TELL ME HOW IT ENDS by Valeria Luiselli | Review

“Structured around the forty questions Luiselli translates and asks undocumented Latin-American children facing deportation, Tell Me How It Ends (an expansion of her 2016 Freeman’s essay of the same name) humanizes these young migrants and highlights the contradiction of the idea of America as a fiction for immigrants with the reality of racism and fear both here and back home.” {Goodreads}

I stumbled upon Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How It Ends in my local bookshop recently and was intrigued by the title. Tell her how what ends? What forty questions were being asked? When I discovered that this book was an extended essay about Luiselli’s time translating the responses of immigrant children, I immediately knew that I would have to bring a copy home with me. I read the entire text the next night before bed, completely enthralled by her experiences working with these children.

Anyone who pays any sort of attention to the news has likely gleaned that immigration has become not only a U.S.-Mexico issue, but a global matter. In this time of explosive, often polarizing politics, it’s refreshing to read a text about immigration that draws on more than solely party lines in order to convey its argument. Although Luiselli does get quite political at times, she does so when it is relevant and necessary to her narrative.

A major strength of this text is that its structure reflects the nature of its subject matter. The immigration issue is both deeply personal and entrenched in formal legal problems. Part of what makes it such a controversial topic is that it’s extremely difficult to separate one aspect from the other. Likewise, Luiselli’s essay weaves her own personal experiences translating children’s stories with information about methods of crossing the border, the social, economic, and political problems of various countries from which these children immigrate, etc. One page she’ll be recounting a story that still haunts her to this day, and the next she’ll be rattling off statistics and quotes and facts that further reinforce the need for books like Luiselli’s in the first place. This intertwining of personal experiences, emotional stories from children, and straight factual information makes Tell Me How It Ends a powerful, moving piece of writing that has the potential to open readers’ eyes about a side to the immigration issue that they may never have thought about before.

Overall, Tell Me How It Ends lived up to all of my expectations. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about immigration across the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly its impact on children.

What are your thoughts on Tell Me How It Ends? Have any recommendations on similar books to read? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Buy Your Rising College Senior

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) celebrates the back-to-school season with a school-related freebie. As per usual around this time of year, I’d like to share some fictional book titles that I sincerely wish existed (if you’re looking for the subject of your next writing project, then look no further!). As I start my second to last semester of college this week, I can’t help but wish I had more answers to my many burning questions. Without further ado, here is my list of the Top Ten Books to Buy for Your Rising College Senior:

What do you think of these titles? What books would you buy a rising college senior (real or otherwise)? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

How I Came to Study English in College (and why I stayed that way)

A few months ago someone commented on one of my blog posts asking if I could write about how I came to study English literature in college. Since my second to last semester of college begins in just two days, I thought now would be a good time to finally answer this question.

Growing up, English was always my favorite subject in school. I hesitate to say that it was my favorite class; unfortunately, English class was often viewed as a bit of a joke, particularly in high school. It wasn’t viewed as a “real” subject worth studying; instead, English class was merely another requirement, an easy class used to boost people’s GPAs. I hated this negative, deceiving, false stigma associated with studying English. This stigma is partly why I started blogging in high school in the first place. I wanted an outlet where I could discuss books without being viewed as strange or being told that I was wasting my time on something that didn’t matter.

You can imagine what people thought when I told them that I wanted to major in English literature in college. This pill was made a bit easier to swallow by the fact that I later wanted to go to law school (phew! people undoubtedly thought. Some practical light at the end of the liberal arts tunnel!) The puzzled glances I received astounded me. What was so bad about studying English?

Then came the inevitable question: Did I want to be a teacher? While there is nothing wrong with being a teacher–it’s one of the most important jobs, in my opinion–it frustrated me that people could only see one path for my future. When I told them I wanted to pursue a career in law, their eyes grew even wider. Most of them said they couldn’t picture me as an attorney–that I wasn’t cutthroat enough, competitive enough, or loud enough. (I don’t know when they started measuring one’s volume on the LSAT, but apparently these people were privy to secret information that I wasn’t). One day while I was checking an old man’s book out at the local library where I worked, he helpfully reminded me that “You have to be smart to be a lawyer, you know.” Fortunately, one of my coworkers stood up for me, chiming in with a generous “Oh, Holly doesn’t have to worry about that.”

But his comment bothered me, and in some way still does. Why did studying English automatically categorize me as a particular kind of person in the eyes of so many people? What gave people the impression that teaching was not only the sole profession that English majors could choose, but that it was also the sole profession that we should choose? What was it about this specific subject that closed its students off from all other occupational pursuits?

However, my time in college as well as my experience holding various job positions has taught me that those people in my high school who held these negative opinions lack any understanding of what it is actually like to study English literature. I like to split my degree into two parts: content and skills. When people look down upon English majors, they often do so by emphasizing the content aspect of the degree. What use is knowledge of obscure books that only other English majors ever read? Who cares what Jane Austen or William Faulkner had to say in their novels? While this view is inherently false in its own right for reasons I’m sure most bookworms understand, it also completely disregards the other half of English degrees.

My favorite aspect of my English degree (and the part that I value most) is that it teaches me how to think critically, work with large amounts of information at once, organize my thoughts, form and defend evidence-based arguments, and write. These are valuable, practical, marketable skills that have served me well in nearly all courses, internships, and jobs I’ve experienced. Although these skills happen to be applied to English literature while earning the degree, they can be applied to any and all contexts: historical texts, financial grant applications, social media pages, etc. I truly believe that the ability to write well is a priceless skill—just ask all of the friends, coworkers, and family members who ask me to edit their writing on a regular basis.

To answer the reader’s initial question, I chose to study English literature in college because reading and writing have always been passions of mine. However, I think a more interesting and important question is why I’ve continued to be an English major after so many people have advised me otherwise. The answer: because I believe the degree offers valuable skills that are essential for my professional success.

What are your thoughts on studying English literature in college? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

The #NotAll Book Tag

Thanks so much to Norees @ No Reads Too Great for tagging me! Also, thanks to the Orangutan Librarian for creating this #notall book tag in the first place. This is such a fun idea for a tag, so let’s dive right in!

#NotAll Cover Changes || A cover change you liked

Normally I’m not a fan of cover changes that involve movie adaptations, but the new cover of Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman is perfect. I love how simple it is and how the solid blue background really make the people and the typography pop.

#NotAll Adaptations || An adaptation you love more than the book

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I enjoyed the book, but after watching the movie I knew it would be my favorite of the two. Not only was the film beautifully done, but the soundtrack is also incredible. I still listen to it years after having seen the film for the first time in theaters.

#NotAll Tropes || A trope you’ll never tire of seeing

BOARDING SCHOOLS. If you’ve been around this blog long enough, then you’re probably already aware of my adoration of books set at boarding schools, summer camps, etc. There’s just something about these kinds of settings that I love (lots of kids, little supervision, plenty of shenanigans, etc.).

#NotAll Insta-Love || You insta-loved this insta-couple

Usually I really dislike insta-love situations, but I couldn’t help rooting for Westley and Princess Buttercup from the very beginning of William Goldman’s The Princess Bride. I couldn’t think of a more stereotypically picturesque couple!

#NotAll Love Triangles || An example of a love triangle done well

This is a tricky one because I really dislike love triangles. Perhaps an exception would be Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, although I guess that novel technically involves a love square. 

#NotAll Parents || Bookish parents that actually parent

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I listened to the audio book version of this beloved classic a few months ago for the first time and couldn’t help but adore Marilla and Matthew. How could you not after reading this adorable book?

#NotAll Villains || A villain you love

I think he technically counts as more of an anti-hero than a villain, but I’m still going to go with Victor from Vicious by V.E. Schwab. There’s just something about his wit and ambiguity that makes him fascinating to read and think about, even years after I read the book for the first time.

#NotAll Chosen Ones || A chosen one you can get behind

Sophie from Roald Dahl’s The BFG. I want to be chosen to hang out with the BFG! Pick me! Please?! (As you can probably imagine, this was Young Holly’s childhood dream.)

#NotAll Hyped Books || A hyped book that lived up to the acclaim

One of my worst bookish pet peeves is when a book is spoiled by unrealistically high expectations. Fortunately, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley lived up to all of the hype and more. Such a bizarre, hilarious, thought-provoking novel!

#NotAll *Insert Favorite Genre* || A book you’re not keen on from your favorite genre

It’s no surprise that I LOVE classic literature. However, I must admit that I simply do not enjoy reading Ernest Hemingway’s novels. There’s just something about his choppy, terse writing style that grinds my gears.

#NotAll *Insert Least Favorite Genre* || A book you liked from a genre you don’t often read

I’m not sure I actually have an answer to this question! I tend not to read anything from my least favorite genres, so I think I’ll have to pass!

What are your answers to these questions? What do you think of mine? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Tackle that Reading Slump

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to share books that pull us out of reading slumps. We’ve all been there: for some reason the mood just won’t strike us, and any book we open up inevitably seems off-putting. Reading slumps are a bibliophile’s worst nightmare, especially when your looming TBR pile is staring you in the face. Today I’d like to share a list of ten books that have helped me break through reading slumps in the past.

What books have gotten you out of a reading slump? What do you think of the books on my list? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

So you’ve just come back from studying abroad… now what? | Holly Goes Abroad

If you’ve been following this blog for the past year or so, then you’re probably well aware that I spent the last academic year studying abroad at the University of Oxford in England. Why? Because I talk about it incessantly. Why? Because I had an amazing time. As you can imagine (and as this post made abundantly clear) coming back to the United States at the beginning of the summer was incredibly difficult. After working so hard to settle in a new place, make new friends, and integrate myself into the Mansfield College community, it was jarring to be suddenly uprooted and expected to return back to my usual life back in the States.

Everyone talks about culture shock when you’re preparing to go abroad, but few people discuss the idea of reverse culture shock: i.e., the process of returning back home and having to adjust back to old environments, activities, and customs. Today I’d like to give a few pieces of advice that will hopefully help others (and myself!) with their adjustment returning from studying abroad.

+ Give yourself a mourning period. This might sound dramatic, but I’m not joking. Leaving a place and people you dearly love is difficult, and you won’t be able to fully move on unless you allow yourself to feel all of the emotions you need to feel. Cry if you have to. Look through all of the photos you took and reminisce about the remarkable memories you made. However, be sure not to get stuck in this rut. Once you feel as though you’ve given yourself enough time to let off some steam, it’s time to start looking forward more often than looking back.

+ Accept where you are. Your study abroad experience is done. There’s no way to go back and recreate it. While embracing these facts is important, it’s equally essential to remember that just because something is over doesn’t mean you have to completely forget about it. Keep in touch with friends you made abroad, look fondly at the great times you had, and try not to lose the happiness and curiosity you exuded while you were there. It might feel like you’re in the middle of some in-between state, and that’s okay: you are.

Oxford.

+ Reach out. One of the things that helped me the most this past summer was reaching out to friends and family, both old and new. Staying in touch with the friends I made at Oxford was incredibly helpful because we were able to talk about how we were all feeling in the midst of this transition. You can imagine the relief we all felt once we realized that we were all riding similar rollercoasters of emotions. Likewise, reaching out to friends and family from home helped me turn my attention to the present and future. Not only was it fun catching up with everyone I hadn’t seen in months, but hanging out with old friends and spending time with family reminded me of what I love about home, too.

+ Keep busy. Whenever I’m stressed or sad, I try to be as productive as possible (fortunately, there’s plenty to do going into my senior year of college!). If you don’t have much work to do, at least try to get back into a regular routine. Get out of the house, visit friends, clean your room, read a book, reply to all of those emails you’ve been meaning to catch up on—whatever it is that needs getting done, do it. Staying busy is a good way to keep your mind off of missing being abroad; besides, your future self with thank you for it when your life is more organized!

New Hampshire.

+ Do things you love. Although my year at Oxford was amazing, I didn’t have a lot of free time to do the things I love to do back home (reading things not assigned for courses, writing, blogging, etc.). Diving back into these hobbies really helped me feel more like myself as I tried to reconnect with my life back home.

+ Share your experience. If you’re anything like me, sharing your experiences helps you think through them and process them better. Share stories with friends and family or even reach out to the Study Abroad Center at your college. Often they are looking for volunteers to share their experiences with students looking to see if studying abroad is the right fit for them. Also: if anyone tells you that you talk about studying abroad too much, don’t take it too personally. If this experience was important to you, then you have the right to talk about it (so long as it’s not done in an obnoxious way).

+ Things take time. This is not an overnight process. You may continue to feel sad or a bit lost for weeks or even months, and that’s okay. Eventually all of the pieces will settle down where they belong and things will feel less scattered. For now, just focus on taking it one step at a time.

I hope these tips help anyone returning from an amazing study abroad experience! It can be tough, but it gets better.

Click here to check out other posts in my Holly Goes Abroad series!

Have you ever had to transition back from studying abroad? Have any tips you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

A Classic Couple: Romeo & Juliet and The Hunger Games

Sometimes it seems as though everyone is birthed from the womb with an inherent knowledge of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I have a feeling that a similar situation will happen with Suzanne Collins’ novel The Hunger Games in a few generations. Just as the mention of Shakespeare’s famous play immediately conjures up ideas of star-crossed lovers and family feuds, The Hunger Games may inevitably be associated with fights to the death, trust and betrayal, and forbidden love. Today, I’d like to discuss the many similarities between these books that make them more alike than one might initially expect.

+ Star-crossed lovers. Let’s get this one out of the way first since it’s probably the most obvious similarity. Both of these texts are rooted in romance, particularly relationships that are seemingly not supposed to happen. While Romeo and Juliet shouldn’t be together due to the clash between their families, Katniss and Peeta should be focused on killing each other rather than trying to seduce one another. These relationships occur rapidly yet are fueled by different motivations: love and lust vs. strategy and survival. The flawed natures of both of these relationships emphasize the far extent that people will stretch for romance.

+ Life and death: The dichotomy of living and dying plays a significant role in both texts. Each of their climactic scenes focuses on the tension between these two opposites and plays with the reader’s expectations of what should happen next. Romance becomes a life source for Katniss and Peeta as it helps them gain the popularity needed to ultimately survive the games; however, love becomes the downfall of Romeo and Juliet as it blinds them to realistic consequences and leads to their hasty deaths.

+ Youth: Part of the reason these texts are so remarkable is the age of the protagonists: Romeo and Juliet are in their early teen years, whereas Katniss and Peeta are in their later teen years. While this is often one of the more frustrating aspects of Romeo and Juliet for modern readers—they’re willing to commit suicide over someone they’ve known for three days when they’re thirteen?!—age plays a more positive role in Collins’ novel. Katniss and Peeta are able to fight back against an entire oppressive regime even though they are still teenagers.

+ Rebellion: Likewise, together these texts highlight the advantages and disadvantages of rebelling. While Shakespeare paints a rather bleak picture of what could happen when you go against the wishes of your elders, Collins seems to advocate standing up for what you believe in and opposing unjust authority figures. In this way, romance is used to make a very political statement in The Hunger Games. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at two very different, very similar texts!

Click here to check out other Classic Couples from past posts.

What do you think of this classic couple? What other books would you pair with Romeo and Juliet? What are your thoughts on either or both of these books? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Bookish Websites

Happy Tuesday!! Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic asks us to share our favorite bookish websites. Here are a few of the ones I frequent often:

www.outofprintclothing.com

Out of Print has such a wide array of clothing and accessories based on beloved literary favorites. I purchased a Great Gatsby sweatshirt from this website a few years ago and I adore it. Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the market for bookish gifts (and maybe even a gift for yourself…).

www.litographs.com

I love perusing this Litograph’s expansive collection of unique bookish clothing, accessories, and prints. Designs made with words themselves? Sign me up!

www.whatshouldireadnext.com

Yes, this website really is as amazing as it sounds. Simply enter a book title and it gives you a list of recommendations for titles and even genres that you should read next. Recommendations are based on the website’s database of book lists from readers.

www.much-ado.net/austenbook

Austenbook is a fictional Facebook wall based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and it is genius. 

www.overdrive.com

love Overdrive. While the selection of audio books and ebooks available depends on your local library, it nevertheless is a great way to access books on your phone without having to pay more than a library card fee.

www.goodreads.com

What would a list of bookish websites be without mentioning Goodreads? Not only would book blogging be much more difficult without Goodreads on hand, but my life as a reader would be much different without its incredible cataloging abilities.

Looks like this list won’t quite make the full ten today. What are your favorite bookish websites? Do we have any in common? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Jurassic Park Book Tag

It’s no secret that I adore Jurassic Park. Not only is it my favorite movie, but it’s also one of my favorite books. You can imagine my excitement when I learned that such a thing exists as a Jurassic Park Book Tag. I wasn’t tagged in this at all, but Camillea Reads showed me this post from the Literary Phoenix and I knew I had to do it, too!

“Spared no expense.”  ~John Hammond || A series that seems to go on forever. 

The longest series I’ve read recently is A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. It takes some dedication to wade through all thirteen books! Fortunately they’re quick and easy to get through, so they don’t take that long to read.

“Life finds a way.”  ~Ian Malcolm || A book with amazingly intricate world-building. 

I’m only halfway through The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, but it’s already clear that the world-building here is incredible. I love the way the novel is formatted as stories told within this larger story. It’s easy to forget that all of this happens in such a short span of time.

“Hold on to your butts.”  ~Arnold || What’s the fastest you’ve read a book, and what book was it?

I read I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith in one sitting in Heathrow Airport as I waited for my flight from London to Boston over winter break, which was pretty fast. I was stressed about traveling and definitely grateful for the distraction!

“Mr Hammond, after careful consideration, I’ve decided not to endorse your park.”  ~Alan Grant || A book you refuse to read (or finish).

There are few books that I would flat-out refuse to ever read, so I can’t say that one even comes to mind.

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”  ~Ian Malcolm || A book that left you going ‘Why?’

I love this question–so many books can apply! I’m going to go with How to be Both by Ali Smith, which I had to read for a tutorial last term. This book is so bizarre that you can’t help but wonder why she makes the writing decisions that she does.

“We need more teeth!”  ~Gray Mitchell || A book with no human MCs. 

Animal Farm by George Orwell. I’ve only ever read the Spanish translation of this book, but I love it all the same. It’s one of those books that haunts you long after you finish the final page. I’d love to read the original English sometime.

“The kids? This will give the parents nightmares.”  ~Simon Masrani || A book that terrified you.

Definitely The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I’ve read this book twice now and both times it has made me think twice about the direction in which our society is currently heading. I haven’t seen the TV series yet, but I can only imagine that it’s just as terrifying!

“Monster is a relative term. To a canary, a cat is a monster. We’re just used to being the cat.”   ~Henry Wu || A book that changed your perceptions on an issue/culture, etc.

I’ve talked about this book a lot on this blog, but I adored reading Girl Up by Laura Bates. It’s such a hilarious, fun, empowering read!

What are your answers to these prompts? What do you think of mine? Do you like Jurassic Park, either the book or the movie? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY

Top Ten Tuesday: Dynamic Duos You Didn’t See Coming

Happy Tuesday!! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic asks us to mash books together. In the same vein as my Classic Couple feature, I’m going to incorporate a classic and more contemporary book in each pair I make. Let’s see how weird this gets, shall we?

What do you think of the combos I’ve created? What books would you want to see paired together? Let me know in the comments section below!

Yours,

HOLLY