It is no secret that I am a diligent, obsessive blog reader. I think my blog-reading days began at the information desk at the Charles V. Park library – I had a handful of urls memorized, most of them blogs of the Mommy variety. It is somewhat disturbing to me that some of these bloggers have children then are five, six, seven years old, when I read through their pregnancies and birth stories and such. Oy vey.
Additionally, some of these bloggers also have book deals. And while I in the midst of my pre/post-graduate reading slump, I certainly read myself a lot of them.
Jani’s Journey is probably one of the single most heartbreaking blogs I have ever chanced across, and not just because the idea of raising a very young child with schizophrenia is probably the most stressful, life-altering challenge I can imagine. The truly painful part of this blog is observing the unrelenting backlash – readers who don’t believe in mental illness, who believe that Jani’s problems must be rooted in abuse, who report the family to Child Protective Services. Michael is an honest writer, laying down the realities of life with his daughter, his struggling marriage, the constant struggle to make ends meet and convince health insurance companies to pay for medications and treatments. This makes him vulnerable, but a powerful voice in the world of mentally ill children and their parents who will do anything to help them.
January First goes back to the beginning, to before Jani was born, before the blog, and follows this family through unbearable trials. I think that reading this book gives a deeper understanding of where Michael and Jani are in the blog – the bond between parent and child, the horrors of living life with astronomically high levels of stress, and what a HUGE problem health care for the the mentally ill has become. This is a book you read flipping pages madly with one hand and clutching your chest with the other.
My Favorite Roommate introduced me to Kelle’s blog Enjoying the Small Things a few years ago, and I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, Kelle is obviously a talented photographer, her kids are adorable, and her writing is fine. However, I have trouble with reading personal writing by those who live in obvious, undeniable wealth – this is likely a personal failing, but I find it difficult to empathize with how difficult life is for those who have showy personal belongings and large houses.
That being said, I liked Kelle’s book, Bloom, more than her blog. The book is more of a memoir, and it turns out, Kelle’s history really isn’t too different than anyone else’s, with low-paying jobs and such. And while I don’t have much to contextualize the experience of having a child born with Down’s Syndrome, I found her retelling of her experience quite raw and honest in a way that I imagine is likely rare. But mostly, I just liked this book as an object – well-printed, well-designed, and full of Kelle’s lovely photographs. It feels nice in your lap.
Pre-2008, Stephanie Nielson’s blog, The NieNie Dialogues, was a stay-at-home mom’s collection of sparsely narrated candid photographs of clothing, craft projects, and children, vegetarian recipes, and super-sappy love letters to Mr. Nielson. In conglomerate, I found her life inexplicably intoxicating. I spent a lot of time sifting through her archives, marveling at these small moments and wondering if my life was that whimsical and pleasing but I just lacked the perspective to see it. When Stephanie and Mr. Nielson were severely injured in a small plane crash, the content and tone of the blog changed dramatically as her abilities and perspective changed completely.
A memoir that begins with Stephanie and Christian’s courtship and moves right up to her return home from an extensive stay in a burn hospital, Heaven is Here manages to capture the fantasy-romance of the pre-crash Nie as well as the struggle – physical, mental, spiritual – that occurs when your happy-little-life is 100% derailed. I’m not saying this book (or her blog) deserves any literary awards, and those who fear heavy-handed religiosity and conservative politics might find either or deplorable, but I found this book to be quick and satisfying.
Well, that was a lot of tragedy. I didn’t realize until this exact moment that I read a lot of depressing shit. Well here’s a remedy: a delightful narrative cookbook – Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach, based on the blog by the same name. I checked this book out from the library, oh, a month ago, and I refuse to return it. I loved reading through the short, memoir-ish vignettes that follow Jenny as her relationship with cooking and food changes through single life, married-to-a-fellow-foodie life, life with little kids and life with bigger kids. There is practical cooking and time management advice – how to get food on the table fast, how to make one dish to feed picky palates, how to make a decent recipe out of any combination of meat+fat+veggies, and a collection of recipes that are right in my wheelhouse: real food with real ingredients, not too fussy or too decadent, delicious. I have been cooking out of this book like its my job, even though I am on a fairly restrictive diet! – and I don’t want to give it back, I just don’t. So there.
Other blog-to-books I have at least moderately enjoyed in years past: