Poetry Speaks Who I Am with English Breakfast Tea

I picked Poetry Speaks Who I Am up at the library because I thought it would be great practice with the students I tutor. The book comes with a cd with recordings of the poets reading their poems. I love to hear a poem read by the original poet because then you are hearing it the way they hear it in their heads.

I ended up sitting down and reading this entire collection of poetry in one sitting. It is designed for middle school and high school students, but can certainly be enjoyed by an adult reader. Some of the poems brought back emotions and worries that I haven’t experienced in years, while others were still very relevant to my life.

This was not a life altering or shattering collection of poems, but I can see that it may be for a young adult struggling with those uncertain years. I sipped some English Breakfast tea because it was my favorite when I was in school. I truly enjoyed the nostalgia brought on by poems like “In the Fifth Grade Locker Room” and “Baseball”.


Cane River by Lalita Tademy with Sweet White Tea and Oranges

This book was recommended to me by a friend, and although it seemed like a book that I would love, I just kept carrying it around. I would pull it off the shelf intending to read it but after carrying it for awhile and never cracking the cover, it would end up back on the shelf. Once I finally started reading, however, I couldn’t put it down.

Cane River by Lalita Tademy has a truly unique premise. The author did research into her own family history and then crafted a novel based on what she learned about her own family line. It traces a line of strong women that starts in slavery and ends in the 1930s.

The strength of these women is intoxicating. They face pains that I cannot even fathom and yet because of the bonds of family and their own persevering personalities they bring about their own happiness and satisfaction.

I literally did not want to put this book down and found myself fighting for time to read it. A story of strong women, race, and family ties, this book is a must read. I read it with sweet white tea and oranges.

The sweet white tea is made with white tea but made the same a traditional sweet tea. oranges are then quartered and added to the brew. Left to set the tea takes on a beautiful citrus twist. The tea is strong and the oranges fresh, a perfect mix for the strength and beauty found in Cane River. 

Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah with Green Tea

I carried this book around for awhile before actually starting it, but once I finally got past the first few pages I ended up reading the book in one day. I feared and worried about Adeline and felt pain for the cruel treatment she received.

The unnecessary death of a loved pet was absolutely shocking and heartbreaking, it was in this moment that I felt the worst for poor Adeline. Towards the end of the novel, however, I began to lose sympathy for her. Her obsession over the will and constant protest that the money wasn’t important but then happily accepting money from her siblings felt false. Although, I understand that she just wanted to be included it was difficult to believe her motives when she obsessed over the money.

Even with an ending that felt insincere, overall this book evoked feelings of sadness, shock, and heartbreak. I can’t imagine the pain of living your life knowing you were unwanted in your family. Unfortunately for Adeline, her family was dysfunctional at best and overall seemingly incapable of true love or affection.

I enjoyed green tea that my father-in-law brought back from China. The green tea sweetened with honey was a warm and comforting treat to a book about a very cold family. Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah gives great insights into life in China during the 1900s, shows how painful it can be to be unwanted, and proves that you can endure even bleak circumstances.

Red Holler: Contemporary Appalachian Literature edited by John Branscum and Wayne Thomas with a Beer

Red Holler is a book that my professor in college was working on when I graduated, so naturally, when I found it at the library I had read it. It’s an anthology of Appalachia literature edited by John Branscum and Wayne Thomas. I found myself moved by many of the included pieces as they showed the good, the bad, and the pride that is often found in Appalachia.

I was pleasantly surprised by the love shown towards a strong, stubborn, and in many ways difficult section of the United States. Appalachia is shaped by poverty, weather, and sheer determination. Red Holler was careful to show these aspects with the humanity and personality of the people.

If you grew up in Appalachia read it to be reminded why your home is unique. If you are curious or judgemental towards Appalachia and its people then read it to become aware of the strength and softness that exist there.

A cup of tea just didn’t cut it when it came to reading Red Holler. Instead, I settled in with a Blue Moon and it fit Appalachian literature better than tea ever could. If, however, you don’t want to drink a beer then I recommend iced tea. I grew up with it being brewed in a huge mason jar on the front porch.


Cantor’s Dilemma by Carl Djerassi with English Breakfast Tea

Personally, I really enjoy Cantor’s Dilemma by Carl Djerassi,  but I can see why it may not be a favorite of some. The story hinges on your interest in the characters and the moral dilemmas of science. If you are looking for a plot driven novel, this is not a good selection. Other than a minor twist, the plot is fairly predictable.

The characters, however, are complex and engaging. The discussions on their motives for decisions are fascinating. I was particularly interested in Celly, Jean, and Leah’s conversations about being a woman in academia.

It is interesting to see how human nature, greed, and pride factor into the “search for truth.” Driven by the Nobel Prize, greed and pressure begin to cause even the best to falter. I found these moral dilemmas compelling and enjoyed contemplating them.

I recommend English Breakfast Tea with Cantor’s Dilemma by Carl Djerassi, a straightforward drink for a straightforward novel. If you decide to read this novel, take the time to consider the motives, arguements, and ethics. These dilemmas are what make this worth reading.

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger with Whiskey Tea

I prefer knowing the general premise of a novel before I begin reading, but with Franny and Zooey, I literally had no idea what I was starting. This ignorance on my part (which would have been easily corrected had I not been lazy) left me lost for the first part of the novel. It turns out that Franny and Zooey are siblings in a pretty unique family.

Franny and Zooey had received a very unique education at the hands of their older brothers. This approach leaves them with a host of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual issues. Salinger, however, shows that regardless of our own imperfections and the imperfections of others, we must love people simply for being people. That message is powerful, easy to lose track of, and vitally important.

The story’s strength is in the sharp writing by J.D. Salinger. The dialogue between characters is witty and fast. The character and scene descriptions are vivid in their attention to small details and spotlighting of features. Small movements by characters give the characters life and personality. This is my first novel by Salinger and I’m looking forward to reading his other writings.

I paired this novel with whiskey tea because I felt like the characters all needed a drink in hand. They all smoke heavily and I continued to picture whiskey even though no drink was described. The smoothness and slight burning heat are a perfect companion to Franny and Zooey.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with Iced Citrus Green Tea

Purple Hibiscus is the first novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It is astonishing that it could be anyone’s debut novel. The characters are so alive that I felt I could reach out and touch them. The pain in the story builds itself inside of you until, like the characters, you burst from the sheer weight of it. Purple Hibiscus holds tension at familial, political, and religious levels. They weave together in an honest struggle for a family in Nigeria.

Kambili, a young teen, and her brother Jaja are the children of a wealthy and respected businessman. The story starts almost pleasantly but quickly the abuse becomes evident. Life is not as pleasant as it would originally seem. Religious fanaticism rules their lives and all of their relationships. I love how Adichie shows how it bleeds into all levels of Kambili’s life. Kambili is unable to communicate with others, worships and hates her father, struggles with understanding herself, and cannot even recognize the sound of her own laughter. Abuse and oppression are not contained, they bleed into every aspect of one’s life.

Kambili and Jaja are able to find freedom with their Aunt and cousins in Nsukka. The freedom they find there is what inspired my tea choice for the novel. When reading, Nsukka felt like a breath of fresh air on a stifling day and it iced citrus green tea gives me that same feeling. That refreshing nature is needed as pain continues to bloom for the characters. Adichie allows Kambili and Jaja to handle their pain differently as one character grows and the other becomes bitter.

Adichie is a uniquely talented author with a gift for making her characters fully human. Their pain, their flaws, their beauty, and their insecurities are developed naturally and fully until they fill the space next to you while you read.

Maya Angelou: The Complete Poetry with Sweet Tea

I read this entire collection of poetry in one sitting. I didn’t want to, I wanted to stop and ponder, but I couldn’t. I was too caught up in her voice and couldn’t bring myself to stop. I will admit that some of the poems went over my head. I’m sure they needed time to sit and be thought upon. Others were revelations that I read twice just to hear the truth or beauty come off the page.

I don’t recommend reading poetry quickly and I fully intended to read this collection again. Right now, I cannot pick a favorite. Maya Angelou writes with humanity, passion, love, anger, pain and hope. Her words speak to me differently at different times. I honestly don’t think I will ever have a favorite, but as a woman, it is nearly impossible not to love Phenomenal Woman. 

Read Maya Angelou. Read her slowly and soak in her words. Devour them like they will soothe your hunger. Read Maya Angelou.

Personally, I think sweet tea is a perfect compliment to poetry. Sweet yet bitter but always refreshing.

They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky with Rooibos Tea

This book, y’all. Three of the “Lost Boys” of the Sudan tell their stories of survival as they left their homes as young boys facing war, genocide, and almost certain death. It is so powerful to hear their perspective as children. Their stories left me broken and yet amazed at the strength of the human spirit.

These children faced circumstances that seem impossible to survive. They face their death repeatedly and somehow never lose the will to live. It reminded me that people can become used to anything. That human trait of accepting circumstances can be lifesaving, but it also has a very dark underbelly. Although the kindness of strangers often saved their lives, inconceivable acts of violence were the cause of their harm. At one point a man emptied his bowels on the bag of one of the boys and then started beating him. This type of cruelty was always explained as being a result of war.  It seems that humanity can become so used to the violence of war that it continues into all aspects of life.

I wonder too, about becoming too accustomed to comfort. Does that cause us to lose our ability to care for each other? The boys survived the refugee camp by caring for each other. Do we show that kind of care? We certainly are not showing that care for refugees or those suffering. This is not some distant piece of history and there are still Sudanese refugees living in refugee camps. What about refugees from Syria or other war-torn areas? How can we do more?

But, I am off topic. They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky is simply a must read and will obviously cause you do some serious thinking about humanity. I recommend reading it with Rooibos tea. The earthy vanilla is a perfect compliment to a book that leaves your tongue dry and your mouth yearning for a drink.

Vintage Hughes with Sweet Tea

I have read a few poems by  Langston Hughes in the past, but it was always a rushed experience. When I checked Vintage Hughes out of the library, I knew I needed to take my time and truly give my attention to the works of Langston Hughes. His poetry and short stories are lyrical, moving, and resonating.

Although I majored in English, poetry has never been my favorite. The more I focus on creativity, the more I enjoy it, but I am still new to enjoying poetry. Langston Hughes, however, writes in a style that is so alive and honest that it is impossible to not love it. Sometimes the poems are heartbreaking, other times inspiring, and most of the time just painfully honest. The three short stories are filled with perfect detail, beautifully deep characters, and plots that remain with you long after you have finished reading.

I recommend reading Hughes out-loud, the poetry is so rhythmic that something is missed if it is read silently. I read to myself in the car, in my back yard as my son played, snuggled in blankets on the couch and each place was filled with the truth of Hughes. It was cathartic to read out loud poetry that addresses racism while sitting in my yard in the South. These issues are still alive and it was good to speak the words and to feel their truth.

Read Hughes. Read Hughes out loud. Feel the rhythm and weight of his words.

I liked reading it with sweet tea because it’s summer in the South. The drink was refreshing and the writing was honest — it was a good combination.