January 07, 2014

Bookmericanize me, internet!

January 07, 2014
Some of my 2013 reads, via flickr
For the next three years, the internet will choose what I read. 

Bookmerica is my crowdsourced reading journey into Americanness: in the time it takes to grow a married permanent resident into a citizen, my goal is to read a book per state per year.

In short, between now and Dec 31 2016 I am looking to the denizens of the internet to suggest at least 150 different titles.

This madcap idea of mine is one that wouldn't be unthought so I made a website, grabbed a book, and embarked on a new internet adventure – by crowdsourcing reading suggestions from the fifty states via social media, I am hoping to connect with America at large and get a better idea of who America is.

The website will serve as a reading companion, a place to record suggestions, 'thoughts and feels' about whatever text I set eyes on, and related miscellany. I am also hoping to feature some human tidbits like conversations with other book lovers and a few words about those who suggest books, but only if they feel comfortable with being written about.

Heart-powered reading

Bookmerica is not an academic exercise or a catalogue of book reviews nor does it purport to be. Instead, I want to share how much fun reading is, and how much more fun it gets when you put some heart into it, which is why I am asking you to recommend books you love, as opposed to purely didactic ones. 

With this in mind, I am keeping the criteria for Bookmerica as broad as possible. While I won't read textbooks or guide books because of their exponential yawn-inducing potential when taken out of context, if you send me a suggestion for a graphic novel or a poetry chapbook, chances are I will hunt high and low for it because it'll force me to get out of my fiction and non-fiction comfort zone. 

What I am looking for is reading suggestions that reflect the diversity – social, ethnic, cultural, and geographical – of the United States. In other words, I don't just want to read books written by privileged white men from the East Coast. No offense meant – some of my favorite writers fall into this category, but only because my reading horizon hasn't been broadened enough yet.

A zero budget adventure

I wanted to do something interesting that would help me learn, integrate, and keep me writing while I look for a job in digital journalism, or anything else word- and communication-related I may not have thought of yet.

In other words, Bookmerica has no budget and runs on curiosity, passion, and of course my public library card. I am lucky to live in Seattle, WA, a city with an outstanding public library system, so outstanding in fact that the adjective always feels like an understatement.

I am trying to keep expenses as low as possible by borrowing most of the books from the library – via interlibrary loans if necessary – or friends, and purchasing cheap secondhand copies, something I have a lifelong habit of doing anyway. 

The core principles of Bookmerica are inclusiveness and accessibility: anyone with a library card and access to the internet and a computer (both of which are available from the library, at a push) can do the same. 

However, I do realize that I am only able to do something like this because of 1/ literacy, and 2/ being an English speaker, privileges that not all immigrants to the United States enjoy upon arrival. 

Ambitious much?

Regarding the number of books I set as a reading target every year, it probably would have been easier to immigrate to Canada as it only has ten provinces and three territories rather than fifty states! Then again, when I tallied the books I remembered reading in 2013, I was only a few tomes shy of fifty so I figured it would be do-able.

What remains to be seen is whether reading – traditionally a solitary pursuit – can be transposed into an opportunity to connect with others.

Yesterday, I received my first Reddit and Twitter suggestions, and promptly did a little happy dance. 

Today, I'm asking you to fill in my reading suggestion form.

Tomorrow, we might become friends
This post was first published on Medium.

December 05, 2013

To hearts!

December 05, 2013
To hearts!, via my Flickr photo stream
There was nothing remotely regular – or easy – about 2013, which makes it a year to remember. In a (very large) nutshell (perhaps a Coco de Mer shell, which coincidentally looks like a pair of buttocks):

     + sat civil service exams to become a customs officer in one of North America's most remote outposts

     + wrote the ListServe on Jan 24

     + celebrated my return to civilization with a cup of Tim's in Canada

     + traveled the entire width of North America

     + got engaged

     + attended a family wedding on stilts

     + decided not to return to one of North America's most remote outposts, or become a customs officer 

     + immigrated to the US 

     + got a library card that doubles up as a virtual key to the city of Seattle

     + walked 10 miles in flip flops on Vashon Island

     + witnessed my husband being congratulated by a doctor on my not having syphilis (the test was part of my immigration medical)

     + tasted my first Frito on July 4 while floating in the middle of Lake Union

     + spent a long weekend on the Washington coast eating lots of raw garlic, homemade pickles, and candy

     + snapped a brilliant picture of the stars and stripes flying over a row of Porta Potties

     + showed my picture of patriotic Porta Potties to an immigration officer during an official interview

     + won 39 games of Scrabble

     + read big chunks of the internet, and over 40 books

     + cleaned up innumerable cat poos that came out of two different feline backsides

     + started writing a book then recoiled in horror so I waited a few months and started another one I could truly pour my heart into, which I am currently doing

     + moved home

     + fell in love with life all over again 

     + learned how not to fall apart, because love is the glue that now holds me together

2013 was the year that turned love into geographical stability and two hearts got a brand new life, all thanks to this blog, which I started in 2011

2014 will be all about the nurturing of hearts, in every possible way. 
Thank you Mel for the post format idea. Also, you are so very right: it's all about Heart. 

November 30, 2013

The month of me, and you, and everybody else

November 30, 2013
I am a joyful thought, by AlicePopkorn on Flickr
A month ago, I embarked on this thing called NaBloPoMo, which was a commitment to daily blogging throughout November. 

Thirty days later, many of the stories that make up my personal narrative remain untold, because there is a lot more to any of us than a month of anecdotes, and listicles, and cat pictures, and recipes, and videos, and sound bites...

I had no set goal for NaBloPoMo, the blank page never showed (although moving home during the last three days meant time and internet were both in short supply), and I discovered some engaging voices along the way.

I feared NaBloPoMo would be a battle of egos jostling for attention, but in the end it turned out to be mostly about people coming together, some finding their voice while others reconnected with regular blogging.

It was the month of thinking and feeling out loud.

It was the month of us.
I am in NaBloPoMo, which means daily blogging throughout November.