recommended

Review of HEARTS OF CLAY by Dosun Adeleye

Review of HEARTS OF CLAY by Dosun Adeleye

Dosun Adeleye’s Hearts of Clay follows the journey of Grace, a young woman living in the United Kingdom who travels to Nigeria in search of the answer to her life’s mystery. Grace finds herself in some wild situations that test her strength and resolve. While intelligent and independent, Grace’s emotional spirit can get the better of her especially when it comes to love, sex, and secrets.

Review of HEARTS OF CLAY by Dosun Adeleye

The author, Dosun Adeleye.

Dosun Adeleye is especially adept at describing her characters; it is clear that she is passionate about writing them. Our main character sets out to find the question to a lifelong question. Not only does she receive her answer but she gets caught up in adventures that are at times thrilling and at times romantic. To keep this review spoiler-free, I will say no more but let the reader discover the excitement and emotion on their own.

I especially appreciated reading from the perspective of a woman caught in several dichotomies: between life in the UK and life in Nigeria, between familial relationships and her own autonomy, between living life as expected or life as she wants. The protagonist is smart yet impulsive; Grace is not perfect and Adeleye ensures we can see ourselves in her, faults and all. Adeleye’s challenging of social stigmas and gender roles in her writing is admirable.

To be honest, I’m not usually into romances or thrillers, so I am a tough sell in these genres. For me the book was a bit unconvincing and rudimentary at times. Despite this, I don’t doubt that many readers will enjoy this book. The story is one of secrets uncovered, one of trust and abandonment, one of obstacles and ambition. From the outrageous twists to the steamy love scenes to the family drama, Hearts of Clay will appeal to those who appreciate adventurous reads and romantic thrillers, especially those in international settings. Recommended.

Dosun Adeleye can be found online at https://www.facebook.com/Dosunadeleye/.

Summary:

Title: Hearts of Clay
Author: Dosun Adeleye
Publisher:  Dosun Adeleye
Pages: 286 pages
Publication Date: August 30, 2018
Tags: Nigeria, women writers, romance, thriller, UK, family, relationships, #OwnVoices
My Rating: Recommended

Content information: Sexual situations, mild violence

 

 

For further information:

African Book Review review

Dosun Adeleye’s first book, Rosie: A Trip Down Memory Lane

 

This post contains affiliate links; I write what I like. 
Many thanks to the author for the complimentary ebook. 

A Review of GO TOGETHER by Shola Richards

A Review of GO TOGETHER by Shola Richards

I have a few close work colleagues—friends, really—who I go to for support, consolation, venting, and laughs. The group of us get together regularly for tea or lunch to discuss the usual work topics, to compare notes about the latest gossip, and to exchange advice.

Most of the time our discussions are lively, positive, and proactive. But we have found that when we allow ourselves to sit in our frustration with a climate that we find challenging at times, our meetings can devolve into more bitching and less action. We all recognize we need to vent but also that it’s important to not walk away feeling defeated or full of negativity. So when one of these colleagues suggested we read Shola Richards’ Go Together: How the Concept of Ubuntu Will Change How You Live, Work, and Lead, I was intrigued.

While not for everyone, self-help-type books do have a place on my bookshelves. I am always looking for new ways to manage my depression and anxiety, practice mindfulness, declutter my home, or grow my leadership skills.

The book stood out to me because it is based on the concept of ubuntu, which I became familiar with in 2009 when I first traveled to South Africa. As Richards explains, ubuntu is often translated as. “I am, because we are” (page xv). It is also related to the African proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” (page xiv).

A Review of GO TOGETHER by Shola Richards

One of my screensaver photos, which captures the spirit of ubuntu.

In his book, Richards applies this philosophy of compassion, kindness, and unity to both personal and work lives.

Shola Richards is a speaker, writer, and trainer who is all about positivity. While I consider myself a pretty positive person and open to these types of methods, I knew a couple members of my group would be tougher sells than me. And as is true for many self-help books, this one toes the line of becoming a bit too saccharine at times, especially for those who tend towards skepticism (or sarcasm). But just as the book is about to descend into a refrain of “Kumbaya,” Richards brings it on back with realistic suggestions about applying ubuntu to work, like doing more of what toxic colleagues hate most and not being as asshat, especially when in a leadership role.

A Review of GO TOGETHER by Shola Richards

The author, Shola Richards.

Throughout the book, Richards gives the reader concrete examples, often telling anecdotes from his own life. The sharing of his own imperfections, fears, and vulnerabilities is effective in gaining the reader’s trust and understanding. Richards also provides pragmatic suggestions for the solutions he champions, including ways to build empathy, to practice ubuntu, and to act instead of standing by and letting fear take over. His advice centers on “Eight Keys to Unlocking Ubuntu at Work,” which are straightforward reminders like “Address It,” “Honor It,” and “Own It” with helpful explanations of each.

Richards sets the stage for the book by recounting a 2017 survey about civility in America which found that “Ninety-four percent of Americans believe that they are always/usually polite and respectful to others” (page 8). The same survey uncovered that respondents believed “…the state of civility in America has never been worse than it is currently,” with 75% of Americans believing that incivility has reached crisis levels (pages 6-7).

While not shocking considering our current political climate, these sentiments illustrate the disconnect between belief and practice, or perhaps the lack of self-awareness and individual responsibility, in the US today. Richards encourages the reader to reflect upon their own participation in incivility, to explore their pain and reactions to it, and to use ubuntu to find the unity and togetherness necessary to build a better world.

Overall, the book sparked a discussion for my group that was valuable to me. It offers practical suggestions for ways to improve work relationships and empowers the reader to try them. With chapters on healing yourself, being present, becoming a kind leader, building resilience, managing bullies, and more, there is something for everyone in this book. While the message of the book — be a decent person to build a better world — is not new, the concept of ubuntu may be to many readers in the US and may impact them in ways previous frameworks have not.

I would recommend this book to those looking to improve the culture and climate at their workplaces. Reading it with a group can be a proactive way to apply the suggestions in your daily work life and to have a support system in place for the journey. You may also want to check out Shola Richards’ first book, Making Work Work: The Positivity Solution for Any Work Environment.

 

Find Shola Richards online at https://sholarichards.com/ and http://thepositivitysolution.com/ and on Twitter @positivitysolve.

 

A Review of GO TOGETHER by Shola RichardsSummary:

Title: Go Together: How the Concept of Ubuntu Will Change How You Live, Work, and Lead
Author: Shola Richards
Publisher: Sterling Ethos
Pages: 208 pages
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Tags: Work, leadership, self help, #OwnVoices, memoir
My Rating: Recommended

 

Go Together: How the Concept of Ubuntu Will Change How You Live, Work, and Lead


For more information:

Identical twin Shola Richards drank gasoline as a kid; his energy is still lit by Munson Steed for Rolling Out (2016)

Managing Change at UC Riverside by Sandra Baltazar Martinez for InsideUCR (2017)

NOW Conference Lunch Keynote: Shola Richards

The Spirit of UBUNTU: Eight Keys to Creating a Workplace Culture of Unstoppable Positivity – Shola Richards at Berkeley in 2017

For discussion:

Are you a fan of self-help or professional development books? Which are your favorites? Do you think Go Together would be useful in your workplace?

 

Many thanks to Shola Richards for the complimentary copies of his books.
This post contains affiliate links; I write what I like.

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon - A Classics Club Review

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon – A Classics Club Review

You may have read a previous post in which I described joining The Classics Club and introducing my reading list of 100 Classic Reads for the Rest of Us. Well, I meant to read two classics each month but in this, my first month, I am already behind! I have had a busy month but I managed to get through my first Classics Club book, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, which is a fascinating look at Japanese court culture during the 11th century Heian period (794 to 1186).

While others may be more familiar with Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji as an example of classic Japanese literature of the time, I chose The Pillow Book instead – I always lean towards bucking the trend and I was intrigued by what I had read of Sei Shonagon’s attention to detail, unflinching honesty, and acerbic wit in her quest for the perfect comeback.

It’s been said that Murasaki Shikibu and Sei Shonagon were rivals in the same literary circle and that the former found Sei Shonagon conceited. And while The Tale of Genji is a long and layered tale of politics, love, and loss, The Pillow Book is less serious – and to me, more telling – and full of Sei Shonagon’s observations, delights, and criticisms. Despite (or perhaps because of) her often sentimental observations, Sei Shonagon would’ve been brought into court for her knowledge of literature and poetry and for her writing skills; according to Ohio State University professor Ryan Schultz, she brought a level of “sophistication and elegance” to the court, which were cornerstones of court culture during this period.

According to Dr. Meredith McKinney, an expert in Japanese literature and translator of this edition, Sei Shonagon might have been born around 966 and the last known reference to her was in 1017. She was a member of the court of Empress Consort Teishi (Sadako), where she served as a gentlewoman or lady-in-waiting beginning around 993 until Teishi’s death in 1000.

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon - A Classics Club Review

Sei Shōnagon, drawing by Kikuchi Yosai (1788–1878). (Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=626326)

While specific details about Sei Shonagon and her book are difficult to confirm, it is believed she completed the book around 1002. It is the oldest book on my classics list. There are several editions of the book; it has been copied and recopied multiple times. I read the Penguin Classics edition which includes an informative introduction written by Meredith McKinney and is full of notes throughout. Well-researched and thorough, it also includes appendices such as a glossary as well as explanations of colors and clothes, social statuses, and more.

The Pillow Book is akin to a diary; Sei Shonagon mostly tells us stories of her daily life, gossips about her peers, comments on fashion and the seasons. It provides a perspective on imperial culture in all its luxury, privilege, and poetry and is considered a masterpiece of Japanese literature. According to Sei Shonagon, the book was supposed to have been kept private but started to circulate among the court members when it was discovered after she accidentally left it out on a mat one day around 996.

I have never read a book quite like this before. While I enjoyed it for its unique content and perspective, it lacks the cohesion I was used to as it jumps around throughout time periods, thoughts, and miscellany. At times, Sei Shonagon uses the pages to list examples of seemingly arbitrary topics of her choice, sometimes as ordinary as naming peaks, plants, or bodies of water but at other times are more thoughtful. Here are some of my favorites:

Though it’s the same it sounds different ~ The language of priests. Men’s language. Women’s language.

Rare things ~ A pair of silver tweezers that can actually pull out hairs properly. A person who is without a single quirk. Two women, let alone a man and a woman, who vow themselves to each other forever, and actually manage to remain on good terms to the end.

Times when someone’s presence produces foolish excitement ~ A mother who’s pampering and praising her spoilt child, who is actually nothing out of the ordinary. The little introductory cough you give when you’re about to address someone who overawes you.

Things now useless that recall a glorious past ~ A fine embroidery-edged mat that’s become threadbare. A painter with poor eyesight. A switch of false hair seven or eight feet long, that’s now fading and taking on a reddish tinge. A man who was a great lover in his day but is now old and decrepit.

While I took these as fascinating insights into the life of an elite Japanese court woman at that time, I can see how some readers may become tired of the gossipy tone or her whiny judgments. I feel as though many readers would be satisfied with a summary of the book and a sampling of representative passages. But I would encourage others to read it precisely because it often doesn’t conform to modern (Western) writing conventions – and this is a good thing. The Pillow Book provides accessible entry into a slice of Japanese culture, history, and literature in a form that is swift, smart, and sharp.

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon - A Classics Club Review

Sei Shonagon, by Unknown (Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3616093)

One aspect that kept me reading was noticing the way women were talked about in the book. Now while the type of life represented in the book was not that of most women of the time, it was interesting to examine how court women were thought of and treated. It seems that mainly women were hidden away, in several palace rooms, behind curtains or screens, or in carriages. That being said, it didn’t seem that these court women minded this. The court was the center of their worlds and according to Sei Shonagon, they seemed fairly satisfied with it. Beauty and comfort were central themes of the book and Sei Shonagon spends time describing clothing, fabrics, festivals, the weather, sounds, and colors; all in a signature poetic style that makes for lovely backdrops to the stories she tells.

In this polygamous, polyamorous time, Japanese court women of the Heian period enjoyed taking multiple lovers, seemingly without shame or judgement. Sei Shonagon even discusses how a man should be sure to not overstay his welcome in his lover’s chambers after a night of pleasure as well as the importance of a well-written (and prompt) “morning after” note.

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon - A Classics Club Review

Sei Shōnagon, illustration from an issue of Hyakunin Isshu (Edo period) (By user:Ultratomio, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=164427)

Those who are interested in learning about this era of Japanese history or life would find this book compelling. I would also recommend this book to poetry lovers, as poetry was an integral part of court society during this period. One’s knowledge of poetry indicated their intellect, wit, and social standing; not only was one expected to know the greats but also to come up with original poetry on the spot. Communication between friends, colleagues, and lovers often took place via notes sent by messenger and these notes were often written in poetry, so one needed to be able to read, interpret, and create poems full of flirtation and puns for attention and glory. This was one of Sei Shonagon’s talents; she aimed to delight and surprise with her poetry and humor.

Overall, I am glad I started my Classics Club journey with The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. It was unlike anything else I have read and I learned more about a culture about which I know very little. I would recommend it to readers of poetry and women writers, those interested in Japanese or women’s history, or anyone who is looking for a unique classic read!

Summary:

The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon - A Classics Club Review

 

Title: The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon
Author: Sei Shonagon
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Pages: 404 pages
Publication Date: 2006 (this translation edition)
Tags: Japan, women writers, memoir, history, poetry, classics
My Rating: Recommended

 

 

 

For further reading:

“‘The Pillow Book’ By Sei Shonagon Was Written In The 11th Century, But It’s Basically A Modern Day Blog” (2018) by Charlotte Ahlin for Bustle

The Pillow Book on Ancient History Encyclopedia

Pillow Book on Encyclopedia Britannica

The Pillow Book: Translating a Classic (2011) by Meredith McKinney for Kyoto Journal

The Pillow Book of Sei Shônagon (with excerpts and study questions) on Asia for Educators

Heian Literature and Japanese Court Women video by Ryan Schultz of The Ohio State University

 

This post contains affiliate links; I write what I like.

Review of Ogenna Ojukwu's THE TEACHER, THE SEAMSTRESS AND THE PIANIST

Review of Ogenna Ojukwu’s THE TEACHER, THE SEAMSTRESS AND THE PIANIST

Ogenna Ojukwu’s debut novel, The Teacher, the Seamstress and the Pianist, is a multilayered story of intertwining lives and the effect that love and loss in the past can have on the present.

The story takes place in Lagos, Nigeria, in the early 2000s and centers on Onyeka, the teacher. Onyeka is married to Arum but after years of trying to have a child, to no avail, their marriage begins to suffer. Onyeka instead cares for her nephew, Anieto, and Chidiebere, her housemaid.

But this was before Chidiebere and Anieto began living with her, before she would see them as the children she never had, before they would resuscitate in her, a renewed urging to live.

Review of Ogenna Ojukwu's THE TEACHER, THE SEAMSTRESS AND THE PIANIST

The author, Ogenna Ojukwu.

Chidiebere is from the local village and at the beginning of the story we see her travel back there to attend the funeral of her estranged father, who died under violent circumstances. Onyeka had offered to take Chidiebere in and send her to school; Onyeka’s dream for Chidiebere was for her to go to university but Chidiebere longed to be a seamstress.

Anieto, too, had lost his father to violence; after that, he moved in with Onyeka while his mother moved to England to build a new life for them. And perhaps you guessed it: Anieto is the pianist.

The book follows the three main characters, their hopes and their challenges. The characters in Ojukwu’s story are well-developed. I felt empathy for them at times but also frustration when they made decisions I didn’t agree with. It is a talented storyteller who can create characters in this way, and Ojukwu is such a storyteller.

The author adeptly illustrates the complexities of family relationships and takes on some traditional gender norms regarding marriage and childbearing. We see Onyeka struggling because the responsibility for getting pregnant and having children seems to fall squarely on her; so of course when she doesn’t get pregnant, she is blamed and carries the shame of it.

It was her fault. It was all her fault; it was she who let his love slip away with her childlessness.

There are also messages in the book that encourage the reader to reflect upon cultural expectations concerning employment, class, education, village versus urban life, traditions versus modern ways. It also made me think of the role violence plays in some cultures, families, and relationships. Ojukwu takes on many issues in this book but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by this; I felt as though I was getting a look into the lives of a modern Nigerian family which, like any family, has its ups and downs, its celebrations and its secrets.

I read books written by international authors in part because of the things I learn about the country and culture while enjoying the story. In this case, Ojukwu includes details from the language and traditions of Nigeria that adds authenticity and make the settings come alive. In a few places, the book could’ve used a bit more editing but it isn’t much and it doesn’t distract from the the story. Overall, I appreciated the arc of the story and the trust Ojukwu places in his reader, to open up his world and let us in.

I am enjoying the Nigerian fiction I have been reading lately; I am no expert but from what I have been reading (see links below), this latest generation of Nigerian writers has shifted in focus a bit with regards to nationalism, sharing and challenging their culture, and framing their stories through Nigerian traditions with a modern twist. In a recent interview, Ogenna Ojukwu described contemporary African literature with great admiration:

Reading [Chimamanda Adichie’s] novels always left me with a yearning to pick up the pen, the laptop, a phone and just write. And of course there are a lot of other writers off this promising stable, doing great things. Ayobami Adebayo had an impactful debut. There are Taiye Selasi, Yaa Gyasi, Chibundu Onozu, Nnedi Okorafor, Helon Habila  and Chigozie Obioma, all producing phenomenal works. Note that many of these wonderful writers are female and so there is a challenge of sorts to male African writers to produce work of matching prominence.

On the whole, this was an enjoyable book. The story held my interest and I felt invested in the characters. While based in Nigeria, The Teacher, the Seamstress and the Pianist has something for anyone who appreciates family dramas, complex women main characters, and layered plot development. I look forward to reading more by Ogenna Ojukwu and other Nigerian authors. Recommended.

You can find Ogenna Ojukwu online at https://ogennaojukwu.com/ and on Twitter @OgennaO. 

Summary:

Review of Ogenna Ojukwu's THE TEACHER, THE SEAMSTRESS AND THE PIANIST

Title: The Teacher, the Seamstress and the Pianist
Author: Ogenna Ojukwu
Publisher: Juba Books
Pages: 332 pages
Publication Date: May 30, 2018
Tags: Family, relationships, Nigeria
My Rating: Recommended

Content information: Infertility, suicide, violence

 

For further reading:

 

Have you read anything by Nigerian or other African writers? Which are your favorites?

 

This post contains affiliate links; I write what I like.
Thanks to Ogenna Ojukwu for the complimentary copy of his book in exchange for an honest review. 

A Review of Kevin Powell's MY MOTHER. BARACK

A Review of Kevin Powell’s MY MOTHER. BARACK OBAMA. DONALD TRUMP. AND THE LAST STAND OF THE ANGRY WHITE MAN.

This year I have committed to reading and reviewing books mainly by womxn writers but when I received an advanced proof of Kevin Powell’s latest book, My Mother. Barack Obama. Donald Trump. And the Last Stand of the Angry White Man., I decided to make an exception.

Despite Kevin Powell having authored 12 previous books, this is the first one of his I am reading. I initially encountered Powell during his time on The Real World in the 90s and kept loose tabs on his writing career since. I have enjoyed some of his essays in Vibe and other outlets throughout the years so was excited to read this new book.

A Review of Kevin Powell's MY MOTHER. BARACK

The author, Kevin Powell.

The book is a collection of 13 of Powell’s articles and blog posts from the last couple of years. The essays are cogent reminders and reflections of events from pop culture to politics, from Tupac and Prince, to gender and masculinity, to mental health and police brutality, all through the eyes of Kevin Powell.

And Powell doesn’t let us forget who he is: born and raised by a single mom in impoverished Jersey City, no father figure, university dropout, drunk, suicidal, and burnt out by 30 and against all odds now a sober and accomplished writer, committed activist, and desired speaker who has visited all 50 states and 5 of 7 continents. While overcoming the barriers he has is impressive, if there’s any part of Powell’s writing that loses me, it is this slip into self-indulgence that sometimes occurs; Powell has a way of inserting himself and his experiences into almost any subject he writes about.

Part of this, I believe, is just his writing style; people write about things they know and things that resonate with them. It may also be that Powell is still working through past transgressions – his own and others’ – and this is his way of making sense and making amends. Because these essays were originally published as stand-alone pieces, it is understandable that he would provide context in each one.

In the end, I found this quirk of Powell’s to be a minor distraction against the overall strength and passion of this writing. In fact, there are times when the confessional style really works, such as in “JAY-Z and the Remaking of His Manhood. Or, the Crumpled and Forgotten Freedom Papers of Mr. Shawn Carter,” where Powell strives to understand manhood and gender-based violence through the relationships of his mother and father, Beyoncé and JAY, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

On the whole, I really dig Kevin Powell’s writing and certain elements really resonate with me. One is the variety of styles with which he is willing to experiment, be it a conversational blog style as in “Why is Baltimore Burning?,” a letter format as in “Letter to a Young Man” and “A Letter to Tupac Shakur,” or an impassioned essay like his “Will Racism Ever End? Will I Ever Stop Being a Ni**er?”

A Review of Kevin Powell's MY MOTHER. BARACK

Powell published his autobiography in 2015.

I appreciate the repetition, timing, and poetic phrasing in his work which is reminiscent of the cadence of his heroes Malcolm X or Muhammad Ali, or of the musical qualities of Black preachers I heard one chilly Sunday morning in Alabama. I covet the pure and unabashed passion with which Kevin Powell writes. He’s not afraid to show his sensitivity which gives me hope for the future of (cishet men’s) writing. I also appreciate Powell’s ability to write broadly and deeply about a subject, taking his time to display his detailed and thorough understanding, while still making it accessible to the general public.

There is usually a lot of meat to what Powell writes. He ties personal experiences in with his subjects; he refers to other events, current and historical, and he weaves in music, art, politics, and more so that his pieces can feel like experiences. The essay, “Hamilton, OJ Simpson, Orlando, Gun Violence, and What the 4th of July, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the Dallas and Baton Rouge Police Shootings Mean to Me,” is so much more than a summary of his experience attending the play Hamilton on Broadway and what it meant to him. And there is a paragraph (pages 146-147 in the advanced proof copy) in his piece about JAY-Z’s album 4:44 that is the epitome of how I wish I could pen a review. Powell not only entices you to understand where he is coming from on a topic, but he challenges you to critically reflect on where you stand on it and why.

It probably won’t be surprising that one of the essays I most enjoyed is entitled, “Re-defining Manhood: Harvey Weinstein and How his Toxic Manhood is our Toxic Manhood, too.” In this piece, Powell takes responsibility for his own transgressions – that time he pushed a former girlfriend into a bathroom door – and explains how male privilege takes hold of boys early on and subsequently develops into ubiquitous notions of toxic manhood as they grow up. He discusses the #MeToo movement and how actions of men like Harvey Weinstein, men like Kevin Powell, and all men, can harm and wound women in ways that must end and can only end when men take action to help support women and fight against sexual violence and harassment.

And this, finally, is where I believe real change must start, with me, with Harvey Weinstein, with all men: a willingness to listen to the voices of women and girls, and a willingness to take ownership of our behavior, to say we are sorry, that we want to learn, that we want to heal and do better and be better (page 222).

Throughout the book, Powell doesn’t shy away from the exploration of his own manhood and calls on others to do the same.

Until the final essay of the book, Powell mentions the current president of the US only briefly in several of the essays, despite his name being included in the book title. I found this essay, after which the book is named, one of the most intriguing. He begins with an honest yet delicate reflection on his mother, his absent father, how the two fell in love, and how the history of violence and mistreatment of Blacks in the US has shaped the present. He goes on to explore politics and the presidency of Barack Obama as well as how this systemic oppression makes change infuriatingly slow in this country. All of this led to the election of current administration which, while a tragedy, is by no means a surprise to black and brown people of the US.

Because this is not really about the American people, this is really about a system that is built to protect a few at the expense of the rest of us (page 266).

Now it is incumbent upon all of us to work towards permanent change which, according to Powell, won’t come without people being as outraged by injustices done to others as they are when they are done to themselves. It won’t come until we begin to follow the leadership of Black women and women of color; it won’t come until White women admit to and challenge our own racial and class privilege; it won’t come until we all rethink how we view and treat women, people of color, poor people, LGBTQ people. This essay is the best example of why Powell calls this book “the autobiography of America” (page 261).

Kevin Powell’s latest book is a collection of reflective and impassioned essays from a veteran observer and chronicler of music, politics, race, gender, and current events. It will appeal to wide audiences and may be most enjoyably read in multiple sittings so the reader can digest and reflect upon each piece. Individual readings could readily be assigned in special topics or intro courses covering race, and other sociocultural issues, politics, and gender and women’s studies. This book is recommended.

You can find Kevin Powell online at http://www.kevinpowell.net/ and on Twitter @kevin_powell

Summary:

A Review of Kevin Powell's MY MOTHER. BARACKTitle: My Mother. Barack Obama. Donald Trump. And the Last Stand of the Angry White Man.
Author: Kevin Powell
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 304 pages
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Tags: Race, gender, current events, music
My Rating: Recommended

 

 

My Mother. Barack Obama. Donald Trump. And the Last Stand of the Angry White Man.



For more information:

Kevin Powell on Growing Up in Poverty

Kevin Powell: Fatherhood, Manhood, #MeToo, Dr. King, and Bobby Kennedy – 6/17/18

Kevin Powell’s Memoir Will Crush You by Dave Zirin for The Nation – Sept 30, 2015

Appreciating Bobby Kennedy’s Stunning Transformation by Kevin Powell for History – June 1, 2018

Hip-Hop Historian Kevin Powell Reflects on Relationship With Tupac Shakur, 20 Years After His Death by Andres Tardio for Billboard – Sept 13, 2016

Race and ‘The Real World’ by Clay Cane for The Root – March 26, 2013

 

This post contains affiliate links; I write what I like.

Quotes refer to the Advance Uncorrected Proof and may or may not reflect the final version of the book. Many thanks to Kevin Powell and Atria Books for the ARC.

Review of YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN FAT

F*ck Your Fatphobia. A Review of Virgie Tovar’s YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN FAT.

I was very excited to read Virgie Tovar’s You Have the Right to Remain Fat, so when it came up on Edelweiss, I was all over it.

Virgie Tovar is one of the leading authors, lecturers, and activists on fat discrimination and body image in the United States. In addition to founding BabeCamp, a month-long online camp for women “ready to break up with diet culture,” Tovar also contributes to serials such as Ravishly, BuzzFeed, and more. Her latest book, You Have the Right to Remain Fat, is the first of hers I have read.

 

Review of YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN FAT

The author, Virgie Tovar.

Overall, I really enjoyed this slim volume and read it in one afternoon. One of the strengths of this book is its accessibility. Tovar is very good at explaining some basic concepts for those who may be new to them, such as bootstrapping and gaslighting, and then builds information on these concepts as the book goes on.

And indeed, the book gets stronger and more impassioned as it goes on. Tovar intersperses information about fat discrimination and body image with her own personal experiences which really helps to illustrate the concepts.

Throughout the book, Tovar discusses topics such as body shame, fatphobia, and diet culture, which are the main culprits behind the lies we tell ourselves that as women, and especially as fat women, our bodies are somehow wrong.

But Tovar goes a step further and explains how these issues are actually,

merely symptoms of a larger cultural problem, not least our country’s history of unresolved racism, white supremacy, classism, and misogyny.

In no uncertain terms, Tovar argues that unrealistic existing beauty standards are built on this foundation and have been undermining women’s self-trust and control over their own lives.

Well, Tovar isn’t gonna take it anymore and neither should you. What really resonated with me was Tovar’s frustration with putting her life on hold because of her fatness, always feeling like she will really live only once she loses weight. She will wear a bikini when she loses weight or she will travel when she loses weight or will have more sex when she loses weight. This internalized inferiority is something most women experience so much, we don’t even realize it.

Rather than recognizing the multiplicity of feminine expression and feminine power (regardless of sex assignment at birth, ability, size, the presence or absence of modesty or money), women in pursuit of thinness become complicit in their own dehumanization and therefore become agents of misogyny.

At a certain point, Virgie Tovar decided to stop dieting and abiding by society’s arbitrarily constructed standards and just start living. Not later. NOW.

Something else I appreciated about this book was Tovar’s attention to the difference between the fat activist and body positivity movements. For instance, Tovar argues that fat activism has proud queer and political roots and is fighting to tear down the oppressive system of dangerous body ideals, while body positivity adherents wish to assimilate into this system, despite its racist, patriarchal, fatphobic undertones. While only an introduction, this section is just enough to inspire readers to examine these movements further.

Fatphobia affects us all and Virgie Tovar’s You Have the Right to Remain Fat is an accessible place for anyone to start learning how to fight against it. A determined call to action, this is a quick read that packs a punch. Pick it up if you are a womxn or love a womxn. Full stop.

You can find Virgie Tovar online at https://www.virgietovar.com/, on Instagram @virgietovar, and on Twitter @virgietovar.

Summary:

Review of YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN FAT

 

Title: You Have the Right to Remain Fat
Author: Virgie Tovar
Publisher: The Feminist Press at CUNY
Pages: 128 pages
Publication Date: August 14, 2018
Tags: Fat activism, feminism, Latinx, women writers
My Rating: Recommended

 

 

You Have the Right to Remain Fat



For further information:

Body Love: Fat Activist Virgie Tovar on How to Feel Better About Your Body TODAY by Katie Morell for Rebellious

Kirkus review

Overcoming Bikini Trauma: How one fat girl fell in love with the feeling of freedom on her skin (2018) by Virgie Tovar for Shondaland

These Instagrams by fat activists are changing how we think about dieting (2016) by Leanna Garfield for Business Insider

This Woman Wrote a Short but Sweet Love Note to Her Stomach (2017) by Jami Ganz

Why this Instagram influencer calls fat a feminist issue (2018) by Beth Greenfield for Yahoo!

Watch Virgie Tovar’s TEDx talk:

This post contains affiliate links. All reviews are honest and my own. Thanks to Virgie Tovar, Delphinium, and Edelweiss for a complimentary ARC! The quotes in this post refer to the uncorrected proof and may or may not reflect the final version of the book.

Review of Synanon Kid

CA Wittman’s Synanon Kid: A Brief Review

I had never heard of the Synanon cult before the book Synanon Kid came to my attention; but c’mon, we are all intrigued by such stories, right?

Well, this memoir of CA Wittman’s time in Synanon doesn’t disappoint.

CA Wittman

The author, CA Wittman.

Kidnapped in the night by two women, one of whom was her own mother, Celena spent five formative childhood years in the Synanon cult in California. While this is a story of Synanon, it is also a personal one, of isolation, relationships, and love.

I appreciated Wittman’s creative narratives of her memories including her complicated relationship with her mother and times of deep fear and loneliness within the cult. Growing up in Synanon imparted on Wittman unrealistic, unstable, and untrusting views of the world, and understandably so.

I could relate to Celena’s creation of a robust fantasy life to cope with a confusing, and often violent, reality as a young girl. As she grew older, she learned to talk fast and loud in order to avoid being taken advantage of by others. But she also turned to books, which gave her solace in the knowledge that others dealt with similar oppression and longing in their own lives.

Wittman is a talented writer of memoir; you get about as close to Synanon as you can without being there (and we really wouldn’t want to be there, right?). The reader can almost feel her hunger, fear, confusion, anger, and disappointment.

At only 274 pages, this is a quick and engaging read. If you are interested in memoirs, creative nonfiction, stories about cults, or books by women of color, you will probably enjoy Synanon Kid.

To learn more:

Summary:

Synanon Kid by CA Wittman

 

 

Title: Synanon Kid: A Memoir of Growing Up in the Synanon Cult
Author: C.A. Wittman
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Pages: 274
Publication Date: July 20, 2017
My Rating: Recommended

 

 

 

Synanon Kid: A Memoir of Growing Up in the Synanon Cult


Disclosures:
I won this ebook on GoodReads and decided to review it. Thanks, GoodReads!
This post contains affiliate links; support independent booksellers!

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

A GIRL LIKE THAT by Tanaz Bhathena: A Brief Review

A unique debut novel by Tanaz Bhathena, A Girl Like That, is a fascinating and fierce story of young love, life, and death. The book grabs the reader from the first pages when you learn that the main characters just died in a tragic car accident. As they hover over the scene, they reflect upon their short lives and weave together a narrative that describes their limited but impassioned time together.

While on the surface Bhathena offers a reminder of how complicated life can be for young people in general, she also delivers valuable glances into the specific concerns of girls in Saudi Arabia. Family stresses, school bullies, and first love are issues with which most of us can relate. Bhathena expertly brings her reader into these concerns from a Saudi Arabian expat perspective, which may be new for some. While the truth of gender inequality in Saudi Arabia and across the world is challenging to face, Bhathena’s vivid writing style is accessible and relatable.

Tanaz Bhathena

The author, Tanaz Bhathena.

An #OwnVoices book for Zoroastrianism and expat life, A Girl Like That draws you in from the beginning. It’s a quick and immersive read that I whipped through in days. Here’s hoping that stories like this, that portray the real lives and concerns of girls around the world, will continue to flow into YA and other genres. Tanaz Bhathena is part of a growing group of talented womxn writers leading this important wave and I can’t wait to see what she gives us next.

Summary:

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

Title: A Girl Like That
Author: Tanaz Bhathena
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Pages: 384
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
My Rating: Recommended

 

A Girl Like That


Disclosures:
I received this book from another blogger, Karen at For What It’s Worth. Thanks, Karen!
This post includes affiliate links. Support your local independent bookseller!

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