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This Week In My Library: 9.12.23

Sep 11, 2023

india, surgeons, and a better hero's journey

Life of a Bookman

Bookman: 1. a person who has a love of books and especially of reading. 2. a person who is involved in the writing, publishing, or selling of books. Oh, hi thats me!!

The Hero's Journey, but better: If you've never heard of Joseph Campbell's work, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, you've still been influenced by his work. His book became the playbook for Hollywood directors and their male-centered view of charismatic heroes. That's why I was SO excited to see an alternative – The Heroin with a 1001 faces – written by Maria Tatar, world-renowned folklorist and professor at Harvard. It's a beautiful examination of the quest of women heroes and the bold, defiant and courageous ways they travel on redemptive missions to save themselves, to save us, to save the world. I loved this read because it has given me new frameworks to see the heroes in my own life as well as literature.

I just cracked open: Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver, winner of the Pulitzer Prize. I listened to Barbara on Ezra Klein talking about her upbringing, people of the Appalachia, and her experience writing this book, which was the only reason I picked it up. Otherwise, can't say this one would have initially spoken to me – a story about a boy who narrates his life of poverty, addiction, institutional failures and moral collapse. I'll let you know what I think!

What I'm writing: I recently used a 120 year-old horoscope written for my main character of That Novel to write a new scene (I actually have the typed out, 32-page detailed horoscope done for her when she was in her 50s). There's even penciled underlines and notes all over the pages from her, so I know what stood out to her in the way we all do when we read a personality test or horoscope and go “oh shit, that's SO me.” History is wild. I know my character is long dead, but she often feels very, very with me.

Women’s studies

What gets passed down becomes our history. A few for the canon: File this under things we already knew, BUT...female surgeons get better results than their male counterparts, according to extensive studies, which were reported in the Wall Street Journal. Honestly, none of this surprised me. I nodded along, feeling oh so validated for my strong preferences for women physicians, much less a surgeon – gynos, primary, derms, dentists, you name it. But when I got to this point in the reporting my jaw (I don't know why) was on the ground: When male surgeons treat female patients, outcomes are slightly worse. WTF.

Speaking of other things that are not perfect, Ellen Pompeo went OFF on perfectionism and I think it might be my morning pep talk every day this week.

Pass it on

Stories are heirlooms. Here's one of mine: Last week a memory popped up of my solo trip through India TEN years ago. I cannot believe it's been a whole decade. That was one trip that was monumental for me – I was on the other side of a double breakup (a double break up is where you end things with one person, go immediately back and recycle some other person in order to not deal, and then that goes south too). I came back from that trip with insights about myself that have served me for the last decade. So last week, in true nostalgia fashion, I got out my India journal, which I wrote furiously through the whole time. In it, is a list I made at 25 for things I wanted to do by the time I was 30 – random stuff and major stuff – that I don't remember making. What's even funnier (crazier? wilder? more wonderful?) is that I ended up doing many of these things by the time I was 30, and have done most of them by today. Maybe I should do another one of these for 40? Journals are wild, take a look:

The early pages in my India journal began, wait for it...I want a love as big as the Taj Mahal. 

India showed me I already had it and how to access that love. I've kept her with me ever since. 


My words are written just for you.