The difference between this and every other depressing and horrific account of World War II is the very personal focus on Louis Zamperini. The tellingThe difference between this and every other depressing and horrific account of World War II is the very personal focus on Louis Zamperini. The telling of his life from a troubled yet spirited young boy, to a famous athlete, to a soldier on the brink of death, to a prisoner in a Japanese POW camp, takes you very deep inside this dark time of history. The horrors feel closer, more real, and the pages demand to be turned.
2 1/2 stars. Warning: long, often personal review.
This book does a lot of good. I mean, firstly, it is so readable and compelling that it is easy to s2 1/2 stars. Warning: long, often personal review.
This book does a lot of good. I mean, firstly, it is so readable and compelling that it is easy to speed through the chapters and finish the book in a day. Secondly, it gets its strength and arguments from a series of interviews and anecdotes that Orenstein has gathered from young women across the United States, which offers a personal, funny and often shocking look at the issues.
Thirdly, the stories from these girls and women kind of prove what I think is our ultimate failure on sex - regardless of issues relating to sexual and hook-up culture - and that is our need for better sex education.
I was pretty shocked when I came over to California (I know this differs a lot between states and schools) and discovered that a lot of kids didn't receive any kind of sex education until high school (at least age 14). I've always been dissatisfied with what we got in the UK, but I can at least say that we got the standard mechanics of sexual intercourse and safe sex methods by the time we left junior school (age 11). The truth no one wants to talk about is that a significant number of kids have had some kind of sexual experience before the age of 14.
That being said, throughout all school, our sex education was limited to the fundamentals of heterosexual sex. There was no discussion about homosexuality, masturbation, foreplay, anal or oral sex. I consider my high school a liberal one (the sex education teacher stood at the front of the class and literally said "Sex is great. I have sex. I love sex. But you have to know how to protect yourself from STDs and unwanted pregnancy. This is a condom." - best message ever??), and we still got no mention of these important things - some of which the majority will experience at some point.
The stories Orenstein shares show how we are doing teens a disservice by not educating them on sex and, by doing so, forcing them to find out for themselves on that completely reliable source of information - the Internet.
That's the good thing about this book. The problem, however, is that Orenstein's research claims are a little sketchy and she doesn't cite references or use footnotes in the body of the text to make it clear where she's pulled her "facts" from. Maybe this is just something that bothers me personally, as a former Politics student, but I like traditional Harvard or Chicago styles of reference (with it clearly noted as and when it appears in the text), not just notes and bibliography in the back.
Unfortunately, a lot of this book is the author’s own opinion, roughly backed up here and there by a quote from an educated, upper middle class young woman. And sometimes she seems to use a single girl’s testimony to draw a huge conclusion about the nature of sexuality and sexual relations. All experiences are, of course, valid and important, but just because I can find you a witness testimony of a Muslim committing a crime, or a self-proclaimed feminist hating men, it doesn't necessarily say something about the entire population of Muslims or feminists.
Generalization is one of the oldest mistakes in the book.
Some of her ideas about oversexualization are really interesting and I do think it's time to take a look at it again. Feminists today, myself included, have reclaimed sexuality and started the sex-positive movement. Why should we cover up?! If we want to wear short skirts and skimpy bikinis, then good for us! I think we're discouraged from considering why women feel the need to appear "hot" in a way that men don't; we're encouraged to not ask questions because "yes means yes" and I think there is room to question that ideology and wonder how much of it really is empowerment (not saying I agree, just that I think there's an opening for it).
But, like most influential people and convincing politicians, Orenstein makes a lot of shocking, interesting and emotive points, and never backs it up with any real evidence. Kind of like Donald Trump.
As I said, she makes many great leaps between one girl's story and her conclusions about society in general. And, for every horror story, I can come back with a very different tale from my own experiences. Because virtually all her points are based on anecdotal evidence, I’d like to reply with some of my own. There are many experiences out there, and you know what? I personally had very different ones.
- Orenstein claims that men have expectations of girls when it comes to sex because they watch porn - in other words, they expect a blow job, expect a woman to objectify herself, and don't care if she has an orgasm. The thing is, I know guys like this exist. Yes, they really do. Me and my friends fondly refer to them as "assholes". But I, for one, have not had this experience with men. Growing up, during my first sexual experiences, I swear the guys were at least as nervous as I was. Maye because they'd watched porn and seen penises twice the size of their own and women screaming like banshees. I've never actually known a guy expect a blow job. And, generally, I've found from my own experiences and those of my friends, a lot of guys are more embarrassed by the possibility that they wouldn’t satisfy, than annoyed if the girl doesn’t get them off.
- Orenstein claims that women feel the need to be sexual and embrace hook-up culture, though many don't really want to participate. Again, I'm sure this is true of some women, but I honestly don't think this is part of a bigger trend in society. To be honest, I think it strips a lot of women of their strength and agency, given that many young college women I know chose not to participate in hook-ups and no one gave a damn. Orenstein seems to underestimate girls' ability to say no, AND their ability to say yes and mean it. Because at the other end of the scale, you have one of my close friends from college who did participate in hook-ups and - she tells me and I truly believe - she did it not because she felt she should, or for some self-validation, but because she likes sex and wanted to.
- Orenstein claims that women are more concerned about being sexy and getting sex "right" for men than actually enjoying the sexual experience. I think there's some level of truth to this, especially with early sexual experiences, but the author leaves it unexplored. I think both boys and girls are concerned about doing the right thing and getting sex "right" when they first start out. I don't believe it's gender-specific and it seems kind of natural. Plus, sex for me really is about two people (if it wasn't, masturbation is a much quicker and easier option). It's natural to want the other person to enjoy it, to find you attractive, to have your desire fuelled by theirs. Wanting to know how to do it "right" for them is not a bad thing. It's not something I've felt the need to do because "I'm a woman and I need to please a man". There is something extremely exciting about turning your partner on, and to turn that into a gender politics issue is a gross oversimplification of sexual desire.
- Orenstein claims that these angry teenage boys and young men expect certain things from girls they hook up with. She cites one example of a guy storming out on a girl because she wouldn't give him a blow job. Again with those assholes - but can we really call this a societal trend based on a single (or few) bad experiences? I'll throw you back another anecdote of my own - this time, an extremely embarrassing one. It happened one drunken night in my second year of college (uh oh). I had been dancing with and kissing this guy all night, and afterwards he walked back with me (the assumption of sex was in the air). We got to my place... did I give him a blow job? Did I use my knowledge of porn to go through the motions of what is "right" to do? Ha! No, I threw up in my sink and passed out on my bed. And what did this angry young man with sex expectations do? He held my hair while I puked, pulled the bed sheet over me after, and left me sleeping. Then he texted me the next day to see if I was alright.
Unlike the author, I'm not trying to draw sweeping generalizations from this. I'm not claiming this says anything about society and sex, or that it somehow undermines the negative experiences of other women. But I am showing how easy it is to throw out single examples on both sides - the good and the bad - and how there are many different experiences. Using one to make a statement about the whole of society is ridiculous.
I also wish, for example, that she'd considered how porn is a way for some women to get sexual gratification, not just a way in which they learn to devalue themselves and get terrible sex tips.
I really enjoyed reading the experiences of all these different women. It would be great to see a book that collected these experiences and didn't use them to (badly) make a point. I think a lot of them speak for themselves about our need for better sex education and more discussions about sex. But the book lost a little something when the author stepped in with her own dire monologues, constantly shaking her head at the Kim Kardashians and Miley Cyruses of this world.
Her examples are interesting and they are shocking, but they don't add up to what she claims they do. And occasionally I stumbled across one that was obviously just stupid. For example, this is how she gives evidence for vagina-shaming in society:
If that weren’t enough to plunge the average young woman into a shame spiral, heartthrob actor Robert Pattinson, whose fame and fortune were forged from the erotic fantasies of teenage girls, breezily confessed to Details magazine, “I really hate vaginas. I’m allergic to vagina.”
Oh, hell. This was a joke that RP made when he posed with a bunch of nude models. The statement was so hyperbolic that it's really embarrassing the author tried to use it as "evidence".
Orenstein is great at working her audience and keeping you hooked, but if you're the kind of reader who likes to look a little deeper and question things, it's likely you'll see right through this.
Also: I really hate books, you know. I'm allergic to books.
I won't deny that this is a very interesting, compelling and thought-provoking book. Even for someone like me whose general response to economics is *I won't deny that this is a very interesting, compelling and thought-provoking book. Even for someone like me whose general response to economics is *snore*. And it's mainly because Freakonomics is not really about economics, but involves applying statistical analysis to many social issues and questions.
Very easy to read. Lots of shocking discoveries that seem weighted in fact - Roe v. Wade is responsible for a huge drop in crime? No wonder some people are pissed off with this book. It's really quite fascinating to look at the power of incentives - economic, social and moral - and examine cause and effect.
One of my favourite personal experiences with silly notions of cause and effect is diet soft drinks. I confess to being a bit of a coke zero addict. It's not great for you (the sodium makes you more thirsty, a lot of potassium can lead to palpitations, and a lot of phosphoric acid has been linked to kidney problems) but I've lost count of how many times people have cited statistics showing that diet soda drinkers are more likely to be overweight and diabetic. Of course they are! If you're overweight and diabetic you're more likely to drink the low-calorie, sugar-free alternatives, aren't you? So strange how people assume it is A that causes B and ignore the possibility of it being the opposite.
Anyway, my issue with this entertaining book is that I think it may be - to be frank - bullshit. Not all of it, sure. But definitely some of it. The writers state their points very confidently (some might say with a touch too much smarm) but it requires you to take a lot of what they say on faith. And some of the jumps they make between statistics and conclusion don't quite add up for me. I know many others have felt the same.
But here was the thing that really got me, the thing that made me smell bullshit: I'm fairly confident something they said is not rooted in any truth. And let's be clear: I am a total noob when it comes to most statistics and economics, so if even I can spot something a bit off, it really makes me question the rest of it. Here it is:
Women's rights advocates, for instance, have hyped the incidence of sexual assault, claiming that one in three American women will in her lifetime be a victim of rape or attempted rape. (The actual figure is more like one in eight - but the advocates know it would take a callous person to publicly dispute their claims.)
This, if true, implies two things. 1) Those advocating women's rights are using false data, therefore undermining their credibility, and 2) They have invented a statistic to intentionally support their cause, knowing no one will dispute it (absolutely bizarre that the author thinks no one is disputing women's rights claims, but okay...)
Well, being a feminist and someone who has spent an awful lot of time reading and writing about women's rights organizations and statistics, my eyes narrowed a little. See, in all my research, I've never seen or heard any claim that "1 in 3 women will be a victim of rape or attempted rape". I have heard the "1 in 3" statistic, but a somewhat different one.
So, obviously, I went to look it up. I spent a couple of hours going through Google and every women's rights organization page I could find, trying to uncover a single case where that statistic was used. I found exactly: none. The only other thing I found that mentioned it was a Time article attempting to debunk so-called "feminist myths": http://time.com/3222543/5-feminist-my...
The statistic the authors appear to have misquoted is that "1 in 3 women will experience sexual violence, or physical violence by an intimate partner", which is used often. Sexual violence here is an ambiguous term, leaving room for wider interpretations and probably explaining why, with the addition of domestic violence into the statistic, the number is at "1 in 3" instead of "1 in 8".
Furthermore, not only have the authors misrepresented the statistical claim itself, but they have also suggested that women's rights advocates have pulled the numbers from thin air to make a point - on the contrary, this is a study conducted by the World Health Organization on the "Global and regional estimates of violence against women".
I like the idea of the book, but this really put me off. Perhaps it was a one-off error that I managed to spot. Perhaps. Either way, I started to be less impressed by the facts and statistics they presented. Still, very enjoyable book for the most part....more
Though it is a memoir and a true story, both the writing style and the way Walls reminisces about her chNow I get why people like this memoir so much.
Though it is a memoir and a true story, both the writing style and the way Walls reminisces about her childhood make it seem like more of a fairy tale. My favourite non-fiction books are those that don't lose the compelling flow of a good fiction book - that still pull you into another world and life, dragging you along for the ride. This is one of those.
I especially liked reading about Walls' complex and conflicting thoughts about her parents and childhood. When she's writing about her youth, she writes with the rose-tinted glasses of a young girl who loves her family; as she grows, she begins to see the shadows of reality creeping in - her father's alcoholism, her mother's selfish behaviour, the lack of food in the cupboards as a parental failure and not a normality.
And, through it all, she still loves her parents. She remembers her father as an intelligent man full of fantastical stories, and her mother as a spirited artist. It's interesting, though, how differently I felt toward them.
Normally, a convincing story has me feeling the same way as the narrator, but even though I could understand Walls's love for her parents, I despised them for being selfish and neglectful. I hated them for allowing a 3 year old to use the stove (and cause herself serious burns). I felt extreme anger, not love and understanding, towards them.
But that's not a criticism. The Glass Castle is a beautifully-written, emotional read. A true bildungsroman, full of dark and happy times.
“She's the most important person in the world and her family living in poverty. If our mother is so important to science, why can't we get health ins
“She's the most important person in the world and her family living in poverty. If our mother is so important to science, why can't we get health insurance?”
I've moved this book on and off my TBR for years. The truth is that, with few exceptions, I'm generally turned off by the thought of non-fiction. I'm a fan of fictional stories, and I think I've always felt that non-fiction will be dry, boring and difficult to get through. Especially a book about science, cells and medicine when I'm more of a humanities/social sciences kinda girl.
But this book... it's just so interesting. It's written in a very easy, journalistic style and places the author into the story (some people didn't like this, but I thought it felt like you were going along for the journey). It's all the interesting bits of science, full of eye-opening and shocking discoveries, but it's also about history, sociology and race.
I started reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks while sat next to my boyfriend. Every so often I would unknowingly gasp or mutter "oh my god" and he was like "what? what?" and I hadn't even realized I'd done it out loud. It's just full of surprises - and every one is true! It uncovers things you almost certainly didn't know about. And it just shows that sometimes real life can be nastier, more shocking, and more wondrous than anything you could imagine.
Maybe you've heard of HeLa in passing, maybe you don't know anything about these cells that helped in cancer research, in finding a polio vaccine, in cloning, in gene mapping and discovering the effects of an atom bomb; either way, this tells an incredible and awful story of a poor, black woman in the American South who was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She is given back her humanity, becoming more than a cluster of cells and being shown for the tough, spirited woman she was. From her own family life to the frankly nauseating treatment of black patients in the 1950s, her story emerges.
Not only that, but this book is about the injustices committed by the pharmaceutical industry - both in this individual case (how is it that Henrietta's family are dirt poor when she has revolutionized medicine?) and on a larger scale (during the 1950s, many prisoners were injected with cancer as part of medical experiments!). It's hard to believe what so-called "professionals" have gotten away with throughout history - things that we generally associate with Nazi death camps.
I honestly could not put it down. Maybe because it's not just about science and cells, but is mainly about all of the humanity and social history behind scientific discoveries. Maybe because Skloot is so damn passionate about her subject and that passion is transferred to the reader. Whatever the reason, I highly recommend it.
Not long ago, I wrote an article about being young and female in Lagos. And an acquaintance told me that it was an angry article, and I should not ha
Not long ago, I wrote an article about being young and female in Lagos. And an acquaintance told me that it was an angry article, and I should not have made it so angry. But I was unapologetic. Of course it was angry. Gender as it functions today is a grave injustice. I am angry. We should all be angry.
A short, sharp, and effective essay about gender, the wrong ideas many people have about feminism, and why it is so damn important. Even today.
I suppose an "essay" doesn't sound like something most people want to rush out and read. It sounds like a chore, like hard work, like something that you should maybe read... someday... if you ever get around to it. But this doesn't feel like an essay at all. The author delivers a compelling and deeply personal account of her experiences and the experiences of her friends - male and female, young and old, Nigerian and American.
She makes many fantastic points and makes them in a conversational tone, without seeming preachy or patronizing. Looking at the way we treat women and men, and how the expectations we have of both genders is contributing to a gender divide, the author makes an argument for a better future where we are not put into gendered boxes.
We stifle the humanity of boys. We define masculinity in a very narrow way. Masculinity is a hard, small cage, and we put boys inside this cage.
I've actually written a little about this in the past, but I especially like the way she draws attention to the importance of the word itself. Many people are quick to say: "I absolutely believe men and women should be equal, but why call it feminism? Isn't that word exclusive? Why not say humanism (as many people do)?" Even I've been guilty of wondering the same in the past.
I think there are many great arguments for why it should be "feminism" and not just "humanism", "black lives matter" and not just "all lives matter", "gay pride" and not just "sexual pride", but I'll let Adichie do the talking on that issue. She summarizes it marvelously.
I was torn between rating this 1 star because it is ridiculous, and 5 stars because it is possibly the most I've laughed in months. And yeah, I actualI was torn between rating this 1 star because it is ridiculous, and 5 stars because it is possibly the most I've laughed in months. And yeah, I actually downloaded it from smashwords and read it because I am a masochist like that. Truly side-splitting stuff.
Just one of my favourite quotes:
“...if it is for a very tiny country, it doesn't take much to be the #1 reviewer and best reviewer in your country. Especially a country where the majority of the population can ill afford books, computer equipment and eReaders in order to be a member of Goodreads.”
Oh, you pesky third-worlders thinking you're the big #1 when most of your country can't even read. Stop being so insensitive and start feeling sorry for the authors who get put on “wouldnt-pee-on-it-if-it-was-on-fire," shelves.
When I was younger, there was a club in a nearby town that did a 13-17 year olds night. It was mostly filled with the lower end of that age group, stoWhen I was younger, there was a club in a nearby town that did a 13-17 year olds night. It was mostly filled with the lower end of that age group, stood around overdressed with cokes in hand, pretending the coke was laced with something stronger. It was basically a glorified youth club with strobe lighting and overpriced soft drinks, but we felt so fucking rebellious and grown up.
I remember the first time I went very well. I was nervous and excited to be "going out" and couldn't wait to dance and pretend to be drunk. My companion was a girl called Gabrielle who had been before and took her role as experienced friend incredibly seriously. She nudged me on the way in and said conspiratorially "when you get in, you want to go stand near the back wall". Perplexed, I asked why. And she told me without a hint of anger, injustice or mild annoyance: "Because the boys will try to grab your ass." She accepted it as how things were. And so did I.
Despite my best efforts to remain pressed against that wall, I soon discovered that clubs often require some form of movement - to get a drink, use the bathroom, etc. And when I moved, I also realised that Gabrielle was right. I got to second base several times that night, with strangers' hands that would disappear into the darkness of the club immediately after copping a feel.
I was embarrassed and mildly irritated, but I wasn't angry. I accepted it as part of being a young woman in a skirt. It didn't occur to me that it was sexist or sexual harassment (assault, one might say). It was just like every time I was walking home from school (from the age of 12) and some construction worker would wolf whistle or make some kind of suggestive comment. I'm tempted even now to say that I didn't really mind the wolf whistling in a bid to not look "precious" - because no one likes that kind of girl - and I didn't in theory, but it's a different matter when you're walking down an empty street (even in the middle of the day) and the only people are you, a 12 year old girl, and a group of men who are making various mating calls in your direction.
Apparently, when talking about sexism or feminism I have to address what should be the obvious: I love men. Everyday Sexism is not a bunch of stories about how men oppress women, how men are the enemy. Anyone with even a basic understanding of gender studies knows that sexism is almost as damaging for men as it is for women - mentally, socially and economically - and that women are often just as guilty of it *cough*NA Authors*cough*. I have also been lucky enough to have some of the most amazing men in my life: male relatives, friends and teachers. If you think that I would simplify thousands of years of gender relations down into "men are to blame", then you should get to know me better.
But I like that Everyday Sexism acknowledges the small things women and men face every single day. We're not talking about the right to vote or dress in a certain way or own property, but instead we're talking about the basic social interactions that affect our everyday lives. The lives of women who end up standing against a club wall so they don't get groped, and the lives of men who have been taught that they are monolithic creatures with no control over their sexual urges. And gay women and men - like my brother whom I love very much - who are led to believe there's only one way to be either gender.
Sidenote: So happy that Austria won Eurovision. Europe, I'm proud of you, even with your cheesy music.
This book is about the experiences of people like me and you, experiences that happen every single day and are brushed off. We don't want to make a fuss about them, don't want to appear like a spoilsport or a "radical". No one likes a radical anything. But in 2014, it's time for Everyday Sexism to come to an end. I am extremely glad that this book of experiences exists.
I just hope men and women alike will read this book.