The Gift of Reading

I received an early Christmas gift with the judge’s reviews of my books that were entered in the Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards Contest.

Jimmy and Me, A Sister’s Memoir

The author boldly, vulnerably shares what it is like to have a brother who is intellectually disabled. Her account is a warm, honest, raw, eye opening account of the effects her role as caregiver had on her as a child and as an adult. This duel timeframe gives the book a narrative richness but also a richness of insight for others who have lived through similar experiences. The opening scene showcases just how difficult and complicated this kind of life story can be, but the narrative overall brims with love, hope, and compassion. Alongside the story of her relationship with her brother, the author gives compelling insight into how to build and craft a sense of self when one’s identity is so closely linked with someone else. The pace of the narrative is smooth and swift, transitioning well between different time periods and themes. The narrative arc is strong even as the author embraces the complexity and open ended nature of a true life story. The story balances realistic dialogue along with exposition and summary to keep the story moving and give the narrative texture. For others in similar situations, her voice is a gift and a light. The cover photo aptly conveys the warmth and theme of the book.

Musing Off the Mat – memories and everyday moments

The author shares her life—her family, her hobbies, her positive world view—through a series of essays. The essays are uniquely the author’s, but themes of home, food, and family make it easy to relate to and feel connected with the author. The author’s voice is clear and brimming with personality, humor, and compassion. Not only does the author invite others into her life, but she also invites her audience to look at their own lives differently, with fresh eyes. The stories demonstrate a keen eye for detail and emotion, without being bogged down with description or sentimentality. The varying lengths of the pieces makes it easy to dive in and out of the book and hop around to different topics. The loose thematic organization gives the book just enough structure to hold it together without bogging it down. While the essays are focused on the author and her experiences, they also demonstrate a strong empathy for and attention to other people. The cover image aptly captures the tone and content of the book, and it has a very personal feel without making the book seem unprofessional or like a scrapbook.

Buy the books for your Secret Santa, Yankee Swap, or use as stocking stuffers. Because “every family has a story.”

An Unlikely Reader

I was glad to see old friends and meet new readers who were interested in learning about my books at the Chelmsford Public Library. Some purchased for their own reading pleasure and others bought for holiday gifts.

At the end of the author event, a 16-year-old timidly approached my table. The young man worked at the library and said he’d come across my memoir in the stacks but was not allowed to read while on the job. He said he’d read the first few pages, was intrigued, and decided to check it out of the library. Then he asked me thought-provoking questions about my story. I was touched by this unlikely reader.

Here was a shy young teen who could have stopped at any author table to read about what I assumed interest teens: paranormal, fantasy, science fiction. However, this gentle soul told me he wanted to learn about the history of people who have been marginalized in society.

As I left the library, I felt flattered to see the inspiring young man carrying my book.

He reminded me of a lesson learned long ago and is worth repeating: never judge a book by its cover.

Sharing on Community TV

Recently I was interviewed by Danvers Community TV about my memoir, Jimmy and Me. (Start at 1:30.)

This family story will resonate with many readers: people who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, siblings of individuals with intellectual disabilities, mothers, Italians, educators, health care professionals, and more.

Jimmy and Me and my essay collection, Musing Off the Mat, are available on Amazon. These books make great gifts for yourself, as a stocking stuffer, or a Yankee Swap.

My Summer Reads (so far)

Whenever I read a good book, I have to share. Here are a few that I enjoyed so far this summer. Maybe you’ll like them, too.

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
In the early 1940s, a wealthy French industrialist commissions an architect to design hiding places for Jews inside palatial homes around Paris. Great characters, plot, and subplots. How far would you go to save your neighbor?

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
A story of survival about a young girl who moves to the Alaskan bush with her crazy father and submissive mother. Rich description of the beauty and brutality of Alaska.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
A reclusive British woman with an unfortunate past and a quirky personality finds friendship in unlikely places. Comical scenes and dialogue, with a twist at the end.

Educated by Tara Westover
Memoir about a young girl living with a dysfunctional family in isolated Idaho. Without any formal education or socialization, she rises to earn a PhD from Cambridge University. This is a story of courage and survival.

What books do you recommend?

Feed the Good Wolf

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil — he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

The other is good — he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you — and inside every person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old chief simply replied, “The one you feed.”