Book on my radar: The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood by David Simon and Edward Burns

Here’s a nonfiction book I got for Christmas (thank you A!) and I’m going to read it very soon. Published in 1997, it was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and was the basis of the 2000 Emmy-winning HBO miniseries of the same name. David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, is also the creator of The Wire, an excellent HBO crime drama I am in the middle of watching. The Wire ran from 2002-2008 and is considered one of the best television series of all time. Edward Burns is a former Baltimore police detective, a screen writer, novelist and producer.

So, what’s The Corner about? Set in a drug-infested neighborhood in West Baltimore, Simon and Burns follow the lives of Gary and Fran McCullough and their fifteen-year-old son DeAndre. Gary and Fran had hoped to escape the trappings of the drug world, but they’re losing their battle with addiction and DeAndre must fight to avoid the same fate.

These two reviews praised the book when it was published:

“…a brave, unblinkered, and heartbreaking look at the residents of a few blocks of West Baltimore’s ghetto…So far above most reporting on the underclass as to demand attention.”—New York Times Book Review

“Powerful and revealing…It shows us the plight of urban American honestly and without condescending to those trapped on its mean streets.”—Washington Post”

I haven’t read a nonfiction book in a couple months, and although I know this will be a grim account, I’m looking forward to reading it.

Do you know about this book? Have you read it? Leave a comment!

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Who’s That Indie Author? Gwen Miller

Who's That Indie Author pic

Gwen Miller
Gwen Miller

Author name: Gwen Miller

Genre: Adoption/Addiction/Memoirs

Books: Echoes of Silence: Letters to a Drug Addicted Mother from the Woman Who Took Her Place – Available now; Apples for Secrets: Former Child Abuse Victims Tell Their Stories for the First Time – Available Summer 2016

Echoes of Silence 2

Bio: Gwen Miller, award winning author and second helping adoptive mother, splits her time between roles as a mom, writer and speaker. Loaded with reams of hands-on experience, she serves as an advocate for the needs, proper diagnosis and treatment of abused children and helps guide adult survivors through a journey of healing.                                                 

Favorite thing about being a writer: As the mother of traumatized children, I struggle with the task of maintaining structure and safety amid a great deal of chaos. Writing gives me the flexibility to be present whenever my youngsters need me. It’s also a much needed outlet where I can find peace and solitude… and often vent.

Biggest challenge as an indie author: Marketing & PR without a doubt. I had always considered myself an advocate against the abuse of our children and often spoke freely about my own abuse and called out those responsible. But facing the horrible abuse my newly adopted children had endured, I realized that the cycle had continued on within my own family—two generations beyond mine. In spite of my efforts, I had not stopped it. The only way this cycle will be stopped is by talking about it. The victims are shamed and embarrassed into silence which then allows the predators to feed freely. I’m not really marketing the book as much as I am trying to market a message; something that is quite challenging because it makes people uncomfortable.

Favorite book: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

Contact Information: Visit Gwen Miller’s website and blog at GwenMiller.co. You can also find her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Please also visit this post about Miller’s fight against child abuse:  Helping victims of child abuse – Echoes of Silence, by Gwen Miller

Are you an indie author looking for some positive publicity? Do you want to build your indie author network? Why not get your name out on Who’s That Indie Author?

Email bvitelli2009@gmail.com for a bio template and other details, and follow along on Book Club Mom to join the indie author community!

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All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner

All Fall Down

All Fall Down
by
Jennifer Weiner

Rating:

When your life seems perfect to the rest of the world, only you know the truth about the small cracks that threaten your security. Most people fix the cracks or soldier through when they can’t. But some people turn to pills or alcohol or other drugs. Allison Weiss is a suburban mom, living in a big house on the Main Line outside Philadelphia. She’s got it all, the handsome husband, a great job as a blogger, a young daughter. But they’re overextended, her husband’s newspaper job is going away, and their daughter is a handful. On top of that, her father has Alzheimer’s. And although it’s a good thing that her blog posts are getting a lot of hits, Allison has to work more and shoulder most of the financial responsibilities for her family.

Allison turns to prescription medications to help her cope and, when one supply runs out, she makes appointments with other doctors. When those run out, she goes online until her world falls apart.

Jennifer Weiner has taken the serious subject of painkiller addiction and created a light and fluffy story about a suburban mom on the wrong track, making All Fall Down just another one of those very readable but disposable women’s books you forget about soon afterwards.

Weiner’s characters fit the basic stereotypes she needs for the storyline, making them either unknowable or annoying, including five-year-old Ellie, who has jumped directly from Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones series into Weiner’s story, complete with all caps exclamatory conversations like, “Jade and Summer and Willow all have THEIR OWN iPODS. And they’re the new touch ones, not STUPID TINY BABY ONES like YOU HAVE!”

The downward spiral of addiction is frightening, but I think the story’s impact would have been greater if Allison’s character had been more likable. It’s hard to sympathize with Allison because she is critical of everyone, self-absorbed and overly dramatic. This attitude continues even when she enters rehab. I don’t know a lot about rehab facilities, but I imagine most are run by highly qualified experts and professionals. But Weiner portrays the workers at Allison’s rehab facility as either complete losers or stereotypes and it’s not clear to me if the author is speaking through Allison’s point of view, or her own.

Without spoiling the plot, I will say that there are a few unrealistic developments and revelations, and, although the ending provides a neatly tied conclusion, I was left feeling like I had read the lite version of a television drama screenplay. Having said that, Weiner raises some good points about addiction. Allison isn’t a party girl. She’s taking her Percocets and Vicodins to manage her life, serious business. Her addiction goes unnoticed because she’s handling her responsibilities, at least in the beginning. And although her family doesn’t recognize the signs at first, there’s a period of denial that seems realistic and tragic to me. Maybe her husband and mother and friends are thinking if they look the other way, Allison’s problem will resolve itself.

All-in-all, All Fall Down is a quick read. It skims the surface of a real problem and ends with a hopeful message.

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The Ha Ha by Dave King

the ha ha picThe Ha Ha
by
Dave King

Rating:

The Ha Ha is an excellent novel about a Viet Nam vet with a severe brain injury, leaving him unable to speak. Thirty years after returning from Viet Nam, Howard Kapostash suddenly finds himself taking care of 9-year-old Ryan, whose mother Sylvia (Howard’s high school girlfriend) is in rehab for a cocaine addiction. Howard is middle-aged. His parents are dead. He lives in the house he grew up in with a detached group of boarders. Laurel, the only female, is a 30-something owner of a small gourmet soup business and helps Howard maintain the house. Two 30ish house painters, Steve and Harrison are new boarders.

Written through Howard’s viewpoint, this is a story of how Ryan comes to be the force that joins these people together, how Howard struggles to care for Ryan and how all the characters assume new roles. Howard’s actions are often well-meant, but several are based on terrible judgment and lead to bad results, leaving Howard unable to explain himself.

Howard is the kind of character you like despite his flaws and poor decisions. I was cheering for him all along. As Sylvia’s rehab continues, despite two disastrous visits, Howard imagines a new life with Sylvia and Ryan. All hopes unravel upon Sylvia’s return and Howard begins a downward and destructive spiral. These actions and the nagging question of why Howard never tried to learn sign language or another form of communication create a range of emotions in the reader. Anger for acting foolishly, for not caring enough to learn how to communicate, disgust for wallowing in drugs for years after his injury. Love for how much he cares about Ryan and how he steps up to the challenge.

The ending allows the reader to imagine the future and I still find myself wondering how Howard is doing.

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