Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Book Blitz: The History of Hilary Hambrushina by Marnie Lamb

Title: The History of Hilary Hambrushina
Author: Marnie Lamb
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Release Date: May 31, 2017
Hilary has one goal for her first year in junior high: to become popular. But her plans are turned upside down when her best friend leaves for the summer and a quirky girl named Kallie moves in next door. Kallie paints constellations on her ceiling, sleeps in a hammock, and enacts fantastical plays in front of cute boys on the beach. Yet despite Kallie’s lack of interest in being -cool, – Hilary and Kallie find themselves becoming friends. That summer friendship, however, is put to the test when school begins, reigniting Hilary’s obsession with climbing the social ladder. As Hilary discovers the dark side to popularity, she must decide who she wants to be before she loses everything.

I put on a sweatband and sneakers and brought down a water bottle. My plan was to pedal non-stop for an hour. I figured I could do it, since I was used to riding my own bike, and how different could this bike be? I should lose at least one pound that way, I told myself. So if I use the bike every day, in fifteen days I’ll have lost the weight I want to lose.

I stepped over boxes and piles of books to reach the bike, which sat in a dark corner. This corner had a musty smell, like an old church that hadn’t been dusted since Queen Victoria was my age. A fake raccoon-fur hat someone had given my dad as a joke hung on the wall nearby.

The bike seat was too high for me, but I couldn’t move it because it was screwed in place. Gripping the handlebars for support, I tried to heave my leg over the seat several times without success. I was becoming angry and sweaty, so I started breathing deeply, like I was having a baby, to calm myself down. “Hoo hoo hoo.”

“Hilary!” shouted my mom. “Why are you making monkey noises?”

I froze. I knew that if I said, “It’s nothing,” she’d come down, and I didn’t want her to think I needed help getting on a stationary bicycle. So I called, “I’m just playing a game.”

I managed to lift myself on to the bike. I had to stretch to reach the pedals, but I finally did and started pumping. It was O.K. at first, but soon, my muscles felt like some psycho was using them as rubber bands. And some people actually do this for fun! What’s wrong with them, I thought. I reached for the water bottle and tried to squirt some water in my mouth. Nothing but air came out. I’d forgotten to fill the bottle! I threw it away and continued to pump furiously. Objects on the wall began rattling, and I was making so many strange noises my mother must have thought a whole pack of monkeys was performing a conga line in the basement. I began to have visions of monkeys in spangly pink bikinis kicking up their heels (did monkeys have heels, I wondered) on stage at the Princess of Wales Theatre.

Suddenly my sweatband fell over my eyes. I didn’t stop to fix it, though. You’re going to pump for the full hour, not for fifty-nine minutes, I ordered myself. Instead, I tried nodding vigorously to get the sweatband to fall under my chin. It fell over my nose and I couldn’t breathe. Then something dark and furry leapt on my head, covering my eyes and tickling my face like a bunch of feathers. I screamed, batting at the thing with one hand and pumping frantically, as if I could escape that way. I soon realized it was only my dad’s hat, but I still couldn’t get it off. Finally I stumbled off the bike and yanked the hat’s tail away from my eyes.

I had no energy left to remove the hat, so I left it on and trudged upstairs. I passed my mom, who took one look at me and started to snicker. Ignoring her, I went into the kitchen to check the clock. I’d been on the bike five minutes.

So that was the end of my experiment with exercising.

  • “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield
  • “Bourgeois Shangri-La” by Miss Li
  • “Video” by India Arie
  • “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
  • “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor
  • “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To” by Lesley Gore
  • “Stupid Girls” by Pink
  • “O-o-h, Child” by The Five Stairsteps
  • “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera
  • “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child
  •  “City of Stars” by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul

Significant Moments in My Life with My Mother
One of the major themes in my young adult novel, The History of Hilary Hambrushina, is mother-daughter relationships. Like several of the other young characters, Hilary has a turbulent relationship with her mother. The book’s publication has caused me to reflect on my own relationship with my mother and its evolution.

With the exception of one year when I was fifteen (a year in which my mother struggled with working at a job she disliked and I struggled with being fifteen), my mother and I have always been close. For me, the biggest change in our relationship has been my finding a way to maintain that closeness while forging my own path, sometimes in a different direction or using different building materials to what my mother had envisioned for me. Although I had a few moments of open rebellion as a child and teen, I never had the type of combative relationship that Hilary has with her mom. Quite the opposite: I wanted to please my mother and felt anxious at the thought of her disapproval. So I didn’t engage in the typical tween and teenage misdeeds: drinking, smoking, shoplifting, or cutting classes. The fact that my introverted, cautious, and independent personality—bearing no small resemblance to that of my mother—left me with little to no interest in sampling these activities facilitated my choice.

Rather, my revolution took the form of advocacy for following the path that I believed to be right for me. The first battle came when I was twenty and was offered the chance to travel to the homeland of a friend from the Middle East. My mom made her concern and displeasure known. I calmly explained that this trip was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that I was an adult, and that I had made the decision to go. Once my mom knew that I was serious and that I had thought carefully about this choice, she became reconciled to it. The second battle occurred several years later, when I decided to move away to pursue a second graduate degree. This meant leaving a contract government job that had the possibility of becoming permanent. My mom could not understand why I would choose to leave a potentially steady and lucrative job to study for a second master’s degree in the same subject area. But I knew that leaving was the right path for me, and again, I ignored the objections and pursued the goal of applying to various master’s programs. By the time I was accepted with a scholarship to the University of Windsor, my mom was fully on board with my plan. I believe that the form of my revolution allowed me to maintain my close relationship with my mother. I wasn’t rebelling for the sake of testing boundaries, but rather out of a deep conviction about what was best for me. When my mother realized this, she respected my choices, and we were able to move past our differences and on to a more adult relationship.

For me, the most striking part of this reflection is the realization that, just as my mother has seen me as an adult for many years, I now see her as one. By that, I mean that I see her as a unique individual whom I don’t fully know, as someone who is capable of surprising me by revealing hitherto-unknown aspects of herself. Two occasions stand out. The first happened eleven years ago, when my parents were on holiday in the Dominican Republic. At the resort in which she and my father were staying, my mother recognized several women whom she’d previously seen only in pictures: the editors of a popular Canadian women’s magazine to which my mother had been a subscriber for years. Knowing that I was unhappy in my current job and that I was looking for a new editing position, my mother marched up to the editor-in-chief, complimented her on the magazine, and presented my credentials to her as a potential job candidate. The editor expressed interest in hearing from me and then asked how old my mother was. When she responded, the editor explained that she was looking for women of varying ages to model swimwear for a spread showcasing bathing suits for “real women.” To my great surprise when my mother called me a week later with the news, she became a senior citizen swimsuit model. In an era when people of different colours, shapes, sizes, and ages are finally being celebrated, my mother, in her quiet way, helped blaze a path that broke away from the well-trod road of ageism.

My second surprise occurred a few years later, when my mom told me that she and my father had attended a lecture given by Irshad Manji, the prominent Canadian Muslim feminist. I paused, then pointed out that Manji is of a different faith and sexual orientation than my mother. How could my conservative and traditional mother be interested in spending an evening listening to such a radically different perspective, I wondered. Yet the perspective was perhaps not so different. “She’s so wise and such a good speaker,” enthused my mother. “Someone in the audience said that there are no Christians today who are challenging narrow-minded interpretations of their faith, and she responded, ‘Oh, but there are. There are people with whom we’re working towards peace.’” I was moved at the notion of a broader collaboration between two faith groups portrayed in the media as almost always at loggerheads with one another. But I was even more moved at the thought of my mother, again in her quiet way, showing openness, compassion, and a rebellion of her own against the status quo that would box her into a stereotypical way of thinking or acting. In both these moments, I was as proud of my mother as I hope she was of me for forging my own path.

Author Bio:
A Journey Prize nominee, Marnie Lamb earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Windsor. Her short stories have appeared in various Canadian literary journals. Her first novel, a YA book named The History of Hilary Hambrushina, is forthcoming from Iguana Books. When she is not writing fiction or running her freelance editing business, she can be found cooking recipes with eggplant or scouting out colourful fashions at the One of a Kind Show.


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