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.

 photo DSC04405_zps1kynl8za.jpg

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.

 photo DSC04402_zpsxjnkkkcv.jpg

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.

 photo DSC04398_zps55ilfzyf.jpg

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:

 photo DSC04403_zps0a1vjt4t.jpg

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.

 photo DSC04396_zpsnpteskc8.jpg

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.

 photo DSC04387_zpsc2avfhir.jpg

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.

 photo DSC04384_zpstswsx5gk.jpg

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

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.

 photo FullSizeRender_zpsgkvglruh.jpg

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.

 photo FullSizeRender 8_zps1efkkogm.jpg

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.

 photo FullSizeRender 7_zps4ahpmrsp.jpg

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.

 photo FullSizeRender 3_zpsu19rbmps.jpg

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.

 photo DSC04148_zpswghu3tfa.jpg

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.

 photo DSC04142_zps2nmqqmwy.jpg

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.

 photo DSC04144_zpsz3pinxdf.jpg

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.

 photo DSC04146_zpsmyquq7th.jpg

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.

 photo DSC04147_zps3cao2pcl.jpg

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

How to Be a Woman

One of my goals for 2017 was to read more feminist literature.

I think it’s a common misconception when people talk about feminism to say “this is what it is”  and “this is what a feminist looks like” but it’s not true. Feminism is made up of so many parts and each part is made of further parts. A person can be a feminist but have different opinions about varying details.

That’s why I think it’s important to read feminist books, to understand where other’s are coming from who have beliefs similar or different from yours. I love that moment when you believe something and have a difficult time articulating it, then read something that perfectly encompasses your thoughts!

Even more important, I enjoy reading the thoughts of people with different opinions of mine. To use that as an opportunity to question why you believe what you do and to strengthen your worldview by better understanding where other people are coming from.

A long intro to lead up to this: I read my first feminist book of the year and I loved it!

 photo 4D282BC8-64EF-4959-9587-3D5BB54ECAEE_zpsj541qlvz.jpg

If you haven’t read “How to be a Woman” by Caitlin Moran, I can’t recommend it enough!

Moran doesn’t shy away from controversial topics. In fact, she tackles them head on with a tongue in cheek humor that will make you continue reading until you come back to reality and realize you thought you’ve only been reading for 10 minutes but have actually been gone gone for double your allotted lunch break time.

 photo 62F4A65E-C0F3-44CC-A57D-4D11C5A969EE_zpse0dlga4g.jpg

There were chapters that made my laugh out loud, chapters that I continued thinking about well after I put the book down and chapters I cringed when reading.

I agreed with many of the topics she wrote about and disagreed with some as well but used that disagreement to think through why I disagree and where my opinion came from.

I put some of my favorite quotes up on Goodreads but I’ll leave you with my favorite:

“It really is important you say these words out loud. “I AM A FEMINIST.” If you feel you cannot say it—not even standing on the ground—I would be alarmed. It’s probably one of the most important things a woman will ever say: the equal of “I love you,” Is it a boy or a girl?” or “No! I’ve changed my mind! I don’t want bangs!” – Caitlin Moran

If you haven’t read it, give it a try and let me know what you think!