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Review: How to Love the Empty Air

04 September 2018

Rose Tico and Kelly Marie Tran are the role models we need

Rose Tico emerged from "The Last Jedi" as the breakout character. Who would have guessed when we saw her zap Finn that so many people would fall in love with her passion for life and dedication for the resistance? Considering that Finn gets under my skin as an annoying brat, ME!!

A few weeks ago Kelly Marie Tran wrote a kick ass op-ed in the New York Times about the online harassment that pushed her off Instagram, as well as the importance of Rose Tico to nerds of color:

...the same society that taught some people they were heroes, saviors, inheritors of the Manifest Destiny ideal, taught me I existed only in the background of their stories, doing their nails, diagnosing their illnesses, supporting their love interests — and perhaps the most damaging — waiting for them to rescue me.
And for a long time, I believed them.

Bomber Command
Tran sums up harshly and eloquently why nerds of color need heroes that look like them. I guy came over to my office the other day to fix my phone and he saw my Wonder Woman swag everywhere. "You know she's Latina right?" I told him yes and he just went on and on about how much he loves Wonder Woman because she is Latina. "She's one of us!" Of course we're really talking about Linda Carter as Wonder Woman is really more Mediterranean with her Greek mythology background. And I wish I knew this about Cater when I was a kid running around in my Underoos. BUT I'LL TAKE IT!

Resistance Fighter
But for kids today, especially Star Wars fans with Asian heritage, sisters Rose and Paige Tico are here to serve as inspirations through two young reader books.

I highly recommend these books for Star Wars fans who are super into the details. The nerdiest parts of both books are the detailed plans for a ships, weapons, worlds, creatures, and people. For me, right now, that's more detail than I need! But I know for many fans it is exactly the details they are looking for, especially for kids of color to get engrossed in zoology or engineering.

What I loved about the books is that they are both presented as if pieces of their diaries. The stories move along as part inner dialogue, part reflection. It made their stories feel accessible and real. Of course my favorite part was Rose dragging of Finn for trying to escape. I've never yelled "Hell yeah!" to a young reader book before.

Seriously though, the way Jason Fry situates the Tico Sisters' passion for justice in an idealism that would had been candy for me as a young person especially in this political moment.

If you have a young Star Wars fan who has signed up for the Resistance IRL, get them Resistance Fighter and Bomber Command.

Disclaimer: These books were sent to me from a publicist in return for an honest review that was then prompted by Kelly Marie Tran's amazing op-ed. 

19 August 2018

Review: 90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality

90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality 90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality by Allison Yarrow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To be called a bitch is contextual and gendered. If a woman is called a bitch in anger, it is demeaning. If a man is called one in anger, it is not just demeaning, but an attack on their masculinity. And then there are those, like myself, who embrace the term as one of strength. Sometimes women use it as a term of endearment, "You are a strong bitch!" Other times we translate the attack and flip is back to the offender, "You're damn right I'm a bitch!" But how does the word impact our daily lives and politics? From Brenda versus Kelly to Tonya versus Nancy, Allison Yarrow's careful examination of who gets called a bitch reveals why the feminist movement failed to make the progress it should have in the 1990s and its ramifications to our lives today.

You may wonder how one word has so much power. That is why "90s Bitch" is a must read, especially for everyone who grew up in the 1990s.

By examining both sides of different scandals such as Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Yarrow unpacks how the media and our reactions helped to fuel the unraveling of feminist goals that we still feel today. Hillary began the 1990s as the number one bitch. She was an unconventional First Lady who offended many who believed in the traditional doting wife model. Hillary offended many with her comment about not staying home to bake cookies, but once challenged to a bake-off, worked her ass off to win it. Many felt she wasted any goodwill by the revelations of Bill's infidelity by staying with him. On the other hand, Monica was rarely afforded support due to a massive case of slut-shaming. One thread Yarrow misses in this conversation is the reality that the Republicans had taken over Congress and the defense of Bill was one of political will, especially in light of Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde's history of infidelity. Yarrow's indictment of feminist leaders is a hard pill to swallow for those of us lived through the moment, even if we have a sneaky suspicion that Bill deserved to be impeached for preying on an intern. But what Yarrow does is not just reveal the flaws of 1990s feminism in relation to the Bill Clinton affair, but how the bitchification of Monica prevented a better analysis of the situation.

Again and again Yarrow reexamines how the trope of bitch derailed feminist progress in the 1990s. You may have lived through the 90s, but that means you likely took a side and Yarrow shows us that the only side of have was the movement's side.

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

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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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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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