Monday, February 27, 2017

Recently Read: Men Explain Things to Me

Author: Rebecca Solnit
Genre: Nonfiction/ Essay Collection
Publication Date: 2014
Page Count: 130
Rating: 3/5

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This is a collection of essays that center around feminism written by Solnit. This collection has been buzzed about quite a bit, and you know I love gender and feminism, so I was super interested in this one. It came in to my library at exactly the right time, as this collection fit in perfectly with Short Reads February. I don't usually read essays, so I thought it would be best to start with a short collection on a topic that I am really interested in.

Overall, I liked this collection. As usual with collections, some essays were more interesting to me than others, but I didn't dislike any of them. Some of the essays began to feel a little repetitive as each essay seemed to have the same statistics or case studies, which wasn't too bad because they were important stats.

I liked the title essay. The idea of men explaining things to women that already understand is not new to any woman. I'm sure this has happened to the majority of women out there, as I know it has happened to me, even though I work in a field that is majority female. I thought the essay was the perfect balance of fact, personal antidote, and expression. Unfortunately, when women write/speak about sexist traditions or experiences, they are often dismissed as whiny or preachy when they make an emotional appeal, but Solnit is careful to avoid that and stick to the facts.

I enjoyed the few essays in this collection on rape and rape culture, and found they were treated with the same care as the title essay; rape statistics and figures are really stunning on their own, but Solnit's writing works to place them into context and offer reasons behind those numbers. I found her ideas about masculinity and violence interesting and agreed with them wholly. I think the way we view and define masculinity is harmful to everyone, both male and female.

I'll be picking up more essay collections in the future, particularly ones on feminism. Leave me your favorites!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Recently Purchased: Two Classic Memoirs by Women

You might remember this post  from earlier in the month where I showed my latest book purchases by women authors. Well, I am continuing that pattern, and here I have my latest book purchases, and one from the library, all of which are by women! I'm hoping to get to these soon because I have very high hopes for them.

From the Library

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

This is a short collection of essays based around feminism that has been quite popular since its release. Essays are not my usual genre of reading, but because these are so short, it's been rather enjoyable reading. I'll be reviewing this one soon. 

Purchased

Dust Tracks on a Road by Zora Neal Hurston 

I haven't read any of Hurston's full length fiction yet, but I am really interested in reading her memoir. I have of course heard never-ending praise for Their Eyes were Watching God and have enjoyed the few short stories of hers I have read. I really don't know anything about Hurston's biography so I was happy to discover this existed and even happier to find it used at my local bookstore. 

West with the Night by Beryl Markham

This one has been high on my need-to-buy list since I read and loved Circling the Sun by Paula McLain, which is a fictional account of Markham's life in Africa and as a female pilot. This memoir written by Markham connects with the novel Out of Africa by Karen Blixen, as Markham is one of the characters in that group of people and is featured in the movie version and possibly the book (I'll let you know when I read it.) 

I may have to make March a month of reading memoirs because I have so many that I am dying to get to.  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Recently Read: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Author: Frederick Douglass
Genre: Classic/Memoir
Publication Date: 1845
Page Count: 100
Rating: 4/5

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Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a piece of writing that I hoped, and expected, to read while getting my degree in English. Unfortunately, my American Lit. part one professor preferred the awful works of white men to any quality works by women or African Americans, so I took it upon myself to read this piece, as it is a staple of American literature. 

Douglass was born a slave and remained a slave for the early part of his adulthood. He moved from master-to-master until he escaped to freedom. What makes Douglass' story unique from other slave narratives is that Douglass was taught to read and write by an early master's wife. From there he secretly continued learning to read and write by any possible means and wrote Narrative unaided and published it in 1845. Douglass went on to be a very important figure in the Abolitionist movement and spoke against racism publicly for the rest of his life. 

I really enjoyed this short narrative. Douglass is endlessly smart and compassionate and communicates his experiences to the reader in a matter-of-fact manner that make his narrative impossible to deny or ignore. This is not an easy read, but it would be a disservice to history and the experiences of many if it was. It's not overly graphic, Douglass does not rely on shock-value or emotionally preach to his reader, he just relays his experiences and that is enough. I found Douglass' thoughts on religion and religion's role in slavery quite interesting, and I really enjoyed his writing voice. Douglass is a person I would love to learn more about as a human and in regards to his role in anti-slavery activism. 

I highly recommend checking this one out if you are interested in American history, slavery, or African American activists. I'll leave you with some of Douglass' wise words, "I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence."  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Unconventional Romances

I am not  fan of romance novels and never have been. I don't know why, they just aren't my thing. But I do love Valentine's Day and showing a little extra love to your loved ones. Here I've put together a list of unconventionally romantic books and poetry collections. They either have a unique romance or don't have a romance per say, but discuss the topic of romance and love in general. I would love for you to leave your recommendations below for unconventional romances or books that discuss romance and love more-so than contain romances. 

 

This is one of those novels that discusses romance and love without actually having a romance in the story. In fact, as the title suggests, this novel is about the end of a romance. I really loved this novel and the juxtaposition of religious faith and romantic love. 

This is a magical realism romance that has to do with dreams. I really enjoyed this one; magical realism is beginning to make its way to the top of my favorite genres lists. The magical elements kept this from being stereotypical, but the romance and high school setting, made it a quick read. 

Nothing about this novel is conventional. It's an Odyssey retelling that takes place at the end of the world. The characters are so unique they become mythical and the setting is just as unique.  



This is one of my all-time favorite novels. It deals with self-discovery and love that is on the wrong side of fate. This book is beautifully written and set in 1930s New York. I need to reread this one this year! 

Once again, this is another completely unconventional novel. In this one our main character is one the LGBTQ spectrum and battles giant man-eating grasshoppers who cause the end of civilization as we know it. The romance is not the main focus of the novel, but it was one of the most interesting aspects of the novel for me. 
  
6. Breakfast at Tiffanys by Truman Capote 
Another classic that deals with romance and love without the typical romantic plot line. The novel is very different than the movie (but I love both) and it doesn't have that same romantic, happy ending, which to me, is much more interesting. 

 

7. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
This book takes place during WWIII (yes you read that right) and features an unconventional romance between two cousins. Very unconventional. 

This collection deals with heartbreak, self-love, and the rediscovery of love. I love the illustrations in this collection, and the poems aren't mind-blowing, but I did enjoy this collection. 

9. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
This collection was written by Hughes and published after his death. Almost every poem in this collection is about Sylvia Plath. If you know anything about their biography, you know they had an unconventional (i.e. unhealthy) relationship. I am still working through this collection, but these poems are raw and provide an interesting contrast to Plath's poems (although I will always prefer Plath's poetry over Hughes'.)


10. Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay 
Millay is one of my favorite poets. She writes about love, sex, and romance in a completely liberated and witty way. Her poetry is smart, sassy, and addicting. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Recently Read: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime

Author: Mark Haddon
Genre: Adult/Literary Fiction
Release Date: 2004
Page Count: 226
Rating: 4/5

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Christopher is fifteen years old and lives with his father. He is a math genius and logical without fail. Christopher is also on the autism spectrum. One day Christopher happens upon a crime scene and takes it upon himself to discover who has killed his neighbor's dog, Wellington, and along the way, discovers a lot about himself and his father. 

I have been seeing this book around for years and have always meant to pick it up, and I'm glad that I finally got around to it as part of my short-reads February. I really enjoyed Christopher's narrative voice and the lengths the author went to to ensure his voice was authentic. I am a new high school teacher and have had students with autism before, and of course talked about autism in my special education classes, so I really appreciated this novel. Autism can be frustrating for both the person that has it and the people around them, and this novel was honest about that. Christopher and his father were real people with real emotions, frustrations, and love. 

I enjoyed the way that the plot unfolded and found it easy to loose myself in this novel for large chunks of time, as I read it in two sittings. I thought this novel was a very accurate portrayal of autism, as far as my knowledge allows me to make that judgement, and it is a novel that I would keep on my classroom shelves without hesitation. If you are looking to diversify your own reading I recommend this novel. 

If you are interested in an 'own voices' novel about Autism, I have recently added Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet to my TBR.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Recently Purchased: Works by Women

I've been slowly spending my Christmas money on books, and of course, everything I have bought, has been written by women! I started this spree by buying volumes 2-5 of Ms. Marvel by Willow G. Wilson, and continued it by buying the books below. These books have been on my to-buy-list forever so I'm glad to finally have them.
Out of Africa, Isak Dinsen (Karen Blixen) 


 Purple Hibiscus, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 


I have been meaning to get my hands on something by Adichie forever now, and I'm glad to have two of her novels now. I bought both of them in the gorgeous patterned editions, and I'm hoping to collect them all because I love them. I have been wanting to read Out of Africa ever since I read Circling the Sun. Next on my to-buy-list is Beryl Markham's West with the Night, another read inspired by Circling the Sun. I have been craving books set in Africa ever since reading that novel and have rounded up quite a few for my shelves with this haul. 

What's your favorite Adichie novel? What was the last book you bought yourself?