War, What Is It Good For?

I recently took on a reading challenge this past year, and in that time, I’ve read Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead, and now I’m currently in the middle of reading James Bradley’s Flags of Our Fathers.  The categories I chose these books for are “a book based on a true story” and “a book with a blue cover,” respectively.

The weird thing is, I’ve never been interested in books, movies, or TV shows about war.  So, why these books and why now?  Well, the simple answer is, Jarhead was on my bookshelf because I’d bought it after meeting the author at the Florida Writers’ Conference, and Bradley’s book had been sitting on my shelf after I’d picked it up on a whim at a secondhand bookstore.

What had interested me in Swofford’s book in the first place was that I remembered watching the movie when I was a kid, and I knew it was one of my dad’s favorites.  So, naturally, I had to get a copy and have him sign it and give it to my dad.  Bradley’s book had sounded vaguely familiar as one of those books I should probably read.

I’ve never quite cared about war stories.  Not for lack of compassion, but as a kid, I didn’t understand why people would fight brutally with one another, and now as an adult, well, I still don’t understand it.

My dad, though, he understands that life.  See, my dad was an army guy.  Not here in the U.S., but in Ecuador, and from the stories I’ve heard him tell and the way he nods his head and says, “Yep,” every time he watches Jarhead, it seems the culture’s pretty similar.  My dad seems to have an endless repertoire of army stories, and some of his stories I’ve heard several times over.

I thought at first my picking up two war books for my reading challenge was coincidence based off what’s on my bookshelf, but I think subconsciously what drew me to them is the kid who heard my dad’s stories about intense training, Draconian drill sergeants and cruel punishments for what civilians would consider minor infractions, and the grownup in me wanted to better understand that.

It’s so weird for me to read these books, knowing they’re based off real life, and seeing pieces of my dad in them.  I’ve heard these stories before, in Spanish, but they’re the same stories.  I feel my heart strings tugged seeing how harsh the life of a warrior is, and all the time in the back of my mind I’m screaming, Oh my god that’s my dad!

Or rather, that was my dad.  He’s a civilian now, an American citizen, working for the FDOT and continuously making a life for my brother and me.  But that same guy, the one that taught me how to do math in my head was once doing the math in his head of what his chances of surviving war were.  The same hands that playfully squeeze my shoulders as he greets me when he comes home from work are the same that once squeezed a trigger on a rifle as he learned how to take an enemy out.

So, why these books, and why now?  Maybe because now that I’m older, even if I still don’t get war, I can understand my father a little bit better.

(Note: This was originally published on my personal Tumblr blog here.)

All Books Matter

I was in my city’s Barnes & Noble store about a month ago, and I figured it’d be a long shot, but I thought, what the hell, why not give it a try.  My dad had been looking for a long time for a book of poetry by a Spanish writer named Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer.  Believe me, it’s a hard thing to come by.

Browsing several shelves for nearly half an hour, I finally found the Spanish section, and the sight I saw broke my heart.  First of all, I spent so much time looking because there were no labels over the tops of the shelves to indicate a Spanish language section.  Secondly, there were only two cases front and back dedicated to Spanish language books.  And to add insult to injury, everything was in disarray and out of alphabetical order.

Something about this just didn’t sit right with me.  I mean, I know throughout the day people pick things up and put them down, not necessarily where they belong, but there’s people working in the store periodically checking this and fixing the situation.  Well, maybe I just happened to catch it at a time when someone hadn’t checked in a couple of hours, so I thought, let me just give them a heads up.

I walked over to the customer service desk and politely told the woman working there, “Hey, just to let you guys know, I was looking for a specific author in the Spanish section, but it’s all out of order over there.  Could I get some help?”

She didn’t seem all too pleased to have me bother her with such an inane task, but she walked over anyway and asked me the author’s last name.  I offered it and specified the genre, and if she could perhaps tell me where the poetry section is that would help.  This is when she turned to me and said, “Honestly, there’s no separation for specific genres in this section.  It’s all just by author, so if you don’t see it in the B’s, it’s not here.”

Naturally, I was annoyed at this attitude, but I tried to remain polite anyway and reiterated my predicament of all the books being in disarray and out of order.  At this, she took a glance back at the books, shrugged her shoulders and said, “Yeah, no one really worries about keeping up this section.”  With that, she walked away.

My mother was with me, and I couldn’t help but look at her with so much fury in my eyes.  I’d been in the store’s restrooms and even those were in better condition than the Spanish language section.

I get it.  It’s a niche audience, they’re not big sellers, and probably not that many people browse the area on a daily basis.  But it’s still a part of your store, and every customer should matter, no matter what their background or language they speak.  And yes, that kind of blasé attitude toward those books is a personal affront to those customers.  It’s telling us we don’t matter.

Fast forward to last week, which was about a month later, and the optimist in me said, Go ahead and check it out again.  I still didn’t find any books by Bécquer, but there were now four full cases with Spanish books, labels that read Ficción and Religión, and they were alphabetized properly.  I smiled at my mom.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction.

(Note: This was originally published on my personal Tumblr blog here.)

A Quick Introduction

Hello, world!

My name is Meagan, and I’m a writer. What do I write? A little bit of everything honestly. I love to write poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and I’ve even dabbled in script writing. However, it’s not just creative writing I’m capable of. As my interests include books, television and music, I enjoy writing reviews of such things.

My current life goal is to work in the publishing industry. I’d like to be an editor at a publishing company, and perhaps some day, even run my own press. I’ll start small though and begin with running my own blog.

Here in this blog I’ll make weekly posts about anything to do with reading, books, and writing. I’ll include a range of posts from news in the publishing industry, reviews, personal essays and my own poetry and fiction.

I’m writing this on a four day weekend courtesy of Hurricane Matthew. So to all my fellow readers and writers out there in the same boat right now, stay safe and happy reading/writing!