This book left me feeling physically ill. These people are terrifying and their beliefs are ridiculous and destructive and downright toxic.
I do undersThis book left me feeling physically ill. These people are terrifying and their beliefs are ridiculous and destructive and downright toxic.
I do understand that not all Christians believe these awful things. Hell, I know that not even all conservative Christians believe this shit. And there are certainly similarities between what these people believe and, say, extremists that are members of my own religion, Islam.
But Jesus shit, this book ... again, it's been a long time since a book made me physically ill. Ugh. ...more
I sincerely respect this author's credentials and achievements. But he is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is, and this book is not nearly as rewaI sincerely respect this author's credentials and achievements. But he is not nearly as clever as he thinks he is, and this book is not nearly as rewarding or engaging as I had hoped it would be. ...more
This is basically for those folks who have been raised by wolves in a dark cave and thus are unfamiliar with the basic, most obvious and most intuitivThis is basically for those folks who have been raised by wolves in a dark cave and thus are unfamiliar with the basic, most obvious and most intuitive of human expressions and gestures....more
The Importance of Being Wicked is the debut novel in Miranda Neville's new series about some rather badly behaved women. Caroline Townshend is a notorThe Importance of Being Wicked is the debut novel in Miranda Neville's new series about some rather badly behaved women. Caroline Townshend is a notorious widow, whose elopement at the age of 17 with a member of the ton caused quite a scandal. Her husband passed on about six years later, leaving her shackled with his gambling debts and a valuable Titian that she has hidden from her creditors and friends and refuses to sell. Caro is playing chaperone to her lovely cousin, Anne, and receives her suitor, His Grace Thomas Something or Other, Duke of Somewhere, one of the royal dukes. Angst ensues as Caro and Thomas find themselves attracted to one another.
This story, with its set of male friends (the rag tag group of wild young men led by Caro's late husband, Robert Townshend) is reminiscent of Elizabeth Hoyt's Spinners' Falls series, with the four soldiers searching for answers about a friend's supposed death and the betrayal of a British regiment in the colonies.
However, the similarities (a group of unlikely young men held together by strange bonds of friendship and duty) end there. Whereas Hoyt's series and individual books were well written with tight narrative structure, well crafted dialogue, and well thought out and well planned characters that remained solid and consistent in their sense of selves, Neville's story feels like two jagged halves of a puzzle that just won't come together.
I really do hate writing bad reviews, especially when I have basically been gifted with the book. I always feel like I'm unfairly attacking the author, even if I keep my criticisms strictly confined to the text itself. A writer works hard on his or her manuscript, and there's so much effort and heart that goes into each book, and I feel kind of dejected when I'm not able to provide positive feedback on such extraordinary effort. Still, I loathe giving dishonest reviews more, so I shall forge on and explain all the reasons that this book merits 1 star in my opinion.
To be fair, this is the second Miranda Neville book I have read, and it is MUCH better than the first book I stumbled upon. It's clear that not only has her writing style improved, but her knack for writing love scenes has as well. In addition to that, her sense of plot development and characterization, even dialogue, has improved between these two texts. I can't remember the name of the first text, but the main character was jokingly named "Owlverly" for Iverly, and Neville had basically smashed the plots of about four or five different books into one, which compounded my frustration and exasperation with the book. In that sense, it's clear that she has improved quite a bit as a writer, and that's wonderful.
But this story just doesn't work.
For one thing, the pacing seemed weird. By page 40, the characters are just dying to get each other in bed, which never makes sense to me. They've only just met, and I don't 'buy' it. That was where most of my problems with this story came from, actually: I just didn't 'buy' the attraction. I didn't feel it was explained - or shown! - well enough just WHY these characters were attracted to each other, why they were so passionately moved by each other.
Don't get me wrong, I understood the characters. I even liked them both well enough, I suppose. But I absolutely did not understand them together - the couple unit just did not make sense to me no matter how hard I tried to fill in the blanks on my own. There was no moment when I realized, oh, they truly care for each other, or, they are really strongly drawn to each other because of _____.
It doesn't help any sense of cohesion in their relationships/personalities that these characters have occasionally bizarre personality quirks. Thomas is described as stuffy and proper. That's fine, but when a grown man of 29 questions whether it's 'proper' to have sex before noon, or if it's 'proper' to touch a woman's pubic region, he ceases being stuffy and proper and respectable and instead looks like an idiot. A hopelessly immature idiot.
As for Caroline, she can be a brat. I found her character charming enough in the beginning, given to spurts of fancy and whimsy that I felt suited her, the way Neville had set her up. But before long, it began to wear thin. Her rapidly shifting moods just seemed to indicate some kind of personality disorder rather than a charming exuberance. She's described as flighty, and I'm sure Neville hopes to make this a compliment, but given her antics throughout the book, the negative connotation of the word is far more apt. One scene in particular struck me as ridiculous: Thomas and Caro have been married for two weeks (and have been making the most of their honeymoon and growing much closer) and then when he criticizes her friends, she declares, "Thomas, you despise me."
I had to put the book down and roll my eyes for about five minutes over that one. It was just another indication that the character had been poorly planned. Caro does not seem to grow steadily throughout the story. There are no small moments that can be traced together, referred to as 'baby steps' until the moment of self-revelation toward the end of the book where she realizes she is deeply loved for who she is and manages to step out of the insecurities she's cloaked herself in for years. This is also part of what I meant when I said the pacing was weird. There didn't seem to be any steady (even if negligible, changes made bit by almost imperceptible bit!) character development for either of these two.
And that problem was compounded by the fact that I really didn't understand why they loved each other. That's the author's biggest job in a romance novel: to really sell you on the fact that these two people care for each other as the story progresses. I never got that feeling. Oh, I understood that they desperately wanted to fall into bed. But that was it.
Aside from Thomas being immaturely 'proper' at times and Caro being a brat, I just didn't feel the proper connection to the characters. I said earlier that I liked them well enough, but I didn't get why I was supposed to find either one attractive. With Caro, it seemed to be mostly about her looks and a bit about her personality - after all, there *is* something attractive about a woman who loves fun and spontaneity. That, I understood. But with Thomas, the emphasis was basically on his noble, proper character, and the fact that he was big. Just as there's often a spark in real life when two people meet and sense an attraction, there is a spark that exists between reader and characters in novels, that makes the reader root for those characters and almost wish them to be real. I never once felt that.
And for that matter, all of these problems mentioned so far explain in large part why I never really rooted for either character. I liked them well enough but I didn't particularly care if they ever got together and made it to their Happily Ever After or not. I was about a third of the way into the book when I realized that I felt it had become a chore to finish it, and slogged through the rest reluctantly because that connection - to the story, to the characters - just wasn't there. I honestly didn't care if Thomas and Caro struck a happy marriage or not.
I will say that I loved the supporting cast, for the most part, and that's what makes me want to read the rest of the books in this series (I think), even though I was less than impressed with this one. I enjoyed Anne, who seemed delightful (when she wasn't roped into boring conversations with Thomas). I loved the Duke of Denford and his flirtation with his estranged friend's wife, Cynthia. I'd love to read more about him.
But even with the supporting cast, there were problems. I understood from the beginning that Caro loved her husband's friends and despite her finances wanted to keep an open house. There's something admirable in that. Granted, there's a big difference between being a hospitable host when people come to visit you, and intentionally going beyond your means to keep the wine flowing, but I've already poked at this book enough and won't go into that. Let's just say that I thought it was nice that she wanted to create a warm, safe place for her less privileged friends to meet and relax.
But there were issues with how that was developed. For one thing, Denford was written as an unusual character. Neville implores us to believe that he and Caro are dear friends, that they're not attracted to each other, that Julian wouldn't purposely hurt Caro. But his dogged pursuit of the supposedly lost Titian DOES jeopardize Caro's well being in several ways. I didn't like how that angle was played at all: to my mind, it destroyed any inkling of true regard between the two because I couldn't quite believe that a real friend would have done or said the things Julian did.
And Oliver was another matter - and much more infuriating. He is supposedly Caro's best friend, but he mooches off of her, doesn't pay her back on the debts he owes, doesn't even pay rent, and constantly blabs her secrets around town - including that she still has the Titian, which is what makes Horner come after her in the first place, and results in Caro almost having to become his mistress. Furthermore, when she becomes engaged, instead of being happy for her despite what it might mean for him, Oliver engages in underhanded pranks just because he's afraid that he won't have a place to live anymore, and it makes him seem really, hopelessly immature. (Granted, the prank wasn't that big a deal, but one got the sense that Oliver hoped it would cause some trouble between Caro and Thomas.)
These are Caro's friends, and none of them seem properly happy that she's found someone who treats her well, who she thinks highly of in return.
In addition to these development problems, there were issues with the writing. The dialogue was thoroughly unexceptional, and there were entire passages where the sentences felt flat and ... boring. At times I wondered if I was reading "See Spot Run" instead, it was that bad. (I'm specifically thinking of the scene at the masquerade ball where Thomas gets into a fight - it should have been a very moving, action-packed, exhilarating scene, but the sentences felt so flat and uninspired that I stifled a yawn as I read through it.)
There were so many problems with this book, the way I saw it, that it became an actual chore to finish. I feel horrible giving a bad review, but I'm certainly not going to lie and say that I enjoyed this book when I didn't. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
...But at the same time, I'd be interested in tuning in again, especially for Julian's story as the new Duke of Denford. Neville's writing seemed especially lively and warm when Julian was in a scene, so I got the sense that she really liked this character and was happy to write for him, and that enthusiasm translates well onto a page even if the rest of the formal aspects of writing aren't that impressive. (See my review of Maya Rodale's Seducing Mister Knightly, which I enjoyed quite a lot even though it wasn't the most polished novel I've ever read.)
I have mixed views of Neville, and I hope one day to like her work, but as far as this book goes, I didn't enjoy it and I wouldn't mention it as a recommendation to another romance-reader. ...more
I have been a fan of Jonathan Kozol and his work since I read Savage Inequalities in college, and I was thrilled to be able to review an ARC of his neI have been a fan of Jonathan Kozol and his work since I read Savage Inequalities in college, and I was thrilled to be able to review an ARC of his newest book, exploring the intersection of race, poverty, and childhood in the South Bronx, illustrated by children and families near and dear to Kozol's heart.
The book, which is a compilation of about a dozen stories, each one focusing on a different child or family, but framed under the general narrative of the effect of poverty and racism on education, is typical of Kozol's style. His writing is clear and at times stark, free of flowery prose, incisive, and utterly effective.
The journey starts out at the Martinique Hotel, a hotel in Midtown that used to house many homeless families before it was shut down in the eighties or nineties as a blight on the affluent City Proper. The early passages reminded me of a story I read in sixth grade that piqued my interest in child poverty in America: Monkey Island by Paula Fox, which made a tremendous impression on me as a child in a small, private school in the Chicago suburbs where I received quite a good education. At the time, I simply couldn't believe that children like Clay Garrity - fictional character that he was - existed in America.
But there are many Clay Garritys in America, and Kozol introduces us to some that he knows quite well. Some of them have prevailed over the incredible odds stacked against them, and some some have not.
Kozol doesn't mince words when he writes about the Martinique. Plagued by drug addicts, criminal activity, vermin, rape, violent and cruel management, and according to one occupant, tension so thick you could cut it with a knife, the Martinique is hell on earth.
He writes of several similar tenements in the city, each with the same problems, used to house the most vulnerable among us, the ones in need of the most care, including many, many children. I cannot adequately describe the horrors there on my own, so I'll simply provide Kozol's words:
I would later spend considerable time in a number of his buildings because so many of the children I was meeting in the Bronx were Mr. Schuster's tenants. There was one building in that complex that I got to know particularly well because I went there several times to interview the family of a child named Bernardo after he'd been killed by falling from an upper floor through an empty elevator shaft. The elevator door wasn't working properly and would open unpredictably even when there was no elevator there. The tenants had complained about the danger many times; but the company refused to make repairs. Bernardo's body landed on the steel roof of the elevator unit, which had stopped four floors beneat his own. He was not found until his blood began to drip on passengers.
Mr. Schuster managed to clean up his image at a later time by making contributions to important Democratic politicians, some of them strong advocates for the very people he had treated with contempt and whose lives he had imperiled - Hillary Clinton, Richard Gephardt, and John Kerry, among others - or by giving parties to raise funds on their behalf, which won him a degree of prominence in Boston's social pages.
Many of the families that Kozol writes about lived at the Martinique for several years before being given an apartment - which they had to accept no matter what the living conditions there were like - and moving out. The years at the Martinique affected these children tremendously, and early on Kozol notes a pattern when he explains that in two different families that had stayed at the Martinique, the older children had developed such harmful destructive tendencies that they had died very young, while the younger, more resilient (and at the time, more oblivious) siblings managed to pull through and survive.
I won't ruin the narratives by attempting to give a succinct account of them in this review; I would do the stories of those families no justice that way. You simply must read the book itself, and be introduced to the families that way rather than through a casual review.
And Kozol truly does introduce us to some spectacular characters, whose determination, ferocity, and even cheerfulness cause them to leap right off the page. Keep in mind that these characters are Black or Hispanic, with a couple exceptions. The reverend at Saint Anne's, for example, is a white woman named Martha who does her community in the South Bronx an incredible service, and seems to be Kozol's partner, a similar driving force, in this narrative.
But the other characters are overwhelmingly minorities, and the race relations that sulk between the lines of Kozol's text should surprise no one. One woman we meet is Ariella, a mother of two young boys who is determined to give them the best she can, and she knows the key to a better life is a good education.
Kozol writes of her activism efforts,
Projects of this nature, and efforts to reach out to influential and supportive sectors in the mainstream of society, have come to be her dedication. She speaks from time to time at universities and colleges. "I spoke at New York University," she told me recently. "The students wanted to find out how anybody could survive on $16,000 in New York, even twenty years ago!" -- which she said "was not the subject I had planned to speak about."
She holds her own effectively with people in the world of academia. "I don't need a Ph.D. to talk about the things I know. I'm not intimidated by professors when they question me. I can handle their linguistics and gymnastics." When they ask her "how to stop the violence" but, she says, "don't want to hear about the way they put our kids in neighborhoods that are most violent already - you know, 'put them in the fire, then tell them to stop burning' - I don't let them throw that at me. I know what an oxymoron is. I'm not afraid to answer.
That passage made me love Ariella even more. This was a woman who became homeless with her two sons because she refused to stay with an alcoholic husband who beat her. Due to cancer, I believe, she couldn't work and had to apply for welfare when she left her husband. She fought tooth and nail to secure the best for her sons through education, and to help her community, and I loved and envied her strength and her clarity of purpose.
But that passage about her standing up to professors who found it so easy to condescend to her about her experiences - I loved that most of all. That made me want to stand up and cheer. The image of a white professor trying to speak FOR people of color, or for those less advantaged, at the expense of their experiences, to interject with his own and erase their struggles and their experiences, is one I'm quite familiar with, and one that still makes me angry. I was so proud of Ariella for being unwilling to put up with that White Nonsense (TM). (White Nonsense refers to white people using ideas and notions of white supremacy to demonize or erase People of Color, or to erase or diminish their experiences and struggles. It's evil and pervasive and damaging to us all.)
Alice, another strong woman we meet in this book, doesn't let Kozol off the hook with his White Nonsense, either.
She was a politically sophisticated woman. When she came upon a story in one of the papers that offended her intelligence, she would cut it out and write her often pungent comments in the margins. Understatements and omissions in the daily press in stories on the homeless and places like the Martinique stirred up her indignation. The organized abuse of women in the building, she believed, would have made front page headlines in the press if those who were the victims were not overwhelmingly [B]lack and Latino. When I was initially reluctant to agree with her, she grew impatient and she said, "Come on! You know they wouldn't tolerate disgusting things like this for women like your mother or your sister!"
It seems pertinent to mention here, for those who are unfamiliar with the man, that Kozol is Jewish, and a white man. (I do not use the word Caucasian, which is built on notions of Aryan superiority. I say 'white' people.)
I couldn't agree more with Alice's remarks. Not only am I glad she 'grew impatient' and said those things to Kozol, but I'm also glad that he chose to recount those words in his book. That woman is absolutely right. Systemic, organized rape-for-protection of white women would NOT be tolerated, but is ignored and excused (by men who think like Kozol seems to have thought, that the race distinction just isn't there) when it happens to women of color. Because Black/Brown life is cheap, in a way that White life isn't.
I know too well the meaning of those words - men, women and children from the country of my parents' births are dying daily in drone strikes. 90% of the victims of drone strikes in Pakistan are innocent civilians, per the Brookings Institute. White life is precious, Black/Brown life is cheap. This is a reality we face every day, but one that too many white people (seemingly, Kozol at one point included) ignore or try to ignore.
When Alice would chide Kozol for his impatience with his mother's impatience with his near-senile father, she would remind him that his mother was elderly and they didn't have much time together, and he'd hate himself every time he remembered something unkind he said to her. Kozol writes,
Friends can give advice like this, intending well but doing harm. Sometimes they don't realize that the kinds of words they use, and the tone that they assume, can be crippling to you; sometimes perhaps they do. Alice was different in this sense. She understood a lot about fragility in people that she cared for. Even when she grew impatient with mistakes she thought her friends were making, she never showed the slightest wish to demonstrate her competence at the cost of someone else's self-respect. This was one of the qualities in Alice for which, in time, I came to be the most grateful.
Alice had quite a sense of humor, too. When commenting on a club employee's strike because they suddenly weren't being paid extra, like they used to, for cleaning the blood/vomit/excrement of party-goers at the Harvard Club on 44th in Manhattan, she said,
"If people who went to Harvard can't control themselves and drink too much," she said, "I think they ought to be grown up enough to clean up their own vomit."
She often spoke as if she was convinced that a persistent self-indulgent immaturity was one of the entitlements of privilege. She noted, for example, when erotic misbehavior by the very rich was granted absolution by the press that would not be given to the men and women in her neighborhood.
"Another millionaire who didn't bother to get married had another baby," she reported to me once in speaking of a well-known real estate tycoon. "I notice that they never say rich children are born 'out of wedlock.' They never say these babies are 'one parent children.' If you're rich, you don't get judged the way poor people do."
In more ways than one. I'm reminded of a political cartoon I see make the rounds every now and then - the gist being that if you're poor and found with drugs, you go to jail; if you're rich and found with drugs, you go to rehab.
Another story from Alice struck me as especially poignant:
Once, on a steamy Sunday afternoon, she showed me a story in the New York Times that said the heat had been especially uncomfortable for the carriage horses, which are popular with tourists in the midtown area. "It wasn't much of a week to be a horse . . .," the paper said. "People, at least, have air-conditioning and friends with pools."
Her reaction to the glibness of this sentence was less bitter than resigned. "I guess that puts me with the horses," she said quietly."
I found this book problematic because in several places - like where he disagreed with Alice about rape being more easily tolerated when WOC were victimized - Kozol showed his own naivete and the unique ignorance that comes with being a white person in regards to race relations (and I'm sure we can agree that when it comes to racial relations, Kozol is no slouch - that's why it's important to highlight that even if a white person really educates himself/herself in these matters, he or she will make mistakes).
He speaks to a young Latina about Barack Obama being president, and probes about us edging closer to a post racial world because of him. Most of my fellow POC, that I know, would laugh themselves hoarse upon hearing this post racial White Nonsense.
"Now we have a president-" but she cut me off- "who," she said, knowing right away where I must be heading, "happens to be [B]lack."
"Doesn't that mean something might be going on?" Something in that "attitude of white superiority [that must be attacked]" she had just described?
"Not really," she replied.
"You don't think it means we're getting closer to a point where we can start to find solutions to at least a couple of the problems you described?" [Huma here: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.]
"Nope," she said. "Because that's not the reason we elected him. And if he did the things he should, a lot of people who elected him, from what I understand, wouldn't be behind him anymore. A lot of people aren't behind him even now, and he hasn't done a thing that I can see that will make a difference to poor children and the schools we have to go to and the places where they almost always put us, you know, in the neighborhoods, not just in New York . . ."
Once she got her teeth into a big and meaty chunk of obvious injustice she'd experienced first hand, Pineapple clearly wasn't going to hold back. "President Obama didn't have to go to inner-city schools. You know? Where everyone is poor? And everyone's Hispanic or everybody's [B]lack? Why does he think it's good enough for other kids, like children in the Bronx?"
This girl gets it. I'm glad she explained it to Kozol. "Post raciality" is a concept White (TM) people love. I use "White (TM)" to mean those people, who happen to be white, who diminish the effects of racism and/or think it is something that can be solved as if it were a simple problem, and not a pervasive social, political, cultural force that has persisted, violently, over centuries. White (TM) people love 'post racial' shit. They're the ones that say things like, "I see no color, we're all the human race!" That statement, of course, does nothing but diminish/erase the harmful effects of racism that POC suffer *daily.* It is not a helpful statement. No POC wants to hear that White Nonsense (TM). (Again, this does not refer to ALL white people. This refers to the douchebags who actually think this way.)
I loved that Kozol chose to write about these little anecdotes in which POC schooled him, however gently, on the vast differences between the reality of a white man and a POC. (Person of Color, if you haven't picked up on the lingo yet.)
Kozol's stories about these children and families he cares for deeply end with the story of his godson, a story I particularly recommend to readers. He saves it for the end, he says, because it's the hardest to write.
Toward the end of the book, Kozol draws us out of the small world he created for us in the South Bronx, and forces us to confront the larger picture, especially in terms of our rhetoric.
THe word "accountability" is very much in fashion now. Children in the inner cities, we are told, must be "held accountable" for their success or failure. But none of these children can be held accountable for choosing where they had been born or where they led their childhood. Nor can they be blamed for the historic failings of their schools. Nor, of course, are any of these children responsible in any way at all for the massive unemployment, and the flight of businesses and industries, that have put so many young men on corners of the streets with no useful purposes within their daily lives. ("Visitors," Martha told me at the time of the recession in 2001, "are asking if the economic crisis has taken a high toll on people in our parish. I tell them that we've always been in a depression in Mott Haven, so it's hard to see a difference.")
This, of course, would be an excellent launch into a discussion of the GOP platform of seeking to ban abortion, even in the case of rape (per the 2012 platform), and then seeking to privatize (gut) Medicare and Social Security and all sorts of other programs for the poor. It would be quite pertinent to point out that the GOP doesn't give a shit about children unless they're unborn, in which case the GOP will fight to the death for those children to be born ... while Mitt Romney quietly makes a profit off aborted fetuses through Bain Capital. (Look up the Stericycle deal.)
But I'm not going to go into that. (Any more than I already did.)
The epilogue strikes the perfect note of weariness and optimism and, above all else, persistence and resilience.
Kozol is talking to Pineapple (a pseudonym for one of the girls in his book) about his work.
I explained that I was simply having trouble finishing my book. I said I wasn't sure how much had changed back in the neighborhood where she and I had met, but I told her I kept going back and forth on this, because I didn't want to end up on a dreary note.
"Jonathan," she said, "I want you to think positive. Lara and I are going to go back and help to change things once we both have our degrees. You know? Make little changes that we can? If lots of people do that, then the changes won't be little anymore."
I said, "I'm going to steal those words."
"Do it!" she said." And she asked if I remembered something that I told her once when we were walking by the water near her parents' home. "You know? Picking battles that we have a chance to win? And not getting frozen up and flustered in your mind by things that are too big for you and me to change, not at least for now. Which isn't any use to anyone at all."
I said, "I think I'll steal those words as well."
"Do it!" she said a second time. "You're the one who said that to me anyway. I'll give it back to you for free."
A riveting, compelling story, clearly written and effectively told. Don't ever expect anything less from Jonathan Kozol.
Note: Kozol mentions a discretionary fund, comprised of donations from readers, that he uses to help the children in this book and many others with things they need. Sometimes this is for health insurance when a child develops a serious illness and needs to wait a semester before going back on a college's health plan. Sometimes it's for food. Sometimes it's for clothes that actually fit. If you'd like to learn more about the fund or help sustain it, contact the Education Action Fund, 16 Lowell Street, Cambridge MA 02138, or email EdActInc@gmail.com....more
It should be noted that the author was convicted of plagiarizing this book from a Saudi woman, per the Wikipedia page on the subject. He is also beingIt should be noted that the author was convicted of plagiarizing this book from a Saudi woman, per the Wikipedia page on the subject. He is also being sued for plagiarism by another author. His argument is that plagiarism among religious scholars is okay.
That being said, this book is helpful and also problematic.
The author claims it's written for all audiences, regardless of faith. I disagree. The book is still quite esoteric despite the fact that the author does occasionally incorporate the sayings of Kant and Lincoln and Carnegie. It's still very much a book for Muslims, and does to some extent require a particular knowledge of Islamic culture. (Yes, Islamic culture is a problematic term as there is no such thing as Islamic culture, but I'm hoping people generally understand what i mean when I say that.)
This book is odd in its dealings with race relations. You'll see weird things like how Black and Chinese people don't succumb to heart diseases because they lead happy, tranquil lives. What? Way to generalize. And way to erase the experiences of Black/Chinese folks who DO struggle with depression.
Also, this is not a politically correct or medically informed book. If you're looking for any mention of how depression is caused by a hormone imbalance, for example, you won't find it here. Depression and sadness are used interchangeably, and that's incorrect. Depression doesn't ALWAYS include sadness. You can be sad without being depressed, and you can be depressed without necessarily being sad.
Also, this book is CRAZY REPETITIVE. Certain things are repeated OVER AND OVER AND OVER in only slightly different words. That makes the whole book feel very disorganized adn chaotic and juvenile.
That being said, I did learn some valuable lessons from this, and I did come across some inspiring stories. So all in all, I'm glad I read it. ...more
Nina Planck advocates traditional eating: meaning, lots of (organic) fruits and vegetables, whole grains, yogurt, raw milk, plenty of meat, eggs, buttNina Planck advocates traditional eating: meaning, lots of (organic) fruits and vegetables, whole grains, yogurt, raw milk, plenty of meat, eggs, butter, lard, raw honey, and dark chocolate. Real food.
(This works just fine for me. I've never been one to shy away from red meat or egg yolks. There was a time when I was afraid of raw milk, but it turned out to be the only kind of milk that my body could tolerate after pasteurized milks, whether whole/fractional/almond/rice/soy/etc, started making me ill.)...more
Some of the stories in this book are better than others, but the book itself is a must-read simply because of the picture it presents. Everyone has anSome of the stories in this book are better than others, but the book itself is a must-read simply because of the picture it presents. Everyone has an image of Muslim women. Especially those who don't know one personally.
In reading this book, you'll see a whole world of feeling and passion and angst that's never part of the discussion of Muslim women, and for that reason, this book goes a long way in fighting misconceptions about women like us.
I want to do a full, meaningful, carefully written review, but I just can't. So much of the stuff in this book hits too close to home. If you're inclined, you can read my many posts on the subject here at my book blog. I discuss specific stories, certain quotes, general ideas, and even personal thoughts and experiences.
I'm so glad a book like this was written. (And screw the haters who will only talk about how the women in this book are all hell-bound for daring not to adhere to that particular critic's narrowly tailored view of what Islam is and what it demands.)...more
A very well researched biography of Jane Austen's life, family, and work, presented in the form of a series of questions/topics. I feel like I know alA very well researched biography of Jane Austen's life, family, and work, presented in the form of a series of questions/topics. I feel like I know all of the main characters in her life as well now as I do the main characters in most of her novels. The author does a great job presenting an awful lot of information about Jane Austen, without the book feeling too weighty or cumbersome. Still, it's not written to be all that engaging, and at times I had to force myself to keep going, as opposed to being pulled along by the book itself....more
This book deserves a 3.5, but I bumped it to a 4 to be nice.
Hotel Kerobokan is a bizarre jail in Bali, Indonesia, home to petty thieves and serial kiThis book deserves a 3.5, but I bumped it to a 4 to be nice.
Hotel Kerobokan is a bizarre jail in Bali, Indonesia, home to petty thieves and serial killers alike, and rife with drug use, sexual misconduct (and consensual sexual conduct - just to clear that up), corruption among the prison guards, disease, and host to absolutely inhumane conditions that no person, no matter what his crime, should be forced to endure.
The salient theme in this book was corruption. The idea pervaded the book like it does Hotel K, and is impossible to escape from. The author highlighted and traced it well, often returning to the facts that prison guards often did drugs with the prisoners, often confiscated drugs from the prisoners and then punished the prisoners for having those drugs only to do the drugs themselves later, and that members of the judiciary are routinely bribed to reduce or commute sentences, and that basically anything can be done if you throw some money at the prison guards, prison officials, judges, and prosecutors (many of whom actually end up in Hotel K for accepting bribes and being part of the drug ring!).
This theme was ... oddly familiar to me. My parents are from a third world country and will tell me stories of similar things that they heard of (and in some cases saw) going on back home, and Indonesia seemed quite the same, with its corrupt police force, politicians, and judges, and institutionalized racism and hypocrisy.
All in all, a fairly depressing book, but cleverly told, focusing on engaging characters. ...more
This deserved a 3.5, but I bumped it up to 4 because (1) GoodReads doesn't do half ratings and (2) I was biased about the subject matter.
This book fiThis deserved a 3.5, but I bumped it up to 4 because (1) GoodReads doesn't do half ratings and (2) I was biased about the subject matter.
This book fits all sorts of categories, as my shelf selection indicates. It's a nonfiction book about a ton of fictional stories. It's a memoir that includes a biography of its subject. It's about a writer as much as it is about writing.
The tone of this sentimental memoir is genial and familiar, gentle and confiding. The author shares a lot of his personal life, as well as incredibly intimate lessons about love, friendship, community, and life.
Some of the reviews accuse Deresiewicz of peddling "brain-nuking platitudes." I can completely understand this allegation, but I think it misses the point.
This is not a piece of heavy-hitting literary criticism. It wasn't written for people like me, who have been lifelong critical readers, who majored in English Literature, spent years immersed in novels and poetry and critical theory and literary criticism, writing papers upon papers and finally pushing out a magnum opus, a frightening thesis that was the sum of all we'd learned, in one way or another.
This is not a book for us hard-core lit!nerds. If you're reading it and expecting something heavy and cutting and incisive, something that strips the meat off the bones, you will be disappointed. You will see 'brain nuking platitudes.' You will not find anything in this book about Austen that you have not either read about from other literary critics, considered yourself during your own Austen readings, or argued on your own in one of your papers.
This is a book written for those who read Jane Austen novels for the plot. Or, if that seems insulting, it's for those who read Jane Austen novels and don't go much farther than identifying basic themes. This book and its author invite those people to delve deeper into Austen and learn from what she has to teach us - to even learn that she has things to teach us at all. I'm not trying to be insulting about this: this is clearly the author's aim. He wants Jane Austen to be known beyond a simple, romantic author, or a prudish author, or a bore, or naive or outdated, or whatever one's particular prejudice toward her might be.
And to that end, Deresiewicz does a great job. He makes Austen accessible for those that thought one reading of a given Austen novel was enough. He goes beyond themes into character study and beyond that,e ven, applying those lessons to our daily lives - and HIS life. It's a noble aim, trying to make Austen more accessible and more readable and more *alive,* and I appreciate that he does it and I appreciate this book for what it seeks to accomplish.
It is earnest. It is self-deprecating. It is hopeful. Just like Jane Austen.
And it's a good read for us self-proclaimed lit!nerds, those of us who have read most, if not all of her novels several times (I am not among those - I confess that I never touched Persuasion because it looked boring, and only read Mansfield Park and Northanger Abbey once because I was prejudiced against them since they were named for places, which is an odd quirk of mine, although I did adore Watership Down and other place-name books). It's a good read for those of us that read literary criticism (of Austen's works, of anyone's works) for fun. It's great for those of us lit!nerds who already knew most, if not all of these things about Austen's books, had already delved into these themes and teachings and character studies in one way or another.
It's a good read for us lit!nerds because it helps us pull back from the trees and look at the forest. We can never know all there is to know about Austen's books, no matter how well read we are. It's entirely possible that some of the insights Deresiewicz lays out for lay-readers may be novel to us, or at the very least, uniquely phrased enough to provoke reexamination.
My love of Jane Austen bloomed the moment I read Pride & Prejudice. After I had left off re-reading her works for a while, it dimmed. I forgot how much I liked her, how much I had learned from her. And this book awakened that in me all over again, to the point that I'm now thirsting for time to pick up my Austen novels again and read them as if with new eyes, even though I am familiar with the characters and their stories.
And that's what I've always said as the mark of a truly good book: that you found something new with every reading. That was what Deresiewicz did for me with this book: he reminded me that there is always something new to be found in every re-reading of a Jane Austen novel.
I posted excerpts and quotes and other things from and about this book here at my book blog. If you're on the fence, maybe reading through some excerpts will help you figure out if this book is something you'd be interested in. Some of the longer posts get quite personal, as I'm currently dealing with marriage proposals of my own right now, and, like Austen, and like her characters, am forced to reject them, for the right reasons, because I know that if I accept, it will be for all the wrong reasons.
I found this book at exactly the right time in my life, because it's inspired me to revisit all my Austen, my beautiful hardcover books on my shelf, tucked away in a special corner. And it's with considerable relief that I realize that in this mess of confusion and self-doubt, I have a splendid teacher with splendid values in Jane Austen herself. I never considered her books as manuals to life, and am completely surprised that they serve as manuals for me now.
What I have said might seem strange, but it should be understood that traditional South Asian (Islamic) culture is very, very similar to the culture and social norms Jane Austen and most of her characters maneuvered through. And I find comfort in that, knowing that there's a body of work that I can relate to, that can even serve as a guide, even if it's from more than a hundred years ago.
And for all of that, I appreciate this book for what it is. Not a volume of literary criticism, though there's some of that, but for a slow, lazy, deliberate, friendly conversation delivered with warmth and a wry smile.
(Even though, seriously, it's wayyy sentimental. If that's not your thing, you will be irritated by this book.) ...more
Bland and self-congratulatory, but with some compelling stories (the suicide of a young man named Will, and the woman who cut herself as a result of PBland and self-congratulatory, but with some compelling stories (the suicide of a young man named Will, and the woman who cut herself as a result of PTSD stemming from childhood molestation and sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather).