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review 2017-05-31 15:27
Eddie Izzard's memoir
Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens - Eddie Izzard

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley

                Back when BBC America show actually British shows instead of movies and Star Trek, I saw my first Eddie Izzard show.

 

                He made me laugh so hard.

 

                To call this book a straight forward autobiography or memoir is slightly incorrect.  While the progression in the work is somewhat linear, there are digressions, and in some places, you go two steps back after one step forward.

 

                This doesn’t mean the book is bad.  It isn’t.  In fact, it is like Izzard is there talking just to you.  So, it is really nice.

 

                The other thing is that Izzard is not one of those stars who celebrate or shoves his celebrity in his face.  He does not make himself sound extra special or anything like that.  He is, in fact, every day, everybody.  So, when he discusses his struggles to come to terms with himself, to find himself, to succeed, he is in many ways just like you.  Look, I don’t know what it is like to be transgender or TV as Eddie Izzard calls it.  Yet, for a straight woman who doesn’t like to wear heels, there is much here.  Izzard’s writing lacks that self-inflation that sometimes infuses memoirs.  In part, the book feels like he is still trying to figure himself out, and on another level, it gives me the same feeling that reading Pancakes in Paris did.  Everyone struggles to discover who they are and make peace with it.  Most struggles are different yet similarly.  (Yes, I know it is oxymoron).

 

                There are funny insights here too – for instance “Wasps are actually like The Borg from Star Trek” or how real football is more American than people think it is.  “Stinging nettles are the Nazis of the  weed world”.

 

                And he is so right about warm milk.  Warm milk is just wrong in so many different ways.

 

                And Mr. Izzard, you are not the only vomiter, just saying.

 

                The book isn’t just humor – though Izzard’s humor is on full display, it is full of introspection and touching passages.  When Izzard discusses his relationship to his step-mother, in particular his attending concerts with her, the emotion shines though.   It is a rather intimate and touching story.

 

                Even if you are not an Eddie Izzard fan (and you should be), you will enjoy this touching memoir.

               

               

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review 2017-05-18 02:19
Jazz Baby - Beem Weeks

            Before I began reading this book I was warned that it was “gritty.” That was the exact word used. And the person who generously cautioned me was telling no lie.  Oftentimes the story of the maturing Baby Teegarten made me cringe and my stomach churn.  It had nothing to do with Beem Weeks’ writing style, but rather with the brutality young women were faced with during the 1920s.

            The first person perspective allows readers to face Baby’s harrowing journey to making it big in a society that demeans girls and views them as commodities rather than human beings.  Beem Weeks writes about broken dreams and the crushing weight of circumstance.  While Baby has a vision of making it big in the northern United States, desperate for an escape from barren Mississippi, she is cut short and settles for the dark world of New Orleans speak easies.  The real tragedy of the tale is that the summation of all the horrible events Baby experiences reflects the desperation some feel to escape, whether they are escaping a regrettable past or a home that never felt like home. 

            While I can’t say that this is a book I would read again, Beem Weeks’ writing skill is undeniable.  I tend to prefer romance and stories that take me on an emotional journey that end in me ultimately feeling fulfilled and happy.  When I finished this story I mostly felt dirty.  But to accurately depict the tale of his protagonist, the author had no other way but to include those details for the sake of authenticity and perhaps even shock value. Returning to that warning I was given—Jazzy Baby was a chilling and indubitably gritty approach to a coming of age story.

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review 2017-04-17 18:00
The Axeman's Jazz
The Axeman's Jazz - Ray Celestin

So, this is my RL book group's latest choice, which we will discuss at the end of this month. I am delighted to say that this was much better than the last book.

 

The Axeman's Jazz is a combination of historical fiction and police procedural set in the New Orleans on 1919 and based on the real crimes committed by "the Axeman". 

 

I will not give a lot of details about the factual background to the story - and I would advise any prospective readers to not look up the facts before reading the book - because knowing some of the details will spoil the reading experience some. 

 

The story of the book sets in when several attacks have been committed in New Orleans and the police cannot quite see any connections. There is a lot of conjecture which the author intelligently bases on the socio-economic situation of the city at the time and especially on the tensions between different groups of people  - particularly Irish and Italian immigrants. 

 

The other foundation of the story is New Orleans connection to music. In particular to jazz, which is a vital element of the Axeman's terror: with a seemingly random murderer on the loose, a letter by the self-proclaimed "Axeman" is published which announces the date that the next murder will occur, but also warns that anyone who is playing or listening to jazz music on that night will be safe.

 

I thought the book has a great premise and the choice and setting of the story was really interesting. However, the book struggled a bit. 

 

I enjoyed reading about the historical tidbits but the actual mystery, or rather the police investigation (which had another couple of subplots) left me bored. So, I had to look to the second team of unofficial investigators to carry the plot. This, however, only succeeded in part because as much as I liked Ida, the Holmes-obsessed lady detective, I just could not get my head around Louis Armstrong being involved in the murder puzzle. 

 

All in all, it was a fun read, but the historical part was more entertaining than the murder mystery.

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review 2017-02-16 19:56
Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen - Jazz Jennings

I don't often read nonfiction. Not because I don't like reading it. It's just something I don't naturally gravitate towards. I tend to reach for more fantastical worlds as a way to relax from the ever polluting realities of our own world. However, this year I want to do something a little bit different. This year I want to read more nonfiction. I want to educate myself about different cultures and experiences. I've always been a very diverse reader, but I want to do that with my nonfiction reading as well. So when my partner and I saw Jazz Jennings memoir at the library, we both decided we HAD to read it.

 

I really enjoyed reading Jazz Jennings's memoir. She writes in a very conversational tone. Almost as if she is in the room with you, just chatting about her day. It was a very relaxing way of conveying her story and message. I enjoyed reading about all the advocacy work she does and I especially loved learning about how loving and supportive her family was. I am fully aware that for some transgender teens and adults, that's not always the case, but I am so happy that Jazz Jennings has a family that loves, supports, and protects her so she can be herself. To be happy. I thought that was beautiful.

 

That's not to say that her life wasn't without struggle. Being transgender, she encountered difficulties when it came to using the girls' restroom in school or being prohibited from being on any female teams when playing sports. Her family fought long and hard so that Jazz could be treated fairly and equally just like other girls. And in the end, it paid off! What makes this an amazing accomplishment is that they paved the way for other transgender kids to have these same rights without having to go to court and fight for them. (Although, I know that no matter what, there will always be struggles for anyone who is transgender or who is considered "different" in our society. But this is why I believe educating yourself and having an open mind could help us better understand one another, so that there's less hatred and violence. Please treat each other kindly.)

 

All in all, I really liked this book. I think if you know a teen who is transitioning or is thinking about transitioning, this is a great book to introduce them to the idea. Or if you know any adults who has a child or teen that is transitioning, they should read this book so that way they can learn to be understanding of their child and their needs. To support their child in any way they can. Parents, more than anybody else, need to try and understand that their child is their child. No matter what. And parents should love their child unconditionally. Whether their child is male, female, trans, intersex, non-binary, etc., remember to always love your child. The world is cruel enough as it is. Do not add to the hatred by discriminating against your own child. 

 

So I do recommend this book for people to learn from. The only downside to this book is that Jazz Jennings writes from a very privileged perspective and she knows that. She points out throughout the book multiple times that she is fully aware she's lucky to have been blessed with understanding parents and the financial needs to transition. So, a lot of the treatments and experiences she talks about in her book are not something everyone will be able to afford or experience themselves. Nevertheless, I still think there are things in this book everyone can benefit from by reading it. Please give this book a read if you come by it. A little bit of education goes a long way.

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