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.

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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.

 

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.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates with Coffee

I don’t know that I am qualified to write a review on this powerful book. I am not the target audience but I may be the audience that most needs to read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The author writes this short read as a letter to his son and it felt like overhearing a personal conversation. I felt like I was peering through a window into a world in which a don’t belong. It was beautiful, powerful, heartbreaking, and enlightening.

Coates writes in no-punches-held style while keeping a style that is almost lyrical. I literally just put the book down, but I already feel like I need a second reading. So much of the book is quotable and all of it is powerful.

Read this slowly. Digest each piece you are given. Drink some coffee and let Ta-Nehisi Coates influence you.

 

Go Ask Alice with Chamomile Tea

Reading a diary always feels like spying. It leaves you a little too close to the author and you desperately want to help them or be there for them. Go Ask Alice is honest and that honesty is painful. Drug addiction is a terrible issue that our world is caught in. We forget to treat the addicts like people and we forget to be kind, to be loving. It is painfully obvious when reading, Go Ask Alice, that the author and the others like her are desperate for some love and understanding.

In a time when nearly everyone knows someone who has overdosed, this book is difficult to read. When you read the writings while she is high, you find yourself struggling to even find the same person there. Then when she comes down from a high, her words return to her personality. This is a heartbreaking read because you want to reach through the pages and save her. Unfortunately, drug addiction isn’t simple.

While Go Ask Alice breaks your heart about an issue that is happening in your neighborhood, on your street, and maybe in your home, go drink some chamomile. You can relax in the comfort of chamomile tea and struggle with the big issues of drug addiction.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb with Chai Tea

I Am Malala blew me away with Malala’s courage, her passion and the chance to see the events of the world through her eyes. She spoke of events that were happening to her and her home that I can remember flooding my TV. It was eye-opening to see the differences in the way these same events were presented to us. It reminds me that everyone has their own reality based on their own experience. I think the best part of reading is the ability to have a window into another person’s reality and to add their perspective to your own. I am so grateful that this book exists.

Malala Yousfzai is courageous and passionate in a way that I dream of being. She fears being known as only ‘the girl who was shot by the Taliban’ instead she wants to be known as ‘the girl who stood up for education’.  I think when you read her story, you realize that being shot by the Taliban is just something that happened to her, but her passion for education is what really stands out. This passion is what spoke to me from the book.

The combination of her passion and her perspective were deeply moving for me. I sipped some chai tea with (almond) milk while reading and enjoyed the way the spices were powerful and kind. It felt like the perfect combination for Malala and her passionate story.

Read this book. Please. Especially if you are living in America at this time. Islamophobia is dangerous. Open your heart and your mind – see that people are just people.

 

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou with Chai Tea

 

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou is moving, inspirational, overpowering, loving, and forgiving. Angelou is a person that I inspire to become more like, her power to move forward, to love honestly, and forgive wholly are nearly beyond belief.

When I read of her mother in I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsI struggled with how she could forgive so completely. When I read it, however, my own experiences as a mother were only two or three months old. Now I have been a mother for 1.5 years. Although that is still a very short period of time, my perception of motherhood has evolved drastically. I can better understand Vivian Baxter and Maya Angelou.

Angelou’s relationship with her mother is imperfect, messy, and loving. I think their relationship is saved by their love, acceptance, and honesty. I know that I give my son that love from within my soul, from within my marrow, and I strive to give that level of acceptance and honesty. I related deeply to Vivian Baxter when she is quoted saying,

“I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.”

I bring my whole self to my son and I always will. As a mother and a daughter, this book really touched my heart. Drink some chai tea so that your tea can give you the same hug that you receive from the words of Maya Angelou. Sip, enjoy, grow your heart.

 

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie with Peppermint Tea

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of my favorite authors and I love to hear her speak. When I watched the video of her speech at TEDxEuston, I knew that I needed to get a copy of the speech. We Should All Be Feminists is a modified version of that speech from 2012. Each word is moving and honest. When I read I often look for lines that are particularly moving or important, this entire piece is full of moving or important bits.

Everyone should read this because everyone should truly be a feminist. Adichie lays out this point in a way that is impossible to ignore. She also focuses on the need to change out culture, our society, our attitudes more than just our laws. I love the focus on raising not just our daughters but out sons differently.

Peppermint tea was my perfect compliment. The honest straight forward taste of the tea matches the honesty of the text. Allow yourself to be challenged by Adichie.

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn with Ginger Tea

Half the Sky is a book that made me cry, a book that I had to take short breaks from just to process, and a book that confirmed for me my passion for women’s rights. Kristof and WuDunna are respected journalists who provide the hard facts and the honest stories of the oppression of women worldwide. Half the Sky opened my eyes to the scope of the issue and to the overall lack of response throughout the world. I knew that these things were happening and that very little was being done to intervene but having the numbers and the personal stories was life changing.

Kristof and WuDunn also address the issues of the aid that is given to women. They examine what has worked, what isn’t working, and what can be done to be more effective. I love that a major aspect of this book is a call to action for the readers. Often when faced with the vastness of an issue like women’s rights one can feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to be of assistance. Kristof and WuDunn lay out actions that anyone can do and encourage becoming more involved. They urge the reader to not be a bystander to the atrocity in the world.

I found ginger tea to be the perfect companion to Half the Sky. Ginger tea is calming and settles an upset stomach. The information in this book is difficult (but necessary) to read and ginger tea is a comforting companion.

Please take the time to read Half the Sky. Please don’t turn a blind eye to women’s rights – to human rights.

half-the-sky

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, Essay, Etc. by David Sedaris with Irish Breakfast Tea

David Sedaris writes in his expected brutally honest and self-deprecating style that manages to take everyday experiences, like going to the dentist, and use them to point out what we hate most about ourselves. As a reader, you have to prepare to read Sedaris. You must be ready to laugh at one moment and then be surprised to find some of your darkest traits exposed through his life experiences. Sedaris has the unique ability to take the most mundane of experiences, find a common human trait, and expose it in painfully funny prose.

In Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, Sedaris explores his life with a reoccurring theme of death. He seeks forgiveness from a Sea Turtle for killing sea turtle babies as a child and searches for a taxidermy owl as a Valentines day gift. Stories that seem unconnected at first somehow flow perfectly together in this collection of essays.  Sedaris enthrals us by opening his world to us. He writes, “It’s not lost on me that I’m so busy recording life, I don’t have time to really live it” (233), but by recording his life for us we can join him in living it.

When reading Sedaris, it is good to have a strong and straight forward drink. I enjoyed pairing Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls with Irish Breakfast Tea sweetened with sugar. Irish Breakfast Tea is a bold tea which matches the witty and equally bold writing of Sedaris. So make yourself a cup of tea and get ready to laugh at things you would have never thought could be funny.

David Sedaris and Irish Breakfast Tea
David Sedaris and Irish Breakfast Tea