Friday, January 24, 2020

Freeform Friday - 17 Books We Don't Like to Talk About (That You Should Probably Read)

Like it or not, life isn't always cupcakes and rainbows.  There is a lot of darkness and misery in the world that no amount of sugar can sweeten and no amount of wishing can will away.  We can either go through life with blinders on or dive into the abyss, tackle the tough issues, gain some perspective, and try to help those who are struggling. 

Though this is by no means a comprehensive list, here are seventeen non-fiction books that delve into subjects we often find unpleasant to discuss (but probably should anyway): sexual abuse, domestic violence, racism, war, genocide, child abuse, medical disorders, terrorism, and more.  We've read them all and highly suggest you pick one up.

Things We Haven't Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out

Make no mistake, this is not fluffy chick lit.  It's the ugliest kind of waking nightmare, but a book that I highly encourage you to read if you feel up to it.  In doing so, you honor a survivor's voice and give them an opportunity to tell you their story on their own terms.  I promise, you will come away changed in some way. 

Read our full review here...

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya

Clemantine Wamariya was so young when she and her sister fled the genocide. The goal was to stay with her grandmother until things calmed down, but the mobs that engulfed Rwanda didn’t stick to the cities. Her story, the story of flight and survival, the story of bouncing from refugee camp to refugee camp, of growing up without a country, relying on her sister to be mother, father, family, and friend, and of her eventual asylum in America is the side of the stories we don’t know. 

Read the rest of our review here.

Facing the Beast by Jackie Bluu

In a collection of simple poems and illustrations, author Jackie Bluu brings to light many of the lasting consequences of sexual assault -- depression, anger, fear, grief, apathy, dysfunction, and the tendency towards self-harm and self-isolation.  Her poetry is raw but powerful, with an authentic voice.  A brief, but favorite example:

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
All I fear are people.     -Jackie Bluu

You can read more about her book here.

Auschwitz Testimonies (1945-1986) by Primo Levi & Leonardo de Benedetti
There is no one who can deny that the Holocaust is one of the—if not the definitive—darkest moments in human history. ...Shortly after the liberation of the camps, and shortly after the survivors started to trickle home, those who hadn’t been exposed to the truth (or those who chose not to believe what was happening miles from their doors) denied their experiences as a vilification of their captors. Men like Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi, and Victor Frankl were instrumental in speaking for those whose voices were silenced, in bringing to light the atrocities they had suffered under the hands of the Nazis, and in giving us a realistic glimpse into what humanity is capable of with a little nudge—both good and evil.

Read the full review here.

We're Not Leaving: 9/11 Responders Tell Their Stories of Courage, Sacrifice and Renewal 

We're Not Leaving is a brilliant collection of first-person accounts gathered from those who survived and responded to the September 11th terrorist attack on the Word Trade Center.  These powerfully compelling narratives offer revealing perspectives -- from the policemen, firefighters, and EMT's who managed to survive the collapse of the towers, to the pastors, podiatrists, and massage therapists who arrived soon after the attacks to offer aid to wearied workers.  Each account is a poignant and riveting chronicle of their own thoughts and experiences on 9/11 and their role in the many days of rescue, reconstruction, and renewal that followed. 

Read the rest of our review here.

Push (aka Precious) by Sapphire

This is the story of a young girl who endures unimaginable abuse at the hands of her parents.  At school she is ignored by teachers, despite her obvious illiteracy, and tormented by classmates.  She is nothing.  She is no one.  And every night she goes home knowing it will happen again. ...This book is not pretty.  It isn’t pleasant.  It made me want to kill, cry, and throw up – but it is honest, inspiring, and powerfully compelling. 

Read more of our review here.

The Rape of Kuwait: The True Story of Iraqi Atrocities Against a Civilian Population by by Jean P. Sasson

The Rape of Kuwait was quickly written after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in an effort to bring attention to the horrific treatment of the local people by the Iraqi army, and encourage intervention.  Except for a brief history of Kuwait, this book is comprised almost entirely of first-hand accounts of the atrocities committed by the Iraqi military against the citizens of Kuwait.  I don't think I can possibly convey my horror at the depth of cruelty perpetrated by the invading army and condoned by its leaders.  Though it occurred over twenty years ago, I am still haunted by the people whose lives were cut short, whose stories might never be told. 

Read the full review here.

My Little Red Book by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
In years past, women have tended to shy away from discussing topics like sexual development-- which has led to a wealth of misinformation among younger generations as they hit puberty.  My Little Red Book is a rather unique compilation of essays that, through a series “first period” accounts, stresses the lack of communication as women and between women about our bodies. These first-period narratives come in a variety of forms, from poetry to rant to the purposely fictionalized. Many of the experiences are tragic, some mortifying, and others riotously funny.  Each narrative was deeply moving in its’ own way, and collectively insightful.  

Read the rest of our review here.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

This is the diary of a white journalist who temporarily darkens his skin to pass as African American in the deeply segregated southern states. I read it a while ago, when I was on my hiatus and I remember it as deeply powerful and thought-provoking.  Although much has changed since 1961, I strongly suspect know that we still have a long way to go in the fight for racial equality.

(Not reviewed by RFS)

Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak by Jean Hatzfeld

In Rwanda, the spring of 1994 was a season of genocide, as the Hutu people slaughtered over 800,000 of their Tutsi neighbors. Their weapon of choice: A machete.  In this book, Jean Hatzfeld interviews nine of the Hutu killers as he tries to get at the root of the issue and understand how an act this horrific could ever been considered 'justifiable'.  Not for the sensitive reader in. any. way.

(Read our full review here.)

So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood, and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids by Dianne Levin & Jean Kilbourne In recent years, a startling number of children, tweens, and teens have demonstrated an alarming interest in sexual behavior, language, and the exploration of sexual relationships, long before such behavior is considered developmentally appropriate. If you’re like me, and this trend scares you senseless, then So Sexy So Soon might be one of the most important parenting books you’ve ever read. Through a series of unsettling examples and well-researched studies, this book shows the negative effects that early exposure to inappropriate imagery can have on our children. It also serves as a scathing indictment of industries that value profit over principle, targeting children through advertisement and spreading the idea that appearance determines an individual’s worth or personal happiness.  (Read our full review here...)

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-proofing Today's Young Kids by Kristen A. Jensen

In a world where the number one portal for pornography is in nearly everyone's pocket, it's really not a matter of if  your child will be exposed to pornography's a matter of when.  While I haven't reviewed this book for the blog, I do own it and have used it to prepare my children for what they should do if they encounter pornography.  It only took a week before one of them had to use the strategies this book teaches.  It helps talk about pornography in a way that is easy for children to understand (and for parents to say).

(Not reviewed on RFS).

The Years of Zero: Coming of Age Under the Khmer Rouge by Seng Ty

The Years of Zero tells the story of one boy's experience with the Khmer Rouge and subsequent Cambodian genocide.  The boy, Ty, was born to a large family in pre-war Phnom Penh.  His life was devastated when at five years old, the Khmer Rouge took over the city and drove all residents out. Ty fled with his family, was separated from four of his siblings shortly after, and as the youngest, had to watch helplessly as his parents and his closest brother died, eventually making it to a refugee camp and adoption by an American family.  It's a quick read, but not an easy one.

See our full review here

Facing Foward: A Life Reclaimed by Reba D

Facing Forward is a heartbreaking account of one woman's struggle to endure nearly two years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her husband. It is a story both compelling and disturbing. Once I picked it up, I could think of little else. I read it all in a day because I could not go to sleep without seeing the author safely out of her marriage.  The author shared her story in the hope that it could serve as a wake-up call for someone currently living in an abusive relationship or lend some perspective to those trying to support a love one who is being abused.

Read our full review here.

A Child Called It: One Child's Courage to Survive - David Pelzer

A Child Called It is one child's story of unspeakable brutality at the hands of someone who should have loved him.  It is incredibly difficult to read, but will open your eyes and raise awareness of the horrors of child abuse and an incredibly informative read for someone who is trying to understand the subject.

Read the complete review here.

Lucky by Alice Sebold

In Lucky, Sebold takes you from the forefront of a violent crime committed against her, to the depths of the legal system, as well as the depths of a young woman's soul. Starting with the gruesome scene of her attack, she picks her words skillfully, giving great detail, but also not scaring you off from the rest of the book.  In her quest for justice, Sebold gets raked over the coals by the legal system, takes you through the turmoil that soon engulfs her life and back.  A truly exceptional read. 

See our full review here.

The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible...on 
Schindler's List (A Memoir) by Leon Leyson

In this book, Leon Leyson recounts his time as a Polish Jew, the confusion of being expelled from school, the terror of witnessing his brother’s arrest, the difficulties and horrors of the ghetto and camp life in Plaszow and offers a firsthand experience into living under Schindler’s protective shadow. 

Read the complete review here.

Elena Vanishing: A Memoir by Clare B. Dunkle and Elena Dunkle

Elena Vanishing is the story of one girl's battle with anorexia nervosa, and the voices in her head that constantly degrade her.  It helps you get inside the head of someone battling the disease and understand a bit of how their mind works.  A definite must-read for anyone hoping to gain a little insight into anorexia.

Read the full review here.


I won't say 'Happy Reading'....because that's probably not likely.  But you should pick up one of these "hard to read" books, today.  

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