Saturday, June 27, 2015

Currently Reading | June

This month...all novels. No shame.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Hmm...what to say about Americanah? Honestly the plot was just eh, okay. The story alone could not carry this book. And I was not impressed by the characters. You get the feeling Ifemelu is supposed to be a strong, resilient character...I just got indecisive and a lot of whine. And the same goes for Obinze. I couldn't attach to any of the characters which is a bad sign for any book. BUT! The redeeming aspect of this book was the chance to see America and specifically race in America through the eyes of an African woman living in America. (American three times in one sentence...I deserve a patriotic award.) Eye opening, it will challenge your thinking. Even though the story was lame, I gotta say, it was engaging. Due to some content and darker themes I would only recommend to mature readers.

Bruno Chief of Police by Martin Walker
This book was really just cozy, fun fluff. Recommended by my librarian, this murder mystery centers on Bruno, Chief of Police in a small town in the south of France. The setting was just so fun and every time food is mentioned (which is often) it made me hungry...Bruno has some cooking talent and hopefully he will publish a cookbook some day! But the best part of this book was the snippets of WWII history throughout the story.

And speaking of WWII...never mind we'll come back to that...best for last, you know. First let's touch on...

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
Love, love, love! A Spool of Blue Thread tells the story of four generations of the Whitshank family. Their struggles, their hopes, their failures. The story centers in their family home in Baltimore. (I love books that take place in Maryland.) It's a book about family...a cross between The Happy Yellow Car and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The story is beautiful. The writing is beautiful. The characters, in all their flawed glory, are beautiful. It makes you want to cry and laugh at the same time and really encourages you to treasure family. Can't recommend enough, I will definitely be looking up more by this author! And just to give you a sample of Anne Tyler's writing...

“For years, she had been in mourning for the way she had let her life slip through her fingers. Given another chance, she’d told herself, she would take more care to experience it. But lately, she was finding that she had experienced it after all and just forgotten, and now it was returning to her.” 

“You wake in the morning, you’re feeling fine, but all at once you think, 'Something’s not right. Something’s off somewhere; what is it?' And then you remember that it’s your child—whichever one is unhappy.”

"There was nothing remarkable about the Whitshanks. None of them was famous. None of them could claim exceptional intelligence. And in looks, they were no more than average... But like most families, they imagined they were special. They took great pride... At times they made a little too much of the family quirks—of both Amanda and Jeannie marrying men named Hugh, for instance, so that their husbands were referred to as “Amanda’s Hugh” and “Jeannie’s Hugh”; or their genetic predisposition for lying awake two hours in the middle of every night; or their uncanny ability to keep their dogs alive for eons. ”

Just go read the book before I end up posting the entire manuscript.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Oh goodness. This book. I've always had a thing for WWII books (not really sure why but there you have it). And this story is particularly touching. It follows three parallel stories: 1. A young, blind French girl, Marie-Laure, as she flees Paris with her father to live with her uncle who still suffers from the ghosts of the Great War 2. Werner, a German boy whose talent with radios and the sciences lands him in Hitler's Youth and 3. The Sea of Flames, a priceless diamond fabled to protect the owner and destroy everyone the owner holds dear. And yes, I know that sounds weird but as the stories of these three come together it makes sense. It's a dark, emotional story but so worth it for the chance to witness a little light in such a dark part of history. Again, I would only recommend for mature readers because of some very dark themes. And I will warn you, it is almost impossible to put down...I read over five-hundred pages in six days...which is pretty much unheard of for me but gives you an idea just how engrossing it is!

I will be back next month and I promise there is nonfiction in the lineup!

Always on the lookout for recommendations...what are you reading?

Until then...

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Caution! This Post Contains Gluten

photo via pinterest
Before we get started I want to preface this post by saying I have the greatest sympathy for any individual who has a medical diagnosis of Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance and I am in no way trying to make light of their challenges. That said...

To be perfectly honest, I am more than a little fed up with the gluten-free trend. Five years ago how many of us gave gluten a second thought? Don't you remember the good old days when we were too busy trashing carbohydrates to pay gluten any attention? Now this innocent, naturally occurring protein composite, responsible for the lovely chewiness of bread and lightness of cupcakes, has become the villain of the grocery store shelves. Bread, once considered the staff of life, is now viewed as a national threat. Grown adults shutter at the G-word. What happened?

Monkey see, monkey do. Keeping up with the Jones. It's human nature. But just because Novak Djokovic's game improved after he was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance does not mean going gluten-free will make you a tennis star. And just because celebrity-not-a-nutritionist, Gwyneth Paltrow, started her kids on a gluten-free diet does not make you an irresponsible parent for letting your kids consume gluten with total abandon.

Nosophobia is commonly experienced by medical students who, while studying a disease, become preoccupied with a particular disease to the point where they are convinced they are suffering from x disease. But let's face it. Headaches, dizziness and weakness can be caused by one of a million things. Including simply not drinking enough water.

Crazes cause individuals to think and do...umm...crazy things! And social media (aka trend breeding ground!) does not help. It starts innocently enough. Mrs. So-and-So is experiencing abdominal pain, headaches and fatigue. After proper testing, her doctor diagnoses Celiac disease. She begins to eat a gluten-free diet and her symptoms resolve. But, wait! You've been having those symptoms as well as irritability and constipation! So you consult Dr. Google. Lo, and behold, right there on Web M.D., your symptoms are staring you in the face. This is incredible! You follow Mrs. So-and-So diet and, miraculously, your symptoms resolve. Pat yourself on that back. You just self-diagnosed. Sheesh, why stay at that desk job you hate so much? You're ready to hang up your shingle and take on patients. Who needs medical school?

Is my snark showing?

First, let's get our names straight. There is a difference between Celiac disease, a wheat allergy and a gluten intolerance. Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the lower intestines' nutrient absorption. The Celiac Disease Foundation states an endoscopic biopsy is the only accurate way to diagnose Celiac disease. A wheat allergy is a short term reaction to a substance the body considers harmful. A gluten intolerance is the GI track mounting a stress response to gluten resulting in permanent damage to the intestines.

You know how annoying it is when someone walks in on the middle of a conversation and, not understanding the context, makes a ridiculous assumption? Just because your symptoms resolve, you loose weight and feel great after switching to a gluten-free diet does not mean gluten was the source of your problems. Cutting out gluten means cutting out a lot of foods. It could be your self imposed gluten limitation is discouraging you from consuming processed products and empty carbohydrates and is encouraging you to seek out more nourishing foods. We would all feel better if we replaced processed crap that bloats and weighs down even the best of us with fruits and veggies. And, judging by the taste of most gluten-free alternatives, it wouldn't surprise me if a gluten-free diet encourages portion control...there is only so much dense bread one can take before going crazy.

Ultimately, if eating gluten-free makes you happy, by all means knock yourself out with the rice pasta.  But please do not minimize the conditions by claiming Celiac disease or gluten intolerance without a medical diagnosis. It's not fair to those with a legitimate diagnosis. And it's not fair to yourself. If you are having symptoms consult with a trusted physician. 15 minutes of internet research does not equal 15 years of medical training. If that was the case I wouldn't have nightmares about student loans and MCAT scores. You need to care for your body and self treating could just complicate matters by masking symptoms. Love your body, love your life. Admit you are not your own doctor.

Would someone pass the pasta?