Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

For years I have strayed away from the label “feminist”. Mostly, this was because in the conversations around me, the term/label “feminist” was associated with mostly undesirable attributes. Feminists were pushed into the category of being angry. Of never being satisfied. Of not being positive. Of not being “the right type of woman” (except, isn’t that what feminism is all about? That we don’t HAVE to be the “right” type of woman? That we should be able to be assertive or tough, like men, and not be thought of as horrible people? Right?). Anyway, I grew out of this. I embraced the term feminist, because, hell, that’s what I am. Feminists believe that women should have equal rights, including economic rights and reproductive freedom. Well, that’s what I believe in. So I’m a feminist.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay discusses most of my feelings about feminism. Gay presents this idea that there is no one way to be a feminist, and that we don’t have to fall into the rigid lines/expectations of feminists. This novel is a compilation of essays, which include topics such as: Roxane Gay’s life, gender and sexuality, race (specifically in the entertainment industry), and politics. Honestly, I expected this book to be more about feminism than the other topics, and it wasn’t, but that’s okay! I enjoyed reading about Gay’s life, and it allowed me to understand and appreciate her opinions even more. I also really enjoyed the category of race and the entertainment industry. I literally want to sit down with Roxane Gay and discuss the new Marvel movie, Black Panther. I believe that representation in media is important too. We share a lot of similar beliefs, so this novel was an easy read.

I totally understand the struggle of attempting to read a novel by an author who has an extremely different viewpoint from yourself. However, if you’re opposed to feminism, either moderately or diligently, I suggest you read this book. Understand that there is NO one way to be a feminist. Understand that mostly every single woman wants to be equal to men. And that’s what feminism is all about! Understand that it does not matter whether you’re a stay at home mom or a CEO, you should want to be equal. And whatever position a woman finds herself in (stay-at-home mom or CEO), is extremely important. Every woman should be validated! That’s the whole DAMN point!

Roxane Gay’s tone had me LOVING this book. She is funny, she is witty and she is very opinionated. I loved that though. No one should be half-assed when discussion topics such as feminism and race. She also allowed me to come to terms with myself. Slight spoiler ahead, but nothing big. She discusses some popular series such as The Hunger Games, Twilight, and 50 Shades of Grey. These are all series in which I have read, and honestly, have guiltily enjoyed. I recognize their HORRIBLE way of displaying gender and sexuality at times, especially in regards with what women should put up with in romantic relationships. But Gay reminds me that it’s okay to critique novels or movies and still enjoy them. It’s okay to find all the things wrong with a piece of media, but still find things about it to appreciate. Me actually not wanting to put down these books does not automatically revoke my “feminist card”. I am not less of a feminist because I love the color pink or dye my hair blonde or love makeup or really want to have kids someday. And I appreciate that point of view. A lot. I think more people should adopt the idea that feminism does not have to look one way, and it definitely does not have to be looked down upon. So thank you for presenting these ideas and sharing them with the world, Roxane. I appreciate you.

Rating: 4/5


We Were Eight Years In Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Why is it that I find it so hard to sit down and write a book review on a novel that was so amazing that it left a mark on my soul?! I think it’s because I’m almost speechless. There are no amount of words that can describe a feeling correctly. There are no amount of words to describe a gratitude for an author so knowledgable and so authentic. And there is certainly no way to measure the gratitude you feel towards an author who presents an argument about race that is so damn eloquent and universal. There are NO excuses why everyone, of any race, cannot agree upon the tragic history of race in America and that we need to do better. Now, there are arguments on how to do better— what ways are most effective, which ways we need to avoid, etc. But the overarching theme should be able to ring true to any moral person. I wholeheartedly believe this. That being said…

Wow. We Were Eight Years In Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates is spectacular. This MAN is spectacular!! This is, unfortunately, the first time I’ve encountered his work, but since I’ve been watching some television interviews and man…this guy is GIFTED. Let’s step back a moment though. What is We Were Eight Years In Power about? Good question, before I go off on my tangent.

The title refers to the fact that for the past eight years, President Obama, a black man, was the president. At the time, people thought that America had finally transcended race. We finally elected a black man as our president. Things are better. Fast forward those eight years, and as Ta-Nehisi Coates calls Trump, we have our first “white” president. This basically means that Trump’s whole campaign revolved around a black president. Coates draws a general path for us to how we went from one extreme, to the other. Coates included mentions of Trump’s incessant accusations about Obama’s “birtherism”, and how Trump’s campaign was targeted around hateful/fearful rhetoric.

This novel is comprised of a collection of eight essays that Coates wrote for every year President Obama was in power. What precedes every chapter is “notes” on Coates current thoughts and critiques about his essay, and other current events that relate to the essay.

To give you an idea about what some of the essays include, I will highlight a few. “This Is How We Lost to the White Man” is an extremely interesting essay that actually focuses around Bill Cosby’s controversial black activism. In today’s culture, we hear more about Cosby’s sexual allegations than his preaching, so this is particularly interesting to reflect on. Another chapter that I found extremely interesting was “The Case For Reparations”, where Coates describes the present day consequences of slavery, and how we as a country may go about reparations. I have always been aware of the debate for reparations, but rarely had an idea of how reparations can feasibly come about. This chapter really expanded my knowledge on this topic, and for that, I am extremely thankful.

I cannot stress enough how INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT this book is. Not only to America, but to the whole damn world. Coates is not only a fantastic writer (he really, really is gifted), but he is so knowledgable about these issues. The issue of race is so important in today’s social and political climate. If everyone were just a *tad* more knowledgable about race, the world would truly be a better place. That’s why I urge you to get a copy of this book. Read it with an open mind. Read it, and be hopeful for change and a better tomorrow. Act on a better tomorrow. BE a better version of yourself tomorrow. We sure need it.

Rating: 5/5 (my first perfect rating!)

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

As many of you know, I’m completely infatuated with Stephen King books. On Writing is extremely different from any other work by King. It’s half a memoir of King’s life and what led him to becoming a successful writer, and half “instruction manual”. It’s definitely not as dry as the instruction manual you’re picturing in your head, but it’s a basic roadmap of how to enhance your writing. I’m definitely not a strong writer in a fiction sense (I love writing essays, weird right, but I have a limited creative imagination, and even less patience). HOWEVER, I can totally see how the writing tips he discussed can be useful for aspiring writers.

Like I said, I’m not a writer. But if YOU are, If YOU’RE aspiring to be a fiction writer— PICK THIS DAMN BOOK UP!! Some of the tools for writing are really unique. This novel is waaaaay different than a writing class– it just highlights some tips and tricks that are easy to pick up for the next time you write. King gives mere suggestions at times. But why not try them out? Why not try Stephen King’s routine for writing? It could really help. It’s fricken’ STEPHEN KING! Seriously. What do you have to lose?

The part that I found most interesting was the short memoir on King’s earlier life. I’ve already read a conglomerate of King’s works, and he gave the inside scoop to some of them. How did he get the seed of an idea for Carrie? How did the terrifying story of Misery come to him? These are questions that have always plagued me as I was deep into a King book. Thoughts and questions like: “Is this man okay?! Does he have terrifying dreams? Why is he thinking of this stuff?! But thank God, because I can’t get enough of it!”

I just assumed these actual answers weren’t out there. And honestly, he didn’t have to share. I totally respect privacy, especially of an author and his creative work. Buuuut…I got some of my answers through On Writing. And honestly, it makes me respect King way more. I’m glad that I finally have some sort of feel for how he does it. Why he does it. These are things that matter to me. Reading books is my life. I want to know what writing books means to that author. I truly feel like I have a relationship with an author after I engage with their book. I realize that this relationship is one-dimensional, but it’s special to me. They have touched my life, they have captured my interest. It’s a relationship.

And on this note, I’ll wrap up with a part that truly touched my soul. King talked about the resonance he seeks to engage the reader with. The part of the book where the reader puts it down and goes, “Damn. That made me feel things”. Or, “Damn, that made me look at things a different way”. I’ve talked about this before, but Different Seasons by Stephen King did just that for me. The Shawshank Redemption made me feel feelings that I rarely experience through a book. But I do experience different feelings through every single book I read. And that makes me appreciative of the authors. On Writing allowed me to appreciate Stephen King in a new light. I’d totally recommend this, especially for aspiring fiction writers.

Rating: 4/5

The Rise to Greatness by David von Drehle

Most books about Abraham Lincoln center around his whole presidency, or even his whole life. They will include details about the Civil War and Lincoln’s amazing oratory skills. While David von Drehle captures these aspects in Rise To Greatness, he focuses specifically on 1862, a year that was pivotal to both the Civil War and the freeing of the slaves. Rise to Greatness is an extremely in depth account for those action-packed 12 months. This obviously falls under the history genre, but the sub-genres of this book include both specifically military, political and American history.

I found this narrative about Abraham Lincoln extremely well-written, emotionally gripping, and honestly…addicting. I literally could not put this book down. I always had (what I thought) was an ample amount of knowledge on the Civil War and Lincoln’s presidency, but this book provided a lot of background details that I was not aware of. I was able to get a breakdown of one of Lincoln’s hardest years— the loss of his son, the destruction of a nation, and all of the horrible feelings that come with those situations. I was able to garner an awareness of who surrounded Lincoln most at those times. I also was able to more fully understand the strife between some Supreme Court justices and Lincoln. This book was also extremely well cited and referenced a lot of other amazing pieces of work that I would love to read in the future.

Overall, I loved Rise to Greatness. I have always harbored love for Abraham Lincoln, but this book gave me an infinite amount of reasons to appreciate him even more. The mere fact that his life was riddled with so much tragedy, and that he had to balance the most precarious situation America has ever been in, is mind-blowing. He’s not perfect— this book even specifically points out he was not. But Lincoln is incredibly admirable, and books like von Drehle’s make me reflect on that. It also sets into reality how far America has come (but alas, not far enough). However, it still gives me hope. And it also gives me hope that amazing leaders like Lincoln may be rare, but they’re not a myth. More amazing leaders like Lincoln will come again and change the world in a positive way.

Rating: 4.5/5

The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama

I’m going to start this book review with the last line of Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope because it summarizes my feelings throughout this reading perfectly. On page 362, Obama wrote, “My heart is filled with love for this country.” THIS is how Obama’s second novel made me feel. In our current presidency, it’s easy to forget politicians who made me interested in this field in the first place. Politicians who give me hope, who preach positive rhetoric, and overall, make me hopeful for our country.

That being said, The Audacity of Hope is like sinking into a warm bath. I was almost relaxed reading it. He did discuss major problems that we still see in today’s America (this book was written in 2006), but he remained hopeful. He reminded me of the hope that I have of some form of bipartisanship, and he also reminded me that most politician’s goals are to make this world a better place. I also had an opportunity to learn more about his past and family life—much of which was unknown to me.

Obama splits this book up into nine chapters: Republicans and Democrats, Values, Our Constitution, Politics, Opportunity, Faith, Race, The World Beyond Our Borders, and Family. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on the Constitution and Family. I had no idea that prior to be elected a Senator, Barack Obama taught constitutional law classes and was a legislator. That being said, he was well-versed in the Constitution, and was particularly informed on this chapter of topic. It made for a very interesting read, but honestly, the whole book was interesting. I also enjoyed learning a little more about his family and…if we’re going to be honest…I cried at parts when he discussed his relationship with Michelle. Serious #RelationshipGoals. Serious tears. His love for her is extremely evident throughout this book, but especially in this chapter.

Overall, if you want to know a *little* bit more about America’s 44th President, (before he became president!), pick this book up. It’ll give you HOPE. It’ll remind you that politics can be POSITIVE. It can remind you that people are fighting for change. It can also remind you of your love for America. I reflect on America enough— how blessed I am to live here, the rights that I possess, and how far our country has come. Also, I don’t reflect to be thankful about the direction our country is going in either. We will make our country a better place for our children. Of course there are setbacks. But this book really ensured me that we will never give up hope.

Rating: 4.5/5

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King

Stephen King, and his son, Owen, created something so unique and so refreshingly new with Sleeping Beauties. Although this book can be defined as horror (and the factor of the supernatural is DEFINITELY there), I found it to be more psychologically/socially thrilling than actually horrific. Now, the basis of the story is horrific, yes.

Out of nowhere, all of the women in the world become shrouded in a cocoon and go into a deep sleep. A world without women…and just men?! Horrific indeed! But Sleeping Beauties possessed the essence of being psychologically captivating, rather than nightmare-inducing. The Kings’ story takes place in a time that is obviously our current present day. There are mentions of the same political issues, technological devices, and media that we currently possess. Once the women go to sleep, some men attempt to release them from the cocoon— to which they find extremely violent women. So what will the men do? How will they prevail? Oh, and there is one slight technicality. There is one woman who is still awake.

So like formerly stated, a world *almost* completely devoid of women is horrific. But the very core of this novel is more socially encompassing. It will have you asking questions about social ideologies today. It will definitely have you reflecting on the roles of gender in current society. It will also have you linking this obviously supernatural story to our very real current political realm. So Stephen and Owen King do something so amazingly special— they place you in this supernatural world that makes you reflect on actual life. This is not a novel devoid of all educational aspects.

I absolutely adored this novel from start to finish. At first, I was wary of the lengthy character list that precedes the first chapter. However, I soon became enthralled with every single character, flaws and all. They were so extremely real to me. Despite the supernatural aspects, everything about this novel was almost too real. It shocked me how similar some characters were to people I knew, yet at the same time, they were completely unique. The story itself kept me awake at night because I literally could not put it down. Sleeping Beauties was definitely the highlight of the days that I spent with it.

This novel was culturally significant in so many different ways. Not only did it address so many issues regarding gender, but it also highlighted other social issues of our time. These were not limited to the social and ideological structuring of class, sexuality, and race. Honestly, not many horror novels can do that in such a well-done manner. I had never experienced anything like Sleeping Beauties before…and this experience was one that I had no idea I was needing.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff was released amid mass controversy. Not only did media outlets either furiously promote or discredit this novel, but President Trump took to Twitter to vehemently reject both the novel and author. Naturally, because of all of drama surrounding this novel, I was super inclined to read it. I, like many others, hopped on the controversial bandwagon.

The purpose of Fire and Fury is a tell-all book about the first year of Trump’s administration in the White House. The topics that the book covers include: possible Russian collusion, work dynamics in the White House, campaign strategies, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Steve Bannon and more. Michael Wolff claims to have ample close connections in the White House, which allowed him to get valuable quotes and information from those in positions of power. However, these sources remain anonymous. Wolff’s Fire and Fury is written in tabloid-style, which makes it very easy to read, but also has me questioning the authenticity of the information provided.

That being said, I’m at a crossroads with this novel. As someone who consumes a lot of information (including cable news, journalism, online resources and books), a lot of this information did not take me by surprise. I was well versed in possible collusion with Russia. I kept up to date on the firing of James Comey. I had been following the constant rearrangement of those in power in the White House. I even interned at a political office during the duration of the Cabinet appointments, which ensured that I was extremely knowledgable about that information. However, I’m aware that not everybody possesses the same level of familiarity with the Trump Administration. If you’re looking for an easy read about the Trump Administration’s first year, I wouldn’t necessarily divert you from this text. I would, however, remind you to read smartly. Note that none of the quotes and information are credited. Note that this novel does not have any citations or references. And note how this book has more of a gossipy tone, rather than a professional or intellectual tone.

One of the most interesting features of Fire and Fury is the compilation of most people who have held positions in Trump’s White House. Wolff’s novel allowed me to become a little more familiar with people like Hope Hicks, and more knowledgable about how Anthony Scaramucci ever came into the mix. That being said, I think this novel offers a very interesting “replay” of the past year. If you take this book at face value, and realize that some of these “quotes” may not be real…you are provided with a pretty much accurate summary of the past year. It is interesting to reflect on, and you can determine for yourself how factual you believe this book to be.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars