Review: Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

Real Friends 12-- bookspoilsI’ve had my eye on this graphic novel memoir set in the 80s for awhile now, so I was beyond keen on getting my reading on. I sped through this thrilling ride in one big whirlwind.

When best friends are not forever . . . 

Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen’s #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top . . . even if it means bullying others.

Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group―or out?

This book, to be honest, made me feel utterly frightened for my nine-year-old sister. Like, what kind of fresh hell is going on in the American education system where the amount of bullying Shannon went through in the fourth grade was completely overlooked to the point of oblivion.Real Friends 9-- bookspoils

This is frightening… The amount of pain and suffering school can bring to a child made me that feel sure about my decision to homeschool.

I was then also gobsmacked by the abuse Shannon experienced at the hands of her older sister, looking to alleviate her own pain by putting it all on this little girl. I mean, if it’s unacceptable to hit a nine-year-old stranger, then it sure as hell is unacceptable to hit your own sister.Real Friends 1-- bookspoilsI’m still shellshocked at this panel.Real Friends 10-- bookspoils This poor kid experienced utter terror in her own home. Shannon ran to hide just at the sound of Wendy’s voice and that had me nearly in tears.

Please, treat your younger siblings with all the love and respect you have.

Shannon’s perspective gave us a very keen look on her girlhood, and it made me understand certain outbursts kids might have with a more clear eye. Like, when she was “playing” with her siblings and starts crying when caught, not at her loss but at the overwhelming build-up of emotions from feeling left out. It made me remember that kids tearing up isn’t usually about the situation at hand but about something much deeper in their heads that only they have the knowledge about. And it’s our jobs to show them that they can trust us enough to share their thoughts.Real Friends 13-- bookspoils On a more uplifting note, Real Friends has some incredible art that I’d like to highlight by sharing a few favorite panels of mine:Real Friends 3-- bookspoilsReal Friends 4-- bookspoilsReal Friends 6-- bookspoilsReal Friends 7-- bookspoilsReal Friends 11-- bookspoils

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Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Real Friendsjust click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

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Holocaust Memorial Day 2018 | Night by Elie Wiesel, Marion Wiesel (Translator)

“Those who kept silent yesterday will remain silent tomorrow.”

My first reading of Elie Wiesel’s Night occurred during this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day.Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie’s wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author’s original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man’s capacity for inhumanity to man.

Words cannot begin to comprehend the plight of suffering and cruelty revealed in this book that had me on the verge of breaking into sobs page after page, so I’ll let the writing speak for itself by sharing moments and passages that cannot be forgotten in time:

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This here is exactly why I refuse to participate with anything regarding Germany; the world is complicit in its indifference.  “…my hatred remains our only link today.”

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It pained me beyond words to see my people fall under the “this surely won’t happen to me” spell.

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And the effect spreads like a snowball, gathering more and more edicts as the days go by.

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Nothing gets my blood boiling quite like seeing the numerous acts of silence committed by these citizens. People love to victim-blame the Jews by asking the distasteful question of why they didn’t stand up to the oppressor… But a more pressing notion, for me, is why those German citizens, watching idly by in the face of atrocity, didn’t stand up to their fellow Nazis… 

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I was appalled from start to finish with the above. Not only do they watch idly by from a short distance away, but to then FLIRT with them…

You think you’ve reached the peak of cruelty, but then you read on:

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Experiencing numbness in order to remain sane at the sight of tragedy.

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This French girl’s wisdom has stayed in mind, in particular, because the next paragraph describes an out-of-this-world experience wherein Elie Wiesel stumbles upon her eons later:

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But the most painful of all remains to be the relationship portrayed between father and son that keeps both alive in the face of inhumanity.

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Many more sorrowful revelations are shared within the pages of this must-read. Elie Wiesel’s raw written voice commemorates all that must never be forgotten.

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My arms gathered with goosebumps at that because the date I was reading this book was April 11th.

I’ll end this review by sharing my favorite Elie Wiesel quote:

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

Review: My Life by Golda Meir

 “One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.”

When I first discovered My Life, my excitement regarding this book was sky-high because I had this urgent need, seemingly out of nowhere, to find out everything about Golda Meir, known as the “strong-willed, straight-talking, gray-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people.”

This is Golda Meir’s long-awaited personal and moving story of her life. For the first time, we experience through her own words how it happened that this amazing woman, born in Russia and brought up in Milwaukee, became Prime Minister Israel and one of the political giants of our time, without ever losing the warmth and informality for which she is justly celebrated.

I nearly ran to the library in my excitement and frenzy to know all about this grand pioneering woman. And as I was about to start my reading, holding this whopper of a book in my hands, I had a passing thought that whispered: “this will be something special.”

Thankfully the book started off on a great note as it read like a memoir of her family life. From her radically opinionated sister, Sheyna, who “did what her principles dictated,” to snapshots of Golda Meir’s politically charged adolescence, featuring debates on Zionism, literature, women’s suffrage, and more. To put it mildly, “I hung on their words as though they would change the fate of mankind.”

But then the narrative started jumping around in time, which had me confused as ever trying to keep up, at which point I had to pull up Golda Meir’s Wikipedia page to get a coherent sense of the events being described. And adding the fact that the main focus of the book was being shifted to center less on her personal life and more heavily on the politics set in that period of time. All these combined elements made my initial excitement subside by a landslide, and I had to rearrange my expectations for the following two-thirds of the book.

The only saving grace by this point was when Golda Meir dared to talk about feminism and “the inner struggles and despairs of a mother who goes to work.”

“Naturally women should be treated as the equals of men in all respects. But, as is true also of the Jewish people, they shouldn’t have to be better than everyone else in order to live like human beings or feel that they must accomplish wonders all the time to be accepted at all. On the other hand, a story — which, as far as I know, is all it was— once went the rounds of Israel to the effect that Ben-Gurion described me as ‘the only man’ in his cabinet. What amused me about it was that obviously he (or whoever invented the story) thought that this was the greatest possible compliment that could be paid to a woman. I very much doubt that any man would have been flattered if I had said about him that he was the only woman in the government!”

Had the primary focus throughout the first half of the book been on chronicling Golda Meir’s life, without adding on her many accounts of traveling and talking overseas to crowds and diplomatical figures about X and Y, would’ve made My Life a real tour de force in my eyes.

Like, this paragraph below about her father’s father who died long before Golda Meir’s parents ever met:

“He had been one of the thousands of ‘kidnapped’ Jewish children of Russia, shanghaied into the czar’s army to serve for twenty-five years. Ill-clothed, ill-fed, terrified children, more often than not they were under constant pressure to convert to Christianity. My Mabovitch grandfather had been snatched by the army when he was all of thirteen, the son of a highly religious family, brought up to observe the finest points of orthodox Jewish tradition. He served in the Russian army for another thirteen, and never once, despite threats, derision and often punishment, did he touch treife (non-kosher) food. All these years he kept himself alive on uncooked vegetables and bread. Though pressed hard to change his religion and often made to pay for his refusal by being forced to kneel for hours on a stone floor, he never gave in. When he was released and came back home, he was nonetheless haunted by the fear that inadvertently he might somehow have broken the Law. So to atone for the sin he might have committed, he slept for years on a bench in an unheated synagogue with only a stone at his head for a pillow. Little wonder that he died young.”

It’s passages like these that stayed with me long after I closed the book.

By the time I rolled around to the end of chapter six (‘We Shall Fight Hitler’) and the following chapter (‘The Struggle Against the British’), the pacing had picked up a bit more and settled on issues that I understood and cared for profoundly. And then, of course, there was ‘We Have Our State’ a phenomenal chapter that lifted my spirits with the signing of the proclamation after all the emotional turmoil and unprecedented loss endured beforehand.

So even though it took me some time to get my bearings, to find my way around this heavy read, My Life by Golda Meir is certainly a book I’ll think about for a while to come, for better and for worse.

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Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying My Life, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!