Posts Tagged ‘reading’

Where have I been??

Thursday, December 27th, 2012
It's been over two months since I've blogged!!! So much has happened and it has just been so crazy of late. That happens, from time to time, I guess. Sigh…
What have I/we been up to?
Jermaine and I took a very relaxing trip to the Florida Keys:
I basically spent a week in a hammock and it was fantastic! We spent our second anniversary at a very nice Lady-and-the-Tramp-like Italian restaurant in Key Largo…very delicious and romantic.
Then we came home just in time for Hurricane Sandy:
Fortunately we were fine but I can not say the same for my cousin and his family in New Jersey. They were without power for a week. So many families had more issues to deal with too with all the damage to properties.
Then there was the election.
Maryland legalized gay marriage. Wohhooooo!!!! I am so proud of my state!
Work has been so crazy for the both of us. The craziness for my job occurred a little earlier this year. Luckily, it will always be busy but the crazy, ER-quality pace has dissipated.

Jermaine and I are enjoying a nice Christmas. Here is a picture of our Christmas tree:

 

It's what tress often turn into, no? :-)

Craft-wise and book-wise, I've:

  • Finished 11 books. No idea if I'll be able to write reviews for every single one
  • Finished three pairs of socks for girlfriends and one pair for moi.
  • Made two fairly nice necklaces for my boss and my mom. I've come a long way since making necklaces out of macaroni teehee
  • Started knitting a monster for the 600 Monsters Strong group. Inspired by the terrible traders in Newtown this December, this group aims to send these knitted monsters to kids impacted by gun violence.
I hope to share more here in the upcoming months. I feel bad that I have gone MIA both with my blogging and my commenting. I hope to change that.
 
Happy 2013, everyone!!!
 
 

An additional field for Historical Fiction reviews…

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Yes. I am a history nerd. I will always have historical curiosity as I read my favorite genre of books – historical fiction.

While reading, I ponder:

  • How true and accurate is this book?
  • Are the characters described here typical __________ of the time? (This was a favorite question of one of my favorite professors in college when we read primary sources written by women from various time periods in American history)
  • What influence did historical events play on the work of fiction?
  • What kinds of social norms were displayed in this book and how accurate were they to that society?
  • …and questions similar to that

This is why I read historical fiction a lot—Because I wonder these very same kinds of things!! And because I wonder about these kinds of things, I’ll add another field “Historical Accuracy” to historical fiction book reviews. I am not trying to turn this blog into one of term papers but I would like to comment on a few of these thoughts. Sometimes I’ll do a little research about the topic and discuss something at length (i.e. a few paragraphs) or sometimes I just might have a few comments.

Finishing “Blue Asylum” got me wondering about women in asylums in the 19th century:

**Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall**
GoodReads
Amazon
World Catalog

As a result, I did some research about the reasons women were sent to insane asylums in the 19th century.

Why the main character was sent to one:
The main character, Iris Dunleavy, is a plantation wife in Virgina during the American Civil War. She marries her husband without knowing much about him and quickly finds herself alone during the first few years of her marriage to him. During this time, she experiences first hand the horrors of plantation life, a prominent one being slavery. As the Civil War approaches and begins, she finds herself disagreeing strongly with both the institution of slavery and the society around it. Because of this growing resentment, she joins a group of slaves in their tragic attempt at an escape. They’re caught and killed while Iris is sent to the insane asylum for insubordination, basically.

That (as well as many other books I’ve read where this has occurred) got me thinking about the real reasons why women were sent to insane asylums. My husband and I spent some time in Bed Bath and Beyond this weekend and we disagreed slightly on the type of sheets we needed. If this were 150 years earlier and we disagreed on something in the general store, would I have been sent to a “rest home” as characters some times called it?

The answer is probably yes! :-(

I found this very interesting article from the Oshkosh Scholar written by Katherine Pouba and Ashley Tianen, “Lunacy in the 19th Century: Women’s Admission to Asylums in United States of America” where these two authors examined reasons behind female admittance to insane aslyums at the time.

As the writers state, An anonymous writes

“It may be considered a sort of national phenomenon, that the universally received opinion on this subject should declare a women’s only calling to be that of a wife and mother; and failing this, consign her to the hopelessness of a ‘vocation manqué’” (pp. 3-4, 1855).

Blue Asylum alluded to that. I read this book from the local library and returned it before I could get this exact quote (It was somewhere near page 80, if that helps?) but the doctor was talking to Mrs. Dunleavy and stated that the definition of insanity was when a patient went beyond the social norms of the time.

Really?

Can you imagine how detrimental that definition would be to our modern society? I’m not saying our mental health field is without its flaws. I’m sure it has plenty. But not only was the definitions of insanity pretty limiting but the reasons for claiming that were pretty rigid as well.

Pouba & Tianen went on to do a test sample of 60 random women committed to the Mendota Mental Asylum during the years of 1860-1900. Reasons for admittance included:

  1. Suppressed Menstrual Cycles
  2. “Religious Matters”
  3. Overwork and Domestic Troubles

Interestingly enough all these symptoms supported their diagnosis of insanity with very little contemplation about alternatives.

  1. Suppressed Menstrual Cycles – This hits home with me because I live with PCOS, which is an ovarian syndrome whose main symptom is irregular periods. I take birth control for it and luckily that’s as far an impact it has on my life so far. My husband and I understand that it might not be as easy to conceive but luckily I have plenty of girlfriends with that same condition who have had children (one of them was actually a surprise!). Anyway, it’s an odd feeling to know that if I lived 150 years prior and a male in my life wanted to, I could easily get admitted to an asylum. These cases where a patient was admitted because of that were of women 17 years old and 46 years old. As readers know we can easily suggest that perhaps the 17 year old was late in menstruating…perhaps she had PCOS? Anyone reading this might guess (and perhaps accurately?) that the 46 year old was going through menopause?
  2. Religious matters – This case described a woman who disagreed with her pastor husband over God’s existence. Because society had such strict rules about God’s existence, doctors were not taught to be accepting of differences, which is such a frightening thought! (Poudba & Tianen, 98)
  3. Overwork and Domestic Troubles – This reason almost makes me laugh because of just how ludicrous the reasoning was! From the cases that Pouba & Tainen investigated these were from women who had between 8-11 children! Having one to three children puts the woman under a lot of stress and especially during that time when women were house managers and every part of child rearing was on their shoulders. But between 8 and 11 children!? I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if these women would have found time spent in an asylum to almost be at least a little quieter than their home life? (I know very little about their treatments. It could have been excruciating so I won’t say that this was a vacation for them)

Upon reading this article, I can appreciate the accurateness of the Blue Asylum because reasons for admittance to one of these institutions were pretty standard in “dealing” with women at this time, unfortunately.

If you would like to read this interesting article, it can be found here.

Author(s):  Pouba, Katherine; Tianen, Ashley Publisher: University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Citation: Oshkosh Scholar, Volume 1, 2006, Date: May 2006, Permanent link: http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1793/6687

What I’m reading and knitting…

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

No I did not die. Work picks up in the spring time for me…taxes…and hello surprise root canal…bad Laura is bad!

I recently saw a blog post where the knitter, Carole of Carole Knits, who also does a fair amount of reading, posted an entry about what progress she was doing on both. I thought–What a great idea!

Lately there has been a lot of balance between these to great loves of mine so why not share them? Goodreads is doing a contest on Book Bloggers and I’ve been checking out some blogs to add to my “reading” bloglist. I was quite drawn to the format of Reading with Tequila’s reviews. I think it might take some pressure away from me writing reviews and over thinking if the paragraphs flow well. (Yes. I still get that “I’m-writing-for-an-English-class vibe when I know that I want to write these )

What I’ve recently finished:

**The Birth House by Ami McKay**
**GoodReads**
**Amazon**

What is it about?:
Dora Rare is the only female born into her family in five generations of the Rare family living in Scots Bay near Nova Scotia in the early part of the twentieth century. Eyebrows start to raise at her mere existance because she’s the only female born to her family but also because at the age of seventeen she befriends Miss Babineau, a very experienced midwife who has had something to do with almost every birth in town (and some outside of it as well) When most of her family and friends are searching for husbands, she is given a very eye opening apprenticeship working with Miss Babineau. Working with her, she encounters abusive marriages, an overall lack of sensitivity to women in childbirth, unfullfilling marriages and sex lives, all during a time when no one discussed such things.

But wait–the plot thickens! Dr. Gilbert Thomas comes in and builds a maternity ward nearby and insists that he can assure a way for the town’s women to experience a “painless childbirth.” Granted I’ve never given birth but even I can see how that would make a woman say “You have my attention”

Why did I read this?
You know…thinking about it, I don’t remember…I think I went searching on Goodreads lists. It appealed to me because of its “in with the new/out with the old” quality it had.

What impressed me about this book?
As corny as this might sound, the bonds between the town’s women. At a time when the point of view of women was hardly listened to, you saw characters stand up for delivering their kids according to their own terms. And with some you didn’t. It was interesting to think about these women’s motivations for their actions.

What disappointed me about this book?
Her loveless marriage. It was pretty surprising for me to see a character who has experienced so much of bad experiences of marriage through assisting a midwife that she turns around and tolerates it from her own husband. I won’t say much but there was a satisfying resolution with this aspect of the book

Overall Grade? (out of five)

 

Now Knitting!

I picked up my Apres Surf Hoodie and not I simply can not put it down. It’s pretty funny because I started it over a year ago. Perhaps I might be able to wear it to MDSW?? Maybe?? That said I secretly mock people that wear ridiculous handknits for an outdoor May fesitval. Should you be proud as hell at yourself for steeking that fair isle sweater? Ab-so-lutely but come on…It’s been known to hit 90 degrees…not very bright.

Anyway, I’m quite proud of the progress:

Apres Surf Hoodie

This was taken over the weekend too…I’m more than halfway done with one sleeve too

Are you going to MDSW this year? I’d love to meet up!! :-)

 

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