Lumberjanes Volumes 3 & 4

Lumberjanes, Vol. 3: A Terrible PlanLumberjanes, Vol 3: A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, and Carolyn Nowak
Published by BOOM!Box

The third installment of the fun and feisty comic Lumberjanes has Mal and Molly going on a date (yay!) and being interrupted by none other than the Bear Woman. Meanwhile, back at camp, Jo, April and Ripley are focused on earning every badge they possibly can (and these badges are ridiculous).

This was my favorite of the series yet. I loooooooved seeing the character development here, especially between Mal and Molly – both individually and as a couple. I loved seeing the two of them separate from the rest of the group, how they navigated the craziness that was thrown at them in a particular way that only the two of them together could have done. I also quite enjoyed the silliness of the tasks the other girls were trying to complete for the most random, odd-ball badges ever. It was hilarious and fun to read and the adventures in this book were more exciting than some of the previous ones, I thought. I REALLY liked this volume in particular, but the series as a whole is just tons of fun.

Lumberjanes, Vol. 4: Out of TimeLumberjanes, Vol 4: Out of Time by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, and Carolyn Nowak
Published by BOOM!Box

This volume focused more on Jen than it does the campers – it starts with Jen trying to teach the girls basic survival skills, until a mysterious blizzard hits camp, Jen is separated from the group, and a taxidermist who says she has all the answers “saves” her. Jen quickly realizes that this person is not the safe place she claims to be, and she must save the day and find her way back to the campers.

I really enjoyed the focus on Jen in this volume, as she’s a character that has only really gotten development through the eyes of the other characters. This one was a chance for her to come into her own and show the reader more of her personality. There was also more in terms of getting the back story of the camp and of Rosie’s past. I liked this volume a lot even though it wasn’t my absolute favorite of the series, it brought development to the story and held my attention big time. This series is great; seriously, if you’re not reading it, you need to start now.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

My Life on the RoadMy Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
Published by Random House

From the publisher:

Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and one of the most inspiring leaders in the world—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality. This is the story at the heart of My Life on the Road.

I probably would have read this book at some point on my own, but what propelled me into reading it sooner than later was Emma Watson choosing it for the first pick of her Goodreads book club. I haven’t kept up with Watson’s book club, but I am happy that the idea of such a thing inspired me to read My Life on the Road because I really loved reading this book and getting to know Steinem on a personal level.

Steinem shares a lot with the reader about how and why she became the woman she did. She delves deep into her past, discussing how both of her parents’ personalities and life choices shaped Steinem’s own personality and life choices. She then gets into details about her own travels as an activist and feminist writer and organizer, and how each new place she visited inspired and changed her ways of thinking and being in the world. Honestly, I just enjoyed going on this journey with her. I loved learning more about her as a person, getting to understand how the individuals that crossed her path over the years influenced her in various ways, and learning more about the activism that was so central to her life.

Something that I particularly loved was getting to know some of the specific women Steinem worked with and spent time with throughout her life. Many of them were people I was ashamed to have never heard of, and I was inspired to do some research on a few of them. She talks quite a bit about race and the civil rights movement, and how feminism and women’s rights are – or at least, should be – tied into civil rights. This is one aspect of feminism that particularly interests me, something I want to keep reading more about, so I was pleased to see how much it is important to Steinem, too. More of this in feminist books, please.

My Life on the Road was a fantastic journey that I loved taking with Gloria Steinem. Highly recommended.

Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti

Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and HappinessWhy Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti
Published by New Harvest

From the publisher:

If parenting is making Americans unhappy, if it’s impossible to “have it all,” if people don’t have the economic, social, or political structures needed to support child rearing, then why do it? And why are anxious new parents flocking to every Tiger Mother and Bébé-raiser for advice on how to raise kids?
 
In Why Have Kids?, Valenti explores these controversial questions through on-the-ground reporting, startling new research, and her own unique experiences as a mom. She moves beyond the black and white “mommy wars” over natural parenting, discipline, and work-life balance to explore a more nuanced reality: one filled with ambivalence, joy, guilt, and exhaustion. 
 
Would-be parents must navigate the decision to have children amidst a daunting combination of cultural expectations and hard facts. And new parents find themselves struggling to reconcile their elation with the often exhausting, confusing, and expensive business of child care. When researchers for a 2010 Pew study asked parents why they decided to have their first child, nearly 90 percent answered, for “the joy of having children.” Yet nearly every study in the last ten years shows a marked decline in the life satisfaction of those with kids.  Valenti explores this disconnect between parents’ hopes and the day-to-day reality of raising children—revealing all the ways mothers and fathers are quietly struggling. A must-read for parents as well as those considering starting a family, Why Have Kids? is an explosive addition to the conversation about modern parenthood.

Something I strongly dislike about society is the fact that it’s the default to assume someone will have kids. Whenever I tell someone who doesn’t know me very well that I don’t plan to ever have children, I am met with a shocked face and something along the lines of, “but why NOT?” I feel a better question should be, to someone who chooses to have children, “but WHY?” Valenti comes at the to-have-kids-or-not-to-have-kids question the second way, which is why I read the book in the first place. While Valenti does have a child, she actively asked herself why she wanted to become a mother before making the decision to have a child. And then she spent time researching a ton of stuff about parenting, specifically motherhood as it is “supposed” to be in society, and how children impact a person’s life in such myriad and complicated ways.

I can’t say I found a ton of stuff that was earth-shattering in here but it was certainly a compelling read. Valenti doesn’t waste a page in here – it’s a short book but it is packed with a ton of information about all kinds of studies related to parenthood and child-rearing. Mostly what I found in here validated what I already knew in some cases and suspected in others. She spends time discussing how judgmental parents are toward other parents, how society puts this pressure on parents (mothers especially) to be absolutely perfect and that every single tiny little decision made as a parent can have such a profound effect on the children that the “right” decisions must be agonized over, for fear of doing the wrong thing and ruining your children forever. In reality, every parent knows that other parents are just doing the best they can with what they know – so why do we judge parents so harshly? That is just one topic of many that Valenti covers in the book.

I enjoyed Why Have Kids? and I think it’s a valuable contribution to the other books out there about parenting in today’s world. I think Valenti has a unique view point and what she has to say is definitely valuable and worth hearing. I admire her as a feminist writer, have for a long time, so I’ll continue to read whatever she puts out there, on any topic.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Bone GapBone Gap by Laura Ruby
Published by Balzar & Bray

From the publisher:

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

This is the kind of book that I have the most difficulty reviewing and talking about. While I thought Bone Gap was pretty incredible I am having a difficult time putting into words exactly what about it is so great. Nymeth’s discussion about it (which includes some spoilers) does an excellent job of going into detail on just what exactly is so fantastic about this novel. Let me offer some of my own (way less intelligent and eloquent) ideas.

I loved the way these two brothers, Finn and Sean, didn’t have the easiest time with one another and yet their commitment to sticking together and looking out for one another was unwavering. Their relationship mirrored in some ways aspects of my relationships with my own siblings – we don’t always “get” each other or do the right thing or say the perfect words at the right time, but ultimately we are there for each other in a way that nobody else in the world ever will be or can be. There’s something about that sibling bond that is unbreakable, even when on the outside it might be far from perfect.

There’s another girl, Petey, who is not mentioned in the summary above but who may have been my favorite character in the book. She and Finn fall in love over the course of the novel, and I absolutely loved this budding relationship. The awkwardness of first kisses (and first other stuff) and uncertain conversations, the feeling of insecurity that takes over when you can’t quite figure out why this person that is perfect in every way actually wants to be with you, it was all there in spades.

I wasn’t sure about the magical realism aspect of this book (you all know I’m hit or miss when it comes to that) but it really worked here. It wasn’t done with a heavy hand, but instead was used to illuminate more clearly the way the characters felt and how they saw the world. What happened to Roza was horrifying and at times, I wasn’t sure if it was the magical realism talking or if I was getting the full story, but either way her whole situation could be the subject of endless discussions. I don’t want to say too much without giving away spoilers but let’s just say that I think we need more books like Bone Gap, books that deal with issues traumatic to women in an open, feminist, woman-centered way.

Anyway. I don’t think I articulated at ALL what is so great about this novel, so just go ahead and read the review I linked to above. And then go read Bone Gap.

Mini-Reviews: Recent Nonfiction Reads

Bad Feminist: EssaysBad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Published by Harper Perennial

I wish I had the energy or motivation to write an entire post about this incredibly smart, challenging, and at times witty book of essays but I’m struggling to find the right words to gush about it. I loved Gay’s style of writing – it’s intensely personal but in a way that made me feel like I was chatting with a girlfriend (a highly intelligent girlfriend who motivated me to think more deeply about things). The essays here are about all sorts of things, almost all relating in some way to feminism, but some more loosely than others, and many having to do with racism and sexism and how the two intersect in ways that most people don’t realize or even care to consider. My favorite essay in the book, hands down, is one where Gay lists rules for how women should be while in friendships with other women. It’s brilliant and so true that I want to share it with every woman I know. If you’re at all interested in feminism, read this book. If you think feminism is not necessary, read this book. If you think racism and sexism are not things that happen anymore, read this book. Or if you just happen to be interested in good writing, read this book. Bad Feminist is great and I’m looking forward to more from Roxane Gay.

Unchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity...and Why It MattersUnchristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity … and Why It Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons
Published by Baker Books

The authors of this book did an extensive study on young people’s attitudes and beliefs about Christians. Not about Christianity itself, but Christians as people. The implications for what they learned – mainly that young people perceive Christians to be judgmental, hypocritical, homophobic, obsessed with politics and politicians that reflect their conservative beliefs – can have huge implications for the future of Christianity. IF the right people read this book, learn from it, and make changes. I agree with a lot of what Kinnaman and Lyons said here, and although I am a Christian I personally see a lot of what was reflected in the book and it doesn’t always make me feel good about calling myself a Christian. While I enjoyed reading this book, mostly because it confirmed for me a lot of things I already felt, I don’t see how it will make a difference because I just don’t anticipate that the people who need to read the book will actually read it. Church leaders who want to actively change the way Christians are perceived in the world should be reading Unchristian and doing something with the knowledge gleaned from it, but I just don’t see that happening. That being said, I think it’s a valuable read for those of us who try to represent Christ in the world while holding tight to a church that isn’t perceived to consistently do a great job of being Christ-like in its actions.

I Suck at Relationships So You Don't Have To: 10 Rules for Not Screwing Up Your Happily Ever AfterI Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To: 10 Rules for Not Screwing Up Your Happily Ever After by Bethenny Frankel
Published by Touchstone

The ONLY reason I read this book is because Bethenny Frankel wrote it. I have a slight obsession with her – I think she’s hilarious and smart, witty and incredibly tough, a person who doesn’t take shit from anyone but isn’t afraid to be vulnerable and have her heart broken (on TV, no less), and ultimately is the most genuinely real reality TV star out there (and I watch too much reality TV, so I have formed quite an opinion). Honestly this book was really silly and nothing that I could ever use or need in real life. But I appreciated her snark throughout and her attitude always puts a smile on my face. I can’t imagine anyone that would actually use this advice, but she’s sold tons of copies already so obviously those people are out there. I can’t say I really liked this one, but if you are a fan of Bethenny you’ll probably want to pick it up.

Mini-reviews: Books About Feminism

There are some topics I find extremely difficult to write about because to me the truth is just so obvious that I don’t even know how to explain or argue for it, and one of those topics is feminism. I don’t know how to say, other than DUH, that every woman should be a feminist. To me, feminism is the simple belief that women should have equal rights as men. And it’s not just rights under the law – women should have the same societal rights as men, things like … let’s see, the freedom to walk down a public street without getting harassed, the freedom to work at a job where your boss doesn’t sexually assault you, the freedom to have a few drinks at a party or bar without the constant vigilance to not get raped. Things like that. But since this is so obvious to me, it’s hard for me to discuss it with any measure of intelligence because I just want to throw up my hands at anyone who disagrees and walk out of the room in anger. Since that’s not productive, usually I just don’t discuss it. But I do like reading about it, I like books that enrich my understanding of where the feminist movement has been, where it’s going, and what feminists young and old can learn about those who came before us. So here are two such books.

The Beauty MythThe Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf
Published by Harper Perennial

Alongside the evident progress of the women’s movement, however, writer and journalist Naomi Wolf is troubled by a different kind of social control, which, she argues, may prove just as restrictive as the traditional image of homemaker and wife. It’s the beauty myth, an obsession with physical perfection that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society’s impossible definition of “the flawless beauty.”

I wanted to put that short synopsis there because for those who haven’t heard of this book I wanted to give a little snapshot of what Wolf means by the beauty myth. This is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years and somehow never got to. It’s exceptionally well-written, which is what you’d expect from someone like Wolf. She uses facts to prove her arguments and her research is extensive. Much of this book fell into the obvious category for me, but the way Wolf lays out her arguments and explains the intricate layers of the beauty myth, and how it affects woman at so many different levels, deepened my understanding of it. This is a must-read for anyone interested in feminism.

Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of LibertyKilling the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts
Published by Vintage

I am ashamed to say that before picking up this book, I hadn’t read a book that dealt with the intersection of race and gender. This book rocked my world, opened my eyes to so many things I hadn’t even considered before, and is generally one of the best books on feminism I’ve ever read. It’s incredible to understand how much my white privilege has kept me from even thinking about the issues Roberts presents in this book. Roberts does such a fantastic job tracing the history of black women’s bodies being used for purposes other than what the women themselves actually want all the way back to slavery. Her research is impeccable and the timeline of the book makes a lot of sense – it makes what could be a dense and difficult read very easy to follow and instinctual in its getting from start to finish. Killing the Black Body is an incredible read that is a MUST for anyone who cares about feminism or racism. (Which should be everyone, but sad to say it’s not.) Please read this one.

Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists edited by Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan

Click: When We Knew We Were FeministsClick: When We Knew We Were Feminists edited by Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan
Published by Seal Press

This collection of essays features many prominent young feminists explaining that “click” moment – that moment when the light bulb turned on, when they understood with absolute clarity that they were feminists.

Most people identify with some kind of ideology – a religion, a political belief, a specific stance on something – and there is almost always a pivotal moment in a person’s life that makes that belief cement itself, that brings it to the forefront of one’s mind with perfect clarify. I personally have several things that I believe that are absolutely critical to my identity and sense of who I am, feminism being just one of them. So I appreciated this book, a book about women (and one man) who, just like me, at some point in their lives, came to the realization that feminism is where it’s at.

I liked how varied these essays are – the many contributors come from different backgrounds, educationally, racially, socially, in pretty much every way. So many of these authors came to feminism in nontraditional ways. I personally had my “click” moment in a college women’s studies class – so predictable – but many of these writers had theirs in such interesting and unique situations.

And everyone who contributed to this collection is a GOOD writer! I was engaged and interested in every single one of these essays.

I highly recommend Click for those who enjoy thoughtful essays and/or get why feminism is still important and relevant (hint: it is). This is a great collection edited by two smart and talented women.