Book Review: My Bridges of Hope by Livia Bitton-Jackson

Title: My Bridges of Hope
Author: Livia Bitton-Jackson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Paperback: 378 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

In 1945, after surviving a harrowing year in Auschwitz, fourteen-year-old Elli returns, along with her mother and brother, to the family home, now part of Slovakia, where they try to find a way to rebuild their shattered lives.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I went into this book not really knowing what to expect — I’m not sure how it ended up on my family’s shelves, but I noticed it one day and added it to my to-read list for the future. Now, I have no idea where my copy of this book is, but luckily, the library had a copy. This is a memoir about a teenage girl’s coming of age after she survives the Holocaust and struggles to make a life for herself and make sense of the world after what she suffered, and after the turmoil that her country is put in post-World War II. It’s written in a very easy-to-read manner, so I can see this being a great introduction to older children and middle-graders as to what different people had to deal with during this time. It’s also a pretty quick read and told in short segments, so it would be easy to include in a Holocaust curriculum, at least in part.

This is apparently book 2 in a series, and I love that it follows the aftermath of the Holocaust, which I don’t think is talked about quite as much — or at least, my teachers never focused on it as much as the Holocaust itself. I’ve never read much about what happened to Slovakia after the war, so I enjoyed this book for giving me that perspective and teaching me more about all the different countries and people who were affected by the Holocaust, and how the surrender of Germany didn’t lead to immediately fixing anti-Semitism. Livia tells her story with painstaking honesty, and it hurt to see how roughly Jewish people were treated even after the war, and how hard it was for them to reunite with family members who had already emigrated to the United States or other countries. For some, it was even impossible.

Overall, I recommend this for someone who’s looking to learn more about this time period and what people had to deal with. In a way, it was heartening to read, because the community came together for each other and all supported one other so that they could make a better life for themselves. It’s still horrifying that any people were ever treated the way Jewish people were treated during this time, but reading about someone overcoming that hate and being an integral part in building up her community was heartwarming.

Book Review: The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley

Autobiography of Malcolm X.jpgTitle: The Autobiography of Malcolm X
Authors: Malcolm X, Alex Haley
Publisher: Ballantine
Paperback: 466 pages
Source: Owned
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

From hustling, drug addiction and armed violence in America’s black ghettos Malcolm X turned, in a dramatic prison conversion, to the puritanical fervour of the Black Muslims. As their spokesman he became identified in the white press as a terrifying teacher of race hatred; but to his direct audience, the oppressed American blacks, he brought hope and self-respect. This autobiography (written with Alex Haley) reveals his quick-witted integrity, usually obscured by batteries of frenzied headlines, and the fierce idealism which led him to reject both liberal hypocrisies and black racialism.

Vilified by his critics as an anti-white demagogue, Malcolm X gave a voice to unheard African-Americans, bringing them pride, hope and fearlessness, and remains an inspirational and controversial figure.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

Andrew’s second major in college was African-American studies, so there’s a lot of African-American literature he’s read that I have not, so when his turn came up to recommend a book for me to read, he recommended this one. Mostly because it’s an amazing book about a man who made history with his dedication to civil rights, but also because I refuse to watch movies based on books before reading the book, and he really wants to watch the Denzel Washington Malcolm X movie with me, so there we go.

This one took me a while. It was a little frustrating, because I felt like it held up the other books on my reading list. The print is small and it reads like a textbook — there’s just a whole lot to digest in all the words on the page. I took my time with it because I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it justice skimming and not giving it my full 100% attention. However, it’s so worth it. Reading this book and learning about this man who was raised from the slums to a prominent figure in the civil rights movement is something that I think everyone absolutely needs to do at some point in their life. I feel like just from reading this, I understand so much more about the civil rights movement and the context in which it was fought.

The best part is reading how Malcolm X grows as a person. It’s so interesting, because I found myself making judgments about him and his beliefs, but that reaction is only because he’s so honest about his feelings and thoughts. The most rewarding/interesting part of this book for me was seeing how Malcolm develops his viewpoints and changes his opinions based on each new experience. In that way, it’s an incredibly engaging read because of Malcolm’s ability to continuously learn more and inform himself about the world. I found myself growing and changing right along with him — it was an intense reading experience, to say the least.

I always find it hard to judge a non-fiction book. The most I can say is that I found it rewarding and informative — despite the fact that it’s told from Malcolm himself, this book gives an honest no-holds barred look at Malcolm and his life, and it is one of the best subjects you can inform yourself upon. I highly recommend it.

Audiobook Review: Most Talkative by Andy Cohen

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Title: Most Talkative
Author: Andy Cohen
Narrator: Andy Cohen
Publisher: MacMillan Audio
Edition: Unabridged
Duration: 9 hours
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The man behind The Real Housewives writes about his lifelong love affair with pop culture that brought him from the suburbs of St. Louis to his own television show. 

From a young age, Andy Cohen knew one thing: He loved television. Not in the way that most kids do, but in an irrepressible, all-consuming, I-want-to-climb-inside-the-tube kind of way. And climb inside he did. Now presiding over Bravo’s reality TV empire, he started out as an overly talkative pop culture obsessive, devoted to Charlie’s Angels and All My Children and to his mother, who received daily letters from Andy at summer camp, usually reminding her to tape the soaps. In retrospect, it’s hard to believe that everyone didn’t know that Andy was gay; still, he remained in the closet until college. Finally out, he embarked on making a career out of his passion for television.

The journey begins with Andy interviewing his all-time idol Susan Lucci for his college newspaper and ends with him in a job where he has a hand in creating today’s celebrity icons. In the witty, no-holds-barred style of his show Watch What Happens Live, Andy tells tales of absurd mishaps during his ten years at CBS News, hilarious encounters with the heroes and heroines of his youth, and the real stories behind
The Real Housewives. Dishy, funny, and full of heart, Most Talkative provides a one-of-a-kind glimpse into the world of television, from a fan who grew up watching the screen and is now inside it, both making shows and hosting his own.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

I was first attracted to this book because I saw Andy Cohen promoting it on The Colbert Report, and I thought he was easy-going and funny. Even though I don’t watch The Real Housewives, I was still interested in the stories Andy had to tell.

And my goodness, does Andy Cohen have some stories! For Real Housewives fans, know that this is a memoir. Though he talks about the show, it’s not all about it. But Most Talkative has something for everyone, I think, as it’s mostly about Andy’s path from intern to producer and the funny situations and obstacles he encounters along the way. Who hasn’t embarrassed themselves, and who hasn’t messed up at work? His stories are easy to relate to and you’ll have a laugh while hearing about them. There are some truly funny moments, and there were situations that made me shake my head in embarrassment for him. But the upbeat and self-deprecating way in which he tells about it lessens the empathetic pain.

The narration took me a bit to get used to. In terms of telling a story, Andy talks a little too fast for me. At first, I kept getting confused because I often missed what he said, but after a couple of chapters, I got used to it and had no problems with it. I did love the fun, easy-going style his narration has. He takes time to make asides and directly address the listeners, which I also loved. It fit in with the tone of how Most Talkative is written, and I didn’t feel like I was listening to a memoir, really. It was more like sitting down and listening to a friend recount old stories. And that’s the brilliance with this audiobook, I think. Andy talks to the readers just like they’re old friends, so I instantly felt a connection with him and was with him the whole way through. I felt his pain through the difficult stuff and felt the elation with the successes. I definitely recommend the audiobook over the printed version for this one. Andy Cohen has a lot of personality, and it shines through his narration.

*In exchange for my honest review, I received a free copy of this audiobook from the publisher through Audiobook Jukebox’s Solid Gold Reviewer program.*