The 3:30 Project is a collaborative blog by three life-long friends: Maggie, Mary Margaret and Jillian. The three of us have all been life-long readers! This week, we wanted to share a book recommendation from a book we’ve enjoyed in our 30th year!
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum
Ever since I graduated from college, I’ve struggled to get myself to read fiction. I have found that there are so many things I’ve needed to learn how to do to be an adult and own a business that I feel like all my reading time must be devoted to figuring out how to adult.
But, earlier this year, I picked up The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to read with my four-year-old daughter. I was doubtful about whether or not she would be into a chapter book with so many words and so few pictures, but I was delighted by how engaged she became in the story! She loved Dorothy, the Scare Crow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man! And I was delighted to read this story. I’ve seen the movie (and the play), but I’d never read the book! It was so fun to see how the original book differed from the movie. Also, it reminded me of what I love about fiction: getting to see imaginary worlds, enjoy a story and learn a lesson about how often we have the things we seek, if only we knew how to use what we have.
So, whether it’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or another story, I’d recommend you revisit a classic from your childhood (or perhaps a classic that you missed!). And…if you can, enjoy the book with a young and enthusiastic reading buddy!
The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
My summer book recommendation is actually a series of 4 novels, translations of works by Italian author, Elena Ferrante, which is actually her pseudonym. To me, these are a perfect series to fall in love with over the summer, since once I met these characters, I enjoyed following their journey through time and age with each successive novel, so happy that I wasn’t done with their story once I put down the first book! I’ve been thinking back frequently on these books right now, since I’m working on a show with two Italian immigrant characters from Naples- a husband and wife living in Brooklyn in 1960 with their three daughters. Their complicated family dynamics have been more deeply illuminated for me having read the novels, giving me a greater understanding of the relationships and the world that these parents come from. These novels are great for readers who enjoy character/relationship-driven writing, who enjoy reading about times and places that are somewhat unknown to them (in this case, southern Italy in the period following WWII) and who especially enjoy reading about the complexities of the female psyche. Ferrante expertly paints complicated and absorbing portraits of women’s relations to their friends, moms, husbands, lovers, children, friends, and enemies, spanning from childhood to old age. Additionally, the translation is far from stilted or awkward, but often feels poetic, much credit given to translator Ann Goldstein. I’m grateful that my roommate lent me this series to fall in love with, and definitely recommend it to you. Once you put down the fourth book, though, I have little advice on how to work through your own Neapolitan novel withdrawal! Hmmm…I guess I’d suggest reading the books Maggie and Jillian recommend!
When the year began I was already pregnant and in the middle of a degree program in Computer Science. So unless you are also pregnant, or also learning Java, I have little to offer in the way of book recommendations.
The one book I’ve been reading this year that has some universal appeal is They F*** You Up by psychologist Oliver James. James examines the “nature vs. nurture” debate and argues that the influence of parenting in the development of personality has been grossly underestimated. In fact, he argues that virtually all an adult’s behavioral and thought patterns are rooted in the way they were parented, even in cases of mental illness (which has been thought – wrongly, in James’s opinion – to be closely linked to genetics).
The book has some great insights into what makes people think and act the way they do. While it could be tempting to read it as a guide to blaming your parents for all your problems, James frequently encourages the reader not to do so. Instead, he hopes that you’ll use the insights from the book to take responsibility for changing those patterns from your childhood that don’t serve you in healthy ways.
The book has one very weird and very obvious flaw, in my view – which is that James interprets the “nature” in “nature vs. nurture” to mean genes. James sets up every single issue as being either a matter of genes or a matter of parenting. He believes that the role of genes has been overblown, and his evidence is compelling. But to propose parenting as the only alternative explanation seems bafflingly short-sighted. Plenty of things are natural without being genetic. Refusing to acknowledge that simple fact leads James to make some downright offensive assertions about sensitive matters like mental illness, sexuality, and working mothers. For instance, he declares that since there is no “gay gene,” that homosexuality is “caused” by abnormal parenting. James’s theories also seem to be wholly critical of working mothers. And when “science” appears to affirm all of society’s already entrenched ideas of sex and gender, that’s an obvious red flag.
If you’re able to dismiss the offensive parts without being too upset by them, there’s some interesting tidbits about family roles, discipline, sibling relationships, etc. It’s sparked some good conversations between my husband and me about the kind of parents we want to be. So if you think your parents might have f***ed you up, or if you’re terrified of f***ing up your children, like I am, then you might get something out of this book.
But as for turning your kid gay? Come on. That’s not a thing.