I’m 55% through it it. I have thoughts, but they are just baby thoughts right now.
Like many Americans, I watched the Brett Kavanaugh hearings last week. The hysterical behavior of Kavanaugh, Lindsey Graham, and Orrin Hatch, among others, turned the hearings into a pageant of perceived male victimization. For anyone who doesn’t benefit from white male privilege, the performance was a disgusting slap in the face–a reminder that many of our political representatives prefer to believe an angry, unhinged man rather than actually investigate a credible accusation.
Trump’s comments yesterday at the swearing-in ceremony demonstrated the hold white male patriarchy still has on America. Trump gave his new friend a tongue-bath, declaring him “innocent” and apologizing for his having to endure questions at a job interview.
Even if an investigation revealed no evidence of a sexual assault, Kavanaugh’s behavior at the hearing showed a man who can’t control his emotions, can’t hold up under pressure, can’t defend himself without resorting to rage, and can’t address issues without bringing in his personal biases. Can you imagine if a woman had reacted that way? Or a person of color?
So, yeah, it’s a troubled time in America. My plan–besides voting–is to start reading more books that help me understand perspectives that our politicians desperately want to silence.
Below is a list of books I plan to tackle. What are you going to read?
“In Living a Feminist Life Sara Ahmed shows how feminist theory is generated from everyday life and the ordinary experiences of being a feminist at home and at work. Building on legacies of feminist of color scholarship in particular, Ahmed offers a poetic and personal meditation on how feminists become estranged from worlds they critique—often by naming and calling attention to problems—and how feminists learn about worlds from their efforts to transform them.”
“In Asking for It, Kate Harding combines in-depth research with a frank, no-holds-barred voice to make the case that twenty-first-century America supports rapists more effectively than it supports victims. From institutional failures in higher education to real-world examples of rape culture, Harding offers ideas and suggestions for how we, as a society, can take sexual violence much more seriously without compromising the rights of the accused.”
“In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change.”
“Anxious about her prospects after leaving a stagnant job, Tambudzai finds herself living in a run-down youth hostel in downtown Harare. For reasons that include her grim financial prospects and her age, she moves to a widow’s boarding house and eventually finds work as a biology teacher. But at every turn in her attempt to make a life for herself, she is faced with a fresh humiliation, until the painful contrast between the future she imagined and her daily reality ultimately drives her to a breaking point.”
P.S. If you want strong women in leadership, consider donating to Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign. She had the guts to stand up for her convictions at the risk of losing her senate seat next month. I’m proud to be a North Dakotan.
September was a busy month, but I still found time to read. I read nine books including one re-read. My favorite of the month was Penance by Kanae Minato. Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall was a close second.
Here’s the complete list of what finished this month with my 1-sentence summary of each.
- Penance by Kanae Minato—Revenge is toxic and lasts a lifetime.
- She Was the Quiet One by Michele Campbell—Fancy boarding school kids are awful; toxic masculinity is part of fancy boarding schools. (Timely read? Yup.)
- The Humans by Matt Haig—If aliens send one of their own to impersonate a human, it’ll totally stress out the alien because humans are confusing and complicated and almost always illogical, but it’ll sure be funny.
- Choose Your Own Disaster by Dana Schwartz—Memoirs about 20-somethings are hard to read if you are not a 20-something; being 40-something is way better (and also a choose-your-own-adventure format doesn’t work well in electronic books).
- Stand Firm: Resisting the Self-Improvement Crazy by Svend Brinkmann—You don’t have to be better; just be.
- Educated by Tara Westover—If you thought your childhood was rough…
- Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher—It’s funny because it’s true: People in academia are all bonkers (self included).
- Doomsday Book by Connie Willis—Time traveling to the Middle Ages is very interesting until you get the plague.
- Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall—A man who wants to believe he deserves the affections of a woman will continue to believe in spite of all evidence to the contrary.
Happy reading in October!
I’ll go ahead and wait right here while you go buy this book and read it. Come back and let’s talk about how we’re going to reclaim our time.
It could’ve used a stronger editor because it was a little bloated at times. I can forgive that, though, because the characters were solid and the research really brought this time period to life.
I’m not sure I’ll tackle the sequels right away, but I really did enjoy reading this one.
Reviewers are calling it dark. It absolutely is. If you don’t like the kind of psychological thrillers that mess with your head, this one isn’t for you.
So far, it reminds me a bit of You: A Novel by Caroline Kepnes.
I have this on hold from the library. I know nothing about it except the blurb below.
“They were on a lark, three teenage girls speeding across the greens at night on a “borrowed” golf cart, drunk. The cart crashes and one of the girls lands violently in the rough, killed instantly. The driver, Jo, flees the hometown that has turned against her and enrolls at a prestigious boarding school. Her past weighs on her. She is responsible for the death of her best friend. She has tipped her parents’ rocky marriage into demise. She is ready to begin again, far away from the accident.”
I usually don’t read memoirs–mostly because they feel self-absorbed to me. There are few things more self-involved than writing an entire book about yourself. I suppose I gravitate toward fiction because the author’s voice can be couched in characters’ voices.
But occasionally I find a memoir that’s every bit as good as fiction: Education is one of them. Not only is the writing excellent, the story itself is bonkers. Tara Westover grew up in rural Idaho to a mentally ill father with delusions of grandeur and a mother whose primary household function was enabling physical, verbal, and emotional abuse.
In spite of a childhood with no formal education–and very little informal education–Westover finds a way to go to Brigham Young University. After graduation, she studies at Cambridge and Harvard, eventually earning a PhD. She does all of this in spite of her family who are determined to keep her from learning and growing as a person.
I do think the end is weaker than the beginning. The last few chapters feel a bit empty as Westover navigates a bizarre and neverending family fight. I felt like something must have been missing because I couldn’t figure out the motivations of her parents or siblings. It was like a big piece was missing that would explain how they all ended up where they were. I also wondered a lot about money. How does one afford that kind of formal education? I barely manged to penny-pinch my way through state universities, even with fellowships, scholarships, and assistantships. (I also suspect I have an eighth of her brilliance, so there’s that.)
What I liked most about the book–aside from the extraordinary writing–was Westover’s ideas about education. I wanted to read more about how she evolved from a kid who had never read much of anything besides The Book of Mormon to a graduate student studying some of the greatest Western philosophers of all time. I would love to know if she thinks anyone can become educated as she did or if she recognizes how singular she is. And I’d love to know exactly which ideas really paved the way for her to break out of her family’s narrow world.
Westover is a significantly more forgiving and understanding person than I am. I know her father had a mental illness, but the entire family suffered from his paranoid illusions. Between the father’s obsession with the end times, her brother’s physical abuse, and a total lack of intervention from every other adult in her life, it’s a wonder that Westover can paint such a fair picture of her family members. My version would be a lot angrier.
Pick up the book for the beautiful writing. Stay for the incredible triumph.
I’m reading The Doomsday Book because a trusted reader recommended it to me. So far so good.
I’m reading Animal Farm because I’ve never read it before, and I feel like this is one of those books everyone should read.
I’m re-reading Dear Committee Members in anticipation of Julie Schumacher’s new book. I’m not ashamed to say this is my third reading. Still hilarious.