In Absentia Book Haul

The book publishing world does not (alas) go on hold while I roam. My favourite authors publish books that aren’t yet licensed where I’m travelling, or I find exciting new-to-me stories on foreign bookshelves. At those times my sister, who works at a bookstore and therefore gets an employee’s discount, receives a text message: “Lovely sister, can you please purchase this book for me?” After a few months of this, I return home to a stack of lovely shiny new books on my nightstand! I also have suspended library holds and this time, I’ve brought home a few books that were gifts as well.

  • 438 Days by Jonathan Franklin (suspended hold) – I discovered this book over the holidays. I put it on hold in December but since it didn’t arrive before I left, I suspended it until I got back. It became available the day after I returned. Convenient!
  • The Boy Who Drew Monsters by Keith Donoghue (suspended hold) – See above.
  • What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi (purchased) – Eee, of course a new book by my favourite author would be released while I’m away!
  • George by Alex Gino (purchased) – When I heard about this book in one of my peeks into Twitter, I knew I had to read it.
  • The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home by Catherynne M. Valente (purchased) – I can’t believe we’re already at the last Fairyland book! I’m really excited to read about September’s parents.
  • Unbound by Neal Shusterman (purchased) – This book was released before I went travelling, but my sister bought it for me as a gift while I was away. I’m looking forward to the stories set after the Unwind dystology.
  • Best Ever Three and Four Ingredient Cookbook by Jenny White and Joanna Farrow (gift) – This was in a giveaway pile at one of my host’s home. I flipped through it, thinking it was going to be a lot of condensed soup and bags of frozen mixed veggies, but it’s actually more about focusing on good ingredients and whole foods. When my hosts saw I found it interesting, they wrote a birthday message in it and gave it to be for a birthday gift~
  • Japanese Pilgrimage by Olive Statler (gift) – I was happily rambling on about the Shikoku pilgrimage and some books about it that I want to read, when one of my hosts went to her bookshelf and asked, “Is this one of the books?” She gave it to me because she didn’t have any plans to reread it, though she remembered in being an interesting read when she first read it years ago.

Are there any spring releases I’ve missed out on? Have you picked up any new reads lately?

Brief Thoughts: The Education of Augie Merasty by Joseph Auguste Merasty and David Carpenter

This memoir offers a courageous and intimate chronicle of life in a residential school. Now a retired fisherman and trapper, the author was one of an estimated 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children who were taken from their families and sent to government- funded, church-run schools, where they were subjected to a policy of “aggressive assimilation.” As Augie Merasty recounts, these schools did more than attempt to mold children in the ways of white society. They were taught to be ashamed of their native heritage and, as he experienced, often suffered physical and sexual abuse. But, even as he looks back on this painful part of his childhood, Merasty’s sense of humour and warm voice shine through.

★★★★ | GoodReads | IndieBound | Chapters | Amazon

  • Over 1/3 of this slim volume consists of modern-day explaining and exploring by David Carpenter, an author Merasty was eventually put in contact with after writing to the “dean of the University of Saskatchewan”, inquiring about a co-writer to help him with his memoir. Carpenter’s writings allow Merasty’s story to become a fuller story by showing the long-term impact of residential schools. The afterword is perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the book, to learn that Merasty did not have the support to pull out of his downward spiral even after he worked so hard on creating his own life and recording his story. 
  • Merasty narrates in first person. Although Carpenter has tidied up and smoothed out Merasty’s words, his distinct voice remains. I felt as though I could be reading a transcript of a friend telling me his experiences. Merasty originally started writing as part of his testimony for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. His work is more a primary document than a literary memoir. Merasty’s real and raw perspective provides a valuable contribution to body of residential school memoirs. 
  • Merasty understands that he doesn’t need to write a detailed tell all in order to have his readers understand the horrors experienced by residential school attendees. His memoir never strays toward the graphic. There are times when reading a vivid account of a person’s experiences can be valuable, and all people have a right to share their experiences as they wish. There are times, however, when an account like Merasty’s – that explores and condemns the horrors but doesn’t require you to imagine them too closely – can be beneficial. You don’t necessarily need to have a clear full account to be moved someone’s story. Merasty’s memoir, therefore, is suitable for the faint-hearted or those new to the topic.
  • I found it somewhat comforting (not sure if that’s the right word given the subject) to read about the good people in the schools he remembers. In the first chapter, he describes all the people “who showed kindness and genuine care for us kids”, briefly mentioning ominous figures but dismissing them for the time being. Merasty encounters nasty beings, but his first chapter reminds you that there are some decent people in the world. 
  • The Education of Augie Merasty is a residential school memoir suitable for those new to the topic or those looking to read a first-hand account.

    “I have many more stories about all that transpired […]. But I sincerely hope that what I have related here will have some impact, so all that has happened in our school, and other schools in all parts of Canada – the abuse and terror in the lives of Indian children – does not occur ever again.” (86%)

      Reading Recap: April and May

      • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White – After staying on a farm with lots of sheep, duck, chickens, and turkeys, I was in the mood to read this story. Luckily the next farm (my third) I went to had a copy.
      • Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery – The third Anne book. I thought it was about time to read another one. FINALLY, progress on the romantic front! I didn’t know that Anne initially turns down Gilbert and nearly marries someone else. I wanted to bop her on the head, haha. I enjoyed this one as much as the others, for its introduction of new characters, Anne’s experiences at university and living with friends, and its balance of light-hearted and darker poignant moments. Owned by my third host.
      • The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Humphrey Carpenter – Original review here. Brought this one with me. I feel like I can always learn something new from it. This book is a great resource for dispelling misconceptions about Tolkien. My personal copy. 
      • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – Original review of RotK here. A must read while travelling Middle-earth! I read it straight through, though I also loved looking up and rereading passages that corresponded to the locations I was visiting. My own copy (I finished FotR at

        home, and brought paperbacks of TTT and RotK with me). 

      • Finding Yourself in the Kitchen by Diana Velden – I picked this book from my library’s selection of ‘new addition’ ebooks. I was not familiar with Velden’s online presence prior to stumbling upon this book. I really enjoyed the mindfulness perspective on cooking and the experiences that surround that. Velden brings two of my favourite interests together. I hope I can remember her words when I work in my kitchen. The bite size pieces that make up this book would make it a nice book to have handy in the kitchen, to pull out and read a few pages when you need a moment to focus. I skimmed over most of the recipes but noted down the any fruit tart.
      • The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban – This /sounds/ like something I would like, but I found it mostly dull and actually a bit violent. I like a dark children’s story, but this wasn’t really to my taste. Owned by my third host.
      • Smokes Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty – I heard a lot about this book in the blogosphere

        but didn’t plan on reading it. When I saw my fourth host had a copy and she highly recommended it, I couldn’t pass it up. Informative read on a topic that should be discussed more openly.

      • The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer – How can I call myself an Amanda Palmer without having read her book? I put it off because I thought it would mostly be a rehash of her blog and Twitter…and it is mostly that, but there is some stuff in here she hadn’t shared previously that will probably make you cry. My mom (who mostly knows about AFP through me) read this book and really enjoyed it, so if you’re curious about Amanda and what she’s ‘about’, I’d recommend it. Library ebook.
      • A Drop in the Ocean by Jenni Ogden – Review here. I saw this book on the shelves when I was in Australia, which was kind of neat. Pretty cover!
      • A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson – A book about bumblebees in England and an attempt to reintroduce an extinct species. At times I found this dry, but it’s amazing how much there is to study and still to learn about such a little creature. Owned by my fourth host.
      • In Search of April Raintree by Beatrice Culleton – An important local fiction inspired by true events about two Metis sisters who grew up separately in foster care. The prose is a bit juvenile but the story is a tough one to swallow, especially considering that events like the ones in the story are still too common today. Library ebook.
      • Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump – I saw the film Hunt for the Wilderpeople in New Zealand. I didn’t realize it was based on a book until the end credits. A few weeks later, my fourth host recommended I read Barry Crump, a popular Kiwi author who wrote a lot of novels about bush life. She gave me this book. The book was more serious than the movie (which has a quirky, often humorous tone) and the ending was quite different. I preferred the movie but I’m glad I read the book.
      • Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande – Another book that I pulled off my fourth host’s bookshelf. This felt like a good follow-up to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Gawande writes about the failures of end-of-life care and how we might improve. Another important subject that isn’t discussed enough. It made me think a lot about my grandparent’s lives now and what I might do when my parents are that age.
      • A Wild Swan: And Other Tales by Michael Cunningham – I had nothing to do in Auckland after my plans were cancelled one day, so I went to the library and read this collection of contemporary fractured fairy tales. Loved the stories and the illustrations (wish there were more!).
      • After the Crash by Michael Bussi – I stayed with my friends in Australia and one of them had

        this book from the library. After reading the description (plane crash with only one survivor, a baby, whose identity can’t be confirmed and is claimed by two families), I had to get the explanation. Even though the book wasn’t great and even I, non-reader of mysteries, figured out most of the ‘solution’ long before the end, I read the whole thing because I didn’t have any other pressing reads. 

      • I Have a Bed Made of My Buttermilk Pancakes by Jaclyn Moriarty – One of my favourite YA authors. She’s Australian and this book isn’t easy to find in Canada, so I planned to read it while there.Unfortunately, it’s my least favourite of her works. I thought it was too long, too disjointed, too odd, and lacking the emotional connection I get from some of her other books.
      • The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – My copy. I take the little green hardcover, the one with Tolkien’s original cover that was released when the movies started coming out, when I travel. A great read, as usual!

      Updating My Goal

        I read 29 books while I travelled. I had set my 2016 reading goal at 55 books. I based this decision off what I read last year, while assuming I wouldn’t read any books while travelling – just to be safe! I planned to adjust my goal when I returned, increasing the total by however many books I managed to read in those four months. That brings my new goal to 84 books. Goodreads tells me I’m still three books ahead of schedule. Boo yah.

        How did your spring reading go? Do you have a reading goal for this year?

        Home Again! What Have I Missed?

        Hello everyone! I returned home on Thursday. I travelled in Australia and New Zealand for four months (emphasis on New Zealand for LotR purposes, of course). I will kick back into full blogging mode in June, but right now I need to get back into the loop. What have you been up to these past months? I’d love to catch up on some of your favourite posts from the last few months, or learn about upcoming release you’re excited about. For now I will leave you with a photo from the Hobbiton set…