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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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Just a Normal Tuesday, an SCBWI Book Review

Just a Normal Tuesday

Click image to go to Amazon page

I did not mean to do two books on incredibly sensitive topics in a row.  It just worked out that way.  Next time I’m definitely going to have to do Caraval, because The Impossible Knife of Memory is about PTSD.  Gotta break up the heavy topics a little.  So…

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE

Book: Just a Normal Tuesday by Kim Turrisi

Genre: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction

Recommendation: I think you can tell that this is not something you pick up for a bit of light reading.  That being said, I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the topic of psychology, has experienced suicidal thoughts, or knows someone who has taken his or her own life.  This book might be the companion you need if you’re feeling all alone or trapped inside your own head.

Run-on Sentence Synopsis: Kai comes home and checks the mail to find a letter from her older sister, Jen, informing Kai and their parents that she is going to kill herself, and Kai rushes to her sister’s apartment only to find out that she is too late and what follows is Kai’s descent into depression followed by a trip to grief camp where she learns that she can find a way to live through the tragedy that struck her.

(Necessarily) Long Review: This book is a little different.  I feel that something that touches on such an important and sensitive topic merits a very careful analysis and critique.  Therefore I won’t be separating out positive and negative comments this time.

At this point I’d like to note that it is extremely difficult for me to critique Turrisi here, as this story is semi-autobiographical; when she was fifteen, her sister killed herself.  But, to be fair, I am offering critique, not criticism (slight difference in connotation there).

Firstly, if you read this book, you are going to cry.  If you have a heart at all, you will end up bawling your eyes out at some point.  This could end up being a very necessary catharsis for you.  If you have experience with suicide or suicidal thoughts, you might not even make it all the way through the book.  That being said, I feel that Turrisi laid it on a little thick at times.  Suicide is already such an emotionally impactful event that I feel you don’t really need to push to convey that impact to readers.  The times when Turrisi shined brightest were when she let genuine emotions do the talking, rather than trying to emphasize the emotional weight with repetition and figurative language.

The biggest faults are the repetition and the occasional clunky piece of dialogue.  It sometimes borders on cheesy, and there’s a bit of a pacing issue.  The cursing sometimes feels gratuitous, the title is referenced multiple times with different wording (one crazy Tuesday, just another Monday, etc.), and the words “tingle,” “tingly,” and “tingling,” were used just a few times too many for my liking.

Another thing I have to say is that the book starts out with Kai finding her sister’s suicide letter, so we don’t get to see any characterization of the sister, Jen, except through brief little snapshots that barely warrant the term “flashback.”  Similarly, we don’t really know who Kai is as a person.  Towards the end of the book she starts to realize that she’s defining herself through her relationship with her sister, and I would have liked to see the character take steps to learn more about who she is as an individual.  I appreciate beginning in medias res, but a jump backward in time after the suicide note could have helped to establish Kai and Jen as characters.  Jen’s death would have meant more to me if that had happened.  As it was, and again I hate to say this, the first half of the novel started to drag after a while.  Because the book begins with Kai at an all-time low, we don’t get to see a downward spiral.  Instead, she starts out at rock bottom, and she slowly creeps a little farther downward over numerous pages.

The grief camp part of the book, on the other hand, picks up considerably.  Possibly because Turrisi relied a little more on fabrication – since she herself never attended such a camp  – we see a slew of interesting characters, a burgeoning romance, and some truly heartfelt and gut-wrenching stories of loss and suffering.

Overall, it’s not the perfect novel, but I genuinely believe it might be helpful to those out there who are suffering from a similar loss, or who are plagued by suicidal thoughts themselves.  I think what Turrisi created is commendable to say the least, and I would recommend picking it up as long as you are prepared to be hit where it hurts.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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