Thursday, February 26, 2015

Laura Grace Weldon

Laura Grace Weldon is an editor, writer, and master procrastinator. She lives on a small farm notable only for its lovestruck goose. She's the author of a poetry collection titled Tending, and a handbook of alternative education, Free Range Learning.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Weldon's reply:
I usually have several books going at any one time. When I stumble on great ones I love to talk about them.

All the Light We Cannot See took author Anthony Doerr 10 years to write. His craftsmanship lifts this novel into the realm of art. The book's two main characters, who don’t meet until late in the novel, are entirely memorable. Maurie-Laure is a blind girl raised by her father. He has built her a perfect miniature replica of their neighborhood so she will never be lost. He takes her to work with him at the Museum of Natural History, where she learns eagerly. When the Nazis take over Paris, Marie-Laure and her father seek refuge in a walled seaside city. The novel's other main character, Werner, grows up in an orphanage. His intelligence is obvious as he teaches himself to fix radios and understand radio waves. His talent marks him for a privileged spot in an elite military academy. As the war builds, these children grow up in strikingly different ways yet both do their best to stay true to an inner light that leads them. There’s so much to discuss that this title is perfect to read with a book club. I'll be reading it again.

Strange Bodies leads the reader question identity, immortality, and what it means to be human. Author Marcel Theroux introduces us to a man in a locked psychiatric unit who insists he is someone else, a professor known as an expert in the work of Samuel Johnson. The impostor doesn’t look or speak like the man he claims to be, but knows every possible detail of his life. That’s impossible, because the person he claims to be is dead. So begins a tale of speculative fiction that leads from Silicon Valley to Soviet-era experimentation, all the while echoed by new words allegedly written by the reknown Johnson who has been dead for 230 years.

I normally avoid dystopian novels but loved Station Eleven. The author, Emily St. John Mandel, writes tenderly about the current world we take for granted. A world where small rectangles hold the power to connect us with people around the world, where metal cylinders transport passengers across the sky, where warm air flows at the touch of a button, and something magical called the Internet answers every question. In Station Eleven, this time has passed although it can be remembered through artifacts on display at the Museum of Civilization. This novel describes a future where 99% of the population has been killed by a horrific plaque. As expected, there are many dangers including the threat of survivalist gangs and cults. There's also a troupe of artists who travel from settlement to settlement playing Beethoven and performing Shakespeare. Their motto is lifted from Star Trek: "Survival is insufficient." Through storylines that stretch across decades, the reader comes to know all sorts of characters whose lives intersect in unexpectedly compelling ways.

Non-fiction wise I'm all over the map. Here are two of my recent favorites.

The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Predators, Parasites, and Partners That Shape Who We Are Today is by Rob Dunn, an engaging writer who pulls together all sorts of fascinating science. In this book he shows how humans evolved in the context of hundreds of other species, including those we host in our own bodies. making each one of us not "I" but "us." Acting as if we're separate has dangerous consequences, from autoimmune disorders to ecological disasters.

Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers is the book I'd been planning to write for the last decade. I've got a whole desk drawer full of notes, not needed any more because author Marcy Axness has done a masterful job of pulling together what it takes to raise a generation "built for peace." She incorporates neuroscience, psychology, spirituality, and much more into compelling core principles (Presence, Awareness, Rhythm, Example, Nurturance, Trust and Simplicity). This is indeed a wise and good book, my go-to gift for new parents.
Learn more about Laura Grace Weldon's poetry collection, Tending, and her handbook of alternative education, Free Range Learning.

Visit the author's blog, website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Coffee with a Canine: Laura Grace Weldon & Winston and Cocoa Bean.

--Marshal Zeringue