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November 28, 2004 in Screenplays | Permalink | Comments (0)

Marie, Marie: Hold On Tight

Author: Terri Brown-Davidson
Genre: Fiction
Reviewed by Ruth Mark

11220401When her baby sister Alyssa Ellen dies in strange circumstances Marie and her Momma die too – inside themselves. Sexual abuse, the birth of Momma’s escapist imaginary world, fear and repressed memories follow. This is Marie’s story and it is a harrowing one, definitely not for the faint-hearted. Marie is the narrator throughout (we meet her aged 17), a budding artist who’s only saviors are her boyfriend Dell, her art and a run-down cabin at the edge of the woods. The novel’s title is taken from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and it fits the contents perfectly. Readers are in for a hurtling, emotional roller-coaster ride. You too are well-advised to hold on tight. As Marie says on page 152:

But the mind…is a relentless machine. It loves to move forward. Loves never to stop.

Terri Brown-Davidson has published poetry before and it shows in this her first novel. The language is at once immediate, lyrical, stark and full of poignant images. Written both in the first person and in (for the most part) the present tense with short, snappy sentences and contained in short chapters, the content here can, at times, leave you breathless. Like you need to come up for air. Even flashbacks are written in the present tense and you are sometimes left wondering when certain events happened. By the middle of the book however you’ll be reading so fast that everything will begin to fall into place.

We know for example from very early on that Marie has several dark secrets, not least the fact that her baby sister died a horrible death which has left both herself and her mother scarred. Brown-Davidson deals with these difficult, subjects (often taboo in fiction) in a realistic, straight-on way. There is no flinching from the disgust, the shame the eroticism, the confusion, the pain, the emotional minefield that is child abuse. Violence and sex, secrecy and genetic ties are all dealt with here through Marie’s eyes. It is completely believable even if, at times the dialogue doesn’t sound 100% age-appropriate, or the fact that the author doesn’t fully sketch several of the characters (Dan, Momma’s lover and chief abuser remained a cardboard cut-out, and I couldn’t quite get Momma though I think that was the point – that she wasn’t to be fully understood.)

This is powerful writing depicting raw pain which is at times hard to stomach. Because it is so visceral though, because you quickly want Marie, this damaged, intelligent girl, to survive you’ll not be able to put it down. A page-turner of the highest order. Exhausting, draining yet at the same time hope reigns, grief and pain don’t win and you’re left knowing that survival of even the worst pain is possible. A stunning first novel.

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November 28, 2004 in Mainstream | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to Prepare for the TExES

Author: Frances Van Tassell and Betty Crocker
Genre: Non-fiction
Reviewed by Kevin Tipple

11220402Every school year seems to bring more and more mandated tests for students in Texas schools. Teachers too are being tested, not just in the classroom, like never before. In previous years, such required certifications were under the umbrella of the ExCET tests. Now, the name has been changed to TExES and this book serves as study guide to those new teacher certification tests.

Written by professors in the Department of Education at The University of North Texas (Denton, Texas), this book contains lots of helpful information. Part 1 consists of an introduction to the requirements, who is required to take the test, and suggested guidelines for using this comprehensive 444-page book. Sections that most students would normally skip but serve to help those who take the time to read them.

Section 2 is a twenty-page guide to preparing for taking the test. Information that is aimed primarily towards this test but would be helpful for any student regarding tests.

Section 3 covers current teacher standards and competencies using detailed explanations of both. As a parent of two active boys, this section was also very interesting as it explained some of the actions teachers have taken with my children.

Section 4, which covers chapters 13-18, provides diagnostic and sample tests for every grade level in public school.

This is followed by several appendices that cover websites, printed material and appropriate rules and standards. A glossary and index completes the text.

Detailed and comprehensive, this book is a must for those of us, regardless of the reason, interested in teacher standards in Texas.

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November 28, 2004 in Nonfiction | Permalink | Comments (0)