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Book Review: The Perfect Score Project

Book Review: The Perfect Score Project

We have said before that your emotional state will have an influence over the success of any undertaking. The neuroscience and psychology behind learning are brain-candy to us nerdy women. So, a book like Debbie Stier’s about conquering the SAT and turning it into a positive experience for all those taking it piqued our interest. Debbie’s academic odyssey is both fascinating and healing for those of us who have horrible memories of that damnable test. Check out Mel’s review (below from her GoodReads account) and buy a copy for yourself, as well as for any individual preparing to take the marathon exam: The Perfect Score Project. The author’s blog is full of fascinating facts about the test, its history and tips of how to perform at your best. Even if you’ve already survived the SAT you’ll want to check it out!

This book was a complete and exceedingly entertaining surprise! My own experience with the SAT was scarring and traumatic. I definitely had reservations about reading a book that would take me back to that disappointing experience. But from the beginning I was easily swept up by the author’s determination to dispel the mysticism that adds to the test’s enormous intimidation. Debbie approached the goal of getting a perfect score with the belief that consistent and methodical hard work can make it happen. The over-achieving nerd in me, who always believed the same despite abysmal SAT scores, was hooked!

Debbie’s journey as a student was the most engaging aspect of her story. I hadn’t realized how many unresloved bad feelings I still had for the standardized testing process until I rediscovered them witnessing Debbie take test after test after test. It is a profoundly inhumane process. For myself, I found witnessing her varied tutoring/study approaches and testing experiences fascinating and emotionally healing. I know there are many other teenagers and adults who identify as smart, ambitious and nonplussed by the disparity between a shining high school track record and terrible SAT scores. The abundance of tips Debbie learns and SHARES in the book had me thinking, “Had I known that!” Those tips made me better understand where I had gone wrong and even had me thinking I might try a test just for myself again one day. The fact that I was feeling inspired to try the damnable SAT again was shocking and a testament to the book’s valuable information.

I actually wanted to try again, so as to reclaim my experience and do away with having felt S-T-U-P-I-D. Debbie’s book is an invaluable guide that every teenager, parent, guidance counselor and educator should read!!! Parents will be inspired by her willingness to go a step beyond the usual to help her typical teenage son (smart, but disinterested in the SAT) understand that with the correct and individualized strategy the SAT can become a less torturous undertaking with better-than-hoped for results. I applaud the author’s courage for honestly sharing the tension this project caused in the relationships with her children. It’s fair to say that they were not as inspired or excited by her enthusiasm (self-professed) for beating bad-test-score fears. It benefits everyone who reads to see how well-meaning parents can have difficulties trying to help their children do their best. There is no perfect parenting formula that will instantly create bonding families and loyal/gracious teenagers. As in life, this book has exciting moments as well as events that will have readers commiserating with a, “That sucks!”

The Perfect Score Project helped me to reconcile my shame about hiding behind the “I’m a bad test taker” label by realizing I was under-prepared and on my own. I can now be proud of what I was able to accomplish without any parental guidance (which I would say is CRITICAL) or preparation. I still managed to graduate from Smith College in 2003 with fond memories, both academic and social. But I can now look back with pride and no more shame about standardized testing. I dare say, I really might try again…at least play around with a few College Board questions.

Book Review of Fierce Medicine by Ana T. Forest

Book Review of Fierce Medicine by Ana T. Forest

First of all, nothing but deep respect for Ana Forrest as she shares her life story and how she triumphed over incredible obstacles including extreme childhood trauma and several addictive, self-destructive behaviors.  In the book you’ll learn techniques for disrupting and breaking physically and emotionally unhealthy habits.  Most of these techniques Ana discovered while facing the negative consequences of a brutal upbringing.  As readers, we observe her personal evolution as she discovers the power of yoga, meditation and Native American spirituality to help refine the methods of self-improvement she uses to sustain her progression to a more-realized being.

This really is the most fascinating and rewarding part of the read.  Ana’s ability to share the sadness and triumph of her story with unflinching truth, but without relying upon a sensationalist rendering of her abuse is a testament to her determination to “Mend the Hoop of the People.” Her use of the Native American spiritual framework refers to Ana’s mission, “to create in each of us a sense of freedom, a connection to our Spirit and the courage to walk as our Spirit dictates, and thus enable us to do our part in Mending the Hoop of the People.” (as taken from her website)  The effort to connect individual’s with their spirits is at the heart of Forest yoga and the book.  Ana shares valuable information about how to overcome seemingly impossible circumstances through a real life application of mindfulness practices and yoga postures.

That being said, the yoga aspect of the book is the least valuable. The inaccurate anatomy and superficial descriptions of the physical effects an asana practice couldl have on the body are easily disputed with a basic understanding of anatomy and physiology.  An example would be how Ana says that in order to get cerebrospinal fluid flowing optimally you have to practice lengthening the spine (you obviously know this isn’t true since you read our post about that yoga myth). But if one is able to look beyond the erroneous physical attributes of the yoga practice it can be a valuable tool to a person struggling with feeling more comfortable in her own body, especially when handling deep-seated emotional trauma.  The strength and courage with which Ana confronts emotional detritus is a powerful demonstration to students that have been running from unresolved histories.  In this regard, Ana’s light as a teacher shines brightest.  Ana keeps it REAL! She does not allow her “status” as a yoga teacher to interfere with her ability to help readers and students to really see the uglier sides of ourselves that we would rather ignore, for she knows this ignorance is malignant.

If you are ready for intense/soulful work buy this book.  If you are not ready for intense/soulful work buy this book.  Fierce Medicine will help you to stir up the energy you need to take charge of creating a better life for yourself. The guided meditations in the book (particularly the Death Meditation) are gold.  Afraid to sit down with yourself?  It’ll be like Ana is there with you showing you how to find the courage to continue into your personal darkness to emerge into light.  Her energy medicine is some crazy good healing shit!  Do the yoga, because it feels good and don’t internalize all she says about the anatomy.  But do take in what she says about being in charge of and transforming the energy inside and around you.

We thank Ana for sharing her story and her work for Mending the Hoop.