A smart book about the intersections of pop culture and our personal lives. In this sharp set of essays, Alana Massey dissects and reimagines some ofA smart book about the intersections of pop culture and our personal lives. In this sharp set of essays, Alana Massey dissects and reimagines some of the most talked about women of our time: Lana Del Ray, Courtney Love, Lil' Kim, Britney Spears, Joan Didion, and many more. Her analysis delves deep into the double standards we create for women even when their male counterparts mess up over and over again, the racism that musicians like Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift have wielded against artists such as Nicki Minaj, and the cruelty we inflict on female celebrities for our own merciless entertainment. Massey calls for a more compassionate and nuanced approach to understanding these "famous strangers," and she uses her own relationships with them as a primary example. I wanted to share one of the many quotes I noted All the Lives I Want, this one pointing out a hypocritical trend in the music industry:
"Those who accuse these women of fraud in their image craft seem not to have heard of David Bowie's successful alter ego Ziggy Stardust or even Bob Dylan, the folksy creation of a genius named Robert Allen Zimmerman. There is a tradition of male artists talking on personae that are understood to be part of their art. It is as though there is so much genius within them that it must be split between these mortal men and the characters they create. Women who venture to do the same are ridiculed as fakers and try-hards; their constructed identities are seen as attention-seeking stunts more than new embodiments of the artists themselves. Madonna is perhaps the most successful woman to reinvent herself but never to fully slip into an alter ego, and even she is routinely called an insufferable bitch for it."
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in pop culture or feminism. My only critique centers on how I felt that Massey's personal life faded into the background of All the Lives I want; I wish that she had put forth a more cohesive voice that would have connected these essays together even better. Still, she delivers fresh, intelligence insights about a celebrity culture that we so often only see the surface of....more
A lighthearted and sincere memoir by Trevor Noah, a South African comedian and current host of The Daily Show. In Born a Crime, Noah details his experA lighthearted and sincere memoir by Trevor Noah, a South African comedian and current host of The Daily Show. In Born a Crime, Noah details his experience growing up in apartheid South Africa, where his parents - a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father - committed an illegal act just by conceiving him. Throughout this memoir, Noah shares many funny coming-of-age stories, ranging from his awkward first romantic encounters with girls as well as how he once set a neighbor's house on fire. While he maintains a jocular tone throughout the book, he also delves into more serious topics, such as the racism and discrimination he faced and witnessed as a child, the negative effects of colonialism on South Africa, and his mother's abusive second husband. This quote captures the concept of "the black tax," and it features just one slice of how much Noah cherishes and commemorates his mother in Born a Crime:
"So many black families spend all of their time trying to fix the problems of the past. That is the curse of being black and poor, and it is a curse that follows you from generation to generation. My mother calls it 'the black tax.' Because the generations who came before you have been pillaged, rather than being free to use your skills and education to move forward, you lose everything just trying to bring everyone behind you back up to zero. Working for the family in Soweto, my mom had no more freedom than she'd had in Transkei, so she ran away. She ran all the way down to the train station and jumped on a train and disappeared into the city, determined to sleep in public restrooms and rely on the kindness of prostitutes until she could make her own way in the world."
I only have a couple of criticisms of Born a Crime. Its structure felt a bit disorienting, as Noah jumps back and forth in time without any real reason for doing so. This jumbled chronology, while not super appealing, does leave room for another book by Noah, as he does not explore his comedic career in depth. His consistently cheerful tone also did not sit well with me at times. While Noah may just be a generally bubbly and optimistic person - which I respect a lot, considering the hardships he's overcome - there were chapters in which I wanted more introspection, more nuance, and more emotional vulnerability. For example, the last chapter that focused on his mother's abusive relationship moved me, but it felt odd that all of those events got squeezed into one sequence at the end, when they could have been woven in throughout the book.
Overall, a great memoir from an important voice in society today. Recommended to fans of Trevor Noah, to those who like coming-of-age stories, and to those who do not mind a lighter memoir with more humor than melancholy. Glad to see so many Goodreads folk getting into this one. ...more
What a fitting book for my final Hemingway review. A Moveable Feast captures so much of what I like about Hemingway (e.g., his staunch commitment to wWhat a fitting book for my final Hemingway review. A Moveable Feast captures so much of what I like about Hemingway (e.g., his staunch commitment to writing, his honest portrayal of emotion) and what I abhor about him (e.g., his sexism, his homophobia, his racism). He has a rather entrancing and pretentious way of writing about Paris, its luxuries and its famous people he often associated with (Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, just to name a few). Yet, between this glitz and glamour rests an underlying sadness, one that he describes when he says, after a horse race, that "I knew everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped." I cannot help but wonder how much of Hemingway's writing stems from his efforts to work through his own inner demons, often by projecting a better - yet still problematic - version of himself onto paper. His melancholy does not excuse how he judges and berates women based on their bodies, as well as his other offensive behavior, but his hardship helps to explain it.
Again, thank you all for sticking with me through all of these reviews. This has been a challenging semester for me, and while reading Hemingway did not help, your kind words amidst my suffering did. Now, onto works that contain more nuanced interpersonal relationships and advocate for gender equality and social justice! ...more
A solid book about guided meditation and its usefulness in everyday life. I really appreciated Tenzin Rinpoche's emphasis on viewing the mind as a plaA solid book about guided meditation and its usefulness in everyday life. I really appreciated Tenzin Rinpoche's emphasis on viewing the mind as a place of healing, comfort, and refuge, as opposed to an avenue for constant anxiety and distress. As I write in all of my reviews of meditation books, society urges us to bombard ourselves with substances, screens, and several time-consuming tasks just to keep ourselves busy. In contrast, Rinpoche encourages us to embrace silence, stillness, and spaciousness - three pillars that can help us cultivate peace within ourselves. While this book comes across as a little more abstract and thus a bit more difficult to follow than similar books like Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance, I still walked away from it feeling more loving and compassionate toward myself and the world. Recommended to those who want to give guided meditation a shot, as well as to those who can envision themselves getting into spirituality/Buddhism. While I did not have the corresponding CD with the guided meditation, one of my friends at college did, and he made really great use of it. I will end this brief review with a great quote about meditation from the concluding chapter of the book:
"Meditation is not just passively sitting and observing life flowing by. Rather it is an active process of engaging in transformation. Some may think you are wasting time by meditating. They would advise you to go to a movie or on a vacation rather than meditate, which looks like sitting and doing nothing. But no one else can know how much you are disconnecting from your unhealthy patterns and charging your battery by sitting and reconnecting with the source of being. Sitting down and being aware, you are changing your life. Stopping and reconnecting to the refuge of your inner being, even for a moment, you are changing your life. What you overlooked or thought was nothing becomes the deepest treasury imaginable."...more
A fantastic resource for anyone studying for the Psychology GRE test. I used the sixth edition, and it helped me so much for when I took the exam. ThiA fantastic resource for anyone studying for the Psychology GRE test. I used the sixth edition, and it helped me so much for when I took the exam. This book has it all: detailed, easy-to-understand, and in-depth review of subject material, well-calibrated practice quizzes and tests, and wonderful graphics and images to aid with content retention. While I detest standardized testing for various reasons (e.g., unfair to those from low socioeconomic backgrounds, valuing memorization over true understanding, etc.) this book made my study experience as enjoyable as it could have been. I would recommend it over Barron's (which I could not even get through because of poor organization) and other prep books. Using this book as my primary study guide, I scored a 750 (91%) on the exam. If you have the resources and ability to work hard, utilizing prep books instead of taking GRE prep courses can save you a lot of money. Good luck to my fellow graduate school hopefuls on this arduous process....more
A stellar book about feminism and how capitalism has weakened its overall political power. Feminism has gained more popularity as a buzzword4.5 stars
A stellar book about feminism and how capitalism has weakened its overall political power. Feminism has gained more popularity as a buzzword than ever before: clothing lines plaster the phrase all over their t-shirts and underwear, celebrities tweet about it all the time, and companies are quick to use phrases like "empowerment" to sell their products. But how much of this feel-good feminism actually contributes to advancing gender equality? Does buying Dove's "real beauty" body lotion really combat the wage gap, sexual harassment in the workplace, or the erasure of LGBTQ women and women of color in the mainstream feminist movement? In We Were Feminists Once, Andi Zeisler delves into these difficult and nuanced issues with a steady-handed conviction and intelligence. This passage from the end of the book articulates Zeisler's main thesis, about how feminism is about so much more than jumping on-board with a trend or wearing a certain phrase on your clothes:
"The problem is - the problem has always been - that feminism is not fun. It's not supposed to be fun. It's complex and hard and it pisses people off. It's serious because it is about people demanding that their humanity be recognized as valuable. The root issues that feminism confronts - wage inequality, gendered divisions of labor, institutional racism and sexism, structural violence and, of course, bodily autonomy - are deeply unsexy. That's a hard sell for fast-moving content streams that depend on online clicks and consumer appeals that exist to serve a bottom line. Even more difficult is that feminism is fundamentally about resetting the balance of power, and it makes people who hold that power uncomfortable because that's what it has to do in order to work. So when we hear from those people - and, oh, do we hear from them - that feminism should modulate its voices, ask nicely for the rights it seeks, and keep anger and stridency out of the picture, let's remember that large-scale social change doesn't result from polite requests and sweet-talking appeasements. But make no mistake, that's what marketplace feminism is: A way to promise potential detractors that feminism can exist in fundamentally unequal spaces without posing any foundational changes to them."
Out of her Zeisler's many amazing arguments, I really appreciated her approach to deconstructing choice feminism. Many people think that feminism is just about choices, that so long as a woman chooses to do something, that that choice is inherently empowering and/or feminist. But, as Zeisler contends, this is simply untrue, because individual choices always occur within a greater context. Yes, an individual woman may certainly feel confident when she puts on makeup, and that's great - but that ignores the systemic sexism that forces women to care about their appearances at all, lest they fail a job interview because they did not apply mascara or put on eye-shadow. And sure, a few (predominantly white) women may feel empowered by sex work, and their experiences are valid. But only recognizing those accounts of sex work ignores that most prostitutes do not have a choice about whether they should sell themselves (i.e., the majority have no other financial options), that trans women and women of color are often brutalized and killed in the sex work profession, and that the patriarchy socializes boys to view women as objects to be bought for sexual conquest, instead of human beings to be respected. A passage from We Were Feminists Once that addresses the problematic nature of choice feminism:
"Sociopaths aside, most of us regularly express a sense of ethics and values in our choices, and know that many of them have the potential to make the world better or make it wore. As an ideology, feminism too holds that some things - say, social and political equality and physical autonomy - are better than other things, like inequality, domestic and sexual violence, and subservience based on gender. It makes no sense to argue that all choices are equally good so long as individual women choose them. And it's equally illogical to put a neoliberal frame around that argument and suggest that a woman's choices affect that woman and only that woman. It looks like we may have empowered ourselves into a corner."
Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in feminism, capitalism, or making the world a better place. Zeisler includes a ton of pop culture references and analysis, in which she integrates her knowledge about economics and gender theory. While her writing style felt a bit repetitive at times, We Were Feminists Once is still highly readable and will capture the attention of anyone even remotely interested in these issues. This book has inspired me to work harder to ensure that my feminism makes a difference, and I hope it does the same for you....more
If you like Hemingway, check this one out; if you do not, skip it. Michael Reynolds delves into excruciating, repetitive detail about Hemingway's formIf you like Hemingway, check this one out; if you do not, skip it. Michael Reynolds delves into excruciating, repetitive detail about Hemingway's formative writing years in Paris. He discusses Hemingway's marriage with Hadley Richardson, as well as his interactions with other writers/artists like Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I appreciated Reynolds' honesty in his portrayal of Hemingway. But I kept asking myself: why do people even care about this man?
Thanks for putting up with my many Hemingway reviews, Goodreads friends. Even though Hemingway acted mean in many ways, I see that he suffered and I feel sorry about that. Still, I do not like him nor his writing at this point....more
A fantastic feminist book about how society loves to label women as "crazy" and as "trainwrecks" just for expressing their humanity. I decided to pickA fantastic feminist book about how society loves to label women as "crazy" and as "trainwrecks" just for expressing their humanity. I decided to pick it up after reading this intelligent interview with the author, Sady Doyle. In her interview and in her book, she points out a pervasive double standard: men who are alcoholics, abuse their loved ones, etc. are still most well-known for their art and their achievements (e.g., Ernest Hemingway, Vincent Van Gogh), whereas women who experience personal struggles are torn apart and ridiculed, even when they have immense talent (e.g., Amy Winehouse, Miley Cyrus). Throughout Trainwreck, Doyle crafts a compelling argument that society spends so much time mocking women, in ways that men rarely experience. I highlighted so many quotes as I read this book, so I want to share a few throughout this review. This one focuses on how we deride women for their desires and emotions:
"If sex is one of the easiest ways for a woman to invite hatred and mockery in our culture - to be labeled a slut, a deviant, or any one of the many unprintable slurs that we use to mean 'transgender woman' - then ceasing to have sex with someone should be a reliable solution to the problem. And yet, it is not so. Breakups, you see, lead to sadness, and also to anger. And, instead of admitting that women feel unpleasant emotions when they're in unpleasant situations, we have a tendency to label any public display as bitter, vindictive, obsessive, pathetic, desperate, or yes, 'crazy.'"
Doyle weaves her incisive commentary with allusions and references to many of the most well-known women in the public sphere. Ranging from Whitney Houston to Sylvia Plath to Charlotte Bronte, she discusses how society's sexist shaming of women has run its course throughout history. Through her analysis, we learn why we should stop making fun of women for their very human mistakes and flaws, in particular because we demonize women while forgiving men for everything (for further reading, check out this article in defense of my ultimate role model, Ariana Grande.) After the horrendous results of this most recent US presidential election, in which a completely clueless, sexual assault-loving man beat a kind, experienced woman for the highest office in our country, we need to work together to empower women more than ever. This quote touches on how we so often refuse to believe women, because of the misogyny within our world:
"Simply because we've been taught to value men's voices over and above women's, our natural response to a woman's claims of violence is to see her as delusional (she can't perceive the real story) or unstable (she can't handle the real story) or just plain frightening (she knows the real story, but she's out to get him). Which means that a tremendous number of female stories - perhaps the most urgent and enlightening ones, the stories we need most to hear - have been shut down or silenced. Or it means that women have silenced themselves, believing that if they ever truly admitted what they were going through, they would sound crazy."
I only take off one star because I feel like Doyle does not really transcend the "trainwreck" description of women int his book. Yes, we should honor and validate women's pain without castigating them, and also, we should strive to write about women's successes and talents and strengths. Leslie Jamison explains my thoughts well in her mind-blowing essay "The Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain." For example, Doyle mentions Ariana Grande only once in this book, in relation to her donut scandal (which the article I hyperlinked in the second paragraph I wrote addresses). However, she does not touch on how Grande has won several awards for her immense talent and compassion, how she advocates for feminism, and how she has shut down sexist interviewers at point blank. Overall, though, I would still highly recommend Trainwreck to anyone who wants to learn more about feminism, gender studies, or pop culture. I want to end this review with one of the many quotes I love from this book, about how we should stop defining women based on their relationships with men:
"In an ideal patriarchal world, men pursue relationships, create relationships, and end relationships; women simply sit there and get related to, answering male desire and affection rather than feeling their own. 'Crazy' women, again, are women who operate as subjects rather than objects, women who want things rather than passively accept the fact of being wanted; they're seen as unnatural and grotesque because their desire exists on its own terms, rather than in answer to male needs.
So the ultimate clarifier is to ask, not what constitutes 'crazy,' but how surreal and artificial a perfect rendition of 'sane' heterosexual romance would look on these terms, and what a woman would be if she were genuinely only activated by male desire rather than her own: A woman who imitates a man's affection levels seamlessly, instantly, like a reflection moving in a mirror. She reaches out when he reaches out; leans in when he leans in; declares love when he declares love, wants sex when he wants sex, backs away when he backs away. When he leaves, she disappears.
It's when she doesn't leave the frame, when she moves in ways men don't prompt or expect, that a woman unsettles us. She stops being a reflection, and becomes a presence: A person, suddenly standing in the room."
Now, let us all work harder to uplift women - women of color, queer women, all women - so they can become their own persons, standing, in their rooms....more
A fabulous and easy-to-understand book about how to best use behaviorism. What is behaviorism? Essentially, the study of human and animal behavior - sA fabulous and easy-to-understand book about how to best use behaviorism. What is behaviorism? Essentially, the study of human and animal behavior - so this book sheds light on the most effective principles to use if you want to better the way you act. You can apply these concepts to so many areas, ranging from bolstering your health to training your dog. One of the most important takeaways: use positive reinforcement, not punishment. While our society prefers punishment in many ways (e.g., the mass incarceration in the US, how we expel kids from schools, etc.), research has shown its ineffectiveness, because it often shames people and makes them less productive. Positive reinforcement, or praising people for performing the desired behavior, has been linked to many more favorable outcomes.
Overall, recommended if you are interested in psychology or why humans act the way they do. Clear, concise, and in large part optimistic, Karen Pryor has written a wonderful book about behaviorism with Don't Shoot the Dog!....more
A lucid and wise exploration of infertility. Belle Boggs uses her own struggle to get pregnant as a launching pad to further discuss the psychologicalA lucid and wise exploration of infertility. Belle Boggs uses her own struggle to get pregnant as a launching pad to further discuss the psychological, sociological, and financial implications of fertility and motherhood. She draws from a wide range of literature, scientific research, and current events to connect her personal life to the greater picture. I appreciated Bogg's calm voice throughout the book, as well as her inclusion of LGBT individuals' struggle and the challenges caused by racial and socioeconomic bias. The Art of Waiting itself is a work of art, and I feel glad that Boggs could shed light on such an under-discussed topic.
I knock off a couple of stars from my rating just because of the implicit pro-natalism tone in The Art of Waiting. Boggs does indeed get pregnant and has a child by the end of the book, which is wonderful because she wants that. However, her successful pregnancy acts as the resolution of her personal journey and exploration of infertility, which thus frames successfully giving birth to a child as the path to victory. I wanted more of a celebration of women who choose not to have kids even if they could, of parents who choose to adopt, of nontraditional families that eschew society's preference for the prototypical nuclear family. Boggs touches on these ideas in the first half of the book, but they fall to the wayside soon after.
Overall, a good read I would recommend to those who want to learn more about ART, IVF, and infertility/fertility in general. I hope it will pave the path for more writers to speak on these topics....more
Such a revelatory book for anyone who has been neglected, ghosted, or given mixed signals by a man. The thesis of He's Just Not That Into You: if a guSuch a revelatory book for anyone who has been neglected, ghosted, or given mixed signals by a man. The thesis of He's Just Not That Into You: if a guy is into you, he will take it upon himself to let you know. Despite some of the book's repetition, I love how the authors emphasize their central message of recognizing your self-worth and refusing to settle for someone who makes you doubt yourself. Essentially: do not settle for a man (or any human) who makes you wonder if he (or they) likes you. Do not settle for a man whose intimacy issues or substance use problems or lack of communication skills forces you to do all the emotional work. He's Just Not That Into You advocates for never settling and for only engaging in relationships with people who care about you and can show it.
I wish the authors of this book had expanded the depth of their writing. I saw so much room for addressing how oppressive gender roles affect intimate relationships - the authors could have talked about how toxic masculinity robs men of the tools they could use to cultivate fulfilling, deep relationships. The book also felt super heteronormative and even just a tad anti-feminist in parts (e.g., supporting the silly notion that women should only date men who ask them out first). Because this book came out ten years ago, quite a few of its arguments rely on traditional structures (e.g., monogamy) and ideas (e.g., that all men just want sex).
Despite these flaws, I would still recommend this book to anyone who needs a good slap of self-respect in the face. In the past, I have made the mistake of over-analyzing men's internal states and trying to figure out if a guy's wish-washy behavior could indicate that he likes me. Now, I know not to settle for anyone beneath my standards and to thrive as an empowered, independent human who has several healthy, reciprocal relationships....more