Essays · Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Parenting · Women

Bad Mother | by Ayelet Waldman

Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace by Ayelet Waldman
(Doubleday, 2009, 213 pages)

It used to be that the books most inclined to catch my eye were food-forward memoirs, but since becoming a mom those have been less on the forefront for me. I was strolling the aisles at my local public library not long ago and this collection of essays caught my eye. What Waldman hits on here is that regardless of how hyper-involved you are (or aren’t) as a parent, you will inevitably find a time when you see yourself as a “bad mother.” We’ve been conditioned by society to think nothing we do is ever really good enough – we’re keeping up with other mothers (and fathers) who only highlight the amazing things they do with/for their kids; keeping hidden the times they lock themselves in the bathroom with wine to cry it out.

This book offers humor, clarity, and the occasional moment that breaks your heart just a little. Whether you’re a new-ish mom or not, I think you can appreciate this collection of essays. I’ve been eager to read Waldman’s latest book, A Really Good Day, but I’m glad I got a better feel for her writing style thanks to this collection. If YOU are intrigued, check out this Modern Love piece that got her on a lot of people’s radars a little over a decade ago.

4/5 stars

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Autobiography · Humor · In the Library · Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Quick Read! · SCC Book Club · Women

Shrill | by Lindy West

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
(Hachette Books, 2016, 260 pages)

This is the second title up for discussion by the SCC Between the Covers book club. Prior to picking this up I was familiar with Lindy West thanks to her Op-Ed pieces in the New York Times as well as the work she did prior to that on Jezebel. I initially approached this book as a collection of essays but had to recalibrate when I came to the realization it was a memoir. That helped explain why it seemed like the book progressively got darker. Granted, I laughed throughout as I was reading, but there were some sections that were significantly more humorous than others.

West covers a lot of ground in this book. It’s more than just a memoir; it talks about body image, rape culture, relationships, loss, the world of comedy, online trolling… and she does it all in a way that makes the heaviness of the subject matter seem almost “bearable.” While I was reading I found myself comparing her work to some of Roxane Gay’s essays that touch on similar issues and it was interesting to think of how their tones come across differently.

I’m glad this was our March selection for book club and I’m glad it got me to read more of Lindy West’s work (specifically her writing in The Guardian). If you want to hear more I guess you should come to the book club discussion on 3/28! 😉

3.5/5 stars

Essays · History · In the Library · Julia P · Non-Fiction · Quick Read! · Women

Women and Power | by Mary Beard

Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
(Liveright Publishing, 2017, 115 pages)

Despite the amazing reviews this book was getting, I found Mary Beard intimidating as an author. I was scared her work would be too academic and “high-minded” for me given how little I know about the Greco-Roman world (Beard is a well-known Classicist). When I saw my library’s copy of Women & Power I couldn’t resist checking it out and seeing if I could handle it… To my pleasant surprise, I could! This was much more readable than I’d thought it would be. I psyched myself out based on the author’s biography. Sure, you have to pay attention to what you’re reading – she packs a lot of punch in this slim volume – but this is accessible to the non-academic. Plus, there are pictures throughout 🙂

Hailed as a “feminist classic” already, Beard looks back at the history of misogyny and how women have been “put in their place” for ages. Her first essay addresses the silencing of women and her second looks at the relationship between women and power. We’ve been conditioned throughout history to determine who “deserves” a voice and who should have power based on a male lens. We’ve been guided by a history that prized men and devalued women. It’s time to acknowledge that and redefine how we interpret what power looks like.

I was surprised at what a pleasurable reading experience I had with this title; especially given the subject matter. Beard’s writing style was accessible and has me eager to see some of her earlier work.

If you’re intimidated by this book but keep hearing about it, pick it up! If you enjoyed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists this should also find a place on your to-read pile.

4/5 stars

Audiobook · Kelly M · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Political Science · Women

What Happened | by Hillary Rodham Clinton

What Happened

What Happened by President Hillary Rodham Clinton
(Simon & Schuster, 2017, 512 pages)

I laughed, I cried, I cursed, but mostly I just shook my head. What Happened has been marketed as the story of the 2016 presidential election, but it’s more than that. The first half of the book is an autobiographical account of Mrs. Clinton’s life and how the events and people close to her helped her get to this point. She also gives insight into her everyday personal habits—her diet, her fashion sense (or lack thereof), and what she watches on tv. In the second half of the book, Mrs. Clinton talks about the policies, spending a lot of time on coal, an issue on which she felt misunderstood. Everything else you would expect to be here is—“those damn emails,” Russian interference, Trump creeping up behind her during debates, etc. She even reads a portion of what would have been her victory speech. Those who should read this won’t, but supporters of Mrs. Clinton will find it bittersweet and lament what could have been.

10 stars
(aka 5/5 stars)

Advance Reader Copy (ARC) · Autobiography · Essays · Julia P · Non-Fiction · Race · Women

This Will Be My Undoing | by Morgan Jerkins

This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America

This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins
(Harper Perennial, 2018, 272 pages)

I follow Morgan Jerkins on Twitter (@morganjerkins) and I don’t remember how I first was exposed to her work, but I’m glad for whatever it was that caught my attention. This collection of essays was so well-written and thought-provoking. In the spirit of not reinventing the wheel, below please find the review I posted on Goodreads:

“There are some books that you are content to read but don’t feel like you need to own. This Will Be My Undoing is a book that I’m so glad I read and that I will certainly be going out to buy so it has a permanent place on my shelves. The essays in this book are packed with so much that I know every time I revisit them I’ll come away having gleaned something new.

These essays talk about what it means to exist in this world as a black woman. There is no separating the two. Not only was I nodding along while reading I also found myself tearing up more often than I ever would have imagined I would. There’s so much depth here. It was a fabulous read.”

I definitely recommend (pub. date: January 2018).

4/5 stars

Fiction · In the Library · Julia P · Quick Read! · Race · Women

Another Brooklyn | by Jacqueline Woodson

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
(Amistad, 2016, 175 pages)

Woodson is a poet and that comes across in this book. Her way with language is amazing. This is a slim book and Woodson has a way of conveying so much so concisely that you just sit back and appreciate her way with words. This book transports you to Brooklyn in the 70s. We’re introduced to a friendship made up of four girls: August, Gigi, Sylvia, and Angela. We see the power of friendship but we also see that childhood is fleeting and the real world has a way of coming in and changing your life whether you’re ready for it or not.

This is a poignant and powerful novel.

4/5 stars