Feminism in Cold Storage

Feminism in Cold Storage

A blog about feminism and books. 

Review
5 Stars
Reading Lolita in Tehran
Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi

This is one of those books that comes along and turns everything you thought you knew upside down. I loved every minute of it and can't wait to read more from Nafisi.

She manages to do so much in this book. It just amazes me. She makes me want to read everything over again (except Lolita which I read for the first time in tandem with this and am so grateful that I did. Here's the review for Lolita), and to teach literature, and to have my own group where we can dive into all these books together. Unfortunately, all these things are incredibly difficult to come by or create and I can't imagine how she managed to do it in Tehran, of all places.

Okay, to be fair, I don't have to imagine, she details it in the book. Other than Pride and Prejudice, I wasn't a fan of any of the books they so loved in their courses and most I had already read for my own English degree, again the exception is Lolita. That said, I really have to go back and reread them and appreciate all these things that I didn't see on the first pass. I absolutely loved the Gatsby trial because it also made clear for me the things that are amazing about the book and made sense of it all. A problem that I have had with classics like that one and Great Expectations was that the women were so unreal to me. I had never met nor knew of a woman in real life like any of them. It had not occurred to me that these are only the impressions of the male protagonist of what these women were like. Even when it was once pointed out to me, I was horrified and couldn't bring myself to really believe it. Surely, men don't actually view women the way that Pip viewed Estella, but I was assured that many do. This did not help me like that particular novel, but it helped me understand Daisy in The Great Gatsby when that same thought process was pointed out here.

I think the difference is the timing and the impression that was left. Like with Madame Bovary, I remembered the highlights of the The Great Gatsby and the feel of the book but not an excess of details. I could remember that Daisy was always seen as the embodiment of everything desirable and wonderful by Gatsby but not why. It helped my impression of her that she loved him, though it left me confused when she chose to leave him at the end. Nafisi does help clarify this when she supports the idea that Daisy in the book isn't always interpreted adequately by Nick, the narrator, which is why her actions can be confusing. The same would have been true for Lolita, who is seen entirely through the eyes of HH, had I not read the section about Lolita here prior to getting into the meat of the audiobook. I could see through HH's interpretation and make my own interpretations of the same actions, something I couldn't manage with Daisy or Estella. I mentioned in the Lolita review that it really makes me want to do a reread of both and I'd throw Daisy Miller into the mix now that I've read her section in this book as well.

Madame Bovary I had already learned to appreciate shortly after starting this blog because it prompted me to think a little more about the context than the story and that she is such an unlikeable character for me. Once I got over the idea of judging her for her actions, I remembered to appreciate that she is a fully developed character, written like a real woman with reasoning for her actions that I can understand and even empathize with while disagreeing with them and that she was written by a man over a hundred years ago. She was written in a way that see beyond all the delicacy that we are attributed into the people that women are and that we can have our own ambitions and desires. She's a precursor to all the amazing women in Game of Thrones who finally got me to like fantasy because there were real women going through stuff and messing everything up and making mistakes and getting it done. Because of this, I could just nod and agree on Madame Bovary though I didn't think she was discussed quite as much as some of the others.

I knew going in that this was a book about other books and that it took place in Iran, but I had managed to ignore when this class took place. Thus, I was not prepared for how much the book was going to be about the war between Iraq and Iran. The amazing interpretations that this time and place give to the interpretations of these books are reason alone to read this, and probably the primary reason to do so, but Nafisi also does the reverse and interprets the world through the books, adding a depth to her memoir that I hadn't expected. The timing of the class gives Nafisi and her students certain insights into these books but the books also give them other insights into their time and place.

Each book made them see something different in their world the same way their world made them see things in the book that I overlooked. Something as simple as Daisy Miller and her actions are taken entirely differently when one also lives the heavier restrictions that are placed upon women in some parts of the world. It's easy as a reader in the US now to just see Daisy as being a little slutty and forget that she is lashing out at society. I certainly missed it. I also missed how such simple actions work to begin the breakdown of societal restraints on our lives and free us just a little more. It's girls like Daisy that get us from where she was to where I am and I never paid enough attention to appreciate that about her.

So I've gone a really long way to say that this book revolutionized the way I think of the books mentioned and, in certain respects, the way to even read a book. That said, it is a wonderful memoir of a woman who lived through a historical period in Iran that absolutely needed documented from a woman's perspective. I am grateful to her for that as well. It is a look into the lives of women in a time and place that we often overlook women and their experiences. We fall into a mindset that women aren't doing anything because they aren't the people on the screens and given the higher priority bylines. The more I make an effort to read about women, the more I'm a believer in the hidden history of women getting it done and then having credit taken from them or their contributions covered up. We absolutely must make a better effort to know our own herstories and make them louder, make them as inescapable as the men in history are.

Women were there, women were contributing, women need to be remembered for it all.

Review URL
4 Stars
Lolita
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov, Craig Raine

I loved it. I had always assumed that I would hate it, knowing that it was about an older man taking advantage of a very young girl. What I hadn't realized was that it is a book knowingly written from the villain's point of view. I had thought it would be all excuses and romanticism. That stuff is there, sure, but thinly veiled so that the read may hear HH's excuses to himself and still see right through them. Unfortunately, I do also recognize how parts could easily be represented as Lolita's complicity in her situation, but these would fail to take into consideration either her initial naivete (which many girls that young have had about older men), her recognition of a situation that is quite hopeless, or the significant possibility of Stockholm's syndrome. Of course, there is also the fact that HH is writing in the first person and everything about her is therefore subject to his interpretation. The challenge of the book, and part of its genius perhaps, is seeing Lolita herself outside of his interpretation. It makes me want to see the movie and how the actress interprets Lolita's actions. I've read other books by men that are associated more with the way women are perceived by them then women actually are (Great Expectations and The Great Gatsby for starters) that should do the same thing but I had unfortunately not gone into those prepared for their intentional misrepresentation of my gender and hated them on the first read. (I do owe both a reread since I was told the opinion on it that the women were intentionally written the way they were to point out some men's lack of realization that we are in fact fully three dimensional beings) I do hate the definition and use of the word "nymphet" in practical use but I get why the author included it. I thought it really helped deliver the delusional nature of Humbert's vision of Lolita and the way he romanticized and lusted after girls that were far too young. I did, however, appreciate the inclusion of Humbert's background and some notable things within it. Specifically, those things are the lapses in mental health, his attempts at staying within decency, and his prior love, Annabel. I don't know enough about psychology to have an informed opinion on whether her death really contributed to his affinity for young girls but it made an interesting hypothesis on the part of the afflicted. It was interesting, and super creepy, to see the way his ability to control Lolita's life played into both his hunger for her and many of her responses to him. The progression of their "relationship" was again mostly creepy but interesting in that way we only can be in fiction when it's not real people that are being hurt. His power over her made him increasingly tyrannical as power has been historically shown to do. The whole story climaxes in such a way that is so consistent with the character's personalities and strangely satisfying in it's own way. I'd rather not spoil it, though anyone could easily look up the whole synopsis on Wikipedia if interested, it's linked about anyway. I listened to a copy from the library that was read by Jeremy Irons who also played the protagonist in the 1997 film. I had finally picked it up to listen to as my hold on Reading Lolita in Tehran finally came through, which is also proving to be a great book and gave me some necessary insight into Nabokov's writing style and Humbert's character.

Review URL
4 Stars
The Good Girl
The Good Girl - Mary Kubica

This was an interesting book that didn't turn out to be at all what I expected.

I don't quite remember where I got the recommendation from, but this had been on my list of books to listen to for a while. I do prefer the audiobooks for my fiction, and this one turned out great. The synopsis does a good job of setting up the story, but there are still some surprises along the way.

First of all, there's the way the story is told. The author uses rotating first person perspectives between Colin, Eve, and Gabe. This lets us be in the mind of the perpetrator, someone worried about the victim (her mother), and the detective who is trying to find the victim. It also jumps in time throughout where Colin's perspective are consistently in the moment of the kidnapping but Eve and Gabe could either be looking for Mia or trying to piece together what happened after it all.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the "emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter" was not just some straightforward Stockholm syndrome. It's much more complicated than that. Both Colin and Mia are much more complicates than that.

As the pieces began to fall into place, it became satisfying to watch it all play out but wasn't particularly surprising anymore. I thought Mia's brief moment as a point of view character in the epilogue was interesting but not really necessary to close out the story. I suppose that's why it was the epilogue, but I usually find them more satisfying than I did with her. Perhaps it was what she added to the story more than that it was there.

Altogether it was a great book, though. It kept my interest and was well paced. I thoroughly enjoyed all the characters. Surprisingly, I think Colin was my favorite. He was developed well enough that I just couldn't help it.

Review URL
3 Stars
Echo
Echo - Alyson Noel

The series is a little light and frothy, but I look forward to that amongst some of my heavier reads. It may even been a good palate cleaner between some more intense or gut wrenching books. When in the mood for something a little light, there are some specific things that I really enjoy about this series that I talked about before but bear reiterating.

This is a YA with adults who know a little something and have a plan. Daire's grandmother is her mentor through the her magical training and always knows more than she does about what's going on. Daire's mother knows what teenagers are like and the shenanigans they tend to get into. She's never surprised, just hoping that her daughter uses protection, both for her heart and against pregnancy. These are wise adults that know they are meant to guide Daire on her journey rather than eclipse it because their time has come and past and they are purposefully passing the torch.

Dace has similar people in his life and so does Cade. Well, people that are trying with the more stubborn Cade, but that's not the point. The point is that adults are not treated like after thoughts. That may or may not be the norm for YA, but I appreciate every time there is a hero-mentor trajectory and that there will be people who will surprise our protagonists of any age with some greater wisdom. It's a thing that I like and it shows up here.

Also, the world building is pretty good. It makes sense within it's own world and it's consistent. I feel a little like shouting at the protagonist and her friends sometimes because of the way the world is consistent and they seem to be missing things. It can be fun, especially when those things are revealed to the reader in ways that make it so that we know but not them. I also love the feeling that I don't know everything about the world and that there's so much more about to go down in this series.

The romance is over-the-top but in an entertaining and consenting way. I'm not sure how intentional it was for the author but there is some great consent going on with our couples and some very specific acknowledgement of what's going on when there isn't consent. No beating around the bush here, just calling it assault and/or rape when it is.

Looking at just this book, it was a nice read that held my interest but didn't make me want to drop everything just to finish. The narration was done by the same person as before, Brittany Pressley, who does a fantastic job with it. She had some extra work to do with this book, narrating from points of view of both Daire and Dace throughout the book. I'll be interested to see if they add a third in the third book.

Review URL
4 Stars
Just Listen
Just Listen - Sarah Dessen

This was a much better book than I expected. The way it handled serious issues was careful and deliberate.

Trigger warnings for rape and sexual assault.

Given the description on the book page, I wasn't really prepared for what I found in this book. As mentioned above, the issues were handled with great care. While rape was at the center of the story, it also has mention of and dealings with eating disorders but never blames the victim. Owen is important, but I felt like this description inflates his importance. I expected a bit of a rom-com type story where Annabel's life isn't perfect but her problems aren't quite being the victim of a violent crime, you know what I mean?

Yes, her life wasn't perfect before the rape either and that's obvious from it's first mention, but that's not the point either. Owen is also not an "Edward" like figure as the description also led me to believe. Maybe it's just my own misguided interpretation but I feel like "intense" is one of the words used in yound adult stories to denote a boy who turns your life upside down and then is borderline abusive in some way. Owen is absolutely wonderful and his version of intensity is more the insistence of honesty and his level of comfort in his own skin than the way he broods or tries to control her life, neither of which are things he does.

I loved absolutely every character, except one, of course. They all worked well to propel Annabel's character growth. It was well paced and I enjoyed both the family drama and the school drama, especially the work they worked together to prompt Annabel to act. I thought it presented a great narrative for how such events come into being and how people respond to them.

I borrowed the audiobook from the library, which is read by Jennifer Ikeda. She's a fantastic narrator, having won a few awards for it already.

Review URL
4 Stars
Princeless: The Pirate Princess
Princeless: The Pirate Princess - Jeremy Whitley

Like I wrote about the last two volumes, this series is so much fun. This story revolves more around Raven than Adrienne. Two of the issues contained in it are even told from her point of view, rather than Adrienne's. As a character, Raven is a lot of fun and her backstory is compelling. It was great to see an opponent of Adrienne's dad and to see the girls work together despite their fathers. I also appreciated how she came to be called a princess and therefore be put in a tower, like Adrienne and her sisters had been.

The way the girls learned to get along was fun. I think we've all had those friends who were a little harder to get along with, who were a little suspect at first.

Review URL
4 Stars
Girl at War
Girl at War: A Novel - Sara Nović

This is an enlightening story about what it can be like to grow up in a civil war and then to escape to another country that was mostly dissociated with it. Or be forced out, depending on how you look at that part of it but I don't want to spoil anything either.
While parts of the story can be a bit explicit, I wouldn't call it any more graphic or triggering than the Hunger Games. That said, I can't say for sure what would trigger someone who has lived through such events, so I'll gladly change this if someone disagrees.

As stated in the synopsis, the story follows Ana Juric. It's a bit of a coming of age story and I personally liked the time jumps. For me, the most striking thing about the story was the way social protocol in the US silenced Ana about her experience. I've seen this pan out similarly with my mother, who lived in Cuba for a while in her childhood. She doesn't talk about it much but will sometimes with the right opening. She's always felt that people don't really want to hear about any of it, like anyone would only were ask to be polite but really preferred she not mention it, which couldn't be further from the truth for some of the family.

To me, it was fascinating to hear about it. Then again, that puts one in the other bind that we get to see Ana go through as well. She fights off being disaster or tragedy porn and one of the easiest ways to do that is to simply not tell people that you were a part of whatever the disaster is. But the story is really about her realization that she can't ignore what she was a part of just because she doesn't live in that world anymore. It's about reconciling her past and her present and maybe figuring out where that leaves her to go in the future.

Many parts of her story are those that we hear of here when we do talk to refugees and immigrants who come from war-torn places, but I didn't feel like it was wholely stereotyped. The writing is what makes the difference. Much of it reads a little like a young adult book, but I think that's mostly because it's told in the first person perspective of a new adult who is remembering her past. I like that perspective choice because it relates a deeper understanding of the thought process of a person in those situations as they carry out whatever actions they do. The movement in time help in the endeavor to give both her perspective as she's doing things and the way she feels about it later.

Honestly, the only thing I didn't really like about the story was that I felt like the end of the book snuck up on me. I didn't feel like there was a specific climax and it felt unresolved. Though I didn't like that as an ending for a book, I understand it's beauty as an ending. That happens sometimes where the perfect ending isn't a particularly satisfying one.

That didn't ruin the book and I'd still recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or books with female protagonists or diverse reading.

Review URL
5 Stars
The Honor Was Mine
The Honor Was Mine - Elizabeth Heaney

This was one of those books I picked up purely for the title. It captured my attention and then the subtitle made it a must-have for me. I didn't even bother reading the synopsis before I bought it. It helps that it was on sale at the time.

Since I didn't read the synopsis, I didn't realize immediately that it was a memoir of a counselor but I loved that about it even more. I knew that counselors were available these days, but I hadn't realized the many capacities they served in.
I think my favorite thing about the book was that Heaney was honest about her preconceptions about military personnel and the way her ideas of that community grew and changed. I also greatly appreciated the way she introduced the book, explaining first her decision to refer to all servicemembers as soldier (no matter how much I don't like that as a typical choice for talking about the military) in order to help maintain privacy and an in depth explanation of other steps that were taken for that. It was great because the explanation acknowledged the differences in the branches while still helping the average civilian understand the point of the book rather than get caught up in jargon.

She goes on to relate how she got into the work, acclimated to it and some of the stories she heard. I loved that the book included that military issues are not an endless parade of PTSD symptoms. They have all the other issues that everyone else has with PTSD topped onto them. There's also the many marital problems that come from the long and frequent separations. It's not as simple as missing someone and deciding whether or not to stay with them. There are lots of adjustments on both ends of a deployment that need contending with. She doesn't go into it as if the book was about to be a series of case studies, instead she relates bits and pieces of conversations that illuminate the problems that military personnel deal with.

It is just a look, it's not a study and it's not in depth. It's an introduction to the lifestyle, struggles and sacrifices. It's the kind of book that may help someone unfamiliar with the military understand that they are not the stereotypes that can be propagated about them. I also loved it as a memoir. I loved the way Heaney told her story among those of she served and the way she maintained balance throughout the period.

I actually loved every minute of it and would recommend it to others, but not necessarily military members who have seen combat. It may be a little jarring for them, a little triggering in some instances.

Review URL
5 Stars
Hidden Figures
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race - Margot Lee Shetterly

I am so glad that I read this after seeing the movie. I loved the movie, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to the lifetime of achievement of the women featured in the movie plus there are more women mentioned in the book whose accomplishments aren't evident in the film. It's an amazing story and Shetterly relays it beautifully.

I loved every minute of reading this book and it needs to be in all school libraries. I get that schools don't have the time to devote to each historical topic, but having something like this (there is a Young Readers version available here) for them to read would be great. I wish I had spent more time in the non-fiction section back when I was in school but I'm trying to make up for it now. I love the stories of women throughout history, seeing that we've been contributing to the world in more than 2 ways, and promoting those stories when I see them. Fortunately, this one doesn't exactly need my help. It's been great to see all the notoriety this story has gotten, it's well deserved.

Shetterly goes a long way to giving the reader an understanding of not only the important nature of these women's work, but the sacrifices they made to do the work and the pressures they were under from several sources. The difference in the way they were treated at work and at home, by coworkers and by passersby on the sidewalk, is well delineated and it paints a good picture of what it must have meant to be there, to be breaking down barriers and to be given credit for their incredible intelligence. I appreciate that they all say they were just doing their jobs, which I'm sure is true, but there's always more to it than that. I've known people who "just" do their jobs and there's a difference between them and people who love the work. It's this difference that breaks down the barriers that these women took on, purposefully or not.

I appreciated Shetterly's inclusion of the timeline with the Civil Rights movement. I am familiar with the events from school and other reading, but it helped me out to have it overlaid on the timeline of the events at NACA and NASA, to understand the shifting sands the women found themselves on. She did a great job too of delineating the cultural and workplaces differences with being African American, a woman, or an African American and a woman. The African American men got to come in as engineers and the women had to fight for that too. White women were also given advantages over African American women, which caused the women featured here to deal with twice the problems the others had.

This is a book that everyone should read, but especially if you watched the movie, which really only covers half. The book carries the story of the three central women all the way to the moon landing, while the movie stops at John Glenn's orbit. Shetterly's writing style is impeccable and the story itself is astounding.

 

Review URL
4 Stars
Princeless Volume 2
Princeless Volume 2 #1 (Princeless Volume 2: 1) - Jeremy Whitley, Emily Martin Princeless Volume 2 #2 - Jeremy Whitley, Emily Martin Princeless Volume 2 #3 - Jeremy Whitley, Emily Martin Princeless Volume 2 #4 - Jeremy Whitley, Emily Martin

I fell in love with this series back in December when I read Volume 1, Save Yourself, and had been looking forward to this volume ever since. It did not disappoint. I loved the title for this one and the way it plays into the plot.

First of all, I totally love the theme of the series in general. We have a WOC protagonist who has decided that she has had enough with the status quo and the waiting around and takes matters into her own hands. She even uses the dragon that guarded her castle in place of a mighty stead. I mean, how could I not love it?

So here we catch up with Adrienne and Bedelia, who is her personal blacksmith and sidekick. They are going to save Angelica! Or are they? Is Adrienne the only one to take matters into her own hands? Does Angelica even want saving? Adrienne has many sisters and while it should be easy to expect that they all be different from each other and nuanced and have different points of view, I also know that expectations like that usually end in disappointment.

Not this time. Whitley has created this amazing world for us and gives us sisters who neither think the same nor act the same. The outlooks that Angelica and Adrienne have on their like situations are not at all the same and serve to manifest very different outcomes for themselves and those who come to find them.

Personally, I loved Angelica. I loved getting another view on the subject of being so admired. I loved that the writers decided to just jump right into the alternative point of view and that none of it went in the direction that I expected. I also loved the rest of the family situation and the foreshadowing of the mysterious Black Knight that I have my suspicions about.

As before, the art is wonderful. The way that Angelica is obviously a little older and is more beautiful and even a little sexy without being overdone or exposing anything was impressive. The rest of the art is fun and colorful and keep it obvious that it's an all ages comic. If you haven't jumped in on this series, I suggest you do. I've already started the third volume and plan to post it soon!

 

Review URL
4 Stars
Opting Out
Opting Out?: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home - Pamela Stone

I was intrigued with the premise of this work right from the beginning. Well put together and deeply researched, this book goes beyond the simple explanations to get down to the how and why of it all.

I have always hated the term "opting out" and I'm really starting to understand why. I feel like it misunderstands the choice. Opting out makes it sound like women are choosing to disengage from the greater of two goals, when I never believed that to be the case. This book gets into that part of it and even helped me put some better language to my own feelings about it.  

It begins by presenting the reason for the study and then spending some time detailing the reasons why this specific set of women were chosen to be studied for this. Stone exclusively studies married, highly educated, well off, and high achieving white women because they are, theoretically, the women with the least amount of barriers to success in the workplace. None are "opting out" for those reasons we attribute to those who are less off, which are typically attributed to child care costs.

Stone details several reasons why women are not staying at the same workplace they had their kids at and why some appear to be leaving altogether, even when some aren't. They do freelance work or volunteer locally at a professional level. 

The book makes the case that the women are more likely being pushed out of the workplace by policies that make it impossible to be good at mothering or that don't allow women to have a good relationship with their children and then are given permission to give up on their original careers by husbands who aren't under the same pressures to be available for their children and their boss in the same way and at the same time. Mothers and fathers are not looked at in the same light by employers or society at large, so fathers are not typically subject to the double bind that pushes these women out. I thought it was an interesting touch to see their husbands, most of which were similarly qualified at the beginning of their marriages, as a control group. 

The other issues that are discussed in this book alongside the why's and how's are that it's presented as a choice for women to work and therefore a privilege for women to not work. It discusses how it's seen by the women making this choice as an act of feminism rather than a defiance of it. There is also a discussion on identity and whether it is career or parenthood that identifies a person and how these women handle that question too.

Altogether, I found the book interesting and enlightening. It isn't entirely new information for me, but that's mostly on account of countless conversations with women who were also in the double bind and figuring out what to do. It didn't sound like a lot of these women had female peers to talk to about it but I have had plenty of these conversations with women who make significantly less but who are debating whether to continue difficult career paths and several with my husband as we discussed what to do when we were expecting our son. We had the same "one of us will be home with the kids" idea that some of the women in the book had, but ours came to a different conclusion. I was making more, but more important to our decision, I was under a contract that would have been near impossible to get out of. By the time my contract was over, my husband had been home with our son a few years and it would have been ludicrous to try to switch given other life situations.

This is a great book for anyone interested in researching women and the workplace, or simply interested in why women still leave the workplace for family while men still don't do it much. The end gives prescriptions for how workplaces can entice women to stay and reasons it would be good business for them to do so, but even the author has little hope of this happening any time soon.

Its pre-Lean In Movement, in fact, it's referenced in the Lean In book, which was where I first heard about it. It was only used as a reference to the way that women give deference to husband's careers, thus ensuring that husband's will be in better positions to be the one who stays at work after kids are born, but still an important part of the point that Sandberg strives to make as well. Coincidentally, this better position would also give husband's a better standing to bargain from in order to get more time or accomodations for kids, but that's not a typical expectation for them. We still tend to see male careers as important and female careers as options. Workplaces and society both do this and so women's careers suffer, even when the women are committed to them, even when the women don't have the option to opt out. Change needs to happen, but first we need to understand how our problems are created. This book digs in and looks at this one.

Review
5 Stars
Girl Rising
Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time - Tanya Lee Stone

This is an incredibly informative book on an important issue all over the world. It's a quick read for anyone interested in brushing up on the subject and getting involved.

Most of the information wasn't new for me as it was also mostly covered in Half the Sky, but it was sorted and presented differently. First of all, this is based on a documentary, so the author knew that much of the information had been presented before. She chose to focus on some of the finer details of the situation rather than the overarching themes of why girls aren't getting educated. She starts with the stories of the individual girls seen in the documentary and then widened the view to show that their situations are representative of the issue in their country or region.

The other benefit that this book has over Half the Sky is that it is predominantly uplifting. Each of the girls mentioned and who the reader gets to know has found a way to school and is flourishing. The author mentions that they are the lucky ones, and that more needs to be done, but she doesn't leave the reader with the feeling that it's too big to hope for there ever being a resolution. That may seem a little less realistic to some or like there is false hope, but it depends on the reader.

The book is clearly targeted at a younger reader and as a started into the issue, so she's probably banking on the reader not having read anything like Half the Sky  yet. As a starter into the issue and a book that focused on education alone (the other one has a whole host of women's issues that it discusses), it's fanstastic. It introduces the problem well, it gives the reader someone to relate to in order to inspire the reader to help with the problem and then it even gives possible ways for any reader to help with the problem. I wouldn't recommend it to someone already familiar with this issue only because it would be redundant. On the other hand, it'd be the first book I mentioned to someone asking about the importance of educating girls worldwide alonside their brothers, especially if that person has a tendency to want to help with things they are informed about.

The ways to help aren't perfect and are centered around the reader being a youth or student. They aren't necessarily fit for everyone, but they are options to get one thinking about what can be done. They are small steps to take in that direction.

Review
5 Stars
The Woman Who Changed Her Brain
The Woman Who Changed Her Brain: And Other Inspiring Stories of Pioneering Brain Transformation - Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, Norman Doidge

A truly interesting story and program that I had never heard of. It makes me wish this kind of testing and solutions were more prolific.

This is the kind of title that really catches my attention, especially in non-fiction. I'm a huge fan of non-fiction. The whole concept of the Arrowsmith school amazes me. This book not only does a great job of recounting the life of Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, in her own words, but also many of the categories of deficits that people can have and that hinder their potential. I found myself thinking about some bright underachievers I know and wondering if the program would suit them.

The idea that you can simply train your brain past learning disorders by finding a way to trigger that part of the brain into action is exciting. The possibilities then seem endless for everyone. I know that there are implementation issues, especially since it doesn't seem feasible that this can be done online for now and because not many schools have this program yet, but I'm hopeful, given the growth the program has had and the countless success stories. Maybe we'll look back one day at all the research and programs done by the Arrowsmith team and see an entirely different world for children and their potential than we do now.

While her own story and the formation of the school were interesting, I was particularly drawn to the stories of the students and the cognitive exercises created to help them past their learning disorders. I was surprised that it sometimes took years after starting a set of exercises to really see progress in normal life, but that students persisted through them. I know far too many people that would have given up in a few weeks if they weren't seeing improvement. I was also impressed with the parents who sent their children to be evaluated and who enrolled them into the school later. I looked up the school and just the evaluation is $2000. But in the words of one person, "You pay it now or you pay it later."

I can't remember if that was a student or a parent, but it remains a good point. The people who benefit from this program are people who are intelligent but have learning disorders that hinder their ability to get a rounded education and then later hinder their ability to get or keep a good job. Many of the adult students had been labeled "bright but lazy" or as underachievers because a deficit, as the book actually calls it, kept them from learning a skill that they needed.

I really did appreciated using "deficit" instead of "disorder". It was a great substitution because deficit implies that a person doesn't have something rather the way disorder makes it seem like something is wrong with that person.  Maybe it's just semantics but I feel like picking up a skill that's hard to get is a lot better of a way to frame it than trying to "fix" someone.

This was a fascinating read, well listen. I listened to the audiobook while I was cleaning the house I was moving out of and then while doing some prep work on the one that I moved into. I would just let it run, set up on a chair, and my husband wandered in after a while to comment on how interesting he was finding it too. It amused me because normally he couldn't care less about whatever book I'm playing. It caught his attention too because of the way it takes great care to describe each deficit, tie it to a personal experience of some student, give a way to relate to it or experience a small part of the decifit and then elaborate on what was done to attain the skill that it blocked. It also went into the coping or compensation methods that the students had prior to being treated, which were fascinating to listen to. We all compensate for things we aren't so good at with things we are good at, but the level of compensations necessary were astounding.

My husband also recently had a concussion and his resulting troubles added a new level of interest for me to the work that had originally drawn Young to her work, Alexander Luria's work with brain trauma. That was an interesting story that I'd like to read one day too.

I did find it a little disappointing that the book didn't go into deeper detail on the exercises that were created to address some of the deficits, but I get the risk that could be imposed in doing so. I wouldn't want any sort of medical book to be detailed enough for someone with half an inclination to try to fix themselves or those around them. It should be left to professionals.

Personally, I think it would be great if everyone who works with children had read the book and if there were many more programs in schools. I am not proposing the system subscribe to this one method but I feel like it could be a good augment to many existing programs that address learning disorders. Schools could potentially do an assessment on students at the beginning of giving them compensations so that they could both get by with what they can do now, but also attain the missing skill when possible. It seems like that would be a win for everyone. But I'm no professional and wouldn't know the reasons for not incorporating something like this in a school system other than cost. I do get how costs of things can be prohibitive in public school systems and, as stated above, the assessment is quite expensive.

Review
4 Stars
Map: Collected and Last Poems - Wisława Szymborska, Clare Cavanagh, Stanisław Barańczak

This is one of my Reading Nobel Women books, a complete collection of Wislawa Szymborska's work, and it was amazing.

As with all collections, there are favorites and then there are those that weren't enough or just not your thing. The book starts off with those poems that, while good, weren't quite what I expected to be Nobel Laureate worthy. I quickly realized why. They were early works and this is a complete collection. Like all of it. The book is a whopping 400 pages of poetry that started out a little lackluster and grew to absolutely brilliant. By the end, it was completely obvious why she was chosen.

Some favorites were:

  • Teenager
  • Reality Demands
  • Hatred
  • The End and the Beginning
  • Funeral (II)
  • Children of Our Age
  • The Century's Decline
  • Hitler's First Photograph
  • Archeaology
  • Lot's Wife
  • Map

I actually had a lot that might be labeled as favorites but I'll stop there. These were the poems that really made me think about things a little differently. I probably could have done without some of the others, the more lighthearted poems because I've learned that I have a special love for poetry that tears my heart out. These did that in one way or another. They revealed things, but they weren't the only poems to do that in this collection.

This small sampling did things like reminded me that Hitler was once someone's little bundle of joy and that's a scary way to think of him. It reminded me that one of the luxuries that Americans have when it comes to war is that we just leave when we deem it over. We aren't left to rebuild the communities fragmented by it. It reminded me that Lot's Wife, so vilified for looking back at a town burning could have just been victim of an errant "Did I leave the stove on?" moment. It's worth reading the entire collection for moment like these, especially when one never knows what will come from reading poetry. New things can be revealed in every reading. These may simply be the poems that hit me this time and others will do similar things to other people.

As mentioned above, this is one of the books I chose to read in this year that I'm Reading Nobel Women but it's also my Letter M for the Litsy A to Z challenge. It would also fit nicely into Read Harder's Task 23 as it is a collection of poetry in translations on a theme other than love. There were several themes covered here and rarely was love in the mix.

Review URL
4 Stars
The Girl Who Drank the Moon
The Girl Who Drank the Moon - Kelly Barnhill

Never have I read a book that so succinctly turns every trope on it's head. I absolutely loved it!

The story is put together fantastically. Each character is amazing in their own right. No one does quite what I expect, even when I thought I had a handle on the way the story was breaking the rules. The family that Luna, Xan, Glerk, and Fyrian make is just adorable. All the people in the Protectorate are dealing with their own issues and making their way through life in ways that are not entirely opposite the norm that I would expectn or entirely the norm either. There's a part of me that feels like it's the way all the old stories should have been written, so that everyone has a little agenda and not all converge nor diverge. History isn't that neat and stories shouldn't be either. At the same time, it was loads of fun to watch the way these characters were like characters we were already a bit familiar with.

Basically, Barnhill did a fantastic job of "making familiar things new and new things familiar" as are the two great powers of a writer according to William Makepeace Thackery or Samuel Johnson. It's been attributed to both on different sites, not sure which is accurate. I listened to it on Audible, read by Christina Moore, who was great. I loved her voices for everyone, especially Fyrian.

Review URL
3 Stars
Fated
Fated - Alyson Noel

This is a fun venture into a realm of mysticism that I was never really familiar with. It's a great YA book, definitely made for a YA audience, but enjoyable for any reader who can keep that in mind.

I know that not all adults read YA, but I'm one that does. There are a select few that don't feel like they are targeted specifically at teens but happen to have protagonists that are in the YA age range, and then there are books that are YA and target that audience. This is the second kind, which is not a bad thing. I feel it's important to point that out when reviewing YA books. It's targetted at the YA audience and while someone who enjoys YA will still enjoy it because it's well done and all the characters are great with an interesting plot, I wouldn't recommend it to an adult whose only experience with YA was the Hunger Games or the Lunar Chronicles, one that may complain of angst in some teenage characters. I find that sort of thing ridiculous.

First of all, adults have angst too and second of all, sometimes it's totally appropriate. Oh yes, and there's third, don't read about teenagers and then complain when they act like teenagers. Okay, I'll admit that some writers do go overboard and characters are doing things that seem ridiculous, but that's bad writing and not what YA is actually about.

Daire is a great character. She's gotten more freedom than is normal for a girl her age and she knows it and respects that. She respects her family, even when she disagrees with them but she's not afraid to go it alone if she needs to. The two male leads don't quite form a love triangle, and I feel like that's made obvious from the first dream. Their dichotomy in character is well done and even explained. There's a reason for it. And there's a reason for the specialness of each character. I hate when a story has someone who is just "the one" without a viable reason for it. This definitely has great reasons for why each character is crucial to the plot.

I loved all the adults too. Her mom is truly trying her best and even Daire sees that. Her grandmother is amazing, even when she's being cryptic. Each one gives Daire a little insight into what's going on around her. She does have troubles with adults, but none of the blatantly ridiculous things that make it seem, in some of the poor attempts at YA, that the teens are the only people in town with any sense. They all have their own things going on and some are even trying to manipulate these teens, which are little too powerful for their own good.

The mysticism was new for me. It was a part of what drew me to the book in the first place. This is one of the books I came across only because of Top Ten Tuesday lists and therefore a reason I really love those posts. I was never much into magic stories, but mysticism is something else entirely, especially when I can read about new ones.

currently reading

Progress: 30%