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    June 2018 Reading List

    Below are the books I read in June in the order I read them. Summer has been too busy with short staffing for the July 4th holiday, my birthday and getting sidetracked on some super cool genealogy discoveries and research on the history of our Rock House. More on that later. Meanwhile…the books!

    The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel – I kind of skimmed it fast and should have tabled it for another time, because I did enjoy it. The writer was recommended to me by my niece, and this was the first title of hers available at the library. It was part of a series but that didn’t interfere with my enjoyment of it. It was pretty graphic / gory at times which I like. But, like the two other mystery books I’d read in February by Jane Jensen, there was some cringeworthy “romance” that seemed contrived. I’ll probably read another one of hers and hope she skips the random, out-of-the-blue, Skin-e-max sex scenes.

    Animal Farm by George Orwell – A classic I hadn’t read since junior high. Holds up. Good stuff. 

    Grant by Ron Chernow – So long, but so good. I got 1/3 of the way through before it expired and I had to get on the waitlist. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law bought me my very own hardcover edition which I’ve picked up in late July. The first 1/3 already had me so in love with Grant, especially after I learned that the other cadets at West Point teased him because his given name, Hiram Ulysses Grant, spelled out the itinitials H.U.G. Awww! And now that’s all I wanna do is give him a posthumous one. ‬ Because of that teasing, he preferred to be called Ulysses but the kids twisted that into calling him “Useless Grant”.  Kids, man. Kids. I got through Shiloh and just before his showdown with Robert E. Lee. Very engrossing and educational. I’m enthralled.

    The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson – This should be required reading. Till was kidnapped and brutally killed by a group of white men in 1955 at age 14 for allegedly whistling at a white woman*. The injustice and brutality of it all will break your heart and enrage you. The past isn’t so far behind us at all. The book is very, very good and very, very upsetting. It’s powerful; an incredible historical account & indictment.

    It’s also a wonderful profile in courage of Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley. Her love, bravery and political savvy has assured her son won’t be forgotten. Do her the honor and never forget her boy.

    The white woman at the center of it all, Carolyn Bryant Donham, is now 84 and lives in Raleigh, confessed to the author that Emmett had lied during the investigation and trial. Tyson interviewed her two times for six hours total. That the author got this admission is remarkable. Of course we all knew she had lied but to hear it directly from her and so plainly? Wow. Jaw dropping. 

    For the week after I read it, I could hardly think of anything else, telling everyone they must read it. I even posted about it on Twitter on July 11th imploring all to read it and telling other Twitter users about the details. Then, the morning of July 12th, the Justice Department announced they were reopening the investigation in light of “new evidence”. Surely that new evidence is the woman’s confession to the author, but really it reeks of a political show by the racist Trump administration

    *The whistling part is a little unclear –some witnesses say he never whistled, while others,  including his cousin, say he did– but obviously that is no cause for the brutality. 

    All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – Simply gorgeous. My stars! Another departure for me in choosing historical fiction and I’m so glad I read it. It’s set in Europe during WWII  and tells the parallel stories of a blind French girl and a German boy made to join the Nazi Youth. Their paths cross but it’s not contrived. It’s not forced. It’s gorgeous.  

    Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig – it gets rave reviews on GoodReads.com but I’m on the fence. It’s about an autistic 14-yr-old girl named Ginny Moon, duh, who bounced around in foster care before being taken in by a forever family. There’s some mystery in the why and how Ginny was separated from her real mom and she’s obsessed with how her baby doll is doing. From the praise and my limited experience, Ludwig has really nailed autism and the way Ginny’s mind works. I was frustrated, impatient and got angry a few times, too, which certainly means I was engaged and invested in the story. Ultimately, I was so glad when I was done as the story was stressful and became tedious. This probably means I’ve made the right choice by not having kids! LOL! That said, I absolutely loved the character Eleanor Oliphant from the book Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine which I’d read earlier this year. Eleanor is also on the spectrum and the book also has a bit of intrigue, but with so much more heart and soul and believability. If presented with the two, I’d choose the latter.  

    I Was Told There’d be Cake by Sloane Crosley – Did not finish. A collection of short stories / essays and well written and funny but right now the world is on fire, and I feel like I need to feed my brain with more important things right now. I enjoyed essays on her family’s potential move to Australia and a pony collection from ex-boyfriends. She then wrote about what she’d described as the worst move in NYC. But her getting locked out of the same apartment twice really didn’t measure up as all that bad, and I put the book down after that. Sometimes you need to eat some fish and veggies and this book is more fast food. With my head filled with Grant, Civil War and Civil Rights…this just felt too frivolous to enjoy in the weeks leading up to the Midterms. 

    Eyes on the Prize (PBS) — Okay, this is not a book but a 14-part documentary by PBS that originally aired in 1987. It’s an incredible piece of work about the Civil Rights movement and race in America. The first part chronicles 1954–1965, including the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Selma marches, and more. The first episode actually covers the murder of Emmett Till in which I was now fully educated, and it was just as devastating and worthy of all the tears and rage. Each episode is at least an hour long so I opted to watch this and put down the books for a bit as I waited for “Grant”. (Poor Mrs. Grant, now I know how she feels.)

    The first part (6 episodes) should be part of classroom discussions. It’s so thorough and includes then current interviews with key figures. I wish I were an educator so I could introduce this to my students. I’d be especially keen to show this to students at Richland High School and note that the school mascot The Rebels with a Confederate flag was chosen by students and passed by the board in 1961, a veritable “F you” to the Civil Rights movement. Those students, their parents, the school board and, well, everyone should be ashamed of that hateful legacy they saddled on us.

    ETA: Well, well, well, per the Wikipedia page they made an educational version of this in 2006. Good.  

    Click here to read my May Booklist
    Click here to read my April Booklist
    Click here to read my March Booklist
    Click here to read my February Booklist
    Click here to read my January Booklist

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    May 2018 Reading List

    Below are the books I read in May in the order I read them…a lot of feminist books, a few by African Americans and, yeah, I’m fired up and ready to “make trouble”. Starting with dusting off my own story on domestic violence and living in the Deaf community.

    Click here to read my April Booklist
    Click here to read my March Booklist
    Click here to read my February Booklist
    Click here to read my January Booklist

    My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem – Wrote a big ol’ entry on this already.
     
    True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness: A Feminist Coming of Ageby Christine Lahti – Enjoyed it. Not sure why I chose to read it –I think it was recommended by an app and I saw “feminist” in the title.  It opened with a blurb from Steinem, so I was on board since I had just finished Steinem’s memoir. There was one chapter about Lahti’s brother’s physical abuse of her that SO incredibly mirrored my own –like, it sincerely could have been ripped from the pages of Burn Down the Ground– that I’m compelled to reach out to her and commiserate. It’s comforting to know that there is someone out there who so totally understands what you went through and the frustrations and confusing emotions when your own parents–those who are supposed to protect you–play down the incidents and turn the blame back to you.
     
    It’s Up to the Womenby Eleanor Roosevelt – It’s dated, obviously, but remarkably on point with some current day issues like equal pay for equal work which is disheartening.
     
    Slave in the White House– Biography about Paul Jennings who penned the first memoir of a slave who actually lived and worked in the White House. This book is not to be confused with his actual memoir. Learned a lot about James Madison and Dolley (not a fan, overall) and her treatment of slaves including Sukey.
     
    The Only Girl in the World – A Memoir. Pretty intense account of her life basically imprisoned by her mentally ill, abusive, weird as hell Dad.
     
    Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World by Joann Lublin – Joann was an editor at the Wall Street Journal and a lot of the women are leaders of major corporations and very, very rich. I would’ve liked hearing from some more charitable folks who head up non-profits and social services
     
    Between the World and Meby Ta-Nehisi Coates – Framed as a letter to his son, Coates speaks of what it is to be black in America and inhabiting a black body.
     
    Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Bodyby Roxane Gay – Wow. I related to this a little too much when it came to sexual assault and how she downplayed it in the aftermath. The long aftereffects and how that manifested for her with eating and weight issues. It gave me some food for thought (no pun intended) on someday sharing my #MeToo stories.
     

    Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpowerby Brittany Cooper – Smart. Informative. She’s a rising star and feminist. I enjoyed meeting her and chatting with her after our gig during which we shared the stage with the authors of Oslo (Tony Award for best play) and Call Me By Your Name (a few Oscar nominations). So much so that I asked Christian to join me at SoHo House to hear her speak again. She’s got superpowers, indeed.

    The Mother of All Questionsby Rebecca Solnit – More smartness from a feminist. I’m still educating myself and feeling pretty damned angry and powerless and powerful and hopeful all at once.

     
    Not That Bad– Edited by Roxane Gay – A collection of stories by sexual assault victims. I added this after being inspired by Gay to maybe share my #MeToo story. I stopped reading very soon into it. Tried picking it up again for a few more essays. I dunno that I’ll revisit this one. It’s heavy. And triggering.
     
    The Immortalistsby Chloe – Lovely read. Literary Fiction. Not something that will stick with me for forever but I enjoyed it. Can’t say that I’d recommend it over other literary fiction (I don’t read much of that genre) as time is short, man. Maybe read something that has more lasting impact? I feel bad typing that as it was a lovely read. I just know that I will have forgotten most of it very soon.
     
    Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead – I did not know much about Cecile before reading this book. I’m a big fan of Cecile’s late mom, Governor Ann Richards –I even threw a party for her once in NYC!– and, of course, I support Planned Parenthood and women’s rights. This book is *extremely* inspiring about both Ann and Cecile’s commitment to serving and women.
     

    #Kambri2018Booklist

     

     

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    April 2018 Reading List

    Below are the books I read in April in the order I read them…

    Click here to read my March Booklist
    Click here to read my February Booklist
    Click here to read my January Booklist

    Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg (Memoir) – Written about his crack cocaine addition which is troubling enough. But the rapidity of the downward spiral from having everything (his own literary agency, gobs of money, rich and famous friends and clients) to nearly losing everything, including his life, is jarring.  The Nancy Reagan and “just say no” to drug ad campaigns of the 80s about the dangers of cocaine scared the heck out of me and, it seems, for good reason. Yikes. The author haunted the Meatpacking District around the same time I was and stayed holed up in the same hotels (the Gansevoort and Maritime) where we housed comedians who were headlining at the comedy club Comix. I’ve a feeling Mr. Clegg and I crossed paths. So I enjoyed reading about the area, remembering what it was like in the early and mid-aughts. He’s definitely a privileged white male and so avoided jail even though he was openly scoring drugs on the streets and was able to get help, forgiveness and the support of his friends and family. He counts his blessings as he should. Wowzer.
     

    Dead People Suck by Laurie Kilmartin (Memoir / Humor)Laurie is a friend of mine and former officemate of my husband’s back when they wrote for “Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn”. We sell her book at QED and had a book signing for her after a show which is a yet another wonderful bonus QED brings to the table. I was laughing then ugly crying then laughing all within the first chapter. Towards the end, my emotions stabilized and it was an honest, funny, saucy take on a difficult and personal topic. Even the chapter titles had me guffawing with a head-nodding, yep, this will happen. Gah! Example: “Are You An Old Man With Daughters? Please Shred Your Porn.” Not for the sensitive or conservative but they should read it anyway to help lighten the load.

    Thank You for Coming to Hattiesburg by Todd Barry (Memoir / Travelogue)– I’ve known and worked with Todd since the early aughts so, of course, I will read anything he writes. This is actually more of a travelogue with the angle of living as a road comic at some of the smaller theaters and clubs. That means a lot of commentary on local coffee shops, dining options and sights to see. If you’re familiar with his fake bravado, stylistic comedy and deadpan cadence, I think you’ll really enjoy it. It’s quick and breezy read. There’s not a tremendous amount of “inside baseball” with comedy club jargon so the average person can still read and enjoy. Nothing major happens, though, so if you’re looking for a rollicking tale of life on the road and don’t know who Todd is, you might not laugh as much as I did. But I did laugh. A lot. Once so suddenly and loudly while standing outside that a man jumped…SPRANG sideways with both feet. “Sorry!” I smiled. “Todd Barry made me do it.” #SorryNotSorry

    The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (Mystery)– Loved, loved, loved. I read the review in either EW or Elle magazines and decided to give it a whirl. The synopsis of the book, which I’ve pasted below, sums it up perfectly and won’t spoil it. It’s one of the better mystery / suspense novels I’ve ever read. The main character struggles with drinking much like “Girl on the Train” and that redundant struggle of “Okay, today I”m not going to drink until 5PM,” or “No drinking today, period,” can be maddening. Oh, the grip alcohol has on people. Sugar is the devil, man.


    Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

    Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

    What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

     
    The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks (Fiction / Suspense?)– Unlike “Woman in the Window,” the synopsis of this book does it a disservice. The book-flap bills as some sort of suspense, so I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. And while there are some surprises throughout, I think it is mistyped. It is, however, wonderfully written and a great snapshot of how people treat each other when they’re hurting and angry. In this case the three main people are a divorced couple and the woman who came between them. Some people apparently *do* find it suspenseful. But my going into it thinking that it was some sort of big mystery like the “Woman in the Window” kind of spoiled that for me. In fact, I think I read the review in the same article as WitW as a roundup of hot mysteries or some such. I wish I’d cleansed my palate between the last book and this one with a history or comedy or hadn’t read the synopsis. Alas, I did not. Again, it’s wonderfully written prose with fully fleshed out, complex characters which makes it well worth the read.
     
    Team of Rivals : The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Non-Fiction) Highly recommended by my friend Eileen Moushey and others. A great book about Lincoln’s genius in appointing his rivals for the Republication nomination of 1860 (William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates) and later Edwin M. Stanton as Secretary of War. This book is like a mini-biography of all five men and includes a human perspective behind all the political drama.
     
    1776 (Non-Fiction) – It actually covers the time including some of 1775 and 1777. It’s not all encompassing about the Revolutionary War or the Declaration of Independence. Rather it’s a very detailed account of the conditions, the strategies, the battles during this specific time period. General Washington is definitely a lot more flawed and inexperienced than I had ever known about before this read. I enjoyed the British perspective and General Howe and his redcoats. I also learned more about General Nathaniel Green and Henry Knox both of whom, for whatever reason, have not really factored in to any of my prior reads. How is that? Strange. And, hot damn, now I need to read an entire book about the crossing of the Delaware.
     
    The Cyanide Canary: A True Story of Injustice by Robert Dugoni – (True Crime / Non-Fiction) – Based on true events in the mid-90s that resulted in a 20 yr old kid being exposed to toxic levels of cyanide. These were the early days of the Environmental Protection Agency and a time when I was an AVP of a bank and collecting large sums of money owed from commercial debtors, many of whom were complaining about the new EPA laws destroying their livelihoods. It’s really a long case study, look-see into the investigation that spanned many years and the trial of a “white collar” criminal. As many trials go, there is some repetition with testimony, etc.  It is well written and engaging so  you’ll get a really great case study and trial recap, the history of the EPA and the push / pull between the EPA and corporations and capitalism in America. 
     
    The Diary of a Young Girlby Anne Frank – I’ve never read this start to finish. Given our current political climate I thought I should. Bless you, Anne.
     
    Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellionsby Gloria Steinem – Essays originally published in ’83 with some updates provided in ’95 when it was reissued. The one main essay that takes up a large chunk of the book is about Steinem’s infamous stint of going “undercover” as a Playboy Bunny in the 60s. I’d known about it, of course, but had never read the essay in full and it’s worthy of a read as is “Ruth’s Song (Because She Could Not Sing It)” about Steinem’s mother. It covered important distinctions between pornography and erotica and, well, the whole thing felt very 2018, sadly.
     
    American Fire: : Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Landby Monica Hesse (Non-fiction / true crime) – An excellent book, especially for the true crime fan.  But it is so well written and engaging and the real-life characters and drama are so compelling, I’d recommend it to anyone. It makes no difference that you, dear reader, are aware of the final outcome from the onset. It is well worth the read. Hesse is a phenomenal writer and has gained a fan in me.
     
    Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fineby Gail Honeyman – (Fiction) – So, so, so good. I fell in love with Eleanor, Raymond and the whole lot. Eleanor is somewhere on the spectrum
    and/or has suffered some sort of childhood trauma and so has difficulties with social interactions. She lives an extraordinarily lonely life until the new I.T. guy Raymond comes along. It’s a lovely read. I found myself sobbing a few times during not particularly sad parts…just from the ache of love I felt for Eleanor and the longing of wanting her to be happy. It’s being turned into a movie which I’ll surely watch, but I’m so, so glad I read the book.
     
    TO READ
    Queued up or on hold at the library in no particular order for APRIL are the books below. Some of these I’ve had on hold for a super long time. Others I just came across as recommended to me because I had read such and such. I like to rotate the genre so that I’m reading something super highbrow and educational, a memoir, mystery or some sort of fiction and, on occasion, a silly comedy or self help book.
     
    My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
    True Stories From an Unreliable Eyewitness by Christine Lahti
    The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
    The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
    Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
    The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
    The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien
    The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
    Washington by Ron Chernow
    Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
    Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Stronger by Jeff Bauman
    Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton
    I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
    Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
    Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor
    The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
     
    #Kambri2018Booklist
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    March 2018 Reading List

    Okay, as I’ve said, I don’t really review books. I rely on the good readers at Goodreads.com and the top Amazon reviews when I am looking for them. Plus, I would never document my reading list if I set out to give a proper review. I’d want to put in more thought and time in crafting a synopsis without spoilers, etc. Caveat out of the way, here are the books I read in March in the order I read them, except for the Andrew Jackson bio which I put at the bottom because it got loooonnnng…

    1) Text Me When You Get Homeby Kayleen Schaefer— This book appealed to me as I’ve been trying to be a better friend post-QED and post-cancer. It’s a mix of memoir and a history of female friendships in pop culture like the movie “Beaches” and TV shows like “Girls”, “Parks & Rec” and the movie “Bridesmaids”.  Since it references lots of shows and comedians I watch or know, I felt like it would be relevant to me and QED. I enjoyed it.

    2) The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunionby Fannie Flagg — This is my 2nd Flagg novel and, man, she can bring some characters to LIFE. Small southern towns and the people who live in them are her specialty, that’s for sure. This was parts family secrets and mystery mixed in with a historical fiction. Flash backs to WWII era included women pilots called WASPS and wing walkers. Fun stuff, especially in the revitalized feminist movement. . Flagg is gay and clearly a feminist, and so I love her well-rounded, nuanced women characters.
     
     
    One thing about the two Flagg books, she crams a LOT in. I felt like the book was winding up and could’ve ended when lo! The main character goes through a lot more. It’s almost *too* much. Like she could drop the last couple of chapters and make a sequel! But it is all satisfying, fun, light, gave me a little introspection on what defines family and how we self-identify. Plus I loved that the main character Sookie has a bit of a re-birth in her later years. As I am decidedly middle-aged, I have wondered what relevance I have left in my chosen field of work. The answer I found is to keep creating as Sookie did, surprising herself with some success as an entrepreneur when she was at least my mother’s age.
     
    3) American LionbyJon Meachamreview at the bottom
     
    4) You Don’t Look Your Age…and Other Fairy Talesby Sheila Nevins– I definitely needed to follow up the Jackson bio with something lighter. Enter this collection of essays, musings, stories by a famed HBO documentarian about herself and others. A couple were take it or leave it and a few others had me sobbing openly in public. Granted, my Tamoxifen chemopill hormone drug was kicking in, but still…

     

    5) The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Lifeby Mark Manson – I really liked this and sell it at QED. As soon as I was done, I put a bookmark reminder to read it again. It could be a companion piece to “Happier…” written Tal Ben-Shahar 10 years ago. Manson talks directly about some of the exact same stuff (“happiness isn’t found on the mountain peak, it’s found in the climb on the way to the top”…that kind of stuff.) It isn’t ground breaking or anything. He said things in ways that resonated to me, and I was in the mood to receive the message, I guess. I understand he might not be for everyone with the cursing and the bragging about banging so many hot chicks but I dug it. One part that I needed to hear was related to commitment as I’ve struggled with my love / hate relationship with New York that teeters on hate most days. From his book:

    There are some experiences that you can have only when you’ve lived in the same place for five years, when you’ve been with the same person for over a decade, when you’ve been working on the same skill or craft for half your lifetime. Now that I’m in my thirties, I can finally recognize that commitment, in its own way, offers a wealth of opportunity and experiences that would otherwise never be available to me, no matter where I went or what I did.

    I could not have built QED if not for the fact that I had devoted 14 years of my life to this city and, even more specifically, staying in Queens. Now I’m 18 years into my commitment. While NYC and I need couples therapy on days where the weather is awful and my makeup falls on the bathroom floor because we don’t have a counter (WHO DOESN’T HAVE A COUNTER IN THEIR BATHROOM? A NEW YORKER!), we are in it now for the long-haul. Starting over doesn’t feel reasonable or even fun, really, after the initial shine of discovering new places wears off. Hell, I can have that shine by exploring parts of NYC itself or traveling. So, NYC, in the words of Huey Lewis & The News, I guess “I’m happy to be stuck with you.”
     
     
    6) I’ll Be Gone in the Darkby Michelle McNamara— Michelle was a true crime writer and Patton Oswalt’s late wife. He urged her researchers to help finish the book she was working on when she suddenly passed. I love a good mystery and true crime and strangely this very prolific serial rapist turned serial killer monster man has somehow not been big news over the decades. Michelle sought to correct that and dubbed him the Golden State Killer. It doesn’t have the satisfaction of discovery at the end…this is and will likely remain an unsolved case unless all the DNA Facebook identity 1984-ish data collection flushes him out. Some of the facts and cases all start to boggle the mind and run together, but it’s captivating and worth a read if you are a true crime fan.
     
    7) Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates UsbyDaniel H. Pink— Geared towards corporate or entrepreneurial-type readers on what drives us and employees. Most everything I learned was in the synopsis:
    … the three elements of true motivation:
    *Autonomy—the desire to direct our own lives
    *Mastery—the urge to get better and better at something that matters
    *Purpose—the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves
     
    More importantly, I was reminded that happiness is owning and working at QED. Thank the gods I will never have a round table conference call about Y2K or some other dumb shit.8) Future Home of the Living GodbyLouise Erdrich– A dystopian novel that was so gorgeous and frightening and memorable –think The Handmaid’s Tale without the rape but with all the forfeiting of control over our reproductive rights– but the ending was so abrupt and unfulfilling. I think I would read it anyway knowing that going in, but dang it bummed me out to see the last page. I flipped back and forth wondering if I’d skipped something by mistake. I didn’t. :-/
     
    9) Book That Shall Remain Unnamed by Hardcore religious zealot who would love women to stay in the kitchen — It was the only thing available at the library so figured what the heck. It’s geared towards entrepreneurs who haven’t yet started their business. A 30-day plan that, honestly saying as someone who dreamed up and created QED from scratch from the logo, website, etc., is not very realistic. He’s a start-up consultant, though, so my guess is this is just a giant commercial for his start-up consulting business. It’s very quick and I skimmed through a lot since it didn’t pertain to me (like how to build a following and brand before launch). He made some references to God but not so much that it was distracting or took away from the work that one puts in to starting a business.
     
    One thing I got from it was about making a very strong effort to control my mornings so that my day can fall in line, too. I agreed so much with this and that’s what made my radiation treatment so challenging. It pushed the limits on my time and mornings were so hectic and stressful with Mom being here in my only private, quiet space while trying to manage the house, QED, dogs and life. But then I made the mistake of looking him up to properly quote him about the mornings. He’s a crazy conservative bible thumper who is anti-woman and hawking ridiculous views on everything from Halloween, how women should dress and child care.  
     
    5) American Lion by Jon Meacham – After reading, I found out it’s being turned into an HBO miniseries. I definitely will watch it. HBO’s “John Adams” series was remarkable. I’ve watched it three times, once with the little historical pop-ups on the special features (we own the DVD box set). You should watch it if you haven’t.Okay, the book… I started this one then stopped mid-way through the 2nd chapter because, man, there was a LOT going on. I wanted to table it until I could really absorb it. His childhood and family was wrought with drama.  I did learn about the Nullification Crisis and how Jackson helped keep the Union together, stalling the Civil War by some 30 yrs. But I feel like there’s a better biography that would cover his life as well as his presidency.Jackson’s campaigns and presidential terms were shrouded by mudslinging and a dumb fucking scandal dubbed the Petticoat Affair. It made me hate his niece Emily Donelson (wife to his nephew / aide, Andrew Donelson) as she was behind the ostracizing of Secretary of War John Eaton and his wife Peggy O’Neal. It was all so disgusting and DRAWN out the book felt like the last 30 years of The goddamned Young and the Restless. The scandal actually resulted in Jackson basically getting rid of almost his entire cabinet. Wow. This and other things were Trump-like, so I’m left feeling exhausted.I think I want to study American History like, forreal. Or, I don’t know…learn more than just from reading these biographies. I can’t get enough but I also might be having a mid-life, post-cancer, existential crisis. History repeating itself is embarrassing and baffling. I feel impotent in America’s rapidly downward spiral. Boy. Maybe I should lay off the historical biographies for a bit until Trump is impeached.

    I transcribed a few passages from this book that I want to keep with me for a bit longer. One, re: Henry Clay, who lost to Jackson during his reelection:

    “Believing himself smarter and sounder than Jackson, Clay suffered from a terrible case of over-confidence. ‘The campaign is over and I think we have won the victory,’ Clay said privately on Saturday, July 31, 1832.His certitude kept him from seeing and thus combatting the roots of Jackson’s appeal. He thought Jackson a bullying despot and could not fathom apparently why anyone other than the mindless Jackson partisans might see things differently.”God, does this sound familiar. Random fact I discovered while simultaneously doing some ancestry research: Henry Clay’s son Theodore was institutionalized in the same insane asylum in as my mom’s great uncle and a whole bunch of bodies are buried there. So, that’s gonna be a fun mystery to dig up. Heh.
     
    TO READ
    Queued up or on hold at the library in no particular order for APRIL are the books below. Some of these I’ve had on hold for a super long time. Others I just came across as recommended to me because I had read such and such. I like to rotate the genre so that I’m reading something super highbrow and educational, a memoir, mystery or some sort of fiction and, on occasion, a silly comedy or self help book.
    Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg
    The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
    The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
    The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
    Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
    The Cyanide Canary by Robert Dugoni
    The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
    The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
    The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien
    The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
    Washington by Ron Chernow
    Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
    Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Stronger by Jeff Bauman
    Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton
    I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
    Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
    Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor
    The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
     
    #Kambri2018Booklist
  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing

    February 2018 Reading List

    My February Booklist is complete with eight books!

    Click here to read my January Reading List

    I’m not really good at quickly reviewing books. I enjoy and trust Amazon and GoodReads.com reviews for that. This is really more for myself. And with that, FEBRUARY books listed in the order that I read them.
     
    1) A Beautiful, Terrible Thing by Jen Waite (Memoir) – I heard about this book via The Astoria Bookshopand a local bookclub who needed a space to meet and FaceTime with the author. They used QED for the meeting so I overheard a lot of the discussion and was intrigued. The events are set in Portland, ME and Astoria, NY –the author and her now ex-husband opened a restaurant near my apartment that I’ve eaten at, in fact. So it felt a little gossipy and salacious to hear about how she found out he was cheating on her just a few weeks after she gave birth, but not overly so. I enjoyed it and was fascinated by the psychopath / sociopath exploration since I’m pretty sure My Jailed Deaf Dad is one or the other or some combination. It was a quick and easy read which I finished in one day.
     
    2) White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg (Non-Fiction) – Not so quick and easy at almost 500 pages of dense history, I felt like I was trudging through it a few times. But it’s an interesting exploration of race and class in the USA. Toward the end as the author approached modern times, I felt like it rushed over things. Given today’s #BLM movement* and the issues of race and class disparity being at the forefront lately, it’s worth a read even if it’s a bit heavy.
     
    3) I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman (ESSAY COLLECTION) and Wallflower at the Orgy, (ARTICLE COLLECTION) by Nora Ephron – I got on a Nora Ephron kick. She’s funny and inspiring and both books are arranged in bite-sized chunks so they’re easy to pick up. For this reason, I read the former title for a 2nd time. The latter was a collection of articles and interviews she’d published some decades earlier but I found them to be very interesting and not dated at all, particularly the Mike Nichols interview which I later looked up to transcribe and share with my husband. I followed up the books by watching the HBO documentary Everything is Copy and Ephron’s 1996 commencement speech at Wellesley College. It’s particularly relevant and timely with the #MeToo movement.*  Please watch it.
     
    4) Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist (Self Help) – I’m not sure how this got on my list–I think it was recommended by my library app because of another book. It was the only thing available at the library on my wishlist when I finished my Ephron binge, so I figured what the heck. It’s self-help with some god stuff thrown in. It’s not too heavy on the religion so I kept with it and felt like I got something out of it. It is as the title suggests about being present in the moment and not sweating over being perfect with Pinterest or Insta-worthy homes, clothes, moments…just be. It’s repetitive the way a lot of self help books are which makes it a fast read. The author has a lake house, speaking gigs that take her around the country (world?) and a jet setter life, so I’m guessing the average person won’t be able to relate to some of her examples. For me, her family seems really close and lovely which really made me sad since I definitely don’t have that and never will. But I treated it like a seminar that I was signed up for by my bank: as long as I leave having learned one thing it will be worth it. And it was.
     
    5) Kingdom Come by Jane Jensen (Fiction – Mystery) – I’ve been getting back into mysteries in the last few years and have started to venture out to other authors. This one was recommended by my library. It was set in Amish country in rural PA. I used to live near and visit the area a lot back in Ohio, so the bucolic setting and familiar characters had me hooked right away. The romance was a little icky/schmaltzy but not a big part of the overall story so I was still interested and thought it was decent enough to read her follow up.
     
    6) In the Land of Milk and Honey by Jane Jensen (Fiction – Mystery) – By the same author as #5. Also set in Amish country and, I dunno, I’m glad I read both but I probably won’t read more of her stuff. Again she inserted a romance that was awkward and, in this case, completely unbelievable (Briefly: As a detective works on a mass murder serial killer case, some guy on the case that she doesn’t even know puts pressure on her to ditch her main squeeze and run away with him. What?! So bizarre and uncomfortable.) Also, she uses metaphors like “shaking like a leaf on a tree” and “floating like shit in a toilet” (not joking) and so I think I’m done with this series.
     
    7) I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (Memoir) – A classic for a reason. Don’t know why I never read before now. Really glad I did. It sure made me uncomfortable at times, for the right reasons.
     
    8) Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (Historical Fiction) – Set in Brooklyn during WWII, it follows a Rosie the Riveter type with a little bit of a mystery thrown in. I loved it.
    *Hmmm…sensing a trend here that everything old is new again. Sigh.

    TO READ
    Queued up or on hold at the library in no particular order for MARCH are the books below. Some of these I’ve had on hold for a super long time. Others I just came across as recommended to me because I had read such and such. I like to rotate the genre so that I’m reading something super highbrow and educational, a memoir, mystery or some sort of fiction and, on occasion, a silly comedy or self help book.

    The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

    The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
    American Lion by Jon Meacham
    The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
    The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
    The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks
    Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
    The Cyanide Canary by Robert Dugoni
    Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
    The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
    The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
    The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien
    The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
    Washington by Ron Chernow
    Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow
    Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man by Bill Clegg
    Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Stronger by Jeff Bauman
    Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton
    I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
    Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
    Signs of Life by Natalie Taylor
    You Don’t Look Your Age by Sheila Nevins
    The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
     
    #Kambri2018Booklist
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    January 2018 Reading List

    Now that Mom is gone and radiation is done, I’m back to my books! Oh, books, how I’ve missed thee!

    As a treat for myself, –’cause I love to organize my books, ya know– I’m going to try to chronicle my books for 2018. If I do it, then maybe I can piece together my 2017 reading list from my library history.

    My January Booklist is in the bag with six great books that gave me pleasure and/or inspiration. They were:

    1) Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the Endby Atul Gawande (NON-FICTION) – Started this in December but then my loan expired and I had to get on the waitlist for it. Grr. A really straightforward discussion about end-of-life care for the elderly and those with terminal illnesses. I’ve told many people over the years about the documentary “How to Die in Oregon” which centers around assisted suicide. It’s a beautiful and moving film. I remain baffled at how Oregon remains the only US state with legal assisted suicide. Anyway, this book only *briefly* touches on assisted suicide and is all about assisted *living. How can we improve the quality of life for people who are at the end of life? The doctor talks very frankly about death and dying in ways I’ve grown used to during this whole sickness saga. There is no cure-all solution offered. We’re all gonna die eventually so, sometimes rather than following the lead of pharmaceutical and healthcare system to “fight” a disease at all costs (both literal and figurative) for futile cases, families and doctors can learn how to better manage the quality of life with the knowledge that the definition of “quality” is different for each of us. I learned a lot from this, so thanks to whomever here on FB recommended it to me. I can’t remember!

    2) Can’t Wait to Get to Heavenby Fannie Flagg(FICTION) – My sister-in-law posted something about this some time ago. I hadn’t heard of it or Flagg, or so I thought. Duh! That’s the woman who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes! AND she was on Match Game. Get outta town. So I checked it out. It was cute, grabbed my attention right away, and I thought it was gonna get a little preachy when it started talking Bible stuff but, not only did it not, it had some twists and turns that were just…what?! I did NOT see that coming. I enjoyed it (and LOVE Fried Green Tomatoes enough that I put Flagg’s book The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion on hold to enjoy in spring or summer maybe.

    3) The Last Black Unicornby Tiffany Haddish(MEMOIR) – I’d never heard of her before she was on SNL. I actually didn’t see the episode but wondered how I hadn’t heard of her given the pretty big platform of SNL. I should get with the program. So when I saw her book while browsing my library app, I snagged it. Oh my god, she is *ridiculous* and I loved it. Jaw dropping, head shaking and guffawing mixed with some “Mmm hmmm!” and “Preach it!” Holy smokes she had it rough growing up, too. So throw in a few “Bless your hearts”. I’m also gonna grab a copy or two to sell at QED. Funny, honest and bold.

    4) Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham(NON-FICTION) – Only two chapters in and I’m already, “What the heck are you doing with your life?!” ETA: Sigh. I love him. I found myself getting choked up as the end neared and then full on sobbed after his death, his funeral, etc. What an incredibly brilliant and beautiful man. Ahhh, why did he have to be a slave owner and have children with one of his slaves? Fuck. I spent time afterward, reading up on his views on religion and his book, “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” (a book literally ripped from the pages of the Bible. All the good stuff that Jesus taught minus all the myth and magic) and found out it’s currently on display at the Smithsonian until mid-June. I hope to see it before it’s put away again.

    5)Happierby Tal Ben-Shahar (SELF HELP) – a slim little gem recommended by my friend Lauren that I finished in a jiffy. I am going to go through it again, this time doing the little exercises throughout. I generally already know or subscribe to many of his concepts, but it was nice to hear them again. Especially now after my cancer bout has me feeling down and asking the Universe, “What is the point?” I just looked it up to confirm his name and see that it was published in 2007 and there is now a book of his called Even Happier. Maybe I’ll check that out instead of re-reading this one.
     

    6) Stinker Lets Loose!by Mike Sacks (FICTION / HUMOR) – The concept — the novelization of a long lost 70s trucker genre comedy film– is comedy gold and goddamned brilliant. It captures that weird window of time when movies like Smoky and the Banditand Every Which Way but Loosewere big hits. It’s so unpoliticially correct and delightfully ridiculous. I’m jealous I didn’t think of this and am so excited to see all the buzz Mike is getting via the live reads and such. It’s absurd and smart all at once and has so many tiny, perfect, rich details that reading it is like mining for comedy diamonds.

    #Kambri2018Booklist
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    North Platte’s Town Hall Event

    Big thanks to the folks of North Platte, Nebraska for inviting me to speak at their Town Hall Lecture Series. Past speakers have included some very big names including my inspiration, the lovely Jeannette Walls, author of THE GLASS CASTLE.

    My sister-in-law drove all the way from Missouri to meet up and brought my nieces along for the trip. It was great learning how to loom rubber band bracelets, teaching them how to make things with Bucky Balls, touring Buffalo Bill’s ranch and, generally, just seeing their pretty faces. The girls were mostly happy about my hotel pool and seeing their cousins while I’m pretty stoked about my bull horn turned beer bong necklace.

    BUT…the reason I was in town was to give a speech about my life turned memoir and what BURN DOWN THE GROUND means in the literal and figurative sense. There were about 400 people in the lovely Neville Center, including students from the special high school for “troubled” kids. I had no idea they were going to be there but was overjoyed when I found out they were. I hope my story and message about choices and reinvention resonated with at least ONE of them.

    Huge thanks to Keppler Speakers and the amazing ladies of North Platte. Who knows if our paths will ever cross again but I will carry the experience with me forever and always.

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  Deaf Culture & ASL,  Uncategorized

    Deaf Book Club Skype Call

    Rock House LibraryI’m at the Rock House and had a Skype call with a book club in Minnesota comprised of deaf women and mental health professionals working in the Deaf community. The whole thing took place in ASL.

    Man, I love technology and so wish this convenience had been around for my parents and grandparents. How wonderful to simply click a button on my laptop and be visually connected with no need for a special service or interpreter.

    We had a nice chat about my book, family, the Deaf community, and mental health issues before signing off so I could make a trip to the dump and walk with Griswold around the lake.

    While they’re busy reading books to help them in their important (thankless?) careers as therapists and DV counselors, I’m busy reading, too. I read THE BEDWETTER by Sarah Silverman (enjoyed it) and just finished Tina Fey‘s BOSSYPANTS (really enjoyed it). Tonight I’m starting Sara Barron‘s latest book THE HARM IN ASKING then it’s GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR by Rachel Dratch.

    I’m highbrow, what can I say?

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  Mentoring

    It’s GREAT!

    My super talented, sweet, funny and dynamo friend and fellow memoirist Sara Benincasa is now a YA author with the publication of GREAT, a contemporary retelling of THE GREAT GATSBY. I was so excited not only to see her back in NYC but to introduce my protege Jeaniah to Sara and a few other friends at the book launch party. Sara read from her novel then signed books as the crowd chit-chatted and ate cake that was designed to look like her book. Clever and yummy and a lovely night.

    My friends are all comedians, actors, writers and artists so they’re not stiff grown ups and immediately treated Jeaniah like a long lost friend. Here’s the conversation we had as we walked away from the party:

    Me: My friends are fun, right?
    J: Yeah and funny! I like being part of the conversation.
    Me: Yeah, nothing beats a good conversation with friends.
    J: I like how the conversation keeps going…like, I make a comment and then they make one and that makes you think of one and then I comment and it goes on and on.

    Thanks to my awesome friends for having a lot to say & being so funny and charming while they do it. She really enjoyed meeting you all & we got some good advice about the upcoming state math tests.

    And, of course, huge congratulations and continued success to Sara who has more books & TV show pilots coming down the pike than I can shake a stick at.

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  Family & Life,  Random

    Make Life Happen

    Don’t ya just love when the Universe sends a clear message? I’ve been pretty lazy about a few projects and haven’t been able (wanted?) to focus on them even though they get me excited simply talking about them. These horses have got legs, some of them are even saddled up, I’m just not hopping on and taking the reins for whatever reason(s).

    Then I got an email from a reader asking me if it was okay for her to use a line from my memoir as a tattoo (see pic). I’ve shared part of that email below with her permission:

    I wrote to you about a year ago after I read your book for the second time. I had told you about a passage in your book that struck me.

    “Events in my life just seemed to happen to me. Now, however, I wanted to make life happen.”

    You responded telling me about how you made lists and started making things work for you, having the universe respond. And again…it struck me.

    I have that passage written down and look at it daily. It’s on the wall at work. It’s a note in my phone. I even have it written on a post it note I keep in my wallet just in case I need that reminder. I have held that phrase, that power, with me since I first read it.

    … It’s become the way I try to live my life and it’s something I want to carry with me, literally, forever…

    In any sense, I appreciate your words and your kindness and I genuinely appreciate you for helping me to change my life.

    How nice, right? I replied to her that, of course, she could use the line. Her email came at the perfect time to remind me that I have to hop on the saddle and take the reins.

    She inspired me to live by my own words:

    Make life happen.

    ~Kambri
    Giddy up!

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  Deaf Culture & ASL

    To Read & Watch

    I’ve had the book Far From the Tree on my wish list since it was published late last year. His inclusion of deafness and Deaf culture sparked my interest. In his book, “Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so.

    Solomon’s startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter.”

    He spent a decade on this project and that intensive research is reflected in the book’s length, a whopping 976 pages. That’s partly why I haven’t read it yet, as I have a full Kindle & bookshelf. But after watching Mr. Solomon’s incredible Ted Talk, Far From the Tree is now next on my reading list. Watch his speech here:

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    Fall Dates

    I’ve had a whirlwind tour for my book Burn Down the Ground. My last out-of-state event in Cleveland for the regional conference of the National Black Deaf Advocates was amazing, but I’m happy to take all of August off to recharge. Dates booked for this fall are below and details are on my calendar. If you want me at your event or store –especially if it coordinates with dates already booked below– email me at kambricrews@Gmail.com

    September
    17 – NYC for Bare! at the PIT
    19 – NYC for That’s What She Said at Public Assembly
    26 – NYC for the How I Learned series at Happy Ending Lounge

    October
    13  – Portland, OR – Wordstock Book Festival
    13 – Cannon Beach, OR – Cannon Beach Library
    18 – Winstead, CT – North Connecticut Community College (Free & ASL interpreted)
    20 – Cincinnati, OH – Books by the Bank Book Festival
    23 – Lansing, MI – Schuler Books
    24 & 25 – Grand Rapids, MI – Grand Rapids Community College (Free & ASL interpreted)
    27 – Texas Book Festival (Free & ASL interpreted)
    29 – Montgomery, TX – Montgomery Middle School
    30 – Conroe, TX – Hauke Alternative School

    November
    1 – Austin, TX – Book Woman book store (Free & ASL interpreted)
    7 – Washington, DC – Bare! at Black Fox Lounge
    10 – Madison, WI – Wisconsin Book Festival
    14 – New York, NY – Administration for Children’s Services

    January 2013
    17 – 20 – Jefferson, TX – Girlfriend Weekend – Pulpwood Queens Book Club

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    Happy Birthday to My Book!

    Happy birthday to my book!
    Happy birthday to my book!
    Happy birthday dear Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir!
    Happy birthday to my book!

    After a long gestation process, I’m happy to announce the birth of my book Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir. The reviews are in and they’re raves!

    Easy purchase links: WalMartTargetAmazonBarnes & NobleiTunesIndie Bound and on KambriCrews.com

    “Poignant and unsettling.” —Kirkus Reviews

    “Crews’ story has heartbreaking depth and complexity...this is a rich read.” —Library Journal

    A compelling testament to the strength of the human spirit.”—Booklist

    “Harrowing . . . A remarkable odyssey of scorched earth, collateral damage, and survival.” —Publishers Weekly

     “Crews’ account (the title refers to lighting brush on fire to clear out snakes) is as well-paced and stirring as a novel. In her fluid narrative (she’s also a storyteller on the side, a gig that helped her develop this book), Crews neither wallows in self-pity nor plays for cheap black-comedic yuks. Instead, this book stands out for what matters most: Crews’ story, bluntly told.” —Elle magazine

    ABOUT THE BOOK

    For fans of Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, an unflinching, emotional memoir by the hearing daughter of two deaf parents, about the rampant dysfunction of her rural Texas childhood and the searing violence that left her father serving a twenty-year prison sentence.

    Successful New York producer and publicist Kambri Crews always knew that her childhood was unusual– she spent much of it in a tin shack deep with her family in the woods of Texas. But when, in her early 30s, her charismatic and adored father is sentenced to twenty years in prison for stabbing and nearly killing his girlfriend, she must confront for the first time his violent, destructive behavior. In her brutally honest, completely captivating memoir, Crews struggles to forge a relationship with her incarcerated father and revisits her unconventional family and the long road she took to her current life

    Read a FREE excerpt  * Read reviews & blurbs  * View pictures of the tin shed

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  Deaf Culture & ASL,  Family & Life,  PR & Marketing,  Writing

    I Read it for the Articles, I Swear!

    Y’all. Mom found my Penthouse magazine while searching my office for paper!

    I flew Mom up to New York City so she could attend my book launch party. Not just any book…my first book. A memoir, you know, about my whole life. And the publishing process took four years. Having a publication date is a monumental event –much like a wedding or a birth– and I couldn’t NOT have Mom here to celebrate. It’s her life, too. Plus, I had a fun idea for her and I to perform a little something at my party*. It would make the event even more special for her and my guests.

    Mom arrived and we had a few days of tromping around New York City and rehearsing our surprise treat. I was also dragging her around Manhattan on not-so-fun errands in rainy weather with her achy knee and my split jeans. In the book, I divulged many things that Mom would probably prefer to keep in the closet with the other dusty skeletons. The time for her to accept that our laundry was about to be aired and for me to unleash my life to anonymous reviewers was drawing near.

    Shit was getting real. Mad real.Penthouse

    To distract us and work on something that had zilch to do with book stuff, I suggested she and I work on our new Ancestry.com project. Her face said it all: “GREAT IDEA!”

    She leapt up and said, “I’ll grab some paper.”

    Quicker than a wink, she was at my office printer.

    My printer.

    PRECISELY WHERE I’D HIDDEN MY PENTHOUSE! I thought that had been the perfect spot for it, but lo how wrong I was.

    “Why did I have a Penthouse?” you ask.

    For the articles, of course. Duh. Seriously! I swear! Well, one article in particular: a review for my book. It was a good review, too.

    So, why hide it then? Well, I know my mom better than most people and I knew –could lay my life on it– that she would take offense to it. Not because of the vaginas, boobs, penises and balls, silly, but because of the very first line:

    “Kambri Crews grew up dirt poor…”

    Whether you agree or disagree with that sentence, makes no difference. Mom disagrees with it and vehemently so. It’s one of those things that really gets under her skin in a hot second. It’s a pride thing. The same way I fight tooth and nail over small injustices. Justice is my thing. Pride is hers. SO…anyway…

    In the mere seconds it took her to fly off the couch into my office heading straight for the offending material, two choices flashed through my mind:

    Me & Mom

    1) Let Mom think I had a girly magazine hidden in my office and was possibly a closeted lesbian; or

    2) Show Mom the review and face the ensuing argument.

    I can’t have Mom thinking I like looking at nekkid girls! EEEEEWWW! So, I swallowed my fear and said, “Oh, hey, my Penthouse…did you see the review?”

    Instant relief swept across her face. I cringe and laugh out loud thinking of what must’ve gone through her mind in those brief moments.

    As predicted, she was offended. We hashed it out: There are finite lines in a girly magazine; ya gotta have a strong lede. We were poor to some people and had it good compared to others…it depends on perspective. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

    At the end of the day, I wrote a book. It got reviewed in a major magazine. It was lauded. Let’s celebrate! And, boy, did we ever! We raised our glasses and laughed and hugged and smiled till our faces hurt.

    We’re done keeping secrets, she and I. If there’s anything writing a memoir taught me it is this:  While it might hurt to bare the truth, secrets will make you sick. They will corrode your love and trust until all that’s left is a rusty heap of worthless scrap.

    So, what did Mom think of the book? Don’t ask me, read her interview in Time Out New York!

    *Here’s the fun idea I had for my book party. Enjoy!

  • All Blog Entries,  Books & Publishing,  Family & Life,  NYC

    NYC: If You Can Make it Here…

    Gift Bags

    A colossally badday in NYC!

    I was walking around in the rain, carrying two heavy bags filled paper sacks (in the rain!) that are meant for my book launch party. I was hangry, cold yet sweaty from wearing an overcoat while slogging through the sloppy streets, futilely trying to use an umbrella, but can’t go any faster because my mom is trailing behind me with her bum knee. I hang up a call that was  frustrating PR news, and that’s when Mom calls from behind me:

    “Kambri? I think your jeans are split.”

    OF COURSE THEY ARE!

    And now there’s a giant hole near my ass, the day can screw me a little easier now!

    “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere…”

    So the song goes. People assume this line is true because of the cut-throat competition, the hordes of talent that live and work in this town. I think it’s much simpler than that. If you’re not wealthy, day-to-day life in NYC can be tough and unrelenting. It’s days just like today that make many a newbie throw up their hands and say, “I quit! You win New York! You win you filthy, filthy whore.”

    If one can suck it up and stickit out, one can be rewarded with the best the City has to offer. Then after a few years, if one chooses to leave, the world is a much simpler place to navigate and dominate. A world in which you own a car and have a place to park it and a dishwasher and laundry facilities inside your very own home. Like the Jetsons! Can you imagine?

    This city can be like an abusive boyfriend. Every now and then it beats you up, but then it loves you harder and better than before as if to say, “I’m sorry. Truly. Don’t leave me…see, look how amazing I can be?”

    In my case, it was having my book published by Random House, throwing an amazing party with free (paper) gift bags filled with free goodies, free Lone Star Beer, bonafide celebrities blurbing my book and at my event to help celebrate. By the end of the night, I’d forgotten about the beating NYC had given me and decided to give it one more chance.

    Mom & Me Songs in ASLMomMe, Lisa Lampanelli & MomMom & Her iPhoneMom & My BookKambriKambri Bob, Me, Christian & MomCake WreckSonya, Me & RyanME!The BookChristianPerformingBright Sunshiney DayBright Sunshiney DayGone!Stop!Me, Lisa Lampanelli & MomSonya, Me & RyanGift Bags

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    Publishers Weekly Profile

    I received another amazing review for BURN DOWN THE GROUND from Publishers Weekly in which they describe it as “a remarkable odyssey of scorched earth, collateral damage, and survival.” They also called it a “harrowing memoir” and an “extraordinary story” and said I “face the truth with an unflinching eye.” Whoa. (Click here to read in full.)

    Publishers Weekly Profile

    Can someone show me how to sew words into a quilt? I need to wrap myself up in these for when I’m down on myself. Alternately, if there’s a recipe that melts words into a silicone penis that I could make sweet love to, that’d be swell, too.

    My friend Rachel said Stephen King doesn’t even get this much ink. I said I hope Mr. King reads it and is like, “Who the fu*k is Kambri Crews & why is she getting more ink than me?!” Then he’ll read my book, share it with his movie producing buddies, take me under his wing and host dinner parties with me as his special guest at his place in Maine where he lets me use his guest room and stay as long as I want because we have become as close as mentors/proteges can be without any hanky panky.

    THOUGHTS BECOME THINGS!

    Meanwhile, if you’re on GoodReads.com, my publisher is hosting a giveaway. It’s free & simple to enter.

    And here’s a link to the original review from Publishers Weekly published a couple of weeks ago.

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    My First Raffle

    I’m trying out Rafflecopter (a site in beta testing that organizes free giveaways) and just whipped this one together. Enter to win, if you like. Or not. I’m just happy I got the flipping thing to actually load! Scroll down & enter to win!

    And, you can still receive a bookplate scribbled by yours truly by sending me your proof of purchase receipt for pre-ordering BURN DOWN THE GROUND. Click here for details on that.

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    A Q&A with Jason Buhrmester

    As a teen, Jason Buhrmester created skateboard and punk rock zines with names like “Slappy” and “Mullethead Illustrated” as a way of escaping the confines of his small hometown in rustbelt Illinois. Today, the journalist, editor and novelist is adding screenwriter to his resume by transforming his book “Black Dogs: The Possibly True Story of Classic Rock’s Greatest Robbery” into a film. It’s a fictionalized account of a real life robbery in which Led Zeppelin lost $203,000 in cash while on tour in 1973, just a month after Buhrmester was born.


    Your hometown of Kankakee, Illinois was rated the worst place to live by “The Places Rated Almanac”. Was it really that bad?
    I hated it the minute I was born. You couldn’t keep me there. If I could get to the train or get hold of a car –even illegally– I was going. I actually drove to Chicago at fourteen in a friend’s brother’s car. I felt like I was meant to born somewhere else. I never bought yearbook, went to prom, or joined a club. I thought, “Why make friends? You’re leaving here and never coming back. Don’t even bother meeting these people.”

    How did growing up in such an awful town influence you?
    I wanted to be connected to something outside of Kankakee. I had friends in Chicago who were into the same kind of punk rock music that I was. So every weekend I was there skateboarding, going to shows, and meeting girls.

    But I was a high school kid and there were times I had to be home. I think that’s what influenced my desire to get into journalism. I would buy mail order records from small punk rock bands. They would send it to me with a note and I’d write them back.  I was interviewing bands from the time I was 16 or 17. There was no publicist–it was me going up to them and asking if I could get an interview. I would write scene reports and record reviews for punk rock magazines and they’d send me the magazines. I was isolated but there were other people out there and I could reach them somehow.

    Why did you gravitate toward writing instead of forming your own band?
    It was really all I had to offer. I couldn’t draw. I could play guitar a little bit but there was no one in my town to form a band with and no one that was into the stuff I was. What could I do?  The only thing I had that I had any sort of natural ability was writing.

    You were a successful editor of Inked Magazine, so why quit to write a book?
    I remember being at a dinner and a guy said, “I just wrote a novel and it was optioned for a movie.” I was so angry with myself. Why hadn’t I done that? This guy was my age! I have connections, and I work with publicists and publishers. I wasted so much time playing fucking video games! It was like someone had beaten me to discovering America. I quit my job maybe three months after that and started writing. I was that pissed off about it.

    Did you have a movie in mind then?
    Not really. I thought it would be fun to see what would happen. Even if it just sits in a drawer, I wrote a book. I wanted to see if I could finish it. I knew the idea was at least good, so why not?

    Did it get lonely after working in buzzing magazine offices for so long?
    I only have hobbies that seem to isolate me. I love playing guitar by myself. I love boxing; I can do that by myself. I love skateboarding; I do that by myself. I have no coach. There’s no team; there’s no uniform. Either I do it or I don’t do it. I think all my pursuits in life involve me sitting alone, so I don’t have to listen to somebody else. And when I’m writing, I’m sitting alone.

    How does your wife feel about that?
    She’s used to it–and she’s into her own things. We’re one of those couples who can be in two separate rooms of the apartment for a day and not talk. She’s used to the ebb and flow where I’ll be really panicked and work seven days a week and cancel any plans. You guys go have fun and have a picnic in the park. I’ll be at home trying the best I can. Then there’ll be a week where I finally crack and get cabin fever and am just going out drinking every night and not even looking at a computer.

    Writing the book must have been a true labor of love. How did you make the switch from journalist and editor to fiction writer?
    Several literary agents told me I had a great idea, but nobody would represent me until the book was finished. I guess the book companies learned if somebody gets a check based on an idea, they just fucking disappear. So it became my job to make enough money so I could focus on finishing it. I had the idea but didn’t have the time, so I switched to freelance writing. I’d save enough money so I didn’t have to worry about paying rent for three months. For two months I did nothing but work on my book. That was my 9 to 5 job. I’d get up, sit at the desk and try to write something.  When my bank account started going down again, I’d go out and hustle for freelance work and build my savings a bit.

    You must have had a pretty rad book tour?
    If you thought there’s no money in magazines, there is no money in books. Unless you’re a huge author, there is no book tour. In fact, there is no book launch party! The publishers don’t do anything for you. I saved some freelance checks and quickly realized that my meager little budget was bigger than theirs. I fell back on my punk rock DIY roots: “I’ll do this myself.” I did my own publicity, shot a book trailer to post on YouTube, set up readings, threw a launch party, everything. People are pretty receptive especially if you kick at their door.  It’s simple logic like weightlifting. Pick up the weight or don’t.

    The publisher would call me and say, “Hey, the book’s doing really well!” Yeah, because my wife and I were killing ourselves!

    How do you feel about reviews?
    I’ve interviewed a billion musicians and they bitch about the negative reviews but don’t complain abut the good reviews. My logic has always been that you can’t pick and choose. Either reviews have validity totally or they have no validity. Which is it? So I just didn’t care. A good review to me has about the same weight as a negative one which is none.  You just gotta do your thing.

    What if the movie flops?
    I’ll just write something else. I’m like a cockroach; I’ll just keep coming back.


    Kambri

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    Facebook Page

    Happy New Year!

    For those of you on Facebook, there is a page for my upcoming memoir about life with Dad. The page includes the feed for this site, photo albums with never before posted pictures, and videos (only three now, one is not closed captioned {yet}, and the other two have no sound so no CC necessary).

    The page also has details on my upcoming performances or media appearances. So, if you’re on Facebook and are so inclined, you can click on the “Become a Fan” link. By doing so, you can also post your own discussion items, comments, receive direct email updates from me, etc. Here’s the link:

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kambri-Crews/55559482928

    I hope everyone’s 2009 is off to a splendid start!

    Kambri

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    A Brief Book Review: The Lovely Bones

    I read the The Lovely Bones in about 9 hours at the rave recommendations of my pals Scott & Kevin. After reading the plot description, I knew this book was for me:

    On her way home from school on a snowy December day in 1973, 14-year-old Susie Salmon (“like the fish”) is lured into a makeshift underground den in a cornfield and brutally raped and murdered, the latest victim of a serial killer–the man she knew as her neighbor, Mr. Harvey.

    Alice Sebold’s haunting and heartbreaking debut novel, The Lovely Bones, unfolds from heaven, where “life is a perpetual yesterday” and where Susie narrates and keeps watch over her grieving family and friends, as well as her brazen killer and the sad detective working on her case. As Sebold fashions it, everyone has his or her own version of heaven.

    I enjoyed the concept thoroughly, the narration was well written and the characters were drawn beautifully with flaws and anger and rage and sadness after Susie’s death.

    There was a sliver of plot towards the end that made me annoyed and I tried my best to think of how to write about it. I didn’t read any reviews until today and the very first Amazon reviewer did the work for me:

    This novel is not flawless, nor should it expected to be. The narrative loses some of its momentum near the end. In addition, Sebold makes the mistake of adding a scene (which I won’t describe here) seemingly designed to lessen the reader’s regret about Susie’s missed coming-of-age, but instead the scene falls flat.

    But take those short three pages out and it is a really lovely memoir as told from a little girl in heaven and a riveting story of how a family (badly) deals with such a tragic loss of one of their own.

    Kambri
    Next up: The Secret Life of Bees. Also a loaner from Scott.

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    Sep 6, 2002

    So I’m having a very enjoyable after-work dinner at Martini’s and things start getting a bit noisy. Turns out the NFL is having a tailgating celebration right around the corner–literally. Jon Bon Jovi was interrupting my conversation! When I first arrived to dine, it was not busy. That was not the case when I left…what a zoo! You could slice the energy it was so thick. Not a bad alternative to my 1st choice: The Rink Bar & Cafe. Seems the Rink was closed for a private function—the new season of HBO’s “The Soprano’s” was aired at Radio City Music Hall and the after party was held there. Guess I wasn’t invited. Hmmph!

    Today’s overheard phone call was the scheduling of a mammography and sonogram. This was conducted at volume 10 while I’m busy trying to arrange for an urgent purchase and delivery of “Above Hallowed Ground” for the new Police Museum exhibit “Stronger Than Ever”. My rep at Penguin Putnam actually heard it too. That gave us a weird pause.Words of wisdom from today’s train conductor: “Don’t go stickin’ your feet in the doors thinkin’ they’ll automatically open. If you’re the only one on the platform, it means you’re late!” Everyone had a chuckle at hearing that one.

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    Jul 26, 2002

    Look for a six page spread about that book I mentioned back on July 13th in the upcoming September issue of Vanity Fair which hits stands August 6th. Why it’s not the August issue is beyond me. Pretty soon we’ll be getting July issues in April. How annoying. By the time my horoscope is valid, I’ve tossed the issue in the trash. Just how do those publishers think I am going to function in life without my star chart to guide and shape me? Hmmpph! I guess I’ll have to turn to fortune cookies. At least those are edible.

    Last night my boss attended the NYC premiere of Austin Powers in Goldmember. Sadly he had no good dish to share this morning. I’m sorely disappointed. After all, Verne Troyer (“Mini-Me” and noted in my June 14th entry) is Marc’s spokesperson for MicroPets. If I had gone in his place, I’m certain I could have had some MicroTales at the very least.

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