A vibrant chronicle of a profound spiritual journey.

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ONE BLADE OF GRASS

FINDING THE OLD ROAD OF THE HEART, A ZEN MEMOIR

How Zen led one man to awareness of the miraculous.

When he was 19, traveling in South America, award-winning poet, novelist, and travel writer Shukman (Archangel, 2013, etc.) had an experience so shattering that he could hardly put it into words. “I thought I wanted to go out and see the world,” he reflected soon after. “Instead it was the other way round: the world opened its arms and pulled me in. What did it all mean?” As he recounts in a graceful, insightful, and disarmingly candid memoir, he spent the rest of his life trying to answer that question. The son of academics headed for Cambridge and, he thought, a career in academia himself, Shukman was not given to spiritual or mystical speculation. However, he felt overwhelmed by the “numinous grace” that enveloped him on the beach, a feeling that freed him from his “ordinary self, with its cravings and complaints.” Among those complaints was severe and persistent eczema: “itch and pain in the dermis, frustration and misery in the psyche.” He sought relief from all manner of medical, psychological, and alternative treatments and finally tried meditation: first transcendental meditation and then Zen. At Zen centers, he felt “a sweetness, a sense of justified indolence, of coming closer to life, to a more authentic self.” He went on retreats, emerging with “a sense of having been cleansed, absolved even, and of returning to the world with new eyes.” He studied with several masters, one of whom was a traditional koan teacher. A koan, he learned, is a verbal formulation that the student thinks about while meditating and must give up trying to understand but instead “let it reveal itself” to the heart and deepen one’s understanding of reality. Zen, Shukman writes, teaches not to withdraw but to accept life, pain, suffering, and beauty: “Unless a path leads us back into the world—reincarnates us, as it were—it’s not a complete path.” Shukman now leads his own Zen center in New Mexico.

A vibrant chronicle of a profound spiritual journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64009-262-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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