Born to a stage mother so horrid even Dina Lohan would say Wow, maybe you should back off a little?, Gypsy Rose Lee managed to not only survive her mother (no small feat considering her mom murdered at least three people over the course of her life), but she went from a small support role in her younger sisters vaudeville act to become the most famous burlesque dancer ever. This womans life was insane. INSANE. Her mother was flat evil, right to the very end, and the fact that Gypsy and her younger sister June managed to become even moderately functional adults is nothing short of a miracle. Still, you dont come through that kind of childhood without plenty of Issues, and this biography doesnt shy away from those. It manages not to sensationalize the bad aspects of Gypsys personality or behavior and it doesnt demonize her for them either. Its all told with quite a bit of sympathy, even. She certainly had a fascinating, if rather sad, life.
What I liked best about the book was that it situated Gypsys life in its historical context. There were entire chapters devoted to the workings of the vaudeville circuits, the rise of the Minsky Brothers and their hand in creating burlesque, and the political and cultural currents that led to the fall of vaudeville and the rise of different trends in public performance and burlesque. The author does a good job of clearly demonstrating how these things created the choices available to Gypsy (and/or her mother, as the case may be) and explained how and why Gypsy (or her mother) managed to play the system to her advantage.
This book is EXCELLENT! It's about this high schooler named Andromeda Klein who is obsessed with tarot and ceremonial magic(k) who is starting to have strange dreams and visions involving symbols from the tarot, a figure calling himself the King of Sacremento, and on top of that, she's convinced her dead best friend (who she calls The Twice Holy Soror Daisy Wasserstrom, which makes me laugh every single time) is suddenly less dead than she should be. This story was so charming and satisfying. It's one of those books that is so quirky and weird, but is loveable because it isn't trying to be. It just is.
I really did not care for this book at all. Basically, she tries to tie things like eating disorders, compulsive shopping, self-harm, and excessive drinking all together as a reaction to appetites that have been thwarted or shamed. That general idea seems sensible enough, but when she tries to expound on it, it becomes nonsensical or just plain frustrating. I couldn't recognize myself or anyone I know in what she was saying and the constant no-win mother-blaming became frankly offensive. Later in the book, she starts referencing psychoanalytic theorists directly, and the non-stop criticism of mothers (*every* kind of mother) without even a mention of fathers, much less an actual discussion of their roles in their daughters' lives, suddenly makes sense. Feh. Moving on.
Block's memoire starts with the day in 1985 when she, her partner, their 2-week old son and four of their friends went into hiding in the face of impending arrest by the FBI for militant activities related to the struggle for Puerto Rican independence. The book then jumps back and covers her life (focusing mostly on her political activity) and how that led her to that point, then goes on to describe what life as a fugitive is like (her kids didn't even know her real name!) and how they all eventually managed to negotiate with the government to come out of hiding.
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. While I don't agree with some of her methods, I'm in awe of Block's dedication to social justice all over the world and her seemingly endless energy to work toward that. Even when they were in hiding and her partner Claude and one of their friends were on the FBI's most wanted list, they still found a way to do political and community work. As someone who came of age and got into social justice work in the late '90s/early '00s, I'm mostly just jealous of her idealism and conviction that change is possible. I think for a lot of people in my generation (certainly in the groups I've worked with) there was this kind of unspoken belief that we've already lost and large scale change really isn't possible, but we have to try anyway because doing something is better than not doing something. Besides, it can always get worse.
For most of the last half of the book, I also kept thinking how freaking weird it must have been for her kids. Her son was 9 and her daughter was 3 when they finally told them the truth and negotiated to come out of hiding in exchange for some jail time for their father and the woman they thought was their aunt. I don't know if I'd have dealt with that as well as those kids seem to have, had I been in their place.
This is a very interesting book. It's a basic overview of the manipulation techniques used by con artists, detectives, and corporate spies. It also gives security guidelines for businesses to implement in order to counteract these kinds of attempts to steal information. I think most of all, I was amazed by the unreal amount of confidence and daring it takes to do things like that. Crazy!
So good! So gay! This is a reimagining of the Cinderella (called Ash here) fairy tale, and Im a sucker for that kind of thing. Lo manages to combine the really recognizable elements of the original tale (the evil stepmother and stepsisters, the ball that she has to rush out of at midnight, etc) with her own world building. The result is a super awesome new story.
And did I mention the love interest just happens to be a woman? So cool! Books where the young protagonist realizes and comes to terms with her sexuality and deals with coming out are important, dont get me wrong. But I also think its important to have stories where its not some big struggle and being gay is shown as no big deal and just how some people are. And here, the main focus of the story is on Ashs struggle with her stepfamily and her dealings with the fairy world and falling in love. The fact that Kaisa is a woman is justno big deal. And I loved that!
I enjoyed this book very much. This is the third novel in a series of murder mysteries set in Iceland starring a lawyer named Thóra Gudmundsdóttir (everyone in these books have similarly awesome names). One thing I really like about these books is the sense of place is so strong. Some stories, you could pick them up, change a few minor details, and set them back down in any other city in the world and they'd still make sense. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes it's nice when you can't do that. These stories would not make sense anywhere else in the world but Iceland. Very enjoyable mysteries.
Warren Ellis' writing is always fantastic. I really enjoyed this. It was an exciting adventure, without overshadowing the character work. The "What If" issue at the end is delightfully dark and horrifying. Very good!
As with any anthology with so many authors contributing, there are hits and misses here. Fortunately, there are far more hits than misses!
The real unifying theme of this anthology doesn't really have to do with the subject matter of the stories, but rather with the writers themselves. The writers are all queer girls. They don't necessarily have to write about their queerness (although most incorporate it into their writing in one way or another, just because it's one aspect of their lives that influences their perspectives). As a result, this anthology paints a pretty broad picture of the lives of queer women. It's not all about being queer first and foremost all the time. Yes, sometimes it's about dealing with this girl you love, but sometimes it's about getting your laundry done without getting assaulted by that strange man at the laundromat or it's about your having to buy yourself a birthday present before your neglectful mom steals the birthday money your grandma sent you. I really liked that.
I really enjoyed this. I appreciated that she acknowledges her own imperfections and inconsistencies without turning it into performative self-flagellation. That over dramatic chest beating drives me nuts. But it doesn't do to ignore or deny these failures in yourself either. Gay strikes a good balance, I think, and she writes with a lot of compassion for both herself and others who are just trying to get by and do the best they can as imperfect people in an imperfect world. I also like the way she examines many big topics and issues using pop culture as a starting point for conversation. It was also really nice to read someone who feels the same way about Orange is the New Black as I do! I feel so alone in that sometimes. I think my favorite essay was about the competative Scrabble tournaments. The footnotes on that one were especially fun.
I have no idea how I even ended up with a copy of this book, but it was great!
Its a collection of essays by feminist women who are academics in several different fields all exploring categories of women and girls who have been dubbed bad by society at large during various points in Japans history to determine what their badness says about the society at that time, the changes taking place, and the ways in which women engaged with these things. The subjects they covered are some bad girls of Japanese folklore, Geisha, degenerate school girls of the Meiji period, writer Yoshiya Nobuko, murderer Abe Sada, explicitly pornographic Ladies Comics, women obsessed with high-end luxury goods, girls using purikura to mock and defy gender expectations, ganguro, Filipinas in Japan, and performance artist Norico. Its a range of seemingly unconnected subjects, but when the author of each essay pinpoint the elements of each of these subjects that make them bad, you see patterns emerge. The introduction at the beginning written by the editors does a really good job of summing up those patterns (bad girls: visible, make money, push girlish behaviors to the extreme, have out-of-control bodies, do what they want, and influence good girls). But even without the introduction, you could pick out those patterns, since the authors do a good job of making their analyses clear.
What I liked about the book: With one exception, its really easy to read. Although the book is plainly written by a bunch of academics, its not inaccessible to the general public. Which is good, because the subject matter is really interesting! I especially enjoyed the essays on Geisha which emphasized the women as extremely devoted artists, while debunking a lot of misinformation (as well as detailing how such misunderstandings came about in the first place and what purposes such stereotypes served for the larger culture). The essay on Yoshiya Nobuko, who was a famous out lesbian living with a partner since the 1920s was also very good, and Im disappointed that her books havent been translated into English.
I also really appreciated how all of the authors (as well as the editors) emphasized womens agency and subjectivity. They never took it so far as to glamorize or idealize the bad girls forms of resistance (Abe Sada killed a man, after all), but they always insisted on focusing on the women as active agents negotiating their own places within their social contexts.
What I didnt like: The last essay was very difficult for me to read. It was written in a more jargon-y, super academic manner, which is a style I just do not care for (it gives me PTSD flashbacks to grad school). But in the end it doesnt matter since the book was so good overall.
A good read if you like bad girls (and who doesnt?)!
This is a classic for a reason! Allison is a fantastic writer; she paints a vivid picture of a childhood spent in a poor Southern family. She also paints a vivid picture of emotional and sexual abuse that is going to haunt me for some time to come, so if you find that sort of thing triggering, you might want to steer clear.
So good! I blitzed through it because there was a great feeling of low-grade creepiness and I couldn't wait to see what happened next. I figured out the twist a little over half way through, but that didn't lessen my enjoyment at all.
This is an anthology of fantasy short stories with a general Pagan sensibility. As with any collection of stories, it's a bit of a mixed bag, but the premises of a lot of the stories are not something you get to see very often. Very interesting!
This book explains in plain English (i.e. no endless strings of academic jargon) the ways in which Hollywood movies both reflect and encourage the cultural attitudes and thought processes that cause eating disorders. The author is both a professor and a therapist who treats eating disordered patients and she includes anecdotes from her students and patients throughout the book to illustrate the points she is making. My MA is in Women's Studies and my specialization was in pop culture representation, so nothing in this book was really new to me, but I think it's great for anyone who hasn't done the kind of extensive research in this area that I have. It's really clear and straight forward in both its language and the points it tries to make. Plus, it was published this year, so the films it uses both as examples and case studies are very recent and familiar. I liked it.
Also, for those of you in recovery for eating disorders, since this book focuses mostly on the movies and not so much on the behavior of eating disordered women, I didn't find it very triggering.
Another great mystery! It's strange that so many books feature witches as protagonists these days, yet it's such a breath of fresh air when they're anything like actual, real life witches. Rosemary Edghill clearly knows the modern Pagan community and all the kinds of people you'll find in it, so that gives these mysteries a context and atmosphere you just won't find in other books.