Yeah, so I'm AS OLD AS THE HILLS and have to admit I did not understand precisely what prompted the 2008 financial crisis. Bair, former head of the FDYeah, so I'm AS OLD AS THE HILLS and have to admit I did not understand precisely what prompted the 2008 financial crisis. Bair, former head of the FDIC, explains clearly and cogently exactly what happened...and who let it happen.
The first third of the book is devoted to showing different causes and aspects of the economic meltdown, as experienced by different (fictional) kids: Matt's family lost their home because of a subprime mortgage for which they couldn't afford the payment increases; Anna's dad speculated in the housing market and overextended himself when prices dropped; Jorge's dad lost his job; Imani's family suffered when banks changed strategies and rushed to foreclose rather than helping families with mortgage payments; Mary's public school got screwed by cutbacks; Zach's recent-college-grad brother took out loans to attend a for-profit college and then struggled with stratospheric unemployment among teenagers and 20somethings.
The second third of the book is a condensed version of Bair's time at the FDIC. She's clearly still furious at and scornful of a lot of the players she dealt with there (especially Tim Geithner of the Federal Reserve, Vikram Pandit at Citi, Dick Kovacevich at Wells Fargo, plus Larry Summers and Bob Rubin). She explains what the FDIC does and how their attempts to strengthen subprime lending standards failed. I presume that if any of the men she disses here were writing their own book on the financial crisis for young readers, they'd tell a very different tale about cause and effect...but as a storyteller, Bair is awfully convincing. The fact that she started off her career under Republican auspices and continued it under Democratic ones is a point in her favor; she doesn't seem like a partisan hired gun.
The final third of the book, by far the shortest and weakest, basically says, "So, uh, the future! We screwed up! Good luck, kids!"
Basically, I feel about Bullies of Wall Street the way I feel about Steve Sheinkin's Most Dangerous. Before reading these books, I could have PRETENDED I understood the subject matter, at least well enough to do OK on Jeopardy. But I didn't really know what Daniel Ellsberg did and what the Watergate break-in was about, and I didn't really understand why Obama bailed out all those banks. SO YAY BOOKS FOR MIDDLE GRADE READERS THAT ADULTS CAN READ AND BE MADE SMARTER BY. SORRY I JUST ENDED A SENTENCE WITH A PREPOSITION. ...more
Like Selznick's Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, The Marvels is a very thDon't read any plot summary. Just don't.
I will be annoyingly cryptic and vague.
Like Selznick's Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, The Marvels is a very thick volume that reveals its secrets slowly. That's OK; your patience will be rewarded. But unlike those other two titles, The Marvels feels like it's written for grownups. (Doesn't mean there aren't kids who'll like it, but the themes of aging and loss and will resonate more with adults.) As ever, it's clear how much beautiful curiosity about the world Selznick has, and how much research he does. As ever, I had tears in my eyes as the different threads of his story came together in this moment of profound human connection. As ever, Selznick's graphite art is soft and luminous. (And this book has hot dudes! Is it weird for me to think that pencil drawings in a book purportedly for children are hot? SAFE SPACE!) I want to buy The Marvels for my friends who love cities and history and Shakespeare and the eternal power of storytelling, and who have felt estranged from their families of birth.
I'm torn. I want to know what happens, but I'm irked by so much about the first two volumes!
1. Brian K. Vaughan really, REALLY likes the word "retardI'm torn. I want to know what happens, but I'm irked by so much about the first two volumes!
1. Brian K. Vaughan really, REALLY likes the word "retarded." Characters of all backgrounds say "retarded." Multiple times.
2. Homophobia and transphobia FOR DAYS.
3. Women's bodies still have your standard superheroine babely dimensions. This feels very much like work done by white dudes who grew up in the vocabulary, vernacular and visuals of superhero comics.
4. The plot is suspenseful, and I RESENT my urge to keep reading despite my misgivings about the first two books! Maybe I'll look up how it ends on Wikipedia. Or maybe I'll periodically check in to see if the library has the next installments because DAMMIT I WANNA KNOW HOW IT ENDS.
I loved this. It felt totally developmentally appropriate -- this is not a book for grownups masquerading as a children's book; it's an excellent middI loved this. It felt totally developmentally appropriate -- this is not a book for grownups masquerading as a children's book; it's an excellent middle-grade novel for a difficult-to-write-for age group that was sweet, funny, readable and just suspenseful/stressful enough. It was not a didactic plate of spinach. I think there are second graders who could read this, and high schoolers too, but the sweet spot would be 3rd-6th grade.
That said: My extremely sophisticated 13-year-old read it after me and handed it back, sobbing like a mofo.
Quibble: I was a little bothered by the title. How many times have we been taught that we call folks what they WANT to be called, and use the pronoun they want us to use? George sees herself as Melissa! Why give the book a title that would remind the wonderful main character of all she DOESN'T want to be? Then I read Alex Gino's blog, and they [Gino's preferred pronoun!] said that the working title was "Girl George," a play on the name Boy George, and Scholastic truncated it, and in retrospect Gino wishes they'd fought harder for a different title. I do get why Girl George wouldn't have worked -- my 10-year-old has no clue who Boy George is -- but George doesn't work for me at all. ...more
Boo hoo, the first Meghan McCarthy book that didn't work for me. I like the idea of a book about the guy everyone THINKS invented earmuffs, but didn'tBoo hoo, the first Meghan McCarthy book that didn't work for me. I like the idea of a book about the guy everyone THINKS invented earmuffs, but didn't. Chester Greenwood was the Thomas Edison of earmuffs, improving a design someone else came up with and getting all the credit. Maybe this book would have worked as a dual biography of the dude who DID invent earmuffs (McCarthy seems to have found him) and the guy who improved them, hustled more and promoted them better. Or maybe this could have been a collective bio of a lot of people who didn't get credit for their inventions. Or a close look at how you get a patent. Or even the story behind the story: maybe McCarthy could have turned the afterword -- about the author's frustrating efforts to corral this story -- into the actual book, and made it a book about researching and writing non-fiction for kids.
What we get instead is kind of a sprawl. The book doesn't really answer the title question. How did ol' Chet become known as the inventor of earmuffs? McCarthy can only hypothesize. Her main character doesn't come alive. The patent office is not inherently fascinating. We know pretty much nothing about the actual inventor of earmuffs beyond his name and the fact that he lived in New York. The art, as ever, is adorable, and one of my kids went through an earmuffs-adoring period when she was five or six and I'm sure she would've enjoyed this. So I guess I'm saying this is for earmuffs-obsessives only. ...more
Terrific. Don't even read my review, just go buy this fucker right now.
Are you still here?
I am old enough to remember the Madge the Manicurist "Terrific. Don't even read my review, just go buy this fucker right now.
Are you still here?
I am old enough to remember the Madge the Manicurist "You're soaking in it!" commercials (shut up), and this book reminded me of Madge's sly yet perky assertion: We really ARE immersed in it, with "it" in this case being a culture that devalues women. And their stories of assault, yes...but more than that, their legitimacy as people with agency, as humans who are more than decorative. Our DEFAULT STATE, culturally, is to figure out how to blame the victim.
Harding is a very, VERY funny writer, which helps make a difficult subject readable. Asking for It is a polemic that does not read like a polemic. Harding comes off as a reliable narrator as well as your most amusing friend. (Full disclosure, I know her online but have only met her in person a couple of times.) (Incidentally, I had a great OMG-I-LOVE-THIS-VOICE non-fiction week, between Asking for It and Sarah Hepola's Blackout.)
Asking For It is, for me, the first great bloggy non-fiction. It is rigorously researched, but delivered in a snarky voice that I think of as a blog-writer voice. Usually over the length of a book this kind of voice wears thin for me -- too much, too snide, too self-impressed, too clever. The fact that Harding blends her conversational, smart-alecky, snarktastic tone with a BUTTLOAD of statistics and sources -- and she never goes for a joke at the EXPENSE of propelling forward her argument -- makes it work like aces.
And this voice makes Asking For It a great read for teenagers and twenty somethings, into whose hands I want to shove this book right this very second. Guys and girls both. (Harding absolutely talks about the negative impact of rape culture on DUDES as well as women.) I also want to give it to older feminists -- including my own GenX cohort -- who default to "but WHY do young women today...." because you know what? My friends and the prominent older feminists who use this phrase have not internalized the fact that no matter what the kids today are wearing, no matter how much they drink, no matter how dumb you think they are for being so careless...you are demonizing the WRONG PARTY. Rape culture means blaming the victim, and that is precisely what you are doing. When you start a sentence with "of course no one DESERVES to be raped..." you have started with the WRONG DEPENDENT CLAUSE, pumpkin. What you have delivered should be a stand-alone sentence. Put a period there. Oh and dump the "of course" which implies a big ol' BUT.
On FB Kate Harding taught me Lewis's Law (the Internet says Lewis' Law but I am ancient and prissy enough to correct the Internet's grammar): "Comments on any article about feminism justify feminism." I don't think this law appears in the book, but reading the responses to every single article about this book, which invariably talk about how Harding deserves to be raped, wishes she were raped, is too ugly to be raped, etc. are proof positive of how essential this book is.
Also: My 13-year-old read this before I did and handed it back saying "This is the best non-fiction book I have read in a long time. Maybe ever."
If you are the parent of a high school student who dwells in the actual real world that humans live in, he or she should read this and talk about it with you. Do not say "Let kids be kids a little longer!" Your kid, in all likelihood, will not be shocked by any of the stories in the book, but rather by the fact that there is a NAME for the systemic problems he or she knows exist.
(OH. This week I also read a super-lauded social-issues-oriented non-fiction book AIMED at teenagers, one that's being bandied about as a possible Newbery-Award-winner, and it was SO MUCH WEAKER and more boring and less thoughtful about race and class than Asking For It.)
Fine for first or second graders, a not-too-scary look at the famous fire and its role in making workplaces safer. The emphasis is on the friendship oFine for first or second graders, a not-too-scary look at the famous fire and its role in making workplaces safer. The emphasis is on the friendship of two 14-year-old girls -- one Jewish and one Italian -- who work in the factory (spoiler alert: they don't die), so it's not too scary. This was the book that made Josie interested in the Triangle Fire, an interest that's now persisted for half her life! ...more
Be patient. It's frustrating at first, with an unreliable memory-addled narrator and italicized passages of baffling, lyrical, highfalutin writing. ReBe patient. It's frustrating at first, with an unreliable memory-addled narrator and italicized passages of baffling, lyrical, highfalutin writing. Rest assured: Everything gets clearer. This is such a singular book -- a mashup of fairy tale, mystery, urban fantasy, YA romance. There are these beautiful magical set pieces -- birds fly off a wallpaper pattern, a kiss makes people levitate -- but gritty guns-and-elevators real world stuff (and humor!) too. I'm glad I stuck with it; it hit all my folklore-addict buttons and I was weeping like a loon by the end. ...more
I felt at arm's length from Plum for the entire book, and as Swiftian satire it didn't really work for me. I kept comparing Dietland to Libba Bray's BI felt at arm's length from Plum for the entire book, and as Swiftian satire it didn't really work for me. I kept comparing Dietland to Libba Bray's Beauty Queens and finding it wanting. The latter is just as pointed about the need for feminism and the way current beauty standards are used to keep women down/self-hating/distracted from meaningful societal change...but Beauty Queens is much funnier and more over-the-top and, I think, ultimately more hopeful. Could be because it's YA...could be because it's a better book.
That said: It's a quick, fierce, interesting read. ...more
Again with the Dahl! This is my second book of hers, and again: Funny, hot, feminist as fuck, likable heroine you truly root for. Suspense plot: Yeah,Again with the Dahl! This is my second book of hers, and again: Funny, hot, feminist as fuck, likable heroine you truly root for. Suspense plot: Yeah, not so much....more
I have lots of vices, but drinking to excess isn't one of them. So I wasn't sure this book would engage me. WRONG.
It's SO FUNNY, so well-written, soI have lots of vices, but drinking to excess isn't one of them. So I wasn't sure this book would engage me. WRONG.
It's SO FUNNY, so well-written, so resonant to ANYONE who has ever felt uncomfortable in her skin and wished for a magic way to be more charming, beautiful, witty, at ease in the world. Memoirs are so hard to do well -- narrators often seem narcissistic, inauthentic, or lacking in self-awareness despite purporting to have LEEEEEARNED THINGS ON THEIR JOOOOOOURNEY. Not this. Blackout is a short book (I read most of it on a 3-hour train ride, incessantly doing that THING when you keep grabbing the person next to you to read chunk after chunk of it out loud because it's so damn entertaining and real and beautifully expressed without being all striving-for-poetry-y-- thankfully my mom was sitting next to me and is tolerant of being grabbed and read to). It is never boring. When you're tumbling down marble staircases and trying to reconstruct your own life after waking up in a random someone else's dog bed or in the middle of having sex with someone you can't recall meeting, well, that's super-not-boring. Harrowing, but self-aware and rueful and witty.
I finished this wishing Hepola were my friend. I want her and her book to do well. ...more
Superb. Gripping and infuriating story of a chapter in American civil rights history I had no clue about. Sheinkin employs dialogue and builds suspensSuperb. Gripping and infuriating story of a chapter in American civil rights history I had no clue about. Sheinkin employs dialogue and builds suspense with such skill. ...more
I ADORED this. HOLY CRAP. Thought-provoking, funny, distressing and cathartic (but not in a bullshit way). As my 13-year-old, Josie (who also loved itI ADORED this. HOLY CRAP. Thought-provoking, funny, distressing and cathartic (but not in a bullshit way). As my 13-year-old, Josie (who also loved it), pointed out, John Green should WISH he could write quirky-yet-real characters like this.
The conceit: This is make-believe narrative non-fiction by an 11th grader at an art school, creating a writing project (to go along with her elaborate embroideries in fabric and thread) about her friends' attempts to get people to tell the truth about things (hence the title) as well as her growing awareness of her own family's lack of truth-telling -- all accompanied by doodly illustrations in the margins and amusing Foster-Wallace-esque footnotes. Our narrator's sister is a famous graphic novelist who has mined the family's life for her work and created a very unflattering version of her parents and sister. And IN ACTUAL FACT this a novel by a grown-up person (an art school teacher, who hired one of her former students to do the little interstitial drawings, aw). Basically, it's a story about truth in which unreliable narrators AHOY.
It depicts lovely friendships, a fucked-up family, a bunch of art students with all their pretensions and endearing-ness (not a word, I know), plus tons of delightful fashion and a character with a passionate love of movies. There is adorable taxidermy. There's even a perfect John Hughes-esque self-consciously romantic scene. Now that I think about it, this is a book for people who know Andi should have ended up with Duckie.
I laughed, I cried, I got furious, I read with my mouth hanging open in an OMG I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING manner. I think this is my fave YA so far this year...but I think all adults who work in journalism, autobiographical fiction, ghostwriting and graphic novels should read it. It brings up excellent questions about who owns stories and what storytellers owe people whose lives become fodder.
I feel aggrieved that the cover sucks. However, this is the only fault I found in the entire book. ...more