Book Review – Nasty Women by 404 Ink

33022718

Title: Nasty Women
Authors: Numerous
Publisher: 404 Ink
Genre: Non-fiction, essay, feminism, politics

*This ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

I have been looking forward to reading Nasty Women, a collection of essays put together by 404 Ink, since I first heard about the Kickstarter campaign from Margaret Atwood’s Twitter feed earlier this year.

Most of the authors you may not have heard of, but together they represent what it is to be a woman today, and the compilation is strong on being intersectional. When I spotted Nasty Women on Netgalley last month, I jumped at the opportunity to review it.

Book Blurb

With intolerance and inequality increasingly normalised by the day, it’s more important than ever for women to share their experiences. We must hold the truth to account in the midst of sensationalism and international political turmoil. Nasty Women is a collection of essays, interviews and accounts on what it is to be a woman in the 21st century.

People, politics, pressure, punk – From working class experience to racial divides in Trump’s America, being a child of immigrants, to sexual assault, Brexit, pregnancy, contraception, identity, family, finding a voice online, role models and more, Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, Zeba Talkhani, Chitra Ramaswamy are just a few of the incredible women who share their experience here.

Keep telling your stories, and tell them loud.

The stories encompass a wide variety of speakers: women of color, queer women, Muslim women, female immigrants, and female survivors of sexual assault, just to name a few. The group of authors are diverse and each story is unique.

The collection of stories are all raw and personal, deeply emotional, and powerful. It is women writing about their everyday experiences in today’s world. Many of the essays left me feeling enraged, angry…nasty. Angry at the amount of crap women that women continue to face. The increasing normalization – again – of misogyny and intolerance. The continuance of inequality.

It was a naive part of me that saw Trump do and say such horrible things, witnessed his complete lack of capability and worthiness to lead, and thought that even the most reprehensible people in my country would, at the last second, understand that allowing this would not ‘Make America Great Again’. It would merely reveal the masty, rotting heart of America that I daresay it has always had since it built a throne on stolen land and tried to crown itself king of the world.

~ “Independence Day” by Katie Muriel

The first essay, Independence Day by Katie Muriel, is one of my favorites. I believe many of us can identify with the guilt that Katie speaks to following the 2016 election.

I learned the hard way that I can’t take oestrogen. The pill and the patch made me crazy – not in the catatonic, depressive way that I’d dealt with all my life, but in a way that felt really dangerous. I was constantly angry, bordering on violent, and I began to fear that I would hurt someone…

~ “Lament: Living with the Consequences of Contraception” by Jen McGregor

Jen McGregor’s essay was another one I could relate to, as I have also struggled with some horrible side effects from birth control, which I have taken regularly since my teen years in an attempt to help relieve my endometriosis symptoms.

But the essays I appreciated the most as a reader were by authors who come from a different life experience from my own. Such as Sim Bajwa’s essay on the immigrant experience, or Joelle Owusu’s essay, The Dark Girl’s Enlightenment.

They want our things – our food, our labour, our money – but they don’t want us.

It’s infuriating and saddening. Underneath it all though, I’m weary. I’m tired of the dehumanization of immigrants and the erasure of their experiences. I’m tired of knowing that when people mean ‘immigrants’ in the West, they don’t mean white migrants from North America or Australia. I’m tired of feeling like I need to justify why my parents aer here.

~ Go Home by Sim Bajwa

This inspirational anthology is a must read for anyone who is looking to understand why intersectionality is vital to the advancement of women’s equality. As Owusu succintly states, “without all women being included in the wide and varied spectrum, the fight for equality is useless.” 

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Advertisements

Book Review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

28245707

Title: Queens of Geek
Author: Jen Wilde
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Genre: YA Contemporary

Summary:

When BFFs Charlie, Taylor and Jamie go to SupaCon, they know it’s going to be a blast. What they don’t expect is for it to change their lives forever.

Charlie likes to stand out. SupaCon is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star, Reese Ryan. When Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

While Charlie dodges questions about her personal life, Taylor starts asking questions about her own.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about the Queen Firestone SupaFan Contest, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.

My Thoughts:

Queens of Geek is fun rainbow unicorn fluff. In a good way! It’s a fun read for anyone who is a cosplayer, attends conventions, belongs to a fandom (or two, or three, or ten), or just loves healthy doses of pop culture references in your literature. The diversity is fantastic, and I really appreciated the realistic portrayal of anxiety. Taylor is on the Autism spectrum and has anxiety. Charlie is Asian-Australian and bisexual. The two girls are the narrators and their voices are quite distinct from each other. I could definitely relate to Taylor’s social anxieties and adorkableness. As someone who has dealt with social anxiety myself, Charlie’s portrayal felt very honest and real.

Despite the light tone, the story is filled with support for anyone grappling with mental illness, healthy relationships, sexuality, body shaming, and/or identity. Charlie especially seems to tackle an extraordinary number of hot button issues, including bullying and misogyny.

Despite this awesomeness, I felt there were a few drawbacks. There is very little character development with the secondary characters. Additionally, I didn’t feel like there was a whole lot to the story. The story takes place entirely at the convention, and largely consists of the characters standing in line, hanging out at the hotel, or going to cosplay competitions or panels.

I always hate to say this, but I also felt the writing was fairly mediocre, and ultimately, this was the biggest drawback for me. There was a lot of discussion of important and timely topics, but the dialogue felt clunky. Ultimately, it left me wishing there was more to it.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

Paper Girls, Volumes 1 & 2

Title: Paper Girls, Volume 1 and 2
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Cliff Chiang
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Graphic Novel

Brian K Vaughan is quickly becoming one of my favorite graphic novel writers. I sped through all seven volumes of Saga recently, but I didn’t even realize he was also the writer behind Paper Girls until I picked up both volumes at the library.

Paper Girls is about a group of 12-year-old paper delivery girls in the autumn of 1988. It’s the morning after Halloween, and some pretty weird stuff is going down in their hometown. The normal post-Halloween weirdos are still out, but there is something more paranormal happening as well. Across the two volumes, this turns into a bizarre tale of time travel that reminds me of Stranger Things. I’ve heard it described as LumberJanes on steroids…I need to go out and read Lumberjane’s to see if it is an apt comparison!

What I like most about Paper Girls, Volume 1 is the setting: 1988 suburbia, and the nostalgia is turned up high. Both the artwork and the writing is top-notch, if you don’t mind finishing up both volumes having pretty much no idea where the story is going. It’s definitely confusing, and I still don’t know what’s actually happening, but I have enjoyed the ride!

In Volume 2, the girls are catapulted into the future…2016. It just so happens to be election season (in 1988, we glimpse Reagan yard signs, in 2016 we get a Hillary). One of my favorite, and bittersweet, moments in Volume 2 is when two of the girls spot a Hillary yard sign. Tiffany remarks in excitement, “Mac, look. We get a girl president!”, to which Mac quips, “No, some lady is running. Doesn’t mean she’s gonna win.” OUCH. That STILL burns.

I like how each girl is distinct and has their own personality. Erin is very much a 12-year old girl, while the other three are more jaded and less innocent. Mac is definitely the most interesting, and most troubled, of the quartet. Two of the girls get to confront their adult selves (well, kinda….but to say anymore would be a major spoiler), and the result is both heartbreaking and hilarious.

Volume 3 releases in August, and I will definitely be picking it up with the hope there will be slightly more clarity about the plot and where the series is heading.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

28458598

Title: When Dimple Met Rishi
Author: Sandhya Menon
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA Contemporary

I dip into contemporary YA only on occasion, and YA rom-com even less. So there has to be a really unique take on the genre to grab my interest. This one has been making the rounds in the blogosphere for months, and it definitely caught my eye when I first heard about it earlier this year. It turned out to be a fantastic pick to bring along on my June vacation!

Told from two different perspectives, When Dimple Met Rishi follows two Indian-American teenagers during their summer break after graduating from high school. Dimple is ready for a break from her family, and can’t believe it when they give her permission to attend an expensive summer program for aspiring app developers. Little does she know, it is all part of her family’s plan to introduce her to Rishi…the young man her parents have secretly arranged to be her future spouse.

Rishi is, almost refreshingly, a hopeless romantic. He knows all about the arrangement between the two sets of parents, and attends the same summer program as Dimple in the hopes of getting to know her.

Little does he know that Dimple has been left in the dark as to who he is or what has been arranged, and deservedly freaks out when he first introduces himself.

What follows is a cute romantic comedy, with two really fun and enjoyable characters. It is made even better because by branching out from just being a love story, as it also brings up questions of culture and tradition, family relationships, and coming of age independence.

When Dimple Met Rishi tackles a controversial tradition, that of arranged marriages. I believe this is the first book I have ever read that doesn’t treat arranged marriage solely in a negative light. I have enough Indian friends who are in some form of arranged marriage to know that, although there are many bad arranged marriages out there in which girls were forced into the arrangement and/or treated terribly, there are many good ones as well. It is a complex issue, and while I can’t speak to the cultural accuracy in the story, it appears to be very well done.

The other thing this book did was Make.Me.Hungry!!! When I lived in New Jersey, our apartment was in a predominantly Indian and Pakistani neighborhood, and we had 3 different types of Indian restaurants and a grocer just within a 1/2 mile walking distance. Oh, how I miss that! Khatta Meetha! Nom-nom-nom.

Speaking of food, there is an amazing bar mentioned in the story, 2 sisters bar and books. A bar with tons of books to browse while you sip, and Sandhya Menon makes it sound like an adorable and amazing bar to visit. So I looked it up to find out…this is a real place in San Francisco!! And it just closed it’s doors in March. NOO!!!!

Ultimately, I found When Dimple Met Rishi to be an adorable, heartwarming story about two Indian American teenagers finding their way in life.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Book Review – Every Day by David Levithan

13262783

Book: Every Day
Author: David Levithan
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary YA

Book Blurb: 

Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.
There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

I truly enjoyed Levithan’s writing in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and went into Every Day with high expectations. The potential was there for greatness, and I loved the concept. A contemporary/science fiction hybrid; to imagine a person without a gender, without a family, without a body, whose only consistency in life is that each day, they will wake up in the body of someone new.

Like I said, the concept is intriguing. But I just couldn’t get into this book.

Every Day is told from the perspective of A, a person who wakes up each morning in someone else’s body. The bodies are always the same age as A; when they were 3 they would always wake up as a 3-year-old; during the novel A was 16. A has never had their own body, the body shifting has been happening since birth. Therefore, A does not have a real name, and never forms attachments. To anyone. A can access the memories of the body they inhabit, but not the person’s feelings. The days have always blurred together for A, as time marches on.

Until A meets Rhiannon after waking up in the body of Justin. Justin is Rhiannon’s callous boyfriend, and A falls instantly in love with her during his brief tenure in Justin’s body. Which leads both to the biggest detraction and the most interesting question Levithan presents: Can love find its way around a seemingly impossible situation?

I can’t stand instalove books, and I rarely read them. I made an exception for this one because it was on my TBR for the 2017 Diversity Bingo Challenge, and Levithan was an author I wanted to further explore. Rhiannon is, I hate to say it, a fairly bland character, which makes A’s obsession with her even more confusing, especially considering the lengths he takes. The friendship between the two is sweet at first, and I give Rhiannon credit for being fairly accepting of what seems like an impossible situation. But, there are so many aspects of their relationship that really bothered me. The stalking, which started to become incredibly creepy. The idea that only A can see Rhiannon’s hidden sadness, and they are the only one who can see Rhiannon as she her true self. The obsession. It is disturbing behavior, which is barely addressed in the novel.

All my sympathy and fondness for A went right out the window when they became obsessed and started stalking Rhiannon. I liked A at the beginning of the story, and I was very sympathetic to their plight. For much of A’s life, they are extremely selfless and careful with the body they inhabit. I can’t imagine how tough that would be day in and day out. Yet I just could not get past all the lengths A went to after falling in love with Rhiannon.

The part of the story I enjoyed the most was the diverse cast of people we meet when A inhabits their bodies for a day. These small stories were quite touching.

I wish Levithan would have gone more in-depth into the paranormal aspect, although I can understand why he did not. What I don’t get, however, is why there wasn’t a further examination of what it means to be male, female, or neither. I really liked having a protagonist that has no gender or ethnicity. Yet I found the writing lacking in terms of how Rhiannon responded once she knew the truth of A’s life. Rhiannon definitely had some prejudices and ignorance on her side lurking beneath the surface, but this was barely addressed.

I know there is a companion book to Every Day, written from Rhiannon’s perspective, called Another Day. I’m highly doubtful I will read it any time soon.

Rating: 2.5/5 stars.

 

Book Review – Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

23513349

Title: milk and honey
Author: Rupi Kaur
Publisher: Createspace
Genre: Poetry, Feminism

These days, I don’t read poetry very often. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I read a book of poems. It has been years, other than a handful of Emily Dickinson or Maya Angelou scattered throughout the last decade. Then, last month, I discovered my birth mother’s poetry. And it felt invigorating, soul-crushing, and uplifting…yes…all of that, all rolled in to one, when I read her words.

And it came back to me in a rush, how much I used to love poetry. Once upon a time, I wrote poetry. I wrote about being adopted, about boys and love, about sitting beneath a tree on a warm, sunny day. I waxed poetic, and my poems were never anything special….but I enjoyed the process. It was one of my college boyfriends, a guy who also wrote poetry, and who turned out to be a horrible person, that turned me off of the genre.

Well, I’m ready to reclaim it. So, when I got home from my trip to meet my biological mother’s family, with a basket of her letters, and a journal of her poems, I felt inspired. To take up a new genre, and explore it anew. One week after returning home from that trip in April, I went out and bought Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.

And that is how I found myself reading it during Dewey’s 24 hour readathon.

it is your blood
in my veins
tell me how i’m
supposed to forget

Milk and Honey is about survival, and is split into 4 sections: the hurting, the loving, the breaking and the healing. The design of her poems are inspired by a Punjabi script called gurmukhi, in which words are written only using a period. There is no other punctuation; all letters are treated the same – no upper or lowercase. I loved this style, as it is often how I used to write my own poetry, only in my case, I was modeling e.e. cummings.

Rupi Kaur was born in Punjab, and moved to Canada with her parents at a young age, and through her poetry she provides a voice to other women of color who may be silenced in a patriarchal and/or colonizer culture. Before reading her poems, it helps to know where she is coming from, as she talks about in the preface:

my thoughts go to the sexual violence we endure as south asian women. we know it intimately. from thousands of years of shame and oppression. from the community and from colonizer after colonizer. by the time i am born i have already survived the first battle of my life. against female feticide. i am one of the lucky ones who has been allowed to live. we are taught our bodies are not our property. you will do with them as your parents wish until they pass the property onto your husband and his family. a good indian girl is quiet. does as she is told. sex does not belong to her. it is something that happens to her on her wedding night. our job is to lay obediently. not to enjoy. let him take.

our trauma escapes the confines of our own times. we’re not just healing from what’s been inflicted onto us as children. my experiences have happened to my mother and her mother and her mother before that. it is generations of pain embedded into our souls.

i read hundreds of books growing up. but none can explain this torment to me. i need access to words written by people who look like me writing about the things i am going through. at that moment i realize the importance of representation and know this must be different for my children. they must have access to their own literature.

Rupi Kaur’s writing is succinct; many of her poems are only a few lines. She is incredibly skilled in bringing her point across in a tiny amount of space.

our backs
tell stories
no books have
the spine to
carry
~ women of color

Some people describe her work as cliché, or simplistic. I disagree. Yes, there is a certain simplicity, a minimalism, but that does not make her words or message simple.

apparently it is ungraceful of me
to mention my period in public
cause the actual biology
of my body is too real

it is okay to sell what’s
between a woman’s legs
more than it is okay to
mention its inner workings

the recreational use of
this body is seen as
beautiful while
its nature is
seen as ugly

YES, YES, YES, YES, YES!!

I had that reaction quite a few times while reading her book. As a woman, as a feminist, as someone who has experienced trauma in my past, I could relate to many of her poems. And I found it a fascinating self-study to look back at all my post-it notes after finishing the book, and realize the poems I currently relate to the most were not in the sections about hurting or breaking, but in the chapter about healing.

This is a book about the human experience, and it is relatable on a wide variety of levels. It takes a lot of courage to write in such a personal manner, and I look forward to seeing what Rupi Kaur does next.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

Book Review – Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green

I’m finally getting a chance to write up some reviews for the books that I read during Dewey’s readathon! This one was one of my favorites.

6567017

Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Author: John Green & David Levithan
Publisher: Dutton Books
Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBTQIA+

This is the story of two Will Grayson’s that meet about 1/3 of the way into the story. One Will Grayson, written by John Green, is the son of two doctors, loving parents that aren’t around very much. His family is fairly well off, and his best friend is Tiny Cooper. Tiny Cooper is a HUGE person, both in personality and size. He literally lights up the page. This Will lives by two life rules: 1) Don’t care too much, and 2) Shut up.

Caring doesn’t sometimes lead to misery. It always does.

~ Will Grayson

The other will grayson, written by David Levithan, sees himself as a lowercase person (and his chapters are written entirely in lowercase). He lives with his single mother, struggles with severe depression and at the beginning of the story, has not yet come out to his friends and family as gay.

“maybe tonight you’re scared of falling, and maybe there’s somebody here or somewhere else you’re thinking about, worrying over, fretting over, trying to figure out if you want to fall, or how and when you’re gonna land, and i gotta tell you, friends, to stop thinking about the landing, because it’s all about falling.”

~ will grayson

They randomly meet one night when their paths converge in downtown Chicago. Will Grayson is shy and struggles with whether or not he wants to be in a relationship. will grayson found love on the internet with Isaac, and is trying to meet him for the first time.

Green’s Will Grayson is kind of geeky and adorable, but it is Levithan’s will grayson I relate to the most. It is will grayson’s storyline that is the most moving. will grayson is dark, and angsty, a bit of a loner, and written extremely well. When will grayson and Tiny Cooper meet, it is everything a reader could want and more. Really, Tiny Cooper is everything a reader could want in a character. I wish I had a Tiny Cooper friend!

Because in reality, so much of this book isn’t about the two Will Grayson’s. It is about Tiny Cooper. For a while I worried that Tiny Cooper would stay flat and clichéd throughout the whole story, but we really got to see more depth to him by the end of the story.

Some people call this book a love story, and it is a love story. A love story about friendship that is both emotional and hilarious.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars