Book reviews: What Made Maddy Run + My Life, My Love, My Legacy

Book reviews: What Made Maddy Run + My Life, My Love, My Legacy

Monday, February 5, 2018

In the last year or so, I've been using the library a lot more because my addiction to Amazon Prime was getting a little out of control. 

Still, I kind of hate not being able to write in the margins. 

I've got two books today which were library finds. One memoir and one biography, both heavy and hard to read at times, but necessary. 


1. What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen, by Kate Fagan

Let me just say from the get go—if you're looking for a feel good story, this is not it. This is the exact opposite in fact. It is an incredibly sad story about one young woman's suicide; it is especially hard to read as a parent. But the purpose of sharing Maddy's story is not to glamorize or profit from her death, but rather to spread awareness about mental health, depression and suicide and the factors that go into why people suffer from those things; as well as to highlight the fact that oftentimes mental illness is treated as something that's not real but rather a weakness of the individual, something that can be willed away through positive thinking. 

This book deals a lot with how social media has the potential to adversely effect us all, but especially young people, through comparison. It also talks about how our culture defines success and how we keep our kids so busy with activities that they don't have time to be bored, think for themselves or figure out what they like, resulting in kids coming of age and having no idea what it is they actually want to do and feeling like a failure because of it. And all of this, again, fueled by social media, where everyone else seems to have it figured out.

A devastating and sobering read, but with important lessons to learn about empathy and connection and for me personally, a reality check concerning social media. Reading this book has definitely given me pause about my own usage, but even more so has made me think about how I want to go about navigating social media with my kids as they get older. 

"Throughout human history, we have soothed ourselves by creating, by mining our brains and our hearts, turning pain into thoughts, thoughts into art. Now we are tethered to a steady hum of the superficial, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to disconnect, to turn inward, away from that buzz. Even our sense of time has shape-shifted, because everything can be accessed instantaneously. It's not hard to see, when viewed through this lens, that carefully considered responses are being replaced by knee-jerk reactions." (p 146)

"One of the trickiest parts of social media is recognizing that everyone is doing the same thing you're doing: presenting their best self. Everyone is now a brand, and all of digital life is a fashion magazine. While it's easy to understand intrinsically that your presence on social media is only one small sliver of your full story, it's more difficult to apply that logic to everyone else. Because you actually lived the full night, not just the two-second snapshot of everyone laughing, arms around shoulders. All you see of other people's nights is an endless string of laughing snapshots, which your brain easily extrapolates to fantastic evenings filled with warmth and love, with good wine and delicious food. Comparing your everyday existence to someone else's highlight reel is dangerous for both of you." (p 140)

2. My Life, My Love, My Legacy, by Coretta Scott King, as told to the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds

I've written a bit about this before, but over the last few years I've become interested in and more aware of issues regarding racial inequality throughout this country's history and have been trying to read more about this issue to better understand it. 

Mrs. King talks about it all—her childhood and upbringing in the deep south during the 1920's and 30's, her drive to become educated despite the obstacles in place for people of color, when she first met Martin Luther King Jr., the raising of their four children largely by herself even when MLK was still alive, the Montgomery Bus Boycott from 1955-56, and the birth of The Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, to name a few things. It is at once deeply personal and also informative about the Civil Rights Movement and challenges that the black community has faced and continue to face. 

I found myself amazed that she and Martin Luther King Jr. and countless other African Americans could undergo such degradation, humiliation and bodily harm and still come away with love on their lips and in their hearts. It is an account of history that is often ugly and uncomfortable, but Mrs. King still manages to be hopeful while pushing for justice. 

"There is a Mrs. King. There is also Coretta. How one became detached from the other remains a mystery to me. Most people who have followed me from afar, or even given me a second thought, know me as Mrs. King: the wife of, the widow of, the mother of, the leader of. Makes me sound like the attachments that come with my vacuum cleaner. In one sense, I don't mind that at all. I'm proud to have been a wife, a single parent, and a leader. But I am more than a label. I am also Coretta." (p 1)

"As exciting as it was to think I could aspire to something beyond cooking and cleaning the house, I absorbed the derogatory examples I saw of how women and blacks were treated, and I wondered how all that could change. I saw white children riding yellow-checkered buses to their school, yet, in all kinds of weather, we black children walked three miles to our one-room schoolhouse and three miles back home. Somehow the driver of the white children would manage to steer the bus so that it kicked dust in our faces or slopped mud on our clothes, to the delight of his passengers, who often cheered as he sped by us." (p 13)

Dream Variation by Langston Hughes

Dream Variation by Langston Hughes

Instagram is the worst (or: I'm often at my worst when on Instagram)

Instagram is the worst (or: I'm often at my worst when on Instagram)