I am an Alexander Hamilton hipster. I loved him before it was cool.
Not to drag on Lin-Manuel Miranda's parade. My APUSH teacher in high school waxedI am an Alexander Hamilton hipster. I loved him before it was cool.
Not to drag on Lin-Manuel Miranda's parade. My APUSH teacher in high school waxed rhapsodical about Hamilton and my first exposure to America's most under-appreciated founding father was through the Federalist papers and a subsequent trip to a museum exhibit. This was circa 2004, 2005 and among our APUSH class, a secret cabal of female teenage Hamilton admirers was born. That Christmas, one of our number gifted me a Hamilton biography—not Chernow's—which I devoured, and that was mostly that. I hoarded my ten dollar bills for years but a stint abroad dampened my Hamilton fervor into a warm fondness.
Fast forward ten years later. I am sitting in Richard Rogers theater, watching dumbfounded as Lin-Manuel Miranda rips through American history with his verbal gymnastics, reaches into my ears and slaps me awake to the rhythm and beat of a hip hop musical revolution. The next day I am bombarded with press buzz about Hamilton, articles ruminating on his place in American history and how his legacy has resonated even as the man faded into obscurity. So I downloaded this book and where Miranda's musical punched me awake, Chernow's biography (the inspiration for the show) rekindled my Hamilton fever.
I used to think biographies were dull, dry things. In a bid for historical accuracy, my view was that they treated their subjects antiseptically. Like a dead frog on a dissection table.
Chernow does not do this and that is what makes this biography about a great man enthralling. The Founding Fathers are less dignified, paternalistic icons and more like squabbling teenage girls. George Washington's notorious temper, Thomas Jefferson's oily duplicity, Hamilton's genius and crippling braggadocio—these are all lovingly painted, expertly researched and described with compelling momentum. More importantly, even as a Hamiltonian, it changed the way I thought about the country I live in and the people who shaped it.
Yes, Hamilton's name is on the cover but this is equally a story about a nascent America and the men who fought, squabbled and wrote pages upon pages upon pages to guide its future. And by framing it from the perspective of the original American immigrant overachiever, it invites all minorities to take ownership of our shared, collective history.
Like seriously. For fuck's sake Treasury Secretary Lew. Kick Jackson off the 20, give it to Harriet Tubman and keep Hamilton on the 10. ...more
Roxane Gay articulates so much of what has been rattling around in my skull over the past few months. That both saddens me because now I definitely knRoxane Gay articulates so much of what has been rattling around in my skull over the past few months. That both saddens me because now I definitely know I'm not crazy, and heartens me because now I know I'm not crazy.
It'd be trite criticism to say I didn't agree with everything she wrote. I am not Roxane Gay and my collective experience as a fellow bad feminist would, of course, lead me to some different conclusions. That being said, I feel richer for having digested those differences. I'd like to think I'm better for having listened to her voice on things my privilege has shielded me from.
It's like she says. Anything with the word feminist in it somehow is saddled with the burden of being all-encompassing. It has to be perfect. This book is not perfect. It is human. And I think that's a glorious thing. ...more
I can understand why some people might be a bit confused when cracking open this book.
This book isn't about a 'personal' narrative, per se. It's MalaI can understand why some people might be a bit confused when cracking open this book.
This book isn't about a 'personal' narrative, per se. It's Malala talking about what she finds to be most important. It's not by chance that the back cover is a picture of her looking adoringly at her father. It's not by chance that she devotes long passages to Pakistani history and Pashtun culture, or what it means to be Muslim. It's not by chance that when she delves into the more personal side of her story, much of it focuses on the ordinary—typical teenage girl friendships, family and school. As well as a surprising love of the Twilight series and Ugly Betty.
The headlines all make a big deal of how Malala is the youngest person to ever win a Nobel Peace Prize, and the fact that she was shot in the head by the Taliban.The media has painted her as some sort of enlightened, ethereal, saintly being, when really, she's just a 17-year-old girl—albeit one with extreme conviction and fearlessness when it comes to education. I'll admit, I too was somewhat expecting some sort something—I dunno, perhaps a divine inspiration—to hit me over the head once I'd finished the book. What I got instead was a deeper appreciation for education and a better understanding of the situation in Pakistan for girls over the last 10 years.
Put simply, if you're looking for some kind of Paulo Coelho-esque narrative arc full of swelling cinematic drama and nuggets of profundity—you won't find exactly that.
You will, however, probably feel guilty for every single time you ever complained about going to school. ...more
Is this the definitive feminist manifesto? No. I don't even think it's trying to be. Is it an entertaining read about one woman's journey toward feminIs this the definitive feminist manifesto? No. I don't even think it's trying to be. Is it an entertaining read about one woman's journey toward feminism? Yes.
The things I loved about this book were Moran's frank discussions into the "dark undersides" of being a lady. The things polite society demands we don't talk about. Or are afraid to talk about. You don't have to agree with everything she says—I certainly didn't agree with her assertion that women have not contributed much to the annals of history, science and culture—but a candid discussion into things such as periods, office sexism, the suppression of female sexuality, the decision to have or not have children, and abortion is refreshing and validating. I think in the haste to tear down and poke holes in Moran's arguments, Goodreads has essentially forgotten that sometimes it's nice to realize that "No, you are not hypersensitive or crazy. This bullshit really does happen."
Case in point:
During the course of reading this book over 3 days on my NYC subway commute, I had no less than 3 skeevy men sneer at me as they tried to surreptitiously read over my shoulder, and one tell me outright that it was a shame that a young lady read such inappropriate material in public. Another well-meaning lady told me we lived in a post-feminist society and that women were now too brazen to the extent that we had emasculated the modern male to little more than fairies. In none of these cases did I do anything to invite their unwanted commentary.
I've read books with more explicit sex scenes ("Gravity's Rainbow") or pervy 90-year-old men sleeping in beds with 14-year-old virgins ("Memories of My Melancholy Whores") and no one ever batted an eye. So why is it that I merely read a book titled "How To Be A Woman", does the entirety of NYC deem it necessary to comment on my reading habits? If that doesn't tell you that feminism is necessary, I don't know what will. ...more
There are a lot of books out there about writing, filled with age-old truisms and not-so-truisms. Some are helpful, others...well...less so.
"WritingThere are a lot of books out there about writing, filled with age-old truisms and not-so-truisms. Some are helpful, others...well...less so.
"Writing To Sell" was highly recommended to me by an old mentor of mine who had recently started writing a lengthy work of fiction. It's easy to understand why.
This is an easy read, full of practical advice. Much of it is dated, particularly in the context of the publishing world and as some other reviewers have noted the typewriter-vs-computer debate. However, the basic advice on good writing, manuscripts, plot development and dialogue are all timeless—especially for those who are either too busy to take a creative writing class or frankly, uninterested in shelling out hundreds of dollars for one.
Where the book really shines is in its practical approach in getting published and author Scott Meredith's glee in debunking "writer myths"—particularly the ones of writer's block, alcoholism and genre. This is no-frills advice at its finest and you're spared a lot of the flowery tips that some writers spout ("Don't give up on your dreams," "Persistence is key!" etc).
This is a good introductory book on writing and a good brush-up read for those already honing their craft—I would also recommend Stephen King's memoir "On Writing," for some more tips to the slightly more polished writer....more
What a relief it is to read a book skeptical of the "Extrovert Ideal."
I've always been told to speak up, be more sociable, more lively, etc. That I waWhat a relief it is to read a book skeptical of the "Extrovert Ideal."
I've always been told to speak up, be more sociable, more lively, etc. That I was too reserved and to smile more at family outings. But now after reading Susan Cain's "Quiet," I finally feel a bit more justified in staying true to my introvert sensibilities.
Cain does a wonderful job in challenging the popular bias that extroversion is the key to success—she neither hails it as inherently good or inherently bad, but something that when utilized correctly, can be extremely valuable. The book is well-researched, with 46 pages of notes citing scientific studies, articles and interviews, and explicitly explains the underlying differences between the extrovert and introvert.
Divided into four parts, the book systematically explores why Western culture has come to idealize the extrovert, the role of genetics in determining introversion and personality, cultural differences and how introverted people can better cope with the demands of work and love in a pro-extrovert society. It also poses the question of whether the current path of always-there social media and "group think" are actually the best ways to nurture the economy and grow as a nation.
Fans of Malcolm Gladwell and other pop-science nonfiction will enjoy this thought-provoking book, but it is not without its weaknesses. As an Asian-American, there was quite a bit of eye-rolling at Chapter Eight (Asian-Americans and the Extrovert Ideal). Cain isn't racist, and its clear she took pains to treat the issue sensitively and explore the differences between two cultures that value two different personality types. But I can't help but feel the interviews she highlighted in the book feed into the "Oh, Herro prease, I'm very quiet and shyyy Assssian" stereotype. I'm an introverted Asian-American, and some parts of that chapter rang pretty false.
Also, as I don't have kids, the section on how to raise a well-rounded introvert child was a bit of a snooze fest. It might be fascinating later on in life, but right now? Not so much. ...more
This book was recommended to me by a coworker, and he said to power through the first third. How right he was. Diamond lays it on pretty thick, and moThis book was recommended to me by a coworker, and he said to power through the first third. How right he was. Diamond lays it on pretty thick, and more often than not, sounds like some New Age-y infomercial hack than a nutritionist. He spends a majority of the book hinting that he's figured out the secret to healthy living, but meanders around before he actually gets to the tenets of his eating philosophy—which at its very core is raw veganism.
That's fine. Put simply, Diamond advocates eating "more living food than dead food," positing that cooking your food kills precious enzymes that support better health. In practice, "Fit for Life" would have you subsist off of raw veggies and fruit. And if that's all you eat, of course you're going to lose weight. Eating more fresh fruits and veg, that's sound advice. My problem is that a majority of the "evidence" he puts forth is either 1) scientifically unsound or disproved; 2) anecdotal; and 3) sounds way too much like intelligent design.
To be fair, Diamond puts in a disclaimer about his profuse reference to "God"—but it has no place in a book where I'm trying learn more about eating healthy. It's one thing to tell me fruits are naturally full of all the vital nutrients needed by the human body. It's another to tell me that since fruit is so chock full of nutrients, it's evident that God intended humans to eat them. At one point he also says that since carnivorous animals only eat plant-eaters, it's obvious plants are the superior source of nutrition. This is spurious logic. Maybe carnivores target herbivores because they're easier to kill. Broad generalizations are not scientific fact.
Diamond is also extremely dodgy about the studies he presents. For one, he references Pottenger's cats—an experiment in which scientists studied two groups of cats that subsisted on diets of only raw or cooked meat (guess which group contracted more illnesses)—as proof that cooked food is bad for you. Last I checked, humans are not cats. As proven by animal testing, what works for animals does not always work for humans. Broad generalizations do not scientific facts make.
He also barely mentions the role of exercise in his diet, saying walking is sufficient to lose weight so long as you eat a diet of at least 50% raw food. What? I call bullshit.
All in all, I appreciate the wisdom behind eating more fresh fruit and veg. But the majority of this book is fluffed up rhetoric....more