I hadn’t been reading for quite some time the way I was last year. Stuff got in the way and my books got sidelined. So, to get things in motion, I thought of starting this monthly feature at Metanoia–‘From my bookshelf’–wherein I share a short review of the books I read. This way, I will have to be on my toes and keep up with my reading. I hope you enjoy reading about the books as much as I enjoy writing about them, and take away words or thoughts that stay on with you, as much as they do with me.
This month, I read two brilliantly written books:
Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert.
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.
Let’s begin with ‘Big Magic‘.
But, first of all, I would like to thank my dear dear friend, Shailaja Vishwanath, for gifting me this precious gem. It’s now my Bible, for Life; for everything that I decide to do in my Life, be it writing, art, or just living. Thank you, my darling!
A quote on the back cover perfectly describes the author as someone to be considered as “One’s personal life coach.” For, that’s just how I felt as I pored over every word in the book–as if it had been written just for me. As if Ms. Gilbert knew the story of my Life and wanted to reach out to me and share with me pearls of wisdom full of empathy, warmth and humour that came from her own experience, and from people she looked up to.
This book is for each one of us “creative people”, as in, not just writers, artists, singers, et al, but every person who lives on this planet. According to Ms. Gilbert, each one of us is a creative person, for living life is being creative, isn’t it?
But, often times, it’s the fear of living life to its fullest that holds us back. Our self-doubt, self-disgust, self-judgement and our crushing sense of self-protection keeps us from creative living. Unless and until we don’t believe that we are entitled to at least try, we will not be able to create anything interesting out of our Life. And, these are her words.
I could as well quote the entire book in this review. Such is the power of, and truth in, her words. I am aware, as are you, of the fear, the failure, the rejection, our ego, all of which stand in our way, hindering our progress.
Will we succeed? Will our work be appreciated by others? Will we find satisfaction from what we do? A hundred doubts crowd our mind, getting into our way even before we begin on the journey. And, this is where Big Magic helps us in learning to focus on enjoying the journey more than meditating upon the rewards. It’s just this message that Ms. Gilbert has attempted to send across through this book.
I would recommend this book to each one of you. And, to read it well. It not only inspires you to create, it inspires you to live, the way we are supposed to.
I have marked quite a many quote and passage in every chapter in the book, with the intention of returning to it each time I falter. How I wish I could share all of those, here. But, then one post wouldn’t be enough for it! So, I will share just some of those before I end this ‘book-talk’.
“Learning how to endure your disappointment and frustration is part of the job of a creative person. Handling your frustration is a fundamental aspect of the work. Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process.“
“If you dare to create something and put it out there, after all, it may accidentally stir up a response. That’s the natural order of Life: the eternal inhale and exhale of action and reaction. But, you are definitely not in charge of the reaction–even when that reaction is flat-out bizarre.”
“Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking, whatever it is you are creating, be careful not to quit too soon.”
“Keep moving, keep going. Whatever you do, try not to dwell too long on your failures. You don’t need to conduct autopsies on your disasters. You don’t need to know what anything means.”
I hope these quotes spoke to you, the way they did to me; motivated you to keep going on the path you have chosen for yourself, rekindling in you the fire that threatens to die down each time the ghost of fear rears its ugly head.
Do pick up the book. I know you won’t part ways with it, ever.
This is a story about the African Americans working in white households during the early 1960s. It’s set in Jackson, Mississippi, but has a Universal appeal. It could very well belong to India, where every other household employs a domestic help, who comes from the lower strata of our society.
Aibileen Clark, Minny Jackson and Skeeter (Eugenia Phelan) are the narrators, each with her own unique Life story.
Aibileen Clark is the maid who cares for a little one belonging to the Leefolt family. Minny is another maid, and a friend of Aibileen, who speaks her mind, fearlessly, which results in her losing her jobs. And, Skeeter is the daughter of a white family who owns a cotton farm outside Jackson, and someone who had been very close to her maid, Constantine.
It’s the story of Skeeter befriending the coloured maids in an attempt to investigate the disappearance of her own maid, Constantine. And, it’s during their conversations, that she comes up with an idea. She gets them to share their stories with the world and let the world have a glimpse of the life they live, serving the white households.
The maids care for the children, cook, clean and almost give their entire lives to their white employers, but fail to gain their trust and respect. Going through the pages of this book is like being shown the mirror. Do we trust and respect our domestic help? Do we treat them like family for all they do for us?
Many of us may, but most of us would think twice before trusting them with our house keys, or even allowing them to use our washrooms, isn’t it? Of course, there’s the trust issue when it comes to handing them our house keys, but feeding them, or helping them in their personal crisis is, I believe, something we can do…but rarely do so!
It’s the story of how we all could use a little more kindness when dealing with people who give up their all to serve the privileged ones. A little more understanding of their situation and dealing humanely with those who have been dealt a rough hand in Life, and yet strive to live with dignity and honesty.
Every character comes to life from the very first page. Aibileen, Minny, their employers and the little children in their care. The narration is crisp and the characters so true to life, you feel like a part of the cast, as if the story unfolds right in front of your eyes and you wish you could speak up on behalf of the coloured community!
Do pick up this book, as well. It’s one of those unputdownable books you wish could go on, forever!
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