Book Review: Find Me by Laura van den Berg

Author:Laura van den Berg
TitleFind Me
Publication Info: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015.
This novel is the story of a young woman named Joy, an orphan raised in various foster homes, who becomes a test subject in a remote hospital when she is found to be immune to a deadly disease sweeping the United States.  The disease has the effect of causing people to lose their memories and the book uses the disease to symbolically explore memory and identity.  Joy’s first person narrative switches between flashbacks to her life as a foster child and the increasing despair of living in the prison-like hospital with people dying around her.  About 2/3’s of the way of the novel Joy escapes and ventures out to try to find her birth mother (this is written on the dust jacket so it’s not really a spoiler). From this point on it feels like a lot of the characters are there just to serve a symbolic role in Joy’s life rather than seeming like realistic characters.  I’ll say this is an interesting premise and mostly engrossing book with an unsatisfying ending.
Recommended books: Flu by Gina Kolata
Rating: ***

Book Review: American Slavery, American Freedom by Edmund S. Morgan

Author: Edmund S. Morgan
TitleAmerican Slavery, American Freedom
Narrator: Sean Pratt
Publication Info: Gildan Media, LLC (2013)
This book is not so much a history of slavery as it is an economic history of Colonial Virginia.  In a sense, understanding the conditions of Colonial Virginia is important to understanding how this English community came to adopt chattel slavery based on race.  But reading the book the topics vary far and wide from the concepts of slavery and their contrasts with the American ideals of freedom.  In short, it’s an interesting book albeit not necessarily the one I expected.
Recommended booksThe World They Made Together by Mechal Sobel and Colonial Virginia : a history by Warren M. Billings
Rating: ***1/2

Podcasts of the Week for the Week Ending November 27

Okay, it’s been several weeks since the last Podcast of the Week, and I’ve decided this will be the last installment of this feature.  In the future I may do a monthly roundup or an irregular schedule of posts.
To start of this final post, here are three new podcasts feeds I’m subscribing to:
  • Maeve in America – Irish comedian Maeve Higgins interviews a different immigrant to America in each episode
  • Hub History – a new podcast on one of my favorite topics, Boston history, which has already covered topics ranging from Cotton Mather’s smallpox innoculation and the Great Molasses Flood
  • Stranglers – a 12-part documentary focusing a particularly notorious time in Boston history, the strangler murders of 1962-64
And here are some good episodes from the past motnth or so:
  • Planet Money – Bad Form, Wells Fargo – Career destroying practices for employees involved in the Wells Fargo scandal
  • 99 Percent Invisible – The Shift – the history of baseball’s revolutionary defensive strategy
  • Politically Re-Active – W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu  with guest Roxane Gay  on Anger After the Election
  • Sounds in My Head – Special Post-Election Episode with a playlist of very sad songs

Beer Review: Baxter Pamola 

Beer: Pamola Session Ale
Brewer: Baxter Brewing Co.
Source: Can
Rating: *** (7.7 of 10)
Comments: A straw colored beer with a thin head, this beer offers the scent of fresh mown hay.  The flavor is sweet with a touch of spice.  It’s a nice balance of subtle flavors in basic ale, good to pair with spicy food.

From the same brewery:


Photopost: Thanksgiving Day Parade

Some photo highlights from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on Central Park West this morning.

Good Things That Happened in 2016

2016 has been a notoriously unfriendly year.

We’ve lost many great people including David Bowie, Harper Lee, Johan Cruyff,  Prince, Muhammad Ali, Elie Wiesel, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, and Gwen Ifill.  Our election was notoriously divisive and sometimes downright tacky and ended up with an electoral college victory for an arrogant bully who enables all sorts of prejudice and hatred.  Add to that the Zika virus outbreak, Brexit, the Orlando massacre, murders by police and murders of police officers, rumors of scary clowns, and other disasters, wars, and terrorist attacks too numerous to name.

So for Thanksgiving, I’ve decided to make a list of some of the good things to happen in 2016:

  • Bernie Sanders becomes a prominent leader of the American Left
  • David Bowie died but not before releasing an excellent final album, Blackstar
  • Boston Public Schools high school students lead the way in protest against crippling budget cuts
  • Wild tiger populations are rebounding
  • Leicester City becomes the first club not in the “big 4” to win the English Premier League in decades
  • Bartolo Colon hits a home run
  • The new Ghostbusters is really good
  • The Juno spacecraft arrives at Jupiter
  • Stranger Things debuts on Netflix
  • David Ortiz’s fantastic final season
  • Unite Here Local 26 goes on strike for food service workers at Harvard, and wins!
  • Cubs finally win the World Series

On a more personal level, I’m grateful for the following things:

  • attended the Harris Hill Ski Jump competition
  • my mother returned to her childhood home in the Bronx, moving into a charming apartment in a lovely neighborhood, and we visited New York often
  • related to the above, we became members of the Wildlife Conservation Society and frequent visitors to the Bronx Zoo
  • Peter’s baseball team scored 18 runs in the last inning when they were down by 14 (they lost the game anyway, but they were so proud)
  • I got an iPad
  • we went to lots of Major League Baseball games at Fenway Park and Citi Field.  Both the Red Sox and the Mets made it to the postseason.
  • we rode the Codzilla speedboat in Boston Harbor and saw hip-hop dancers and fireworks at Christopher Columbus Park
  • Peter and I had a great ride in the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon
  • I got my first digital SLR camera
  • Visited Canobie Lake Park three times, and Rye Playland once
  • I lost my keys in a park, but the Boston Park Rangers found them and I was able to retrieve them
  • Both kids started attending the same school and we have one drop off and one pick up!
  • Got to be a history geek with the kids at Old Sturbridge Village and Plimoth Plantation
  • Led 31 Boston By Foot tours, my favorite for a couple of women from Toronto who told me that the first thing they did upon arriving in Boston was going to the Warren Anatomical Museum
  • Processed some big and interesting archival collections at work

Those are some things to be thankful for in 2016.  Let me know what you’re thankful for in the comments.


In the meantime, let’s sing along with Arlo Guthrie.