Culture + Community
February Bibliotherapy with Sivan Bogan
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I am sharing three books this month that focus on love. Love of all kinds – romantic, platonic, and everything in between.
Just Kids by Patti Smith
How on earth can I talk about Patti Smith? I don’t know. I’ll try my hardest to do her justice, but I am not sure anyone can. This book, Just Kids, is about Patti Smith, as a young musician, and her unique relationship with the late Robert Mapplethorpe when both were struggling artists. The memoir reveals the out-of-this world connection they had and the pillar of support they were for each other during their early years. They traveled together, each growing and creating, mastering their art. They were two young, hungry, passionate people who found each other exploring New York City in the late sixties and early seventies and never let go. This book changed me for the better. It allowed me to be present in the lives of two true artists. This book is a love letter, from start to finish. To Robert, Love Patti.
“Nobody sees as we do, Patti,” he said again. Whenever he said things like that, for a magical space of time, it was as if we were the only two people in the world.”
Marlena by Julie Buntin
I don’t think there is anything harder than being a teenage girl. It is confusing, energetic, and heartbreaking. This is a story about all of those feelings. About loneliness, friendship, figuring out who you are, who you want to be. Cat is fifteen and has just moved to rural Michigan. She meets Marlena, the older, cooler, tougher next door neighbor. Cat is immediately drawn to Marlena’s world, and the two fall together to fill the gaps that the world has knocked out of them. One whirlwind year later, and Marlena is dead. This book toggles back and forth between the past and the present, Cat leading us through this story of an electric love and friendship, and finally, a devastating loss. Female friendship is so unexplored in literature, and to be given a story like this with two teenage girls, who know nothing and everything at the same time, is powerful.
“Everyone has a secret life. But when you’re a girl with a best friend, you think your secret life is something you can share. Those nights Marlena and I spent on the jungle gym, talking, talking. For just a little while, neither of us alone. Overlapping- bright, then dark- like a miniature eclipse.”
Goodbye Vitamin by Rachel Khong
This was the only book I brought with me on a recent trip to San Francisco. It was perfect for picking up in airports, coffee shops, hotel rooms. The story is told in a series of snapshots, almost like a diary. Ruth, a thirty-year-old woman whose life did not turn out how she thought it would, breaks up with her fiancé, quits her job, and moves back in with her parents. Her father, once a favored history professor, is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Ruth is left to take care of her father and help her mother deal with this pain. It is a very bittersweet story. Riding the wave of a family struggling to keep it together, we witness Ruth losing love and finding it again. Ruth makes mistakes, she’s frustrating, but you root for her. I loved the structure of this book. The short passages are refreshing to read. Khong takes the little moments of life and lights them on fire.
“It doesn’t matter who remembers what, I guess, so long as somebody remembers something.”