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review 2020-04-29 23:49
Not Worth the Hype
Educated - Tara Westover

Title: Educated: A Memoir

Author: Tara Westover

Publish Date: February 20, 2018

Publisher: Random House

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 334 pages

Source: Library

Date Read: February 16-18, 2020




I had no intention of reading this book on my own; it was my IRL book club pick. I read the glowing reviews from both book industry types and readers, yet I was convinced this book wasn't for me. I was right.


Educated is about Westover's life as a daughter of Mormon fundamentalist family living on a mountain in Idaho. Her life and family are just fucked up nutcases. It was hard to read about constant physical and emotional abuse of children who then grew up and continued the abuse or turned away from the family and upbringing. When Westover left at 17 to go to college, I did empathize with her when she was writing about roommates who were Mormon, but not "her kind" of Mormon and her money woes. But every time she made head way in breaking away and becoming her own person in the not fundie world, she raced back toward the mountain and her family, back to the abuse. This happened five or six times and it was exhausting to read and then just boring. She didn't want to break up with her family, even though her older brother did it earlier than her and was much happier living in the non-fucked up world. And because it took so long for the break up to happen and so many fucked up situations described just numbed me to having any sympathy for her. Personally, I don't think she is smart as she and glowing reviewers think she is. Educated sure, but she has a lot of learning to do still and I have no desire to read anything else by her.

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review 2019-11-19 00:12
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei et al
They Called Us Enemy - Steven Scott,Justin Eisinger,George Takei,Harmony Becker

Date Published: July 16, 2019

Format: Paperback

Source: Own copy

Date Read: November 9, 2019



A history of the Executive Order 9066 and how it affected his family and his community that was seen by a seven year old boy and then later as a teenager/young adult who had his early activism influenced by what had happened and long talks with his dad. Later, Takei would use his story to show the how horribly inhumane the Trump administration and policies are. There are mentions of his play Allegiance as well as start in acting, including his meeting Nichelle Nichols before Star Trek was even an idea floating around Hollywood. But the story mostly centers on telling the story of Japanese and Japanese-Americans during WWII. I thought I knew the story of the Japanese internment/concentration camps, but I learned a few new things - such as their were conscientious objectors who refused to sign a loyalty card to FDR/USA at the same time others in the camps were signing up to join the US Army in an all-Japanese unit. There were varying degrees of camps and went as far as Arkansas (where the Takeis were originally, then moved to the horror that was Methune camp in California). 


My favorite part of the book was the conversations with his father, with his father giving his insights into the hows and whys of the work Daddy Takei did both in and out of the camps. This was a departure from most within the Japanese community who lived through the internments, as they were more likely never to speak of what happened to anyone, lest of all the younger generations. The Takei family are a special group of people. 

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review 2019-11-17 02:06
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
The Best We Could Do - Thi Bui

Date Published: March 7, 2017

Format: Kindle

Source: Library

Date Read: November 3, 2019



A thorough examination of a Vietnam family's immigration to the US. There was history, family dynamics, and exploration of the Vietnam conflict from the perspective of the Vietnamese people who were on the ground and not Western historians and foreign policy experts. An excellent resource for learning more nuance ways to understanding the Vietnam conflict. 


The artwork is fine, but at times I felt that the water colors were too light and dull for the action taking place. Some of the history details are written on the art and can be a bit confusing if you need a linear timeline of events.


Overall, highly recommend.

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review 2019-10-27 23:46
Lab Girl by Hope Jahern
Lab Girl - Hope Jahren

Date Published: April 5, 2016

Format: Trade Paperback

Source: Own Copy

Date Read: October 21-23, 2019


Read for NEA's Big Read Wichita/IRL Book Club



Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more.

Lab Girl
is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.

Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.


I can't believe this is a highly recommended book and was voted on by a committee of librarians for the entire city of Wichita to read. Jahern is a narcissistic asshole (she blames it on her family and her Scandinavian heritage) with delusions of grandeur (my opinion). She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder sometime in late 1999 or early 2000s, but that too doesn't excuse her asshole nature. She is also a boring as fuck writer and a horrible, abusive boss and professor to college students of every level. Why would anyone, let alone four universities, let her set up her laboratory on their grounds is anyone's guess. But what really irritates me about Jahern is her internal misogyny. I can not wait until tomorrow night's book club meeting to hate on this book (judging from the comments of other members in our FB group page, I won't be the only one).

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review 2019-10-27 22:41
Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist by Franchesca Ramsey
Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist - Franchesca Ramsey

Date Published: May 20, 2018

Format: Hardcover

Source: Library

Date Read: October 12-14, 2019



Franchesca Ramsey didn't set out to be an activist. Or a comedian. Or a commentator on identity, race, and culture, really. But then her YouTube video "What White Girls Say. . . to Black Girls" went viral. Twelve million views viral. Faced with an avalanche of media requests, fan letters, and hate mail, she had two choices: Jump in and make her voice heard or step back and let others frame the conversation. After a crash course in social justice and more than a few foot-in-mouth moments, she realized she had a unique talent and passion for breaking down injustice in America in ways that could make people listen and engage.

In her first book, Ramsey uses her own experiences as an accidental activist to explore the many ways we communicate with each other—from the highs of bridging gaps and making connections to the many pitfalls that accompany talking about race, power, sexuality, and gender in an unpredictable public space...the internet.

Well, That Escalated Quickly includes Ramsey's advice on dealing with internet trolls and low-key racists, confessions about being a former online hater herself, and her personal hits and misses in activist debates with everyone from bigoted Facebook friends and misguided relatives to mainstream celebrities and YouTube influencers. With sharp humor and her trademark candor, Ramsey shows readers we can have tough conversations that move the dialogue forward, rather than backward, if we just approach them in the right way.


I admit to only knowing about Franchesca Ramsey and her book because she guest hosts podcasts I listen to (such as Keep It with Ira Madison). I liked the second half of this book much more than the first half. The first half deals with her time as a rising YouTuber and honestly it is a bit shallow save for her writing on SWGSTBG (the video that made her well known on the Internet). Unless you are a YT regular viewer, the first half of this book really doesn't anything interesting to say. I almost DNF after that chapter with her and Lena Dunham at dinner (in my defense, I try to avoid all things LD).


Then came the other half of the book and Ramsey's writing shines and she discusses topics outside the social media bubble. She has a fresh voice and approach to a variety of topics, and her humor adds a nice touch to the topics without feeling forced (like in the first half of the book). I hope she continues writing and I would read more from her.

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