helloooooooo; 7.5.18

Image result for twin peaks hello gif
if you don’t understand this gif…honestly I envy you and your entire life and every decision that lead you to this point

Welcome back to you! Welcome back to me! Welcome back to all my recommendations and ravings! After two weeks (and a bit of change) away, I’ve got a whole lot of good stuff for you to get involved with [starting with the podcast Unfriendly Black Hotties, who introduced the phrase “get involved with” into my daily thoughts.]

First things first…THE TOAST IS BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You’ve all heard me hype The Toast on here, a wonderful and wacky website started by Nicole Cliffe and Daniel Mallory Ortberg, and though there’s hardly a deeper sorrow in my heart than the fact that I didn’t start getting into it until RIGHT BEFORE they stopped updating it to pursue other projects, the archives are truly a vision to behold and they are available to the public again and for those of you who work at desks, YA BEST WATCH YOURSELF or you’ll spend entire hours thinking “okay just ONE MORE piece.” I’m going to try go back through past posts and link stuff that I referenced, but if I miss something…sorry-ish, because I guarantee you that going to look for it yourself will bring you only joy.

Later on in this [admittedly bloated] post, I’ll also get pumped about some movie trailers and even some comedy specials, but let’s first get to some books because that is osTENsibly why we’re here, right?

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife – Meg ElisonImage result for the book of the unnamed midwife

I really should have written down my feelings about this book right away, because right when I finished it I was just like “whoa.” and then I was like “I need a minute.” and then a minute turned into like a week and here we are and I still kinda feel “whoa.” about the whole thing. This book combined something I’m usually highly suspicious of [narratives of post-apocalyptic and/or dystopic matriarchal societies] with something I usually don’t care too much for [journey narratives (just in books though, movies are fine {see why it took me SO LONG to read LOTR?!})] and created something that I found very interesting and moving.

When the unnamed protagonist [previously a gynecological nurse] wakes up from a fever-induced coma, she discovered that most of her city’s population didn’t survive. As it turns out, most of the country’s population didn’t survive. And with most communication methods wiped out, it’s nearly impossible to find out whether the viral disease affected other countries similarly [fun fact: it did!] For reasons unknown, which honestly I found to be a little hand-wave-y, the disease disproportionately affects women, or to be more specific — which the book is for the briefest of moments — cisgender women and Assigned Female At Birth individuals. Actually, this was the most frustrating part of the book for me, because one of the main reasons the protagonist survives is through using compression vests or binders frequently used by trans men and nonbinary people as part of her survival in a world where women are implicitly classified as a rare commodity. So the book doesn’t ignore the existence of trans and nonbinary folks, but neither does it put any energy whatsoever into wondering what happened to those folks in the aftermath of the disease. So that was frustrating.

The book mostly covers the protagonist’s first year and a half-ish in this new landscape, a place where the few remaining women are often “kept” as sex slaves to entire groups of men, where cults can be formed and reformed on the most tenuous of suppositions, and all survivors are left to think about and reform their conceptions of sex, gender, power, fear, and hope. I found the book’s exploration of hope through all of the characters’ relationships to it really fascinating, and I’m excited to read the followups — The Book of Etta and [unannounced title] — which seem to be really different kind of stories in the same world. This story is very focused on survival and what it means to survive, and I think the author has a lot of capacity to explore philosophical questions in a subtle, engaging way, which is why I hope she engages more with questions of gender that exist on a spectrum rather than in a binary.

As you might have guessed, this book contains a lot of content about and surrounding sexual assault, so take care of yourself as needed when reading.

The Nowhere Girls – Amy ReedImage result for the nowhere girls

As activism is complicated, so too are activism narratives. We talked about this a little in the last post, about the Jane Collective and the balancing act of decentering white cis-het women while also not participating in tokenism or putting more burdens on marginalized folks.

Here’s what I have some Complicated Feelings about: of the three main characters, one is a Latinx lesbian, one is white and straight and also has Asperger’s, and one is white, straight, and neurotypical.

Guess which one’s entrance into the town sparks the narrative action.

Grace is new to the small, Pacific Northwest town of Prescott, and when she becomes friends with Rosina and Erin she hears the story of Lucy — a teenager driven out of town after she accused three popular young men of raping her. [The content/trigger warning for this book is obvious, right?] Grace is [rightfully] horrified, not just by the event itself, but by the seeming apathy Prescott has adopted about the event. She convinces her new friends to start a group of teenage girls angry enough to do something about not just Lucy’s story, but the persistence of rape culture in their town and society. Thus, the Nowhere Girls are formed, and with them some honest questions about the nature of feminist action that I was pleasantly surprised by the candid-ness [shut up] of.

On the one hand, narratives of white, cis-het, neurotypical women are kind of…the norm, and there’s a lot of history of white women receiving the most recognition. On the other hand, society also puts a lot of burdens on women of color in terms of activism work. However the book itself engages with this in a relatively straightforward (lol) way — some of its most compelling chapters are told from the perspective of “Us” and bounce around between not just the 3 main characters, but several young women who feel either empowered or isolated by the action of the Nowhere Girls: a pre-transition transgender girl wonders whether the Nowhere Girls’ “safe space” would apply to her as well, and a black teenager notes that a group of primarily white women taking action is perceived much differently than a group of primarily women of color. To her credit, Reed doesn’t gloss over or attempt to counter these concerns or pretend to be above them. She makes it clear that, although the Nowhere Girls have good intent, intent doesn’t automatically translate into effect when it comes to inclusiveness and intersectionality.

That being said, the young women in the group have some surprisingly sophisticated discussions about the ways in which dynamics of gender, sexuality, power, religion, culture, and sex have influenced their lives and experiences in different and nuanced ways. Some reviews have claimed that the discussions may have been portrayed with a little too much sophistication for a group of “untrained” teenagers, but I actually disagree. I think one of the biggest hurdles to the ability to have nuanced conversations about these topics is simply the silence that surrounds them, and once you break that open you’d be surprised what “even teenage girls” [sarcasm heavy] are capable of.

Another element of reviews that I found interesting was a whole lot of concern — from both male- and female-identified folks! — that “there just weren’t any GOOD men in the book!” to which I say…were you paying any attention at all? True, this book does not let men off the hook: from the rapists themselves, to the authority figures who cover for them, to the friends and classmates who perpetuate rape culture by simply not acknowledging it. But here’s the thing: there are also a lot of men in this book that want to change, that want to live in a different world, that boycott their sexist football coach, that get kicked out of class for speaking up in support of the Nowhere Girls, that leave lunch tables and start saying “enough.” And I found that really encouraging.

god, okay, wow, this has been like A LOT on just two books. I’m so sorry. We have a whole lot of shouting still to do. make sure you hydrate.

In complement to the books I just shouted about, might I share with you two comedy specials that I took in this weekend, both of which are excellent.Image result for cameron esposito comedy special jokes

First: Cameron Esposito’s Rape Jokes. I love Cameron Esposito and her partner Rhea Butcher a lot a lot, from the comedy podcast they host together [Put Your Hands Together], to their 2 season show Take My Wife, to Cameron’s interview show QueeryRape Jokes is an hour-long special that takes on rape culture from the perspective of a survivor. Esposito is both thoughtfully nuanced and also SO DAMN FUNNY and some OTHER good news is that the special is available for streaming for free on her website, and any donations go straight to RAINN.

Second: Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette. If you are on Twitter AT ALL and are in general Image result for hannah gadsby nanettefollowing people who have hearts, you have probably heard of Nanette and a whole bunch of gushing about it. So the FIRST thing I heard about it was from a TV critic who was eager to study it, which really intrigued me and then a bunch of other people said it would make me cry, which made me not intrigued [*extreme Chandler Bing voice*: “could I BE any more of an Enneagram 5???”] Anyway, please watch this because it’s so gentle and powerful and mind-blowingly smart and funny and it’s on Netflix so go do that ASAP.

Now take a deep breath and re-log-in to your library website cause we’re diving back into the books. I’m gonna try to have a liiiiiittle more brevity about these bc I’m starting to feel like I’m maybe abusing my blog privileges.

Another Brooklyn – Jacqueline WoodsonImage result for another brooklyn jacqueline woodson

I am not honestly sure how to describe this book other than that it is lovely and difficult to define. For example, despite being mostly about an adult woman [August] thinking about her childhood and adolescence, it feels neither like a book for adults, nor a book for children, nor a book for young adults, which is not to say that it feels like a book for nobody, because instead it somehow feels like a gorgeous combination of the three and prompted me to think about why certain traits or tones stand out for me as “children’s lit” vs. “adult lit” or “YA lit.”

Anyway, this book is a short, poetically written novel — largely told in vignettes — about the protagonist’s childhood and adolescence, particularly during the time in which she and her family lived in Brooklyn and her three best friends there. I, of course, am trash for stories about intense female friendships and am always bound to get a little weepy whenever they’re a big plot point.

Sometimes I have a difficult time reading books that are a) quite short and b) poetically written because I struggle to slow down enough to feel like I’m taking in the fullness of the writing. That was kind of my experience here, through absolutely no shortcoming of the author. I wanted to slow down and drink in the excellent sentences and images, but I was kind of on a book-finishing-roll this weekend and also I really did want to find out what happened to August and her friends! Hopefully I’ll return to it someday when I’m a little better at taking my time.

The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth – Christopher L. HeuertzImage result for the sacred enneagram book cover

I have referenced the Enneagram several times on here, despite being kind of an Enneagram n00b. Actually, the first time I tried to get into the Enneagram, I took an online test [which most Enneagram teachers don’t recommend], got a result I didn’t agree with, and then summarily dismissed the entire thing for over a year. Then I was listening to a podcast on which the host and a guest were talking about the Enneagram and one of them mentioned that their partner did *extreme 5 trait* that I don’t remember anymore, but I paused my Taco Bell eating and was like “oh shit that might be me.” I still didn’t pay much attention, until becoming much more Twitter invollllved this spring and subsequently discovering the #millenneagram community, started by Hannah Paasch, and have learned so freaking much about myself.

I don’t really want to get all into what the Enneagram is, because this post is already way too long and y’all have the internet and also I am currently in the middle of recommending a BOOK about what it is??? soo?? Okay I actually don’t know if I’m recommending it. There were some parts of this book that I got a lot out of, specifically the descriptions of the types and triads. There were other parts, like the emphasis on centering prayer, that I reallllly skimmed through. I’m currently trying to decide if I want my next Enneagram book to be Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron’s The Road Back to You or just go whole hog and dive into Riso and Hudson’s The Wisdom of the Enneagram, so if you feel strongly one way or the other…let me know!

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. TolkienImage result for the fellowship of the ring book cover

Y’all. I truly did not believe that I would make it here. I never honestly thought I would ever read these books, and here I am, having finished Fellowship and I am kind of in shock, both about the fact of finishing it and also the fact that the ending is SUPER FCKING ABRUPT?? Like, I’ve seen the movies, and each of them “ends,” like 12 times, but this book just kind of cuts off, and not at the same place as the first movie so I was thrown more than an intelligent reader in the year 2018 should be.

Anyway, I’m not actually going to say much more right now because, you guessed it, there’s a shout/countershout coming soon, featuring my very smart Tolkien-enthusiast roommate Sydney Greve!

But first, my three most important opinions about this book, which are:

  1. You can definitely skip like the entire first half of this book.
  3. Book Aragorn is very hot.

Anyway, my plan is for the shout/countershout for this book to come out next Friday (7/13), so prepare yourselves!

Okay so that’s all for the books, but I ALSO have some YA book-to-movie adaptation trailers to share with you that came out recently and oh boy am I excited.

A. The Hate You Give 

I shouted about this book (by Angie Thomas) back a few months ago and wowowow this trailer looks absolutely incredible and gave me goosebumps.

B. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

And now…a romcom! This is based on the Jenny Han book of the same name, the first in a trilogy that has melted my heart MULTIPLE TIMES. I’m so glad this is a movie, so glad it looks just as magical as the book, and so so glad that I roped my friend Taylor (of the Villette shout/countershout) into loving them as much as me. We fully intend to watch this movie in the way Jenny Han intended: “with a sheet mask and cookie dough.”

If you have read to this end of this you are a true hero, but then so am I. We will be heroes together. Cheerio!

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