Nobody’s Son

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Nobody’s Son by Mark Slouka was an interesting story written in an uninteresting way. Slouka’s writing style felt forced and awkward, but the compelling nature of his story may have redeemed his style.

Nobody's Son by Mark Slouka
Nobody's Son by Mark Slouka

Mark Slouka was a novelist. After the loss of his father and the impending death of his mother, he decided to reflect upon his upbringing and his mother’s decent into mental illness and addiction. Despite some problems between his parents and his mother’s depression, Slouka’s childhood was otherwise happy. As he grew into a teenager, his mother’s illness grew more pronounced. He argued with her about her delusions that he was trying to hurt her. On stormy day during their trip across Europe, they spent hours pulled over on the side of the road arguing. Slouka’s mother, as she often did, insisted that he was trying to harm her and that he was evil.

After college, Slouka married. His mother’s mental illness worsened. He discovered that she had an addiction to prescription medication. His parents separated, and after years apart his father died. Slouka went on to be a novelist. In his writing, he modeled characters after his mother and the pain he felt because of her illness. They had periods of estrangement, but he made a point to visit her shortly before she died. During the writing of Nobody’s Son, Slouka’s mother passed away.

Slouka’s writing style left a lot to be desired.

The biggest complaint I had with Slouka’s writing style was that it felt like he was trying too hard to be great. He spent an excessive amount of time saying things along the lines of, “I’m writing a memoir, and when you write memoirs, you feel things.” I generally do not mind some reflecting on the process of writing the memoir itself, but there was so much writing about the process of writing the memoir that it almost felt like it was a memoir about the time he wrote a memoir.

In addition to his excessive musing, I felt like his lack of chronology and the way he formatted his book made the plot less clear. He wrote in a way that was vague, and he often jumped between different periods of time. While jumping between timelines can often be done well, I felt like it was done in a very confusing way in Slouka’s memoir.

Slouka writes honestly about the struggles of having a mentally ill parent.

Having a parent with a serious mental illness is difficult. Despite my dislike for a lot of things in his writing, I found myself crying throughout the second half of the book. While his mother’s mental illness is different in many ways from my father’s bipolar disorder, being the child of a parent with a mental illness is a unique experience. The usual “parent-child” relationship does not apply.

He writes about his frustration and his anger.

When Slouka’s mother started having delusions, he did not understand what was happening. His father chose to ignore and support her delusions, rather than argue about them. Frustrated that his parents were denying that events that happened minutes before had actually happened, Slouka would argue with them. His mother would make him feel crazy, then call him evil when he did not support her version of reality. So frustrated and angry about his relationship with his mother, he had written about her death in novels and short stories.

“I need to acknowledge that you don’t imagine your mother’s death, even in a novel, without there maybe, just maybe, being some issues to think about.”

Mark Slouka

I’ve spent plenty of time frustrated and angry with my father. I have been frustrated with his antics when he’s been off of his medication and having manic delusions. Instead of just being frustrated, I’ve spent years angry at him when he’s turned to drugs to self-medicate his bipolar disorder. It’s so easy to be angry at a mentally ill parent when their actions so directly impact you. It is also easy to be angry when you know that they are doing things that are hurting themselves.

He writes about his guilt.

Slouka carried guilt over his mother’s illness. He felt responsible for some parts of if, primarily because he sometimes felt like he should have done more to help her. She often called him evil when she was having her delusions. I can imagine that this only added to the guilt he felt over being unable to help her.

“I want to know why I couldn’t save us, thought what I really want, I think, is absolution, the beginning of this sentence with the word “why” removed like a long thorn: I want to know I couldn’t save us.

Mark Slouka

What child doesn’t want to save his or her parents from what is wrong with them, regardless of what they have done? Before my dad got really sick, he used to drink a lot. I thought that alcoholism was the worst thing in the world (and it’s pretty darn bad). Some nights he would get mad at me and yell, “You drive me to drinking!” and get a beer. For the longest time, I thought it was true. Then I figured out that he was drinking whether or not he was angry with me. When he began using drugs and having problems with his mental health, I carried a lot of guilt. Even thought I knew (logically) that I didn’t “drive” him to do anything, there was always that part of me that wondered if there was anything I could have done.

He writes about loving his mother despite it all.

Slouka loved his mother. He knew that she couldn’t help her mental illness. And even though she had an addiction to prescription medication because of her mental illness, he still loved her. He loved her smile and her laugh. He loved the way she told him stories when he was young. She taught him so many things. And despite the damage she did later on, he loved the woman she was beyond her illness.

“I don’t know that she had a choice. And all I can be is sorry for it. And let her go.”

Mark Slouka

When my father is in his right mind, he is the most generous person I know. He’s funny. If he’s around a group of people, he’s the center of attention and will do anything to make everyone laugh. So many of my good qualities came from him. Whether or not he comes to terms with his illness and his addictions, I love him. He’s my dad. And I know there’s so much good in him. His illnesses just make it hard for some people to see that.

Quick Review:

Nobody’s Son had a powerful story. Slouka’s expression of what it is like to be the child of a mentally ill parent was what made this book worth reading. However, his writing style and the lack of chronology left a lot to be desired. He spent a lot of the book musing about how it felt to be writing his memoir, which felt unneeded and obnoxious. In a way, it felt as if he was trying to sound like a better and more philosophical writer than he was. It is unfortunate that such a great and powerful story may be obscured by these quirks in his writing.


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Unashamed is the powerful testimony about God’s transforming work in the life of Christian artist Lecrae Moore. Lecrae writes about growing up without a father, his mistakes, and his transformation into the artist he is today.

Unashamed by Lecrae Moore
Unashamed by Lecrae Moore

Lecrae was abandoned by his father, who he never met. His mother worked hard to provide for him. Because of the emptiness left by not having a father figure in his life, Lecrae looked up to rap artists and uncles who were not always good influences on him. After being molested by a babysitter, he gained a distorted view of sexuality. He used drugs and women. However, he earned a full scholarship to college for theater and continued his lifestyle on campus. It was there that he had to opportunity to go to a conference where he accepted Jesus as his savior.

“I’ve had to learn that my natural responses aren’t normal, that the only way to live a future that’s better than my past is to cling to God in the present.”

Lecrae Moore

Unfortunately, in his zeal he also became legalistic in his approach to his relationship with God. He believed he could do enough good to wipe away all of the wrong things he had done. When he started to slip, he gave up. He began a sexual relationship with a woman who got pregnant with his child. Not wanting to be a father, he told her to get an abortion. Not long after that, they separated and he continued his lifestyle. After checking into rehab, he realized his need for God’s grace. He moved in with a Christian friend and turned his life around completely. It was then that his career as a Christian artist began to take off.

Lecrae’s abandonment by his father severely impacted his life.

Lecrae hungered so much for a male role model that he clung to any male who invested in his life. Even the rap artists he listened to became role models to fill the void his father had left. The emptiness he felt left him eager to prove himself to everyone.

Even after becoming a Christian, the scars from being fatherless still remained. While they were not being filled with drugs and women, the hunger for approval was still there. The lack of a father in his life impacted the way he saw God as a Heavenly Father.

“Because I felt like my dad valued drugs more than having me as a son, I’ve constantly wrestled with my self-worth and craved the approval of others.”

Lecrae Moore

Although I was not abandoned by my father, my complicated relationship with my father has also left its scars on my life. It has left me starved for male role models. I often crave words of affirmation from the older men in my life, especially those I have labeled as role models. Words of criticism can be taken as outright attacks. However, I have been able to work through some of these issues because I am aware of them. As I read Lecrae’s story, I connected with his emotions. I found his honesty about the journey to be healing.

Lecrae has learned to become “okay” with the tension his music creates.

Lecrae’s testimony and his outspokenness about being a Christian have led to him being labeled a “Christian artist.” While a lot of his music does talk about things related to Christianity, he has started taking a direction away from being overtly Christian in his music in order to reach more people. His conviction is that in order to reach people, he needs to be an artist who is a Christian instead of a Christian artist. He wants to write music that will speak to the boy he was growing up so that he can allow doors to be opened to conversations about faith.

“Being an outspoken Christian in the music industry means always feeling out of place. It’s like whatever you have accomplished is less credible because of your faith. You’re in the circle, but you’re not really in the circle. You fit in, but you don’t really fit in.”

Lecrae Moore

While Lecrae is never going to fit in with the non-Christian crowd, he’s also been shunned by some segments of the Christian crowd as well. When he began to shift his focus in his music to follow his convictions, he did not communicate with his fans what his intentions were. Some fans accused him of chasing money. Others claimed he wasn’t a Christian anymore. And although the path he believes God has put him on has left him in a place of tension, he is staying there.

Quick Review:

Unashamed is a powerful and emotional memoir. It is an absolute must-read for fans of Lecrae. Even for those who are not his fans, I highly recommend it because of the powerful testimony that he writes in this book’s pages. This book contains mature content like sexual abuse, drugs, and abortion. However, Lecrae handles his past mistakes and his background in a tactful away. His book gives readers a raw, yet redeemed look inside what life looks like for a young black man in America. Overall, this may be one of the best books I have read in a long time.

The Princess Diarist

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Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist gives readers a look behind the scenes of the filming of the first Star Wars movie. It also allows fans to get a feel for who the young woman who played Princess Leia really is. Fisher’s quirky (and sometimes plain bizarre) personality shines through the pages of this memoir.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Fisher tells her story as she remembers it, despite having told parts of it in other venues. Fisher grew up the daughter of a famous actress and never wanted to be famous. Despite these wishes, she ended up auditioning for a movie she did not think would amount to much. She ended up being cast as the lead woman, Leia, with the stipulation that she lose ten pounds. She signed away her rights to merchandising, not thinking that it would be much income or that Star Wars would become the phenomenon that it did.

In this memoir, Fisher opens up about one thing she has been too ashamed to admit openly for forty years: her affair with Harrison Ford. For three months of filming, she spent the weekends with him. They did not discuss a future together or the fact he had a wife and kids at home. And at the end of filming, the affair ended and they went their separate ways. Somehow, they managed to remain friends and worked together amicably on future films.

Carrie Fisher shows readers her conflicted feelings over her affair with Harrison Ford.

On one hand, Fisher felt like she wanted the affair. She writes that she had planned to have an affair with someone on the set of this movie because an affair was a very adult thing to do. At the age of nineteen, she wanted so badly to feel like an adult. Despite being intimidated by Harrison, she was also attracted to him.

“My affair with Harrison was a very long one-night stand. I was relieved when it ended. I didn’t approve of myself.”

Carrie Fisher

On the other hand, Fisher was so embarrassed by the affair and did not share what happened with anyone for forty years. She did not want Harrison’s wife to find out about their affair. At times she also realized there was no substance to their relationship. They had a physical attraction, but would sit in silence for hours without having any conversation. Beyond that physical bond, there was nothing to their relationship.

This book was difficult to read because of Carrie Fisher’s scattered thoughts.

While it might be considered part of her charm, I found it difficult to get past her writing style. I frequently found myself engaged in pages of good writing about life behind the scenes of Star Wars, followed by a few paragraphs that were so crazy and scattered that it left me confused about everything else I had just read. Throughout the book, there were passages where Fisher rambled about things completely off topic. Sometimes those things seemed completely outside of reality.

In several passages, Fisher confesses to drinking and having smoked marijuana in her younger years. While these may account for some of her strange ramblings, they may not account for all of them. In one passage from a diary she wrote at the age of nineteen, she writes about a fish that came to her on a flaming pie and sat on her window, laughing at her. While this is by far the strangest example, smaller pieces of her writing seem completely divorced from reality (or even reality within Star Wars). While I could probably stand to lighten up and enjoy her quirkiness, passages like this kept me from believing the more “real” feeling passages.

Quick Review:

Despite her sometimes rude language and seemingly loose grasp on reality, I would still recommend this book to any Star Wars fan. Carrie Fisher shares her insecurities as a young actress starring in a role that became bigger than she ever dreamed. She writes about the struggles of becoming famous. Her humorous stories and wit are found throughout this memoir of the making of Star Wars.

Jodie Sweetin Shares Her Addiction Story

In her memoir unSweetined, Jodie Sweetin writes about her struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. Since the publication of that book in 2009, Sweetin began speaking at events through Keppler Speakers. In the video below from Keppler Speakers, she shares her addiction story.

Just like in her memoir, Sweetin expresses in this video that the pressures of being on set and pretending to be okay all of the time did not help her learn good habits for relating to others. She shares about her high school experience and her first drink at the age of thirteen. Although she was famous, she expresses that it didn’t change her desire to blend in. Drinking helped her feel better in a way she felt she could not do on her own.

The Depth of Sweetin’s Addiction

Sweetin shares throughout this video and her memoir that she did not drink like anyone else her age. While others her age were drinking a little to get buzzed, she was getting completely wasted. Throughout high school, she found ways to get as drunk as she possibly could. When her parents insisted that she come home on the weekends during college, she spent the rest of the week missing class so she could party. She began using drugs in addition to her drinking, taking her addiction to an even more dangerous place.

“I took it to a place that got very dangerous very quickly.”

Jodie Sweetin

Despite having people who cared for her, Sweetin only cared about getting drunk or high. In college, she had a very caring boyfriend who ended up being her first husband. He wanted to help her get sober, but she was uninterested in helping herself. Her roommate and her parents tried to help her, but no one was able to help her because of the depth of her addiction.

“That was all I could think about, was getting out of my own head.”

Jodie Sweetin

Sweetin’s Inspiration for Sobriety

While married to her second husband, Sweetin became pregnant with her daughter and realized that something had to change. She remained sober from the time she found out she was pregnant until she gave birth. After having her daughter, though, she relapsed and began drinking again. When her marriage began to fall apart, however, she realized that she needed to pull herself together if she was going to have custody of her daughter.

In 2016, she competed in Dancing with the Stars. After the competition, she began filming for Fuller House, the reboot of the sitcom Full House which brought Sweetin into the spotlight. Season 2 of Fuller House was released on Netflix on December 9, and a third season is yet to be announced. She continues to share her story of addiction and sobriety through Keppler Speakers. Today she has two daughters to continue to inspire her to stay sober: Zoie and Beatrix.


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In her memoir unSweetined, Jodie Sweetin shares her struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. Known for her time as Stephanie Tanner on Full House and more recently on the Netflix reboot Fuller House, Sweetin opens up about her addictions, despite their ugliness. Although her addiction is not a secret to the public, she uses the pages of her memoir to reveal the emptiness that brought her to these addictions and what gave her the strength to find her way out.

unSweetined by Jodie Sweetin
unSweetined by Jodie Sweetin

Throughout her years on set, the cast of Full House became like family to her. Sweetin recounts some of the fun times on set, along with some of the pressure she felt to be her best at all times. At one event, fans were pushing and crowding the table where she was signing autographs so much that they had to remove her from the location. Later, people were complaining, saying that they could not believe that she would do that to her fans. It was a struggle for her at that age to balance her desire to please others with her need for rest and safety.

“I was just too young to understand that it was OK to have my own limits and boundaries.”

Jodie Sweetin

After her time on Full House ended, Sweetin felt empty. Although there were some opportunities to visit with the cast, she was forced to move on to the next thing. She made attempts to get other roles, but most directors could not see her as anything but Stephanie Tanner. Frustrated by failed attempts to keep her acting career going, she entered high school feeling like an outsider in both school and Hollywood. At Full House co-star Candace Cameron’s wedding, she was offered a drink. She continued drinking until she was drunk, and ended up vomiting in the bathroom. In the years following that first drink, she found herself in the throes of drug and alcohol addiction.

Jodie Sweetin’s story gives us a glimpse at some of the reasons people turn to addiction.

In exploring the history of her alcohol and drug addictions, Sweetin reflected on some of the reasons for her addictions. While the loss she felt over Full House ending was a major contributor to her addiction, other things led her down that path. Despite knowing she didn’t have much of a reason to drink, she still felt like a shell of a person. Her parents did not tell people that she was adopted for fear that they would think they were exploiting her in Hollywood, but her adoption may have contributed to her addiction. Her biological parents had addictions, and she knew that it could make her more prone to addiction.

“A big chunk that I felt was missing in me had been filled that day by drinking.”

Jodie Sweetin

The biggest reason she felt she was addicted to alcohol and drugs, though, was that she felt she was not enough without them. Without drugs, she wasn’t the funniest or the prettiest girl in the room. With them, she could make people laugh. When she had drugs and alcohol, people wanted to be around her. People wanted to talk to her and to get to know her. The part of her that she felt wasn’t ever good enough was gone when she had that first taste of alcohol.

She also shows us that having something to live for can help someone fight addiction.

When Sweetin was at a low point in her addiction, her first husband helped get her into a rehab facility. It was there that she was able to get clean and sober for a time. She had counseling several times a day and had friends inside who were going through similar things. Because of the idyllic nature of the facility, it was easy to stay sober while inside it. However, once on the outside of this facility, Sweetin quickly found her way back to drugs, despite the fact she was working as a motivational speaker (sharing her story about beating addiction) at the time.

“Love is wanting something more for someone else than you do for yourself.”

Jodie Sweetin

When Sweetin became pregnant, she finally found the motivation to get sober. Once she found out about her pregnancy, she did not use drugs or drink. Now married to her second husband, she realized that he was an unpleasant and emotionally abusive man. After the birth of their child, she began to drink as an escape from her miserable marriage. At one point, she even drove away, drunk, with her daughter in the car. However, she realized that she needed to get clean if she was going to be able to leave the marriage and retain custody of her daughter. She moved in with her parents and worked hard at sobriety.

At the time of the book’s publication (2009) she was still fighting for custody and several months sober. Today, she has a second daughter and is working as a motivational speaker and on the set of Fuller House. She found the strength to get clean by looking outside herself and looking at what was really important: her daughter.

Quick Review:

I found this to be an all-around enjoyable read. While Jodie Sweetin covers a lot of mature material in the book, she writes in a tactful way that conveys her current regret for some of her past mistakes. She explains her past and current feelings, showing readers growth over time and her recovery from addiction. Although this book is significantly dated, it is still worth reading for any Full House or Fuller House fan.

Every Falling Star

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Every Falling Star is the heartbreaking and inspirational memoir of Sungju Lee, who grew up in North Korea. After living in privileged Pyongyang and wholeheartedly believing in their communist leader, at the age of ten he must face the realities of communism in a poorer town after his father falls out of favor with the regime.

Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee & Susan McClelland
Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee & Susan McClelland

After moving to this poorer town, Sungju received criticism from his classmates for being unaware of the conditions they had been living in all along. He quickly realized that his father had not been sent to this area “on vacation” like he had been told, but that he must have fallen out of favor in some way. Both of his parents refuse to tell him what happened, and after some time, his father headed north to China looking for food. When he doesn’t return, his mother left as well, headed to a nearby town to see if an aunt has food to spare. This left young Sungju on his own to fend for himself.

“Morality is a great song a person sings when he or she has never been hungry.”

Sungju Lee

Over the next several years, Sungju learned to steal from the street vendors in order to feed himself. He and a friend from his new town joined together with a few other boys to create a gang. When the town they were in became too overrun with boys stealing, they began to travel. Along the way, two of the boys died because of the violence they faced on the streets. After several years, Sungju finds his grandfather, who had never stopped looking for him. After that, a man came to take him to China, where he was to transported to South Korea, a place he always feared. There he was finally reunited with his father and given a chance for a future.

What I loved most about this book was that it gave a message of hope, despite its darkness.

There was a lot of darkness. There were fights with knives. There was the use of alcohol and drugs to forget the pain. At one point, boys who should hardly know what sex even is were selling women so that they could have money for food. It was terribly heartbreaking to think of the conditions that these boys had to live through.

“I think the worst thing anyone can do is make them stop believing in something higher, something good, something pure, a reason for everything–hope, maybe. God, maybe.”

Sungju Lee

However, despite all of the loss that Sungju suffered and all of the terrible things he had to do to survive, he never lost hope that he would be reunited with his family. When his grandfather initially found him, he was so hardened by the streets that he had wanted to steal from him. When Sungju realized that it really was his grandfather, the hope that it gave him was so great that it broke through years of unimaginable pain and violence. He began to hope even more for all of his family to be reunited.

When Sungju arrived in South Korea he was terrified because he had grown up being told that they would feed him well, and then after he had told them secrets about North Korea, they would kill him. He was angry with his father for not finding him sooner. He was upset that his father would deceive him into coming to a place like South Korea. However, when he was reunited with his father, he found out that his father had never stopped looking for him. In the same way, they still do not stop looking for his mother. They have hope, after all of this time that she can still be found. They spend what money they have trying to find her.

Sungju has now gone to college and graduate school. He hopes to work toward the reunification of North and South Korea. He believes that the two countries can be unified, and has dedicated his education to this end. He has worked in and with embassies to learn and grow as a person and a leader, with the hope that his new experiences, paired with his old experiences, will help him to bring peace to these two countries he has grown to love.


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Confession: I didn’t read this book.

Methland by Nick Reding
Methland by Nick Reding

Now before you shun me for not being a good book reflection blogger, let me defend and clarify my confession a little. I read half of this book, and fully intend to finish it eventually. However, this ended up being a much heavier book than anticipated and I have had to read it in smaller chunks to be able to fully process the information.

Several months ago, I read a memoir written by a mother and daughter about the daughter’s heroin addiction, and how beating that addiction both strained and strengthened their relationship in different ways. While I knew the content of this book would be different because it was looking at the town of Oelwein, Iowa instead of the lives of one family, I did not anticipate how much more emotionally draining it would be to read the many snapshots painted by Reding in this book.

This book gives an up-close look at how meth pulls apart the lives of those who use it.

Meth is so unlike any other drug. While other addictions may seem treatable and beatable, through the stories of the people of Oelwein an image appeared of a drug that has an addictive quality that is invincible. One woman built a drug empire and after years clean in prison, went back to those same drugs upon release. Another addict, though his skin and flesh melted off in a chemical fire while disposing of evidence of his meth lab, went back to meth after getting out of the hospital and jail. Though one addict in the book was nine months clean and living with parents desperate to help him stay that way, there was fear from everyone (including himself) that he would go back to using meth. No matter how long they were clean or what circumstances faced them, those held under the grip of meth addiction seemed powerless to fight the high that meth gave to them.

“His job was increasingly directed by the belief that in solving the town’s economic dilemma, the drug problem, too, would abate. That was the hope, anyway. On another level, meth seemed to operate completely outside the bounds of any rational, calculated variables.”

Nick Reding

The reason this was a difficult book to read was because I love a meth addict.

Despite the fact meth has taken a toll on his physical and mental health, someone I love continues to use the drug he has used for years. He is the main reason that I was interested in reading this book. I was searching for understanding, and on some level I found it. Although I still see meth as a nasty drug because of all of the side effects that come with it, meth gives the addict energy and euphoria that cannot be compared to anything else. At one point in our nation’s history, a form of it was legal because of the way it allowed people to work longer and harder. It was marketed as a weight loss drug. The fact it makes people feel good is undeniable. And for a while, at least, it allows them to work more (which is why it is so popular among the working class).

This book gave me the glimpse into meth addiction that I needed to both understand my loved one’s addiction and understand that there was very little that I could do to motivate him to quit the drug. While a non-addicted person or a person addicted to something less mind-altering may have responded to my pleas to get clean differently, it has been good for me to better understand the immensity of the burden of those fighting meth addiction. In reading about the addict who was nine months clean and living with his parents, one quote stuck out to me: “For Major, waiting to see what price his son would pay for his transgressions was a daily reminder of why he had to stay straight. But his anxiety and guilt were also an hourly motivation to get high.” A person recovering from addiction has to want to stay straight more than they want to drown out the anxiety and guilt.

While I like to believe that if I were faced with an addiction I would stop using whatever addictive substance if a loved one asked. After slightly better understanding exactly what addiction, especially addiction to meth does to a person, I’m not entirely sure what I would do. In the grips of addiction, I doubt I would be strong enough to get clean alone. I am increasingly convinced that only God can help someone break the bonds of addiction.