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Leanne Brown

Sage Cohen

Bette Husted
What Divides Us

Sarah Sloat
Without Category

Patricia Weaver Francisco 

Roberta Ulrich
American Indians

Peter Rock

Robin Rinaldi
Self Knowledge

Ruth Madievsky
Medicine & The Arts

Franny Choi
Body Language

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Ebony Stewart
Sexual Health

Sonja Livingston
Hidden Lives

J.I. Kleinberg

Barbara Crooker

Shawnte Orion
Pop Culture

Amber Keyser

Yolanda Sanchez

Diane Lockward

Nahshon Cook

Maxine Sheets-Johnstone

Shawna Lemay

Fran Kimmel
Troubled Childhood

January Gill O'Neil
Marriage & Divorce

Erin Block
Wild Places

Currie Silver
The Art of Being

Paulann Petersen
Nature Inside & Out

Scott T. Starbuck
Activist Poetry

Shirley McPhillips
Poetry in the Everyday

Rick Campbell
Industrial Cities & Workers

Sandy Longhorn
Midwestern Rural Life

Sharon Bond Brown
Women's Ordinary Lives

Jeff Düngfelder
Absence & Silence

Valerie Savarie
Art Books

Valerie Wigglesworth & Ralph Swain

Ann Staley
Past & Present

Reb Livingston
Oracles & Dreams

Eduardo Gabrieloff
Latino Writers

Lisa Romeo
Personal Essays by Women

Mari L’Esperance
Mixed Heritage

Lee Lee
(Un)Natural Resources

Henry Hughes

Tracy Weil

Penelope Scambly Schott
Strong Women

Allyson Whipple
Roadtrips & Realizations

Hannah Stephenson

Blog Index
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When we read, creativity is stirred.

And when we create, our lives expand.

3 Good Books invites writers & artists to share their favorite books on a given theme.


Patricia Weaver Francisco on Resilience

"Survivors of trauma are heroes to me," says Patricia Weaver Francisco, author of Telling: A Memoir of Rape and Recovery. The book won the Minnesota Book Award and has been deemed “required reading” by The American Psychological Association Review of Books. She is also the author of a novel, a collection of lyric essays, and two plays. She teaches in the Creative Writing Programs at Hamline University and serves as the creative nonfiction editor of Water~Stone Review.

"So many people whose lives are flourishing around us proceed from a resilience born from tragedy, trauma, and deep loss. We rarely know this story, a profound humility often accompanies this kind of power. But we are lucky when they offer the rest of us a glimpse of the way forward," she says. "In speaking with survivors about sexual violence and its aftermath, I’ve come to appreciate the word resilience. In fact, if I could go back and re-title my book, I might replace recovery with resilience."

The American Psychological Association, she explains, describes people who demonstrate resilience as “those who are, by practice, able to effectively balance negative emotions with positive ones.” 

"This honors the truth of my own experience with trauma and with living with PTSD," says Francisco. "There is no recovery of one’s former self. (Recovery: “the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.”) The layers of loss open before the survivor, infinitely deepening, and can only be reckoned with. This is a transformational process, not a regressive one."

An alternate dictionary definition of recovery, she adds, is “returning to a normal state of health, mind, and strength.” 

"This, too, misses the core disruption that violence creates in one’s relationship to the world. For most, there’s no point trying to return to a bankrupt normal. Why would we? This vision of recovery, then, obscures its potential for evolution. Transforming loss, rather than longing to forget, creates in the survivor new capabilities, desires, and directions. Onward!"

Francisco looks to Diane Coutu, author of How Resilience Works, who writes: “Resilient people possess three characteristics: a staunch acceptance of reality; a deep belief, often buttressed by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and an uncanny ability to improvise.”

Francisco agrees, adding:

"Resilience is an ability that grows out of a transformative experience. When the sky has fallen (or you’ve broken through it), you know that life includes disaster and upheaval. Stability can always be trumped by the impossible. Once this is clear, the cultivation of resilience seems one’s best move. Not fear, not recklessness, not denial, not despair. But a staunch acceptance of reality, a belief that life is meaningful, an uncanny ability to improvise."

"Grit is a term in ascendance at the moment, and I like it," says Francisco. "It’s defined as 'perseverance and a passion for long-term goals.'  I see grit as a component of resilience, the critical element of determination that, along with luck and help, righteous grief and curiosity, allows our complicated lives to stay open to wonder."

Here are Patricia's top three stories of resilience:

The Snow Queen
by Hans Christian Andersen

This is Hans Christian Andersen’s masterpiece, a 50-page fairy tale marvelously open to interpretation. For me, it evokes with precision, in the language of myth and metaphor, the journey back from trauma. I first encountered the story as a child and registered the surprising fact that the “rescuers” are all female, and the lost soul in need of help is a boy. Check. Then fate and a misunderstanding led me back to the story while I was writing Telling. I was stunned by its complexity, and its accuracy as an analogue for my experience of the aftermath of rape.

The hero of the tale is Gerda, and her quest is to find her best friend Kai, who has been kidnapped by the Snow Queen and taken away in her icy sleigh. Gerda does everything she can think of to find him. She possesses the determination of true love, but she makes mistakes, seeks help in the wrong places, slips off course and wastes months of time talking to the flowers in an old woman’s garden. She meets The Little Robber Girl and reckons with the darkened path; she succumbs to false hope.

When at last she rescues her friend, we realize that Gerda has been reunited with a lost part of herself.

Toward the end of The Snow Queen, the reindeer pleads with the Old Finnish Woman, “But can’t you give little Gerda something to take which will give her the power to put everything right?”

“I can’t give her greater power than she has already! Can’t you see how great that is? Can’t you see how she makes man and beast serve her, and how well she’s made her way in the world on her own bare feet?”

Read it for its language, its strangeness, and its wisdom. 


Heaven’s Coast
by Mark Doty

I relied on Mark Doty’s 1996 memoir Heaven’s Coast as I began to write my own book. I was uncertain how to contain in sentences the way time had become a spiral, the recurrence but also the transformation of my feelings, sensations, and realizations. The New York Times called Doty’s memoir “terrifying and elegant.” 

Indeed, it is a wild, mad call from the chaos of grief, and it is also an artful testimony to the persistence of beauty and memory.  Written soon after the death from AIDS of his partner, Wally Roberts, Heaven’s Coast was a departure for Doty. Author of four previous books of poetry, he was working for the first time in prose. His skills as a poet, coupled with the intensity of sensation and memory that animate his voice, create a luminous, enveloping beauty where otherwise there might have been silence, absence and defeat. 

“We are elements of the world’s consciousness of itself, and thus we are necessary: replaceable and irreplaceable all at once. Someone will take our place, but then again there will never be anyone like us, no one who will see quite this way; we are a sudden flowering of seeing, among the millions of such blossomings. Like the innumerable tiny stars on the branching stalk of the sea lavender; it takes how many, a thousand, to construct this violet sheen, this little shaking cloud of flowers?”

The book’s epilogue places Doty firmly among the resilient with a catalogue of what he names “consolations,” among them metaphor, bitterness, dogs, Aretha Franklin, longing, and “the story I’ve been saving.” 


When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Pema Chödrön

This slim book of deeply considered essays interprets Buddhist principles for the likes of me. Chödrön is an American Buddhist nun and author of six books that draw on the wisdom tradition of Buddhism while speaking for the 21st century.  In When Things Fall Apart, she writes straight from the heart of suffering.

“The main point of these methods is to dissolve the dualistic struggle, our habitual struggle against what is happening to us or in us. These methods instruct us to move toward difficulties rather than backing away. We don't get this kind of encouragement very often.”

No, we don’t. But Chödrön’s calm, savvy voice places suffering in a context, pointing the way toward Coutu’s “staunch acceptance of reality,” rooted in “a belief that life is meaningful.” Chödrön writes as a seeker wrestling with her own losses, demonstrating why Buddhist thought so often gets the nod when suffering obscures our vision. She’s one of us, but she has her ear to the ground and can hear the ancient wisdom.  “You who see, tell the others,” said poet Audre Lorde.  That is Chödrön’s accomplishment here. 



Roberta Ulrich on American Indians

Roberta Ulrich worked as a reporter for 50 years, starting with her hometown weekly newspaper when she was just 13. Her vast career includes 25 years as a reporter for United Press International (UPI), followed by 13 years at The Oregonian, where she created the paper's first beat covering Native American issues.

Though she grew up 35 miles from the Nez Perce Reservation in eastern Washington, Ulrich says she learned nothing about Indians in school or in the wider world. As a young reporter, an interview with the Quinault Indian Nation’s tribal chairman revealed "the huge hole in my knowledge," she explains. "That sparked my interest in Indian issues." 

“In the 1970s, I was outraged when I learned that the federal government had not fulfilled promises to replace Columbia River tribal fishing sites destroyed by construction of Bonneville Dam completed more than 30 years earlier.“

Upon retirement, Ulrich funneled her outrage into writing books, producing groundbreaking works: Empty Nets: Indians, Dams and The Columbia River and American Indian Nations from Termination to Restoration 1953-2006.

"Unlike my early days," she says, "many books now provide tribal perspectives on history and life." Here are three of her favorites:


The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest
by Alvin M. Josephy Jr.

This massive book was unusual when it was published in 1965: it included the Indian point of view in a gripping tale of struggle and loss. A reporter before he was a historian, Josephy interviewed descendants and other relatives of the Indian participants in the so-called Nez Perce War. He examined tribal records as well as the European-American accounts and archives that serve as the foundation for most history. “He listened,” Indian people say of Josephy. Here is his description of Chief Joseph after the Nez Perce surrendered at the end of a 1,700-mile chase in which the Indians often outwitted the Army:

They were terrible days for the defeated, full of dejection and suffering and through the despair and hardship Joseph rose to greatness, never ceasing his efforts to win fair and just treatment for his people. Fairness seemed so simple: merely adherence to the promise [Generals) Howard and Miles had made to the Indians at Bear Paws. 

Seven Hands, Seven Hearts
by Elizabeth Woody 

I was introduced to Elizabeth Woody’s writing some years ago when she read one of her short stories at a gathering at the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation. I found myself howling with laughter at her self-deprecating humor. Woody is a Warm Springs tribal member and a visual artist as well as a poet and writer of essays and short stories. I was leafing through her third book, Seven Hands Seven Hearts, to select a few lines for this piece when I learned that she had been named Oregon’s Poet Laureate. Her writing reflects traditions of her tribal people, close bonds of family and sensibility to the world around her in terms of common humanity. In the poem “Chinle Summer” she writes:

Loneliness for me is being a daughter of two landscapes
distant from the horizon circling me. The red earth completely round.
The sky a deep bowl of turquoise overhead.
Mother and father. Loneliness
Rising up like thunderheads.

She has won both the American Book Award and the William Stafford Memorial Award.


Lewis and Clark Through Indian Eyes
Edited by Alvin Josephy Jr.

This collection includes essays by nine members of tribes contacted by the explorers on their epic journey to and from the Pacific Ocean. Edited by Alvin Josephy Jr. (his last work), the collection ranges from historian Vine DeLoria Jr. of the Standing Rock Sioux to Roberta and Richard Basch, she Puyallup and Coeur d’Alene and he Clatsop Nehalem. Each writer reflects on the effect the Corps of Discovery had on the tribal people. Roberta Conner is Cayuse, Umatilla and Nez Perce and the director of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s Tamaskslikt Cultural Institute. In her essay “Our People Have Always Been Here” Conner said non-tribal people tend to see the expedition as “a snapshot in time.” However, she wrote:

It is more. It is the first incursion and the beginning of the invasion of the Columbia Plateau. It is the advent of dispossession of our tribes.  

Conner, by the way, served as vice president of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Board of Directors. 




Peter Rock on Survival

"Survival is the theme that runs through my favorite books," says novelist Peter Rock, and he leans toward books that show young protagonists surviving in an unpredictable world. 

"Without even trying, many of my books have taken up an exploration of this topic, because feeling overwhelmed, uncertain and full of wonder is not a feeling I’ve yet escaped and don’t hope to escape," says Rock, the author of six novels and a short story collection. 

His best-known book, My Abandonment, is based on the true story of a father and his 13-year-old daughter who lived in an urban forest in Portland, Oregon. His most recent novel, Klickitat, is a young adult novel centered on two sisters and wilderness survival.

Rock lives in Portland, Oregon where he is a professor of writing at Reed College. 

He offers three of his favorite books on the theme of survival: 

A Wizard of Earthsea
by Ursula K. Le Guin

Best book about wizards and wizard-school ever. More importantly, about believing in unseen forces, and about finding yourself as the greatest power available. About shadows and strange animals, too. My dad read me this book at night before I fell asleep and that’s one reason I came to write things; now I read it to my daughters. And 40 years after my dad read me this book (and the rest of the trilogy, and Narnia, etc, etc, but Earthsea was always our favorite, our touchstone) Ursula has become a very good friend to me, the best writer, wisest, most generous person I know.

The Long Winter
by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I only saw the television show until the last few years, when I read the whole series to my daughters. They love these books, and so do I.  Whoa. I don’t know if Laura’s daughter did all that much editing, or changed the content, but I bet she didn’t touch these sentences, which are truly, truly astounding. This book is my favorite of them all! The snow, the train delays, the freaking twisting of straw to burn it, the hotness of Cap Garland (whom Laura totally should have married), everything. I love the way Wilder writes. My new book, Klickitat, opens with an epigraph from The Long Winter: “They were not walking hand in hand, but they felt as if they were.”

Island of the Blue Dolphins
by Scott O’Dell

Man! The way this world is delimited and how it changes, how quickly and seismically things change. The assessment of dangers, loneliness, the making of friends (dogs, even), the crazy vacillations of possibility, the sea, the weather. Every single time I read this I still can’t believe what happened to Ramo! Unbelievably sad and poignant, and the voice conjured here is so pure and fine, so fraught. Karana! This is pretty much a perfect book.




On Winning, Books & You

Hello Reader,

Nice to see you here.

It's National Poetry Month.

To celebrate, I'm giving away books — two of my favorites and one of my own. 

Playing is easy but time is short. For your chance to win, 
go here to enter the drawing by April 30, 2016.

No gimmicks or glitches. No pressure or spam. 

Just good books. Just because.

- Drew

Drew Myron
Push Pull Books - Founder/Hostess



Robin Rinaldi on Self-Knowledge

Robin Rinaldi is the author of The Wild Oats Project, a memoir applauded by critics and readers alike. "A sexual-awakening romp wrapped in a female-empowerment narrative," wrote The Washington Post. The book has been published in 12 countries and translated into eight languages.

Writing about love, sex, food, travel, psychology, and culture, Rinaldi's work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Oprah Magazine, and has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show and on BBC Radio. She lives in Los Angeles.

"The main reason I read is to learn about life," says Rinaldi. "How do others live it? What can authors teach me about experiences we have in common and experiences I’ll never have? Reading is the best method we have for delving into another person’s consciousness at length. Every book, regardless of genre, is a snapshot of the author’s mind."

"Of course, in memoir," she notes, "the snapshot is a bit clearer, the transmission more direct. There's no hiding in the shelter of fiction. The straightforwardness of memoir makes it my favorite genre. I’m so grateful for talented writers who’ve had the guts to honestly document the confusing thoughts, conflicting feelings, and moral struggles of their own lives, in beautiful language."  

Robin Rinaldi offers the following three good books on the subject of self-knowledge:
by Vivian Gornick

This slim memoir, the most recent of longtime critic, memoirist, and writing teacher Gornick, is an irresistible introduction to her elegant, intellectually vibrant prose. It explores her 20-year friendship with her gay male friend Leonard against the backdrop of New York City, where Gornick has spent all of her 80 years. It will make you want to go back and read Fierce Attachments, her memoir about the perennial mother-daughter struggle, and The Situation and the Story, a craft book that should be on every memoirist’s shelf. Gornick is a literary treasure, a slightly less melancholy, more extroverted version of Joan Didion who, though highly regarded, probably hasn’t gotten the acclaim she deserves.

New York—the city of Whitman and Crane—that fabled context for the creation myth of the young man of genius arriving in the world capital, as in a secular tableau of annunciation, with the city waiting for him and him alone to cross the bridge, stride the boulevard, climb to the top of the tallest building, where he will at last be recognized for the heroic figure he knows himself to be.

Not my city at all. Mine is the city of the melancholy Brits—Dickens, Gissing, Johnson, especially Johnson—the one in which we are none of us going anywhere, we’re there already, we, the eternal groundlings who wander these mean and marvelous streets in search of a self reflected back in the eye of the stranger.

The eleven volumes of Nin’s lifelong diary, covering 60 years, often get swept aside by critics and modern writers due to the omissions and untruths contained within the highly edited versions and—to be fair—some very florid writing about sex. Still, they are noteworthy in that Nin may have faithfully recorded more about the human experience than anyone before or since. Nin’s diaries can be read as a time machine (who wouldn’t want to traipse through Paris drunk with a young Henry Miller?), as a roadmap through some of the trickier terrain of feminine desire, and as an incisive commentary on the personalities, aesthetics, and psychological trends of the mid-20th century. There is so much life in these journals. And though much is made of her sexual shenanigans, her middle- and old-age musings more often contain insights such as this entry recorded soon after her mother died when Nin was 51:

I saw my mother’s small eyes looking at the hills and fields, which were sepia colored. I should have known she was looking at them for the last time. And I could have been tender and said: “Mother, I love you.” After death, that is what you weep over, but after death the one you love is not there to place an obstacle before your tenderness. Mother inhibited my tenderness. 
by Jonathan Franzen

Feminist writers like to dismiss Franzen: for his fictional characters’ sexism, for his ungenerous ivory tower rants against more populist writers like Jennifer Weiner, and, let’s face it, for his perch atop the totem pole of great white male American novelists—a spot this feminist believes he deserves. I can barely make it through a chapter of Philip Roth because I sense smugness beneath every word, and though I love David Foster Wallace’s essays, I’ve tried and failed three times to get past page 50 of Infinite Jest. But I devour everything Franzen writes the moment it’s published. Regardless of what his characters do or say, a broad consciousness underlies Franzen’s prose, an awareness of ambivalence and opposing forces. In this volume of memoirish essays, he makes a marital confession that few would have the vision to perceive, never mind admit:

At this late date, I seemed to have only two choices. Either I should try to change myself radically—devote myself to making my wife happy, try to occupy less space, and be, if necessary, a full-time dad—or else I should divorce her.

Radically changing myself, however, was about as appetizing (and likely to happen) as volunteering for the drab, homespun, post-consumerist society that the “deep ecologists” tell us is the only long-term hope for humans on the planet. Although I talked the talk of fixing and healing, and sometimes I believed it, a self-interested part of me had long been rooting for trouble and waiting, with calm assurance, for the final calamity to engulf us.

In another essay detailing his college years, Franzen describes a professor named Avery who claims a central spot in young Franzen’s mind and who gradually reveals himself to be a man of contradictions. These contradictions are mirrored in Avery’s lectures on Kafka’s The Trial, in which he posits that Kafka’s protagonist Josef, far from being an innocent victim, is actually, on closer read, guilty.

It was this other side of Avery—the fact that he so visibly had another side—that was helping me finally understand all three of the dimensions in Kafka: that a man could be a sweet, sympathetic, comically needy victim and a lascivious, self-aggrandizing, grudge-bearing bore, and also, crucially a third thing: a flickering consciousness, a simultaneity of culpable urge and poignant self-reproach, a person in process.

Victim, villain, and an overriding consciousness of both—the trinity of self-knowledge.