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review 2018-03-23 19:49
Review: Back Talk
Back Talk - Danielle Lazarin

Even the best of short story collections are uneven. I used to find this odd—how could a writer who wrote such a fabulous story follow it with such a crap story? I realize now that it makes sense. I mean, after all, if you look at any author's complete body of works, you'll find great works and ho-hum works. No writer is one-hundred percent consistent. The difference is in presentation. We think of a collection of short stories as a complete work. A novelist's whole career is not held under the same scrutiny.

Danielle Lazarin's Back Talk is no different. There are stories I really enjoyed. And stories I could've done without. The difference was the grouping of these stories. Normally, a collection starts with one or two good stories and follows it with a dud, then another good story and several duds. Depending on the total number of stories in the collection and the ratio of good stories, all this may vary, of course, but often the middle contains several lackluster stories that lead into a final one or two good stories.

So when I started reading Back Talk and found that the first several stories barely held my attention, I assumed the whole collection was not for me. Midway, the stories really started to improve however. In fact, story after story was quite wonderful. At this point, I questioned whether it was me: perhaps some preconceived notion I had about the collection, or some blockage in my personal life. I decided that, when finished, I'd go back and read one of the first few stories that I found to be far from special.

On a second reading, the story I selected was slightly more enjoyable, but I still didn't love it. So maybe this collection is oddly uneven, but it does contain several wonderful stories. The best of these stories really get into the minds of their protagonists. They're quiet stories about everyday events, but they're full of heart. In these character-driven stories, I think it ultimately comes down to connection. I was pulled into the mind of some of these characters, not into the minds of others. Readers of character-centric short fiction should give Back Talk a try.

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text 2018-03-12 18:13
To the people recommending this as a "low angst" read...
Let's Talk About Love - Claire Kann

... I want to say, "Are you serious?" Because almost everything I've read so far has been angst. There's the breakup scene at the start, sure, but then there's also Alice's intense stress and anxiety about her identity and what she wants out of a relationship after she meets Takumi. And I'm still only a third of the way through the book.


One of those times I kind of wish I had a Twitter account. Thankfully someone jumped in and mentioned some of this stuff, because otherwise I'd worry more about the folks who'd go into this book expecting something light and fluffy (sort of like I did - that'll teach me to believe random squeeing book bloggers).

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review 2018-03-08 23:53
So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo
So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo

I debated whether to give this a full five stars, mostly since I rarely give books five stars, but I really don't have anything to criticize here (other than a minor disagreement about a single comma) and I did really enjoy my read. I wasn't always perfectly comfortable, admittedly, but I think it was direct and well-written while possessing a lively tone.


The content isn't exactly new but it's a good resource that walks you through a lot of the arguments and provides strategies for talking about race. I do feel that the more familiar people are with arguments and talking points, the easier it is to speak up when appropriate. Let's hope I can manage to do more of that.


I would like to share a particular passage from the chapter on microaggressions since it reminded me of an argument I had once about whether the younger generations are too sensitive about "politically correct" topics.

"I would like to say that his is when I stopped caring what other people think, that this was when I stopped trying to fit in. But I was a fifteen-year old girl, and I was lonely. So I kept trying. I kept trying to make friends and build community and every time I thought I'd made progress, someone would deflate all of the air out of my dream.


But as painful as it was, I didn't know that it was wrong. I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to be treated this way. I was pretty sure I was the problem. Because nobody came to my defense, hell, nobody batted an eye when these things were said to me. They weren't a big deal, just small comments, little jokes. I shouldn't be so sensitive. It was all in my head. If I just found a way to have less things wrong with me, these bothersome comments would stop. So I smiled less, at less, laughed less, and spoke in a whisper."

I really empathized with that heartbreaking passage. The little things over time hurt. They have psychological impact. Why would you want to write off that kind of hurt as over-sensitivity? You shouldn't! I can only assume that the people making this argument don't understand that it's the accumulation of all the little comments because they've never paid attention to them and so they've never noticed how many there are. We all need to do better.


This book is focused on racism in the US, so not everything is the same where I live, but we're not immune from racism here either. We always seem to like to think that these things are better in Canada, but a black coworker of mine once admitted that he shaved his braids off in his 20s because he felt it was holding him back from landing a job. That was a few years ago, but not all that many.


Previous updates:

163 of 238 pages

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text 2018-03-08 23:12
Red Game Round 3 Guess (Kill Your Darlings)
So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo

I read So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo for this card since there's an I in Finch (Ijeoma). I'll write up a review later tonight but I wanted to get this guess in before it was too late. 


Let's see how evil MR is...

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text 2018-03-07 23:23
Reading progress update: I've read 163 out of 238 pages.
So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo

I have to say that I'm a little appalled that Oluo felt the need to include a chapter entitled "Why can't I touch your hair?" Not because I don't believer her but because it just feels like something incredibly invasive to do to someone, especially if you don't actually know them. I mean, of course you don't randomly go touching people's hair without their permission. Isn't that a no brainer? Even asking is awkward unless you're actually having a conversation about hair.


Basically I'm just appalled that anyone would feel that this is an acceptable thing to do to anyone.

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