Book Review: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Arthur

Just beautiful. In The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, the main character, Arthur, has to deal with the loss of his wife and learn how to build a life without her. One year after his beloved Miriam has passed away, Arthur finds a charm bracelet left behind by his wife and sets out on a journey of discovery to find out who his wife really was and ends up finding out who he is in the process. Fans of A Man Called Ove will love this book, even though Arthur is a very different character. This book is a perfect read when you have no idea what you feel like reading. Arthur will work his way into your heart, make you laugh, make you cry, and leave you joyful about this beautiful life.–Christina Knowles

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Book Review: Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Tales of a South African Childhood

Trevor NoahThis book was absolutely wonderful! This is quite likely the best memoir I’ve ever read (Well, actually, I listened to it.). Trevor Noah narrates and uses all his repertoire of voices and accents his fans are familiar with on The Daily Show. There are laugh-out-loud moments, for sure, but what surprised me was the depth and vulnerability present in this memoir. Noah bares his soul and shows us the truth of growing up biracial, a crime, in apartheid South Africa. He paints a beautiful, but honest, picture of a strong, loving, and somewhat eccentric African mother, an aloof, yet caring, Swiss-German father, a complicated and abusive step-father, and a colorful portrait of his other friends and family members.

Some of Noah’s experiences shocked me. He seems too well-adjusted and happy to have gone through so much, but I think he makes it clear that his mother is primarily responsible for that, along with a pretty peaceful temperament and a good head on his shoulders.

This memoir is a must-read, though, not because it is funny, sweet, honest, and poignant, which it is, but because it gives a first person account of the effects of apartheid, racism and caste systems in general, and some of the issues that all poor people face, and minorities in particular. He discusses phenomena such “paying the black tax” and the code of ethics in the “hood” with the benefit of thoughtful hindsight and sheds light on issues of poverty, racism, and crime in America as well.

This memoir is highly engaging, and I was sad to have it end. Noah left me anxious to hear more about his life and to find out more about how he achieved his current success, even though it is clear he was on the path to it when this book ends. I highly recommend this book. Trust me; you’ll love it!–Christina Knowles

 

“Fool” by Christina Knowles

Barren path“Fool”

I wander through a garden

Tall and green and dripping with the dew

The twisting path, the hidden

The way I thought I knew

Petals, velvetly imbue

A facile façade of innocence

But the thorny branch is true

The Judas kiss equivalence

The truth I never knew

The Pathos of pretense

I was fooled through and through

Mired in the dense

Brush, I construe

The twisted path is lost

I fight to make it through

The symbols I have crossed

The signs were always there

The realization overdue

A switchback won’t repair

A road I never knew

I reconnect and reassess

The lies and the true

The despair that I suppress

Is the path I make anew

Through a barren garden

Trimmed a bit too low

I walk along disheartened

For the beauty I forego

–Christina Knowles

Photo: Barren Path | by H. Evan Miller

BOOK REVIEW – Signs of Life: A Memoir in Poems

Wow! This is the best review I’ve ever had. Thank you, Zaney!

Ranting with Conviction

A diverse collection of poetry, thought-provoking and breathtaking, inspirational, and altogether wonderful, Knowles’ memoir is moving, hustling the reader through memories and philosophies that had me laughing at times and weeping at others. Engaging, unexpectedly page-turning for long-time lovers of poetry, and eye-opening to those discovering poetry for the first time, these verses, sometimes eloquent and elusive, sometimes brutally honest and abrasive, will draw you into the ancient art of poetry and leave you hungry for more. The author leads the audience, expertly, through a journey simultaneously spiritual and rational. Like a depthless ocean of free-thought, it tossed me back and forth, presenting views on both faith and logic, but it never fails in thoroughness, sincerity, or heart. The poet’s captivating imagery, descriptions of nature, metaphorical prowess, and artful rhyme schemes are a treat for anyone with an appreciation of literary devices. To those who merely dabble, occasionally, in poetry…

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Because of You by Christina Knowles

1524025_10202288016035929_699231179_oI’ve always looked up to you

It was so easy to do

My life is so wrapped up with you

You stayed home with me

When I was sick, you comforted me tenderly

You kept me quiet on Christmas mornings

With stories of Santa and gentle warnings

I remember late night stories on your bed

To Adventure Land you led

To a world of imagination

Your words an invitation

I read everything you gave me

A new world opened gaily

Science fiction, fantasy

Suspense, a genre tapestry

I always looked up to you

My life was so wrapped up in you

I listened to you play your flute

In your room, music took root

You gave me records that I still have

Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and Chopin

You introduced to me to culture I never would’ve had

It’s because of you, I’m who I am

You took to me to buy my first good skates

You listened all about my first dates

Listened to my teenage angst

Put up with all my juvenile pranks

You let me come and stay with you

Just what I needed; I guess you knew

It was so easy to do

Looking up to you

You bought my prom dress so I wouldn’t miss the event

Then you managed to get Mom’s consent

Always on my side it seems

You supported all my dreams

Tutored me, and never disdained

The hours, the concepts explained

You co-signed for my first credit

Trusted me, I’m forever indebted

When I went away, you took care of my dog

Every week, you read my blog

You went with me to Star Trek club meetings

Conventions, outings, and club proceedings

My entire life is intertwined with you

I am who I am because of you

All through our lives we’ve had such good times

Remember when we went to Disney and stood in those lines?

We screamed all the way down Splash Mountain

Took our picture in front of the fountain

Universal Studios was such a blast

That trip went way too fast

A Hawaiian luau, taking in the show

An earthquake, a flood, just Hollywood though

We haven’t taken a trip like that in a while

Now days, it’s more our style

Dinner and a movie on Friday nights

It’s still one of my favorite rites

It’s no wonder I look up to you

My life is so infused with you

The holidays we always share together

Thanksgiving at my house, no matter the weather

Christmas at yours, and candlelight service

The Living Christmas tree and your performance

Playing the bells on Christmas Eve

Christmas dinner, and after— a movie

Sometimes A Christmas Carol

Or we’d see The Nutcracker Ballet

In our finest apparel

A Christmas Story once again we’d replay

Our traditions are so special to me

Sisters, but friends, especially

My life is so wrapped up with you

It’s easy to look up to you

A chemist, a musician, an intellect to admire

An older sister, a height to aspire

A friend and a confidant

You went way beyond

What a sister should be

What a friend could see

I’ll always look up to you

It’s so easy to do

Because my life is wrapped up with you

And I am who I am because of you—Christina Knowles

Married to You by Christina Knowles

img_1055Sun splashes across our bed.

We wake, slowly unwrapping our tangled selves,

Shifting, intertwining again in a different position.

Your eyes gradually open; the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen.

Your slow smile warms me, and I smile in return.

This is what it’s like to wake up with you.

 

At work, you leisurely stroll through my mind a thousand times.

You’re my favorite daydream.

My key turns in the lock after a busy day.

The smell of coffee and the music of your guitar

Greet me at the door.

This is what it’s like to come home to you.

 

You make a silly face, pull your pants up to your chest

Just to make me laugh.

Laughter and love always fill our home.

It feels like peace in your arms.

This is what it’s like to be home with you.

 

Honesty fills our home,

Acceptance is our style.

Being with you is serenity

Joy in who we are

Individually and together

Being ourselves in complete tranquility.

This is what it’s like to be married to you.–Christina Knowles

The Business of Dying by Christina Knowles

seidoryu       As an atheist, I shudder at the thought of a chaplain at my bedside when it’s my time to die. However, today I was privileged to listen to a truly profound and helpful chaplain guide someone close to me on “the business of dying.”

Shortly after being informed that she had very little time left, the chaplain arrived, and instead of a long dissertation on theology, endless prayers, or reading cliché bible verses, he merely accepted her word that she was confidant of her eternal life and moved on to the harder part, the present.

At first, I was concerned. He seemed pushy and inconsiderate. When he asked her what she was feeling, and she replied, “It is what it is,” he pushed, aggressively.

He led her through each possible emotion, explored them, talked about them, and acknowledged their validity. He said it was okay to grieve your own life, the disappointment, the lost time, the things that you will never be able to do, time with loved ones stolen. He asked about fear, not fear of the afterlife, but fear of the actual dying and fear about leaving loved ones behind. He validated all emotions someone might feel and empathized.

Next, he asked her what she wanted. He said she didn’t have to answer now, and that it didn’t have to be one big thing, but that she should think about that every morning when she wakes up and ask, “What do I want today?” He explained that he meant real things, good things like asking for a hug or asking to have a conversation about a memory or about what someone means to her. He encouraged her to go deep inside herself everyday to really get in touch with her heart’s desire. He said to not let these things go by undone. If she needs to say something to someone or just relive a memory with someone, ask for it. If she needed closure, to fix a relationship, or address a regret, she should have that conversation.

The chaplain told her that part of the business of dying was to celebrate the life she’s lived. He said to reflect on her life’s accomplishments, things she was particularly proud of, things she enjoyed, and things that she did right. He told her she lived a life that deserved acknowledgement.

He ended his counsel by asking her if she wanted anything else from him. She asked him to pray with her. He laughingly responded, “Is that what you want, or do you think that’s what I want to hear?” She said she did want it, and his prayer was beautiful, specifically saying that she was in control of her life and how she lived it to her last breath.

He was brilliant and profound, comforting and respectful. I thought, This is what a chaplain should do. So many times, I’ve heard the well-meaning pastor spout clichés and seemed more concerned with reinforcing religious beliefs than dealing with real emotions and concrete issues. I always cringed at the shallow recitation of the typical platitudes. Finally, a chaplain who knows what to say to the dying, what they need to know in their last days, what not to forget in the days to come. The compassionate and practical advice I heard today cut through all the nonsense of avoidance. People don’t need vapid dictums when they face the end of their lives; they need something real, something meaningful and honest to go about the business of dying. –Christina Knowles

photo via seidoryu.com

So, You Find Cat Videos Annoying? by Christina Knowles

knowyouwantmeme Facebook is getting tedious, more so by the day. Constant misinformation, misattributed quotes, and fallacies run rampant on political memes. Facebook posts have reduced my estimation of the collective intelligence of our population, but worse, it’s reduced my belief in the basic goodness of humanity. Not only are these tedious to see, but it’s a full-time job posting Snopes and Politifact links to these comments, but I try to be a good citizen. But don’t get me started on trying debate an issue on social media. It’s a lost cause that sucks you in and won’t let you go for about twenty-four comments, two unfriendings, and a blocked participant. I’m not against all political posting. I love when people post actual news articles, thoughtful opinions or news that raises awareness, and links to insightful editorials. I like to have a calm exchange of ideology, as long as we adhere to facts for evidence and not tabloid headlines, but how often does that happen?

Then, of course, we have the “god blessed” me posts, crediting God with everything from parking spaces to the random luck of the wind failing to blow down a fence. (Wow! Aren’t you special! I guess your neighbors aren’t cozy with the big guy, huh?).

The next most annoying thing about Facebook is over-sharing, where people admit way too much, like how they were fired for stealing office supplies, to having gotten so drunk, they woke up with a total stranger. Really? This is information that only your best friend should have. Don’t force me to judge you, please. It’s not who I want to be. (Caveat: Sincere opening up and sharing who you are with the intention of self-expression and engaging in a relationship with your friends is not offensive, but someone never taught these people about the circle of trust.)

Then, there is the under-sharing, the ones who post some vague melancholy comment, and when someone asks what’s wrong, they say, “I’ll text/PM you.” If it was so private, why publicly build everyone’s curiosity by posting anything at all?

But, honestly, the most annoying posts on Facebook to me are the ones that try to manipulate me. I don’t surf social media to be guilted or forced to re-post or comment to feed your fragile ego. First, we have the chain letter post. The one where you are commanded not to simply share it; you must COPY and PASTE it into your feed, especially if you do not want to have your hair and fingernails fall out by morning. If you do repost in the proper manner, you will enjoy a landslide of money, blessings from Jesus, and all forms of good luck. If you don’t, well, you obviously don’t love your mother.

The other form of Machiavellian Facebook posting is compliment-fishing by pretending to hate yourself. I mean how can you really keep scrolling past a photo with the caption, “I look so (Insert word of choice: terrible, ugly, fat, old) in this picture.” I feel like I’m being forced to say, “No, you don’t. You’re beautiful.” Even if I mean it (which I often do—some of the prettiest people do this), I don’t like being manipulated into feeding your ego. But I have to on the unlikely chance you really mean it and are so depressed you are about to off yourself. I mean, someone would have to be a little depressed if they actually do mean it and want to draw these inadequacies to the attention of the world, right? Truthfully, whenever I see these posts, I can’t imagine why they think this of themselves or why they’d want to announce that they think it (again, over-sharing). Anyway, I feel manipulated because I don’t want to be responsible for someone’s low self-esteem resulting from my lack of compliment-commenting. It really is exhausting.

So, remind me, please, why were we complaining about pictures of dinner, glam selfies, recipes, and cat videos? –Christina Knowles

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Book Signing Event!

If you are in the Colorado Springs area on January 14th, please join me for a book signing party, celebrating my brand new release, Signs of Life, A Memoir in PoemsI’d love to meet you!

Copies of The Ezekiel Project and Signs of Life will be available for purchase, and I’ll be signing those and any you bring in. While you’re there, enjoy a wonderful homemade Mexican meal from the Hernandez family, featuring old family recipes from Señor Manuel, himself. You will receive a discount if you purchase a book or bring in one to get signed.

It’s sure to be lots of fun, so I hope to see you there at Señor Manuel Mexican Cuisine!

knowles-book-signing-flyer-2

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