Based on the title and cover, I thought this book was going to about all the weird things that exist in our world, along the lines of Why Do Men Have...moreBased on the title and cover, I thought this book was going to about all the weird things that exist in our world, along the lines of Why Do Men Have Nipples?. Instead, it's a collection of super short essays in which Mary Roach complains about all the things that annoy her. I imagine her humor sending geriatrics and fans of Reader's Digest into hysterics, but I was merely amused once or twice. I think I even cracked a smile at one point, although I can't remember over what. It was a crazy fast read, and I didn't hate it, but I don't think I'll be picking up any more Mary Roach books.(less)
I'm a big fan of Dan Savage's straight (but gay) talk on subjects across the spectrum of the political field, even when I don't agree with him 100%. T...moreI'm a big fan of Dan Savage's straight (but gay) talk on subjects across the spectrum of the political field, even when I don't agree with him 100%. This latest collection of his musings on everything from monogamy to parenting to to gun control to Rick Santorum follows his other writings, including his syndicated sex advice column, by combining his pragmatic logic with his humorous wit.
Early on the book, he tackles monogamy, something Savage has written about in his column extensively, and while I agree with his assertion that "we should place a higher value on marital stability than we place on marital monogamy" (31), as a man coming up on ten years married to my partner, I had a hard time agreeing with every argument he throws out. (However, perhaps my feelings are wrapped up in the heteronormative Puritanical culture in which I was raised. That's the argument I imagine Dan Savage making if I ever discussed the topic with him personally at least.)
Much of the rest of the book involved him making arguments for causes I already believe in, which is precisely the way I like my political reading. He suggests "arguing that gay people shouldn't complain about discrimination because we can 'choose to be straight' is like arguing that Jewish people shouldn't complain about anti-Semitism because they can 'choose to be baptized'" (69). My favorite analogy he makes though comes in regard to parenting: "Having a child is like having a heroin problem. When you're high, man, you've never been so high. When you're high, maaaaaan, all you want is more children. But when you're low, fuck, you have never been so low. When you're low, fuuuuuuuck, you regret ever picking that first needle up" (87). While the comparison is somewhat flawed in that heroin is inherently bad for your body and brain in a way that parenting never will be, the feelings and thoughts associated with his ideas are spot on (at least as far as I've experienced them in being home all summer with a five and six year old). Another of my favorite points is his response to the heterosexual idea that gays are okay so long as they keep it in the bedroom. To that passively anti-gay sentiment, Savage says, "Straight people flaunt their sexualities in a million ways, large and small--kissing in ballparks, public marriage proposals, holding hands in grocery stores, bachelor and bachelorette parties, ruinously expensive weddings, baby showers, birth announcements, etc." (123).
He's also quite knowledgeable about the intricacies of his subjects. He clearly outlines that "sexual orientation is one thing; sexual identity--real, perceived, or asserted--is another" (153), and he provides several obvious examples to illustrate his point.
Savage is probably best known for his muck-raking ways when it comes to the political right. He says upfront that he is "sick and tired of hearing such goddamn demeaning, degrading bullshit about me and my friends" (167) and astutely marks the ways in which the media often do not hold conservatives to the same degree of fact when it comes to issues of sexuality. For example, he focuses in on Elizabeth Santorum's suggestion that she has many gay friends who would vote for her father Rick, and Savage rightly declares to the press, "Your interview subject has made an astonishing claim, a claim that must be verified before you publish it. Your response should be a demand for the names and phone numbers of these 'gay friends.' You can offer to quote them anonymously to protect their privacy and to shield them from the social consequences of their stupidity" (198).
While I'm certainly an audience that agrees with almost everything Savage has to say, hearing my minority voice echoed by someone with the power of a major publisher behind him certainly helps with the day to day tribulations of living the life he so nicely details.(less)
Now that I see David Sedaris in person at least once a year at readings, most of his published stories are pieces I've heard at various stages in the...moreNow that I see David Sedaris in person at least once a year at readings, most of his published stories are pieces I've heard at various stages in the writing process. While experiences the stories for a second or third time isn't quite as thrilling as Sedaris providing his own voice to the words, the stories still provide for some terrific entertainment and even some insight. There are some interesting commentaries on race and family here, and his most thought-provoking pieces are the truly hilarious dramatic monologues he's written from a variety of truly horrid perspectives, such as a horribly ignorant mother and a murderous lover of conservative talk radio.(less)
I read this as a personal assignment for a class called Empowering Multicultural Initiatives, aimed at teaching educators about identity development b...moreI read this as a personal assignment for a class called Empowering Multicultural Initiatives, aimed at teaching educators about identity development both in students and how addressing the unique needs of non-white students can help the whole student population. We were supposed to read something based on our own individual cultural and racial identity development, but there aren't a whole lot of books focusing solely on kids growing up with absentee white American father and Dutch-Indonesian immigrant mother. The instructor suggested Half and Half, which is a collection of essays by established authors focusing on their multicultural upbringing.
There are eighteen essays in this collection, and after about ten of them, they start to get pretty repetitive even though each one focuses on a different combination of multi-ethnic composition. The elements of identity development in these varied writers essentially centers on the same idea: feeling out of place in the cultures of both individual parent and finding a way to navigate between the two worlds. A few were particularly good, including "The Mulatto Millennium" in which Danny Senna takes a satirical look at the issue of growing up with biracial parents, "A White Woman of Color" where Julia Alvarez discusses the colorism within Dominican cultural, "A Middle Passage" by Philippe Wamba focusing on the expatriate dilemma, and "Technicolor" where Rueben Martinez analyzes the effects of Hollywood imagery on his Hispanic development.(less)