Ruby – Book Review

I recently read a book called, My First Novel – tales of woe and glory as edited by Alan Watt. It is a collection of writing experiences from published authors. In it, I read Cynthia Bond’s experience writing Ruby. It was intriguing.

Then I saw that Ruby was on Oprah’s Book Club. Now, I love Oprah. I love books. Oprah’s Book Club is a wonderful thing. But I have had a couple of regrets with it. I’m talking to you One Hundred Years of Solitude! I hated that book!!

But I digress.

Ruby is a heartbreaking and horrific book. Yet it is also profound and moving at the same time.

The book tells the tale of Ruby Bell. She has returned to her hometown of Liberty, Texas. She left for New York city in the 1950’s and returns to the small, hateful and judgmental town and faces her past.

There is also Ephram Jennings. He has been in love with Ruby since he was a child. Ephram is a grown man who lives with his older city, Celia. Celia is an orderly, cooking, strong-willed, “church mother” elect woman who has raised Ephram since the committal of their mother and the death of their father. Ephram calls her “mama” and pretty much does as she and the town expects.

Ruby is not liked by the town. She seems crazy and is a woman of ill-repute. She’s been had! A lot. Spirits are drawn to her and she lives in dismal conditions taking care of her spirit children and receiving food from a local woman all while being haunted and terrorized by an evil spirit.

This is a story of redemption and redemptive love. Ephram struggles against the will of the entire town, his church and his strong-willed sister  to try to be there for Ruby.

Cynthia Bond’s writing will make you think of Toni Morrison or Zora Neale Hurston and maybe even Alice Walker. Her prose is beautiful. She can really turn a phrase.

However, there are times when I was reading this and thought of Stephen King. You know how his novels feature a small town with underlying evil things, people and secrets that all converge because of some circumstance that brings about a fight between good and evil? That’s how this novel felt to me.

The further you read, the more haunting it becomes. There were a couple of times that I had to put the book down because I was either terrified or the scene was so horrific that I recoiled in disgust.

Yes, this book contains disgusting things. There is abuse, child rape, voodoo and murder. There is some gruesome goings on in the town of Liberty!!

But again, there is also redemptive love. There is one line in the book where Ephram tells Ruby “If you can bear to have lived it, I can at least bear to listen.” Ephram’s ability to listen and actually see Ruby really warms the heart.

It also reminds me of all that our people have survived. All of the undiagnosed mental health issues our community faces and all of the secrets that our community contains.

Again, this book is horrific. But if Cynthia Bond can bear to have written it, and she discussed how hard it was in the book My First Novel, then I could bear to read it and testify to its greatness.

But make sure you read it in daylight.

 

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Fight- Daily Prompt

Fight

The last daily prompt that I participated in was with the word Drop. I wrote about dropping negative self talk. The word fight brings on that same thinking. There is often an internal fight that we are struggling with.

Every day, whether we are aware of it or not, we make choices. We act in response to situations and emotions and there are times that we lose in the fight to be our best self  (at least that is what I am trying to do).

There is a saying that I like – When you know better; you do better! But I can’t tell you the number of times that I lose in the fight to do better…things that I know I should be doing.

Stop drinking pop!

Exercise 3-5 times a week!

Write Daily!

Work on my novel!!

Plan my families meals for the week!

These are examples of fights that I often lose with myself. These examples are really simple but they illustrate how easy it is to get off track with things and of me not be my best self.

It is a daily fight

A Great Day

It almost feels like Christmas. Today I received wonderful gifts. I’m already exceedingly blessed but today just makes me thankful for all of those blessings!

First my son came home from school and recited the poem Dreams by Langston Hughes. I was very proud of him. He is growing so fast. It reminds me that time flies and these precious moments are Fleeting.

Then the doorbell rang with my Essence Beauty Box filled with goodies and a box of books – Ruby by Cynthia Bond and The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.

I have finished all of Octavia Butler’s books and the have just started on Citizen – An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine and Men We Reaped, a Memoir by Jesmyn Ward.

I will be happily reading!

I am also in my last week for my first two classes in my writing program!

So today’s great day serves as a reminder that life is also great.

It’s easy to get caught up in things that are going wrong. I’m hoping that my great day can help someone to remember to focus on what is going right. Always acknowledge those moments. They are fleeting.

Live to Eat or Eat to Live – Daily Prompt

The prompt for today is Live to Eat

Right now most of my friends are living healthy lives and are eating to live. I am somewhere in between. I LOVE food. I LOVE eating. I LOVE dining out. I LOVE cooking. I don’t always restrict my diet.

Before traveling to any city/state, the first thing that I think about is food. What is the best restaurants of that location?  What type of food is that location known for?  I’ll have a list in my head or on my phone .

My husband eat’s to live.  I try to feed my family rule food. I try to have healthy snacks in the house and I try cook healthier than I use to.

After reading books by Michael Pollan and watching documentaries about food, processing food, conventional farming, GMO’s ,etc. I became cognizant of the impact of my food choices – on my body/health and the environment.

So I would like to live to eat good and healthy real food.

 

YAWN – Daily Prompt

( YAWN ) What bores me? Power Rangers.

Today’s prompt was about what bores me?

If I had answered that question a year ago my response would have been different. For example, I am not a shopper. Going to the mall and digging through sales and clothes/items has never been my thing ever since I was traumatized in stores (particularly Kmart) by my Big Momma (grand mom). I especially hate shopping with other people. Going to the mall with girlfriends is the quickest way to give me a headache and a nasty attitude. To keep myself in check, I always bring a book and if I can find a place to sit while everyone finishes shopping then I can manage to make the best of the shopping trip.

Now, of course I have to shop from time to time. When I go to the store, I like to know what I want and go to a store or two and get out before my feet start hurting.

But today, I’m a stay at home mom. And I love to get out of the house. There are times now when I love to go to the store! And all of a sudden, I’ve become a shopper. I swear for a few months after I moved here, I had a package being delivered from amazon.com about twice a week.

I suspect that I might still end up with a headache and a nasty attitude if I found myself in a store for too long with certain folks. But today, that would not be my number one answer for what bores me.

The answer today would probably be Power Rangers. I hate Power Rangers!! My seven year old son loves them!!  I have tried to get into it with him but that has to be the cheesiest thing ever made – the dialogue, the costumes, the special effects. All of it sucks. Thankfully, I always have a book nearby and I can read until it goes off and he’s had his Power Ranger fix.

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If I could turn back time

This is the number one rule for your set, in order to survive gotta learn to live with regrets – Jay-Z

Today’s daily prompt is If I Could Turn Back Time – if I could relive a part of my life which part would I return to and why?

I try not to dwell in shoulda-woulda’s because its counter productive and life experiences help to shape us into the people that we become.

I do have a couple of pivotal moments in life that stand out where I could have chosen to do different things but even those worked out for my good (think all things work together for good…)

One such moment is moving back to Michigan. I use to regret giving up my job and security clearance to move back home. But when my daughter got cancer, I realized that I was in the right place because I was able to have my mom and family (and family of friends) there to support me through that. I can’t imagine having gone through that experience without my mom. She was present at doctors appointments with me and I will never forget posting that my daughter had had a seizure and my mom coming into the hospital room soon after. So in the end, I was thankful that I had moved to back to Michigan. See how that worked?

The other such moment is not going to the college that I wanted to go to because I was depressed about being pregnant my senior year in high school and then not staying at WMU because it was difficult being a single mom there. Instead, I quit and ended up joining the military. Where I was still a single mom and finished college the non-traditional route and getting a degree in business management. Something I wasn’t even interested in.

Today was my first day in a graduate program and I’m doing what interests me and not just what is expedient. So today’s prompt was quite timely.

As soon as I read the prompt, Jay-Z’s lyrics from the song Regrets popped into my head (Jay-Z lyrics are always in my head…actually my head is always full of lyrics. Period.) and here I am full circle. Instead of dwelling on shoulda-woulda’s, it’s ok to recognize life’s cross roads and realize how each of our experiences add layers and meaning to our lives. Sometimes in negative ways and sometimes in positive ways, but really it’s all a matter of perspective.

peace

 

Sink or Swim

So I’m trying to write at least once every day and when I saw the prompt for today Sink or Swim I was thinking that maybe I would skip a day.

Only on day two and I’m already like nah!!

Part of the reason is that I almost feel like life is one big Sink or Swim test that you go through and you either sink, swim or drown or a combination of the three.

Part of the reason is that all of these images and memories with my former organization of the last nine years came up and I miss work and working and I don’t want to be reminded of my high stress job that I both loved and hated and all of those terrifying times that I was thrown into situations, meetings, new assignments and had to make a go of it.

At some point I realized that by going through all of the reasons that I didn’t feel like doing this assignment, I might as well have posted about one of those reasons. Or about this process. Which is basically, what I’ve just done and what you’ve been reading 🙂

There was also that time that I joined the Navy.

I was the least athletic person that I knew and my day mostly consisted of reading and talking to my friends. I am also not very disciplined. So me going to boot camp was kind of laughable. I was also 22 years old and already a single parent. It was very hard leaving my young child with my family. I kept telling myself that it was for the pursuit of a better life. Surprisingly enough, boot camp wasn’t too bad. For boot camp. I found myself laughing every time I was yelled at for some minor offense. I remember cracking up one time when I had to drop and  do 20 push ups. They added more push ups to show me it was serious and I eventually stopped laughing because my arms were tired and hurting.

And then there was that time in boot camp where I literally did have to sink or swim to pass the swimming test. I wasn’t a great swimmer and was terrified of jumping off of the diving board. As I was floating on my back I kept saying  to myself “I can do it” over and over. And the water was in my ears and it made my voice seem really loud like maybe God was talking to me saying “You can do it” and before you knew it. I had done it. It was over.

Whenever I really get nervous about something like public speaking or giving birth, I press the padding of my pointer finger into the nail of my thumb and tell myself “I can do it” over and over again. And I usually find myself swimming along.

Yay, day 2 is done.

 

Resolved

Resolved

Although I didn’t make any New Year Resolutions, I did acknowledge that I wanted to continue being the best me that I can be. That is a resolution of sorts.

A part of that includes following my passion, passionately. For many years, I’ve been wanting to write. For just as many years, I have this fear of writing and of pursuing that passion. I once read that a writer writes. Daily. I do not write daily. When I am going through things, I do write an occasional poem. I have attempted to write quite a few novels and often don’t get past the first few pages even when I have the whole story fleshed out in my head.

In the back of my mind, I know that discipline is a necessary requirement to pursuing a writing life. I have to make myself write. Every day. That is so challenging. I’ve had a blog of some sorts for about 7 years now.  I started on blogger and you can find that first one  here . But I’ve never been a very consistent blogger.

I have been trying to take it more seriously in the past few months and I recently signed up for a daily post from WordPress just to learn more of the ins and outs but also to remind me that – hey, I have a blog!

I just found out today that there is a daily writing prompt and this is my first. The word was Resolve. I guess I now have a new years resolution.

Hopefully, my efforts won’t have fizzled out by the middle of the month.

A riot is the language of the unheard

Southern trees
Bore the strange fruit
Of black bodies swinging
And today the streets
are filled with black 
Bodies 
Leaving communities and families searching for meaning
We can 
Educate 
Assimilate
Uplift the race
But no matter how much
We thrive, strive and survive
I have to worry, teach and protect my son like it was 1855
I have to worry about his 
Pants, his shirt, his diction,
Facial expression, height, level of threat that may be perceived 
Because he is breathing
And therein lies the threat
Black life matters
But black life
Is threatening
My sons innocence is only felt by me
And this not not a new narrative
This is a recycled theme
From the continent
To the ship
To the shore
To the field
To the tree
To the factory
To the city streets
Black bodies
Lying in the streets
For hours
For years
For centuries
I weep for the pain
Of mothers, sisters, fathers, brothers
Wives and husbands
I weep for my own expectations
I weep for my own sense of hope 
That black lives will matter 
To everyone else
They love our music
Our laughs
Our athletic prowess
Our ability to turn a phrase 
Our ability to make them feel comfortable 
But they do not love 
Our soul (except to appropriate, parade around in black face, black voice and costume to make as much money and notoriety as is possible)
But they don’t want this struggle
They don’t want this pain
To have to yell, scream, and die
Over and over again
That black lives matter
Whether we riot
Peacefully protest
Tweet, post picture and memes
We still face the realization that we just might walk out of the door and not return
We might not come home 
We might be shot dead in the streets 
And be blamed and vilified for the crime of breathing
And as we 
Fight and cry
And struggle
And love and hate
And distract ourselves
And kill ourselves 
And love and hate ourselves
Underneath all of the chatter
We are worn weary
Trying to get the world to acknowledge that black lives matter