Review: What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape

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Review for "What We Talk About When We Talk About Rape" by Sohaila Abdulali (2018)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I can’t say that I “liked” this book because it deals with a topic that isn’t very likable: rape. However, I will say that this is an important book that I would encourage everyone to read. The author, Sohaila Abdulali (also a rape survivor), takes this topic and engages it head on. She covers women’s stories from all around the globe and explores the various cultural contexts of rape. As a person who rejects First/Third Worldism, I found the global perspective here notable, a breath of fresh air. This book is also current, which I liked. The #MeToo movement is discussed, as well as latest political campaign, which gave rise to the public dialogue that has been swirling about rape, toxic masculinity, and the rights of women.

I don’t know, though…if you’re pretty well versed in this topic I can’t agree that reading this will give you any new insights. Although the readability of this book is wonderful, I felt like the chapters were too brief and the topics skipped around too much. Within a 5 page span you get collected personal narratives to political opinions to the author’s input, which never really lingered long enough to offer a lot of in-depth analysis.

Definitely do read this, though. I’d give this a firm 3.5 stars.

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Reading Confessions

I’m tiiiired of talkin’ about 2018, so I’m not gonna do the prescribed Top Ten Tuesday post for today. What I’ll talk about instead are some of the methods to my reading madness, which I’ll call my Reading Confessions...

*plays scary organ music*

  1. Reading Confession #1: I generally will not read a book over 350 pages long. I can, of course, and yes, I have before…but honestly, who has time for all of that? It must be super-intriguing for me to devote that kind of time commitment these days, and I just don’t give it away lightly. Perhaps this is why I’ve never gotten into Harry Potter–it’s just way too long in print. Perhaps I am old and just don’t have the stamina anymore, perhaps I just prefer to pack light. Audio is better, which is why I’ve found myself gravitating more and more toward this medium–it saves time.
  2. Reading Confession #2: I will usually stick with a book that has an unlikable character. As a matter of fact, I prefer asshole characters. For me, not liking a character is not a reason to quit a book. Sure, you may not like what they do and say and think, but ask yourself: why? Is it because they’re challenging you? Irritating you? If they are, so what? Why are you so sensitive about it? Characters are states of being and do not have to meet my standards of neatness, sanity, or politeness. You cannot create a world where everything is to your liking, so why do people demand this when they read?
  3. Reading Confession #3: As much as I hate to admit it, I do like books with nice covers. It’s like a first impression on a first date. If you’re ugly on the outside, why go any further? Answer: you don’t.
  4. Reading Confession #4: If I find a random book that’s been dog-eared (at the library, around the office, etc), I will quickly un-dogear it. Yes. Make the world a better place.
  5. Reading Confession #5: I actually got into a physical fight in the 5th grade with the girl in the desk across from mine because she ripped out a page of one of my Babysitters Club books. And no, I’m still not sorry. Bitch. 

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Review: Amateur

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Review for "Amateur: A True Story About What Makes a Man" by Thomas Page McBee (2018)
Rating; 3 out of 5 stars

I’ve been telling myself that in 2019 I’m going to read more books by transgender men and women, so naturally this one caught my eye.

Thomas Page McBee is the first transgender man to box in Madison Square Garden. This book is not only a memoir of his preparation for the important match, but an exploration of masculinity, along with its pitfalls and its promises. Each chapter is headed with rhetorical questions such “Am I a Real Man?” “Am I Passing?” and “Why do Men Fight?” Overall, I found the book to be very self reflective and it definitely brought up some good points, though I did find myself losing interest at times (i.e., skipping pages). Anyway, it’s not a bad book at all.

Definitely read if you are into deep thoughts on masculinity, violence, life as a non-binary person.

Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer

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Review for "My Sister, the Serial Killer" by Oyinkan Braitwaite (2018)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Dark and brilliant work of fiction. I read this in about 5 days, only because I had to pause to savor the words and the plot a ‘lil bit longer than usual.

Anywho, “My Sister, the Serial Killer” is about two sisters living with their mother in present day Lagos, Nigeria. Ayoola, the younger sister, is a beautiful fashion designer with a bad habit for murdering her boyfriends. Korede, the older sister, works as a nurse in a local hospital and resigns herself to a life of boredom and covering for her sister when another one of her paramours winds up dead. When a handsome doctor at Korede’s hospital ends up falling for Ayoola, the sister’s worlds are turned upside down.

This is not so much a story about murder and mayhem than it is about modern Nigerian life and the pitfalls of familial obligation and tradition. Ayoola does not feel remorse for her victims and neither of the sisters are particularly likable. However, you come to understand that Korede is fully overshadowed by Ayoola, so much so that you can’t help but to empathize with her as she is dragged closer and closer into her sister’s murderous web. Each takes their turn manipulating one another and allowing others in their orbit to be manipulated. Overall, it’s a fun story and I honestly enjoyed this book.

I definitely look forward to the next book that Oyinkan Braithwaite writes.

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2019

Books I’m extra extra excited about, coming out in the first six months of 2019.

Fiction

1. Inspection – Josh Malerman (23 April)

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2. Adele – Leila Slimani (15 Jan)

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3. Daisy Jones and the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid (5 March)

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4. Diary of a Murderer: And Other Stories – Young-Ha Kim (16 April)

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Nonfiction

5. The Body Papers – Grace Talusan (2 April)

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6. Where Reasons End – Yiyun Li (5 Feb)

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7. The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays – Esme Weijun Wang (5 Feb)

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8. The World According to Fannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers – Bridgett Davis (29 Jan)

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9. The Source of Self Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations – Toni Morrison (12 Feb)

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YA

10. Brave Face – Shaun David Hutchinson (21 May)

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Review: Norte

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Review for "Norte" by Edmundo Paz Soldan, translated from Spanish by Valerie Miles (2016) 
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

TW: graphic scenes of rape, murder, mutilation

“Norte” is Bolivian author Edmundo Paz Soldan’s third novel, originally written in Spanish and translated into English. There are three distinctly related narrative threads within this novel, two of which are inspired by real people. The first is the story of Jesus, a ruthless serial killer based on the life of Angel Maturino Resendiz, who hopped freight trains throughout the U.S. and murdered his victims in their homes near railroads from the mid-80s and throughout the 90s. The second is the story of Martin, based on the life of Martin Ramirez, a self-taught, schizophrenic artist who languished in California’s mental hospitals for thirty years before dying in one in 1963. The third is the present-day story of Michelle and Fabian, a Bolivian and Argentinian artist couple struggling with drugs and depression.

This book is not so much about the immigrant experience, but about the pain of displacement and loss, and being in places unfamiliar and strange and far from “home.” All four of the main characters struggle with madness, a theme that runs prominently throughout the novel. Martin’s and Michelle’s art is inspired by voices and the shifts in their environment, Jesus’ acts are also inspired by voices that command him to kill women. Jesus is a highly repugnant character, perhaps one of the most awful people I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading about. There are very graphic and detailed scenes of rape, murder, and mutilation in this book. The target of Jesus’ violence is women, which he possesses a pathological hatred for. I can see where this would probably turn a good number of readers off, though personally I did not feel that the violence was too gratuitous (reminder: we are talking about a serial killer, after all).

Overall, I liked this book and found it to be very readable.

Four stars.

Review: Paperback Crush

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Review for "Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of '80s and '90s Teen Fiction" by Gabrielle Moss (2018)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Nancy Drew. The Wakefield twins. The Babysitters Club. Christopher Pike. R. L. Stine. The Girls of Canby Hall.

Don’t forget the series. Always in an endless parade of series, people…

If you know any of the names above, you were an 80’s/90’s reader girly like me and read all things mass market, pop teen fiction. My favorite activity at the local mall (after copping a slice of Sbarro’s pizza) was going to Waldenbooks, finding a nice spot on the floor and deciding which paperback I was going to buy with my babysitting money to read that week. I collected these books and wouldn’t let anyone touch them, especially my baby sister at the time (who used to rip up books, yikes!).

“Paperback Crush” is a time machine back to that period, a dive into the history of teen fiction from the late 60s to the early 00’s. The format is excellent and easy to follow, there are tons of pictures of the books I definitely read and remembered. There’s also interviews with some of the authors who changed the game with more diverse characters and situations that teens were reading about. The book is split into categories that were also very interesting: love/sex, friendships, family, teen jobs/sleuthing, paranormal, danger, and so on. It’s a pretty broad overview of the development of the genre, complete with a beautiful gem of nostalgia.

This book also brought me back mentally to a time when much of the world to me was very “safe”–suburban, heterogeneous, heteronormative–and of course, White. Of course I still read the books regardless, but it took me back to the very real feeling I got (and still get) often as a Black girl reader: where was I? Why does no one in this entire book look like me? Sure there were characters of color here and there (i.e., Jessie and Claudia in the Babysitters Club), but they were generally ‘otherized’–mystical tokens in a sea of whiteness. This book barely scratches the surface of the deeper discussions of race, class, and representation in literature, which I wish had taken up a larger portion of the book.

I realize now that I owe a tremendous debt to pop teen fiction. Its where I learned not only how to read, but how to analyze, criticize, roll my eyes and yell out “oh please” when a character did something stupid. It made me the reader I am today.

Definitely get this one.