Memoir Monday: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

Lawson

I have been doing Memoir Monday for quite a few weeks now, but really I was just waiting for this book to come along. Jenny Lawson is another author that trusted me with Facebook friendship, and like Samantha Irby, I had not read her blog prior to becoming friends with her. I had read Furiously Happy, which at the time I only moderately enjoyed for the sole reason that I think I lacked context and background. Without understanding her relationship with Victor (her husband) and her struggles with pregnancy and anxiety, Furiously Happy seems funny in a momentary way. Having read this first book, I am motivated to return to the other. I am sure I will enjoy it much more than after the first reading.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is the memoir that should inform all other memoirs. It explores her childhood in a realistic way that doesn’t wring its hands and cry out with struggle, but recognizes the handicaps that come with a rural, poor upbringing. Her relationship with Victor is a hilarious, opposites-attract love story. The journey from Wall to Houston, from HR to writing, her memoir is a true road map through her life to where she is now (or was when this book was published in 2012) and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Lawson writes in a stream-of-consciousness style that echoes how you might think about or approach any social situation. When she wrote about having two minds that talk to each other when she struggles with her anxiety, I was reminded of how my mind divides during depressive episodes; my logical mind knows what’s going on, but my emotional mind is behind the wheel and won’t let off the gas. Representation is important, and her openness in writing about her struggles with mental health makes many of her followers feel less alone, perhaps even braver to speak out about their own experiences.

This is hands down my favorite memoir thus far. It’s real, entertaining, and brings awareness to a struggle that many face – it serves multiple purposes and I am here for all of them. And now I know my new friend a little better than I did, and I love her all the more.

You are missing out if you do not read this book. Go get you some.

Memoir Monday: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me

Last week I found myself moving closer and closer to the line between caring what other people think and just being myself and telling everyone to deal with it. I know that for confident, successful people this might seem like a simple thing, but for me being who everyone else wanted or needed me to be up until this point was a survival mechanism. That’s how I kept jobs, got help, made friends – there was a point where I lied so much about who I was that I forgot who I was. For whatever reason different events last week started pushing me back to who I was before and while I’m not there yet, I can sense that time coming.

With that internal struggle and change happening, it was very appropriate that I would be reading Mindy Kaling’s first memoir: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns), because if there is one thing you should walk away with after reading this book, it is a sense for how important it is to know yourself and to be strong in that knowledge.

My only real exposure to Kaling was in The Office in her role as Kelly Kapoor. She was snotty and hilarious and I really enjoyed her acting. This book expanded my knowledge to include her writing and directing experience, which included neither at the outset. It was cool to see where she came from, hear about her educational background, and how she took the leap to try to write in New York (not necessarily with an acting focus).

It is probably true that Mindy was able to pursue her dreams because both her parents were successful and able to help her financially. We see stories that place her in stereotypically “poor” or POC-type situations, but all in all this story says “I made it” as opposed to “I made it THROUGH ALL THIS GARBAGE” and in this way this story was also exactly what I needed after so many struggle memoirs. I needed to hear someone say “It was difficult and frustrating, but I had people around me supporting me and I made it and I persevered.” Everything is so much garbage right now that reading this short, light-hearted recollection of her own experience was really refreshing.

So if you need something light that inspires you to embrace the things that make you, YOU, pick up this memoir from 2011. You will be glad you did.

Memoir Monday: Born a Crime

Born a Crime

One of my favorite kind of books to read is one that takes me someplace I have never been and introduces me to a culture that I have never experienced. Trevor Noah was born to a Xhosa mom and Swiss dad while apartheid was still in force in South Africa. His birth was evidence of a crime, I’m not sure I would go as far to say that he was born a crime, but “Born a Crime” grabs your attention a lot better than “My Birth Was Evidence of My Parents’ Crimes.”

The beauty of this memoir is that you journey with Trevor from his childhood into his early adulthood, and watch how South Africa transforms as he grows. You see the transition from apartheid to Nelson Mandela’s government, and how all the different “homelands” adjusted to the shifts in power. My favorite stories that he tells are the ones from the different schools he attended. The clearest picture of how the different degrees of racial identity (white, colored, black) interacted with each other is painted by the behavior of these children.

With all the discussion of white supremacy and the need to resist the rise of Nazi influence in this country, it was informative and interesting to see how South Africa convinced the majority black and colored (Noah’s word) population to live under apartheid. The methods they used to reinforce infighting between the many different tribes that lived there, the way they exploited the existence of so many languages (South Africa has 11 national languages!) to confuse as well as encourage miscommunication and distrust, that level of confusion and infighting created an environment where whites could reign supreme. There is a lot that we could learn from this memoir politically, racially, and structurally in terms of power. If you are not familiar with apartheid and how it was overthrown, Noah’s book is a fantastic narrative to take you on a basic, open-bus tour of the phenomenon while you are also learning about the personal history of a rising star in late-night television.

At around 300 pages it’s a relatively moderate read, and the essays are so funny and enjoyable that you’ll find yourself reading through it quickly. If you’re feeling in a memoir mood, check it out. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Memoir Monday: This is Just My Face

this is just my face

The charming start to my Memoir Monday series couldn’t have been a more entertaining read. And look at that photography – where can I buy that dress?! Gabourey Sidibe has had an interesting life thus far, and shares her first quarter with us. Three main themes stuck out for me.

Family

It was interesting to learn about how non-traditional her family was. From her parents’ green card marriage to her father’s Senegalese heritage, reading her stories that take us on a journey through Senegal and polygamy to her mother’s insistence on being independent and singing in the subway, you’ll probably keep asking yourself how they did not end up homeless. I found myself holding my breath when they moved out after her dad brought his second wife to America, when her mom stopped teaching and decided to sing in the subway, and when Gabourey moved out on her own and her mom and brother were erroneously evicted. I couldn’t believe how often she and her brother traveled to Senegal with her father, and how they were treated by his family there. All of this was happening in New York City, which makes the financial elements that much more daunting. Her family history alone is enough to hang a solid memoir on.

Fat

I was so intrigued by how Gabourey describes her relationship with her body, especially her decision to have weight-loss surgery. I was thankful that she was truthful without getting too gritty – the message that this was a tough time in her life is delivered loud and clear without gorey details; I appreciated her levity. I could sense that she was expecting critics to clap back at her about the weight loss surgery, but she addresses it well and is clear that your decision about your body is your own and you should do what is best for you and your health. Her writing on this topic was inspirational and reminded me to continue on my quest to be okay with my body.

Fame

The only part of the story that felt…like it was missing something? was her path to her role in Precious. Wouldn’t it be great if things just happened to come together at the right time while we’re working for a phone sex company? If what psychics predicted about us randomly at different moments in our life came to be? I mean, I believe her because there have been too many moments in my own life when I happened to be in the right place at the right time to think it’s impossible, but here was where details seemed to be lacking. I’m not sure it matters though, she’s here now and we’re all better for it.

This was a short, informative, enjoyable memoir. Even if you have never seen her act you should learn her story. Don’t miss it.

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life

irby

A few years ago I decided that I would be brave. I was living a rather isolated life in Tampa, with only my husband and my husband’s friends to keep me company, and we didn’t get together with the friends very often. I said to myself, “I’m going to make some online connections, I’m going to meet new people online.”

So I started small, I sent friend requests to people my current online friends already knew. If they trusted them then I felt okay trusting them too. This brought me to Samantha Irby. I was not aware she had a book, I was not aware she had a blog. She was smart and funny online, and friends with people I trusted and I wanted to be her friend too. Please understand, I was not a fangirl. I just wanted some smart, funny friends so I didn’t go crazy with loneliness. It took a lot for me to say “We’ve never met in real life, but can we please be friends?” I am not courageous that way.

Slowly over time I discovered Ms. Irby was so much more than smart and funny, she is brilliant. She is someone who cares about those she loves and her personality is equal parts nihilistic and exuberant. I bought her book, and cried and laughed as I read. I discovered her blog and slowly worked my way through the archives. I discovered that this person I had never met in real life is absolutely spectacular, and I was so lucky to have stumbled across her in my facebook search for a friend.

Her new book, We Are Never Meeting In Real Life, is a continuation of her triumph from her first book, Meaty. You’re laughing hysterically at her misfortune at pooping out of the door of a car in a snowstorm because of IBS and McDonald’s, and then suddenly you’re “I’M NOT CRYING, YOU’RE CRYING” at an essay which is as devastating as pooping out of a car is funny. This variation in memoir-esque recollection is what keeps you glued to the pages. This book is an emotional journey, one that you must take.

I don’t want to give anything away. I’ve read the book twice now and I’ve picked up something new each time that has tickled my funny bone and tugged at my heartstrings. Irby’s writing is so good and flows like a natural stream of consciousness so it’s like you’re there watching her father’s ashes blow back into her face or in the room as she and her college friends watch Braveheart over and over. Also trigger warning about Helen Keller, I had to stop reading 12398587343 times because I couldn’t see my Kindle through the tears.

Perhaps more important than feeding the need for being provided with the personal stories of another human being, this book should also give you a sense of the important issues of our time: poverty, race, sexuality – issues that are so prevalent in our political and personal conversations right now. Amongst the butt stuff and cunnilingus you’ll be learning about the ISSUES. She doesn’t come out and say “in this essay I will explore the issue of race and LGBT discrimination by describing the fear I experienced driving through the South with my girlfriend,” she trusts you to read and understand.

What I love the most about her writing is that I walk away with so much anger at how she’s been treated without any prompting. I think a good test of whether or not someone is a decent person is to hand them one of Samantha’s books and then videotape their reactions or ask them how they feel after each chapter. If they are choking on their tears and snot as they laugh, they can be trusted. If they come back and are like, “I hear what she’s saying, but actually…” please remove that person from your life.

Watching this book make the rounds ahead of its release has been so exciting. Essence, O Magazine, The New York Times, all the while with a pilot based on Meaty heading to Fox – all of this is success and recognition that is well deserved. Irby is a talented, amazing garbage person, and I know she knows I say that with affection. I have never met her in real life, but she is my friend and I think that you should go read her book, not just because she’s my friend, because she is a brilliant, amazing, important voice that you need to hear.

New Year Same Trash

trash

I remember once when I reviewed I’m Judging You someone accused me of shitting on the coffeehouse floor that we all convene in when I review the books of people that are actually a member of the Facebook group that I love more than my husband, I thought “well, she’s super famous so if she can’t take a ‘eh, it was pretty good’ review then she better thick skin it up.” It wasn’t even a scathing review, it was actually a pretty clear moderate review. So bring the Squatty Potty because Samantha Irby’s ~vintage short~ is out today and holy shit this coffee house is about to be LIT.

Observations I had and resolutions I could probably also stand to get behind.

  1. I had to put the Kindle down to laugh about “starting a journal” when baby carrots = medium pizza but really it was a large. I did Weight Watchers back in like 2006 and I would stick to that plan like glue and then after the weigh in and meeting I would stop at Dominos on the way back to my apartment to pick up the 2 for $10 medium pizzas I had ordered ahead of time AND EAT THEM BOTH BEFORE I WENT TO BED. #squadgoals
  2. Live music: Beyonce’s Lemonade album was the only music I listened to in 2016 and I still didn’t buy tickets to her OUTDOOR performance at Raymond James Stadium. SHARE THAT GRUBHUB COUPON
  3. Cooking classes: I got some of that jam. There is a video of me teaching people how to open and close an actual canned jar someplace on Facebook.
  4. I have an in-ground swimming pool in my backyard covered by a screened in frame to keep the Florida wildlife out and I still can’t get myself to swim more than twice a week. Oh, I’m sorry. “SWIM” (float around and get skin cancer)
  5. Start a Book Club: shout out for how thankful I am that this actually occurred
  6. Listen to more good music: I WANT TO DO THIS but I don’t know how to start. Again, I just listened to Beyonce’s Lemonade album on repeat for most of 2016 so I am pretty sure I missed out on a bunch of cool shit. Hit me up in the comments if you have music recommendations so I can do this.
  7. Ugh, I need to listen to This American Life too. *sadface* I still haven’t listened to the Lindy West one from when I reviewed Shrill but I have an Amazon Alexa now so I’ll just ask her to play it for me sometime. ALEXA PLAY THIS AMERICAN LIFE – “playing Mozart’s requiem on Spotify” – Oh Alexa…
  8. Grocery shopping: we have a new thing called Shipt here where someone goes and gets your shit and brings it to you. I am resisting this service because I already work from home and grocery shopping is the only thing that gets me out of the house anymore.
  9. Cleaning service: we had one at the last house we rented but have been too poor to get it back at this one we rent now so maybe soon I won’t have to scrub out my fucking kitchen sink anymore.
  10. Improve my credit: omg we’re going to pay off most of our credit cards this year and 3 of them are because I moved my poor ass across the country and then was basically living off them for a year 10 years ago. I can’t wait to get that weight off my shoulder.

Samantha Irby is all of us. She speaks to the garbage human in all of us. Go buy her trash book. 🙂 It’s only 99 cents and so easy! Just click here: NEW YEAR, SAME TRASH

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How to Be a Woman

womanHow important is a good title? I know that it’s important not to judge a book by its cover, but I do it a fair amount, and if a title is too stuffy or weird or preachy I’ll usually pass over it unless someone has specifically recommended the book to me. In this case my book group recommended How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, and so I gave it a chance.

In memoir form, Ms. Moran has managed to lay out all the juiciest paper topics for a women’s study class near you! Now with more emphasis on porn! I laughed through chapter one and was tempted to buy the audiobook, but then I kept reading and, well, my teacher’s brain just latched onto what seemed to be the first chapter of a dissertation on a multitude of topics that any women’s studies major would delve into. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve laid out the themes for you here.

Chapter 1: masturbation discovery; the need for passion in porn

Chapter 2: public hair, why how we deal with pubic hair is related to porn, why other areas of the body aren’t as sexualized as pubic hair and don’t matter as much to shave. “If we asked men to shave this much they would laugh at us”

Chapter 3: naming your vagina (and porn’s effect on the process) and boobs.

Chapter 4: tasting menstrual blood (yes, really), feminism is about having a vagina and wanting to control said vagina, using the word feminism incorrectly

Chapter 5: underwear and how it oppresses us, love-hate relationship with bras

Chapter 6: fat is not just a descriptor, it is a swear word and a weapon, say it until it loses its power and feels normal; confused about whether she thinks fat is okay or not; enjoying eating/consensual relationship with fat vs. eating problem

Chapter 7: The most tangled issue of all: systemic sexism

Chapter 8: Love as woman’s work; bachelor vs. spinster; being in a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship instead of because it makes you happy; alone in a room with other people

Chapter 9: Strip clubs bad, burlesque good, if gays go wild for it it makes it okay for women (yes she actually makes this point)

Chapter 10: weddings; women care, men don’t. women get “one day all about you” before going back to obscurity, men don’t obsess about having the perfect day, they get treated as special all the time.

Chapter 11: clothes, handbags, and shoes and why women worry more than men about them

Chapter 12: having kids, raising kids (I got really angry with her as I read this chapter. She spends 11 chapters explaining feminism, spends chapter 12 spitting the usual bullshit about having kids)

Chapter 13: Then she makes it up to me with a chapter about why not to have kids and why it isn’t any better or worse than having kids as long as you are doing what is right for you.

Chapter 14: choose role models carefully; just bc rich doesn’t mean inspirational; how we are in a codependent relationship with the media that tears down actual role models (she spends a fair amount of time talking about Lady Gaga here)

I’ll leave the last two chapters for your own discovery because I enjoyed them the most and they are the most difficult subjects for feminists to agree on and come together about.

I have the same complaint about this book as I had about Luvvie Ajayi’s “I’m Judging You” – lack of depth. Moran’s stories are cute and funny and sometimes gross, but we only get glimpses of the deeper issues she is trying to address. It’s like every chapter is a version of yelling SQUIRREL! at a very excitable golden retriever. Masturbation in girls is something we should encourage and celebrate SQUIRREL! women dress for work much differently than men because we are expected to make a statement SQUIRREL! we ask women when they are having kids because we want to know when they are going to go away and do what’s expected of them SQUIRREL! My mind was reeling from feminist issue to feminist woe without any time to either grasp the issues tightly enough or connect with Moran personally.

I would recommend this book as one to be included as required reading for a college course on feminism, women’s issues, education, psychology, or any field dealing with children and relationships. It has the greatest hits of why the patriarchy must be smashed with a small helping of encouragement to keep trying. Because some of this shit is INGRAINED and isn’t going to go away overnight. Chapter 7 spoke to me the loudest, because the dangers of trying to enact feminism in the workplace without alienating oneself or worse, being fired, is a briar patch.

I’m just not sure if I enjoyed this book. I feel like I just got more depressed as I read on, thinking of how a lot of this will never change in my lifetime. Other times I felt thankful that I didn’t feel the societal pulls that most women do (clothes, handbags, shoes, kids, makeup, shaving, etc.) but felt equally separated from my sisters who may struggle with these expectations. When I was done I put the book down and said “what now?” I guess I would recommend it so that it can tear down some of the walls you might have up, expose ways that you might be unwittingly supporting your own oppression, and give you permission to bypass that next pair of uncomfortable heels. You might even catch a belly laugh or two in the process.