When Melissa Joulwan saw her first roller derby bout way back in 2001, she was immediately hooked. Having just moved to Austin and looking for ways toWhen Melissa Joulwan saw her first roller derby bout way back in 2001, she was immediately hooked. Having just moved to Austin and looking for ways to reinvent herself, the chance to become Melicious, a roller derby powerhouse, seemed like the answer to her prayers. Little did she know what she — and the rest of the world — was in for.
As a sport that had come in and out of fashion since the Great Depression, roller derby was all but dead when a gang of girls from Austin, Texas got ahold of it. Through hard work, determination, and an unwavering desire to strap on a pair of skates and knock each other over, the Texas Rollergirls single-handedly launched a flat-track roller derby revolution. Currently the fastest growing women's sport in America and boasting over 160 DIY, grassroots leagues in cities across the nation (including right here in Nacogdoches!) roller derby has broken barriers, changed lives, and formed countless relationships and communities.
As one of the founding members of the Texas Rollergirls, Melicious has been there from the beginning, and in Rollergirl she spills it all — the early interleague drama, the first public bouts, the heartbreaking and bone crushing injuries, and the "by the skaters, for the skaters" ethos that has sustained roller derby through thick and thin. A memoir, a history book, a how-to manual, and all told in an intimate, conspiratorial tone, Rollergirl is an epic ode to a sport that's so much more than just a game. You don't have to love derby to get a kick out of Rollergirl, but I dare you to remain indifferent once you finish. In fact, you might just find yourself compelled to don a pair of fishnets and seek out a slice of glory on your own eight wheels.
And somewhere, anywhere, there's a roller derby league waiting with open arms to take you in — and knock you down.
A coming-on-age novel in the tradition of Judy Blume, littered with the kinds of blunders Margaret would never make and set to the soundtrack of a BadA coming-on-age novel in the tradition of Judy Blume, littered with the kinds of blunders Margaret would never make and set to the soundtrack of a Bad Brains album — that's the kind of life Polly Clark, our eponymous heroine, drags us through. In band T-shirts and Doc Martens, Polly stomps her way through eight chapters, each aptly named for the boy currently shaping her life. Surrounded by an overbearing stepfather, mourning the loss of an absent father to an alcoholic haze, and usually locked in her room with her radio turned up too loud, it's no wonder that Polly defines herself by her relationships with the opposite sex. Her determination to survive in the world of lust, loss and love would be almost admirable, if not for the fact that the bulk of her relationships end badly. Age and maturity don't seem to help much – the older Polly gets, the worse things become. This, however, is not enough to deter her from her quest, even as it becomes increasingly clear that Polly has no idea what it is she's looking for.
Insecure, optimistic, and hopelessly eighties, the only other love in Polly's life is music. With references to cultural icons such as Bad Brains, Iron Maiden, and the Beastie Boys, Bryant captures the late 80's Washington D.C. hardcore punk scene with surprising honesty, and the reader can't help but suspect that the writer and her character have a lot in common. And that's precisely Polly's charm — reading her story is like flipping through the pages of the journal you kept when you were sixteen. You cringe, you consider burning it, but in the end you simply own it. Like that journal, tucked away in the dusty corner of your parents' attic, Polly pulses with the same, unavoidable truths — that growing up means messing up, and learning from your mistakes is overrated.
If you've ever Googled an ex's name, read a romantic rival's blog, or counted carpal tunnel syndrome as one the downsides of your relationship, then yIf you've ever Googled an ex's name, read a romantic rival's blog, or counted carpal tunnel syndrome as one the downsides of your relationship, then you have been a victim of modern love. Read this book, and recognize that you are not alone.
Modern Love is a fitting monument to relationships in the new millennium. Fifty succinct tales, quick reads that require minimal commitment but with the potential to provide maximum satisfaction, this collection contains essays culled from the pages of the New York Times column by the same name. Following the course of a relationship from first glance to last kiss and everything in between, Modern Love seeks to capture the ancient mysteries of the heart, but with a contemporary twist.
Online dating. Text message break-ups. Polyamorous trapeze acts. Raising a family in the digital age. The contributors of Modern Love don't hold anything back, as if the only thing that could redeem and honor their romantic follies is a thorough examination. Every story is not a winner and some tales are simply hit or miss, but all of them are short enough that rushing through a dud is painless enough. If only the same could be said for bad boyfriends — but then again, the worst breakups often make the best stories, and love in this modern age is no exception.
If this review seems less an objective analysis and more a gushy love letter, you'll have to forgive me. Having long been a fan of Dave Eggers, and haIf this review seems less an objective analysis and more a gushy love letter, you'll have to forgive me. Having long been a fan of Dave Eggers, and having spent years alternately worshipping and worrying about his writing, I can finally rest easy. With the publication of What is the What, I am finally convinced that Eggers has outgrown his easy fame, cast aside his hapless quest to be the hipster's darling, and left us, his loyal readers, with a novel that is at once painful, honest and magical.
For a writer who built his following around the self-indulgent and aptly named A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (and you couldn't deny that it was!) Eggers' latest effort is a wholly different experience. What is the What is the memoir of Valentino Achak Deng, as told to Dave Eggers, and which Eggers writes convincingly in Deng's voice. Valentino Achak Deng is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, one of nearly 4,000 children orphaned in the Second Sudanese Civil War and relocated to the United States. Valentino's journey, however, is not a simple one. Rather, it is a devastating march through the war torn landscape of Sudan with hundreds of boys just like him, all of them starving, dying, lost, and woefully susceptible to disease, despair, and the desire of wild animals. Valentino tells his tale in careful English, and it's his halting speech, his matter-of-fact choice of words and phrases, that makes his story so poignant. Stripped of Eggers' usual artifice and ego, Valentino's story becomes simple and raw, the kind of novel that makes you go to bed uneasy and wake up hours later, still unsettled.
For both the subject and the writer, this is a novel that has been a long time coming. Valentino and Eggers should be proud and we, as readers, should be grateful.
In November of 2004, Frank Warren printed 3,000 self-addressed postcards inviting people to anonymously send to him a personal secret. He handed the cIn November of 2004, Frank Warren printed 3,000 self-addressed postcards inviting people to anonymously send to him a personal secret. He handed the cards to strangers, abandoned them in public places, sat back and watched as just over 100 responses trickled in. He assumed that would be the end of his little community art project, but he was very, very wrong. Since then, Warren has received over one hundred thousand postcards from around the world and with those cards, has created one of the most popular websites on the Internet, published three books of secretive offerings, and changed countless lives. From the folks finally able to release their hidden truths to the scores of others who recognize their own deepest desires drawn by another's hand, the PostSecret project has the power to inspire, enrapture and intrigue nearly everyone with the luck to stumble across it.
The Secret Lives of Men and Women is Warren's third book compiling the best revelations he has received. The fact that this book follows the same formula as his previous anthologies doesn't signify a lack of creativity, but rather proves indisputably that the PostSecret process works. Warren faithfully reproduces both the diverse artwork and the varied secrets contained on each postcard. From infidelity to insecurity, from confessions to conquered fears — the emissaries who deliver such supposed truths are nothing if not brave.
Which brings up the question — are all the secrets true? There's no way of knowing, but at a certain point it stops mattering. PostSecret transcends ideas of what's real and what's false. Warren gets asked this question a lot, and his response is that the postcards are art, and no one asks if a painting or a sculpture in a museum is fiction or nonfiction. I prefer the answer given by an anonymous person is Mississippi.
"Every single person has at least one secret that would break your heart. If we could just remember this, I think there would be a lot more compassion and tolerance in the world." Indeed. And until we can accomplish that feat of compassion on our own, we have PostSecret to help us along.
BITCHfest is a collection of essays culled from the pages of Bitch magazine since its inception ten years ago, and through its many writers one findsBITCHfest is a collection of essays culled from the pages of Bitch magazine since its inception ten years ago, and through its many writers one finds an intelligent, angry and celebratory picture of how women and the media affect and influence one another.
The first thing people notice about Bitch is its title. Hard, nasty, and entrenched in decades of negativity, the word at first seems a strange title for such a radically feminist publication. As editors Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler write in the introduction to the collection, "When [bitch] is being used as an insult, the word is most often aimed at women who speak their minds, who have opinions that contradict conventional wisdom, and who don't shy away from expressing them. If being an outspoken woman means being a bitch, we'll take that as a compliment, thanks." No matter how you feel about Bitch's choice of vernacular, what can't be denied is the chorus of opinionated, outspoken voices rising up from the pages of this compilation.
Broken up into chapters like "The F Word", "Beauty Myths and Body Projects" and "Talking Back: Activism and Pop Culture", BITCHfest leaves no stone unturned, no issue unexamined. Lesbianism, pornography, marriage, gender, race, religion, cosmetic surgery, art, fashion, fame — everything that the media encompasses, co-opts and shuns is critically examined under the tough gaze of feminist wit, wonder and wisdom. Whether they're discussing the gender bias inherent in the phrase "you guys," the media's fascination with the "mean girls" phenomenon or Hollywood's problematic representation of single mothers, BITCHfest doesn't hold back. And, if we're lucky, they won't let it rest until pop culture and the world it reflects resembles something that fully represents the history and struggle that is humankind, rather than simply "man". ...more
This is either a pretty good book or a pretty redundant book, depending on what you're looking for and where you're coming from. Personally, I know aThis is either a pretty good book or a pretty redundant book, depending on what you're looking for and where you're coming from. Personally, I know a lot about the pro-choice movement and the current threats to reproductive rights, so while it was interesting to read the history of abortion in America, it was also nothing new to me. For the person who doesn't know much about this subject and wishes to learn more, this is a very thorough and well written book. ...more
I reread this book for the first time in ten or so years because I was teaching to my undergrad students as part of a dystopian-themed class. The bookI reread this book for the first time in ten or so years because I was teaching to my undergrad students as part of a dystopian-themed class. The book was just as good as I remembered, and the best part was that while I remembered the basic plot, I'd forgotten many of the details, so it was sort of like reading it for the first time. And the students seemed to enjoy it too, though I think some of them were quite disturbed. Which, as far as literature goes (especially books like this) is a good thing. ...more
A woman running away from something! The desert! A motel filled with quirky and strange characters! Unrequited love and doomed friendship and unlikelyA woman running away from something! The desert! A motel filled with quirky and strange characters! Unrequited love and doomed friendship and unlikely families! How Far is the Ocean From Here has so many of the elements that I love most in fiction (and in life) and the things that Amy Shearn is able to do with these elements makes me hopeful for the future of fiction.
In this debut novel we are introduced to Susannah Prue, a young, unattached woman who is acting as surrogate mother for a wealthy couple. When the book opens, Susannah - mere weeks before the baby is due - decides to run away and ends up stranded in the middle of the desert, at a place called the Thunder Lodge Motel. Here, she meets people as lost and confused as herself, inadvertently changing the course of all their lives as she tries desperately to chart her own.
Shearn's prose is the best thing about this book. Poetic and interesting, she is able to take familiar words and phrases and use them in new and original ways. This is both rare and refreshing.
The second best thing about this book are the characters. While most of them are not very easy to like, they all want to be better than they are, and this is important. Susannah is trying to figure out who she is and how she can make her mark on the world, and just happens to realize too late that surrogacy is maybe not the best way to do that. Frankie, a young girl who is also staying the Lodge with her Aunt, is another character who's layered and troubled and heartbreaking and funny.
The ending of the book is a wild one, unexpected but necessary. I see that now, though while I was reading it I had to put the book down and stare into space for a few moments to collect myself. There is also an epilogue, which I was conflicted about. On one hand, I liked knowing what had happened to everyone and was particularly interested in Frankie's future. On the other hand, it tied things up too neatly, and I almost preferred the disjointed and violent place where the main story ended.
Overall, though, I enjoyed this book tremendously and am looking forward to reading whatever Amy Shearn comes up with next. ...more
In the 70's, Chris Carver was an idealistic revolutionary activist living in London. He joins up with a group of like-minded people out to change theIn the 70's, Chris Carver was an idealistic revolutionary activist living in London. He joins up with a group of like-minded people out to change the world but, as the dynamic of the group shifts and grows, they become less ideal and more violent. The results are not pretty, and Chris goes into hiding. When the book opens, it is 30 years later and Chris is now Michael Frame. But he can't hide forever and this is abruptly confirmed as the reappearance of an old friend and a violent past both come knocking uninvited on his door.
Kunzru is a good story teller, and the transformation of the characters is believable and thorough. The book jumps from present, to recent past, to 20 years ago, and it's a seamless movement. I really enjoyed the political discussions of the young revolutionaries, the reprints of their diatribes and propaganda. The belief they had in their movement was both honest and seductive, and I found myself simultaneously disgusted by their actions and wishing to join up with them.
Parts of the book seemed a bit rushed, most notably the end. For all the build up, it ties itself up too quickly, too neatly, and only touches on things I wish had been discussed more. Overall, this was a good, fast read, exciting and thought-provoking, and I recommend it. ...more
In Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky sets out to summarize, explain and - most important - put into context the rise and shape of new communities orgaIn Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky sets out to summarize, explain and - most important - put into context the rise and shape of new communities organized through the Internet, and the impact these communities have had on society. As he says in chapter one, "Group action gives human society its particular character, and anything that changes the way groups get things done will affect society as a whole... For any given organization, the important questions are "When will the change happen?" and "What will change?" The only two answers we can rule out are never, and nothing."
So how is society changing? Basically, the Interwebz makes it easier to: form groups, both online and in real life (Meetup); secretly organize political protests under the watchful eye of oppressive governments (Twitter); foster a sense of goodwill and community around the rallying cry of an informational free-for-all (Wikipedia, Linux); and keep your friends close and strangers closer (blogs, social networking, etc.). Shirky nicely opens each new chapter with a mostly jargon free and anecdotal tale featuring a Web 2.0 technology and how it provided a new solution to a perennial problem. While most of these stories were recent, occurring in the last ten years, Shirky's strength as a writer lies with being able to put events into a larger context and tie the reactions of the players and the actions of society into a bigger picture. Here Comes Everybody helps the reader step back, objectively examine the forces at work, and recognize how drastically and quickly the flow of information and the shape of organizations have changed. It's easy to take the Internet for granted, and this is Shirky's main point - only when new technologies become so common that we barely notice them do we begin to take them to new levels and make truly innovative improvements upon them.
But for the praise I've heaped upon this book, I didn't give it five stars. In fact, I almost gave it three. As surely as Shirky's strength as a writer is putting things into perspective, his weakness is over-explaining things. Five analogies and three metaphors later, I get it. I found myself skimming over some chapters because the wording was getting repetitive. At some points, the book felt more like an article that had gone on for too long. Shirky had three or four main ideas - all valid and fascinating - and he used examples from the Internet and news stories to support these ideas. Over and over. And over. Perhaps this method would be effective for someone who has never had an email address or was born prior to 1970, but as someone who has grown up with the Internet, I found it a little heavy handed.
Over-explaining aside, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone wishing to learn more about the Internet, society and organizations. At the very least, you'll have a better appreciation for all the things you already use and all the uses you've barely touched. ...more
Poppa Neutrino is a 74 year old man who has lived one of the most varied and interesting lifes ever put to paper. A drifter, artist, singer, creator oPoppa Neutrino is a 74 year old man who has lived one of the most varied and interesting lifes ever put to paper. A drifter, artist, singer, creator of football plays, friend to dogs, and most importantly - in his mind, at least - a sailor. This book focuses on Poppa's aquatic quests to sail across various oceans in nothing more than a raft made out of found wood and gathered objects. The amazing thing is, his quests are successful.
I had mixed feelings about this book. The author hung out with Poppa for quite a while and so was able to write stories about his youth and life on the road. But even though the book is about one person - Poppa Neutrino - I found much of it to be too sprawling and unfocused to really hold my attention. The narration bounces around to different time periods, discusses other attempts to sail rafts across oceans thoughout history, and then there's "part II" - a great, big digression where Poppa creates a new football play and apparently spends months trying to get various college football teams to adopt it when he should be setting sail. While I understand that this did indeed happen this way, in this order, honesty doesn't always make for the best telling of a story.
Also, the narrator/author touches on some of his own life, likening himself to Poppa at points, and they seem to have a friendship that isn't really explored or explained. I think this book would have been better if it had focused more on that relationship, or gave more information about the author through the course of telling Poppa's story. While the style of writing was strong, clear and lucid, it was a little too removed and perhaps cold to really draw me in.
Once upon a time, my boyfriend and I were going through some troubles. We decided to spent Thanksgiving apart, but reconnected and reconciled by ChrisOnce upon a time, my boyfriend and I were going through some troubles. We decided to spent Thanksgiving apart, but reconnected and reconciled by Christmas. While I was quite sure we'd work though our issues, his parents were apparently not quite as confident. That Christmas, I received three gifts from them. The first was a set of plastic cutting boards. The second, an over sized sweater that might have come from the maternity department. The third was a copy of the Book of Totally Useless Information, probably picked up at a dollar store and, for some strange reason, bestowed upon none other than me.
This book is exactly what it claims to be - a slim volume of explanations for inane things, like why the sky is blue, and whether a real Aunt Jemima ever existed, and where the phrase "posh" came from. On the one hand, I don't really care about these questions. I care even less about their answers. And yet, I found myself reading through the book, quoting snippets of my new information to my boyfriend, and actually improving my score in Jeopardy. Coincidence? Probably. But if you see this at a dollar store, it can't hurt to pick it up and give it a whirl.
A quick read, each story in this artful collection deals with the theme of women looking for love, finding love, and losing love. There's a lot of infA quick read, each story in this artful collection deals with the theme of women looking for love, finding love, and losing love. There's a lot of infidelity in this book, a lot of people hurting each other, and the reader isn't always sure who she should be rooting for. But that's kind of the point - life is very rarely made up of protagonists and antagonists. Most people fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, and Ehrhardt's characters perfectly demonstrate this uneasy truth.
Also, the stories all take place in or around New Orleans, but appear to be mostly pre-Katrina. The descriptions of the city are nuanced and familiar, making New Orleans itself a common character that pulls the stories together.
Definitely one of the best books I've read in a while, and I wildly recommend it! ...more
I read this book in daily installments via dailylit.com, and it took two weeks. Two weeks of my life that I will never get back.
While the book opensI read this book in daily installments via dailylit.com, and it took two weeks. Two weeks of my life that I will never get back.
While the book opens with a decent premise (your 9-5 job sucks away your energy and joie de vivre, and this book promises to teach you how to reclaim the other 16 hours of your day and mold it into an affirming and enriching life) it falls too quickly into a murky quagmire of inexcusable flaws. I will number them for you.
1. This book is addressed quite specifically to a Man. While I understand (begrudgingly) that some people are such slaves to writerly tradition that they dare not bend to PC sensibilities, that does not seem to be the case in this book. Women are mentioned exactly once - as a "servant" who can prepare tea for the Man when he wakes up a half an hour early to make the most of his very important life. Women don't have lives? Secret desires? An interest in getting more satisfaction out of their days? Then I guess I shouldn't have been reading this book after all.
2. According to biographical information, this book was published in 2005. So why does the author "talk" like he's stuck in the 1800's? Sorry, but I am not going to light a lantern by which to ponder Marcus Aurellius or warm my tea - excuse me, have my womanly servant warm my tea - with a match and a flame.
3. The advice in this book is only applicable if you are an upper to middle class person with the comfort to sit and think about things and the privledge of not having a damn thing to do after work but watch the television. Which is fine, but I felt like the book should have come with a disclaimer - for the bourgeois only.
4. The grand advice for living on 24 hours a day? Read a book and meditate. Seriously. I might agree with that on some level, just so long as this is not the book you read.
PS: A choice line from the book: "Plain persons like you and me (who hate airs, pose and nonsense)..." ORLY? In that case, this author hates himself and I would be wary of any advice he offers. ...more