Zadie Smith: Swing Time

Two brown girls dream of being dancers–but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, about what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.

Dazzlingly energetic and deeply human, Swing Time is a story about friendship and music and stubborn roots, about how we are shaped by these things and how we can survive them. Moving from northwest London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.

I feel a bit like I’ve missed some critical piece of this book somewhere. I got to the end and even though I felt as if this was agonizing at times…I’m thinking, “That’s it? What was the point? Did I miss it?”

Swing Time is written as a series of flash forwards and flash backs, so the timeline jumps all over the place–from London to West Africa–telling the story of two biracial girls from childhood to their tumultuous adulthood. Yes, you did read that right, TWO BIRACIAL MAIN CHARACTERS, each with their own unique perspective and personality. There’s also a gay man and bisexual woman. It had so much diversity and promise. And Zadie Smith does do a marvelous job of showing the huge variety of privilege that there is in the world:  white privilege and the privilege of the wealthy and first world privilege. Our main character is so incredibly naive, even with her activist mother.

The backbones of the book were there. I found myself nodding along with a lot of it, marking down quotes, googling things that I needed to reference or read later. But unfortunately, the actual plotline didn’t hold up to Smith’s incredible prose, and that is the disappointment. I still don’t understand the connection between Tracey’s story and Aimee’s, or what actually happened with Aimee at the end. It’s almost as if this book is SO DEEP, that the plotline just dissolved into the message–such a weird feeling.

If you were looking forward to reading Swing Time, I’d say still read it. The message alone is worth it. And maybe you’ll pull more out of the plot than I did–if you understand the ending, please tell me, because I’m utterly confused. Any Zadie Smith fans out there that can help me out?

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Review: Women in Science

It’s a scientific fact: Women rock!
 
A charmingly illustrated and educational book, Women in Science highlights the contributions of fifty notable women to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from the ancient to the modern world. Full of striking, singular art, this fascinating collection also contains infographics about relevant topics such as lab equipment, rates of women currently working in STEM fields, and an illustrated scientific glossary. The trailblazing women profiled include well-known figures like primatologist Jane Goodall, as well as lesser-known pioneers such as Katherine Johnson, the African-American physicist and mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission to the moon.
 
Women in Science celebrates the achievements of the intrepid women who have paved the way for the next generation of female engineers, biologists, mathematicians, doctors, astronauts, physicists, and more!

I requested this book because I wanted to read it. And once a book is in my collection, it is very hard for me to part with it. I don’t lend very many books out, and almost NEVER do I give one away. I’m selfish like that.

But Women in Science will not be staying on my shelf. It will be one of the rare exceptions that is so good that I MUST give it up. It is not for me. I am seeing my niece this weekend and she needs it more than I do. For this book is meant for the encouragement of our next generation. And my niece is pretty badass, just like the women in this book.

Women in Science is fully-colored, with fun, cartoonish illustrations. Each biography fills one page, and is hardly boring. The women are diverse, and many fields are represented–microbiology, psychology, zoology, and many others. Inspiration can be drawn from every path that these women had to follow to achieve their dreams.

This is one of those books that should be on every library display and classroom shelf. Parents of daughters especially, but sons too, should put this in their child’s hands. Kids need to know about these women along with the men we study in school. I didn’t know about any of them, but maybe 2 or 3, and even then it was mostly just their name and field of study.

Watch out though, this will inspire your kids. Be prepared for them to do something amazing!

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Blogging for Books and Ten Speed Press provided a copy of this book for unbiased review. This post contains affiliate links.

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The Awakening

When first published in 1899, The Awakening shocked readers with its honest treatment of female marital infidelity. Audiences accustomed to the pieties of late Victorian romantic fiction were taken aback by Chopin’s daring portrayal of a woman trapped in a stifling marriage, who seeks and finds passionate physical love outside the confines of her domestic situation.

Aside from its unusually frank treatment of a then-controversial subject, the novel is widely admired today for its literary qualities. Edmund Wilson characterized it as a work “quite uninhibited and beautifully written, which anticipates D. H. Lawrence in its treatment of infidelity.” Although the theme of marital infidelity no longer shocks, few novels have plumbed the psychology of a woman involved in an illicit relationship with the perception, artistry, and honesty that Kate Chopin brought to The Awakening.

Having Booklr friends means sometimes getting scolded…erm…HEAVILY ENCOURAGED…to read a book that I gotten to yet. Such was the case last week when I finally posted finished shelfies to our chat while unpacking, and Monsieurbookshire saw that The Awakening was still in with my TBRs. “YOU MUST READ THAT IMMEDIATELY!!!!!”

To be honest, it has made it on my reading list multiple times, but kept getting pushed back for one reason or another. It just wasn’t a priority. But, when Liss pointed it out–I moved it up.

This is one of those extremely important works of literature that I feel extremely mediocre about. I understand the importance…I guess I was just expecting it to be a little bit stronger. I did read in the introduction that publishers were always trying to get Chopin to tone down her women before they would accept her works, so maybe that had something to do with it.

My basic takeaway from The Awakening? Frustrated woman eats chocolate bonbons while driving men crazy and discovering her independence. A pretty great life, if you asked me, but one that ultimately destroyed her. I don’t think that had as much to do with her feminism, though, and more to do with her inability to reach that carrot dangling constantly in front of her.

My copy of Kate Chopin includes her short stories, so I will be reading those as well over the coming weeks. I’ve been told that I might like them better than The Awakening. I will let you know!

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Fulfill’s Boxall #108

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Spinster

Using her own experiences as a starting point, journalist and cultural critic Kate Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why­ she—along with over 100 million American women, whose ranks keep growing—remains unmarried.

This unprecedented demographic shift, Bolick explains, is the logical outcome of hundreds of years of change that has neither been fully understood, nor appreciated. Spinster introduces a cast of pioneering women from the last century whose genius, tenacity, and flair for drama have emboldened Bolick to fashion her life on her own terms: columnist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social visionary Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton. By animating their unconventional ideas and choices, Bolick shows us that contemporary debates about settling down, and having it all, are timeless—the crucible upon which all thoughtful women have tried for centuries to forge a good life.

I realized as I was reading this that Kate Bolick’s book is my first foray into the genre of Feminist Theory. I’ve skated around it, but never actually read true “Social Science-FT.” Probably should read more of that, huh?

However. If this is Feminist Theory, I’m not sure I want it. This was extremely confusing, and I’m still not sure what Bolick’s feelings are on Spinsterhood. I also never ever want to hear the phrase “erotic capital” again. Ever.

It wasn’t all bad. I did find the parts on the historical women interesting. These were all women I didn’t know much about, and reading more about them was the reason I picked this book out of the lineup. Bolick used their lives to relate to her own, though, and I’m not sure they totally matched up. It was sort of like when you’re telling a friend a story, and she says “Oh, I know exactly how that is…” and then starts talking about something only sort of related…but completely different. That’s what this book felt like.

I almost felt like Bolick wrote this book to convince herself it was ok to be alone. I don’t disagree with her–there is nothing wrong with being alone. But most of the book she is in long term relationship after long term relationship, almost getting married and jumping ship at the last minute. She’s almost never alone. Unmarried, but not alone.

So…my rating here is…confusion? How many Book Dragons is that?

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Blogging for Books provided a copy for an unbiased review.

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Bitch Planet

Sometimes as a blogger you have to have an unpopular opinion. As you’re reading something and making your notes, you just know that when you do your write up its going to go against everything everyone is saying.

This happened to me with Bitch Planet.

I’ve been hearing about this comic for months now, and it seems like every single person I know has raved about it. So when AdultBooklr put it on the poll for December, you bet I put my vote in! Plus, it was perfect for #ReadWomen, and I even had enough GooglePlay credits–SCORE!

For some reason, though, I just could not get into it. Which is why it is January 11, and I’m just getting around to reviewing it. I’m not sure which is more frustrating:  not liking a book that everyone loves, or not knowing WHY I don’t like it. I SHOULD like it–battered females fighting against rampant misogyny? Sign me up!

I think maybe I just find it sort of unlikely–not the rampant misogyny part, but if space travel and planetary colonization were actually feasible there is no way in HELL the men would be left behind on dirty ol’ earth and the *spit* women would be the ones to get their own planet. Don’t you think? There is even a conversation in which two men are discussing a resort planet for the rich and famous and how hard it is to get on it. If space travel is so expensive, I guess I just don’t see why it would be cost effective to have a whole planet just for prisoners (although, consider the cost of our US prison system…).

To be completely honest, I’m not even sure if that’s the reason I don’t like it, but it’s the only thing I can come up with. Something didn’t jive with me. *shrug* Still, I am 100% for comics like this, and lady comics, and comics featuring a diverse cast with feminist motives. So keep ’em coming.

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The Handmaid’s Tale

In today’s world of social justice, we are fighting many battles:  sexuality, gender identity, misogyny (race too, but that’s another post and another day). In all of these, we are fighting for the right over our bodies however we see fit, without judgment, without bias, without persecution. Sometimes it seems like we are winning…sometimes it doesn’t.

As a feminist, I stand pretty firm in my right to control my own decisions about my own body. I also stand pretty firm in the decisions other women make about their bodies too. And I’m pretty pissed that the government seems to think that they have a say in those decisions.

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I don’t know Margaret Atwood personally. But after reading The Handmaid’s Tale…I have a feeling she doesn’t much care for it either.

Offred lives in the Republic of Gilead, as a Handmaid, or “girl in red.” This basically means that her ovaries are still viable and she gets to be…used…by the Commander until she gets pregnant. And she better hope that she does get pregnant before her eggs run out, or she will be sentenced to become an Unwoman, which doesn’t sound very pleasant.

Have you ever wondered while reading The Hunger Games or Divergent or any of those books, “What happens to the rest of the world when America falls in to dystopian disrepair?” The Handmaid’s Tale shows exactly what happens. Japanese tourists fly over with their cameras and take pictures of you in your red nun’s outfit. The rest of the world is going to be just fine when we collapse into ruin. #thanksdonaldtrump

No seriously. I really am afraid this book is going to become reality if he is elected. I mean, just think about it. Women being punished for having abortions? Yep. Men being punished for being gay? Yep. They didn’t talk about race in this book, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

*shudder* Mayday. m’aidez. HELP ME…..

Obviously this book struck a few nerves. It’s a pretty political story, and one that is extremely poignant right now. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest that you do. It has a similar feel as 1984 or V for Vendetta, only it’s all about feminism and women’s issues. And it’s absolutely terrifying.

 

Fulfills Popsugar #48:  A Banned Book

Fulfills Boxall #95

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The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Geeks

HEY! HEY! HEY! HEY!

JUMPS UP AND WAVES ERRATICALLY AT ALL MY FELLOW GIRL GEEKS, NERDS, OBSESSIVE LOVERS OF EVERYTHING.

I HAVE FOUND THE FANGIRL FEMINIST BIBLE.

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*phew* Ok. I’m tired now. Sometimes being that enthusiastic can be exhausting, but this book gave me ALL THE FEELS. Because ladies, it is all about us! And it’s amaaaaazing. I’m not kidding, I was internally screaming the whole time I was reading, like FINALLY someone stood up and said HEY! We need this. We deserve this. This is ours.

I basically want to post myself at the doorway of every high school and just hand out copies of this book. Because girls need to read it. It would change so many young girls’ attitudes about so many things.

I should probably tell you about it, huh? *deep breath* Ok. Calming down. Just a little bit though.

Sam Maggs is a fan girl. And like many of us, she’s gotten all of the resistance from the patriarchy about being a “fake geek girl.” What even is that anyway? Ugh. So, she’s written a book about how to fly our fan girl flag so high that the guys can have absolutely nothing to say about us being fake. Because we are pretty freaking awesome, ladies, and we should show it.

This book covers all the bases of geek–from cosplay to Tumblr, cons to YA lit. But the real underlying theme is confidence and feminism. It’s time to believe in ourselves and stop letting the world outside tear us down and stop us from being who we really want to be. The most wonderful thing about being a geek is that we love something with everything we have, which makes us different than anybody else. Why not show everyone what that one thing is?

If you couldn’t tell, I really loved this book. It’s coming out on May 12, and you bet I’m going to have this one on my shelf. Are you a fan girl? FLY THAT FLAG!

 

Fulfills PopSugar #24:  A book based entirely on its cover

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review.

Jane Eyre

I keep seeing this post floating around on Tumblr about how Charlotte Bronte fell in love with Jane Fairfax from Emma, and so she wrote a fanfiction about her as a governess. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but that post was enough to get me to read both Emma and Jane Eyre somewhat back to back!

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This is my second read-through (I listened to the audiobook when I was in college), and I love Jane Eyre even more now than I did the first time. Of course I always get more from a book by actually reading than listening.

Jane is such a prim, proper, plain-looking character. If you look up an images search of the way she’s been portrayed over the years, she always looks so delicate. But Jane Eyre is anything but soft. She maybe a woman with very strict ideals–but she fights for those ideals with conviction and a steady conscience. Not much can sway her.

This book is so much more than a love story. Of course, the romance is there, but that really isn’t the important part of the narrative. What else do we have?

  1. Child abuse
  2. Poverty
  3. Epidemic
  4. Feminism
  5. Mental Illness
  6. Importance of family ties and friendship
  7. Hypocrisy
  8. Disability

And the list could go on and on, but this is the major stuff that I noticed. All this from a Victorian/Gothic novel. You don’t see that happen to often.

I did have one question to pose, maybe someone out there can answer it for me.

One thing I am always curious about with 1800s women’s literature is why they never give the names of places (and sometimes dates). It’s always –shire or S(…setting). Is it a lack of creativity regarding places, or was there some unspoken rule about listing where the setting was? London is always mentioned, and Bath, but anywhere else is left to mystery. It’s always so frustrating to me, and I can not help but wonder why this is!

A Room of One's Own

A Room of One’s Own…

This is one of those books that leaves me a bit mystified about what to write. Generally, I enjoy Virginia Woolf, but this is more an essay or a lecture than one of her novels. It’s also an adventure in feminism, which is a complicated subject for me. Am I a woman who believes in confidence and freedom for other women? Absolutely. However, I am far from an activist.

The essay was an interesting view into the history of feminine writing, for sure. Woolf is extremely well read, and compares the differences between the egotistical “Professor X” to the prose and poetry, or lack their of, from women through the centuries.

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Her biggest point, and the reason for the title, is that in order to be successful, a writer MUST be financially independent and have a quiet room in which to write. This reflects in her own life–she took odd jobs to earn money separately from her husband’s income (interestingly enough, Leonard Woolf isn’t mentioned once that I saw in this entire book) to supplement her book revenue, until she received an inheritance from her aunt. She also had a room to herself to write, in which she spent several hours a day. She says several times in her essay that women throughout history are poor–as in having their own incomes–in comparison to men, and so they can never be as successful in writing. They also have a much more difficult time being alone. Travelling is less common, so their experiences are narrower. And, in her conclusion, she implores her fellow modern woman to stop having 10-12 children; to limit herself to 2-3 so she has more time to write. That may have been my favorite quote in the whole thing, I won’t lie to you.

All in all, I feel this is an important work, if not the most exciting one, especially if you are a Virginia Woolf fan. It definitely shows her state of mind and beliefs about her occupation. It also shows the state of the literature environment of the time and what she was competing against.

Do you have a favorite VW work?

Imaginatively s…

Imaginatively she is of the highest importance; practically she is completely insignificant. She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history. She dominates the lives of kings and conquerors in fiction; in fact she was the slave on any boy whose parents forced a ring up on her finger. Some of the most inspired words, some of the most profound thoughts in literature fall from her lips; in real life she could hardly read, could scarcely spell, and was the property of her husband.

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own