The Genius Under the Table ~ About Eugene Yelchin

When Breaking Stalin’s Nose was released in 2012 Matt and I both read it.  I was uncertain how I felt about the story.  I wasn’t sure how I would help readers understand what was happening.  I wondered how I would build context.  I wasn’t sure I could.  Matt said he thought it was important for kids to read so they’d know how different growing up could be depending on when and where you lived.

Fast forward ten years to 2021 when Eugene Yelchin’s memoir for children was released, The Genius Under the Table.  As I read about Yevgeny’s life in the USSR, I couldn’t help but reflect again on how important understanding different growing up stories can be.  Eugene Yelchin has created a video sharing his ideas and questions about what it means to be an artist, an author and a teller of stories.  I think his words and images are important to hear and see.  The link is found here:  About Eugene Yelchin. Please take the time to view it.

In between the reading of these two books, I also read, and was moved by Arcady’s Goal.  It is a fictional story that shares the character’s dream of using a special talent as a way to open up the world of possibility and reduce the strain caused by anxiety and want.

Just as Matt said so many years ago, these books are important.  In writing this post I learned about several other Yelchin books I have yet to read.  I am looking forward to reading and learning through them. I’m also wondering how looking to the past can help us understand our current world.

Happy Reading!📚

 

Gone to the Woods

Sometimes when I finish a book that connects perfectly, I sit hugging it to my heart, thinking, “Oh… wow… wonderful.” I reflect on where the book has taken me and what stands out.  There was so much here – one detail, triggered the next,  and on and on.  I wrote them down.  I recalled singing in bars, the train ride, the car-truck ride, the geese, fishing, picking mushrooms, perfect food, the love of Sig, the practicality of Edy, the voyage, the gunfire, the bodies, the rats, the loneliness, the library, the notebook, and enlisting.

Reading Gone to the Woods – Surviving a Lost Childhood is a gift.  What an amazing book.  What an incredible story.  What an inspiring life. Gary Paulsen throws out a lifeline to readers through this book.  The honesty of his words, and the precise clarity of the moments he chose to share, creates an indelible record for readers to find, study and grow from.

This story shows hope exists in the bleakest times.  It shows change and possibility waiting to be found.  And it reminds us that all stories matter and need to be told.

Matt reviewed Hatchet in 2012.  He finished his review saying he thought readers would agree that Hatchet was a “timeless classic.” It is.  I hope readers find their way to Gary Paulsen over and over again.  His story is inspiring.  His writing is inspiring as well.  We can all do important things – even if it is just to resist.

Happy Reading! 📚

I’ve connected the trailer to the book here so you can hear Gary Paulsen’s voice.

Celebrate “Difference”

Reading about Unbound in early spring, I knew it was a story I needed to read.  I wanted to see how this gut-wrenching, true-life story would be shown.  What a book!  Written by Joyce Scott, Brie Spangler and Melissa Sweet and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, it tells the story of Joyce and her twin sister, Judith.  They are two peas in a pod.  They do everything together until kindergarten.  Joyce goes to school.  Judy stays home.  Judy, readers discover, has what will later be called Down Syndrome and the school that Joyce goes to cannot meet her needs.

Around the time of the twin’s seventh birthday, Joyce wakes up to find Judy missing.  Their dad had taken her to the state school to live and learn.  On that day, Joyce reports, the colors leave leave her world.

After thirty-five years, Joyce is able to become Judy’s legal guardian.  Judy is able to leave the institution behind and live with Joyce’s family.   Joyce takes her to the Creative Growth Center and enrolls her in classes.  This center is devoted to serving artist with disabilities of all kinds.  It takes time, but eventually Judy finds her medium.  She becomes a world renowned fiber artist.  For thirty years she creates and shares her joy and resilience with the world.

In the author’s note Joyce writes:  ” Wherever we live, we find many people who are a bit “different” in one way of another.  These individuals, because of their differences, are often thought of as being less than those of us who consider ourselves “normal.”  They are often kept at a distance, not included in the everydayness of our lives – sharing laughter, and meals, bus rides and work, cozy couch time and a welcome night’s sleep.  Because they are not valued, their unseen strengths and gifts often go unrecognized, unexplored and undiscovered.”

These words are true for Myron Uhiberg’s story too.  Reading The Sound of Silence ~ Growing Up Hearing with Deaf Parents by Myron Uhlberg filled me with respect and wonder for him, and guilt and disappointment for me and the society I am a part of.  There is such incredible strength shared within these pages of this book.  Myron’s story of growing up in the 30’s and 40’s is sometimes funny and other times heartbreaking.  His first language was American Sign Language.  It was how he spoke at home.  No one outside the deaf community communicated with his parents, so Myron found himself in the middle, between the deaf world and the hearing world.  He was the translator during Teacher/Parent conferences.  He was the one who got help when his brother has a seizure.  He was also the one who heard how cruelly and disrespectfully his father is treated at his job. It is a burden to carry and yet he does it. 

These two books – true stories – shine a light on the changes that have been made for the disabled community in our country.  I don’t feel satisfied and I can’t help but wonder what more I can and should be doing so that even more voices can sing and all of our lives can be enriched by hearing those songs.

Here are some other books you might enjoy that connect to the theme of celebrating “difference.”

 

 

 

 

Research has shown that reading literary fiction helps develop empathy.  Readers walk beside the characters of tightly written stories growing our capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling.  Reading helps you dream of possible futures.  These books can help us  grow our understanding so that, as Maya Angelou reminds us, we can “do the best we can until we know better.  Then when we know better, we can do better.” 

Let’s all be better.  If you have another title to add to this collection, please leave your suggestion in a comment,  Thanks.

Happy Reading! 📚