Made Priceless: A Few Things Money Can’t Buy edited by H.L. Hix

Made Priceless: A Few Things Money Can’t Buy edited by H.L. Hix is a collection of short essays about items writers have in their possession that they neither bought nor would they sell because they hold a value not measured by the marketplace.  The book pays homage to all that is held dear in today’s society from a time long past waiting to be recaptured in memories to places you can revisit, though the light will be slightly off or the wind will blow harder.  Hix has culled together a series of short essays that demonstrate the beauty we find in the most mundane things from flags to typewriters to playing cards found on the ground.

Contributors to the collection range from writers and poets to bricklayers and flight instructors, among many others.  The book also is broken down into more than 30 sections with titles like “emotionally pervaded,” “moral transactions,” and “No Ideas.”  While the book is in itself a collection, Hix has asked readers to keep the dialogue open and fluid in an open invitation to readers and reading groups to contribute their “object lessons” to his blog; find out more about that project from my previous post.

Since I’m a contributor to the project, I cannot call this a review due to the potential conflicts of interest it would present.  However, I can tell you that I’m pleased that this nonprofit project is published through a nonprofit publishing house, Serving House Books, and H.L. Hix has said he will donate 100 percent of any royalties he receives from the sales of the book, since he simply seeks to spread “wisdom and joy.”

Resilience Edited by Eric Nguyen

Resilience edited by Eric Nguyen is a collection of essays, poems, stories, and advice for young gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender teens and young adults, but there are lessons in these stories for everyone, including those that bully, talk down to, or otherwise belittle people.  The world would be a much better place if we were secure in ourselves and didn’t give others’ hate speech the credence that we do or given them the power over our own lives, but those of us who need support, deserve a system of people and community willing to stand up for others.

The collection has some powerful short stories and inspiring essays, and there are poems that demonstrate the pain, confusion, and bullying that LGBT teens experience daily.  It is both heartbreaking and inspiring.  There are letters to the younger self, plays, monologues, and more.  While some of these cry out the injustices experienced by the writers or their characters, others share the regret of not stepping forward to defend their friends and family from bigots and those narrow minded people who tortured and ostracized others because they were different.

From When the Bully Apologizes by J.J. Sheen(page 79):

“Something about the stillness of sitting there in the dark with Marie’s hand all wrapped up in mine made everything boiling inside me fall out and I started crying in a way that I had never allowed myself to.  I tucked my head into my hands and felt like I might be stuck that way forever.  I felt so embarrassed and exposed and wrong and sitting next to the only person who really knew me, I felt lonelier.”

Emma Eden Ramos, whose poetry collection Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems was nominated for the 2011 Indie Lit Awards, offers a genuine short story, “Where the Children Play,” that will have readers by turns anxious and hopeful.  These are the stories readers will cling to, hoping that the world will begin to emulate the acceptance and the unconditional love in these pages.  Readers may have a tough time reading the collection cover to cover, but its meant to unsettle conventional thoughts and open readers’ eyes to the struggles of LGBT teens as they struggle to find themselves and “come out” to their friends, parents, and loved ones.  Although they may accept themselves, telling someone who has a different perception of you is a conversation wrought with fear and longing.

Resilience edited by Eric Nguyen is a collection for not only the community it represents in its stories, poems, and essays, but also for those of us who need to be reminded that these teens are people struggling with issues that go beyond what clothes to wear and what activities to engage in at school and outside of it.  For those without role models or who live in cloistered families with traditional beliefs, this can be restrictive and even more difficult to overcome.

For those in NYC:

On March 17 at 3-5PM, an Open Mic night will be held for contributors to the collection at WordUP Books.

For more information about the Resilience project, visit the blog.


This is my 13th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.



This is the 1st book for my 2012 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

Words That Burn Within Me by Hilda Stern Cohen

Hilda Stern Cohen’s Words That Burn Within Me is a collection of photographs, essays, stories, snippets of interviews, and poems detailing Cohen’s experiences during WWII and the Holocaust as a German resident.  (Please check out a recent reading from the book at The Writer’s Center).  Cohen’s husband, whom she married in Baltimore, Md., in 1948 following her release, discovered her notebooks after her death and set about his journey to have his wife’s writing translated from German and published.  In some cases, the poems are included both in English and in German.

“Our physiognomies were ageless.  There were wild, unfocused eyes, silent, indrawn lips, and haggardness around the cheek and neck . . . only defined and exaggerated by hunger.” (Page 49)

This harrowing story follows Hilda through her early years in Nieder-Ohmen, Germany, and her transfer to schools in Frankfurt as the Nazis gained power.  From Frankfurt, she is transported with her family and young beau Horst to Lodz, Poland, only to face devastating circumstances, the loss of Horst, and more and be transported to Auschwitz.  In a series of essays and interviews, Hilda talks about happier times in her village and with her sister, the trials of childhood and being bullied, but soon the reality of politics sets in and her family is forced to leave their ancestral home.

Forced Labor (Page 54)

My numbed brow drops on the machine,
I fold my captive, tired hands.

A dangling yellow bulb sheds smoky light,
Dusk falls, the day grows pale.

The harried working hours are almost done,
The evening mist is waiting to embrace us.

What binds us in our common chains
Will only hold us while we work —
Night will find each of us in separate gloom.

Cohen’s writing is sparse but detailed in its observations of those around her in the ghetto and the concentration camps.  Her keen eye examines the impact of starvation on her fellow neighbors and on her family members, and it also sheds light on how well her family and herself cope with their situation.  She eventually teaches herself Yiddish after joining a literary group because she only speaks and writes German, which is not what the majority of the Lodz Ghetto understands.  Readers, however, will note a sense of detachment in her writing, almost as if she is reporting the events as she observed them rather than as she felt them.  On the other hand, they will hear the anger and disappointment in her voice, especially when she speaks of the last words her father utters about her mother upon her death.

“There was a strange role reversal that took place psychologically, as it did also later in the camps.  Adults who had lived a life from which they had gained certain expectations were suddenly confronted with an abyss.  There were no signs, no gateposts, none of the usual milestones that one could follow.  Everything had fallen away.”  (Page 33)

Words That Burn Within Me is well assembled mixture of interviews with Hilda Stern Cohen’s essays, stories and poems.  While the collection does illustrate one Jewish woman’s journey during WWII and the Holocaust, it stands as a testament — a record — of how inexcusably these humans were treated and how their debasement impacted their lives, their relationships, their faith, and their souls.  Through well tuned description and controlled emotions, Cohen takes the time to record everything she saw during the war and the Holocaust to ensure that it becomes a warning to others.  A powerful collection and a must read for anyone learning about this time period and the horrors that should never have happened.

This is my 10th book for the WWII Reading Challenge at War Through the Generations!

I’m not sure if this will qualify for the Poetry Review Challenge, but if it does, this will be book #10.

 FTC Disclosure:  I purchased my copy of Words That Burn Within Me from The Writer’s Center following a reading by Hilda Stern Cohen’s husband and her interviewer Gail Rosen.  Clicking on image and title links will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchases necessary.