My time in central Massachusetts, experiencing the discourtesy people here call “direct,” has been six years of cultural fatigue. There are things that I love about the area, but the people are consistently prickly. Yes, people can be impolite anywhere and in a surprising variety of ways, but most places I’ve lived and visited, the rudeness has been shocking in part because it happened so infrequently. In Massachusetts, discourteousness is like an element: living here, we swim in rudeness, whether we participate in it or not.
Late in March, my family spent a week in California. From the moment we landed, the difference was obvious. Sure, we lost thirty minutes in the rental car place because the guys working there were inept, but at least they were friendly. Everywhere we went, people smiled, they were cordial, they spoke kindly to one another. I felt little to none of the social anxiety that clings to me in Massachusetts. For the first time in ages, I felt like I could exhale.
Going to San Diego was like jumping from a polluted river into one that ran with fresh, clean water; coming back has been the opposite experience. Just this morning I observed a cashier and her customer openly ridicule another customer for thinking the cashier had given her a friendly look. “She thought since you looked nicely at her that meant it was her turn!” said the first customer, and she and the cashier brayed together as the second customer apologized and got back into line. If the three had been friends, I could understand it as rough but good-natured joshing, but I saw nothing to indicate that these people knew each other.
On the plus side, this kind of interaction makes travel even more appealing. Time to put our passports to work.
Aside from this unpleasant but not unexpected welcome back, March has been wonderful. Not only did I spend a week in a place that felt like home, but I got a lot of reading done, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching my children write and illustrate their own books and stories.
My seven-year-old has moved from filling journals with his stories to typing them out on legal-sized paper on the Smith Corona my dad used in graduate school in the early 1980’s. My son will kneel on a chair at the dining room table, typing for hours and yelling at anyone who tries to interrupt him for something as trivial as dinner or bedtime. All he needs now is a bottle of scotch, an overflowing ashtray, and a fedora.
Something to look forward to: Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon is April 29! I’m especially excited because this time around, a goal of the readathon is to raise money for Room to Read, a non-profit focusing on literacy and girls’ education across Africa and Asia. To learn more about this part of the readathon and to donate, visit the Dewey’s Room to Read campaign page.
Reading through the night won’t be happening for me on April 29, but I plan to clear my schedule at least for the daylight hours. If I take part, I’ll post about it here and on Instagram.
Until my children finish their masterpieces, I’ve had to content myself with what’s already on the shelves. Here’s some of what I finished reading in March:
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (awesome retelling of The Tempest)
The Voices by F.R. Tallis (enjoyable, moderately scary ghost story)
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon (mysterious, reasonably scary, and with the bonus that nearly all of the significant characters are women)
Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (great concept, well-told and creepy, worth reading even though I was disappointed by the ending)
Security by Gina Wohlsdorf (fricking awesome. I keep thinking about this one and what it says about the generational relationship between self-absorbed Baby Boomers, Millennials who’ve inherited the crap the Boomers have left, and the oft-overlooked Gen-Xers who just barely hold it all together. Not sure Wohlsdorf intended this reading, but that’s what I’m getting from the novel.)
The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics (YA, and it shows.)
Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman (an excellent short story padded into a not-so-great novel)
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (scary, not only because of the ghost-story elements but because of how realistically and irrevocably the female characters are trapped by paternalism)
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (the highest-quality, scariest book I’ve read this month. Paver knows how to do symbolism, she knows how to write an unreliable narrator, and she knows how to scare the heck out of the reader by not telling every single little thing.)
The Road to Character by David Brooks (except for a couple of nuts-and-bolts books I’m not listing, this was my only nonfiction this month. I enjoyed it, although it’s expanding my already bloated to-read list.)
My kids are still reading like the wind this month. Except for the bedtime read-alouds their dad does with them, they have no time for people to read to them.
- Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler (audiobook)
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My To-Read List for April:
- Big Brother by Lionel Shriver (SBC April Selection)
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- The Mandibles: A Family, 2029–2047 by Lionel Shriver
- Thin Air by Michelle Paver
What have you enjoyed reading in the past month? What’s on your to-read list for April?