January 2018 Reading List

Now that Mom is gone and radiation is done, I’m back to my books! Oh, books, how I’ve missed thee!

As a treat for myself, –’cause I love to organize my books, ya know– I’m going to try to chronicle my books for 2018. If I do it, then maybe I can piece together my 2017 reading list from my library history.

JANUARY (so far…I guess I’ll just come in and edit each entry as I read more books…)

1) Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande -NON-FICTION – Started this in December but then my loan expired and I had to get on the waitlist for it. Grr. A really straightforward discussion about end-of-life care for the elderly and those with terminal illnesses. I’ve told many people over the years about the documentary “How to Die in Oregon” which centers around assisted suicide. It’s a beautiful and moving film. I remain baffled at how Oregon remains the only US state with legal assisted suicide. Anyway, this book only *briefly* touches on assisted suicide and is all about assisted *living. How can we improve the quality of life for people who are at the end of life? The doctor talks very frankly about death and dying in ways I’ve grown used to during this whole sickness saga. There is no cure-all solution offered. We’re all gonna die eventually so, sometimes rather than following the lead of pharmaceutical and healthcare system to “fight” a disease at all costs (both literal and figurative) for futile cases, families and doctors can learn how to better manage the quality of life with the knowledge that the definition of “quality” is different for each of us. I learned a lot from this, so thanks to whomever here on FB recommended it to me. I can’t remember!

2) Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg (FICTION) – My sister-in-law posted something about this some time ago. I hadn’t heard of it or Flagg, or so I thought. Duh! That’s the woman who wrote Fried Green Tomatoes! AND she was on Match Game. Get outta town. So I checked it out. It was cute, grabbed my attention right away, and I thought it was gonna get a little preachy when it started talking Bible stuff but, not only did it not, it had some twists and turns that were just…what?! I did NOT see that coming. I enjoyed it (and LOVE Fried Green Tomatoes enough that I put Flagg’s book The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion on hold to enjoy in spring or summer maybe.

3) The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (MEMOIR) – I’d never heard of her before she was on SNL. I actually didn’t see the episode but wondered how I hadn’t heard of her given the pretty big platform of SNL. I should get with the program. So when I saw her book while browsing my library app, I snagged it. Oh my god, she is *ridiculous* and I loved it. Jaw dropping, head shaking and guffawing mixed with some “Mmm hmmm!” and “Preach it!” Holy smokes she had it rough growing up, too. So throw in a few “Bless your hearts”. I’m also gonna grab a copy or two to sell at QED. Funny, honest and bold.

4) Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham (NON-FICTION) – Only two chapters in and I’m already, “What the heck are you doing with your life?!” ETA: Sigh. I love him. I found myself getting choked up as the end neared and then full on sobbed after his death, his funeral, etc. What an incredibly brilliant and beautiful man. Ahhh, why did he have to be a slave owner and have children with one of his slaves? Fuck. I spent time afterward, reading up on his views on religion and his book, “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” (a book literally ripped from the pages of the Bible. All the good stuff that Jesus taught minus all the myth and magic) and found out it’s currently on display at the Smithsonian until mid-June. I hope to see it before it’s put away again.

5) Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar – a slim little gem recommended by Lauren Hope Krass that I finished in a jiffy. I am going to go through it again, this time doing the little exercises throughout. I generally already know or subscribe to many of his concepts, but it was nice to hear them again. Especially now after my cancer bout has me feeling down and asking the Universe, “What is the point?” I just looked it up to confirm his name and see that it was published in 2007 and there is now a book of his called Even Happier. Maybe I’ll check that out instead of re-reading this one.
6) Stinker Lets Loose! by Mike Sacks – The concept — the novelization of a long lost 70s trucker genre comedy film– is comedy gold and goddamned brilliant. It captures that weird window of time when movies like Smoky and the Bandit and Every Which Way but Loose were big hits. It’s so unpoliticially correct and delightfully ridiculous. I’m jealous I didn’t think of this and am so excited to see all the buzz Mike is getting via the live reads and such. It’s absurd and smart all at once and has so many tiny, perfect, rich details that reading it is like mining for comedy diamonds.
 
FEBRUARY
 
Queued up or on hold at the library:
 
The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
American Lion by Jon Meacham
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
The Good Girls Revolt by Lynn Povich
The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien
The Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
 
#Kambri2018Booklist
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North Platte’s Town Hall Event

Big thanks to the folks of North Platte, Nebraska for inviting me to speak at their Town Hall Lecture Series. Past speakers have included some very big names including my inspiration, the lovely Jeannette Walls, author of THE GLASS CASTLE.

My sister-in-law drove all the way from Missouri to meet up and brought my nieces along for the trip. It was great learning how to loom rubber band bracelets, teaching them how to make things with Bucky Balls, touring Buffalo Bill’s ranch and, generally, just seeing their pretty faces. The girls were mostly happy about my hotel pool and seeing their cousins while I’m pretty stoked about my bull horn turned beer bong necklace.

BUT…the reason I was in town was to give a speech about my life turned memoir and what BURN DOWN THE GROUND means in the literal and figurative sense. There were about 400 people in the lovely Neville Center, including students from the special high school for “troubled” kids. I had no idea they were going to be there but was overjoyed when I found out they were. I hope my story and message about choices and reinvention resonated with at least ONE of them.

Huge thanks to Keppler Speakers and the amazing ladies of North Platte. Who knows if our paths will ever cross again but I will carry the experience with me forever and always.

Deaf Book Club Skype Call

Rock House LibraryI’m at the Rock House and had a Skype call with a book club in Minnesota comprised of deaf women and mental health professionals working in the Deaf community. The whole thing took place in ASL.

Man, I love technology and so wish this convenience had been around for my parents and grandparents. How wonderful to simply click a button on my laptop and be visually connected with no need for a special service or interpreter.

We had a nice chat about my book, family, the Deaf community, and mental health issues before signing off so I could make a trip to the dump and walk with Griswold around the lake.

While they’re busy reading books to help them in their important (thankless?) careers as therapists and DV counselors, I’m busy reading, too. I read THE BEDWETTER by Sarah Silverman (enjoyed it) and just finished Tina Fey‘s BOSSYPANTS (really enjoyed it). Tonight I’m starting Sara Barron‘s latest book THE HARM IN ASKING then it’s GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR by Rachel Dratch.

I’m highbrow, what can I say?

It’s GREAT!

My super talented, sweet, funny and dynamo friend and fellow memoirist Sara Benincasa is now a YA author with the publication of GREAT, a contemporary retelling of THE GREAT GATSBY. I was so excited not only to see her back in NYC but to introduce my protege Jeaniah to Sara and a few other friends at the book launch party. Sara read from her novel then signed books as the crowd chit-chatted and ate cake that was designed to look like her book. Clever and yummy and a lovely night.

My friends are all comedians, actors, writers and artists so they’re not stiff grown ups and immediately treated Jeaniah like a long lost friend. Here’s the conversation we had as we walked away from the party:

Me: My friends are fun, right?
J: Yeah and funny! I like being part of the conversation.
Me: Yeah, nothing beats a good conversation with friends.
J: I like how the conversation keeps going…like, I make a comment and then they make one and that makes you think of one and then I comment and it goes on and on.

Thanks to my awesome friends for having a lot to say & being so funny and charming while they do it. She really enjoyed meeting you all & we got some good advice about the upcoming state math tests.

And, of course, huge congratulations and continued success to Sara who has more books & TV show pilots coming down the pike than I can shake a stick at.

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Make Life Happen

Don’t ya just love when the Universe sends a clear message? I’ve been pretty lazy about a few projects and haven’t been able (wanted?) to focus on them even though they get me excited simply talking about them. These horses have got legs, some of them are even saddled up, I’m just not hopping on and taking the reins for whatever reason(s).

Then I got an email from a reader asking me if it was okay for her to use a line from my memoir as a tattoo (see pic). I’ve shared part of that email below with her permission:

I wrote to you about a year ago after I read your book for the second time. I had told you about a passage in your book that struck me.

“Events in my life just seemed to happen to me. Now, however, I wanted to make life happen.”

You responded telling me about how you made lists and started making things work for you, having the universe respond. And again…it struck me.

I have that passage written down and look at it daily. It’s on the wall at work. It’s a note in my phone. I even have it written on a post it note I keep in my wallet just in case I need that reminder. I have held that phrase, that power, with me since I first read it.

… It’s become the way I try to live my life and it’s something I want to carry with me, literally, forever…

In any sense, I appreciate your words and your kindness and I genuinely appreciate you for helping me to change my life.

How nice, right? I replied to her that, of course, she could use the line. Her email came at the perfect time to remind me that I have to hop on the saddle and take the reins.

She inspired me to live by my own words:

Make life happen.

~Kambri
Giddy up!

To Read & Watch

I’ve had the book Far From the Tree on my wish list since it was published late last year. His inclusion of deafness and Deaf culture sparked my interest. In his book, “Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so.

Solomon’s startling proposition is that diversity is what unites us all. He writes about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, multiple severe disabilities, with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, as are the triumphs of love Solomon documents in every chapter.”

He spent a decade on this project and that intensive research is reflected in the book’s length, a whopping 976 pages. That’s partly why I haven’t read it yet, as I have a full Kindle & bookshelf. But after watching Mr. Solomon’s incredible Ted Talk, Far From the Tree is now next on my reading list. Watch his speech here:

Fall Dates

I’ve had a whirlwind tour for my book Burn Down the Ground. My last out-of-state event in Cleveland for the regional conference of the National Black Deaf Advocates was amazing, but I’m happy to take all of August off to recharge. Dates booked for this fall are below and details are on my calendar. If you want me at your event or store –especially if it coordinates with dates already booked below– email me at kambricrews@Gmail.com

September
17 – NYC for Bare! at the PIT
19 – NYC for That’s What She Said at Public Assembly
26 – NYC for the How I Learned series at Happy Ending Lounge

October
13  – Portland, OR – Wordstock Book Festival
13 – Cannon Beach, OR – Cannon Beach Library
18 – Winstead, CT – North Connecticut Community College (Free & ASL interpreted)
20 – Cincinnati, OH – Books by the Bank Book Festival
23 – Lansing, MI – Schuler Books
24 & 25 – Grand Rapids, MI – Grand Rapids Community College (Free & ASL interpreted)
27 – Texas Book Festival (Free & ASL interpreted)
29 – Montgomery, TX – Montgomery Middle School
30 – Conroe, TX – Hauke Alternative School

November
1 – Austin, TX – Book Woman book store (Free & ASL interpreted)
7 – Washington, DC – Bare! at Black Fox Lounge
10 – Madison, WI – Wisconsin Book Festival
14 – New York, NY – Administration for Children’s Services

January 2013
17 – 20 – Jefferson, TX – Girlfriend Weekend – Pulpwood Queens Book Club

Happy Birthday to My Book!

Happy birthday to my book!
Happy birthday to my book!
Happy birthday dear Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir!
Happy birthday to my book!

After a long gestation process, I’m happy to announce the birth of my book Burn Down the Ground: A Memoir. The reviews are in and they’re raves!

Easy purchase links: WalMartTargetAmazonBarnes & NobleiTunesIndie Bound and on KambriCrews.com

“Poignant and unsettling.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Crews’ story has heartbreaking depth and complexity...this is a rich read.” —Library Journal

A compelling testament to the strength of the human spirit.”—Booklist

“Harrowing . . . A remarkable odyssey of scorched earth, collateral damage, and survival.” —Publishers Weekly

 “Crews’ account (the title refers to lighting brush on fire to clear out snakes) is as well-paced and stirring as a novel. In her fluid narrative (she’s also a storyteller on the side, a gig that helped her develop this book), Crews neither wallows in self-pity nor plays for cheap black-comedic yuks. Instead, this book stands out for what matters most: Crews’ story, bluntly told.” —Elle magazine

ABOUT THE BOOK

For fans of Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, an unflinching, emotional memoir by the hearing daughter of two deaf parents, about the rampant dysfunction of her rural Texas childhood and the searing violence that left her father serving a twenty-year prison sentence.

Successful New York producer and publicist Kambri Crews always knew that her childhood was unusual– she spent much of it in a tin shack deep with her family in the woods of Texas. But when, in her early 30s, her charismatic and adored father is sentenced to twenty years in prison for stabbing and nearly killing his girlfriend, she must confront for the first time his violent, destructive behavior. In her brutally honest, completely captivating memoir, Crews struggles to forge a relationship with her incarcerated father and revisits her unconventional family and the long road she took to her current life

Read a FREE excerpt  * Read reviews & blurbs  * View pictures of the tin shed

I Read it for the Articles, I Swear!

Y’all. Mom found my Penthouse magazine while searching my office for paper!

I flew Mom up to New York City so she could attend my book launch party. Not just any book…my first book. A memoir, you know, about my whole life. And the publishing process took four years. Having a publication date is a monumental event –much like a wedding or a birth– and I couldn’t NOT have Mom here to celebrate. It’s her life, too. Plus, I had a fun idea for her and I to perform a little something at my party*. It would make the event even more special for her and my guests.

Mom arrived and we had a few days of tromping around New York City and rehearsing our surprise treat. I was also dragging her around Manhattan on not-so-fun errands in rainy weather with her achy knee and my split jeans. In the book, I divulged many things that Mom would probably prefer to keep in the closet with the other dusty skeletons. The time for her to accept that our laundry was about to be aired and for me to unleash my life to anonymous reviewers was drawing near.

Shit was getting real. Mad real.Penthouse

To distract us and work on something that had zilch to do with book stuff, I suggested she and I work on our new Ancestry.com project. Her face said it all: “GREAT IDEA!”

She leapt up and said, “I’ll grab some paper.”

Quicker than a wink, she was at my office printer.

My printer.

PRECISELY WHERE I’D HIDDEN MY PENTHOUSE! I thought that had been the perfect spot for it, but lo how wrong I was.

“Why did I have a Penthouse?” you ask.

For the articles, of course. Duh. Seriously! I swear! Well, one article in particular: a review for my book. It was a good review, too.

So, why hide it then? Well, I know my mom better than most people and I knew –could lay my life on it– that she would take offense to it. Not because of the vaginas, boobs, penises and balls, silly, but because of the very first line:

“Kambri Crews grew up dirt poor…”

Whether you agree or disagree with that sentence, makes no difference. Mom disagrees with it and vehemently so. It’s one of those things that really gets under her skin in a hot second. It’s a pride thing. The same way I fight tooth and nail over small injustices. Justice is my thing. Pride is hers. SO…anyway…

In the mere seconds it took her to fly off the couch into my office heading straight for the offending material, two choices flashed through my mind:

Me & Mom

1) Let Mom think I had a girly magazine hidden in my office and was possibly a closeted lesbian; or

2) Show Mom the review and face the ensuing argument.

I can’t have Mom thinking I like looking at nekkid girls! EEEEEWWW! So, I swallowed my fear and said, “Oh, hey, my Penthouse…did you see the review?”

Instant relief swept across her face. I cringe and laugh out loud thinking of what must’ve gone through her mind in those brief moments.

As predicted, she was offended. We hashed it out: There are finite lines in a girly magazine; ya gotta have a strong lede. We were poor to some people and had it good compared to others…it depends on perspective. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

At the end of the day, I wrote a book. It got reviewed in a major magazine. It was lauded. Let’s celebrate! And, boy, did we ever! We raised our glasses and laughed and hugged and smiled till our faces hurt.

We’re done keeping secrets, she and I. If there’s anything writing a memoir taught me it is this:  While it might hurt to bare the truth, secrets will make you sick. They will corrode your love and trust until all that’s left is a rusty heap of worthless scrap.

So, what did Mom think of the book? Don’t ask me, read her interview in Time Out New York!

*Here’s the fun idea I had for my book party. Enjoy!