The Argonauts

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson is her memoir about her relationship with Harry and her journey into motherhood. This book examines theories on gender and social identity that stem from Nelson’s personal experiences.

While I enjoyed the theoretical part of this book, it felt like Nelson was constantly quoting other authors and people. This strengthened her arguments and assertions, but it made the book slightly inaccessible. To me, it felt like the target audience was the intelligentsia. I completely support trusting your readers, but it made Nelson’s story more removed from the common sphere, something that it needed no help doing.

Overall, I loved listening to this book. It was utterly absorbing. I just wish that it didn’t have such an academic tone.

3/5

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

After seeing this book on the New York Times Bestseller List for weeks, I added it to my holds list on Overdrive. It took me several months to receive it and the wait was worth it. The author reads his own book about his life and he was an excellent narrator.

This memoir is the story of a man who grew up in a Appalachian “white trash” family. They are crude, loud, and dysfunctional. But they are fiercely loyal and overprotective of their own blood, even against one another. Vance focuses a lot on the relationships he had with his mother and father. But the more influential pair in his life is his MaMaw and PaPaw. They are the ones that really raised him and helped him get through his childhood. At the end of high school, Vance joined the military and that totally changed his life. After that he went on to earn his law degree.

This memoir is Vance’s attempt to use his personal experience to explain the perspectives of those living in poverty in Middle America. He states that he can’t explain for everyone, but he can at least give people a peak into the lives of the modern Republican and why they act the way they do. In a world where everything feels like its being taken from you, there is an us vs them mentality through and through. I liked this memoir and I recommend it to anyone interested in the politics of modern America.

4/5

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

There are few reading experiences that I’ve enjoyed more than listening to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. The audio book I listened to was read by the author, who sadly passed away in 2014. This was my first experience with Maya Angelou and it felt deeply personal.

This book is a memoir of Angelou’s childhood. She lived a tumultuous childhood, filled with negligent parents, being raised by your grandparents, and teenage pregnancy. Angelou remembers a time of both love and abuse, happiness and pain, and freedom and captivity.

As I listened to this memoir, I understood why schools have it on reading lists and why it is a banned book. Growing up in a suburban Southern town, I can’t imagine that I would have read this book in high school, even though I took advanced English. This book is the type that people in high school should be reading- one that resounds with truth and they can connect to in a personal way.

Even though I enjoyed this book, I don’t know if I ever want to read it again. It was sad and true. Nevertheless, I recommend it to everyone.

5/5

We Should All Be Feminists

This book is the transcript from Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s TED talk of the same name. It is very short and I read it in a single lunch hour.

“We Should All Be Feminists” is Adiche’s argument for how Feminism will not only help women, but will help and advance all of society. She does this through personal examples and acedotes. She tells of one of her childhood best friends who was the first to call her a feminist and he didn’t mean it as a compliment.

A part that struck me was Adichie trying to call herself a feminist without offending anyone. She eventually says that she called herself a “happy African feminist who does not hate men and who likes lip gloss and who wears high heels for herself but not for men. Adichie might be exaggerating, but she hits the heart of it. When people call themselves feminists, they feel the need to qualify it because it is looked down on. I know I’ve personally qualified my feminism by saying that I don’t want to burn my bras and I don’t hate men.

The video for this TED talk is only around 30 minutes and available online here. I highly recommend it to everyone. And if you would rather read it like I did, the transcript is also available on the TED website. I feel like a lot of people are feminists without realizing that they are one. Adichie’s talk tries to make what a feminist is clear and how feminism would make society better for everyone.

4/5

Milk and Honey

I don’t give many 5-star reviews. I give a fair amount of 4s and some 3s, but it takes a lot for me to give a book 5 stars. It has to move me personally, as well as being extremely well-written. I am more familiar with prose over poetry, so I don’t know how much I can judge the writing of this book. But I do know that Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur touched me.

This collection of Kaur’s poetry is divided into four sections meant to move one through the stages of heartbreak. Kaur first gained fame as an Instagram poet. Her poetry is frequently accompanied by hand-drawn minimalist/line-art pictures. Sometimes they just match the poem, but they always heighten it.

When I first went through these poems, I read some of them with my boyfriend. I expressed to him that I would love my own copy so I could write in the book and share it with other people. Ever the amazing man that he is, he bought be a copy for our anniversary and even marked a few of our favorites. This is, by far, the best gift I’ve ever received.

Overall, I don’t have anything negative to say about this collection. I love the structure, illustrations, and the poetry itself. I would recommend this book to anyone and I can’t wait to pass my copy around to everyone I know.

5/5

#GIRLBOSS

One of my local libraries made a list on Overdrive for March called “HerStory” in honor of National Women’s History Month. I went through the whole list and put myself on hold for the titles that interested me. Sophia Amoruso’s #GIRLBOSS is the story of how Amoruso started her online business, Nasty Gal.

I’m glad I listened to this book on Overdrive where I could speed it up and that it was short. As it was, it still felt too long. Amoruso tells the reader that her hard work and her magical insight into the buyer’s mind is what led to her success. That and her terrible attitude.

I am 100% behind strong and forceful women. I think we need more women like that to show that women can be any way they want to be. But Amoruso doesn’t give the reader much practical advice on how to be a “girlboss”. She basically says that she got to where she is now by having talent and never taking no for an answer. She also is unapologetic about her lack of formal knowledge of the business world and never acknowledges the luck of her position.

I was personally annoyed by Amoruso’s repetitive style and her lack of good/usable advice. It’s always awesome to hear about successful women, but kindness and tact also go a long way.

3/5

My Life on the Road

Prior to listening to My Life on the Road, all I knew about Gloria Steinem was that she is a feminist and a journalist. She was always the punch line of a pop culture joke I didn’t really understand or an example of what a “fake-feminist” looked like. I decided to listen to this book after Emma Watson’s book club, Our Shared Shelf, chose it.

This memoir is a love letter to the life Steinem has lived so far and how her love of the road allowed her to make the impact that she has for women. She discusses her childhood, in which her father drove them around as a traveling antiques dealer. She didn’t have financial or living stability as a child, which established her love of living on the road early. In this book, she also discusses her life in India, her work with Ms. magazine, and her connections with Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to serve as chief of the Cherokee Nation.

I think I read this book at the perfect time in my life. I’ve started to consider the work I want to do and the impact I want to make. Steinem discusses how her life on the road allowed her to be a community builder. This is something that I would love to do and it was encouraging to hear that this amazing woman who has brought all of these people together is also an introvert and dislikes talking in front of people.

There is a section towards the end of this book that talks about Steinem’s involvement with Hillary Clinton’s campaigns. I got tears in my eyes when I listened to that section. It made my heart feel full to hear about these amazing women who are working every day to change the world for the better.

Overall, I was moved by this powerful feminist book. Steinem is a wonderful role model and her work in journalism so far has made an impact that we can continue to build on in the generations to come.

4/5