Showing 21 - 30 of 58 annotations contributed by Davis, Cortney

What Becomes You

Raz, Hilda; Link, Aaron

Last Updated: May-09-2007
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Autobiography

Summary:

Aaron Raz Link was born a girl, named Sarah, and loved as a daughter. Twenty-nine years later, after inner turmoil, deep thought and relentless examination of how society views gender, Sarah became Aaron, a gay man. This starkly open and moving book describes, in Aaron's words and then in his mother's words, both the costs and the rewards of this journey.

The book is divided into two sections: the longer, beginning section is Aaron's, an intense rendering of what might be called an inner dialogue: Aaron talking to himself about his place in a gendered world; Aaron talking to society about the role of men and women; and Aaron talking to us, the readers, as if we were his close friends, gathered around him as he revealed his life.

The second section belongs to his mother, Hilda Raz. In musing, episodic scenes, she writes about herself as Sarah and then Aaron's mother, about her own work as a poet and editor, and most poignantly about losing her breast to cancer.

On page 86 Aaron says, "A stereotype is a kind of camouflage; the eye finds what it expects to find, and passes over details." Throughout this book we are asked to look at, directly but never sensationally, our bodies' organs, our gender "details," not only as functional anatomy but as symbols of identification.

In both sections, I felt pulled along on this journey, both as someone invited and as someone looking on, an emotional voyeur, and in both sections I observed the unflinching honesty of the authors' revelations. But it in was this final section, the mother's story, that I felt most keenly the love between the two authors. It is this love that becomes the strength of the narrative, the ground on which this incredible story unfolds.

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Diva

Campo, Rafael

Last Updated: Nov-28-2006
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

In his third collection, Campo presents visceral poems that grow organically from the body: his own body and the bodies of patients, lovers, family, and friends. He doesn't write about being a gay physician of Cuban background--rather he crafts poems that address pain, love, and memory within a metrical framework so seamlessly that readers might feel they are healing, seeking, and singing alongside him.

Outstanding poems include "Sonnet in the Cuban Way," "The Return," "The Dream of Loving Cuba," "Madonna and Child," "Baby Pictures" (a prose-poem sequence), "A Poet's Education," "The Changing Face of Aids," and "Recognition." Section V, "Lorca," gives us Campo's translations of Federico Garcia Lorca's Sonnets of Dark Love.

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The Man in the Box

Moran, Thomas

Last Updated: Nov-28-2006
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Dr. Robert Weiss passes through the town of Sankt Vero in the Tirol and rents a room from the Lukasser family. During the night, the Lukasser's son, Niki, develops acute appendicitis; the visiting doctor operates right there on the kitchen table, saving the boy's life. Years later, when war rages in Europe, the Jewish doctor returns to Sankt Vero and knocks on the Lukasser's door. He tells of soldiers forcing men, women, and children into railroad cars, and how he himself--he who had saved Niki years before--needs asylum.

To hide Dr. Weiss, Mr. Lukasser boards him up in a small room in the back of the hayloft, a space one meter wide and three meters high. For two years, the doctor exists in this box. Niki and his friend, a blind girl named Sigi, bring Dr. Weiss food once a day and, for ten minutes or so, they stay and talk. Sustained by Niki and Sigi's lives--the stories of their discoveries of sexuality, cruelty, and love--the doctor survives.

Although Sigi is blind, she has the insight to recognize and try to alleviate the doctor's growing depression by encouraging him to tell his own stories. It is through these stories and through the doctor's observation of Sigi and Niki's blossoming adolescence and struggles with morality that we experience both the doctor's confinement and the powerful conflicts and transformations that rage behind the doors of Sankt Vero.

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Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Literature

Genre: Collection (Mixed Genres)

Summary:

Veneta Masson’s wonderful collection contains 56 "entries," essays, poems, fragments, and articles about her work as a nurse in an inner-city clinic. Her story is offered not as a neat beginning to end narrative, but as a pastiche of observations that range from commentary on how doctors and nurses approach caregiving, to a poem about Maggie Jones, a patient who changed Masson’s life.

As she follows the growth of the clinic and muses about the professionals and patients who give it life, Masson also talks about nursing: how it was, how it is, and why it’s such an important, and sometimes difficult to define, vocation. Some entries were contributed by Masson’s colleagues, Jim Hall, Teresa Acquaviva, Sharon Baskerville and Katrina Gibbons, but the best are Masson’s own.

This book should be required reading for nursing students, especially entries, "Nurses and Doctors as Healers," A Case for Doctoring Nursing," "Pushing the Outside of the Envelope," "If New Graduates Went to the Community First," "A Good Nurse," "Nursing the Charts," "Tools of the Trade," "Bring Back Big Nurse," "A Ready Answer," "Mindset," "Seven Keys to Nursing," and "Prescriptive Ambivalence." This book, especially for the essays "Nurses and Doctors as Healers," "A Case for Doctoring Nursing," "Prescriptive Ambivalence," and "If New Graduates Went to the Community First," should also be slipped into every medical student’s pocket.

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Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poetry and Art

Summary:

David Rosen and Joel Weishaus are long-time friends, the former a psychiatrist, the latter a poet, teacher, and literary critic. Both authors have lived and traveled in Japan, and both are enamored of the haiku form. In this book, Rosen and Weishaus carry on the "renga" tradition of writing haiku as part of an on-going conversation, a call and response of commentary and haiku. Grouped into 53 two-page chapters, such as "Feeling Death," "Learning to Bow," "Eating," "Mother Ill, Mother Dead," "Tuscany," and "Turtle Wisdom," this conversation is enriched by the black and white illustrations of Arthur Okamura.

The comments and haiku range widely and deeply, reflecting the authors’ recognition of the possibility and need for healing, not only in human relationships but also with Nature. In part, this conversation is the authors’ quest to understand the "psychology, meaning, and healing value" of haiku (1), and to explore how poems might lead not necessarily to cure but to "becoming whole" (5).

The commentaries are open and transparent, interwoven as one poet picks up a word or image in his friend’s haiku and extends it, turning it over both in commentary and verse-for example, see the chapter "In the Flow" where the last line of Rosen’s haiku, "A river streaming back toward the sun," is used as the first line of Weishaus’s responsive commentary, one that transports the discussion from Japan to Africa (82-83). Often movingly honest, the poets discuss loneliness and death, their insights reflected in artist Okamura’s stark ink swirls (8-15). They examine their relationships with their fathers ("making Peace with One’s Father," 44-45), and they don’t shrink from humor ("Learning to bow," 34-35) or from sensuality ("Anima," 86-87). Their spiritual references range widely, from the Hebrew God to the Buddhist’s tribute to Nature (70-71).

The haiku are lovely, both strong and delicate, our appreciation of them enhanced by a review of haiku’s traditions in the Preface (1-5). Rather than try to describe the haiku (because, like all good haiku, these cannot be captured or retold and remain the same), I’ll present one haiku from each poet and hope readers will be compelled to seek out the book and read further.

David Rosen, on walking near his apartment in Mukaijima (40): Shimmering paddy-- / The slap of small feet nearing / Where dragonflies hover. Joel Weishaus, on September 11, 2002 (103): Sluggish creek-- / A shadow dips / And drinks.

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Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Art with Commentary

Summary:

According to the author's introduction, the most "beautiful and informative images of nursing are found on picture postcards" (xi). He has gathered over 580 full--color postcard images of nursing from 65 nations, documenting nurses' work in peace and war time and documenting, often in breathtakingly lovely images, an important part of nursing's history. Postcards from the years 1893 to 2002 (many of these from the "golden age of postcards," 1907 through World War I) follow nurses from factories to flu wards, from battlefields to mission welfare clinics.

The author has divided his book into seven chapters: "Symbols of Care," "Twentieth--Century Postcard Art," "As Advertised: The Nurse on the Advertising Postcard," "Portraits," "War!" "An American Photo Postcard Album," and "Parade of Nations." Each chapter begins with an intelligent, fascinating explanatory essay by the author, and each chapter ends with copious notes revealing the origins and stories behind the postcards. The book has an extensive bibliography and is well indexed.

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Medicine Stone

Coulehan, Jack

Last Updated: Aug-31-2006
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

Jack Coulehan’s fourth poetry collection brings together new and previously published poems in a well-organized and handsome volume. As a reader who has long followed this author’s career, I found some of my favorite poems here (Irene, "Lima Beans," "For Oysters Only," "Six Prescriptions," "Sir William Osler Remembers His Call on Walt Whitman," "Cholera," and Medicine Stone) as well as compelling newer work: "The Shoe," "Work Rounds: On Lines by Tomas Transtromer," "Definitions," and "Decatur in Winter."

The collection is divided into three sections: the first presents poems about "doctoring" and, a Coulehan trademark, poems from a patient’s point of view; the second is a remarkable assembly of Coulehan’s poetic commentaries on Chekhov’s life and writing; the third features poems about a variety of personal relationships.

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Mom's Cancer

Fies, Brian

Last Updated: Aug-24-2006
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Graphic Memoir

Summary:

This extraordinary graphic work began its life as a Web comic, posted anonymously, tracing in image and word the story of a son, his sisters and their mother who was diagnosed with a brain tumor, metastatic from her lung.  This comic caught on, and news of it was passed by email and link from reader to reader. About a year later, the author, Brian Fies, was presented the Eisner Award for Best Digital Comic. The entire sequence has now been published in a small, wonderful hardback book that will fit into a lab coat pocket.
 
Fies has managed to capture, in word and graphic panels, the thousand emotions and moments that swirl about a family when cancer changes their lives. He shows us the small, personal gestures and thoughts that we look back upon--how he "didn't lose any sleep" (3) when his mom first fell ill; how his mother both denied the severity of her illness and, at the same time, fell into the abyss of medical examination, radiation, chemotherapy; how he and his sisters assumed various roles in their mother's care and, soon, morphed into "superpowers," each defending his or her own territory (41-44).

Most amazing is how Fies exposes, in honest and poignant visuals, the many points of view of illness--his mother's, his siblings', his own, even the physicians'. His portrayal of how the medical system both confuses, abandons and supports his mother is alone worth the price of the book (39-40). We watch his mother, through his "cartoons," as she moves deeper and deeper into the world of illness, and we see the author's own anger in response to this loss.

He lashes out at smokers (pp 55-56), perfectly portrays the ever-smiling doctor (48-49), captures the odd suspension of a transient ischemic attack (TIA) (68-70), and lets us walk the tightrope of treatment alongside his mother (59-61). He also cleverly interweaves the back-story of his mother's youth, marriage and divorce, his childhood, and a vignette of the sickness and death of a favorite uncle, one whose dying prophesy impacted Fies's life (73-77). The moment when his mother truly understands the severity of her prognosis (94) is stunning.

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Mercury

Montgomery, Judith

Last Updated: Aug-23-2006
Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

"Mercury" is a 41-line, free-verse poem divided into three stanzas. Although the narrative is filled with highly personal images, the poem's story is told from a third person point of view which serves to universalize the poem's theme: the often mechanical struggle of a couple to achieve pregnancy, and the fragility and innate sadness of that struggle.

In the first stanza, the poet sets the scene--a couple who rely on the daily reading of the thermometer that "measures their mornings / against a brimming point" (p. 44). When the thermometer indicates that "seed / and egg might meet and link" (p. 44) the man and woman have intercourse, but all sensuality has been "banished, by this elusive / goal: the child they lack" (44).

The second stanza, which is the briefest, gives us the likewise brief coupling of this man and woman, a stanza devoid--like the compulsive act--of spontaneous love or passion. A calculated sex-cry--"Baby, / Baby"--seems to be a cry both of their present desire and of their memory of a once--passionate relationship (44). The final lines leave the woman lying rigidly in the position her doctor has prescribed.

The final stanza brings a surprise. Suddenly there is the "crack" of a bird hitting their sliding glass door--"a spray of feathers splays / it's fist on glass" (p.44). Forgetting for now the need to lie still, to enhance her own chance for pregnancy, the woman rushes to the door, remembering the house finches that have nested in their yard--a gestation perhaps at first more successful than hers. "Seed seeping / down her thighs, the woman gathers / feather by feather / the splattered down, / cupping fragments tight inside / her empty fist" (45). The bird's death, in the midst of the promise of parenthood, parallels the nothingness inside the woman's fist, the perfect metaphor (as the non--gravid uterus is the size of a woman's clenched hand) for the emptiness of her womb.

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Annotated by:
Davis, Cortney

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Summary:

This extraordinary anthology of 65 poems examines the relationship of parents to their grown children from the parents’ point of view. The poets are well known (among these, Grace Paley, Ruth Stone, Kumin, Maxine , Marilyn Hacker, Alicia Suskin Ostriker, Linda Pastan), and lesser known, female and male ( Dick Allen, Raymond Carver, Hayden Carruth, and Robert Creeley), but all poems deal head on with situations that often confront parents.

Situations examined are: the addiction of grown children ("To My Daughter"), their illnesses ("Pittsburgh," "Anorexia"), their own visible aging ("The Ways of Our Daughters"), the frustration of poor communication ("Lowater Bridge," "Harmonies for the Alienation of My Daughter," "Listen," "Potentially Fatal Toes," "Letter to a Son I Once Knew"), the way parents aren’t really the people their children think they are ("The Children"), and the joy when, even for a moment, love and safety reign ("Time, Place, and Parenthood," "Visual Ritual").

In these poems parents stand at the doorway and watch their children caring for their own children ("Sometimes," "Practicing") and they invoke family histories ("The Blessing," "Girl Children," "On an Old Photograph of My Son"). They dread the ringing of the phone ("Hours After Her Phone Call," "Long Distance Call from the Alone & Lonely") and they worry over children’s marriages, physical pains, and the disasters in their lives that parents cannot fix but feel they might have caused ("What I Need to Tell You," ""Letter: Thursday, 16 September," "Love is Not Love").

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