Charles Creath McCormack’s book Hatching Charlie: A Psychotherapist’s Tale is quite a book: a frank autobiography centered around the theme of the pursuit of happiness and a meaningful life, from a man who has sat both on and beside the psychotherapy couch; or as the author himself describes it, “a story of the follies and wisdom’s of the human condition”. Mr. McCormack is fully aware of both the theories and the realities of mental health, although the book contains no technical language at all. It’s an accessible account covering every stage of his life, from his youngest years into his partial retirement. Not to give too much away, but as the imagery of the title implies, his tale starts in darkness, and concludes with a breakthrough, with all the usual human drama of a life lived fully.
I found the style of writing very interesting; it perhaps relates to his experience as a psychotherapist. He makes use of imagery, not frequently, but when he does it’s usually a long, in-depth passage. Thankfully they don’t feel convoluted, because they exemplify his points well.
The imagery adds well to the overall narrative, which is compelling. If I’d had more time, I’d probably have read it in one sitting. Although the author references forward and back to events distant by dozens of years and pages, I was never left feeling confused or lost, so it was neatly accomplished. There was a clear sense of reflection as to what the reader may be thinking, and at points it almost felt like I was part of a conversation. However, I thought that near the end the narrative became a little unfocused, with some unnecessary repetition and description of his family that doesn’t always feel directly related to his main subject – his state of mind.
I want to describe it as a generous story, because I was given extremely honest details about Mr. McCormack’s life that many would have found embarrassing to tell. But he hides no faults or uncomfortable thoughts, and constantly admits when he was wrong. In one chapter the author relates the unfortunate stories of some of his patients. In this way, the book truly covers the full gamut of human experience – warmth, love, friendship, loneliness, unhappiness, violence, despair: life and death.
Despite the author’s wishes that we might take responsibility for our happiness, his book is not a manual for how to obtain it. Observant readers might pluck helpful wisdom from its pages, but this isn’t written as advice – just as he says he does with his patients, he places no obligation on us to try it.
Overall, I would recommend this to any adult reader who is willing to confront life’s uncomfortable truths and those who enjoy a fly-on-the-wall tale of other’s joys and sorrows. I enjoyed trip.
Pages: 373 | ASIN: B06XFG5G3M
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Proud American is a biography about your journey through life in South Texas; from migrant worker to US solider and then US Border Patrol agent. What was the inspiration behind creating such a thoughtful memoir of your life?
My mother passed away in the summer of 2015. After her passing, I fell into a depression because I felt truly alone in the world. Being the only child of a single parent can do that to a person. I had my wife and kids with me but I still felt utterly alone, and I couldn’t shake it off.
My wife kept pushing me to discuss my thoughts and feelings, but I could not muster up the strength. I didn’t know how to discuss what I was experiencing. My wife suggested that I write my feelings down. For years, my wife has been telling me that she believes I’m a good writer. For years, I’ve been ignoring her compliments.
One night after dinner, she brought a letter to me. She handed me a piece of paper and asked me to open it. When I did, I saw that it was a letter I had written to her eight years ago. Eight years ago was when my wife and I first started dating, and one night she asked me over the phone, why I had joined the Army. I wrote her a letter and poured everything out on paper. It opened up the floodgates for me. That letter is now the first chapter of my book.
Do you remember what your idea of ‘America’ was as a child?
Because I began working at the age of seven, my idea of ‘America’ was that of tough living. It is hard for one to realize so young that his or her childhood is nothing like that of other kids. We were dirt poor and I had the full workload of an adult at the age of ten.
In time though, everything around me was a constant reminder of what else was possible in ‘America’. I knew there were better ways to make a living. At such a young age, I wanted to learn how to pursue my thoughts or dreams of a better life. I didn’t have time to dream of the next best toy or fun activity. I spent all my childhood dreaming and thinking of how to break my family cycle of picking crops for a living.
How did your outlook of ‘America’ change after your time in the US Army?
I must say that in many ways, the Army actually spoiled me. Although it increased my awareness of the harshness of life and the many challenges that it can impose on a person, it also continued to show me all the many possibilities available should one choose to work hard to achieve a desired goal. This only enhanced what I already believed as a kid. More so, I also learned of all the harsh realities of life and how people in other countries are in a far worse state than most of us here can ever possibly imagine or understand. I knew, after my military service, that we lived in the greatest country in the world. Even with all our faults and deficiencies, there is no comparison.
Being the son of a Mexican immigrant, was it hard for you to decide to become an agent in the US Border Patrol?
My decision to join the US Border Patrol was actually a fairly easy one. I was looking for something that would allow me to continue my government service. It’s important to note that my grandfather had never talked to us about his encounters with the US Border Patrol and thus played no role in my decision.
It wasn’t until after I had become an agent that I realized how my decision had impacted the entire family. It was a strange feeling and continues to be a delicate subject since I still have family that lives in Mexico and have not been able to visit them because of the dangers a visit from me would pose on them and even on me. With the violent cartel threat just across the border, it will be years before I can see my family again.
What is one stereotype that you think many Americans have of Mexican immigrants?
At this point in time, immigration has become a great issue for our country. With that said, the moment one begins to speak about immigration it is quickly considered to be a topic of Mexican immigrants and the ‘negative’ impact they have on our society.
I am an American Citizen by birth, but I do come from a Mexican Immigrant family and am now a Border Patrol Agent. I have to deal with criminals from every background one can possibly think of. As a federal agent, I don’t merely deal with immigration issues. I also deal with the issue of human trafficking and narcotics trafficking. In essence, I’m caught in the middle of the transaction.
I say this because in any transaction, there is a person providing a product and a person purchasing or demanding that product. I have to process undocumented individuals for deportation while at the same time prosecute the US Citizens that are committing the trafficking.
What role do you feel Mexican-Americans play in bridging the gap between these two countries?
I think we must all play the role of actual educators by way of providing facts and not opinions or emotional outbursts. I wrote a story in the book of an incident that happened to me while on the job as a Border Patrol Agent. The gentleman I encountered truly believed that he was above me simply because of my appearance and name tag. I chose to educate him and not escalate the situation with an emotional outburst. After that interaction, I earned the gentleman’s respect and he earned mine by showing me that he had learned the error in his thinking.
I’m a combat veteran who now has to deport people of my own Mexican Nationality because I have chosen to continue serving my country, the United States of America. And yet, I still have to educate people every single day of my patriotism and the struggles I’ve had to overcome in order to achieve the stability I now have.
Education is key.
“Being the only child of a single mother, Sergio was raised by his maternal grandparents in a South Texas region better known as the Rio Grande Valley. This memoir details the upbringing of a poor Migrant worker of Mexican descent having to pick crops for a living since the age of seven. As a way to break from the family cycle of picking crops and depending on government welfare programs, he joined the United States Army and served ten years active duty. He deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina shortly after the Bosnian War only to find and deal with the aftermath of the genocide that took place there and be caught in the middle of several attacks. His experiences in Bosnia ultimately led to experiencing signs and symptoms related to PTSD. After completing ten years of military service, Sergio joined the U.S. Border Patrol. Being of Mexican descent, having family in south Texas, and in Mexico gave way to new issues of having to counter threats against his family and ill-willed opinions of him for arresting and deporting “his own kind.””
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This collective memoir recounts the history of Sergio Tinoco, a migrant worker born in the USA accidentally, and his life as he maneuvers the complicated world of privileges and adventures. The storytelling is light and intuitive, offering a beautiful insight to the world of a maturing American trapped within a completely different frame-of-mind within his grandparents, who had raised him. As the years progress through Tinoco’s smooth narrative you see how his growth manifests in impressive ways as he joins the army and continues his life as a strong individual and proud American.
A tough beginning gives Sergio a critical and unique insight to the world that is clearly delivered through the narrative of the story, which is a tale about the author’s own beginnings and his growth into an adult. He was born into an immigrant family, having to be raised by his grandparents who were located in the US instead of his biological mother who was stuck in Mexico.
One aspect that is heavily played into in the beginning of the story is the itching desire to escape your hometown, your family, and reach a greater place. Most kids and teenagers feel this way, I believe, despite what kind of upbringing they had. It’s inspiring to read how that path opens up for a young soldier with such a rich background.
Fear and ambition is a common element in the history of Sergio, and the way he writes really draws readers in and lets them experience the emotions he feels during the twists and turns of his life. There are not many other characters aside from the storyteller, just brief occurrences of names and influences as years pass by in a beautiful trail of words and imagery. The narrative is quite similar to how our real lives unfold, full of minor characters and events that help mold and craft us into the people we stand as today. The same is true for Sergio, and the story is patriotic and full of struggles and achievements that you can share in while reading.
Every few pages readers are treated with an image of the author, sometimes accompanied by other family members and friends, or just of an action he has told us about. It’s a great way to connect with his audience and it really helped me get a picture of the life he lived and how it affected him.
Since I didn’t have an upbringing or lifestyle even remotely close to what Sergio’s environment, it was very interesting to read about, and I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about things foreign to me. The writing was thought-provoking, and I enjoyed the little instances of humor that were thrown in. Seeing the evolution of Sergio and his mindset over the years as he thinks back was a really enjoyable read, and I loved the way he painted vivid images and made me understand how his mind worked. A truly beautiful story.
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In His Way tells the story of your second marriage to a Deputy Sheriff and being a mother of three; a volunteeraholic and a workaholic living together. What made you want to write about your life and put it out there for the world?
To be completely honest, I’m not a writer. I’m a numbers kinda gal. Back in the days when I worked for a paycheck, I did Bookkeeping or Accounting.
As my husband was dealing with his health issues, God made it clear I was to share with others, through a book, how I was getting through it. I was to write about my transition of no faith in anything, to faith in God Almighty, which brought hope, forgiveness and love into my world.
In His Way is a beautifully written memoir. I felt you left nothing out. Why was it important for you to give a faithful retelling of your life?
It was important for me to be all in when writing this book because ultimately, I desire the reader to feel connected to the story. I believe many people, if not everyone, can relate to something I have shared, because they too have gone through it. It’s important for the reader to feel the pain, relief, distress or joy as I experienced it for that connection to be made.
What was one of the hardest moments of your life to write about?
The hardest part of the book to write about was the relationship with my mom. It took many rewrites and a lot of tears to openly admit how this relationship affected who I am today.
What do you hope readers take away from In His Way?
I hope each reader would know they are never alone in any situation. God is right there beside them, waiting to be invited into their circumstance, to offer His comfort. Also, there is always many who have walked the same road they are on and willing to bring them help and encouragement, but they must first let their pain or difficulty be known.
Are you working on another book? If so, when will that be published?
No, I’m not currently working on another book. I do however, have a blog, inhisway.net, that I write on occasionally.
Throughout much of my married life, I lived under the illusion that I had it all together – it was everyone else that needed fixing. Several years into my second marriage my husband, a Deputy Sheriff, became a workaholic and was never home. Meanwhile, I became a volunteeraholic, too busy to face the fact that we had become two strangers under one roof, raising three kids.
God revealed Himself to me through the different women I volunteered with. As my heart slowly opened to God’s presence, my marriage came crashing down around me. As I cried out for God’s help, I discovered my husband’s affair. I found myself surrounded by faithful people who gave me the strength to face the problems in my marriage and the tools needed to begin fixing it.
Over the next four years, my husband’s health deteriorated and he was forced to retire. Through this God continually showed me I was In His Way and then, when He knew He had my attention, He would proceed to show me how to do things In His Way. In the end, what God told me to do, saved my husband’s life, and our marriage. What was broken is now fixed by the grace and love of God.
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In His Way by Rebecca Duvall is a personal journey of her life and how she came to discover God. Duvall goes through many trials in her life. Everything that life could throw, divorce, children, financial situations, and serious illnesses, she faced. It is through this intimate journey you get to know Duvall, her family, and their troubles. You see how she evolves from struggling and thinking that she can only get through this alone and control everything to her discovery of letting go and letting in God. It was not an easy journey, but it is an honest one.
I enjoyed this book and could not put it down. In His Way took me on an emotional adventure. I felt for the author and her family because of the ups and downs they face. In the beginning, she states that she was not always positive and wrote that way. The story takes you through a raw, impassioned relatable telling. No one is perfect, and this book is a reminder of that. I love how honest she is. She held nothing back. She spoke of the resentment and hatred she harbored toward her husband. These were authentic feelings and thoughts expressed. You see how she goes from wanting to control everything to becoming understanding, appreciative, and cooperative. Duvall transforms, and it was all because she learned to talk to and accept God. My favorite part about this book is that you do not have to be religious to enjoy it. It is an uplifting, encouraging, and inspirational read.
Duvall’s narrative is strong. It was refreshing to read something where a person is faithful to the events, no matter how it paints them. There were plenty of moments where I was shocked at the mean things stated, but it was relatable. When you meet challenges in life, sometimes you are not the nicest person and make the wrong decisions or say things you do not mean. She does not hold back from that. She admits to many faults, and I admire her.
My only real complaint with the book was that there were some grammar mistakes and awkward phrasing. It also got a little slow toward the end but picked back up. Overall, I genuinely love it.
I learned a lot from reading this book. I learned that we let fears get in the way of our decisions. I also learned about communication and not bottling things up. One of the major things I took away from this is that if you are dedicated, you can get through something. I also found understanding in religion and people’s relationship with God in this. I related to Duvall so much because she went from not understanding or knowing God to praying, and I have learned more about God and understanding God in this book than going to church. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has lost their faith or anyone who have lost or looking to understand faith.
Pages: 280 | ASIN: B00MO01VIE
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Paralian follows your tumultuous journey to find your authentic self and happiness through many adversities. What was the moment in your life that you knew you had to write this book?
It was more a process instead of a precise moment. Throughout my childhood and teens I knew one day I’ll have to write a book about my life. So much went wrong, and I kept thinking, “In order for this to make any sense and lead to something positive I’ll have to share it one day with the world.”
What was the biggest challenge you faced in finding a home inside your own body?
The biggest challenge was re-discovering who I was. As a child I knew instinctively. Then puberty hit and I got overwhelmed by societal constructs… people telling me who I am… so for a while there all I knew was something was way off… but I couldn’t quite define it.
Then, thankfully, at age 20, I stumbled over a book with short stories about trans people. Finally, there was the mirror reflecting me back to myself. The final information I needed for all puzzle pieces to fall into place. It was instant recognition. But until getting to this moment I was in a state of constant confusion and desperation.
What is one thing in your life that you regret, and what is one thing that you are happy to have done?
Regret: I miss my grandma and regret to this day that my final gender reassignment surgeries happened during a period in her life when she became increasingly senile. Grandma ended up thinking her granddaughter never visited her anymore. She didn’t recognize the young man who came to visit her so regularly and would always love her with all his heart.
Happy about: I am so glad I ventured out into the world and lived in as many places and cultures as I did. The best way to compassion, understanding, and open-mindedness is to travel the world as widely as possible. I’ll keep being a nomad all my life. It’s the most fulfilling form of existence I can think of.
You’ve traveled and lived in many different places. What has been your favorite place to visit?
There is no such thing. Every place I lived in or traveled to found its place in my heart. In each place there were countless good and bad experiences. In each place I met amazing, inspirational individuals.
Are you working on publishing another book? If so, when will it be available?
Yes, I am. I have dozens of other book ideas. I’ve just started with my next one. With all editing and time to be set aside for my day job it’ll probably be a good 2 years before my next book is being launched. I promise it’ll be worth the wait though 🙂
Definition: Paralian – Ancient Greek meaning ‘one who lives by the sea’. Paralian is a memoir narrated through the author’s relationship to water. We follow Liam Klenk’s tumultuous journey to find his authentic self and happiness against more than a lifetime’s worth of adversities. At five months old, Liam was adopted from an orphanage and ushered into a unique journey, which introduced him to the characters that would become both the currents that moved him and the rocks that supported him. Liam, who lives in Zurich with his wife, says: “At three years old I began catching odd glances because I was born in a girl’s body yet began to introduce myself to people as a boy.” Paralian tells the remarkable story of an honest, and at times, challenging life, and offers insight and wisdom from a fluid position – from experience. Liam reveals how exploring the world helped him find a home inside his own body and spirit. Through this ultimately heartwarming and inspiring story, readers learn how Liam never gave up, faced his fears, and always managed to find positivity in each trauma. Written with an engaging sense of humour, this memoir of transcendence and finding oneself will appeal to those who enjoy true stories of courage, resilience, and dedication in the face of adversity. Paralian celebrates life with infectious strength and positivity. Follow Liam’s journey from a small river in Germany to the biggest performance pool in the world, from Switzerland to the US, the Maldives to Macau.
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The term “Paralian” comes from ancient Greek origins, and it has taken on the meaning of “people who live by the sea”. There could be no more apt title for Liam Klenk’s autobiography. In Paralian: Not Just Transgender, He recounts the sweeping and nomadic movements of his life via the lens of the rivers, lakes, and oceans by which he periodically makes a home. Water is the element of change and transition. It is also the element at the heart of so many human-nature entanglements; the resource that has always defined and guided the movements of our species. Fittingly for a tale of bodies, travels, transitions, and wandering, Klenk uses bodies of water to parse the sections of his life like chapters in a narrative.
The voice and experience of Liam Klenk is tender, vulnerable, and honest. It comes to the reader unassumingly and asks only for a patient ear. As the title would suggest, Paralian: Not Just Transgender tells a tale far wider in scope than Liam’s courageous journey through gender confirmation. If anything, the story is about the contexts that occur before, during, and afterwards. It tells the story of a human being finding his place in this world. It opens near the River Enz in Germany, with a young girl named Stefanie and illustrates how a complex and tumultuous family origin, vexes and feeds her inherent confusion over identity. At the end, the reader closes on a confident, middle-aged man named Liam who views the world through hopeful, optimistic eyes from an airplane above Hong Kong. In the intervening pages a transition obviously happens but—to the author’s point—so does a full life. As Stefanie becomes Liam, the reader is taken abroad from Germany to Seattle, from Zurich to Italy to Macao, and all points in between. What makes Klenk’s tale so necessary is that we get a story about a transgendered individual that articulates that while a singular aspect of his life was important, it by no means is the sole determinant of identity.
Regarding execution and readability, there are some pieces that could give readers trouble. As with many ESL authors, minor line-level similes and metaphors go overboard at times and actually distract the reader from the emotional intensity of scene and moment. The larger issue however is that Paralian: Not Just Transgender isn’t just a fascinating book, as it is several fascinating books mashed together. Because Life has no definitive plot, the best works of biography and creative nonfiction tend to follow an A-side/B-side construction in which real world chronologies and events are echoed and digested alongside another more metaphorical through line. Klenk’s book is framed around the metaphor of nomadic travels and bodies of water, but the device is often glanced over or abandoned entirely for lengthy sections. This leaves the prose, like it’s subject, to wander widely. Luckily for Klenk, his book is entertaining enough that its propensity to lose direction is easily forgiven.
Pages: 456 | ISBN: 1785891200
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Worth Holding On To is the memoir of Anthony Maranise. He guides his readers through one of the best moments in life; finding his love; Cyrena. They were introduced through a mutual friend and hit it off. Together the couple shared many memories and experiences, until sadly the harsh realities of life drew them apart. The book also delves into the months after a break-up, and the lasting impact that Cyrena had on the author’s life. The things that she had taught him are thought provoking and moving as well. While the book is short, there is a lot of content to ponder. The author doesn’t need a lot of words to get his point across, and make an impact on his readers.
There is a sense of innocence and love within the words of this memoir. Maranise’s words makes readers rethink their own definitions of love and what makes a relationship worth holding on to. His words are filled with love and positivity. Looking back, Maranise, has nothing negative to say about his time with and without this woman. Even as they sit side by side during a dinner after they parted ways, his feelings and emotions remain the same. One learns that sometimes feelings for someone never end even if the relationship happens to end. The reader gets the idea that Cyrena truly was a beautiful soul and had immense spiritual beauty as well as physical beauty. One can only imagine that the author left the same imprint on her life as she did his. In turn this book leaves a lasting impression on its readers, making them want to learn more about the author.
Maranise’s words resonate off the page, flying with emotion. He creates something that buries itself into the readers’ minds and sticks with them. Readers can see how much this woman meant to him, as the emotions saturate the pages. Maranise provides a colorful view in his life and opens up about something so intimate and private. He allows his readers to see a portion of how he became the person he is today. The story flows like a river of love and understanding. He cultivates true essence of love and what it means to accept someone, helping readers take a look at their own relationships and whether or not they are seeing their partner the same way he had seen Cyrena.
After reading this book a few times, I would give Anthony Maranise’s memoir a 5 out of 5 because I was honestly moved by what he had to say within it. There is so much to be said about love in this small book that anyone in a relationship or even in the beginning stages of dating should read this book. It truly is a beautifully written reflection on love and love lost. If there is one book you read this year on love and the impact that first love could have on your life, make sure that it is this book.
Pages: 124 | ISBN: 1530658675
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At first glance, Chicken: A Comic Cat Memoir by Terese Jungle is, on the surface, a children’s picture book about a woman and her cat. It’s a memoir of the author’s life as well as a beautiful memory of her cat, Chicken. But it’s also a book adult readers will enjoy not only for the delightful art but also for the greater story of TJ’s life. I’m a reader who enjoys graphic novels, and the further I got into the story, the more I realized this was more than just a children’s book. The art, the words, and the doodle-like notes in the margins are where TJ celebrates her journey as an artist and a friend to many other creative people.
TJ grew up allergic to cats, but over time, the allergy faded. Now an adult, she dreams of a tuxedo cat with bright green eyes and when she can’t find the cat at the local shelter, her friend Mimi announces that the cat must be looking for her. Of course, the cat finds TJ and they are a perfect fit for each other. The cat, named Chicken, follows TJ on her journey through life, sometimes at her side and sometimes in the care of others. But, like all pets, Chicken’s life comes to an end, and TJ and her daughter have to deal with it. It’s a beautiful, tenderly told story that’s appropriate for both children and adults.
I can see why the author calls this, “A great book to read to cats (and kids).” The illustrations are delightful, even child-like. The book would be a good way to help young children talk about their feelings about the loss of a beloved pet. But if you pay attention to all the little doodles, background decoration and the notes scattered throughout the illustrations, there’s a second story brewing that’s just for adults. Look carefully, there are little gems buried in the details of the illustrations!
TJ’s story is woven into the pictures, including multiple moves, hinting at the unsettled lifestyle of an artist and student. There are also cat fights, both feline and human, with one side note, “They didn’t stay friends for long” that will make any cat-lover snicker with recognition. The author also takes great care to include the people who were important to her life in the illustrations. At the end, there’s a listing of notes (marked with asterisks in the story) that give a little more insight into the people, artwork, cat behavior and poetry that appear in the book.
I recommend this for parents to read to their children, but be warned. If you are a “cat person” read it through the first time by yourself because (as they say on the internet) it will hit you right in the feels.
Pages: 82 | ISBN: 0976203510
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