Spring 2011 Book Report


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The Box Man by Kobo Abe
...is a very strange book. I finished this book months ago, but I am still trying to process what happened. Something about men who decide to become box men -- men who live on the streets with large boxes pulled over their heads with eyeholes cut out. They live in isolation on the fringe of society. They are spectators. Just when you think you're starting to understand what's going on, the narrator throws you for a loop. I think the narrator was crazy, hallucinating, dreaming, schizophrenic, some kind of murderer, sadist, and -- most importantly -- voyeur.

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who was Raised a Girl by John Colapinto
... is a non-fiction (technically categorized "Psychology/Science") about a person who, as a baby, underwent a botched circumcision procedure and lost his penis. Yes, his penis. The doctor was attempting to use a cauterizer instead of a scalpel (or whatever doctors usually use) to do the deed, but instead accidentally burned the penis. The baby's penis eventually fell off.

When the parents found out, they arrived at the idea of raising their child as a girl. To make things more interesting, this baby has an identical twin brother. This fact made the pair of particular interest to the scientific and even feminist community. Doctors and professionals (and society) did all they could to convince this little girl that she was indeed a girl -- therapy sessions, dresses, hormones, the whole shebang - but she just didn't feel right about it. In fact, she got into a lot of fights with boys at school, hated wearing dresses, peed standing up, and deep down felt that something was wrong. She got so depressed and threatened to kill herself if people didn't stop pressuring her to act more lady like.

In the end, "Brenda" -- who was baby "Bruce" -- became "David". Her parents finally came clean with her. He underwent surgery and... well, you read the book. I'll tell you now that he falls in love with a woman and the two of them get married, raise kids, and live happily ever after. It's a heartbreaking story that ends with a tone of hope and forgiveness. It also gets you thinking about the nurture vs. nature argument of gender and sexuality.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell ...is another non-fiction. Gladwell (author of The Dog, Blink, and Outliers, of which I've read the latter two) explores and attempts to explain the phenomenon of epidemics. In its 280 pages of vignettes and collection of research findings, the two most applicable and intriguing ideas that I am left with are: 1) messages must be sticky to spread like an epidemic and 2) messages must be transmitted to pockets, clusters, or communities of people in order for it to spread like an epidemic.

If I were to position myself within the book, I'd be 10% Salesman and 10% Maven (80% unidentified) because I love connecting people and I love sharing tips with friends. I always tend to think of myself as a shy person, but folks tell me that that isn't true. Truth is, I talk and talk and talk... I turn to the person sitting next to me at church, at community events, in airplanes, and in workshops and in classes and strike up conversation. I ask you what you do and what you love to do. I ask you what you hope to do. I think of who I know who can help you get to where you wanna go (in life) and who I know who could benefit from knowing you.

I say 10% of each though and not 100% of each because I tend to have a few very close friends rather than many friends and though I have many acquaintances, I'm not good at maintaining weak ties. I'm also only 10% Maven because I like to share with people what I know, but I don't know all that much. Haha. I don't do my research because I hate researching products and going back and forth between better prices, better deals, etc. etc. I'm in the boring middle of consumer America who will buy something if you tell me it works well and I see that everyone else is using it.

Some life lessons that I will take from the book: I will attend a few small details in my environment such as keeping my space clean, smiling at passerby strangers, and spending an extra minute each morning making a genuine personal connection with a colleague or classmate. Actions as small as these can ripple to larger tides of good deeds and good karma.

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
I have been picking up and putting down this book since January. It's an incredibly captivating read once you pass like page 50 and get used to the old time-y writing. It's a historical fiction that takes place in Canada and is story within a story. Atwood draws you into the story until you fall completely in love with the heroine who, by the way, is an alleged murderer.

To be honest, I'm only 273 pages into the story with 192 more pages to go. I can't wait! More to come once I'm done...

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