Find it at your library!

I have a problem with perfectionism. My problem is that until very recently I thought perfection was attainable. It turns out getting straight A’s year after year can give a person a false sense of herself. And that false sense crumbles under the pressure of real lived experience.

Tiny Beautiful Things was recommended to me a long time ago, but I was sure I’d never read it. Life advice from Cheryl Strayed? It didn’t make sense to me. I had read Wild. I knew the kind of life choices she’d made. Why would I want to take life advice from someone who had shot heroin in a motel room?

Fast forward a few years—I still haven’t shot heroin, but I’ve fucked up in other ways. I’ve done things I’m not proud of, that I cringe to recall. I have memories I try to bury down deep so I don’t have to look at them. When Tiny Beautiful Things crossed my radar again, my perspective had changed. Who better to give advice than someone who has made a crapload of mistakes? What’s the alternative, anyway—find someone who has always done things right? If such an anomaly even exists, what kind of advice would a person like that be able to give? “Oh, you know, just be more perfect, like me.” How is that useful? And more importantly, how did I spend so many years of my life being such a self-righteous idiot? (I’m still a self-righteous idiot sometimes. This I know, now.)

Tiny Beautiful Things was a cathartic reading experience for me. I started listening to it on my way home from work and cried so hard I thought maybe I should pull over because I couldn’t see. Life is hard. Harder for some people than others. But hard for everyone. People are messed up and make bad choices and shit goes wrong. But there is honor in owning our mess and working to make it better. Most of the advice in the book starts from that place.

This was the right book at the right time for me. I’m glad I got off my high horse.

Find it at your library!

The gift that was our trip to see Hamilton keeps on giving. Recently the Library Hotel called to say they loved the blog post I wrote detailing our stay, and wouldn’t you know it, they still had a copy of that ARC I mentioned wanting to steal from the front desk, and if I’d confirm my address, they’d put it in the mail and send it to me with their thanks.

See, kids? The lesson here is don’t steal things. Write publicly about your desire to steal them, and people will give them to you for free!

(In case it wasn’t clear in my original post, I want to note that my glowing remarks about the Library Hotel were 100% unsponsored and unsolicited. They’d never heard of me before (what, you thought this blog was big potatoes?) and did not ask me to write anything about them. I’m just a book nerd who stayed in their hotel, absolutely adored it, and wanted to share it with (my teeny tiny little corner of) the world. In writing the post, I had no expectation that anyone at the Library Hotel would ever read it, much less volunteer to give me anything I super badly wanted. End of disclaimer.)

Anyway, I was jazzed to get my hands on this ARC, because Southeast Asian history is an area I’d like to learn more about. I feel like I know so little about the culture, the struggles, and *ahem* U.S. involvement in that part of the world, even when it comes to the past fifty years or so. There’s no excuse, man! Especially right now, when U.S. relations with just about every other country in the world are so fraught with tension and uncertainty.

Ratner is a really lovely writer, and she tells a sometimes brutal and heartrending story with a featherlight touch. Obviously it’s hard to sell people on a book by saying, “Here! Read this book about a genocide!” but Ratner truly does spin straw (or worse) into gold here. It’s an ugly story at times, but her telling of it is consistently beautiful.

I also found main character Teera’s reflections on feeling Cambodian in America and American in Cambodia to be incredibly timely and honest, again particularly in light of the current hostility towards immigrants. I imagine it would be very difficult to feel welcome here with the vitriol that has been spewing from so many mouths.

With warmest regards to the Library Hotel for the advance copy. On sale April 11!