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11 November 2019

Review: Know My Name

Know My Name Know My Name by Chanel Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Slight spoiler of first 100 pages....beware!

You think you know what happened when two Swedish students found Brock Turner raping a woman next to a dumpster. But you have no idea. Maybe if you lived in the Stanford area you might know more. But I suspect that through gossip you might know even less than I do here in Chicago. That is why the courage that Chanel Miller displays in her memoir, Know My Name, is monumental.

The first three chapters are heart-wrenching and required me to put the book down many times. Chanel wastes no time getting right to why she wrote the book. Why we need to know her name. The night of the rape. The evening where she spent with her family and later her mom dropped Chanel and her sister off at a party. The party. Then the morning after as she awakens in the hospital with zero memory of what happened.

AND NO ONE FUCKING TELLS HER.

Seriously. Chanel painstakingly takes us back to that morning when she finds pine needles in her hair, wonders why she has no underwear, can’t find her phone, and then undergoes a rape test examination. Photo after photo. Test after test. Police interview after interview and no one tells her she was assaulted.

To say I was furious is an understatement. As you will likely be.

I truly believe that this memoir will be assigned in class, passed on from friend to friend, and a divider book - our lives before and after we read the tale of Chanel Miller. It is not a classic because we need to read about her resilience. It will be a classic because we need to drown in her rage.

When I requested a review copy all I thought was, “I need to know how she is feeling.” Pissed the fuck off is what she is feeling.

Her story is one of having the anger take over her life. There is a scene where she loses control and shatters her phone by slamming it on the table. Then she is forced to use it while in a baggie. That scene is palpable. You may even flashback to a moment where anger has taken control of your life, even for a moment.

But what she does with her anger is survive. She grounds herself through art. I honestly feel the bravest thing she’s did was to spend the summer away from everyone and everything she knows to study art. I am usually grouchy about the privilege it takes to jet off somewhere to heal as most people do not have that luxury. But the way it comes about, the learning she gets out of it...well...it is privileged, I also see the beauty and bravery in it.

Everyone who takes a basic women's studies class or reads the news knows that few rape survivors find themselves in court against their attacker. There are Many reasons for this including the trauma of pressing charges.

We get to experience this trauma with Chanel. And IMO the most trauma came from the slow nature of the court system. Waiting. Preparing to testify one day then being told in 3 more months or in an hour versus tomorrow.

Know My Name is an immediate classic. It may take you awhile to get through it as you may need to take breaks. Or you may devour it in one sitting as your fury fuels your need to keep reading. This is a book I want everyone to read because I need to discuss it in person. So please, get yourself a copy and let’s grab coffee or a cocktail.

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04 November 2019

Review: The Trouble with Becoming a Witch

The Trouble with Becoming a Witch The Trouble with Becoming a Witch by Amy Edwards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I could, I would give this book 3.5 stars. Rounding up cause I'm like that.

Review: Content scrappers are the bane of a bloggers existence. They are bots that scrape content from blogs and then republishes them on another site and then steals your traffic. I won’t accuse Amy Edwards of being a content scrapper, but good gawd I felt like I had read so much of what she gives us in The Trouble with Becoming a Witch. Edwards beautifully has collected many of the complaints that wives and mothers have expressed over the years into a painful and realistic narrative of one woman taking control of her life.

When I was pitched this book, I accepted it based on the mere fact the title has “witch” in it and the main character shares my name. I didn’t read much else. Thus when I started the book, the honesty hit me like a ton of bricks. I had heard Veronica’s thoughts over the years. Women who complained that their husbands had no idea how to manage the kids. Who worried about the kids when they went on business trips. Women who let loose on girls night out but would have to sober up before they could get home for fear of showing they had too much fun without their husband. Women who prioritized peace over their own needs.

Veronica’s curiosity about witchcraft is a classic feminist trope. It is almost a full stage in one’s growth as a feminist. One of the biggest reasons I earned a minor in women’s studies is because I wrote my freshman rhetoric paper on feminism, goddess worship, and witchcraft. My instructor read my first draft, handed me a Ms. Magazine, and said “Get thee to the women’s studies department.” (Mike, if you’re reading this, thanks.) Alas, Veronica is married to a pretty strong Catholic and controlling man. As soon as she tips her black hat to her husband, he flips out.

This fairly short novel takes us on Veronica’s journey of figuring out what she wants her life to look like and how her husband fits into that plan. She discovers how much of her life has just happened to her, versus her choosing the life she has. It is a journey that has you gasping and cheering. The Trouble with Becoming a Witch is a great beach read - that’s where I read it - as it is a quick and easy read. If you don’t take time to assess your own life choices that is.

I should also give a content/trigger warning for domestic violence (economic and mental) and pregnancy loss.

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30 September 2019

Real Sports: On the Basis of Sex: Girls' Baseball


I needed to log into HBO GO to catch an episode of Real Sports that I missed about girls and baseball.

The topic is fascinating for me. I played softball in high school and still play in a league - of course, Chicago 16" softball though. But as you know, I love baseball too. I did play Little League and never felt comfortable there.

But you need to watch this episode. It goes through the history of Maria Pepe who sued Little League USA for the right to play baseball. They fought her for 2 years. And after she won, Little League started softball.

I love both sports. And it breaks my heart each time I reflect on softball's role in discrimination against girls and women.

It infuriates me to watch the clip of men giving bullshit excuses why girls shouldn't play baseball including:
  • Dental injuries will make girls less attractive
  • Getting hit in the chest will lead to breast cancer (isn't it FASCINATING how people who don't want women to do something will find a way to link it to breast cancer?)  
  • No one wants a girl to be hurt by a boy (I was on La Vida Baseball a few weeks again and we were discussing women playing in men's leagues. Another panelist brought up this issue as to why he couldn't support women playing in men's leagues.)
  • Some fathers didn't want boys to tag their daughters on the butt or chest. Because apparently everything is sexual, especially at the Little League age. Good lessons there, dads!
It's a great segment and will lead to some great conversations.  Watch the trailer below then log into your HBO account!




06 September 2019

Review: Maybe He Just Likes You

Maybe He Just Likes You Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

School is back in session and I know some of you are scrambling for good books for your tweens to read. "Maybe He Just Likes You" by Barbara Dee should be on your child's book list.

"Maybe He Just Likes You" tackles a lot in short succinct chapters and amazing grace.

Mila is in 7th grade and suddenly receiving attention from a group of boys at school. At first she thinks it is all in her head and then a girl friend accuses her of flirting. As things escalate Mila is overwhelmed with confusion and frustration. She does not like the attention, but all her friends dismiss her feelings. In the middle of all of this, her mother is going through her own drama.

I need to be real with you. The way Dee writes makes you feel the action. This includes the anticipation Mila feels when she is expecting unwanted attention. I felt it in my body and flashed back to my own hellish time in 7th grade. I wish I had handled my own situation the way Mila attacks hers. Don't get me wrong, she flops around and fails a lot, but you are always sympathizing with her, even at her worst.

The ending is pretty pat and may give young readers the idea that life has perfect bows, but I choose to think of it as an aspirational ending, not an idealistic one.

This book could be a great salve for a young person on the receiving end of unwanted attention. It is also a great mother-daughter book. As Mila's mom was wrapped up in her very real and valid grown-up issues, it still made me wonder of what I may have missed with my own daughter when I've struggled with my life stuff. This book is also an excellent learning tool for all tweens about being a good friend, about being brave enough to be a good friend.

Disclaimer: I was pitched this book by a publicist. I am happy I said yes!!

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05 September 2019

Review: Wait, What?: A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up

Wait, What?: A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up Wait, What?: A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up by Heather Corinna
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Wait, What?: A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up" is the book I wish we all had when we were in middle school. And if you have a middle school human in your life, you should get them this book.

One of the first pages, page 9 to be exact, sets the tone of the book. That humans develop in all ways at a different rate from each other. Some of us mature physically, some of us mature romantically earlier, and that's all ok.

Heather & Isabella take great care to talk about all things puberty-related with not just great care, but in a gender inclusive manner. Vaginas are not talked about things women have, rather vaginas and breast development are things that happen to humans and if that what you are experiencing, great! If not, maybe you have a penis and other stuff is happening. Don't get me wrong, there are pages that talk about boys and girls, but in a way that allows each reader to identify how they feel, including that some people feel feminine one day and masculine the next.

One of the favorite parts of the book are the discussions around consent and relationships. Consent treated not just as a topic in order to reduce sexual assault, but woven in to how we relate to each other in relationships. At the most basic level it is that you need someones consent to be in a relationship and everyone has the right to not be in a relationship. It makes you imagine how much dating would suck less if we all learned how to talk to each other about our expectations for relationships when we were 12 instead of in therapy in our 30s or 40s.

I attended the Chicago book party. Instead of Heather & Isbella reading everything, they asked for volunteers to read for different characters. Hearing the story from the mouths of tweens was everything. It cemented how perfect the narrative is in helping middle schoolers understand that puberty is a hot mess, but you're going to be just fine. Even if you don't have a Superteam like we one we follow in "Wait, What?"

Disclaimer: I received a review copy, but did purchase a copy for myself. Also Heather is a friend and someone whose work I have greatly admired for many years.

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