Tag Archives: humor

Let’s Get Shrill

What year is it???

No one told me that having a baby would mean having less time for myself and getting less sleep!  I assumed babies were like those tiny dogs that you carry around in your designer purse as a fashion statement.

Baby in bag

MS Paint for the win!

Okay, so I just read this book.  It’s called Shrill, and it’s written by Lindy West.  Go.  Buy.  It.

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This book is for every woman who has ever felt the need to apologize for being a feminist or to explain that being a feminist does not mean hating men or to lie about thinking of themselves as a feminist to avoid judgment.  The fact that many women (myself included) feel that feminism is a bad word IS PROOF THAT WE NEED FEMINISM.  Guess who propagates the idea that feminists are monsters and Nazis?  It starts with M and rhymes with Flen.

Anyway, Shrill is pretty good.  I fell in love almost immediately because Lindy West states all the things I have thought in the past, and she does so much more elegantly (fart jokes aside).  She is a Word Wizard TM.

For example, she, too, thinks it’s strange that we ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  As West states in the opening of her book, asking this question is the equivalent of saying, “‘Hello, child.  As I have run out of compliments to pay you on your doodling, can you tell me what sort of niche you plan to carve out for yourself in the howling existential morass of uncertainty known as the future?'” (1).

I, too, hate that question.  That question tells children, “You can only be one thing ever.  Choose one interest and stick with it.  Pursuing two things is for Communists.”  If someone had forced me to stick with one thing, I would not be a self-proclaimed blogger-author-English-teacher-jewelry-maker-glass-blower-calligraphy-artist-Japanese-and-Spanish-student.  In other words, my life would be supremely boring.

I want to train my son to say something clever whenever he gets asked this question.  Like, “What don’t I want to be?”

Eternal

Lindy West’s thoughts on The Trump and Trump supporters also mirror my own.  At first I didn’t want to get political on this blog, but then I realized if I’m offending Trump supporters then I’m probably doing something right.  Pardon my French, but fuck that guy.

I expected this election to be bad.  I know from experience that shrill bitches get punished.  I did not anticipate that millions of Americans would be so repulsed by the hubris of female ambition that they would elect a self-professed sexual predator with zero qualifications and fewer scruples. (West viii-ix)

Just a warning that the book does get into some pretty heavy stuff.  Abortion, periods, rape.  But it’s so necessary to read.  Even if you don’t agree with everything she says, it is important to absorb her perspective.  At least bask in the glow of her words because she’s so damn eloquent.

I’d like to end by telling a story involving my best friend and best-friend-in-law who are smarter than me in every way.  A few years back, there was a popular song on the radio by Lukas Graham called “Seven Years.”  There was a lyric in this song that rubbed me the wrong way.

I’m still learning about life|My woman brought children for me

My woman.  For me.  Brought children for me.  My woman brought children for me. My.  Woman.

It buzzed around in my brain until I had to ask Liz and Martyn, “Should I be offended by this?  Or am I just being overly sensitive?”

Liz looked at me and said, “The fact that you are asking permission to be offended is proof that feminism needs to exist.”

She and Martyn talked me through it until I realized that feminism is still controlled by men, and we need to change that.

In short, women need to be shrill.  We need to be opinionated.  We need to be feminists.

Read Shrill.

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The Impossible Knife of Memory, an SCBWI Book Review

You know what I did immediately after I promised not to read the PTSD novel?  I went ahead and read the PTSD novel.  Good thing school started recently, so I haven’t had time to blog.  We’ve all had a sufficient break from the depressing, unjust world, right?

Good!  Let’s dive back in.

Impossible Knife of Memory

Click the image to go to the Amazon page

Book: The Impossible Knife of Memory, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction

Recommendation:  Um… honestly?  Eh.  It’s just… you know, it’s good.  It’s okay.  I much prefer Speak.  You should read that one for sure.

Run-on Sentence Synopsis: Hayley is a high school student who classifies the whole world into either “zombies” or “freaks” in a way that seems like a forced quirk because it does very little to further the plot and her dad has PTSD in a bad way and she falls in love with a boy and she has to deal with her dad’s issues and her own issues.

Positive Feedback: Anderson is always successful at characterization in her own way.  There were some really solid emotional moments that gripped me and made me feel the characters’ pain.  As a fan of psychology, I was very interested in delving into this world of trauma and the psychological ramifications of same.  The material is handled with respect and has an appropriate weight to it.  It’s obviously not a lighthearted novel, and that’s good.  You can tell Anderson has a vested interest in representing trauma and related mental disorders accurately.

Constructive Criticism: Given my interest in psychology, I was kind of disappointed when the father’s PTSD kind of became a subplot rather than the main story.  In the end, I felt like I was reading yet another “F-the-World-Girl meets Quirky-Sexy-Boy” teen romance.  Even worse, the pacing of the romance  felt off to me.  There wasn’t a lot of chemistry between the two characters, and they fell for each other way too quickly in my opinion.  A large struggle many children go through is finding themselves parenting the parents.  That should have been the meat of this story, and I just wasn’t getting that.  This is weird, but I feel like Sarah Dessen would have written this book better.  If you want a book that touches on tough psychological issues and abusive relationships (I mean, you wouldn’t want that, but you know what I mean), then go pick up Dreamland.  Yeah… this book review just became a recommendation for another author and book.  I guess that pretty much sums it up.

I still have to read Caraval, but I don’t know when I’ll do that.  I have a baby, five classes to teach, and boxes to unpack.  But I will try my best!

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Filed under books, Humor, psychology, reading, writing

George, an SCBWI Book Review

Welcome to my first SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) book review!

George Cover

Click the picture to go to the Amazon page for George!

This is one of the few books I managed to get signed.  I had to skip the autograph session on Sunday, due to reasons, but Alex Gino had a signing on a different day.  I loved meeting them.  I especially loved their sense of humor, so similar to my own.

George Signed

Diapers cost money, okay?  Liz, Martyn, and Micah understood that I couldn’t afford to buy them all hardcovers.

On to the review!

Book: George by Alex Gino

Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

Recommendation: Buy it!

Run-On Sentence Synopsis: George, who calls herself Melissa in her own head, is a transgender girl in the fourth grade who is struggling to come to terms with her gender identity and make herself known as the girl she is, and she desperately wants to play Charlotte in her class’ play of Charlotte’s Web, but she encounters obstacles in the form of school bullies and her teacher who believes a boy simply can’t play Charlotte, and as Melissa gains confidence she faces the kind of adversity you’d (unfortunately) expect her to face because the world suffers from an overpopulation of narrow-minded dickweasels.

Positive Feedback: If I had to describe this novel in one word, it would be “accessible.”  Though it is middle grade, I believe that anyone could pick it up and enjoy it.  Better yet, I believe people can learn from it.  From the sounds of things, they already have.  Another word I’d use is “emotional.”  As I read, I could truly feel myself embroiled in Melissa’s inner turmoil, her sadness, her frustration, and her desperation to be the real her.  She is a well-developed character, her struggle is believable, and the story has the right blend of sad and heartwarming moments.  It is definitely difficult to put this book down.

Constructive Criticism (I refuse to call it negative feedback): While I’m aware I am not the target audience for this book, I still felt that the stakes could have been raised just a little higher.  There was so much riding on the play, and the antagonism from Melissa’s teacher and the boy who bullies her, but the pay-off was that everything worked out easy peasy (though that’s probably not how Melissa felt).  Alex Gino already pointed out that this was because LGBTQ youth deserve happy stories with “happily ever after” endings just as much as non-LGBTQ youth.  I get it.  But still, a little push to heighten the tension would have made the book a little more captivating.  I also wish I could have seen more depth from some of the characters, but as there were many characters, and it’s a short book, I understand why Gino couldn’t go in depth with every single one of Melissa’s acquaintances.  Also, there were times when I wasn’t sold on the dialogue, but I feel the target audience would have been.  Over all, these are small nitpicks, and the book is a great read.

A Note on Identity: When people (namely narrow-minded dickweasels) hear the phrase, “I identify as…” I don’t think they stop to consider what the words “identify” and “identity” mean.  Identity comes from within.  Outward characteristics and physical appearance don’t actually define someone as much as some might think.  Identity comes from likes and dislikes, what makes you passionate, angry, scared, sad, excited.  It’s nuanced and beautiful, and unique to every individual.  I identify as straight and (cis) female.  I identify as a pre-published author, a wife, a mother, a teacher, a nerd, and a Jewish Atheist.  Even if someone walked up to me and said, “You don’t look Jewish.  You look Christian,”  I’d still be able to say, “That may be, but I assure you I am Jewish.  You cannot dictate my identity to me.  I say to you, good day!”

In the same way, if someone has outward characteristics that make them appear male or female (to you), that ultimately plays second fiddle to how that person feels on the inside.  We cannot force a gender identity on someone any more than we can force a religion on them, or a different name, or a different favorite food, favorite animal, phobia, sexual orientation, race, culture, political party, et-freaking-cetera.

You don’t have to love every other human being on this planet, but you do have to accept their right to live and be who they are, just as they should accept the same about you.

*Steps off soapbox*

Buy George.  It’s great.  Next review will be Written in the Stars, by Aisha Saeed.  Until then!

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Filed under books, Humor, LGBTQ, writing