Added Betty Smith’s Joy in the Morning to my book recommendations list, right under the entry for her better-known work, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. [see bottom of this post]

Speaking of books, today I had an appointment with one of my very interesting History 190 professors, Prof Laqueur (he’s the one who’s married to Prof Hesse). He was soooo nice! I just love the history department. I think he missed his lunch because of my appointment, so he wanted some caffeine, and suggested we walk to the Free Speech Movement Café while talking, so he bought me an apple juice and we talked. (He seemed surprised I wanted apple juice, I guess most college students like coffee. But the FSM Café has good apple juice.) On the way there we ran into someone he knew and they had a brief but impassioned discussion about some reference to an octopus in classical poetry. History people, my goodness. Because I told him I was interested in food history, he just had to tell me about all these different books on the topic; he lent me three (said he might have double copies of one of them, if so, I could keep it) and scribbled down the names of several others. I was so overwhelmed. Obviously he must be this nice to everybody, it’s quite amazing.

Also, I found Prof Nylan in her office and we finally (after emailing for weeks, literally) have an appointment to talk! 🙂 We’re going to go have coffee (or maybe apple juice?) later this week, after my 190 midterm. I really really do love the history department, not just as an abstract concept but as a geographical location. Most of the professors’ offices are located along these two hallways, and I can walk down either hall and just look into open doors and see professors I know, some of whom actually know me as well and will talk to me. 🙂 And I run into people I like, like Margaret, and there’s information there that I need. What more could I ask for in a department? I guess they could use some more singing–then they’d be the music department, and that I like too. 🙂 Yay! I must be happy. Time to go do Chinese homework. (Happiness/Chinese homework=not necessarily related.)

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at My old book review webpage is no longer up, but I’ve pasted the text of my Betty Smith reviews below.]

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

This is Ying’s favorite book, and mine too. It’s a big thing to say about one novel, but I do believe this one contains all the beauty, compassion, wisdom, love. and truth of the world within its pages, as much as one book can anyway. I suppose some would say the Bible does this as well, but without trying to say which is better, I must point out that this one is not full of ‘begat’s. It is a beautiful book, tragic and nostalgic and very very funny, just like real life. If you want to know what it is about, the bare facts tell very little: It is the coming-of-age story of a girl named Francie, set in the poor sections of Brooklyn around 1910. I wish there were some more effective way of telling people to read this. It is a rare treasure, truly.

Classification: This is good reading anytime, because it does not contain too much of any one kind of feeling or writing. It might take a while because it is not a short book, but–and I hope I can say this without sounding lonely–it will truly be a friend to you while you read.

Joy in the Morning

I think it is with good reason that this novel is far lesser known than A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; this one is shorter and doesn’t hold as much of life’s meaning in it. On the other hand, it is just as well and truly written, and in some ways it spoke to me more than the other one did, probably because its setting is more similar to my own life. The two main characters, Annie and Carl, are eighteen and twenty respectively, and the events of the novel take place on a college campus or in the town surrounding it. Annie and Carl have just gotten married against their parents’ wishes and are finding out that marriage and all it entails are a lot more difficult than they thought it would be. I’m not so sure about Carl, but I liked Annie’s character a lot and really sympathized with her. She is naive and inexperienced, but also intelligent, optimistic and tremendously strong.

Classification: Like many other good books, this one sucked me in and prevented me from studying (I literally told myself in the middle of each chapter that this would be the last, and at the end of each I just had to keep going), although not right away: I started the book last night and was able to put it down after a few chapters, but once I started reading today there was no hope for me at all. It is loving and inspiring and uplifting, and for these reasons is probably excellent for reading right before you need to start doing anything (cooking, studying, going to a party) since it will give you the energy to do it. But I don’t think you should read it while other people might want to talk to you. There isn’t much room for sociability in the reading. Also, it will effectively quash any interest you might have in getting married if you’re still in college, at least for the time being. 🙂