Volume III, Issue IV Winter 2004

Two interesting books make for great reads

By Jan Roberts

Please Don't Kill the Freshman
Please Don't Kill the Freshman
By Zoe Trope
HarperTempest; New York, N.Y.: 2003

To learn more about this book, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

A Round-Heeled Woman
A Round-Heeled Woman
By Jane Juska
Villard; New York, N.Y.: 2003

To learn more about this book, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

Up for a weirdly shocking read?

Lovely long days of summer, though barely a memory now, seem to incite at least an extra few minutes a day for many of us to delve into a good book. Last year's selections of best sellers were many and varied; however, I chose to go off the beaten path a bit in my readings, as well. Among my book choices last summer I found two non-fiction works that will probably never make the best-seller list, yet they present interesting perspectives about life.

A high school student in Oregon wrote one, "Please Don't Kill the Freshman." Zoe Trope recounted a rather fascinating memoir of her first years in high school. How many high school students write and publish a book when they are still students? In Zoe's case, it seems that she started her endeavor after being told by one of her middle school teachers that it wasn't necessary to scribe a novel to be a writer; a book didn't need to be formal to be interesting.

Although the subject matter relates to school, her memoirs include a variety of experiences, including vivid descriptions of her friends, her feelings about them and their sexuality. I'd classify it as definitely an adult read.

I found some of her observations about life to be insightful and some made me laugh out loud. She writes about lust, humanity, today's music, same-sex love and seems to have an argument to defend her views on everything.

At times Zoe resembles a typical teenager, and at others she appears to be on information overload – which makes her struggle with caring in what she sees as an apathetic world. "Please Don't Kill the Freshman" is an enlightening read if you want a unique viewpoint about understanding facets of our younger generation. (For another viewpoint of "Please Don't Kill the Freshamn," see Brenda Fine's review from the Winter 2003 issue.)

Another shocking, but almost un-put-down-able book was written by a woman from a totally different perspective. "A Round-Heeled Woman" is an account of a sixty-six year-old woman who placed a personal ad in the reputable periodical The New York Review of Books because she thought the caliber of responses would be from a higher level in the Review, as opposed to the run-of-the-mill singles ads found in daily newspapers.

Jane Juska, the author, wanted to have "a lot of sex with a man I like" before she turned sixty-seven. No, her manuscript is not all about the "S" word. She very cleverly weaves stories about her childhood, her unsuccessful marriage and her various teaching experiences into a fascinating tale. One of the most memorable of these was her stint as an English teacher to prisoners in San Quentin.

"A Round-Heeled Woman" is simple, good and funny! If you choose to read this book, you will find yourself cheering her on in her quest – and perhaps second-guessing her choices. You will learn about literature and about life as she tackles her quest with zest. Lastly, you will find a big smile on your face when you get to the end.

Sure, I read plenty of best sellers, too, with action, plot, great characters, and written by well-known authors. Yet it was the above two books that stood out as memorable. Isn't that what a good read is all about?

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