A brilliant book about war and its never-ending consequences. Viet Thanh Nguyen dissects how society glamorizes veterans while dehumanizing victims, hA brilliant book about war and its never-ending consequences. Viet Thanh Nguyen dissects how society glamorizes veterans while dehumanizing victims, how certain industries profit from war and its bloodshed, and how we often only interpret wars from our own side (hence, why Americans call it the Vietnam War whereas the Vietnamese call it the American War). Nguyen gathers evidence from museums, monuments, novels, films, etc. to illustrate the devastating effects of war and how we often overlook the most awful parts of mass combat. While he focuses on the war between America and Vietnam and others, his ideas span all wars, and he provides a powerful argument about creating just memory instead of forgetting our past and allowing it to repeat itself.
As a second generation Vietnamese American born and raised in the United States, I received a whitewashed, America-centered education all throughout my pre-university years. I feel thankful that Nguyen wrote this book, as it has helped me once again see beyond the narrative we feed children in the United States. Nothing Ever Dies reveals harsh truths: that war kills people and erases living people's pasts, that we laud soldiers' bravery while ignoring their rape, that pro-war propaganda perpetuates hate with the intent of eliminating human compassion. Though quite academic and sometimes long in its descriptions, I would still recommend Nothing Ever Dies to anyone who enjoys history, or wants to learn a way of analyzing history and war outside of the predominant, complacent perspective. ...more
People expect Asian women to submit, to be passive and lifeless and pretty. Lily Hoang skewers that stereotype in her bold essay collection A BestiaryPeople expect Asian women to submit, to be passive and lifeless and pretty. Lily Hoang skewers that stereotype in her bold essay collection A Bestiary. With fierce prose, she writes about her dead sister and her drug addiction, her parents' ailing bodies and how she never fulfilled their image of a perfect Vietnamese daughter, and her abusive relationships with men. Elements of fairy tale and myth unify the themes of race, friendship, and relational grief and joy that pervade these essays. Hoang experiments with genre in A Bestiary, using lots of fragmentation and blending together memoir and lyric essay and flash fiction to transcend the status quo of creative nonfiction.
Overall, I would recommend A Bestiary to those who want to read a confident, honest collection of writing that defies traditional prose style. Hoang tackles difficult topics of autonomy, need, and feminism with intellect and insight. Portions of her prose took my breath away (the line "... his intelligence attacks my body like a virus filled with desire" literally made me scream in public.) This book will appeal to those who want to read unconventional writing, writing that trades tradition for innovation. I have a lot to learn from Hoang, and I cannot wait to read more of her work....more
"Now, listen. If you have ever believed a depressive wants to be happy, you are wrong. They could not care less about the luxury of happiness. They ju"Now, listen. If you have ever believed a depressive wants to be happy, you are wrong. They could not care less about the luxury of happiness. They just want to feel an absence of pain. To escape a mind on fire, where thoughts blaze and smoke like old possessions lost to arson. To be normal."
A meaningful book about depression, anxiety, and creating reasons to stay alive. Like a modern day William Styron, Matt Haig shares his experience with depression and anxiety and how he fought to overcome suicidal thinking. He discloses how his mental illness has affected his work, his relationships, and his perception of life overall. The greatest part: he frames his mental illness not as a weakness or a strength, but just as another part of himself, a facet that provides both pros and cons as all traits do. Another great quote from the same page as the first one in this review:
"But actually, it wasn't easy. The weird thing about depression is that, even though you might have more suicidal thoughts, the fear of death remains the same. The only difference is that the pain of life has rapidly increased. So when you hear about someone killing themselves it's important to know that death wasn't any less scary for them. It wasn't a 'choice' in the moral sense. To be moralistic about it is to misunderstand."
I loved the insight Haig shared about depression. His view on resisting medication while seeking treatment resonated with me: of course you would use medication if you have to, but you can also learn to breathe on your own - depending on your condition - without the influence of pharmaceutical companies. I also appreciated his emphasis on mindfulness and breathing. We live in such a fast-paced world that feelings of aloneness and worry about emails, meetings, and deadlines seem natural. Haig encourages us to take a step back and give ourselves time for self-care.
Though I enjoyed Reasons to Stay Alive, I wanted more in certain areas. The short length of each chapter made the book easy to get through, but that same brevity prevented more thorough and developed trains of thought/arguments. From a memoir perspective, I also desired more of a consistent narrative, as I felt that the book jumped from idea to idea a lot. Still, I would recommend Reasons to Stay Alive, in particular to those interested in mental illness who have not already read too much about it. A final, hopeful quote:
"I stood there for a while. Summoning the courage to die, and then summoning the courage to live. To be. Not to be. Right there, death was so close. An ounce more terror and the scales would have tipped. There may be a universe in which I took that step but it isn't this one."...more
Just as we now do with aging and ADHD, we once medicalized homosexuality and masturbation. In The Medicalization of Society, Peter Conrad argues thatJust as we now do with aging and ADHD, we once medicalized homosexuality and masturbation. In The Medicalization of Society, Peter Conrad argues that society pathologizes diversity and reduces people's acceptance of behaviors that fall outside of predetermined norms. While medicalization - or viewing issues from a medical perspective - brings benefits to the sick, it also creates illnesses so that pharmaceutical companies and others can profit. Take male baldness or female breast augmentation: both emerge as ways for individuals to alter their bodies to meet a stupid and harmful and shallow societal conception of beauty.
As an aspiring clinical psychologist, I loved Conrad's critical approach to medicalization and how he questioned many concepts several people take for granted. Medicalization both heals many and harms many, and by accepting it as neither good nor bad, we can work to enhance its benefits and minimize its negatives. For example, many psychiatrists and others in the medical field encourage antidepressants or other drugs to cope with mental illness, even when several studies support the efficacy of therapy over drug treatments alone. Medicalization intersects with money and with politics; the amazing work of gay rights activists and how they decreased public perception of homosexuality as disease shows how we can work to change the status quo for the better. Conrad includes many more relevant examples as he writes about the expansion of medicalization and its consequences.
Overall, a well-written book I would recommend to anyone interested in health, sociology, or psychology. One main takeaway: you do not have to take medicine to make your problem(s) real. From my studies and personal experiences I perceive that, with the rise of the biomedical model, people feel biased toward medicine to legitimize their issues and to work as a quick fix for their struggles. But many more holistic and effective therapies exist, even if they involve more effort than swallowing a pill....more
I want to have actual sex with this book. I just love it so much. Melissa Broder elevates vulnerability to another level: she writes about her vomit fI want to have actual sex with this book. I just love it so much. Melissa Broder elevates vulnerability to another level: she writes about her vomit fetish, getting high off of people, her anxiety and depression, and more. This essay collection captures what I appreciate most about creative nonfiction - through exposing her deepest and darkest doubts and dismays with unrelenting self-absorption and style, Broder highlights that it is okay to be human, to be fucked up and to keep on living anyway.
In the spirit of spilling secrets, a couple of things that make me #sosadtoday: 1) I am completely and unhealthfully obsessed with a man I met on the internet. This man has not messaged me back for a long time. As a feminist, I despise myself for wanting his attention. 2) My trauma has been awful this week. I canceled two hours of work today so I could see my therapist. Despite my decent list of achievements and my almost flawless work ethic, this one instance of asking for help makes me want to vomit.
You could call this self-indulgent, vain, even self-obsessed. But I think we should obsess over ourselves sometimes. We live in a world so bent on shaming people for pain, which leads us to cope in unhealthful ways - drugs, unsafe sex, etc. The unfortunate truth that Melissa Broder reveals in So Sad Today: we all experience pain. Sometimes we experience pain because a catastrophe strikes, because of a huge social injustice that makes us want to revolt. Sometimes we experience pain because a guy doesn't text us back. Both are valid. Both are real.
Once we recognize our pain and our sadness, we can choose how to cope. Broder does so through writing, through her poetry and her Twitter account. I intend to do the same, to write with honesty and compassion. Just like Broder does with so much blunt sophistication, I want to throw my voice into the fray: to prove that we are not alone in our pain....more