Monday, July 23, 2012

Les Livres du Lundi

This week, my reading has included a couple interesting books.  First, My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor describes the personal journey of the author, a brain scientist, through the experience of a stroke and the stroke recovery process.  As a neuroanatomist, Taylor is able to work from a strong scientific knowledge base.  Still, her descriptions are clear and easy to understand.  Although it seems that her philosophy on life often leans toward a somewhat pantheistic understanding (which certainly does not resonate with me), several of her insights on brain functioning, discovered through the actual experience of a stroke, treatment, and recovery, do resonate with me.

For instance, she describes how the "blame centers" in her left brain were impaired by her stroke.  As her left brain began to grow stronger with time, the natural capacity for blaming others for feelings or circumstances also grew strong.  Having lived without this response for some time, however, Taylor knew that pinning negativity on external events or others was often not necessary.  She states, "Nothing external to me had the power to take away my peace of heart and mine...I certainly am in charge of how I choose to perceive my experience" (p. 121).

She also describes her deliberate process of recovery, whereby she was "very fussy" about the brain programming that she would work to regain.  She insists that emotional programs such as impatience, criticism, and unkindness were of little use to her, so she chose not to seek to recover these old programs, working instead to recover only those functional responses that fit the person she truly wished to be.  This reminded me of the Bible verse that talks about taking every thought captive.  Taylor describes it this way: "my eyes have been opened to how much choice I actually have about what goes on between my ears" (p. 122).  Later, she discusses how certain emotional programs are involuntary--automatically triggered in response to external stimuli, yet the chemical component related to that emotional response flushes through the blood stream in only about 90 seconds.  If people remain angry after the first 90 seconds, it is a voluntary decision involving the encouragement of that emotional circuit.  Her call for owning your own brain responses is a fabulous challenge!

If you are typically scared off by books that delve into medicine or neuroscience, I encourage you to try this book, as it is quite an easy read.  Taylor's personal narrative is compelling, especially her description of the morning of her stroke.  Individuals who find themselves caring for stroke survivors or other brain injury victims may also find this book enlightening.

Escape Under the Forever Sky by Eve Yohalem was also an easy read, but certainly of a different style.  This young adult novel tells the story of the kidnapping of an American ambassador's daughter.  What drew me to this book was that it was set in Ethiopia.  I thoroughly enjoyed how the author incorporated aspects of Ethiopian culture and geography into the story.  Furthermore, I appreciated the themes of human equality and environmental concern that ran through the book.  Interestingly, it seems that, although fictional altogether, the story is based on several real-life occurances which are described at the very end of the book.

I read this book in one morning and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an enjoyable quick read.  Also, I think it would be a great book for older Ethiopian adoptees who are looking for ties to their birth culture.

Sorry, no Jadon's Pick of the Week this week!  He has been spending time with grandparents and hasn't been near for book critiquing :)  Stay tuned in the weeks to come...

Happy Reading!

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