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janemarieprice's 2018 reading

Club Read 2018

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Edited: Feb 28, 6:28pm Top

Hi, I'm Jane and have been a member of Club Read since 2009 though real life has completely derailed my participation (and my reading) the past few years. I typically read classic literature, some contemporary and popular nonfiction, and fantasy/sci-fi. I don't have any reading goals for the year except to figure out a regular reading schedule and a few topics I want to dive into for work.

I made a big move last year from New York to Chicago and hoping the more settled lifestyle will get me back to a consistent reading and posting schedule. I'm an architect and interior designer and am now working for a firm that does a lot of exhibit design also so that's been fun to learn about. Outside of work and reading I enjoy the outdoors from just sitting outside to camping and hiking, anything art/design related, cooking, and watching sports.

Currently Reading:
Winnesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
The Burning Stone by Kate Elliot
You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination by Katharine A. Harmon
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Blueprint for Disaster: The Unraveling of Chicago Public Housing by D. Bradford Hunt
Anarchists's Guide to Historic House Museums by Franklin D. Vagnone and Deborah E. Ryan
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Green Book by Jill Paton Walsh
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

Feb 7, 1:38am Top

Hi, I started Winesburg, Ohio in early Jan. But I set it aside and stilll want to get back to it.

Feb 7, 6:34pm Top

>2 dianeham: I really should not count it as currently reading since I started it last summer! But put it down for the move and haven't been drawn back yet. I'll likely start over. :) I found it enjoyable in some ways but not gripping and trying to decide what mood I need to be in to get back to it.

Feb 7, 11:39pm Top

Blueprint for Disaster: The Unraveling of Chicago Public Housing by D. Bradford Hunt

Why now: self-assigned homework for work.

I came into this looking for a good history of Chicago public housing in particular but was happy with how well Hunt tied the specific topic into the national story. This is not a riveting text - it is very academic and heavy on public policy and political battles. However, it was very informative and did a good job of balancing a combined chronological and thematic narrative. He does a great job in looking at all angles of the formation, large growth, and subsequent structural problems and dismantling of the Chicago Housing Authority.

The public discourse around public housing in the US has generally revolved around oversimplified generalizations of what went wrong. This does a good job of going over all the complex and interwoven issues that combined to be particularly devastating to public housing in Chicago - institutionalized racism and corrupt politics that resulted in limited site selection which forced building locations into racial minority neighborhoods, piss poor management that led to huge budget shortfalls and delayed maintenance of building stock, prioritization of the lowest income applicants resulting in concentrations of poverty, high youth to adult ratios in the largest projects which strained community policing, and many more.

Overall I can’t say I recommend this to any but those with a large interest in Chicago history and/or public housing in general. But if you are one of those people, it is required reading.

I plan for this year to start including an image with each review that is related to or evokes a feeling of the book. This is a photo of the demolition of Stateway Gardens constructed in the mid-late 50s and housing 1644 families. This has been replaced with a mixed-income development with “475 total units, of which 108 are mixed-income, 37 are rented at market rate, 34 are for affordable housing and 37 are designated public housing” (note: numbers are from the city so of course they do not add up and defy analysis).

David Schalliol, 2007

And the demolition of Cabrini-Green, one of the more infamous of Chicago's housing projects, consisting of 3607 units and peak population of 15,000 people. Currently a vacant site, plans call for an eventual 2340 mixed-income units in a mixed-use development; 604 units scheduled to be completed by 2020.

Alex Garcia, Chicago Tribune, 2010

Feb 8, 12:00am Top

Anarchists's Guide to Historic House Museums by Franklin D. Vagnone and Deborah E. Ryan

Why now: also self-assigned homework for work.

Part workbook, part slightly irreverent working treatise; this was a fun one. Some bits are sort of obvious - house museum tours are all generally the same, you can’t touch anything or take pictures, and thus they aren’t that interesting unless you are seriously interested in period furniture. So a lot covers what I would say are obvious fixes for museums to gain new visitorship - engage with the neighborhood and it’s potentially changing demographic profiles, have more engaging programming not just static tour guide led events, if pieces are recreations let people sit on them, don’t feel the need to be so fixated on a time period, etc.

But I found a few choice bits in here the most interesting of which was thinking about what time of day it is supposed to be. Most museums spend tons of research time on which time period to restore to or recreate and interpret but little to what is supposed to be “happening” in these rooms at whatever time of day. Enjoyable but very focused so not for the casual reader.

Image of the book: Installation of objects from the New York Historical Society. Pictured - busts of George Washington and Napoleon displayed alongside authentic slave shackles.

Fred Wilson, Liberty/Liberté, New York Historical Society

Feb 8, 6:49pm Top

You have chosen some great images

Feb 13, 5:45pm Top

>5 janemarieprice: How interesting. I adore museums, though I'm trying to remember the last house museum I was in. Hmm, probably the Alcott house in Concord, or their farmhouse at Fruitlands in Harvard, MA. Until a few years ago, I lived close by so took advantage of that.

Feb 17, 9:30am Top

So what do we think of the Tianjin Binhai Library?

It's quite a dramatic and stunning space but I'm not sure how I feel about the books spines applied to each layer. "Real" books are only on a few levels. It certainly adds to the affect but seems a little...I don't know...odd and pointless in some ways.

Feb 17, 10:25am Top

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This is a book that I think Stockett needed to write, had to write. But perhaps, like love/hate letters to jilted ex/unrequited love/old boss, it needed to be written as a kind of emotional purge and put away. There seems to be to me here a huge element of white wish fulfillment. To live in a time when so many were wrong but you know what’s right and can fight the good fight. Would I have such a negative reaction if Stockett had actually lived through the Civil Rights era? Possibly not. But I see much of my own struggles in her approach here. Struggles with the legacy of being a white southerner; a legacy which would be much different if I had been alive during the 60s when I could have made an impact, and done meaningful work, and music was better, etc, etc. Living in the now everything is messy and complex and uncertain and often feels helpless and how do you know if you’re woke or not. So the whole thing ends up feeling a little Gone with the Wind style love letter to a past gone by (which was pretty shitty to begin with) and a people you never really knew.

I must note that I was not bothered by a white person writing from a black person’s perspective. However, I was particularly bothered by a quick point in which Skeeter’s parents are watching the LSU/Ole Miss game the weekend after James Meredith enrolls at Ole Miss and the ensuing riots. Meredith enrolled on October 1st, 1962 and the LSU game was November 3rd (and it was an away game) - I looked this up on Wikipedia and there’s an excellent ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about this exact topic so not obscure knowledge. If you’re going to go out on a controversial limb with this literary technique, you (or your publisher) should better double check you’ve got your I’s dotted and T’s crossed. And this one moment left me with the feeling that the legacy and history of these maids were not treated with the kind of care needed to really pull this off.

With all of that being said, I didn’t hate the book in of itself. I liked many of the characters. It was exciting. I wanted to get back to it to find out what would happen. So as a book it’s entertaining, but probably unnecessary without a lot more thoughtfulness.

Sign on Laundromat, New Orleans 1963, John Kouns

Feb 17, 12:14pm Top

>8 janemarieprice: The design is interesting, maybe even intriguing, but what do you suppose it does for the books?

>9 janemarieprice: While I did not read the Help, I knew of it and had read enough reviews to know I didn't want to read it. I felt, as you note, it was a kind of "white wish fulfillment." I really enjoyed your thoughtful review, though.

Feb 17, 10:31pm Top

I had enormous mixed feelings about The Help. I felt it was patronizing, but still important. I took my daughter to see the movie, so she could experience what it was like then. I visited my aunt in Birmingham during the mid-60s, and saw so much of what life was like. It definitely isn't Alice Walker or Toni Morrison, but the perspective is relevant.

Feb 18, 2:36pm Top

>8 janemarieprice: The library is impressive, but I wonder how easy it is to locate a particular book...

>9 janemarieprice: Great review of The Help, even though it's not positive.

Feb 18, 2:55pm Top

>8 janemarieprice: Good to see you posting images again. I like the look of this library. I notice in the architects' description that it was hoped to integrate it into the area, which I'm not sure they will accomplish from a long ago memory of Tianjin, but it does look dramatic. I like the use of the spines to provide colour and a reminder of what libraries are, although I fear that access to books and the actual titles will be problematic and changeable over the years. I wonder what they do with all that empty space in the meantime.

>9 janemarieprice: Wasn't a fan of The Help at all, but I do like your review. That's an incredible photograph.

Feb 23, 8:44am Top

>10 avaland:/>12 chlorine: I don't know that it does anything for the books. It looks cool and is an engaging social space, but I'd be interested to visit and see what it's like to use as a library. Apparently there are lots of side rooms that house the majority of the collection but that all have views into the main space.

>13 SassyLassy: I know nothing of Tianjin so I'd be interested what else is around also. There are tons of these kinds of big capital A architecture project going up in China now and it's a little curiously integrated typically.

Re: The Help: I feel a bit badly that the review is so negative since as I said I actually did enjoy reading it. And I think art/discussion around what is often consider smaller (i.e. domestic) issues gets pushed aside a lot and these issues tend to especially historically be feminine. So I think it had great potential but just hit the wrong note a bit and needed to bounce around for a bit more in Stockett's mind/writing for a while longer.

Feb 23, 8:44am Top

The Green Book by Jill Paton Walsh

I first read this in grade school when I was first getting into fantasy/sci-fi and the story always stuck with me though I could not remember the title. I somehow tracked it down and was quite glad I did. The story follows a family who travels to a distant planet fleeing a dying Earth. This particular family and their compatriots were not well off so they are sent with limited resources on a ship not designed for colonization. The planet is one of crystalline structure - rocks, trees, plants all appear glass-like. It was this aspect of the world building that so caught my imagination as a child. Overall not a groundbreaking or amazing book, but it was nice to revisit it.

Tara Donovan

Feb 23, 9:21am Top

>16 janemarieprice: What a great font for people who like to color.

Feb 24, 11:13am Top

Just catching up. Enjoying your thoughts and the photos. I also like your characterization of some books as "self-assigned homework for work," as I definitely have those books/do that too.

Feb 24, 11:18am Top

>15 janemarieprice: love your pics! I also like returning to books I read as a teen; sometimes nostalgic sometimes I think why would I have ever liked that?!

Mar 2, 5:37pm Top

>17 auntmarge64: I didn't think of that but you're right!

>18 fannyprice: Yeah, these aren’t really required reading for work, but I’m trying to educate myself some more about issues that we’re discussing. I can’t describe how exciting it is to have a job where I’m compelled to read and learn more about things outside of work. It’s nice to finally be creatively stimulated!

>19 tess_schoolmarm: I know, it's always tricky to reread something, especially if it was a childhood fave. I wouldn't say this one was great, but it gave me great memories of shopping the school book fair and finding new and exciting things.

Some interesting photos of the Mardi Gras festival in Mamou, LA which is quite unique and different than anywhere else in state. There’s chicken casing, crazy costumes, and general weirdness.

Mar 3, 3:44pm Top

Love your photos, especially the one accompanying The Green Book.

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