Absolutely charming memoir about a woman's experiences bringing up her kids from birth in Paris. While the book could come off like "Americans are stuAbsolutely charming memoir about a woman's experiences bringing up her kids from birth in Paris. While the book could come off like "Americans are stupid, the French do it better," she gives some great examples of how the way our parenting has changed in America (being more "helicopter" parents than ever before) have not been to the benefit of our children. In a nutshell, the French method of parenting is really about giving kids autonomy, not rushing in to fix their problems, and not making them the center of the universe. My husband actually recommended this, and these are all principles he agrees with and relates too--he grew up really independent (he was hunting with his dog with a gun at the age of 5!), had a lot of time to himself, and learned he wasn't the center of attention. My parents were probably more hands-on, but I don't remember them chaperoning me everyone, or getting involved in my academic scrapes (like an unfortunate grade) or getting in the way of friend squabbles. Druckerman says the French expect their kids to understand their parents (even as infants), to eat food that adults eat, to behave themselves without being entertained, to be responsible for certain things (even some of the cooking)--really to explore who they are, and how they work, while still understanding that the parents are in charge and the authority. And intuitively this all makes sense to me.
I really loved Druckerman's stlyle of writing--very self-aware (she may not be French, but her children are getting there) and very journalistic. It was easy to read, but packed with good research bits and great stories from her French parenting counterparts. I'd heard about this before reading it, and it delighted as much as I thought it would....more
You know, when I first finished this, I thought it was cute and fun (I loved American Wife and think Sittenfeld is talented). But the more I thought aYou know, when I first finished this, I thought it was cute and fun (I loved American Wife and think Sittenfeld is talented). But the more I thought about it (and honestly, I read some other reviews, so maybe that’s unfair of me), the more disappointed I was with it, and frankly--I think Austen should be left well enough alone. The way Sittenfeld updates the book (set in modern day Cincinnati) was pretty clever, and I enjoyed figuring out how she was going to write the well-known characters (like Wickham, in particular). But it's really missing the chemistry of the original, and left out important descriptions about how characters felt and acted to make it really pop. Most notably I saw it in the scene where Darcy tells Lizzy he loves her the first time. This is a big deal. A huge deal. It completely shocks Lizzy. And yet, there was no idea of HOW Darcy felt--what his reaction was in the moment, no descriptive adjectives just a lot of dialogue. It was just written like another scene. And while that scene has lasting impact in the story, the scene itself lacks description.
And the last arc of the book revolves around a reality show which was not nearly as clever as the author thought, and got fairly tedious and long-winded (and I did not buy that Jane would be involved with it).
One of the biggest complaints is that the characters are fairly 2-dimensional. The author introduces a transgender character and a black character who really have no other purpose besides pissing off another main character, and for the author to educate her audience as if this were an after school special. They really felt shoehorned into the story for political reasons. The characters themselves were Very. Nice. People. That’s about all the depth they have. Oh, look how nice and normal they are! They'd make a good love interest! And what makes zero sense is how those two very nice characters partner up with two sisters who are basically dreadful from the beginning with few to no redeeming qualities. There’s really no reason these two characters would attract these nice guys, and just because Sittenfeld says so (in the instance of one couple, that they love each other completely) doesn’t mean I believe it. And even Lizzy herself seemed like a sad sack stuck in an unfulfilling relationship and a job she’s ambivalent about. I think of P&P Lizzy as much more independent and kickass. This version of Lizzy is not particularly appealing.
And then the last chapter of the entire book, after all the romantic resolution happens, focuses on MARY! Absolutely dreadful Mary, for God's sake. I don't even care that that's a spoiler--who gives a crap about Mary? She’s awful, and in this version she’s SPECTACULARLY awful for no particularly good reason (that’s a description of most of the characters: “spectacularly awful for no particularly good reason.”) What a weird way to end an homage to P&P.
This review has mostly been complaints, and yet the story itself was very readable and the take-off overall was pretty clever. But American Wife seemed much better written and the main character (from what I remember) much more richly drawn. I wonder if Sittenfeld felt hemmed in by the source material and how closely she’d have to hew to it. It’s come off as fluffy, which is perfectly fine, but when you’re talking about P&P, which is just a delightful read and still holds up a few hundred years later, it’s not really a contest. I spent a weekend in NY reading this, and it certainly wasn't a waste of time, I just expected more. ...more
I heard Peggy Orenstein on NPR's Fresh Air (which seems to be the way I'm hearing about a lot of new books/authors) and she was talking about this booI heard Peggy Orenstein on NPR's Fresh Air (which seems to be the way I'm hearing about a lot of new books/authors) and she was talking about this book. I absolutely had to read it, and it was both fascinating and disturbing. My big takeaway is that with all the strides from feminism, one of the negative effects is that girls think they can act like boys sexually, being more sexually aggressive and less "romantic" (and our culture promotes that), but not only are they getting the raw end of the deal (girls are still labeled sluts, and we still have a puritanical culture where girls are concerned), their pleasure and their bodies are not even taken into consideration. Teenage girls are warned by adults about pregnancy and rape culture, but they're not told how their bodies work, what they deserve in a romantic/sexual relationship, and to ask for their pleasure. Girls are really not told even to expect pleasure (Orenstein notes that even at a young age, their sexual organs don't even get a name. They're "literally unspeakable.") And because sexuality is more acceptable these days, boys have no problems asking for what THEY want (and getting it--head, sex, naked text messages) without thinking they need to treat women with respect and explore their sensuality in return. It's incredibly one-sided. Orenstein's suggestion that we do more than just "sex education", that we really have frank conversations with our girls about their sexuality, development, and pleasure, is something that i know will make most people uncomfortable, but that doesn't mean it should be avoided. This is one of those areas where I think (and Orenstein cites) Europe does it better. I think she cites Swedish parents, as one example, that have these kinds of conversations with their daughters (and sometimes allow their boyfriends to stay the night...yikes), but rates of pregnancy, sexual violence, and low self-esteem are much lower here than in the States. That's something to seriously consider.
I think Orenstein's research methods are solid--she interviews 70 girls from ages 16-20, but she includes no footnotes except some end notes at the end that aren't directly marked. I wanted to see more research scattered throughout the book, because I know there's plenty. I have to dock a star for that, but otherwise the book is readable, well-written, and incredibly timely. As a person who wants to raise children, i want to know that my potential daughters aren't going backwards and asking for less than they deserve in romantic relationships, and that my potential sons aren't taking their own pleasure for granted (or as primary), at the expense of their partners. That's just unacceptable to me. Our girls deserve better....more
I swear, this is the first book I've finished since I've moved to Baltimore, and that is some sad stuff. But hey, it's been a challenging time with aI swear, this is the first book I've finished since I've moved to Baltimore, and that is some sad stuff. But hey, it's been a challenging time with a new husband, new job, new city, blah blah blah. I'm grateful I was able to finish SOMETHING!
I saw a promotional event where Laura Prepon was discussing this book, and there was something about it that seemed different than other healthy diet books. Prepon and her co-author's Elizabeth Troy's approach was vastly different from my usual interest in autoimmune/paleo cookbooks. Troy here focuses on the gallbladder and the liver, and they have a 3-point plan where broth is one of the points--and I love making broth and have not seen it so prominently displayed as part of a healthy diet in other cookbooks. Usually it's just a mention. And the second part of the plan is specific stretches to benefit the gallbladder and liver, which is ALSO something I'm not used to in cookbooks. Usually healthy diet books are focused just on the food. So I really liked the inclusion of those two things as a priority in a healthy diet.
And then let's get to the food. I love the idea of this "grab your stash" and go--the food is basically mix and match, it's well-balanced, and it's designed to be made on only a few days a week. I think this book offers a unique perspective in this genre.
However, I haven't actually TRIED any of the recipes, so I can't speak to the tastiness of the food, but I like the ingredients and the way it's prepared. Also, I feel like this is easier for a single person to implement than a couple or family--it strikes me as perfectly designed for a singleton. My husband does a lot of the cooking (which is great, and we often have leftovers that I take for breakfast/lunch), and I'm not sure if he'd be on board with the food, but I'd like to try it once a week when he's in class just to get back into the swing of cooking.
Overall, I think it's a smart "system" for healthy cooking, and I look forward to digging into the recipes more. And the tone and stories of the two authors was very engaging. I enjoyed reading it, and it had a lot more to absorb more than a usual cookbook....more
I loved the Happiness Project, but I have realized that Rubin is a little regimented for my tastes (and this is who she is and I celebrate that). So iI loved the Happiness Project, but I have realized that Rubin is a little regimented for my tastes (and this is who she is and I celebrate that). So in many ways, I actually loved Better Than Before more than The Happiness Project because while it introduced a new theory (the 4 Tendencies), it didn't require a yearlong plan for happiness. It was more an approach for how to change habits. My friend Sarah turned me on to it when she asked me what my Tendency is, or how I respond to expectations. I'd never thought about it that way before. So I took Rubin's quiz, and when I found out I was an Obliger, it all made a lot more sense (I meet outer expectations, but not inner expectations, which is often why I fail to keep my own habits and resolutions). The tendencies didn't just apply to habits but also how I interact with others (and how I interact, for sure, with my Questioner [or is he a Rebel? he needs to take the quiz] husband). It just brought a lot more things to the light.
Also, I loved how she talked about habits and identity, and how significant identity is to habit formation. When someone in her book said, about eating a low-carb diet, that she didn't want to be a FUSSY eater, or that person at the party who has to bring their own food, I completely identified with that. Rubin responded she doesn't mind being the fussy one. I can't even relate! My obliger-ness dictates that I just want things to be easier, and to go with the flow, which makes creating good habits tricky (because change is not easy, and requires discipline!) I never want to be the fussy one, but I guess I'll have to get just a little bit fussier, especially regarding diet.
Overall, she gave some great ideas about how to counteract your tendency to keep your habits (I need to have external accountability!) and she gave lots of examples for how to do that in different scenarios. It resonated with me, and that's definitely because I'm in the time of my life where I'm going through a lot of change, and want to go through a lot more in order to have, as Rubin's daughter so eloquently put it, "everyday life in Utopia." The changes we make are changes we ultimately believe are good for us and our lives, so establishing habits to make them a regular part of our life is just good practice. ...more
I think Brene Brown's message of using vulnerability and bravery as a way to live your life is incredibly powerful, and we live in a society where beiI think Brene Brown's message of using vulnerability and bravery as a way to live your life is incredibly powerful, and we live in a society where being brave and being vulnerable (and also being self-aware) are not how we normally interact with each other. It's a lot easier to react in anger or fear than the struggle with why you feel that way and how to process through it. Brown's process - The Reckoning, The Rumble, and The Revolution - is a simple path to understanding WHY you're having feelings about a situation (you're angry, insecure, frustrated, irritated, stressed), how you can process them more effectively by "rumbling" with them, how NOT to pass your crap onto other people but instead figure out your own junk through writing/journaling a "shitty first draft" of why you have these feelings, and then understand that all events that happen to you are through the lens of story--the story you tell yourself when you don't know all the facts that may or may not be correct (spoiler alert - it's probably not correct).
I think one of Brown's most powerful tools is that she has NO problem telling stories about herself or her family where she comes off, frankly, looking like a jerk. Which is refreshing, because we all have those times. She shares her vulnerabilities with her reader, and that makes her stories and research really come alive. She shares how she can be petty, or unpleasant, or fearful, or judgmental, and how that looks with family or strangers or students. Then she explains how she rumbled with these feelings (and some of them are pretty entrenched in her psyche) and came out a little better on the other side. She's brave, and we can be brave by digging deeper into our stories, unless we want to repeat these stories forever (and most of our stories aren't that great to begin with!)
I loved the Gifts of Imperfection, was a little whelmed by Daring Greatly, but I really enjoyed this book (and I listened to it on audiobook, and that was a welcome change). I think Brown is a really important voice in how we interact with each other, and her research is invaluable for changing the tenor of our interpersonal conversations. I'm so glad I found her....more
I LOVE Ansari's Netflix show Master of None--it's so smart, nuanced, and authentic, a show about a young adult figuring out himself and his relationshI LOVE Ansari's Netflix show Master of None--it's so smart, nuanced, and authentic, a show about a young adult figuring out himself and his relationships, and I've brought it up more in discussions about relationships than any other piece of pop culture I've consumed in the last year. So I was excited to read this--I'd heard about it and finally jumped in. Because I'm listening to more audiobooks, I decided to check this one out because it's read by Ansari himself, it had some comedic elements to it, which was a nice touch. I can't say that I was overly surprised by any of the conclusions that Ansari and his co-author reported about how romance has changed in 50 years, but I did appreciate the amount of research they gathered for this book, both quantitative and qualitative, along with numerous experts. I loved the stories told at the focus groups, and enjoyed learning about how online dating has changed modern romance (but not that people do it "well"--too much "online" and not enough "dating"). I didn't find it revolutionary (if you've been single as long as I was, you've experienced much of how dating has changed yourself) but I did find it charming and engaging. And it weirdly made me want to explore Tinder if I were still single--I met my husband through online dating, but the set-up of different online dating accounts was a SERIOUS pain, and Tinder just seemed so...simple. And now that it can be used as a dating app, and not just a hook-up app, I bet it'd be interesting.
Mostly, it made me grateful to have found my person. I know we have 1,000 more options to choose our partners than we used to, but that's the problem too. We're never satisfied. We're spoiled for choices. And when you think the next best thing is just around the corner, then how can you ever appreciate what's in front of you? And as someone who did online dating, I know how easy it is to dismiss someone because they...aren't wearing stylish socks, or are 2 inches shorter than your minimum--stupid crap like that. Heck, I didn't really take my husband seriously for about 6 weeks until I got my head out of my rear end because he didn't fit what I thought I wanted (because my past choices were so fantastic...ha!) I don't know that we as a culture are moving in the right direction, but we've got more freedom than ever before. The grass is always greener, right?
Overall, I enjoyed it, and I think Aziz is a rare comedian who is exploring modern love from a real world perspective, in his stand-up, tv show, and this book, and I appreciate the effort....more
I honestly don't feel very qualified to comments on this book, but I'm glad I read it. Coates daily experience is so completely foreign to me that I sI honestly don't feel very qualified to comments on this book, but I'm glad I read it. Coates daily experience is so completely foreign to me that I simply cannot relate to it. I don't dispute it, I respect his point of view, but it's just so different from my experience. So because of that, I really appreciated the opportunity to hear his words in a letter to his son about his experiences and his point of view. And his words are valid, because they are honest, and they are his. I might disagree with him about how we got here, but that doesn't really matter. He speaks from a place of great pain, frustration, fear for his son (and for a time, for himself), and I think a deep but justified cynicism about our racial future. His language is poetic and powerful (although his cadence got a little repetitive for me). I think he has valuable perspectives that contribute to our conversation on race, especially on how the culture values so little "black bodies" and the harm we accept people doing to black people. And I hadn't thought about it that way before. I recognize my privilege to a certain extent, but I do not appreciate how much I don't have to THINK about my privilege in a way that Coates has thought about it, as a youth growing up in Baltimore and now a grown man with a son of his own. And so it is important to remember that when I'm understanding how I interact with people (especially as I have just moved to Baltimore myself, which is a very different culture than Charlotte), and how i can respond to situations in ways that are more empathetic and understanding.
What's most interesting to me is how my reading this book coincided with reading Brene Brown's Rising Strong, which is about reckoning and rumbling with strong feelings. Her book was not just about how you can use it personally, but how you can use it at work and in your community. This applies to social justice issues just like any interpersonal issue. Just one more tool in my toolbox to increase my awareness and empathy of other people's experiences, and how we all tell ourselves stories, and how those stories affect our interactions with others. I think Coates would appreciate Brown's attempts to start a conversation about social issues that can allow for more honesty, empathy, sensitivity, understanding, and vulnerability, and I think Coates contributed to that as well with this book....more