What Am I Reading – Chapter Nineteen

Hi Everybody!!!

I’m still reading the titles from the last chapter , but I’m really excited to show the new batch of books that I’ve been reading lately, so let’s go!

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas is about 16-year-old Bri, who wants to become one of the greatest rappers of all time, or at least get out of her neighborhood. As the daughter of a famous underground rapper, Bri has big shoes to fill. However, when her mom unexpectedly loses her job, food banks and shutoff notices became normal in her life. Bri decides to pour out her frustrations into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons. She finds herself in a middle of a controversy with the media portraying her as a menace rather than a MC. But with her family facing the possibility of homelessness, Bri knows that she has to make it. Basically, this is the song “Lose Yourself” and the movie 8 Mile in book form.

Much like the main character, this book has big shoes to fill since this is Angie Thomas’s follow-up to The Hate U Give – a novel that the reading community has declared to be great and important for various reasons. And so far, it’s doing a great job. The book makes readers pumped for Bri’s rapping as well as root for her success. I wanted her to speak when she choked, and cheered when she spat out some awesome flows and rhymes. In other words, I’ve been engaged with the novel since the beginning.

I mainly thank the narrator of the audiobook Bahni Turpin. Turpin is a screen and stage actor, but she’s best known for her audiobook narrations. Some of her credits include The Help, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Underground Railroad, and The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix – a book I’m going to read in the future. She has even recorded the audiobook for The Hate U Give , and I can see why Thomas wanted her to record for this one. Turpin is very engaging as a narrator. She makes Bri sounds like a real teenager who’s determined to achieve success as a rapper despite all of the issues at home and school. With the supporting characters, Turpin distinguishes with great clarity. My personal favorite is Aunt Pooh – Bri’s aunt – who sounds like a female version of Lil Wayne. Also, she nails the rapping. I would love to see where this goes.

Now, let us go from one novel from a beloved contemporary author to another from a famous one of the past.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway shows the story of Robert Jordan, a young American from the International Brigades who’s fighting in an antifascist guerilla unit in the Spanish Civil War. It tells of loyalty and courage, love and defeat, and the tragic death of an ideal. This is basically the fictionalized version of what Hemingway himself experienced while covering the war for the Northern American Newspaper Alliance.

So readers would probably want to know if I have read any of Hemingway’s stories in the past. Yes, I have. In my English class in my senior year of high school, I read one of his Nick Adams stories “Indian Camp.” With that story, we learned how to detect subtext. And man, there was plenty of that knowing how Hemingway coined the phrase “iceberg theory.”

As for this book, I’m sure there’s subtext; I haven’t found much. But then again, it’s a bit a slog so far. It’s a lot of waiting and talking about what’s going to happen, but I’m forgiving since a lot of war involves waiting and strategizing, especially when to blow up a bridge. Robert Jordan feels a bit bland, as in he’s the typical Hemingway Hero, yet that could change. His love interest Maria feels like any other woman in a book written by a white guy in the mid-twentieth century, where beauty is more valued than personality. That could change as well.

There’s a special reason why I’m reading this novel. Sometime next year, I’m going to be on The 300 Passions Podcast, where I’ll talk about the movie version starring Gary Cooper and why it failed to make the cut on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years…Passions list. I figured it would be best to read the book first, and then see how the film translates it to the screen

Speaking of the flick, it’s directed by Sam Wood. He made two films with our next and final subject – the Marx Brothers!

The Marxist Revolution: How Chico, Harpo, Groucho, and Zeppo Changed the Way We Laugh by Eddie Tafoya is an academic book that examines how the Marx Brothers were revolutionary in their comedy. He looks at five of their films to show how they critique American ideals and its conflicted history of including the Other.

I was definitely looking forward to reading it for three reasons.

1. I’m a Marx Brothers fan

2. This was something I never really thought much of when watching their films, and I’m always looking for new material about the famed comedy team.

3. This is the first unpublished book that I’ve reviewed on this website. I wouldn’t be surprised if I become the first one to officially post a review of it.

So how about the book itself? It’s pretty good so far. I got through the first chapter, and Tafoya clearly states his thesis very early on; cites his sources; and shows his love for the Marx Brothers. It’s also pretty apparent that this is not going to be for everyone. It’s a pretty niche book on two fronts – the Marx Brothers and academic ones. Both of these are understandable since Tafoya is a fan of the comedy team, and he’s an English & Philosophy Professor at the New Mexico Highlands University. He’s also written books like Icons of African-American Comedy: A Joke of a Different Color and The Legacy of the Wisecrack: Stand-up Comedy as the Great American Literary Form. Despite its niche subject, I think I’m going to enjoy it.

We have now come to the end of the nineteenth chapter of “What Am I Reading?”

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Published by emilyblakowski

I work at two public libraries in southeast Michigan, and I facilitate a book club for one of them. I also hold a Bachelor's degree in History and Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI; and a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration also from Wayne. In my downtime, I love hanging out with friends, listening to music (like classic rock and K-pop), and watching shows like "Monty Python's Flying Circus"!

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