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Book Review: Wolfpack by Abby Wambach

Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

13 May 2019

Book Review: Everything Grows by Aimee Herman

A lot of books show up at my home that go unread - to be given away or on the never-ending TBR pile. Thankfully something about Everything Grows urged me to read it and now. And that is exactly what this books does to your heart - it plants into your heart and tears it apart as it blossoms.

Aimee Herman gives us the tale of Eleanor, a teen in 1993 (This GenXer is still floored each time she reads a book that is nostalgic for her own high school days and LOVES it. Even if it is hard to read "historical fiction" for that time.) whose bully has recently taken his own life just months after her mom attempted to do the same. At the prompting for her English teacher, Eleanor journals her way through the months after the bully's death, exploring not just their relationship, but also her relationship with her mother, and most importantly herself.

There are definitely places in this book where I felt it was a bit unrealistic, but it works in the end. It all works. 1993 was a huge year for me. I am the same age as Eleanor's sister, who struggles through her first year of college. Every step along Eleanor's journey was deeply felt due to both superb writing, but also personal flashbacks.

I am not sure how this would go over with someone who has survived their own attempt to take their lives, so please consult someone. I do know that this book is full of hope as Eleanor wrestles with what suicide means - is it giving up? Is it giving in? Why? Why not? This book is also about queer youth, as signaled by the rainbow button on the cover. According to the Trevor Project "suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 and LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth." From everything I know of LGB youth and young adults, I would like to think this book is a welcome addition to their lives as it is affirming not just for one's identity, but for the really fucked up ways we all stumble through figuring out that identity.

As a parent, I appreciated the insight into the teen mind. As I get older, I lose the finer touch of my memories. Aimee Herman reminded me of all the drama that happens in our minds and hearts. And why sometimes the best thing a parent can do it simply say, "I love you. I accept you." and the shut the fuck up.

I was going to give this to a parent who spotted me reading it at soccer, but I think I'm going to walk this over to our Gender and Sexuality Center over my lunch break.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

20 April 2019

Book Review: Wolfpack by Abby Wambach

https://www.facebook.com/support.womens.sports/photos/rpp.138406009565377/2046455138760445/?type=3&theater

Less than a year ago, Abby Wambach took the stage at Barnard's commencement and gave a speech that shook many, including myself, to the core. Her speech went viral and I made the above image in order to share the highlights of her speech. Earlier this month Abby released the speech in book form.

Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game is short (less than 100 pages) but is much more than just her speech. You get a peek into how the speech came together and why she said everything. And because the book is short and is an expanded speech, it moves quickly. I feel that it moves with the same ferocity that Abby use to move down a soccer field. And you might find yourself cheering as she takes you through the story.

Abby has always been one of my favorite players. The way she ran amok on the pitch was exactly the way I felt I played sports. Never caring how you looked and giving it your all. Leaving it all on the field. When she retired from soccer, international and US soccer were looking for their next leaders. I was sure that the way Abby talked about gender issues that she would head off to an Ivy League school, get her MBA, and come back to run US Soccer. I'm still hoping that will happen one day. US Soccer needs her fire and someone to give attention to the girls program. But after retiring from soccer, Abby appeared to struggle with reentry into ordinary life. Her arrest for driving while under the influence was her public low-point. In her memoir, Forward, she is honest with her struggles with addiction and other ghosts in her life. Perhaps speaking her truth allowed her to exorcise the demons and restart her life. She has even started her own leadership training program, Wolfpack Endeavor.

I finished the book the same day I received it (Monday) and immediately assigned it to my 15-year-old-soccer-playing daughter.  Now I did this while she was on Spring Break and needed to finish a research paper. "It's less than a 100 pages, it reads quickly, and you will have it done by Friday." She had it done by Thursday.

If you are burned out on leadership or inspirational books, I strongly suggest you pick up "Wolfpack." Not only is it a quick read, but it distills so much of what great leadership looks like without fluff. Is that ain't quintessential Abby Wambach, I don't know what else it is. There are citations, there are studies quoted, but Abby gets right to the point and moves on. Us powerful majestic goddesses do not have time to read 300 pages of why we need to have demand the fucking ball. So get yourself a copy and maybe even one for your BFF, daughter, or goddess-in-training.

Please purchase your own copy of Wolfpack from Powells or Indiebound and support Viva la Feminista.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from a publicist.  

04 September 2018

Rose Tico and Kelly Marie Tran are the role models we need

Rose Tico emerged from "The Last Jedi" as the breakout character. Who would have guessed when we saw her zap Finn that so many people would fall in love with her passion for life and dedication for the resistance? Considering that Finn gets under my skin as an annoying brat, ME!!

A few weeks ago Kelly Marie Tran wrote a kick ass op-ed in the New York Times about the online harassment that pushed her off Instagram, as well as the importance of Rose Tico to nerds of color:

...the same society that taught some people they were heroes, saviors, inheritors of the Manifest Destiny ideal, taught me I existed only in the background of their stories, doing their nails, diagnosing their illnesses, supporting their love interests — and perhaps the most damaging — waiting for them to rescue me.
And for a long time, I believed them.

Bomber Command
Tran sums up harshly and eloquently why nerds of color need heroes that look like them. I guy came over to my office the other day to fix my phone and he saw my Wonder Woman swag everywhere. "You know she's Latina right?" I told him yes and he just went on and on about how much he loves Wonder Woman because she is Latina. "She's one of us!" Of course we're really talking about Linda Carter as Wonder Woman is really more Mediterranean with her Greek mythology background. And I wish I knew this about Cater when I was a kid running around in my Underoos. BUT I'LL TAKE IT!

Resistance Fighter
But for kids today, especially Star Wars fans with Asian heritage, sisters Rose and Paige Tico are here to serve as inspirations through two young reader books.

I highly recommend these books for Star Wars fans who are super into the details. The nerdiest parts of both books are the detailed plans for a ships, weapons, worlds, creatures, and people. For me, right now, that's more detail than I need! But I know for many fans it is exactly the details they are looking for, especially for kids of color to get engrossed in zoology or engineering.

What I loved about the books is that they are both presented as if pieces of their diaries. The stories move along as part inner dialogue, part reflection. It made their stories feel accessible and real. Of course my favorite part was Rose dragging of Finn for trying to escape. I've never yelled "Hell yeah!" to a young reader book before.

Seriously though, the way Jason Fry situates the Tico Sisters' passion for justice in an idealism that would had been candy for me as a young person especially in this political moment.

If you have a young Star Wars fan who has signed up for the Resistance IRL, get them Resistance Fighter and Bomber Command.

Disclaimer: These books were sent to me from a publicist in return for an honest review that was then prompted by Kelly Marie Tran's amazing op-ed. 

02 April 2018

Review: How to Love the Empty Air

How to Love the Empty Air How to Love the Empty Air by Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the 15 years since I lost my mother, I have yet to read something that so beautifully and tragically embodies what it means to lose your biggest supporter.

I do not normally read poetry, but Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz's writing makes me want more. When her collection ended I did not want it to end. It was part because I wanted her to continue painting my own sorrow and because I wanted to read more of her art. It took me a few days to finish this book because the poem that is set at her mother's deathbed was so vivid, I wanted to sob...and well you don't do that when you are in the car. From there on out I read the book while holding my breath and tears streamed down my cheeks. And yet, also with a slight smile on my lips.

The smile was because for once, finally, I felt like someone truly knew the path I have been walking. Even the dates seems to line up to my own journey. The big difference was Cristin had to work through her grief as she prepared to get married while I grieved while pregnant.

I know I may be identifying too much to be a good reviewer, but this book blew my mind while simultaneously breaking and mending my heart. This is the book I have wanted to write the past 15 years. I consider it a gift that a review copy found its way to me. Thank you, Cristin.

View all my reviews

24 March 2018

Review: The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of all the books that I have read about motherhood, "The Fifth Season" is in my top five. It feels impossible to write this review without spoiling this magical journey N. K. Jemisin gifted the world. But I'm giving it a try!

The world we find feels familiar to us, yet at the same time so far in the distant future. It is at once sometime long ago and just down the road. The women we meet along the way make up the bulk of the protagonists. Each are flawed in their own way - some are young enough we forgive them and hope they grow out of their weaknesses, others leave us wondering what led them to the place we meet them.

Holding it all together is a race towards the end of the world and two characters wrestling with the role of motherhood. As I said earlier, the manner in which motherhood and mothering is tackled in "The Fifth Season" is contemporary and accessible, all the while occurring on a planet ready to collapse onto everyone.

Life is the only reason why it took me so long to read this page-turner. At 449 pages, it seems intimidating, but at the conclusion you will want more. Thankfully there are two more books in this series.

View all my reviews

09 January 2018

Review: Home

Home Home by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

WOW...What a second chapter to Binti's story. It was a delicious mystery as to how a headstrong young woman would return home from her first year of university with her alien friend. She returns home a changed person (as we all are after being on our own for some time!) and faces the ramifications of her tight knit family and community. I said "Binti" would be great for someone heading off to college. Now I say get "Home" and place it on your child's bed to greet them when they come home for the summer.

View all my reviews

16 October 2017

Book Review: Feminist Icon Cross-Stitch: 30 Daring Designs to Celebrate Strong Women

www.runningpress.com/book/feminist-icon-cross-stitch/anna-fleiss/

As the days get shorter and the air gets crisper a lot of us start to move into homebody mode. Part of this for me usually means getting crafty. And that is why I was excited to get a copy of Feminist Icon Cross-Stitch: 30 Daring Designs to Celebrate Strong Women by Anna Fleiss & Lauren Mancuso.

The patterns are pretty easy, so if you have never done cross-stitch before, most of these are totally doable. And you can choose from bad ass ladies such as Frida, as seen on the cover, and Sojourner Truth, Billie Jean King, and Simone de Beauvoir. Each pattern comes with a quick bio of each icon too! So you're learning something while taking some self-care time to craft.

If you are new to cross stitch you might wonder, what do I do with them when I'm done? OMG! You can keep it simple and put them in a frame. Or you can get frames that are ornaments to hang on your Christmas or Yule tree. You can get hand towels with cross stitch fabric included so you can hang Cleopatra from your oven. The possibilities are endless. There are even patterns of some of our current feminist sayings like "Nevertheless She Persisted" and "The Future is Feminist".

Photo of inside cover & good sample of patterns
This is definitely a great gift idea too, because as the days get colder, the closer we get to gift giving season. And if you do office gift bags you must get this. Now to hit my fave craft store and get some new DMC floss.

Please purchase your own copy of Feminist Icon Cross-Stitch from Powells or Indiebound and support Viva la Feminista.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy as well as a swag tote bag from a publicist.

11 June 2017

Book Review: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor is a novella that at first is a scifi adventure, but in the end is the perfect gift for a recent graduate. I swear it was fate that had me read this book during graduation time.

Binti is book one in a series that eagerly awaits its third volume. Binti is a young woman gifted with a combination of mathematical, engineering, and diplomatic skills with the tried and true eagerness to know more than her hometown. And with that framing comes her family's insistence that she stay put and follow tradition. But we meet Binti as she makes a run for her chosen path and into the great unknown world of university.

As the only one of my sisters to leave home for university and having worked on a campus full of first-generation university students this story hit home like a dagger. Binti's awkwardness at traveling alone, being an only, and negotiating space where "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" does not hold true is something many readers may feel deeply.

This is a scifi, speculative fiction story. One where the settings seem normal except for the fantastical technology that is ordinary to our hero. Binti also stumbles into violence that can be too much for younger readers, but should be ok to most teens.

Many have said that speculative fiction allows us to explore our current issues in a different universe. Binti certainly does this. Okorafor takes the almost-trope of a girl breaking out of her family and delivers to us a fresh and innovative tale of her discovering courage and belief in her abilities.

This book is a must for anyone who feels like they were a pioneer in their own lives, whether you were the first in your family to go away to college or the first X in your company. This is not a fish-out-of-water tale, rather how the fish got everyone else in the ocean with her. 

[ Order your a copy at Powells or IndieBound ]

Disclaimer: I bought this book myself.

20 March 2017

Book Review: Body Horror by Anne Elizabeth Moore

http://www.curbsidesplendor.com/books/body-horrors-essays-on-misogyny-and-capitalismDisclaimer: Anne & I are friends. Not just social media friends. We've been in each others homes, have shared food & drink, and all that jazz. I continue to be honored to call her a friend.

Anne Elizabeth Moore's autopsy of our culture's obsession with bodies and how they define more roles than you can imagine is pure art.

Knowing that Moore fits the definition of a feminist may make you scoff at the revolutionary manner in which her latest book, Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes, focuses on the body and gender roles. Yes, feminists are at the forefront of critiquing body image and our cultural obsession with perfection, but Moore stands at the front of that movement. WAY IN FRONT. So far ahead of the curve that some of the essays will leave you pondering, "What was Veronica thinking? This has nothing to do with feminism or bodies?" Then you'll turn a page and get smacked with what I'm talking about.

Moore opens many of the essays (most which were previously published, but updated for this collection) with personal stories, especially of her growing list of chronic diseases and near death experiences. Her reflections of her mortality and how once close friends abandoned her will draw you in. The sympathy you feel is a grand trap she sets that ensnares you faster than your favorite roller coaster drops your stomach. Before you know it her death bed musings turn into a lesson on the politics of table-to-farm restaurants, living wages for fashion models, and pondering the feminism of horror movies. One moment you question how people can abandon a friend in need (if you are said author's friend you wonder if you have done enough and realize you have not.) the next you are trying to find something in the world that is not controlled by big business.

The outrage over the current administration's budget cuts especially towards arts and the elderly creates an image that everyday people value art. That we value people for their own sake. Yet Moore's essay on people's reaction to her decision to not reproduce gives us a peek into what people really value. Time and again she is clearly told that her art and contribution to our collective intellectual knowledge base is not enough. Her contributions to humanity can only be calculated by the number of humans she produces. As the mother of an only-child, I feel for this as I have been accused of robbing the world of more amazing feminist-minded persons as if having children was as easy as making a photocopy of my fabulous teenage daughter.

What that essay does is actually scarier than tell people who do not have children that they are not contributing to humanity. What it does is call into question HOW we reproduce creative and kick ass people like Moore. Her parents were not creative public intellectuals, yet she is one of the best GenX will ever have. Moore's essay actually reopened my fear that my daughter will grow up to reject everything that I taught her. It questions the power of parenting in creating the next generation of anything. In the time of test prep and helicopter parenting, this essay is scary as fuck and liberating, if you have the courage to embrace it.

All that from her recollecting that one time a friend wouldn't let go of the fact she decided she did not want to gestate a human being in her uterus.

That is why you should get a copy of this book. Moore not only pushes us to question capitalism, but even ideas that make us secure in our progressive bubble when we brunch at the hip organic cafe and buy local. Don't get me wrong, she does not make you want to give up the resistance. Rather she demands that you question if you really need one more "Nevertheless, she persists" tee and Facebook algorithm generated coffee mug. Two questions I ask myself almost daily. She pushes you to value the work of not just the woman who made your t-shirt on the other side of our planet, but also the model who sold it to us. Moore connects the dots that you did not even think were on the same page. And if we are going to resist, we might as well go all the way.

[ Pre-order your a copy at Powells or IndieBound ]

Second disclaimer: I received a review copy from the publisher.

18 March 2017

Henrietta Lacks Trailer is OUT!!




Oh yeah...The trailer for the HBO movie of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is out! And if you read the book (if you haven't GO NOW!) you will find it emotional and gut wrenching.

OK, the cop buddy movie vibe I'm getting from Oprah and Rose Byrne is a bit grating, but the rest of the trailer punched me in the gut.

Now that I've sent you to find the book and read it, I must say that the movie is an adaptation. With that, while Skloot does talk about the family in the book, it looks like the movie will be focusing more on how the Lacks family reacts to knowing that their loved one had cells taken from her and a gazillion dollar industry has been built upon that theft while they stand on precarious economic space.

One two-hour movie seems too short to fully address the issues of giving consent to participate in medical research, the industry that makes gobs of money off medical advances (one reason I don't think NIH will be totally cut off - the economy depends on NIH advances), and the racism that continues to impact POC's access to healthcare today. The book was so powerful on so many levels. I hope the movie does the same so that Lacks' story is known to even more people.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
debuts on HBO on Saturday, April 22.




Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne star in this adaptation of Rebecca Skloot’s critically acclaimed, bestselling nonfiction book of the same name. The film tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cells were used to create the first immortal human cell line. Told through the eyes of her daughter, Deborah Lacks (Winfrey), the film chronicles her search, with the help of journalist Rebecca Skloot (Byrne), to learn about the mother she never knew and understand how the unauthorized harvesting of Lacks’ cancerous cells in 1951 led to unprecedented medical breakthroughs, changing countless lives and the face of medicine forever. George C. Wolfe directs from his screenplay; Oprah Winfrey, Alan Ball, Peter Macdissi, Carla Gardini and Lydia Dean Pilcher executive produce. A Your Face Goes Here Entertainment, Harpo Films and Cine Mosaic production.

05 February 2017

Margaret Atwood warned us about the 53% of white women who voted for Trump



I was invited to participate in Evanston's Writer's Resist event on January 15th and this is an edited version of what I read. I'm still new to the live lit scene, but will occasionally post what I read. Sometimes things are best left at the event.


Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has been shorthand for the collective backlash to women’s progress, especially in regards to reproductive autonomy for quite some time. Safe to say most know the plot without having had read the book. A tale of a post-democratic former-USA taken over by an ultra conservative Christian theocracy where fertile white women are forced to reproduce for the “worthy” ruling class. A few weeks ago I was struck by the faint memory that the book does not conclude in escape or the reestablishment of democracy, rather it ends with an academic talk pondering the veracity of the story we had just consumed. This fact hit me in the gut as I have been considering how we will document the resistance during the Trump administration.

In the last chapter entitled, “Historical Notes on the Handmaid’s Tale” Atwood reveals where she got inspiration for not just the plot but the costumes and even a brutal public hanging of a handmaid at the hands of fellow handmaids — the group of handmaids pull on the rope that hangs the doomed handmaid up on the stage — immediately afterward they tear a man apart with their bare hands. Atwood often gets asked how she comes up with all the ideas in her books. Her response? She doesn’t. She just looks around the world. Atwood, through the character Professor Pieixoto, reminds us how easy it can be to slide into a state of fear that leads to a theocracy.
As we know from the study of history, no new system cam impose itself upon a previos one without incorporating many of the elements to be found in the latter...Gilead firmly rooted in the pre-Gilead period, and racist fears provided some of the emotional fuel that allowed the Gilead takeover to succeed as well as it did. (page 305) 
Gilead was, although undoubtedly patriarchal in form, occasionally matriarchal in content, like some sectors of the social fabric that gave rise to it....the best and most cost-effective way to control women for reproductive and other purposes was through women themselves. For this there were many historical precedents; in fact...in the case of Gilead, there were many women willing to serve as Aunts, either because of a genuine belief in what they called "traditional values," or for the benefits they might thereby acquire. When power is scarce, a little of it is tempting." (page 308)
As I reread those passages it was as if Atwood was responding to the 53% of white women who favored Trump at the polls. The fact that the Clinton campaign embraced the historic nature of a possible win in 2016 versus 2008 gave too many people confidence that women as a whole would act in concert to shatter the glass ceiling of the presidency. Yet even the one book that feminists have waved around as a warning sign for years told us not to expect women to stand in union against totalitarian regimes. Because as Atwood states, they never have.

In the end, after reading these dozen pages over and over I have come to the conclusion that we cannot assume allegiances. We must be better at identifying those of the oppressed who wish to find solace in oppressing others. We need to identify in ourselves when we allow our biases to lead us to condemning a brother or sister out of fear. We must remain vigilant of allowing that fear to push us to serve the incoming administration.

We must document whatever horrors emerge from this administration and hold accomplices accountable. we must write our own history. Especially in the time of Trumpism, facts are opinions unless said by the person you trust. Writers must resist whether it is in our pen & paper diaries, blogs, Instagram feeds or nationally syndicated columns. Just resist.

Postscript...Hulu is running a minseries based on the book this spring and I couldn't not share the trailer here.





01 January 2017

New Year, New(ish) Book, New Hashtag


Don't get too excited now...I am certainly not going to attempt to blog every day this year. But I felt the need to get blogging right away today. So who knows!

 2017 eh? We survived the great 2016 purge and we should be grateful for that. A lot of has been written about our public grieving over lost idols and pop culture icons. What I will say is this...1) I truly feel like we are finally at some tipping point of pop culture where we have a critical mass of such idols that when they start to die, it feels like a reaping. We're still just about 100 years since the mass consumption of radio, television, and films. Add to that the explosion of pop culture from those who create art (Bowie) to those who simply do stupid shit, and we have a whole lot more people to watch out for on our dead pools. 2) Many of us learn stuff from our idols. Some good, some bad. But behind the tears are some really strong reasons for mourning. I am still a bit ashamed to say I got up early to watch Princess Diana's funeral and cried through it. But ya know what? I think I was sad that this woman whom I grew up watching through photo shoots, tabloids, and rumors seemed to have finally gotten her life together was robbed of that life. So yeah, cry over Carrie Fisher, Prince, and George Michael. For some reason they imprinted themselves on your heart and that is why you cry.


I finished my last book (Rollergirl) a few days ago and wanted to wait until today to start a new book. I got a copy of Daniel D. Arreola's Postcards from the Sonora Border in the mail a few days ago and thought it appropriate to start the new year with a book written by someone who shares my last name. Alas, I feel it most appropriate to start the new year, a year which brings much challenge to us all in the form of the Trump administration and good challenge to me professionally as I just started a new job. I saw that Florinda is doing First Book of the Year so that pushed me to decide yes, I am going to restart and finish Brené Brown's I Thought It Was Just Me. My primo will have to wait for a little introspection before I tackle his book.


The new New Year's question of my life...What is happening with #365FeministSelfie? Well as I often say, while I launched that hashtag a few years ago, there is little way to truly own & control a hashtag. Last year's leap year produced a new hashtag out of necessity. Others have made the hashtag their own by adding kids, pets, or simply day to day life. But going back to using the hashtag to build community and looking out into the new year to create something powerful, I suggest we start to use #365FeministsResist. This does not mean #365FeministSelfie is over. Rather this is an addition to the #365Feminist family because this year will be our year of resisting, of being the resistance.Use the #365FeministsResist hash tag to challenge yourself to resist something every day. Are you speaking out when someone teases boy about showing emotion? Why are you standing silent when a racist goes on a tirade in front of you? Do you offer a sign of support to your neighbor who does not look like you? This new administration is mean and if we are truly going to trump it with love, we need to act radically in love. Be careful out there, but do not be afraid.

ONWARD...

27 December 2016

Review: Hidden Figures (book) by Margot Lee Shetterly

I am a nerd in many different ways. I love math. I went to Space Camp for my 40th birthday. I could go on, but I think I have established my nerd credentials. Thus when I heard this book came out and a movie, I could not wait! I picked up this book at Powell's Portland airport store. Let me tell you,  Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly is a beautifully written book about the collision of race, gender, and science in the USA from World War II to the late 1960s.

Hidden Figures tells the stories of a number of African American women who found themselves working on engineering projects during World War II and through the 1960s space race. Oh, I should add that they were doing all of this in Virginia too.

As someone who has spent her career working to diversify science, technology, engineering and mathematics, these type of stories are not new to me, even if the characters are. There are so many hidden figures in the annals of the history of science we could write books for a generation. No, what is most compelling about Hidden Figures is how effortlessly Shetterly connects the dots between what is occurring in the government labs during the space race and what is happening in our society writ large.

All those sticky notes are places I wanted to quote to you, dear reader. Alas, that might border on copyright infringement.

In the prologue, Shetterly sets the stage with the fact that "growing up in Hampton, the face of science was brown like mine." This is so important to the overall story. The author grew up in a community where people of color did science, so no big whoop! Can you imagine the choices her generation were able to conceive because of this fact? Goodness. But as she untangles the threads of the stories, she begins to craft a new vision of where she came from. One where Black women as mathematicians were not only recruited, but due to discrimination a smart business move for the government agency that would become NASA. And yes, despite the professionalism that one would give to a government mathematician, the burden of working hard and long hours to offer one's children a "better life" was just as real for these women as the women who labored in homes and factories.

Time and time again Shetterly balances the progress happening in the research labs with how stuck Virginia and the rest of the country were in terms of race and gender relations.

In relation to African Americans fighting in World War II, she writes:
The system that kept the black race at the bottom of American society was do deeply rooted in the nation's history that it was impervious to the country's ideals of equality. 
In relation to using education as a force for social advancement:
The Negro's ladder to the American dream was missing rungs, with even the most outwardly successful blacks worries that at any moment the forces of discrimination would lay waste to their economic security.
Shetterly never lets the readers forget the larger social forces at play, even as our heroes make leaps in mathematical theory. The reality is that they are Black women in the South in the 1940s to 1960s. No amount of heroism allows them to escape that gravitational pull. The desegregation of schools was a huge issue at the time of these women's fantastic accomplishments, but Shetterly writes:
As fantastical as American's space ambitions might have seemed, sending a man into space was starting to feel like a straightforward task compared to putting black and white student together in the same Virginia classrooms. 
One especially touching and brilliant example of the two worlds these women were living in was when Mary Jackon's son wins the box car derby.
Mary knew that her son was a ringer; the two of them had been building to win. Brain busters' kids were supposed to come out on top in a race like this, even if the brain buster was a woman, or black, or both.
Shetterly shares many women's stories with us in 265 pages. You may get overwhelmed by the number of stories as well as the emotions that come along. But keep track. Their stories have been hidden so long that Shetterly could have written a whole book on each woman. Maybe she should for children to read along with their biographies of Glenn, Armstrong, and Lindberg. Because these women may never have gone into space or set foot on the moon, but they are no less part of our history of exploration and American exceptionalism.

Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound. And go see the movie! I can't wait to see it myself.

20 December 2016

Eight Great Feminist Books for Last Minute Gift Giving

I've read quite a few great books this year, but haven't had time to write up proper reviews. Honestly I have a few half-written ones, but I wanted to make sure you have some recs for a last minute run to your local feminist or indie bookstore. So let's get to them...Note all book links are affiliate links so I do get a little something if you buy the book through those links. Which is much appreciated!

Forward by Abby Wambach is a difficult walk through this legend's life. Abby is my favorite player in recent years. I was so eager to read this and while I did not walk away from it not loving her, but rather it changed the temperature of my fandom. Her honesty is brutal in ways that are endearing and off-putting. Abby is forthright with the privileges she has held since childhood from being a star athlete, but also the burden of being a younger sibling of a star athlete. The way she talks about the Brazilian national team and Marta is so dismissive I had to put the book down for a bit. Abby's struggle with addiction is humbling and that comes across throughout the book. In the end I left the book admiring her more, but in a more humane way. Not as the greatest soccer player ever, but as someone who went through a lot of crap to accomplish her dreams. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.  

Threadbare: Clothes, Sex & Trafficking a comics report from the Ladydrawers and Anne Elizabeth Moore is A+ feminist killjoy. Disclaimer...Anne is a friend of mine & I'm friendly with many a Ladydrawer. What Anne & Co do with Threadbare is connect our addiction to cheap cute clothes with the global epidemic of low-wage work that disproportionately impacts women and human trafficking. See...feminist killjoy. Now you say you only buy second hand clothes to reduce the money going into the pockets of big corporations and reduce our environmental footprint? Sorry, you fall into this vicious cycle too. This book is a must read for the feminist fashionista in your life as well as every well-meaning feminist who wants to save women in the developing world. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.  

In what I dub the natural partner to Threadbare is Andi Zeisler's (another friend!) We Were Feminists Once. Andi digs deep into the current pop culture moment feminism is having. For awhile it seemed hard to get through a profile of a pop star or actress without someone asking her if she was a feminist. But what does that mean when feminism is hip and cool? Andi outlines how it ends up watering down feminism and what it means to be a feminist. What does it mean to consider an act of feminism to be consuming Amy Schumer and wearing cute feminist tees? Can we buy our way into a feminist future? Spoiler....Nope. Again, feminist killjoy at its finest. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.


Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner? by Katrine Marcal is a must read for every feminist who skipped economics class because it sounds hella boring and/or intimidating. I admit that I would never had taken econ if it wasn't mandatory for my masters degree. I found it frustrating as hell because we had to suspend reality while talking about supply and demand curves or how if you don't like the benefits at a job you just get a new one. What is especially frustrating about economics is how women's caregiving is lost in all the equations and valuations. Marcal painstakingly, yet in an accessible way, walks us through modern economic theory and points out its flaws in regard to women's work. The title comes from the fact that Adam Smith, who wrote foundational works in economics, lived at home and was able to do all that thinking and writing because his mom took care of him. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.  


This hunk of snark is brought to us by the geniuses at Reductress. How to Win at Feminism is a handy dandy guide to feminism as if written by all the people who don't understand feminism. But way funnier. During these frozen days of winter and depressing post-Trump days curl up with this book to remember all the victories we have had and all the work we still have to do. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.

I really do have a much longer review to be published for Powered by Girl by Lyn Mikel Brown, but let's do this quick hit first, eh? This book is a must read for anyone who works with girls, especially in leadership programs. Girl Scout Leader? Yup. Camp Leader? Totally. At times the book gets a bit repetitious, but considering how few people think that girls can leader, you do need to repeat the message a few times. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.


Another book written by a friend. Dear Princess Grace, Dear Betty by Alida Brill is a sweet look at the life and struggles of a woman who is equally a fierce feminist and a hopeless romantic. What is so wonderful about this book is that you feel the full passion of Alida searching for true love without feeling like she is trying to fill a void like most "looking for Mr. Right" stories. She's not looking for the missing piece or to fill a hole. She simply believes in love and wants some...while also demanding women's equality. She balances both sides of the story in a way that will make you reexamine how you view Second Wave feminists (I mean, if you only know it through history books of course.) Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.

If you haven't heard about Unsportsmanlike Conduct already, you obviously aren't watching ESPN because Jessica Luther has been on countless times since its release. In Unsportsmanlike Conduct, Jessica (another friend!) painstakingly breaks apart the problem of sexual assault and college football. It is not just an epidemic or one of too much drinking. Then she puts things back together in a logical and creates a playbook for every campus to follow in order to better address campus sexual assault and athletics. When she was in Chicago for a reading, I told her that I was truly impressed at the delicate dance she performs at calling out the racism that both makes white women the perfect victim and the often-African American football player the perfect perpetrator AND the misogyny that also invalidates women's rape accusations. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.

Happy gift giving season, everyone!! 

Other great feminist books I read this year:

17 November 2016

Book Review: 2nd Edition of Beautiful You by Rosie Molinary


Six years ago an inspiring daily mediation on self-love was released. Recently Rosie Molinary released an updated edition of Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance.

From my initial review of the book:

Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance by Rosie Molinary is a self-help guide for those of us who don't like self-help guides. Beautiful You is a book of 365 daily life prompts that not just asks you to reconsider how you see yourself, but to push you to try new things (stop apologizing: ever notice how many times you start things with "I'm sorry but...") that help you readjust how you view yourself, the world and how you connect to the world.

In the new edition there is obviously a new cover, but also a new introduction, a new acknowledgments and then about 50 posts were either updated or replaced. Rosie's favorite new post is Day 362. Rosie gave me the scoop on the new edition.

When approached by Seal Press to revisit her book for updating she discovered that a few passages no longer spoke to her or she realized she approached the topics differently. Overall, what she realized in her own self-acceptance work is that so much of our pain is really the result of a lack of awareness of our own self-worth.
If you value yourself, you don’t hurt other people. And if you value yourself, you don’t hurt yourself. We want so much to be heard and seen and understood, and the reality is that the very first person we need that from is ourselves. If we can begin to see our own worth, the world expands for us.
I wrote Beautiful You: A Daily Guide to Radical Self-Acceptance to give people a tool where they could collect all the evidence of their worthiness. This isn’t a book where I tell readers to believe in themselves. This is a book where the readers become the writer and compile all the proof- which is already inside of them- of how very worthy they are. My hope is that the book provides readers with a journey into a relationship with themselves that is not adversarial and that is life changing.
To get your own copy please purchase from an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Disclaimer: The only payment I received was the copy of the book.

08 June 2016

The Feminist Guide to the 2016 Printers Row LitFest


Feminists are everywhere at the 2016 Printers Row LitFest this weekend!
 Did I miss a feminist event? Leave it in the comments! 

Disclaimer: Not every person at each highlighted event is a feminist. But there is at least one! So go!

04 May 2016

Book Review: Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown


Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown is a heart-wrenching read that you won't want to put down. Set in NYC just after World War I in the heart of the Jewish immigrant community, we find Rose and Dottie, mother and daughter, both faced with unplanned pregnancies and their long-awaited careers within their grasp.

Full disclosure...Jennifer is a long-time bloggy friend. When she asked if I wanted a copy to review, I jumped at the chance. While I use to read her blog on a regular basis, I was not prepared with her fiction writing to be so gripping. The scene where Rose realizes Dottie is pregnant made me cry on the train.

Modern Girls goes beyond two unplanned pregnancies. It is a story that touches on that tension inherent in immigrant families where the parent wants a child to "do better" than them. Rose proclaims, "A head bookkeeper? Wait until Lana hears about this. She was just bragging about her daughter's new sewing job the other day. Not my daughter! No manual labor for her." Rose also refused to teach Dottie to even sew in an effort to ensure Dottie works with her brain, not with her hands. How many children of immigrants and working class parents have heard that line?

The beauty of the novel comes from how the mother-daughter pair deal with their unplanned pregnancies. Brown beautifully writes their conflicted feelings on how to proceed.
"My life was about to take a sharp turn, and I'd never come down this path again...Before or after. I'd either be a wife with a home and a child or be a career gal with the ghost of what could have been."
Despite the timing of this story and the decisions to be made, sex is never framed as bad. Even Rose spends time reminiscing about her long-lost love. In any other book, someone would feel bad about the sex that resulted in the situation the women find themselves, but Brown eschews any sexual guilt for our protagonists. That decision makes this book a truly feminist read.

I was a bit torn by the end of the novel. In fact I noted a point in the book where I thought would had been a fitting conclusion, but it was not to be. The remainder of the story helps to wrap up a few more plot lines, but when Rose and Dottie walk down the street is where I would have ended this tale.

Modern Girls is an exploration of the mother-daughter bond, the immigrant experience, what it means to be "a modern woman" and a reminder of a time when women's choices were severely limited, but they still tried to find a way to stay true to themselves.

Please purchase your own copy of Modern Girls from Powells or Indiebound and support Viva la Feminista.

26 April 2016

Book Review: The Obsession

CW: The plot of this book deals with sexual assault and emotional abuse. Some graphic depictions of assault.

Photo by Viva la Feminista

I have to admit that I read the description of this book when it was pitched to me pretty quickly. I am sure I was pulled in by the "heroic young woman moving past tragedy" framing because it did not really dawn on me that I was asked to review a Nora Roberts book. And I didn't even really know who Roberts was, I mean I knew her name, but I didn't have all the parts of the math equation. Then when I got the book I put it off long enough I had to sprint through the book to get it done even close to my deadline. Suffice to say, this review is from someone who didn't realize she was reading a romance novel until she was done and read the author's Wikipedia entry. So the book...

As I said, I decided to sprint through The Obsession by Nora Roberts to even get close to my deadline. Luckily this book grabs a hold of you so quickly that I would have sprinted through it even if I had started it a year early. The first few chapters document the first 20 or so years of Naomi's life that at one point I was pretty disappointed not to get more into those pivotal years. We go from Naomi learning the awful truth about her deranged father and saving a young woman's life to buying a huge house on Puget Sound, Washington that it was a bit whiplashy. But you soon learn that The Obsession is a roller coaster ride and that was just the opening drop.

I want to stop and give major props to Roberts for her ability to describe the Puget Sound area so vividly. I have family in that area and have spent some time in that area, thus my photo at the top. If there is one area outside of Chicago I would move to in a heartbeat, it would be the Pacific Northwest. Roberts doesn't come out and say exactly where Naomi's house is, but from the small names dropped and description, I knew exactly where it was. I could smell where Naomi would hike to take her photographs. I envied her sunrise view cause I have seen the same views from my godmother's kitchen.

When Naomi moves to Washington, she was finally stopped running from her past as the daughter who caught this century's most notorious serial killer. After having been raised in New York by her gay uncles and enduring the suicide of her emotionally abused mother, Naomi finally settles down in an old bed and breakfast in much need of a rehab. She is making her living as a photographer - half artsy stuff that sells in NY galleries and half stock photos. While she has changed her last name, Naomi is always on high alert for anyone who might discover her real origins. This is in fact one reason she chose a sleepy small town to lay down roots.

Naomi quickly is drawn into this small town's social scene, especially after catching the eye of the town hottie/rocker/mechanic. See...it takes awhile for the romance to show up! You get how it took me awhile to realize I was in for some steamy love scenes. I have to admit that I felt the same as Naomi when Xander showed up. He is brash and overconfident in himself. Ugh, I thought. Then as he worked his way into Naomi's heart, he also did to mine.

When Roberts gets this roller coaster moving through the zero-G loops, you are racing through the pages again. I'm proud of myself for picking up on some of the foreshadowing to figure out a little of the ending. There were certainly times when I was thinking, "No, No..NO!! This is not how this ends up!" But Naomi's past does indeed catch up to her now that she has stopped running.

The actual conclusion of the mystery part of the book was only half-satisfying. But the ride was good enough that I would recommend this book be tossed in your beach bag this summer. It will keep you engaged as you take in some sun, but also a book you could conceivably leave for a few days and pick up without a problem. But....I highly doubt you'll be able to put the down long enough for that to happen.

After I did find out I had read a romance novel, definitely not my usual genre, I did a bit of a search on Nora Roberts. She is listed as a feminist romance novelist. Indeed Naomi does mention feminism in the book. The manner in which the book treats Naomi's mother's abuse is honest and gentle in a very feminist way. In fact, I kinda felt that one conversation could had been ripped from an emotional abuse brochure. I would not be surprised if Roberts gets letters from women who say, "I didn't realize I was in an abusive relationship until I read this book." When Naomi discovers her father's secret life, the family moves in with her mom's gay brother and his husband. Their relationship is treated without much fanfare outside of moments early on where Naomi's mom and uncle have to talk out the contradictions between his marriage and the morals she came to believe under her husband's rule, especially since it is an interracial marriage. Naomi is a strong character who determined to not only support herself, but save herself from her father's sins.

Again, this is an excellent beach book for the upcoming summer. But if you buy it now, I dare you to make it past Memorial Day before you devour this book.

Please purchase your own copy of The Obsession from Powells or Indiebound and support Viva la Feminista.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from a publicist.  

28 March 2016

Book Review: Asking for It by Louise O'Neill

CW: This book deals with the aftermath of a sexual assault from the survivor's point of view.


I'm not going to beat around the bush, Asking for It by Louise O'Neill is intense.

O'Neill artfully writes from inside the head of a rape survivor from days before the assault to a few years post. Emma O' Donovan, our protagonist, is not an outspoken feminist activist and for the most part, refuses to even think the word 'rape.' Her life is turned upside down, not just from the rape itself, but the aftermath is almost as tragic. Within feminist circles, we often bemoan the way the mainstream media covers rape cases, but Asking for It shows how feminist sites are eager for rape survivors to tell their side of the story as their own click bait. Emma is equally haunted by op-eds that state she is making it all up as well as the flood of requests from feminist sites and the trending supportive hashtags.

#IBelieveBallinatoomGirl

I don't want to be their champion.
I don't want to be brave.
I don't want to be a hero.

As a YA book, the target audience is the high school and up crowd. I highly recommend this book for everyone who is a parent. And not because I think it will help you prevent the sexual assault of anyone, but because as a parent, the way Emma sees her parents post-assault is heartbreaking. As a parent, you may be tempted to take this book as manual for how to not to trust your daughter or to protect her from the world, but I beg you to read it as a manual on how to be a supportive parent.

When did we all become fluent in this language
that none of us wanted to learn?

Asking for It presents the reader with a very imperfect victim. Emma is not a virgin, while she is still in high school she is 18 and is the quintessential party girl. She is everything that makes up the idea that someone "asks for it." And yet, throughout the book, if you are willing to be open to the idea, you are rooting for Emma to regain her life, triumph over the slut-shaming she endures and watch as her rapists are locked away. I won't spoil the book and say if any of this happens. In light of the recent Ghomeshi trial verdict and how the judge accused the survivors of not acting properly, this book is timely. Emma is not only not the ideal victim due to her sexual past, but she does not play the ideal victim afterwards. 

So many things make this an excellent read. O'Neill sets up Emma as a spoiled party girl, who even commits the sin of slut-shaming herself. In an early scene, she even talks down one of her girlfriend's date rape. She plots about how to bag the next of her trophies. She is beautiful and wields that beauty as a weapon. Knowing that she will be the victim of a rape makes you question all the dislike O'Neill sets up. As a feminist who knows all the tropes and stereotypes that we must fight to end rape culture, I still caught myself thinking all the things: "Don't keep drinking!" "Don't go in there!" Asking for It is a horror flick and you keep yelling at the book hoping to change the ending, but you know it is all for naught.

There were definitely places in the book where I could not stop reading as well as places where I needed to walk away from the book for a bit. This book should not be an after school special warning for young women as to the dangers of excessive partying. Rather this book is a wake-up to those of us who want to support survivors or who are forced to support survivors. Seriously, her parents do this all wrong or at least Emma thinks they do. This book exemplifies why some survivors do nothing but "go on" with their lives. This book will stay with you long after you finish.

Asking for It goes on sale April 5th. Please purchase your own copy of Asking for It from Powells or Indiebound and support Viva la Feminista.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from a publicist.   

GIVEAWAY

 I have three copies to giveway!

GUIDELINES:

  1. To enter, simply comment with your email address. Seriously, without an email, I can't get a hold of you.
  2. Extra entries awarded if you share this review on Twitter (tag me @veronicaeye) or Facebook (tag me @vivalafeminista).
  3. Once all entries are in, I will number the entries, toss into Random.org and that magical machine will select a winner.
  4. This giveaway is limited to shipping addresses in the USA and sorry no PO Boxes.  
DEADLINE: Thursday, April 7, 2016 at 10 PM Central Time. 

14 March 2016

Book Buzz: Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet's Ace Reporter

Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet's Ace Reporter by Tim Hanley is an intriguing look into a character most people consider a sidekick. As someone who has never read any of the Superman comics, my grasp of the mythology is based on the 1980s movies with Margot Kidder as Lois. I always loved her spunk. While I am far from finished with this book, it is already shedding light on not just the origins of Lois, but what the comics industry was like in the 1930s and 1940s.

What I have found the most fun about this book is that it is arranged so each chapter starts with discussing Lois Lane, the character. The subchapter is then focused on the stories of real life people who brought Lois to life.

I'm posting this as a Book Buzz in order to alert Chicagoans that Tim Hanley will be at Women and Children First this Wednesday at 7:30 PM for an all-star panel discussion with Lauren Burke, Caitlin Rosber, Katie Schenkel and my friend Anne Elizabeth Moore. See you there!

Please purchase your own copy of Investigating Lois Lane from Powells or Indiebound and support Viva la Feminista.  

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from a publicist.    

Disclaimer

This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.
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