I thought this was good but I think I was expecting a little more from it. I didn’t realize before reading this that this was letters written to his son. I think that Coates raises some great points on race and the foundations of America being built on racism. I especially liked his thoughts on the possession of the black body and how that can be taken away. I don’t think that I am the target audience for a book like this. Even though white people can learn something from this book, it isn’t the goal or intention of this book to do so. Coates is primarily talking to his child first and the black community second. Coates is not trying to make white people understand every single thing he says because he is just talking to his child about life and that is fine. Still, it is a good book to read to have a foundation of understanding when discussions of police on black shootings occur. I think that I need to try more books on race that cover, in detail, specific events and ideas, than a general overview like this. I’m not really sold on Coates’ writing style in anything I’ve read from him yet.
I’ll make this review short and sweet. I think that this book is for two people. The first person is someone that has never read a Norse Mythology book before. I was one of these individuals. This is a great introduction to Thor, Odin, Loki, and the rest of Norse Mythology. The other person that this mythology is geared towards are people that know a ton about Norse Mythology and want to compare Gaiman’s versions to other writer’s versions. If you already know a passing amount about Norse Mythology, I think there are better reference books out there for you to dive deeper in the myths.
I thought this collection of Norse stories was just an alright read. Nothing really made me excited. I appreciated Gaiman’s craft in making these stories highly accessible to a layman like myself but in the end I just wasn’t excited about any of these stories. It is nice to have a background understanding more about Norse Mythology but I’m not sure if this actually is going to make some fantasy books I read dealing with Norse Mythology that much better.
If you want to read a short story like collection talking about how Loki tricked the other gods or how Thor wants to bash his hammer in everything, check this out. If you want more background and context to some fantasy stories, like American Gods, that has some Norse Mythology players in it, this is a quick read to get you caught up. If you want to be entertained, I’d recommend reading some Thor comic books instead.
TBR Priority Rating: 7/10(Read Soon)
As a part of my #diverseathon reads, I picked up one of my most anticipated reads of 2016 in The Geek Feminist Revolution. It was a few years ago now that I started to read a little bit from Kameron Hurley’s website. I didn’t visit the site every day but when people linked about it on forums or twitter, I checked it out. I was impressed with Hurley’s honesty and transparency when it comes to feminist issues and the publishing world. When I found out she was writing a book based on her blog posts over the years, I knew it was going to be something I wanted to read.
Gathering essays together has been a practice for years when it comes to putting together a book of essays. I don’t really understand the criticism against putting together some edited blog posts. I guess just because the blog posts were public already makes this seem like a “lazy” endeavor. I definitely disagree with this logic because usually essays are extremely personal and you can edit them to make them sound better. When you do that with blog posts, you can’t change what you say, or how you say it. Hurley herself talked about saying some things when she was a newer writer that rubbed people in the publishing business the wrong way. She is loud and vocal about the things she believes. It could have been easy for her to push aside all the posts she made over the years into the archive but she decided to bring them all back out. That is an incredibly brave thing to do, especially in a business where what other professionals think of you has a lot to do with your success.
As a rather introspected guy reading this book, I had to really keep my self-loathing in check. There are so many things about how American culture views women that I have done when I was younger, and even now, that Hurley brings this to my attention in a “kick my butt” kind of way. What was really important to me, though, is that she made it perfectly clear that her own thinking was subject to the same culture biases. This was comforting to know because it is easy to feel like you should crawl into a hole and never talk to a woman again, but Hurley isn’t there to condemn the reader but to say, “yeah, let’s fix this together.”
This book covers a lot of information about Hurley’s own writing and can be taken as her own biography in a way. Reading about her struggles as an author while trying to write things she was proud of having written was great. She tries really hard to be as inclusive to as many types of people as she possibly can in her writing but it was nice to see her admit when she makes a mistake too. This, admitting your mistakes, and apologize, was a large theme in the book that covered everything from the SFF community, media, and social media interactions. Also, as a fellow historian, I really liked that Hurley pulled many examples from history to back up her claims. Reading essays about women’s roles in wartime was much easier when you know that Hurley has a master’s degree in the subject.
I think the three essays that impacted me the most were “In Defense of Unlikable Women,” that really opened my eyes to how I look at female characters in fiction, “Dear SFWA Writers: Let’s Chat About Censorship and Bullying,” that made me realize how much more women have to hold their tongue than men in a workplace environment with harassment happening, and, “Rage Doesn’t Exist in a Vacuum,” because I need to be more empathetic towards women that get upset on the internet because it is probably one of a hundred things that happened before it that made what they are talking about upsetting. I had a hard time just picking out three essays I liked the most because they all were really solid. One criticism with this is that I am having a hard time remembering specific talking points in particular essays. I had to flip through the book for the past 15 minutes to even get those three I mentioned above.
I really liked this collection of essays but I must admit, that I’m unsure if I like Kameron Hurley or not. While reading this collection, I was trying to figure out if Hurley is someone I would be friends with. Honestly, I think that the very culture that Hurley fights against in this book is still influencing the way I think about loud, vocal women that swear a lot about social injustices. Intellectually it is relatively easy to agree with everything she says but on a purely emotional level, I can’t help but feel a little bit of animosity. Granted, I don’t like loud vocal men that swear a lot either but I can tell that there is a twinge of something else there too because she is a woman. This is something I really need to work on because it isn’t right and can really influence my daily life. The best thing I can do is continue to read more feminist materials and grow as a person. Hopefully, as I keep thinking about the great points that Hurley brought up in this book and other women in other books, I can move on from this weirdly prejudiced feeling that I don’t like, and truly be a real friend to a woman that is loud and vocal about feminist topics.
4/5 – definitely rereadable
First Impressions Video:
Desert Flower is a thought-provoking non-fiction book that shows the hardships that women have to endure in Somalia and Africa. Surviving is an everyday occurrence in Africa where the life of a nomad is harsh, unforgiving, but simple. Waris’ young life is extremely difficult and the biggest threat to her is the barbaric ritual custom of female circumcision that is an eye-opening and brutal practice that you won’t believe still occurs to millions of young girls. Waris is able to escape this life and go to England where she must survive in a foreign culture without even knowing the language. She becomes a well-respected model but still her past haunts her. She eventually becomes a special ambassador to the U.N. speaking out against female genital mutilation.
I enjoyed the women rights issues and learning about the hardships of this other culture. I should never complain about anything after reading this. I did not find the model progression all that interesting. If you are interested in the struggles that models have you might be more interested in that than I was. I mostly liked it for the human rights issues, her struggle when she first goes to England, and the culture shock she endures.
10% Happier is written by ABC News t.v. journalist Dan Harris about his life and experiences with meditation. The first thing that needs to be said is that this is a memoir and not a straight-up self-help book on meditation. I knew that Harris was going to go into his experience with meditation but I wasn’t prepared for him talking about his journalism career in detail. I ended up enjoying him talking about his career but if journalism doesn’t interest you at all, then this book might not work for you.
Harris talks about his early career in journalism and how his constantly thinking mind, preparing for all situations, really gave him an edge as a journalist. Harris was over-ambitious and really only cared about his career. Later in his career, he struggled with getting angry if things didn’t go his way. Everything crashed around him after becoming a drug addict and having an anxiety attack on live television. He realized he needed to change or he would be out of a job soon.
Harris was given the religion beat on ABC News and as a huge skeptic of all forms of spirituality, he went after the stories that he deemed to be sensational. He was extremely judgmental of all religious people and through being proved wrong time and time again, he gradually makes fewer assumptions. While he is doing the religion coverage, Harris is attempting to find something to help with his anxiety. Self-help books on mindfulness become something that Harris gets into and he is introduced to meditation. Through meditation, even an intense 10-day meditation vacation, which is the most interesting part of the book, Harris is able to become the man he wants to become.
I really enjoyed this book. I thought that listening to a skeptic talk about meditation was a good way to work through my own issues with meditation/Buddhism because we had similar issues with the practice. I go through times in my life when I need meditation to calm my brain a bit and it has worked for me. I haven’t made it a habit though and I think that by listening to this audiobook it has made me a believer once again. I started meditating again a few days ago and I am already seeing some benefit.
I think this is a good book/audiobook for skeptics like Harris that aren’t really into spirituality. I think Harris does a good job at delivering the book in a way to connect to the average Joe that isn’t really interested in Buddhism but wants to try meditation. Harris’ humor is decent in this book but at times, he can come off smarmy. There is some talk near the end of the audiobook about the scientific benefits of meditation if that sounds interesting. This is not a book for people that already know a lot about meditation and Buddhism. This is a barebones look at meditation and more importantly, Harris’ journey. It definitely helps if you have watched Dan Harris on t.v. to enjoy this book to the full measure.
Most people are familiar with Malala by now, her story has been seen on many news outlets, but in case you haven’t heard of her, she is a young girl that stood up for the freedom of young girls to go to school when the Taliban took over her town. She lived in Northern Pakistan in the Valley of Swat. I’ll say this now, there are some controversies about the legitimacy of some of her claims, however, I am going to purposely choose to believe what she says. I am not nihilistic enough to discount things that a young girl talks about in a memoir.
There are two main reasons why I really enjoyed this memoir. The first reason is because it gave me a more clear understanding of what it means to be a traditionalist Muslim, progressive Muslim, and a radical(Taliban) Muslim. I would consider Malala’s family to be a more progressive Muslim family. They respected their traditions but they also fought for more freedoms when it came to the females in their family. There were others around Malala’s family that were more traditionalist Muslim and some within her family too. Malala’s mother was more traditional than progressive in my opinion, at lease more so than Malala herself. Regardless of traditionalists vs. progressive in this area of the world, their beliefs were extremely important to them. Then we have a more radical interpretation of Islam that the Taliban introduced into the Swat Valley. As readers, we come to understand the varying differences of Islam in each of these groups of individuals through the eyes of Malala and I think this is important to understand for people in the Western world.
The second reason I really liked this memoir is because it showed the propaganda usage that the Taliban used to create a foothold in the Swat Valley. First, the Taliban set up a radio station that broadcasted twice a day to the people in the Swat Valley. The radio programming became popular as it talked about fundamental Muslim beliefs. Over time, the radio station started to implement more radical thinking into its broadcasts and used political circumstances to spread a stronger message. The next step was the praise of “good” Muslims and the admonishment of “bad” Muslims. No one wanted to be listed as a bad Muslim because everyone was listening to these broadcasts. No one wanted to be a bad Muslim and go to hell. Rights of women started to be taken away and if the women agreed they would be praised as a good Muslim woman. This led to clothing being restricted to certain garments for both genders, banning of anything “Western”, and eventually girls being banned from going to school. I just have always had a fascination with how propaganda works and this was all fascinating to me.
I definitely recommend this memoir for people that want to get a different viewpoint on Islam from the eyes of a young girl.