We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

If we’re being honest, I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Not because I didn’t enjoy We Should All Be Feminists but because I have so many thoughts swirling in my head, the thought of arranging them into a coherent post is incredibly daunting.

I was scrolling through Barnes and Noble’s website when this book was recommended for me and I instantly bought it. Truth be told, I knew nothing about it. As I anxiously awaited it to arrive in the mail, I did some research.

The book is Adichie’s argumentative essay on feminism adapted from her well-known (and spectacular) TED talk.

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From Africa, she discusses what it’s like being a woman in Nigeria. How women are viewed and treated and ties that in with the larger struggle of gender equality across the world.

I warned you with The Argonauts could be challenging to read but I promise this one isn’t in the slightest. In fact, you can sit down (in a comfy armchair, preferably) and read it in an hour. Don’t take less than an hour though. You need to read it slowly, reread parts that are powerful and think about what she’s saying.

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My favorite part of the entire essay is her bringing up the controversy that surrounds the word feminism. So often today people find themselves saying they believe in gender equality but are not feminists or don’t like the word feminists (which seems paradoxical to me).

Adichie argues that by using a broad label such as saying you believe in ‘human rights’  denies the individualized struggle of gender. I don’t want to talk too much about this because she discusses it so beautifully and I’ll just butcher it here but take my word for it, it’s powerful.

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If you’ve haven’t heard Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk, I guarantee you’ve heard her magnificent voice before.

Does this look familiar:

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She speaks parts of her talk in the middle of Beyonce’s “Flawless” which, for lack of a more appropriate word, is utterly flawless.

Check out We Should All Be Feminists and/or listen to her TED talk then pop back over here and give me your thoughts.

Mom & Me & Mom, Maya Angelou

The first time I heard about Maya Angelou was in my freshman year Humanistic Studies class. Naturally, we read I know Why The Caged Bird Sings and everyone in the class were instantly transformed into Angelou fans.

For me, what was so monumental with the experience of reading my first Angelou work was that it brought about absolute clarity the fact that there are authors and there are storytellers. Angelou is a storyteller.

A few years later I read Singing’ and Swinging’ and Getting’ Merry Like Christmas. I was hoping to get that heart racing, all consuming feeling I had with Caged Bird but it never came. It’s a good book but not one I would call spectacular.

Then, through Our Shared Shelf, I heard of Mom & Me & Mom. I read wonderful review after review on the OSS discussion board and ordered it in the hopes of bringing about the feeling I had with Caged Bird. I found it.

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Mom & Me & Mom is the seventh and final of Angelou’s autobiographies. It revolves around her life with her mother, the famous Vivian Baxter.

If you’re looking for a glamorous tale of Mother-Daughter friendship, this may not be for you. Baxter sends her children to live with their grandmother as children as her marriage falls apart. Years later, the children return and have to cope with the deep feelings of abandonment as they try to rebuild a once broken relationship.

Vivian was not a great mother of children but was for adults. Angelou is known for having one of the most interesting life’s in written record and she recounts in her memoir the part Baxter played through the tumultuous ups and downs.

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I curled up and read this within 24 hours, I simply couldn’t put it down. Maya Angelou is able to pull you into her life in a way no other author I’ve read is able to.

Apart from the fact that she is a talented writer, I think it’s her innate ability to make every single person who reads her book feel like she is their close friend has so much to do with her incredible popularity.

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What do you think Maya Angelou – do you think she’s worth the hype or overrated?

Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, Carrie Brownstein

They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. I won’t lie here, I absolutely judged this book by it’s cover.

I’m certain this is my favorite book title I’ve ever read.

You see it, read it, let it sink in and then begin the slow clap.

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Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl is a memoir (as you can obviously see above) by Carrie Brownstein.

Some of you may know her as a member of the punk-indie band Sleater-Kinney. Others may know her as the co-creater of the show Portlandia with Fred Armisen.

Others of you, like me, may have never heard of her but don’t let that stop you from reading the book!

Her memoir mostly covers the time from her childhood up until around the time the band broke up.

She is a good, authentic writer and her book is easy to read (I think there is a negative connotation with something being easy to read but I don’t mean it as a negative at all. I found her storytelling very compelling and, therefore, easy to read).

She talks a lot about the punk-indie music scene which is something I’ve never really cared much for and so it went a bit over my head but her passion for music is undeniable.

What I loved about the book was her insiders perspective to being in the media spotlight. She discusses the frustrations of being asked questions being prefaced with “female” and how she was outed as a bisexual, without her permission, through an article about the band.

I’m not sure about you but I find it extremely reassuring to read memoirs by successful women who discuss their road to success. I think it’s all too easy to look at people we admire or define as successful and only see where they are now.

To be able to have them invite you into their lives to show the difficult times, the failures and the work to get where they are is anxiety relieving to me.

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I enjoyed Carrie Brownstein’s book and would definitely recommend you check it out. If you do read it, be sure to pop back over and tell me what you think!

My Mad Fat Diary, Rae Earl

With school winding down and March Madness at work, I haven’t had a ton of time to read for fun. Before the craziness began, however, I devoured Rae Earl’s My Mad Fat Diary.

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When I was in college, my roommate tweeted at one of the stars of the show (adapted from the memoir) and he responded which she took to mean they were getting married and insisted I watch it.

I settled in to watch it one night before classes started and binged almost the entire first season in one night (you can watch it here). As school got underway, football season began and friends from all over the country were finally all in one place, I never got to finish watching it.

Then, a few months ago, I stumbled across the memoir and immediately bought it.

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The memoir is the actual diary of Rae Earl from the year 1989 when she was 17, living in Lincolnshire and recently released from a psychiatric ward.

I can’t get over how brave Earl is publishing her diary. Have you ever found an old diary from your teenage years? Can you imagine publishing it for the world? I’m so glad she did though! It’s incredibly relatable (a completely generic word but there really is nothing better).

Feeling like your parent doesn’t understand you? Check. Not realizing your friends are using you? Check. Unrequited crushes? Check.

The whole time I read it, all I could think was, you couldn’t pay me to be 17 again!

It also highlights something I don’t think people talk about enough: mental illness and getting trapped in your own head. She writes of her issues with anxiety and food, drawing you into her thoughts and private world in an intimate way.

In an interview with The Telegraph she said, “when the thoughts were bad, I used to burn my arms with match ends or hit myself in the face with a shoe. I just didn’t feel there was anything else I could do to get me through normal life.”

She not only opens her life to the reader but her mind too.

Don’t be mistaken, there are hilarious parts of the memoir but unlike many memoirs I’ve read, she doesn’t cover up the issues and the hard times. Life is never perfect and she makes no illusions that it was at the time.

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I would definitely recommend My Mad Fat Diary. It will make you laugh, cringe and think about what people portray to the world may not be what’s going on in their heads.

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If you have read My Mad Fat Diary, what did you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The Vagina Monologues, Eve Ensler

If you saw on a goodreads last week, I recently read The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler.

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The book kept popping up on my goodreads feed. People were commenting how much it impacted them, how fantastic it is and the like.

Before this, I heard about The Vagina Monologues, in an almost mythical way, as one of the key artistic pieces of feminism. It sounded powerful. It sounded intense. It sounded intimidating.

I dedicated this year to reading more feminist books to learn about issues talked about all the time, issues never talked about and subjects that society has told us to be uncomfortable about. I wanted to hear opinions that align with my own and opinions that differ.

I wanted to understand feminism, women’s rights and what it means to be a woman today in the most wholistic sense possible.

The Vagina Monologues, or what I’ve heard of it at least, made me uncomfortable.

It was exactly what I was looking for.

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I started the book on a lazy Sunday. Lounging around the house, elastic waistband clothes on, no makeup, smoothie in hand, sun streaming through the windows.

I finished it that day.

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I. Loved. It.

Yes, it can be intense. Yes, it can be intimidating. Yes, it certainly is powerful.

The monologues range from funny to heart breaking. From young girls to older women. From women of sexual assault to women giving birth.

I think the mythical feature that I talked about earlier comes from the fact that the play (Ensler toured around the country performing the play and it soon became a massive political movement) uses the word “vagina” on every page, multiple times. Not to mention it’s printed in large bold letters on the cover.

Vagina is a word that people don’t use. It almost feels taboo. Even more, people don’t talk about vaginas. It can be seen as shameful to do so. In response, Enlser began interviewing women about theirs and it soon became a revolution.

The monologues then went on to inspire the V-Day Movement to stop violence against women. If you get a newer copy of the play, there’s tons of information about it in the back.

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Honestly, I loved the Vagina Monologues. It’s a book that I think is so incredibly important and I would highly recommend it to everyone – both men and women.

I’m a big believer that discussing topics like this is the first step in bringing about change and, believe me, there’s no shortage of topics to discuss in The Vagina Monologues.

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Have you read TVM yet? What did you think and what was your favorite Monologue?

Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari

My favorite part of the day is the morning. I wake up early, make breakfast and settle in at the table, reading, eating and enjoying a big mug of coffee. Everything’s quiet, the house is still and whatever craziness is in store for the day hasn’t happened yet.

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The past few weeks have been crazy so last week, I picked up Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance thinking I could use a little humor to start my days. As I’m sure you can tell, I’m a huge Parks and Rec fan. I think Aziz is hysterical in the show and I couldn’t wait to read his book.

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I’ll admit, I didn’t read anything about the book before I bought it so you can imagine my surprise when I started reading it and quickly found out it was not a comedy book or hysterical memoir. It’s a sociological look at romance in the 21st century.

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Aziz teamed up with a sociologist from NYU and interviewed people from all over the world about their romantic lives and takes a look at statistical information from online dating sites and apps.

He talks about everything from the changes in dating from our grandparent’s generation where geographical proximity was key to today when dating apps open up the world to us to find our soulmates.

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He goes in depth about texting conversations, the history of online dating, what people look for in profiles and how picky we are and quick to judge others by the limited of information we initially share.

The most interesting chapter, I thought, was when he interviews people in other countries. The differences in dating in the U.S., Japan, Paris and Argentina are extreme.

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While it’s not the laugh until your belly hurts book I thought I was getting (don’t get me wrong, there are definitely funny parts – come on, it’s Aziz Ansari, you know there had to be) I still really enjoyed the book.

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I thought it was completely fascinating and well worth a read.

Tell me, have you read it? What did you think?

A Man Called Ove

There are some things in life that can’t be explained. No matter how hard you search for the right words, there are none. It’s one of the most frustrating feelings in the world.

It wasn’t until recently that someone said to me, those are things that aren’t meant to be explained, they’re meant to be felt. How true is that? One of the things I think are really meant to be felt is the feeling you get when a book touches your soul.

When you finish a book that has made you think, consumes you completely and you know life will never be the same again.

I just finished a book that did that for me: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

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The description on the back of the book is pretty vague so I don’t want to give you even the slightest spoiler. It’s a book about love, friendship, death and living. A book of unexpected relationships and the people who change your life .

I loved Ove. I loved Sonja. I loved Parvaneh. I loved the cat. I loved the daughters. I loved the silly Saab.

I would wake up early to get an extra chapter in, stretch my lunch breaks to the maximum, carry it around in my coat pocket so I didn’t miss any spare moments where I could dive back into Ove’s life.

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Remember when I wrote about the Little Paris Bookshelf and the literary apothecary who would prescribe the books people need?

Anyone who has ever felt alone, lost someone, counted on someone, formed unexpected friendships, loved animals, loved black coffee, felt a connection to a car. For anyone who has ever loved, lost, cried, laughed, cared for someone. Read this book. It starts a little slow but it’s worth it in the end.

I prescribe this book to you. Read it, come back and let me know what you think.

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