Hi Everyone! Guess what! This is not Jessica.

Take a deep breath. Everything’s going to be okay. I promise.

My name is Mary, and I’m one of Jessica’s particularly nerdy friends. I’m a first-year graduate student in English Literature at the University of Virginia,  a nerdfighter, and a bookaholic. I work primarily with contemporary and modern poetry at UVA, so I hope to bring some more poetry to Nisaba Be Praised in the next few months. I have been harboring my own ill-updated book-themed blog on tumblr, so when Jessica invited me to come and contribute to this blog it seemed perfect.

My main literary loves are poetry (of most periods), young adult fiction, fantasy fiction, and nineteenth century British novels. I detest autobiography irrationally.

I’m participating in the 50 book challenge this year. I’m also participating in the POC reading challenge, but at what level I’m not sure of. At least 3, hopefully more.

Aside from the occasional review of or ramble about a book, I also plan to post weekly poems, starting right now. The first poem I chose is one that I particularly love and  that I’ve known for a long time. It’s by Seamus Heaney and appeared in his 1975 volume North. It’s the sixth and final poem in the sequence “Singing School.”

6. Exposure

It is December in Wicklow:
Alders dripping, birches
Inheriting the last light,
The ash tree cold to look at.

A comet that was lost
Should be visible at sunset,
Those million tons of light
Like a glimmer of haws and rose-hips,

And I sometimes see a falling star.
If I could come on meteorite!
Instead I walk through damp leaves,
Husks, the spent flukes of autumn,

Imagining a hero
On some muddy compound,
His gift like a slingstone
Whirled for the desperate.

How did I end up like this?
I often think of my friends’
Beautiful prismatic counselling
And the anvil brains of some who hate me

As I sit weighing and weighing
My responsible tristia.
For what? For the ear? For the people?
For what is said behind-backs?

Rain comes down through the alders,
Its low conducive voices
Mutter about let-downs and erosions
And yet each drop recalls

The diamond absolutes.
I am neither internee nor informer;
An inner émigré, grown long-haired
And thoughtful; a wood-kerne

Escaped from the massacre,
Taking protective colouring
From bole and bark, feeling
Every wind that blows;

Who, blowing up these sparks
For their meagre heat, have missed
The once-in-a-lifetime portent,
The comet’s pulsing rose.


2011 Nonfiction Challenge

Over the past few years, I’ve been finding myself drawn more and more to nonfiction, so I’ve decided to sign up for the 2011 Nonfiction Challenge over at the Broke and the Bookish.

I’m going to sign up for, as usual, the lowest level, reading 1-3 books from the various categories she laid out. UNusually, however, I’ve got a book on the list!

1) The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson – This would probably fit best in the history category, but it could also count for science, so we’ll see where I tend to fill holes!

2011 Off the Shelf Challenge

Like many book lovers, I have many books on my shelves that I haven’t yet read. That’s why the Off the Shelf challenge is just perfect for me!

I’m going to sign up for the Trying level, which is to reading 15 books off of my dusty shelves. I have many more than that, but my theme this year seems to be making goals that I feel darn sure I can reach. My other theme is not making lists, so THIS IS THE END OF THE POST GOOD BYE

2011 Global Reading Challenge

A few years ago my good friend Mary and I set ourselves a challenge: read one book from every country (preferably by an author from the country). Ever since I’ve started this blog, I’ve thought about organizing it into a real long-term challenge for other book bloggers. I may still do that, but for now, I’ll settle for joining the 2011 Global Reading Challenge.

I’m going to go with the Easy Challenge, which is to read one book from each continent (with the 7th being either Antarctica or SF/F or whatnot), but I am going to limit myself to books written by authors from the countries they’re writing about. Therefore, while I could count A Girl Named Disaster for Mozambique, I’m not going to as Nancy Farmer is white. That doesn’t take away from the wonderfulness of the book, but I think that to fully embrace this challenge, reading native (that’s a loaded word I’ve been avoiding using, but I’m not using it to mean brown people, just authors who are native to whatever country they’re writing about) authors is the way to go.

North America:
South America:
Seventh Continent:

The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

The Book: The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

Genre: Nonfiction, history with a splash of science

Back Cover Copy: “It’s the summer of 1954, and London is seized by a violent outbreak of cholera… As the epidemic spreads, a maverick physician and a local curate are spurred to action, working to solve the most pressing medical riddle of their time. In a triumph of multidisciplinary thinking, Johnson illuminates the intertwined histories of the spread of disease, the rise of cities, and the nature of scientific inquiry, offering both a thrilling account of the most intense cholera outbreak to strike Victorian London and a powerful explanation of how it has shaped the world we live in.”

Grade: A-

One Sentence Review: Very strong for most of the book, but the epilogue lacked focus.

One Paragraph Review: Like the best nonfiction, The Ghost Map is about a lot of things: the history of epidemiology, cholera, and London; a tale of two men and their friendship; some basic germ theory and disease theory, among other things. Also like the best nonfiction, it is well-researched without getting slowed down by too many details. He has a thirty page epilogue (which seems a trifle long for a 250 page long book) where he looks to the future of cities and epidemiology, but that was, to me, the weakest part of the book. I am a strong proponent of historical nonfiction authors taking their conclusions and applying them to the present and future, but Johnson’s epilogue strained my credulity. Still, this is definitely a book worth picking up if you’re interesting in Victorian London, epidemiology, or historical nonfiction in general.


One last note: The Ghost Map is about cholera, a terrible disease that is, thankfully, all but eradicated in the Western world. I’m sure you’re all aware of the outbreak in Haiti, which has killed 3,889 as of late January according to its Wikipedia page. There are other outbreaks, many occurring in Africa, which affects millions of people and kills 100,000-130,000 people each year. The thing is… the thing that makes those hundred thousand deaths such an effing tragedy is that to both prevent and cure cholera (as well as some other diseases) is something so simple, something that everybody on this earth should have: clean water. This isn’t a disease we have to figure out a cure for. We know the cure. We know how to get the cure out to people. We just need to do it!

So if you have $10 or $20 (which I know many people don’t), please consider donating to any of the many clean water charities. Local access to clean water solves more problems than cholera. Here’s a link to’s main page for more information and its donation page if you want to give right away, but there are a TON of these organizations if doesn’t float your boat. Just google “clean water charity” and find your favorite!

Romance and YA

Sarah over at the Smart Bitches said something, not surprisingly, smart teh other day:

“I think there’s good and bad parts to the female standard in romance novels. Among the good parts: sexual agency, self-actualization and discovery, physical and emotional achievement, and generally winning at the end, plus orgasms and being appreciated for who one is, without requirements that one change to fit another’s world view. Also, orgasms.”

And I went, “Yeah!” in the way you do when someone says something that you have thought about but have maybe never said, and certainly never said so clearly and succinctly.

And then I thought that that describes the female standard in YA, too. Minus the orgasms (usually).

Romance. And YA. <3