Book Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

Book Review: The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender

I was not sure what to expect when I picked this book up. The premise is fascinating; a young girl finds herself with the horrible ability to taste the emotions of the person preparing her food. She learns far more than a nine year old should ever need to cope with. Her mother’s fears and insecurities, her father’s distraction, her brother’s constant annoyance and growing distance, and down to the people who picked and packaged the ingredients.

As she grows up the talent does not go away, and her family life gets more complex. Her brother, a genius, becomes more and more withdrawn, until he simply just is not there anymore.

Anything more travels into spoilers. This book is bizarre, emotional, and oddly compelling. When I reached the last page, I felt achy and hopeful by turns. Yet, I do not know if I enjoyed it. It did not ever feel as if the story was ever over, or as if the story ever really went far. The question I’m dealing with is, “Does a story need to go far to be good?”

I do not have an answer for that one yet. But I do suggest checking this book out.

Check Out/Buy
worldcat || indie bound || amazon

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Capitol Area District Library and Social Networking

CC Image courtesy of YogaDad, via Flickr

I’d like to introduce you to my hometown library, the Capitol Area District Library (CADL). CADL is a cooperative library system out of Ingham County, Michigan. There are branches in 13 cities as well as a bookmobile that can be found at various locations throughout the county[1].

CADL has a very active web presence across multiple social networking sites. You can find them at Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, and their blog. They make full use of what many of these sites have to offer to put together a great user experience.

Content between Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter tends to be the same, varying slightly depending on the mission of each respective social networking site. All sites update actively.

CADL’s blog is the hub of most of their social networking. If you connect to one of CADL’s other social networking accounts, you will inevitably encounter a link back to their blog. The blog allows CADL to have the space to elaborate on their activities in the community. They have various tags that you can reference and sort the blog by such as reference posts, posts geared to teen readers, news, and reviews of books and media.

The blog does not garner much interaction between patrons and staff. However, on Facebook and Twitter, the people who run the pages are very active engaging with patrons. They often reply to comments and suggestions, which makes the user experience very rewarding.

For example, the Facebook page hosted a reader’s advisory event allowing patrons to list the last three books they read and a librarian would suggest the next book they should read. I feel that offering such services within social networking pages is essential to a successful and interactive online community. CADL goes beyond simply presenting information on workshops and databases.

The MySpace page updates using a client, via their Twitter updates. This, perhaps, illustrates the declining popularity of MySpace as a social networking site. The Twitter updates of CADL mirror much of what is posted on Facebook, as well as linking to new blog posts, images on Flikr, and video updates on YouTube. Library staff also replies to tweets sent to them on a regular basis.

The CADL YouTube page is updated on a regular basis with both how to guides in how to use library resources, as well as book recommendations made by staff librarians. These videos, as well as photo content from Flickr are cross-posted throughout their various social networking sites.

I feel CADL offers a successful picture of how social networking allows libraries to interact with patrons. While I have no information as to how it allows non-users to interact, I was a non-user of CADL Facebook page prior to this post. In the past week I’ve kept up with their Facebook and Twitter and I feel so much more connected to my hometown, even though I am currently living in Detroit for school.

On Disabilities

This is an old blog post of mine, reposted here.

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When I was in second grade it was pretty clear that I had some issues.  My spelling was horrible, so was my handwriting.  Don’t even get me started on my lack of math skills.  My writing was awkward, even for a second grader, but my verbal and reading skills were above average.  My mother was convinced that I had a learning disability and the school was convinced that I was just a little lazy and a little stupid.  A teacher, a councilor and friend of my mothers, even said as much to my mother.  My mother, being the person she is, went over everyone’s head and had me tested.   I was then diagnosed with learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder.

People still didn’t believe that these were legitimate diagnoses; because I could read as well as I did, because I could verbalize my thoughts.  My second grade teacher was one of these people.  My learning disability, combined with the fact I was a very sickly child, left her very obviously disdainful of me.  Even to my 8-year-old self, I could tell this.   My second grade teacher went on to become my third grade teacher.  The day we found out, I left my classroom in tears.  I cried for over an hour.   No one was able to calm me down.

I knew I wasn’t stupid, I wasn’t sure that I wasn’t lazy. I struggled throughout third grade, and the help that I did receive was help my mother fought for.  I am blessed to have had her fighting for me, for believing in me.

When we moved down to Ionia, I was lucky enough to have teachers that were more helpful.  I had a wonderful tutor in Math, and other than regrettable classmates, I was doing okay.  However, people were still doubtful that I wasn’t just making this up.  I was just a problem child, using people because my father had walked out on me, because my father had left me a confused and unfortunate child.

In 6th grade, a councilor told my mother that if people did not start believing in me that I was a prime candidate for drugs, alcohol, and possibly even suicide.   She fought all the harder for me then.

And then I went to high school.

Oh high school.  Between classmates who I’m almost sure hated me, my pitiful self esteem, and a constant cycle of principles I was lost.  Thank God for a few of my teachers.  I am not lying or over exaggerating when I say they saved me.   Thank you, Mr. Little, Miss Scrivener, and others who I always felt welcome in their classrooms.   You have no idea what you did for me.   I cannot thank you enough.

And Brian, the man who tested me.  Who at first believed I was faking it, but over the course of my testing came to realize I wasn’t.  Who believed in me as well.  Your kind words and encouragement meant the world to me.

Sometimes it didn’t feel like enough, though.  Between the ones who clearly didn’t believe in me, and my struggle with depression, classmates, my sexuality, my religion, having to deal with struggling in school was pushing things over the top.   There were times I just wanted to fade away.   No combination of anti-depressants and ADD medication could stop it, could fix it.  Even therapy wasn’t that effective.

I heard a teacher, a honest to God high school teacher, tell my mother than I was not college material.  I didn’t always use their, there, and they’re correctly.  I couldn’t organize my thoughts, I couldn’t, I couldn’t, I couldn’t.

It was a slap in the face.  It hurt.  I was ready to give up.   I retreated into myself and went through being a bit of a zombie for days, maybe weeks.  I honestly don’t remember.  And then it dawned on me that I’m a spiteful bitch.  I wasn’t going to let some woman who thought I wasn’t good enough ruin my education.  Ruin my desire to learn, know, and advance myself.

So I made it through, somehow, God only knows how.  Pure spite, determination, and the help of a few people.

I was chided today for being up in arms over my nephew’s school not wanting to test him for learning disabilities.   But I am afraid for him.  I want him to have all the opportunities possible open to him.  I want him to thrive.  I don’t want him to go through what I did.  It may have made me stronger, but it is no way for a child to learn.  It is not character building.  It is painful, it hurts, it can destroy your self esteem, yourself worth.

I know.  I’ve been there.  I still am there.

I’m going to start my seventh year of college this year, I don’t have my BA yet.  I’ve recently started to have panic attacks that leave me useless for the whole day.   Crippling fears that I am not good enough.  That I will not get into graduate school.  That I will be confined to a job I hate and be working poor the rest of my life.  It is all consuming and terrifying and I can’t even type this without feeling the dread raise in my throat.

But I know I have people who believe in me, and I am not going to let them down.  I am not going to let myself down.  I deserve to be where I am, and I deserve a chance to go farther.   I’m going to do it, not out of spite, but because I want it.

Do you know someone struggling with learning disabilities, or even just learning issues?  Do me a favor.  Believe in them.  Encourage them.  Open up your heart and help them.  Because that’s what got me through everything, just a few people who believed in me.  You have the opportunity to be one of those people to someone else.