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review 2019-03-03 22:23
We Learn Nothing by Tim Kreider
We Learn Nothing: Essays - Tim Kreider

This is a perfectly respectable essay collection; I bounced off of it when trying to read it straight through, but when I started skipping around reading whatever appealed most at the moment, I wound up enjoying it. Kreider has a lot of thoughts about life, family, friends, lies people tell themselves, and what’s really important, and shares them through a series of thoughtful and well-written (if slightly wordy) essays. Standouts for me were “Sister World” (in which Kreider, an adoptee, meets his biological family for the first time as an adult and bonds with his newfound sisters), “Chutes and Candyland” (about a friend who came out as transgender in middle age, and Kreider’s struggle to accept as a woman someone he’d only known as a man; the friend is Jennifer Finney Boylan and I look forward to reading her own book), and “The Anti-Kreider Club” (about the weird lack of fanfare around the end of friendships: one person stops speaking to the other, who isn’t supposed to seek answers or acknowledge this at all).

Overall not a groundbreaking collection, but a worthwhile one. One of these essays, “The Czar’s Daughter,” has also appeared in modified form in a Radiolab story, which you can listen to here. In its melancholy and generosity, its portrayal of deep and meaningful connections between essentially lonely people, it’s a fair representation of the collection.

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review 2019-02-17 23:38
Not Every Essay Resonated
Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture - Roxane Azimi

I feel like a bad person for not totally loving this book. It was just hard to get through and some of the stories didn't really move me one way or the other. I ended up just feeling sad while reading and finally finishing this book off with some wine. I think also that looking at rape culture is a huge undertaking, and so the stories could have flowed a bit better between them to the next story. Also I wish that things were not left vague in a few stories. A few times I went wait what happened when we had someone recounting their story. 


Fragments by Aubrey Hirsch (4 stars)-the story begins when she is being harassed for taking birth control by her supposed friend James. Apparently birth control equals putting out a certain signal (blech). Hirsch begins telling stories about her time in college and the one disturbing story is about how after a night of drinking too much she woke up in a friend's room (where he put her to keep her safe) and took out her contacts while she was unconscious. I full body shuddered. 


Slaughterhouse Island by Jill Christman (5 stars)-Christman tells what sounds like a typical college story (which makes me sad). A young girl meets a guy she feels meh towards, but still keeps hanging out with and one night things get ugly and he rapes her. She sees him again because part of you hopes for a different outcome. Nope, the outcome the second time is him attempting to rape her. At this point I put the book down and went to the gym to work out.


& The Truth Is, I Have No Story by Claire Schwartz (2 stars)-This one was so weird after reading Slaughterhouse Island. We have Schwartz telling her about everything "after" which I assumed to be her rape. I just found the whole essay to be more spoken poetry and it just jumped around a lot. Which I imagine was done to show how confused and separate a person feels after being raped. 


The Luckiest MILF in Brooklyn by Lynn Melnick (1 star)-I loathe the word MILF and this story was about catcall culture which is still a form of rape culture. I don't know. This one seemed off to me in a way. Melnick tells how she started giving blowjobs for attention and was led to believe that her body was her only thing to offer the world. At the end of the essay I don't know if she doesn't get that is not all she has to offer. 


Spectator by Brandon Taylor (3 stars)-this was hard to read. Recounting memories of their rapist (who was also their uncle). The story flits around a bit though with Taylor remembering their mother who also died and seems to segue into how Taylor is judgey towards his brother who is judgey towards them. 


The Sun by Emma Smith-Stevens (5 stars)-Stevens recounts tales of being objectified at an early age (13) by older men her whole life. And then the story gets even scarier if possible when she tells how she got invited to a party with 5 other teen boys (she was the only girl) while they watched porn. She chose one in order to not be raped by all and was called "whore" and "slut" at school. I think at this point I took another break from the book.


Sixty-Three Days by AJ McKenna (3.5 stars)-I was confused by the timeline in this one which took me out of the story. I felt for McKenna and loved the essay overall. I just couldn't understand when the person this essay was written for was in McKenna's life and also the other people who were named after. 


Only the Lonely by Lisa Mecham (2 stars)-This was confusing. A woman at a Yankee swap gets a vibrator and somehow it signifies something about her marriage. I don't know. I was just left confused.


What I Told Myself by Vanessa Martir (4.5 stars)-A hard story to read. Martir ties in her mother's own history of rape with her history of rape which happened when she was 6 years old. I just hated how everyone kept telling her that what happened to her wasn't as bad as what happened to her mother. I just died a little inside while reading this essay.


Stasis by Ally Sheedy (5 stars)-Yup that Ally Sheedy. Sheedy talks about being a young actress in Hollywood and being told she was "fat." I grew up watching Sheedy in films, I am gobsmacked that a director would even think this. She recounts discussions with other young actresses who got typecast and told to lose weight, be more sexy, or told they were not seen as sexually desirable. 


The Ways We Are Taught to Be a Girl by xTx (5 stars)-a girl's friend lures her (she won't say it, I will) to be forced to be alone with her and her brothers and how they kissed their sister with their tongues and told her to do it too. And the story is the first lesson on how to be a girl. How to keep things inside, to not tell everything horrible thing that happens to you because you don't want to be blamed (you still will be blamed by some though). There are five more lessons xTx imparts.


Floccinaucinihilipilification by So Mayer (5 stars)-How you survive being raped. Mayer's rapist was her father. 


Rape was where my rebellion started. His small sense that--small as I was, an infant--I needed to be controlled was my hint that I had power that had to be curtailed.


The Life Ruiner by Nora Salem (3 stars)-Salem recounting being raped when she was 8 by a 18 year old boy who lived with her and her family. Salem's family was doing with the death of her brother and she didn't want to break her family apart by telling them what was done to her. This one didn't grab me as much as the story before it which is why I gave it 3 stars. I do think it would have worked better if this one was up front and the stronger stories anchored the ending. 


All the Angry Women by Lyz Lenz (3 stars)-Lenz discussing what I think is a rape survivor's group. She dances around it. I thought some of the comparisons she made about how women are not allowed to be angry but men in the NFL who are abusers are let back in was an off comparison. Just state flat out women are not allowed to be angry. Shoot, I am a black woman and can't even show a grimace without being told I am being an angry black woman. It's been that way my whole life. 


Good Girls by Amy Jo Burns (4 stars)-

The truth no one told you is that, in order for a good girl to survive, she make some things disappear. You know because you used to be one of the good girls; you used to know how to forget.


Utmost Resistance by V.L. Seek (2.5 stars)-there are a lot of foonotes and quotes in this. I think Seek was trying to show this as a case of law, but it didn't work for me.


Bodies Against Borders by Michelle Chen (3 stars)-This reads as a scientific article more than an essay. Chen goes into violence against women worldwide and it definitely made me sad. 


What We Didn't Say by Liz Rosema (5 stars)-This was in comic strip form and I really loved it. This was my favorite essay in this collection. 


I Said Yes by Anthony Frame (5 stars)-Terrible story (all of them are honestly) of a man recounting when he was raped by his friend's father. I think the part that will grab at you is that his wife realizes he was raped when she sat and watched their wedding video which showed the change in his eyes after he got older. Then Frame recounts how he was raped and then the toxic masculinity he experienced as he got older in school and college.


Knowing Better by Samhita Mukhopadhyay (2.5 stars)-I have never heard of Mukhopadhyay who apparently wrote a book about love and dating. This one was pretty short so it didn't stay with me when I finished it. 


Not That Loud by Miriam Zoila Perez (2 stars)-I thought this one was pretty lackluster too after reading Knowing Better.


Why I Stopped by Zoe Medeiros (4 stars)-Why a rape survivor finally stopped telling people why she was raped.


Picture Perfect by Sharisse Tracey (5 stars)- A woman relaying how her black family wanted to be perfect, but ignored what Tracey's father was doing to her. Starting off from a photo shoot that becomes sexualized to physical rape later is hard to read. The whole story is pretty heart wrenching. Tracey tells her mother, who does believe her, but her father stays. Also there is some BS about a counselor coworker of her father's who tells her mother that if he leaves it will damage the family. I hope that counselor is somewhere sitting on sharp tack. This is in my opinion, one of the second strongest stories in this collection.


To Get Out from Under it by Stacey May Fowles (5 stars)-Recounting the many times she said no while raped. Fowles does a good job of showcasing the many sides to being raped. Telling yourself that what happened wasn't that bad. Then Fowles recounts the many questions that are asked.


Did you know him? Did you invite him in? Did you go willingly? Did he hurt you? Did he have a weapon? Did he force you? Did you wear something that provoked him? Did you want to have sex with him? Did you cook him dinner beforehand? Did you put on makeup? Did you tell him you liked him? Did you tell him you loved him? Do you regret anything you did that night? 

How bad was it really?


Reaping What Rape Culture Sows by Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes (5 stars)-Weirdly Stokes telling us when she first was told about rape was when I also heard about it too. Watching Little House on the Prairie and seeing the Sylvia episodes. And then the sadness when Stokes takes her father's definition of rape and doesn't understand that it's not the only way to assault and harm a woman. Stokes blames herself after she is raped anyway because she had been drinking and hurt her left making herself vulnerable. The whole essay just like the two preceding it was very strong. 


Invisible Light Waves by Meredith Talusan (3.5 stars)-pretty short and I honestly didn't feel as engrossed in this one as I should have.


Getting Home by Nicole Boyce (3 stars)-This jumps around and doesn't really land in the end for me.


Why I Didn't Say No by Elissa Bassist (3.5 stars)-Bassist recounting the many ways in which she didn't say no while she was raped. I think the main reason why I didn't rate this one higher was because it was kind of a stream of consciousness thing that didn't work for me. 

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text 2019-02-16 15:11
Reading progress update: I've read 99 out of 368 pages.
Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture - Roxane Azimi

My aim is to finish this by Monday. Right now it's pretty grim to read/sit through in one sitting which is why I have taken so long to finish it. 

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review 2019-02-02 18:57
The Monsters We Deserve
The Monsters We Deserve - Marcus Sedgwick

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

This book is somewhat of an oddball: part essay, part horror story, part reflection about the writer’s craft and what bringing a story into the world involves.

The book the author-protagonist talks about is Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, but it’s also his own, his best-seller book, and the one about which he harbours the most doubts. It’s about disliking a story so much that you can’t help think about it; about the meaning of one’s writing, and how it completely escapes us from the moment it’s out in the world; about searching one’s soul and having to come to terms with our truths. Not an easy read, though it’s fairly short, and I admit I wasn’t entirely sold on it at first, but then it grew on me.

It’s also about monsters, of course, but not necessarily the kind we think at first.

Not my favourite book by Marcus Sedgwick, though, as parts of it are rather confusing and left me with a somewhat “off” feeling that I couldn’t place. Not to mention that if you’ve studied “Frankenstein” at least a little, most of the reflections outlined in it, as well as the “big reveal”, are kind of… super obvious?

2.5 stars. Interesting as a curiosity, I’d say.

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text 2018-12-29 22:56
2019 Reading Goals: Non-Fiction Science Reading List
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot
The Genius of Birds - Jennifer Ackerman
Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World - Laura Spinney
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History - Elizabeth Kolbert
The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars - Dava Sobel
Code Girls: The True Story of the American Women Who Secretly Broke Codes in World War II (Young Readers Edition) - Liza Mundy
Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet - Claire L. Evans
Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars - Nathalia Holt
Upstream: Selected Essays - Mary Oliver
Toms River: A Story of Science and Salvation - Dan Fagin

In addition to the twelve books listed in this post, I hope to read a few of the Flat Book Society picks.


1. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

2. The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman

3. Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World by Laura Spinney

4. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

5. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

6. Blood Feud by Kathleen Sharp

7. The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel

8. Code Girls by Liz Mundy

9. Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt

10. Broad Band by Claire L. Evans

11. Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver

12. Tom's River by Dan Fagin

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