The structure was sometimes frustrating, switching between the story of Jang's escape and intricate explanations of North Korean politics at inopportuThe structure was sometimes frustrating, switching between the story of Jang's escape and intricate explanations of North Korean politics at inopportune times, but overall, it was a very interesting look at someone who, despite being wildly privileged within the Kim Jong-il regime, defected in search of freedom.
I thought the insight into propagandizing (as part of his work, Jang took on the identity of a South Korean poet to write favorably of North Korea) and the development of an artist under a tyrannical regime was engaging. The inside information on the Kim Jong-il regime was fascinating, and some of the framework (namely, the true nature of the transition of power between the Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-il) was new to me.
I still think Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea is the go-to overview book for those interested in reading about North Korea, but this book, if less well-written, is a strong resource about specifics. Just ignore that he ends the book with a wearily misogynistic "In North Korea, I lived under a tyrannical despot I called dear leader, now I live in South Korea under a tyrannical despot I call my wife lol" joke. Seriously....more
"...one of the responsibilities of American writers is to broaden the confines, sensibilities, and generative capacity of American literature by broad
"...one of the responsibilities of American writers is to broaden the confines, sensibilities, and generative capacity of American literature by broadening the audience to whom we write, and hoping that broadened audience writes back with brutal imagination, magic, and brilliance.
Brilliant stuff about being fucked up in a fucked up country, but it circles again and again on love, self-love, radical love, urgent love, necessary love, and what forms that might take....more
Lively and well-written, with generous use of equally engaging primary sources. It's not a deep or particularly analytical biography, but I enjoyed itLively and well-written, with generous use of equally engaging primary sources. It's not a deep or particularly analytical biography, but I enjoyed its positivity and its intense commitment to understanding these two interesting sisters on their own terms.
I came into this book already a fan of Hortense (because "the mistresses of Charles II" is one of my areas of interest in British history, alongside the following: Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Plantagenets, definitely not the Tudors ugh, sometimes the Jacobite risings, the Regency if a bit begrudgingly, Anthony Trollope's invention of the mailbox, anything related to P.G. Wodehouse, the SOE, and the first war against Voldemort), but it was Marie I ended up loving a lot. She kept a kind heart if a bit of a dreamy head throughout her life.
I did wish for more geographic grounding and more signposting of how much time was passing, but the narrative was well-constructed otherwise....more
I watched the movie (starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, produced by Mel Brooks; what wasn't to like?), and I immediately had to read the bookI watched the movie (starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins, produced by Mel Brooks; what wasn't to like?), and I immediately had to read the book. Yes, it's charming and funny and appealing to book nerds, but I primarily loved how kind it all was. It's about how you can hold other people, people you've never met, in your heart and in your mind, you can act with generosity and thoughtfulness and not crash into an imperturbable wall of cynicism, and the world is a better place for that. ...more
Grim and gripping; I stayed up late to finish it. What would cause a group of experienced mountaineers, in the midst of qualifying for the highest hikGrim and gripping; I stayed up late to finish it. What would cause a group of experienced mountaineers, in the midst of qualifying for the highest hiking certification, to flee from their tent--with inexplicably sudden urgency, without even shoes for protection--into the frozen, hypothermia-inducing night?
There is still no answer, but Eichar's theory is based in science and well-presented, and I was also compelled by his explanation as to why this phenomenon wasn't well-known until recently. No aliens, no in-group murders. Eichar's reconstruction of their hikers' final hours was terrifying and sad enough without the addition of anything salacious: just destructible humans pitted against the natural world.
The human aspect of this tragedy was also developed with care. I've read about the Dyatlov Incident before (before this book, I assumed the hikers had crossed paths with some Cold War weaponry experiment gone wrong), but this account incorporated a lot of in-depth personal accounting, and the grief for the unexplained loss of these nine friends pervaded the pages.
I did think that Eichar's narrative of his own 2012 journey and investigation didn't always add to the story as a whole, and that I would have wanted more cultural context at times. Overall, however, the book was strong and well-documented....more
Well, I, for one, am happy I was "the Nellie." No, not just happy, proud. And eternally grateful. All I can say is, thank you. It's like I tell people
Well, I, for one, am happy I was "the Nellie." No, not just happy, proud. And eternally grateful. All I can say is, thank you. It's like I tell people at my stand-up shows: by making me a bitch, you have given me my freedom, the freedom to say and do things I couldn't do if I was a "nice girl" with some sort of stupid, goody-two-shoes image to keep up. Things that require courage. Things that require balls. Things that need to be done. By making me a bitch, you have freed me from the trite, sexist, bourgeois prison of "likeability." Any idiot can be liked. It takes talent to scare the crap out of people.
A really awesome memoir: very funny, sometimes sad and angry-making, but always quite thoughtful. ...more
From personal experience, I can advise that this book isn't optimal bedtime reading, given how terrifying, sad, and gruesome some parts of this book cFrom personal experience, I can advise that this book isn't optimal bedtime reading, given how terrifying, sad, and gruesome some parts of this book could be, not to mention how long my thoughts lingered on some of the existential terror. But aside from that (or perhaps because of that), I found it very gripping, even if the narrative style--intensely personal and sometimes overdramatized--sometimes grated.
An astonishing account of front line activism when abortion was illegal. From 1969 to 1973, a small network of women in Chicago, known collectively asAn astonishing account of front line activism when abortion was illegal. From 1969 to 1973, a small network of women in Chicago, known collectively as Jane, first counseled and connected women to doctors who could perform safe and affordable abortions and then later performed abortions themselves. They served over 11,000 women before disbanding upon the advent of Roe v. Wade.
I was gripped from the very start, and even though the text got repetitive and the accounts of infighting were sometimes difficult to read (mostly because I'm worn out from infighting in my own life), I was moved, engaged, and enraged by this book at times. It's a very vivid account of an activist movement, of burnout, of the struggle of defining and living up to one's ideals. To start, I was skeptical and a bit appalled that they performed abortions without medical training, but as I read and followed the evolution of the group, of its tactics, of its mission, I went through the same thought trajectory that these women went through, and I could certainly understand why they chose to perform abortions themselves, and I could respect that decision and their work.
This is a feminist text concerned with feminist activism, and while it places Jane's work in its political context (Jane was considered a band-aid solution, not radical enough, by some feminist activists; it was considered too radical and too dangerous by others), it makes perfectly clear that to most of its members, what they wanted to do was the work of stepping in to help themselves and others being systematically oppressed for being women. "We in Jane were fortunate that we were able to create a project that met an immediate, critical need and, at the same time, put into practice our vision of how the world should be," the author, a member of Jane, writes. Another member of Jane notes that, "Politics doesn't matter. What matters is action and service. That's how to build a movement."
Race doesn't get paid too much attention in this book; a clear-eyed acknowledgement of class and race is woven through the book's analysis, and a small handful of the members of the collective were women of color, but given the GIGANTIC issues surrounding race and reproductive rights, lobbing out a statement like "As white women performing abortions for poor black women, they were vulnerable to accusations of genocide and racism," without unpacking it, just felt like dodging something very, very important. At the same time, it's clear that the members of Jane didn't patronize the women they helped, and they structured their counseling and their services to foster a sense of co-responsibility and equality. This was, and still is, pretty revolutionary for a health service. One example:
Women coming for abortions came "through" the service, not to it -- a process, not a place. They were never referred to as patients or clients. If they were called anything it was counselees. Jenny thought that "patient" was a medical term implying subject and object: "We didn't think of the women coming through the service as objects we were going to work on. We always thought of them as partners in a political activity -- partners in crime, to be exact."
Financially, Jane did their best to not turn away women, regardless of ability to pay, but they were not naive about financial matters, either. The money was a way of creating a sense of investment in these health services:
Everyone in the service agreed that each woman should pay something. It cost money to perform abortions. Paying was one way women owned what they were doing and participated in it, and participation, they discovered, was as much a key to a successful abortion as anything they did medically. Abortion wasn't a charity for helpless women: it was an act of responsibility.
The book is not all analysis; the stories of individual women hit me hard as well. While the police raid of Jane, in which seven members were arrested, is one of the most memorable stories (those women? BADASS! chained in a police van, they tear up and swallow documents with identifying information of the women they served! stuck away in an office at the police station, they sneakily use the phone to call everyone they could think of to alert them! they flush down the toilet the thousands of dollars they had on them, determined not to let the police get it!), the small, individual heartbreaks and moments of grace throughout the book will stick me for a long time to come....more
Well-organized collection of facts and accounts of American women in law enforcement. So many interesting stories, so many interesting women, so muchWell-organized collection of facts and accounts of American women in law enforcement. So many interesting stories, so many interesting women, so much struggling for respect and for equality. I found it interesting and not dry at all--I vastly prefer paragraphs upon paragraphs of facts and newspaper accounts (which is probably the best way to describe this book) than non-fiction where the author narrates stories in a fictional fashion; right now I'm pointedly glaring at The Tin Ticket: The Heroic Journey of Australia's Convict Women, which I would really like to finish reading but I detest its overwritten narrative style. ANYWAY. Duffin struck a good balance between individual stories and wider context, and while I sometimes wished for more explicit and in-depth analysis (such as what it cost women to sue the departments they worked for, etc.), the stories themselves were pointed and full of fascinating details, it was still a worthwhile read....more