This book was surprisingly not bad! In fact, it was just fine, leaving me to give it a final rating of 2.5 stars.
I didn’t know much about Pretty LittlThis book was surprisingly not bad! In fact, it was just fine, leaving me to give it a final rating of 2.5 stars.
I didn’t know much about Pretty Little Liars and had never heard of Ian Harding until sometime last year when this book popped up in my periphery because of work. It seemed to be about a young guy (albeit white) who was into birding, which is somewhat unusual since when you usually think of birders (if you think of them at all…) you think of older white folks. So if this book will help get a few young people into birds, then good for it and good for Ian Harding.
The book is composed of essays that take us through Harding’s (admittedly short so far, and in my opinion not super interesting) life, but he does it through the lens of seeing different birds. I haven’t read too many celebrity memoirs but I think that makes this book unusual.
I did get to meet Harding, again because of work, and he was as charming and nice as you could imagine. We did some social media promotion around it and that was quite an experience. His fans are… passionate seems to be not strong enough a word. But again, if this book gets even a few people interested in birds and conservation, then that’s terrific....more
***This book is out today, May 2, and you should totally get it and read it!***
I’d been salivating over this book for a while, ever since I’d seen it***This book is out today, May 2, and you should totally get it and read it!***
I’d been salivating over this book for a while, ever since I’d seen it on multiple lists last year of forthcoming books. A month ago I thought it was out but realized that was just in Canada and not the U.S. Found it on Netgalley and finally was able to read it after begging the publisher to approve me on Twitter. :D
Scaachi Koul is a Buzzfeed writer who’s probably best-known for when she put out a request on Twitter for non-white writers and started a completely undeserved shitstorm. The very people who often disparagingly call liberals “special snowflakes” lost their freakin’ minds. Anyway, before I go off on that tangent (and she talks about this whole episode in her life in the book)...
Koul is the child of Indian parents, specifically parents from the Kashmir region of India, so that’s another reason I wanted to read this: I’m really interested in reading writing of people with whom I can identify, even a little bit.
In that, the book didn’t disappoint. The struggles of an immigrant or the child of immigrants are uphill, especially when you’re younger, and Koul really gets into that, throughout multiple essays. One thing that I think a lot of brown people who grew up here can identify with is this particular line: “I tried to force myself out of brownness at her age, but the older I get, the more I tuck myself into it.” When you’re younger, you try to separate yourself from your culture to fit in (despite all the shit you face from your parents for doing so), but as you grow older you realize what a mistake that was.
Fitting is a luxury rarely given to immigrants, or the children of immigrants. We are stuck in emotional purgatory. Home, somehow, is always the last place you left, and never the place you’re in.
Some of the strongest parts of the book were when she talked about her parents: their experiences as immigrants, their relationship with her, their perceptions as people living away from their homeland. I saw a lot of my parents reflected in her parents, and it made me consider them in ways that I probably hadn’t enough thought to before. This line especially resonated:
So much of immigration is about loss. First you lose bodies: people who die, people whose deaths you missed. Then you lose history: no one speaks the language anymore, and successive generations grow more and more westernized. Then you lose memory: throughout this trip, I tried to place people, where I had met them, how I knew them. I can’t remember anything anymore.
Her experience of returning to a place in India as an adult that she’d previously visited only as a kid could have been me doing the same thing in my life. Knowing that others have these same feelings and experiences, and reading about them, is so validating. I’m so glad that voices like Koul’s have a place now in mainstream culture. You don’t think about it actively, but it’s like all the arguments being made for having more than just white people on TV and in movies: Representation matters.
The essay on rape culture, Hunting Season, was another stunning, strong piece. I’d actually read it before on Buzzfeed (which leads me to believe that much of the book may be from pieces she’s already written online), but it can certainly be read over and over and shared with everyone you know. Her insights on how men watch women are so on point.
Surveillance feeds into rape culture more than drinking ever could. It’s the part of male entitlement that makes them believe they’re owed something if they pay enough attention to you, monitor how you’re behaving to see if you seem loose and friendly enough to accommodate a conversation with a man you’ve never met. He’s not a rapist. No, he’s just offering to buy you a beer, and a shot, and a beer, and another beer, he just wants you to have a really good time. He wants you to lose the language of being able to consent. He’s drunk too, but of course, you’re not watching him like he’s watching you.
And of course, the aforementioned chapter on the disgusting harassment she faced on Twitter was another fantastic essay. I highlighted the hell out of that section but I’ll leave just this one quote here:
But all things built by humans descend into the same pitfalls: loathing, vitriol, malicious intent. All the things we build in order to communicate, to connect, to find people like us so we feel less alone, and to find people not like us at all so we learn how to adapt, end up turning against us.
Basically, throughout most of this book, I would sigh softly and highlight something and reflect on what I’d just read. There were definitely things that Koul writes that I disagree with but hers is an interesting, and often hilarious, perspective to read. I’ve been shouting about this book to everyone, even before I finished it, and I already know a couple people I’ll be buying it for. Highly recommended.
Note: I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review....more