My First Guest Review!

I’ve been hosting my ‘little blog that could’ as Book Club Babe since July 2011, and although I’ve reached quite a few milestones and gained some fantastic followers who share my love for all things literary, I’m always overjoyed to use my blog in new ways and share it with contributors. Blogging is an awesome vehicle for collaboration and insightful discussion, and I would be remiss if I didn’t enthusiastically participate!

Thus, I’m pleased to announce my first guest book review! Claire is a talented writer whom I met in the Classical Studies program at the University of California, Santa Cruz. This week she passed her comprehensive exam with flying colors and received highest honors in the major! I’m positive that after she graduates, we’ll be seeing more great things from her! And don’t forget to check out her own blog:

Please give Claire a warm Book Club Babe welcome and share your opinions of her review! I hope that you also feel inspired to submit your own!

Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (2012)

Review by Claire Marie Davidson

Rating: 5 out of 5

Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, an anthology of pieces from her popular advice column on The RumpusDear Sugar, is so much more than an advice column. In place of reductive suggestions, Strayed offers expansive meditations, multi-layered stories, and humor, all with a spirit of “radical empathy,” as Steve Almond puts it. She doesn’t distance herself from pain; instead, she embraces it entirely in her work, exploring loss through her responses. In this way, she problematizes the conventional question-answer format of advice columns, turning the reader’s attention instead to the process of a person’s “becoming.”

By connecting the letters to her own life experiences, Strayed localizes and familiarizes pain, wrestling with it on the pages and uniting herself with both the reader and the letter-writer.  In one letter, a father whose only son was killed by a drunk driver writes to her in a list format, which starts, “1. It’s taken me many weeks to compose this letter and even still, I can’t do it right. The only way I can get it out is to make a list instead of write a letter.” His letter ends with the question, “22. How do I become human again?” Strayed responds in a numbered list, which begins:

1. I don’t know how you go on without your son. I only know that you do. And you have. And you will.
2. Your shattering sorrowlight of a letter is proof of that.
3. You don’t need me to tell you how to become human again. You are there, in all of your humanity, shining unimpeachably before every person reading these words right now.

Strayed’s response transcends advice– it offers an intimate, emotional reaction. She suffers with the dad. She acknowledges how infinite the dad’s sense of loss is and, at the same time, delves into the multi-faceted, form-evading reality of humanity and mortality, memorializing his lost son through her words. Her poetic response offers both precision and complexity. This is the magic of Strayed’s writing: through her journey of loss, she creates something beautiful.


Claire Marie Davidson is a student at UC Santa Cruz, where she is pursuing her B.A. in Classical Studies and Creative Writing. She loves to read, write, and run. You can check out her blog at

She is super excited to be a guest blogger for Book Club Babe!

In Defense of Grad School

Fresno State Bulldogs

GO BULLDOGS!!! (Image via Wikipedia)

Usually around this time of year, media outlets are spouting off their pessimistic rants about university life: the cost of tuition and textbooks, the rising amount of student debt, the lack of actual learning, and the prevalence of young adult depression and suicide. All the buzz-kill stories make many people, and especially students like me, wonder–then why go to college at all???

Journalists, however, agree that pursuing a bachelor’s is worthwhile. I mean, they needed one to get their jobs. But those same journalists are often the ones dissing those who are working toward advanced degrees. You’ll have no trouble finding voices on the net telling you that you’re a “really smart sucker” if you go to grad school, including Slate, Geek O System, even a blog titled “100 Reasons Not to Go to Grad School.”

I have ten days left until I begin my last year of my Master’s program at Fresno State in the Mass Communication and Journalism department. And I’d just like to say that grad school is not the plague, and as long as you do your research and have realistic expectations, it’s not nearly as bad as everyone says it is.

Thus, I wanted to relay some of the most popular arguments against grad school and offer my defense:

  1. Grad school takes a long time. Well, it depends whether you just want a Master’s or want to continue to get a PhD. Not every grad student plans on becoming a professor; some are using advanced degrees to reach a higher salary in their current field, others just need extra education in their industry. Yes, the average age of PhD recipients is 35, but I received my BA from UCSC in 3 years and will have my MA after 2 more years. I’ll be 22 when I’m done–beating out most undergrads! So I’m not wasting valuable time away from the workforce; in fact, I’m one degree ahead of my peers of the same age.
  2. Grad school is hard work. This argument is just stupid. Anything of value requires hard work. But if you start early and pick the right program, it’s manageable. I’m young enough to not have to worry about a house, husband, and kids. I have a part-time job as a tutor, but I don’t overwork myself. I can still go out and have fun. With my 30 unit program, I take 6-9 units a semester, which could include independent studies and undergrad electives–a lot less work than I had getting my bachelor’s.
  3. Grad school is slave labor. I’m not a work-horse to the education system, and although many programs make grad students work as teaching assistants, mine doesn’t. I don’t need teaching experience to graduate, which works out nicely since I’m not getting a PhD afterwards. In fact, only one of my colleagues wants to become a professor; the rest of us want to work as journalists or PR specialists. Even the graduation requirements in my department have become easier. The only two options before were a thesis or project (generally 50 pages of research over the course of two semesters), but now we can opt to take a comprehensive exam instead. It’ll probably be the hardest test I’ve ever taken (besides the GRE to get into grad school!), but it’ll be over in a few hours rather than in several months.
  4. Grad school is expensive. This, of course, depends on which university you attend and whether you apply for financial aid. My family was paying over $18,000 a year after financial aid at UCSC, but Fresno State only costs about $7,500 annually for full-time grad students. I spend a little extra for books and parking permits, but even with the CSU system raising tuition higher and higher every year, it’s still a walk in the park compared to what I was used to. Not to mention, I’m one of those “boomerang students,” who returned home after graduation, so instead of paying almost a grand every month to live with two other roommates, I live rent-free with my parents where I get my old room back. Oh! I forgot the best part! IT’S CALLED THE FAFSA. DO IT. Grad students don’t have to supply their parents’ income on the FAFSA like undergrads do, and since my earnings from my part-time job put me way below the poverty line, my tuition is FREE. Yes, there are grad students who are paying six figures at some Ivy League and who will graduate up to their eyeballs in debt. But I’m proof that it doesn’t have to be that way.
So if you’re scared about possibly going to grad school, don’t be. Just do your homework, and budget accordingly. I’ve had a fabulous time at Fresno State, and I can’t wait to see my professors and classmates again. I don’t regret one second of my educational journey, and I’m hopeful that it will all pay off into a career I love. Don’t let the grouches get you down!