Once the slaves were freed, I was surprised that there was still half the book left to go, but the narrative continues through desegregation and all tOnce the slaves were freed, I was surprised that there was still half the book left to go, but the narrative continues through desegregation and all the way up through the present day (yup, I hadn't actually realized that the family lineage we were following was the author's own). ...more
I'd read Shonda Rhimes' 2015 HRC speech (about how she's not diversifying tv, she's normalizing it), and the title of this book seemed really relevantI'd read Shonda Rhimes' 2015 HRC speech (about how she's not diversifying tv, she's normalizing it), and the title of this book seemed really relevant to my interests.
However, I spent a lot of this book not really liking Rhimes.
While I'd heard the bit about making stuff up for a living before, her constantly framing it as "lying," while possibly just being flippant, really rubbed me the wrong way (hi, I have Honesty Issues), so I was put off from the very first chapter.
Her style generally rubbed me the wrong way.
And ugh, the slam at hashtag activism in her Dartmouth Commencement speech (p. 84).
And when she talks about having gotten really fat, while she ultimately does say that your body is your own to do with as you wish and what was a problem for her was that she was just eating her feelings instead of actually feeling and dealing with them, I felt like that chapter started out very much perpetuating the cultural idea that fat=bad, and I was really uncomfortable. And the way she talks about losing weight being a good health choice for her feels to me very much like she's saying that being-not-fat is a good health choice for everyone.
Things I did like from the book: * the idea of saying yes to things that scared her * acknowledging that she was already saying yes to things and so if she wanted her life to change, she would need to say yes to different things * the Whitney Houston wig idea (Chapter 6) -- people often fault themselves for not living up to other people, not realizing that other people are have outside help (Whitney Houston's perfect hair was a wig, many working women have nannies etc.) * saying yes to difficult conversations (including saying No to people) * the idea that we often don't see other people for who they really are but rather construct ideas of them that serve who we want them to be in our lives...more
I saw this book mentioned a lot (UCC + mental illness), but I really didn't wanna read it. I wasn't a fan of the title (I don't think we've reclaimedI saw this book mentioned a lot (UCC + mental illness), but I really didn't wanna read it. I wasn't a fan of the title (I don't think we've reclaimed "crazy" enough that people who don't personally identity with that tern get to throw it around), and I'm not that interested in people talking about their experience as someone who KNOWS someone in a marginalized position (whether that's trans people, mentally ill people, whatever) -- can we please center the stories of marginalized people themselves?
But the author was gonna be at a small conference I was going to, so I got a copy.
I was prepared to have a lot of negative feelings, but honestly I was mostly "meh."
In the Foreword, Donald Capps quotes Sarah saying, "Telling the stories about my crazy father, bipolar brother, executed cousin, and my own spiritual visions makes room for light and air, the things of God's Spirit, to enter in" (p. vi) and the book does consist of her telling each of those stories, in that order. I agree that sharing one's story is important, but the mental health struggles of Sarah's family members are so severe as to feel somewhat distancing -- like we're watching terrible things that we hope we never have to deal with and have no idea how to deal with if they showed up in our midst. (And she really doesn't offer much in the way of suggestions for how church communities could/should handle these sorts of situations, other than occasional mentions of opening up space where people can be honest, and the obvious that you shouldn't teach people that if they're depressed it's a sign that their faith isn't strong enough etc.) And I don't feel like her own mystical visions mean she gets to throw around the word "crazy," though I was somewhat convinced by her talk about how having mental illness in her family meant she was hyper-attentive to possible manifestations thereof in herself -- I'm not necessarily going to police her use of the term "crazy (in the blood)," but I really wish she had unpacked it some, talked about care around usage, rather than just opening with "I acknowledge that the language we use to talk about mental illness can be controversial because of various ways it is understood. I use the language that most closely reflects my experiences" (p. v) and leaving it at that.
Rev. Molly commented to me that this book is helping to start an important conversation. I am glad that people who weren't previously engaging with this issue are doing so, but I don't feel like this book does much to get the conversation beyond "sharing your story." And I also wish that it was stories of people who themselves lived daily with mental illness whose stories got to be centered in this conversation, who got the book tours and speaking engagements......more
This book is a quick, easy read, but I didn't feel like I got a whole lot out of it.
The first third or so I found fairly repetitive -- one goes througThis book is a quick, easy read, but I didn't feel like I got a whole lot out of it.
The first third or so I found fairly repetitive -- one goes through fallow periods, continuing to go through the motions is valuable, being honest about what you're (not) feeling is valuable, etc.
And the remainder felt somewhat scattershot -- various vignettes from her life that didn't always have clear takeaways or felt like they could have been developed more (especially after we spent sixty-some pages on fallow periods and God's silence, to breeze through Sabbath, ritual, the value of showing up, etc. in only a few pages each felt odd) and the stories got increasingly autobiographical without much sense to me of why this particular life story was in this particular book. I frequently reminded myself of the title ("listening for God") as the through-thread, but I wanted the text to do more of the work....more
I read this book for a book club -- having no real clue that there was a Little House on the Prairie tv show but loving the concept that "Arngrim grewI read this book for a book club -- having no real clue that there was a Little House on the Prairie tv show but loving the concept that "Arngrim grew to love her character—and the freedom and confidence Nellie inspired in her." The book doesn't actually deliver on that premise much in a how-to way, but the entire thing is SO INTERESTING that I didn't notice the lack until I reflected back after I finished the book (which I read in a single Friday night sitting). Her abuse by her older brother is terrible, but most of the book is wild in really entertaining ways (I restrained myself from reading basically all of it out loud to my housemate -- limiting myself to about three stories)....more
I wouldn't have read this were it not for book club, but I actually learned a bunch about Pakistani history reading the book, which I wasn't expectingI wouldn't have read this were it not for book club, but I actually learned a bunch about Pakistani history reading the book, which I wasn't expecting and was a nice bonus -- I haven't retained a lot of the world history I learned in school, and we learned almost nothing that wasn't about Europe anyway.
(I was bummed, though, that she unproblematically uses the term "jihad" in the militaristic sense, without mentioning the idea of internal spiritual jihad, which many refer to as "greater jihad" -- versus the "lesser jihad" of externally directed struggle.)
I cried a bunch -- before she even gets shot -- because I am my marshmallow mother's daughter.
I was impressed by her calm determination (plus, of course, she'd accomplished more by 15 than I have in more than twice that time).
(Also, I didn't realize until about halfway through the book that there was a glossary and still wished it included more terms.)...more
I read this after I read Janet Mock's autobiography, and this one definitely feels like a less sophisticated writer, but I'm still glad to have read iI read this after I read Janet Mock's autobiography, and this one definitely feels like a less sophisticated writer, but I'm still glad to have read it....more
As I began reading this, I felt like it was engaging in the way that reading an interesting story of someone's life is, but I'm familiar with trans* nAs I began reading this, I felt like it was engaging in the way that reading an interesting story of someone's life is, but I'm familiar with trans* narratives and I wasn't learning anything new (which isn't a criticism of the book).
However, I hadn't thought a lot about how trans* adolescents navigate their worlds, and while certainly Janet was impressive, the more important takeaway for me from that section of the book was a greater understanding of what social transition entails (not that any of it was surprising -- other than how positively most of her community received her -- but I hadn't really thought about it much #cisprivilege).
As someone who spends a lot of time around people who are at the edge of contemporary language/thinking around gender, I appreciated how up-to-date her language feels. At the same time, it's mostly not super-obviously a teaching book -- except for the high school chapter (chapter 11), which is full of advice to adults, which feels appropriate. (At MFP bookclub, someone raised the issue of how Grownup Janet is always explaining the story, and I think it's true that the adult voice -- the voice of someone who has done a lot of maturing and learning since many of the events of the book -- provides some distancing to the narrative.)
I've also mostly internalized the concepts of e.g., "women can have penises, men can have vaginas," but when Janet talks about her experience with sex work and how having a penis made her more desirable than some of the other women she worked with, and explicitly named, "many men are attracted to women, and trans women are among these women, and our bodies in all their varying states of being are desired" (p. 206), that helped me internalize more fully.
Because my brand of feminism is so sex-work-positive, I was expecting her to be, too (since her language/thinking around gender seemed so aligned with the communities I'm around), so I was surprised to find her arguably unreadable on the subject. She is clear that, "My experience with sex work is not that of the trafficked young girl or the fierce sex-positive woman who proudly chooses sex work as her occupation. My experience mirrors that of the vulnerable girl with few resources who was groomed from childhood, who was told that this was the only way, who wasn't comfortable enough in her body to truly gain any kind of pleasure from it, who rented pieces of herself: mouth, ass, hands, breasts, penis. I knew, even at sixteen, that I did what I had to because no one was going to do it for me" (p. 177). She honors the reality of both of the primary frames, while naming her experience as distinct from them both, and without getting into actual debate about the issues....more