Robert Jordan

Had this idea for a blog comparing the rampant sexism in the Song of Ice & Fire to the much more progressive Wheel of Time – got lost in the research and never finished it. Have three or four drafts somewhere that maybe I’ll get back to one day.

Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel

Another book I picked up and couldn’t put back down. Was really glad Bringing up the Bodies was waiting for me when I got home. Read this in Alaska while I was there in August.

The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes

Trippy time-travel horror fiction. I liked Zoo City better, but this was a great read.

King Rat – China Miéville

Early Mieville. Didn’t like it, didn’t finish it. Or maybe I was just in a hurry to get to Bringing up the Bodies.

Bringing Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel

Just as compelling as Wolf Hall.

The Shelter Cycle – Peter Rich

An interesting little book about two kids who grew up in a weird cult and their very different experiences as adults after it falls apart.

Memory of Light – Brandon Sanderson/ Robert Jordan

Gathering Storm – Brandon Sanderson/ Robert Jordan

Population 485 – Michael Perry NF MM RR
Truck: A Love Story – Michael Perry NF MM RR

This is the first book of Perry’s I read, and I fell in love. He came to Powell’s, signed my books and he was great. He’s the perfect blend of the blue-collar people I come from and the high-falutin’ lit people I call my own.

Warbreaker – Brandon Sanderson

As the writer who did such a good job of finishing Robert Jordan’s masterpiece, I wanted to check out his own stuff. Loved this book a lot.

Coop: A Family, a Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good EggMichael Perry NF MM RR
Tracks – Louise Erdrich RR
Bingo Palace – Louise Erdrich RR
Dial H for Hero – China Miéville
Pattern Recognition – William Gibson RR
Spook County – William Gibson RR
Drowned Cities – Paolo Bacigalupi
A Year in the World Bevy of Books
A Year in the World – Frances Mayes NF MM

This book might be the reason I quit my job and run away. She spends a month in different countries – a small-boat guided tour of Greek islands, Portugal, Spain, Fez, more I can’t remember. She has a thing for tile & mosaics like I do, and she likes to experience her locations through food. Want.

The Rice Room – Ben Fong-Torres NF

The autobiography (not really a memoir) of the editor of Rolling Stone. I mostly picked it up because he’s portrayed in the movie Almost Famous and I loved his name. The story of a second-generation Chinese immigrant made good (with lots of info on San Francisco in the 60s and 70s).

Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan RR NF
Thud – Terry Pratchett RR
Yiddish Policeman’s Union – Michael Chabon RR
Benediction – Kent Haruf
Persuasion – Jane Austen RR
Sandition & Other Stories – Jane Austen

My last unread Austen. And now there is no more.

Possessing the Secret of Joy – Alice Walker RR
Grass – Sheri  S. Tepper
Vicious – Victoria Schwab
Singer From the Sea – Sheri  S. Tepper
Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin
The Water Rising – Sheri  S. Tepper
David & Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell NF

New Gladwell! Not my favorite, but still all kinds of interesting things to think on.

Gate to Women’s Country – Sheri  S. Tepper
The Companions – Sheri  S. Tepper
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood RR
Serenity comic series – Joss Whedon
Little Country – Charles de Lint RR
Beauty – Sheri  S. Tepper
The Memory Palace – Mira Bartok NF MM

Another gut-wrenching and powerful memoir a la Yuknavitch and Strayed. A woman who must hide from her bi-polar mother to protect herself.

Up Against It – MJ Locke
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

Because I’d never read it. Got more than halfway through before I started liking it, turned out to be a pretty good book. Still have issues with him.

Mythago Wood – Robert Holdstock

Picked it up because William Gibson recommended it on Twitter. Liked it a lot.

Diving into the Wreck – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Paint it Black – Janet Fitch

I bought this for $4 at least five years ago (based on loving White Oleander). Don’t know what took me so long to read it, but it was great.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – Michael Chabon RR
Fuzzy Nation – John Scalzi
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronté RR

Was jonesing for Austen but read them all recently, so I went with Bronte.

Uglies – Scott Westerfeld

I was at my sister’s in Montana and didn’t like any of the books I’d brought with me, so I was trolling the house for something to read and my niece handed me this. I stayed up until 2am on Christmas night finishing it in one go. YA post-apocalyptic fiction. Just finished book four, Extras, last night.

Tough Customer – Sandra Brown
Rise & Shine – Anne Quindlen
Moxyland – Lauren  Beukes

139 books
RR – re-read  47
NF – Non-fiction 32
MM – Memoir 18
Audio – 12

What I Read in 2013

I read a lot of books last year. 139 averages out to about 1 book every 2.6 days.  My intention was to make comments about my favorite books and where I was when I read certain books, etc. But this has been a draft for a few weeks now – so I’m just going to post it without embellishment. I’m happy to answer any questions you may have (like – how the heck did I read 139 books when I worked 3 jobs last year?).

139 books
RR – re-read  44
NF – Non-fiction 32
MM – Memoir 15
Audio – 12

Emma – Jane Austen  RR
Jack of Kinrowan – Charles de Lint  RR
Dreams Underfoot – Charles de Lint  RR
Debt: the first 5000 years – David Graeber NF
Anil’s Ghost – Michael Ondaatje  RR
Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card (audio)
Telegraph Avenue – Michael Chabon
The Last Colony – John Scalzi
Zoe’s Tale – John Scalzi
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (audio) NF MM
Towers of Midnight – Brandon Sanderson/Robert Jordan RR
Memory of Light – Brandon Sanderson/Robert Jordan
My Life in France – Julia Child RR NF MM
Kicking and Dreaming – Ann & Nancy Wilson NF
Xenocide – Orson Scott Card (audio)
Tapping the Dream Tree – Charles de Lint  RR
The Rules of Inheritance – Claire Bidwell Smith NF MM
Flight Behavior – Barbara Kingsolver
The Round House – Louise Erdrich
Fault of our Stars – John Green (audio)
Blue Desert – Charles Bowden RR NF
Z : A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Anne Fowler
Traveling Mercies – Anne Lamott NF MM
Wizard Abroad – Diane Duane RR
So You Want to be a Wizard – Diane Duane RR
Deep Wizardry – Diane Duane RR
High Wizardry – Diane Duane RR
Wizard’s holiday – Diane Duane RR
Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert RR NF MM
Children of the Mind – Orson Scott Card (audio)
Reading Lolita in Tehran – Azar Nafisi NF MM
The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg (audio) NF
Girlchild – Tupelo Hassman
Redshirts – John Scalzi (audio)
Why Be Happy When You Could be Normal?  – Jeanette Winterson NF MM
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell (audio) RR NF
Un Lun Dun – China Miéville RR
The Summer Prince – Alaya Dawn Johnson
Panopticon blog – Franklin Habit NF
Chronology of Water – Lidia Yuknavitch RR NF MM
The Scar – China Miéville RR
The Magician – Lev Grossman (audio) RR
Yes, Chef – Marcus Samuelsson NF MM
Without a Summer – Mary Robinette Kowal
Kraken – China Miéville RR
Finding Your Way in a Wild New World – Martha Beck NF
Zoo City – Lauren Beukes RR
Manhood for Amateur – Michael Chabon (audio) RR NF MM
Shades of Milk & Honey – Mary Robinette Kowal
Glamour in Glass – Mary Robinette Kowal
Sleight – Kristen Kaschock
Wonder Boys – Michael Chabon RR
The Big Meow – Diane Duane
Beatrice & Virgil – Yann Martel
Eliza’s Daughter – Joan Aiken
Broken for You – Stephanie Kallos
The Human Division – John Scalzi
Cooked – Michael Pollan (audio) NF
Sense & Sensibility – Jane Austen RR
Fearless: One Woman One Kayak One Continent – Joe Glickman NF
A Visit to Highbury – Joan Austen – Leigh
Persuasion – Jane Austen RR
Death Comes to Pemberley – PD James RR
Among Others – Jo Walton RR
The God Engines – John Scalzi
Love Medicine – Louse Erdrich RR
Later Days in Highbury – Joan Austen-Leigh
A Wizard Alone – Diane Duane
Beet Queen – Louise Erdrich RR
Pilgrimage – Annie Leibovitz NF
Last Report of Miracles at Little No Horse – Louise Erdrich RR
Supposedly Fun thing I’ll never do again – David Foster Wallace NF
My Foreign Cities – Elizabeth Scarboro NF
Gone Girl – Gilllian Flynn
A Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
Idoru – William Gibson RR
All Tomorrows Parties – William Gibson RR
Graphic Canon pt 1 – Russ Kick
Dirt Work – Christine Byl NF
Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter (audio)
Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
A Dance of Dragons – George RR Martin RR
Growing up Female in America: Ten Lives – Ed. Eve Merriam NF MM
The Beautiful Struggle – Ta-Nehisi Coates NF
The Dragon Reborn – Robert Jordan
Eye of the World – Robert Jordan
Knife of Dreams – Robert Jordan
Tower of Midnight – Brandon Sanderson/ Robert Jordan
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes
King Rat – China Miéville
Bringing Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel
The Shelter Cycle – Peter Rich
Memory of Light – Brandon Sanderson/ Robert Jordan
Gathering Storm – Brandon Sanderson/ Robert Jordan
Population 485 – Michael Perry NF MM
Truck: A Love Story – Michael Perry NF MM
Warbreaker – Brandon Sanderson
Coop: A Family, a Farm, and the Pursuit of One Good Egg – Michael Perry NF MM
Tracks – Louise Erdrich RR
Bingo Palace – Louise Erdrich RR
Dial H for Hero – China Miéville
Pattern Recognition – William Gibson RR
Spook County – William Gibson RR
Drowned Cities – Paolo Bacigalupi
A Year in the World – Frances Mayes NF MM
The Rice Room – Ben Fong Torres NF
Omnivore’s Dilemma – Michael Pollan RR NF
Thud – Terry Pratchett RR
Yiddish Policeman’s Union – Michael Chabon RR
Benediction – Kent Haruf
Persuasion – Jane Austen RR
Sandition & other stories – Jane Austen
Possessing the Secret of Joy – Alice Walker RR
Grass – Sheri  S. Tepper
Vicious – Victoria Schwab
Singer From the Sea – Sheri  S. Tepper
Tales of the City – Armistead Maupin
The Water Rising – Sheri  S. Tepper
David & Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell NF
Gate to Women’s Country – Sheri  S. Tepper
The Companions – Sheri  S. Tepper
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood RR
Serenity comic series – Joss Whedon
Little County – Charles de Lint RR
Beauty – Sheri  S. Tepper
The Memory Palace – Mira Bartok NF
Up Against It – MJ Locke
The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
Mythago Wood – Robert Holdstock
Diving into the Wreck – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Paint it Black – Janet Fitch
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – Michael Chabon RR
Fuzzy Nation – John Scalzi
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronté RR
Uglies – Scott Westerfeld
Tough Customer – Sandra Brown
Rise & Shine – Anne Quindlen
Moxyland – Lauren  Beukes

The Incredible, Invisible Author…

Sheri S. Tepper. Somehow I missed her. A FANTASTIC sci-fi/fantasy author who’s been publishing award-winning novels since the Eighties and I don’t recall even hearing her name.  Wikipedia has her as an author ‘particularly known as a feminist science fiction writer.’ If I’d heard that before, obviously I would have run to the library to check her out! But it’s never too late, and who doesn’t love finding a new favorite that has DECADES of writing behind her – meaning there’s lots of books waiting to be read.

It was John Scalzi who waved the flag for me – he wrote about Grass being one of ten sci-fi books that mean the most to him. He lauds her as a world-builder equal to Frank Herbert, and a better writer of characters than most. That’s a huge recommendation, and I was in the market for a new book. The library had Grass immediately available (it was written in 1993) so I got it right away.

Tepper Grass bevy of books What to read

I devoured it, and it was everything he said and more. A great example of how the science and fantasy elements of this genre are not separate things, but , in the right hands, the best way to build a new world and populate it with beings, human and other. The plot and characters are impressive, but the theme put me over the top. I’m a die-hard believer in cooperation over competition, and Tepper makes a case for love and trust winning over separation and fear that includes a future Earth of scant resources and fringe religious groups in power, and other worlds full of rainbow grass, murderous horse-like animals  and mind-reading alien wildcats that will keep you turning the pages until early in the morning. It was my first Tepper and so far my favorite.

It’s the second book by a new (to me, in this case) author that can really tell the tale. Sometimes that first book is an aberration, or a side trip, or a pinnacle, and the rest is average fare (or worse). So I approached Singer from the Sea with great hope and a bit of trepidation. Could she hit the same bar as Grass a second time, or even get close to it? Yes, she can. Singer from the Sea holds themes similar to Grass (environmental disaster back home, new worlds populated by familiar-seeming humans doing stupid things), but the world-building and character development are equally engaging and I again stayed up way too late.

The Water's Rising Sheri S. Tepper What to Read Bevy of Books

I started Grass on October 23, and I’ve read three more Tepper novels after Singer; The Waters Rising, The Companions and The Gate to Women’s Country. Not a dud in the bunch. The only negative to reading them all in a row is the repetitive themes feel, well, repetitive. But even that very minor caveat is more an artifact of my reading them one after the other than any borrowing or repeating of story. Each world looks and feels different, each heroine (because, yes, each book has a female protagonist) is her own unique individual and each plot wanders a different road, a different fork and arrives somewhere new. The Gate to Women’s Country stands alone as a more negative view of the future (and no aliens). It reminded me so much of The Handmaid’s Tale that I had to go back and read that again.

The Companions Sheri S. Tepper Bevy of Books what to read
Yes, the artwork IS awful, but I promise all the insides are wonderful.

 

Wikipedia has 34 novels listed for Tepper, plus various shorter works, poetry and essays (she wrote pamphlets for Planned Parenthood in the 60s and 70s!).

Here’s the answer to the two questions I get most often – ‘what have you read lately?’ and ‘what are you reading now?’ It’s going to be Tepper, Tepper, Tepper for a while!

Thoughts on my father

From Dad, I learned that everyone is worthy of respect. No one is less-than.

I learned that violence is never the answer, and never to be tolerated.

I learned the joys of wandering road trips. Any road/trail is worth exploring at least once, and in the meantime you are building a map of your surroundings. You’ll always be able to find your way home.

Reading is always a good thing. If you have $5, spend it on a book.

Being alone is okay. Good, even.

Never admit to being vulnerable.

Never show weakness.

If you tell a lie enough times, you’ll start to believe it.

So much I learned in opposition to what he (and my mother) did.

Let your children be children.

Talk to them.

Hug them & tell them you love them until they are sick of hearing it and then tell them some more.

Let them make their own choices (in a SAFE environment) and let them learn from their mistakes.

Tell the truth.

Take care of yourself and do not expect others to take care of you (because they might not, and then where will you be?).

Don’t count on anyone.

I don’t wish I had different parents. I don’t know how to do that. They were my PARENTS. I wish they had been better parents – better people, really. Better in the sense that they wanted to be good people and/or good parents and worked at it, or even thought about it more. Well, I think maybe Dad thought about it, but thinking is not doing – and who got that tendency in spades? Mom was not a doer, and I don’t have evidence that she was much of a thinker, either.

But wishing they were someone else is like wishing to sweep away MY ENTIRE EXISTENCE. How could I be happy now and then wish for that?

I watch Facebook as people I know talk about their dads, change their profile pics, gush about how wonderful they are, say how much they miss them. I watch those who have complicated relationships with their fathers try to be honest while still honoring them. I respect that. Certainly more than the ‘perfection is my dad’ idea. Tara has a fantastic blog post about how lucky she is and what she learned from her dad (which is what sent me to writing this) and, without pretending he’s perfect, she talks about how lucky she was in the Dad lottery – a big winner, indeed.

I am not a winner. If it’s a contest, I guess I’m a loser. My dad chose distance over connection, again and again. And now he’s really gone, and my life is hardly different than it was when he was alive. I lost him long before he died.

Because of my dad’s choices (and my mother’s acquiescence), I have almost no connection with an extended family that could have helped me (and the rest of my family) weather the windstorm that started as gusts and ended as something like a hurricane – blowing Susan far, far away and slowly scattering the rest of us like debris, with no relation to its origin. I now feel like I actually know some of those aunts and uncles and cousins – but it’s much too late to be rescued by them.

What bonds my siblings and I have now are almost entirely of our own making – other than the early encouragement to be kind to one another. We were (or at least, I was) rarely told to ‘be more like your sister’ or allowed to exclude each other from our activities. But my parents did nothing to try to keep this family together once we started leaving. No. Thing.

Susan has worked to make sure that Mom stays connected, and I have worked to make sure that Laurie stays connected. I think Susan and I have not had to work very hard to stay connected, once I visited her in Montana that first time (what would have happened if she’d been in Texas or something? I shudder to think). We both wanted it, we both just took it as normal – because, hello, it is pretty normal to want to know what the fuck’s going on in your sister’s life. That’s pretty much what our family is built on right now – Susie & I staying close. If I stopped talking to her (which I cannot currently envision) then I would lose all touch with Mom. And she would likely lose touch with Laurie (or not, I’m hardly a psychic). Such a small thing. Such a powerful thing.

Most people just don’t understand – and I’m happy for them. Some people do, and I am incredibly grateful for them.

There are fathers and families much worse than mine out there, and I wish their children peace and the courage to move beyond them. It can be done. It’s being done every day by far more people than we like to imagine. Love is the only house big enough for all the pain.

Melven Family 1970s