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12 August 2018

Review: Keep Marching: How to Take Action and Change Our World

Keep Marching: How to Take Action and Change Our World Keep Marching: How to Take Action and Change Our World by Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Keep Marching" is the book to get your friend who discovered their political outrage after the 2016 election. For a seasoned activist like myself, this book was a nice refresher on the number of issues we have to address. "Keep Marching" also gives you enough of a historical background, without being boring, to remind you even before November 2016 we had a lot of work to tackle.

Rowe-Finkbeiner (whom I call a friend) is deliberate in her attempts to ensure the intersectionality of the book. It is a solid attempt that makes me comfortable recommending this book for activists of color.

What really makes this book accessible is the fact that Rowe-Finkbeiner writes in a manner that makes you feel you are having coffee with a good friend who is sharing their knowledge with you. There is no sense of lecturing or "Where have you been?" There is a simple acknowledgement that for most people, politics and following it can be exhausting. Doubly so if you are working more than one job to pay the bills. Rowe-Finkbeiner pats the seat next to her and says, "Welcome."

In my years of organizing people often ask me why we march. I have always said we march to bring attention to issues and policies. But I have never felt comfortable saying we march to bring people into the movement. Rowe-Finkerbeiner provides us with a tool, a book, that we need to bring people who begin by marching into the movement.

Disclaimer: I was asked to review this book by MomsRising, the organization that Rowe-Finkbeiner runs. I do not feel that impacted my review.

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05 July 2018

Review: Feminist Freedom Warriors

Feminist Freedom Warriors Feminist Freedom Warriors by Chandra Talpede Mohanty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the introduction, Monhanty and Carty quote Sara Ahmed, "It should not be possible to do feminist theory without being a feminist, which requires an active ongoing commitment to live one's life in a feminist way." What better way to learn how to live a feminist life than from a collection of conversations with women of color from the Global South? "Feminist Freedom Warriors" is a chocolate-covered feminist theory book. "Feminist Freedom Warriors" is engaging and you also get some solid feminist theory that will push you to question where you stand and if your brand of feminism is what the world needs right now.

Through these conversations we learn from praxis - how these women's feminisms performed in the world and why we need to adjust in order to try again. Some of the women featured have been feminist activists longer than most of you reading this. But instead of tossing their views in a battle of generations, we are given the gift of their perspective.

Margo Okazawa-Rey states that her "own birth signifies...something that was not supposed to exist" as her African-American father was part of the occupying force in Japan and her mother was part of middle-class Japanese family. Her shares how her existence and fight for liberation is the definition of intersectionality.

Aída Hernández-Castillo documents the challenges that occur when one's activism lacks intersectionality. Her conversation documents an attempt to address domestic violence in a small Mayan village solely through Guatemalan state law. She learns a lot from this misstep and by sharing it we do as well.

As feminists look towards the future and how to solve the multitude of problems we face from a global economy, toxic masculinity, and rampant xenophobia, we need to look to our past to understand how we got here and gain lessons we missed along the way. This is an excellent and thoughtful read. You won't agree with everything in this book, but you will walk away with a new view on the issues we grapple with every day.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy in exchange for an honest review.


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28 May 2018

Review: An Authentic Experience

An Authentic Experience An Authentic Experience by Kelly Wittmann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kelly Wittmann's "An Authentic Experience" is a lovely peek at the GenX-GenZ generational conflict through parenting. Silver is a 15-year-old GenZer whose Riot Grrrl mom is recovering from brain cancer and punk rock father never learned to be a dad. She finds solace in her maternal grandparents, cousin-best friend, as well as her first boyfriend.

I fell in love with the book because of Silver's constant eye-rolling over her parents' GenX references. I busted out laughing when her father calls her Frances Bean, because well, Silver is a bit of a punk rock-riot grrrl princess as her parents were (her father remains) famous in those circles. Her parents admonish her generation for caring too much about what people think and Silver constantly recalls her mother's famous bleeding out on stage moment or stunt that is legendary in the family.

As with many great young adult novels, Silver's summer break is what frames this novel. She is sent to live with her father across town in Milwaukee while her mother recovers from surgery. There she learns more about her father and his inability to move on from his punk rock days. At the same time she discovers the sexist manner in which her father's career is held up as legendary while her mother's influence has faded to a whisper. In the forefront is Silver's first big romance and how she goes from idealizing her boyfriend to a rude awakening when he fails to support her in Silver's moment of need. The honest depiction of a teen romance was beautiful. The awkwardness of connecting to the fumbles of expressing it. Wittmann was genius in building up Silver's boyfriend and then when he disappoints her, depicting Silver's reliance on the wisdom her mom instilled in a manner only a Riot Grrrl (inspired) mom could.

CW for family dysfunction and physical violence. Wittmann stays well within the approved plot lines for young women to grow up by having Silver be assaulted, but not raped. The travails that Silver endures with her parents and typical boyfriend stuff is enough of a hero's journey without having to include an assault. This is the one disappointing part of the novel, but it does serve as a wake up call to Silver's father to get his paternal act in order. But I look forward to the day when we do not need physical assault or threat of rape for young women's transformation. This is more a critique of the overall genre than this book.

All that said, I do recommend this book for teens and parents alike. I've already assigned it to my 14yo for her summer reading. Silver's insight into GenZ thinking was enlightening to this GenX mom. Maybe my daughter will gain a bit more insight into her GenX mom through this book. Even if I'm the farthest thing from Courtney Love.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Kelly Wittmann for reaching out to offer me a review copy of her novel in exchange for an honest review.

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27 May 2018

Review: Girls Burn Brighter

Girls Burn Brighter Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's been a long time since I've burned through a book so quickly and "Girls Burn Brighter" was the perfect one to reignite my furious reading skills. But I must warn you dear reader that Shobha Rao sculpted a violent tale of two young women determined to save each other with the most beautiful words. CW: Rape, violence against women, physical abuse

Poornima and Savitha become fast friends. They are separated after a horrible incident. The remainder of the novel is their quest to save themselves and reunite.

Reading this book is like learning about atrocities through stained glass. It is beautiful to look at, but the details are heart wrenching. In one scene Poornima, who has little education, discovers that her husband's esteemed career as an accountant is overblown math:

"She saw that the first row on the topmost page did make sense. It was imply the numbers in the second, third, fourth, and firth columns added up, and listed in the sixth column. The first column was just a date. That was easy enough; she'd learned addition well before the fifth class, which was the last year she'd attended school...Was this what [her husband] did at work all day? She nearly laughed out loud (page 98)."

As she works to truly understand accounting in between her harsh marriage, she discovers pride in the work and is shaken at the feeling. This helps her discover a strength that she will need to fall back on over and over.

Poornima and Savitha have to decide between terrible choices so many times it wears on your heart. Rao's description of the too-often close relationship between love and fear, and then one woman's sweet discovery of a banana split will bring you to tears. There are many times I questioned why I was still reading the book. Then Rao gifts another gorgeous line like:

"Every moment in a woman's life was a deal."

Indeed.

"Girls Burn Brighter" is a tale of two undereducated young women in India that feels familiar even to this non-Indian reader. Although I would like to read reviews from Indian woman as this novel does travel through many stereotypes. In the end this is a tale of how the love between two friends can move mountains and be the source of unimaginable strength.

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20 May 2018

Review: The Night Masquerade

The Night Masquerade The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The mark of a genius writer is one who can wrap up a trilogy in a way that stays true to the spirit of the first book. Nnedi Okorafor has fulfilled this difficult task with "The Night Masquerade".

I will admit that I had my doubts near the end. Binti’s journey in the last third of this book is one that made me frustrated. Frustrated at what was happening and the thought that Okorafor had jumped the shark. But somehow she recovered and landed an excellent and fitting ending for our hero.

When I read “Binti” a few years ago, I saw it as a premiere novel for young adults ready to leave the safety of their parents’ homes to start their own journeys. The third book in her journey encapsulates the brutality that goes into forging one’s own path and the blow back that some have to manage when it comes to familial disappointments. At the same time it exhibits the loving and stumbling manner in which we craft chosen families. Pop culture and literature are full of bands of misfits that evolve into family - Buffy, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Lauren Oya Olamina's Earthseed - Binti’s crew joins these ranks.

As with the other books in this series, there is graphic violence, death, and heartbreak. I firmly believe these books are young adult, definitely not children’s books. The intelligence of the books lends itself well to readers who are young adults at heart.

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Disclaimer

This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.

What I'm Currently Reading

I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame
The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces


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