Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled - and More Miserable Than Ever Before

Author: Jean M. Twenge
Pages: 242
Rating: PG-13, but only for some language, mostly when she is quoting young adults, or lines from movies.

Summary: Called “The Entitlement Generation” or Gen Y, they are storming into schools, colleges, and businesses all over the country. In this provocative new book, headline-making psychologist and social commentator Dr. Jean Twenge explores why the young people she calls “Generation Me”—those born in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s—are tolerant, confident, open-minded, and ambitious but also cynical, depressed, lonely, and anxious.

Herself a member of Generation Me, Dr. Twenge uses findings from the largest intergenerational research study ever conducted—with data from 1.3 million respondents spanning six decades—to reveal how profoundly different today’s young adults are. Here are the shocking truths about this generation, including dramatic differences in sexual behavior, as well as controversial predictions about what the future holds for them and society as a whole. Her often humorous, eyebrow-raising stories about real people vividly bring to life the hopes and dreams, disappointments, and challenges of Generation Me.

GenMe has created a profound shift in the American character, changing what it means to be an individual in today’s society. The collision of this generation’s entitled self-focus and today’s competitive marketplace will create one of the most daunting challenges of the new century. Engaging, controversial, prescriptive, funny, Generation Me will give Boomers new insight into their offspring, and help those in their teens, 20s, and 30s finally make sense of themselves and their goals and find their road to happiness.

My Thoughts:  While I thought this book was completely fascinating, I didn't feel like I really learned any new information. Most of it was me saying, "Yep, that's how it is!" Also, since the book was published in 2006, some of the information is a little outdated, and there was hardly any mention whatsoever of social media, which has become HUGE since then.

However, I felt the book made a very good case for erasing so-called "self-esteem" curriculum from schools and homes and replacing it with the learning of self-control. Twenge makes the point that GenMe was so saturated with the "You Are Special" message, that we tend to feel important for no reason at all, and are more narcissistic than high in self-esteem. Most members of GenMe feel that they are more important and more special than anyone else.

We also have a big gap between our expectations of life and the reality. We've been raised to believe that we can be anything we want to be, and that if we just try hard enough, it will happen for us. However, we can't ALL be movie stars, rock stars, and famous athletes, and all the trying in the world is not going to change the fact that some people just don't have the talent.We've also been led to believe that if we find the right job and/or the right life partner, that we will always feel fulfilled and completely happy. Previous generations never expected their job to feel personally rewarding, it was just expected to pay the bills. Previous generations also understood that their marriage was not always going to be soul-mate heaven. As a result, the divorce rates of today are high, and people unhappy with their perfectly good jobs are many.

GenMe also has a high tendency to be depressed and anxious, and for many good reasons. First of all, we're more likely to live far away from family when we reach adulthood, to move frequently, and fail to keep in touch with those who are important to us, meaning we don't have a strong support system underneath us to buoy us up in hard times. We also expect a lot out of life, at the same time when life has gotten more difficult. For example, we expect to have a good house, a good job, and great insurance, just when all of those things are ridiculously hard to obtain. Twenge relates that when her parents bought their first house in the early 1970's, it cost $23,000, a little more than their combined annual income. "The rule of thumb used to be that your house should not cost more than two times your annual income, and that you should spend about 25% of your income on housing. What a joke." A quote from political scientist Robert Putnam reads, "Virtually all of the increase in full-time employment of American women over the last twenty years is attributable to financial pressures, not personal fulfillment." We're stressed out because a lot of moms would like to stay home with their kids, but they can't afford not to work. However, the cost of child-care makes working almost as bad as staying home. According to the book, more and more women are forgoing having children at all. Because of what we see on TV (people who are able to afford basically whatever they want) we feel like we are constantly failing. "It's like a cruel joke - we've been raised to expect riches, and can barely afford a condo and a crappy health care plan."

The end of the book offers some practical solutions to employers, parents, and young adults about how to deal with the attitudes instilled in GenMe'ers. Overall, I thought the book was completely fascinating. Worth a read, even if you just need a reassurance that you're not the only one feeling like life is kind of impossible these days.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Sarah's Quilt: A Novel of Sarah Agnes Prine

Author: Nancy E. Turner
Pages: 402
Rating: PG (More death. Nothing graphic, and nothing inappropriate)

Sarah's Quilt, the long-awaited sequel to These Is My Words, continues the dramatic story of Sarah Agnes Prine. Beloved by readers and book clubs from coast to coast, These Is My Words told the spellbinding story of an extraordinary pioneer woman and her struggle to make a home in the Arizona Territories. Now Sarah returns.

In 1906, the badlands of Southern Arizona Territory is a desolate place where a three-year drought has changed the landscape for all time. When Sarah's well goes dry and months pass with barely a trace of rain, Sarah feels herself losing her hold upon the land. Desperate, Sarah's mother hires a water witch, a peculiar desert wanderer named Lazrus who claims to know where to find water. As he schemes and stalls, he develops an attraction to Sarah that turns into a frightening infatuation.

And just when it seems that life couldn't get worse, Sarah learns that her brother and his family have been trapped in the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. She and her father-in-law cannot even imagine the devastation that awaits them as they embark on a rescue mission to the stricken city.

Sarah is a pioneer of the truest spirit, courageous but gentle as she fights to save her family's home. But she never stops longing for the passion she once knew. Though her wealthy neighbor has asked her to wed, Sarah doesn't entirely trust him. And then Udell Hanna and his son come riding down the dusty road. . . .

My Thoughts: I'm not sure if I liked this book better than These is My Words, but I definitely still loved it. It's a different kind of book in that the first one was a diary, and this one is absolutely more of a novel, though still written in first person with every section dated. Also, the first book covered about 10 years, and this book only covers only about 6 months.

Sarah is the type of character that you admire, want to be like, and by the end of the book, you feel as if you're as much a part of her family as anyone else. It's the type of book that draws you in by the closeness of the characters and the stubbornness and strength of the heroine so that you feel as if you're just keeping up with the life events of a close friend or family member by the end of it all.

Lazrus is the creepiest and weirdest part of this book. Not gonna lie, he freaked me out. He's this eccentric wild man who randomly decides to be obsessed with Sarah, and she can't seem to get him to go away. He terrifies everyone.

The only thing that drives me crazy about Sarah is that she's really stupid when it comes to love. She did that in the first book, taking forever to decide she was in love with Jack. And now in this book, she spends way too much time thinking about marrying her neighbor, who she knows she doesn't really like. However, the author does a great job of revealing Sarah's healing process. At the beginning of the book, Sarah (and me as well) was still mourning the death of her husband Jack. Even though it happened years ago, she misses him deeply and longs for him daily. However, you get carried along in her journey of letting go of him, and finally getting ready to move forward in her life. At the beginning of the book, I was right with Sarah, thinking she could never love anyone the way she loved Jack and that no one could ever replace him. But by the end, I was feeling the same way as she was, that Jack was wonderful, but that she could maybe start to let it go while still remembering the happiness of that relationship.

As a story, this book is full of even more tragedy and trial than the first book was, but Sarah is just so strong, you just know she'll be able to make it through, and things will be alright. When I finished the book, my feeling was that life is full of bad things happening, but that's normal. That happens to everyone. The important thing to do is remember your blessings and be grateful for what you still have. That will take the sting off of the difficulties.

Anyway, I loved this book, and can't wait to read the final book, "The Star Garden."
(By the way, don't feel like you have to invest in 3 books if you want to read just one. So far, the two books seem to be very able to stand on their own, with satisfying, not cliff-hanger endings.)