The Mighty Queens of Freeville

The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Story of Surprising Second Chances
I picked up The Mighty Queens of Freeville for 3 reason... in order- #1, I fell in love with the cover, #2, Freeville is only 50 minutes from my house and we often drive through/by the town on our way to Ithaca, and #3, Amy Dickinson is the famous "Ask Amy".
The cover drew me in immediately.  I loved the colors, the title, and the beautiful outdoor picnic setting. I liked that you didn't see the heads of these women and were able to make up your own picture of who they all are.  Sitting in pretty skirts and dresses, in old school patio chairs, around a pretty table with a backdrop of luscious green grass is inviting.  I like to do those things myself- especially the pretty skirt part.
I was drawn in by the title naming the town as Freeville.  I live in Binghamton, NY and take frequent drives to Ithaca for music, arts, and great food.  Freeville in just north of Dryden, the town that out lies Ithaca on our way in.  I've driven through the very very very small town of Freeville before.  I enjoy reading books with familiar places- I like knowing the places I'm reading about in a much more intimate way than just through my minds eye.  Many of the places Amy visits and speaks of in this memoir are areas or places I know well.  Some of the diners and roads are familiar to me, as well as the general landscape of the area.
Finally, after all this made me pick the book up, I turned it over to find out it was by Amy Dickinson of "Ask Amy".  I don't regularly read her column, but I have before and I just think the idea of it is cool.  Also, reading the back paints a picture of second chances and relationships between women.

I read the book sitting out in the sun the past few days.  The Mighty Queens of Freeville truly is about second chances, missed opportunity, karma, love, loss, family, women, and the strength that keeps us going.  The story chronicles Amy's life growing up in a small town raised by her mother and the other women in her family.  Surrounded by the cushion of a small town and wrapped in the arms of strong women, Amy is able to have a successful life and begins her own mothering to her daughter Emily in London.  However, my was unable to break the family curse of single motherhood.  Left in shock and pain when her husband leaves her, Amy must decide what is best for her and her young daughter.  She goes back to the place she knows best.  Amy floats between Washington DC, Freeville, and Chicago throughout the book.  She raises Emily to be a strong women like herself, surrounded with caring and compassionate women.  Emily & Amy travel between Chicago and Freeville, as well as between Washington DC and Freeville quite often.  Distance does not stop them from forming relationships with a beautiful circle of queens.  Amy learns about love, loss, and life- and she learns that sometimes it is best to say "well, that just happened" and move forward.  She also learns to move on and let go, in many forms.  She has to move on from her cheating husband as well as let go of Emily and allow her to make her own choices.  Amy readily admits that Emily was an easy child to raise, but that doesn't water down the fact that she still raised a daughter flying solo.  Amy finds a way to balance family, work, and the pursuit of happiness quite well.  Although it wasn't easy getting there, Amy is able to find it all.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book.  It was a quite easy read, punctuated by humor and tears.  It paints a picture of how dynamic of a women Amy Dickinson is and how she did it- by 'failing up' as she would say.  It is inspiring to read... reminding me of the strength of women and of family bonds, especially the tie between mother and daughter.  The only part I was not in love with was the general structure of the memoir.  It did a lot of jumping around- years, relationships and events all jumble together as she flips from scenario to scenario in the book.  Still, it is easy to follow.. just takes a bit of paying attention!
Amy gives advice in her column, but if you truly want some good life lessons learned- read this book.
write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Prozac Nation

Prozac Nation (Movie Tie-In)
Recently, I read Prozac Nation: Young and Depressed in America by Elizabeth Wurtzel.  I read the original memoir (not the movie tie-in)- however, my Amazon Associate search didn't have any images for the original copy (but you can purchase it on Amazon).  I have also never seen the movie, so I have no idea what the movie tie-in is all about...
I really enjoyed this memoir.  It was well written, with catchy (some might say offensive) chapter titles.  Within each chapter, she open with a quote or song lyric that tied into her emotional state within the chapter.  I truly LOVED this part... it flooded me with memories because a lot of the quotes and lyrics were ones I know.  She quotes everyone from Sylvia Plath to Bob Dylan and Edie Brickell.
The memoir chronicles Elizabeth's life and struggle with depression.  She felt depressed when she was young, but no one knew what it was.  Think back to the early 90's- depression wasn't a huge topic for discussion.  She walks the reader through years of trying to figure out how to get better... talk therapy doesn't work.. the first drugs on the market weren't working.. changing her lifestyle wasn't working... so what would help?  Eventually depression starts to get some attention, and Prozac is on the market.  Elizabeth finds a new doctor who prescribes her the medicine- and it quickly seems like a miracle drug.  Not only for Elizabeth, but for the rest of the nation who is trying out this new medicine.
After a few years on the drug, Elizabeth sees how Prozac has changed our world.  She opens a discussion about how we truly are a 'Prozac Nation'- everyone seems to take it, and everyone seems to be depressed.  Suddenly, Americans are overwhelmingly depressed and there is a pill to fix you.  But, is depression new?  Or are we just lazy and looking for a quick fix to all of our problems?  Isn't it fair to say that our grandparents were depressed at some point?.. but they didn't take drugs, they just worked harder and pressed on.  So what makes things different now?  Maybe it's because we are open to discussing depression (as well as other mental health issues) and we have the knowledge to make drugs that can help.  But are drugs the answer?  Should we all be medicated for every single itch we can't scratch ourselves?  Maybe we just need to put in some good hard work.
Everyone has an opinion on this matter... Americans are over medicated, Americans are lazy.. American is hard, and medication helps people who can't help themselves, we have the technology so we should use it.  Some people are from both schools of thought.  Whatever your opinion is on medication, depression and the American way of life, this book is going to open your mind.
write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow



While taking a trip to B&N this week to pick up a new copy of Harry Potter (again!... nothing seems to stop my students when in a rage from destroying books within reach- even Harry Potter!) I stopped to browse the "summer reading list" table.  Also curious and looking for new books to read with my pre-teen class, I picked up Schooled by Gorden Korman.  I must admit, I was drawn in by the cover.  A tie-dyed window of a school bus with a backdrop of a peace sign?  Sign me up!  After reading the excerpt from the back, I knew I had to buy the book.  What a good bully-free, non-violence book!!
The book follows Capricorn Anderson, an 8th grade boy who grew up at Garland- a true commune.  Throwing you back to the 60s when community living and communes were everywhere, the reader gets to experience the danger and pleasure of a commune.
Cap lives at Garland with Rain.  Rain founded Garland years ago and is the last one sticking it out to see communal living through.  Long ago, all the other families left the commune to join the 'real world' and allow their children to experience life outside of the fields of Garland.  After an accident involving plums, Rain is rushed to the hospital by 13 year old Cap in the drivers seat.  What happens next is devastating for Capricorn.  Rain needs surgery, and CPS is stepping in to take care of him while Rain in recovering.   Cap is taken from Rain and placed in a temporary foster home while she receives physical therapy for her recovery.  Thrust into the real world with absolutely NO knowledge is challenging to say the least.
Cap looks different, acts different, and thinks completely different than the 1,100 students at Claverage Middle School.  Immediately Cap becomes and easy target for bullies.  But he sticks through it.  Cap is put throw the ringer- experiencing every great and terrible thing middle school has to offer- with no prior knowledge of what middle school even is.  Will Capricorn survive in the real world, or will his peers eat him alive?  Is Capricorn able to overcome the barrier of living with 60's ideals and maintain that in our current technology, money, and materialistic driven world?

I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  An easy read and interesting read, Schooled offers up everything kids nowadays need.  Schooled gives background information on the 60s, teaches kids what a commune is, lets us see what sustainable living REALLY is, and paints a very clear picture of differing ideals.  It also offers up plenty of real-life lessons... from bullies to charity.
Schooled is written in multiple voices.  Each chapter is a characters voice and their interpretation of what is happening.  This allows the reader to see a multitude of opinions.  Well written and informative, as well as entertaining, I would suggest this book to anyone (and everyone).  Teachers- use it in your classrooms when you teach about the 60s movements or when bullying becomes extreme!  Parents- read it to your kids to show that beautiful values and a peek inside others.  Bookies- grab a glass of lemonade, sit in the sun, and reminisce about the 60s, middle school, or both!  After reading Schooled by Gordon Korman, I am really excited to pick up his other novels.  I can only imagine after reading the titles and summaries that his other books are successful at teaching life lessons to children.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow