ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.

Thursday

25

February 2021

0

COMMENTS

The Secret Midwife

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Anyone interested in how maternity wards are run and what life for a midwife is like.

In a nutshell:
Secret Midwife ‘Pippa’ shares her time as a midwife, from starting training at age 17 through having to be signed off for stress as cuts to the NHS made staffing more and more scarce.

Worth quoting:
Audio book that I listened to while running, so I didn’t make note of any.

Why I chose it:
I find memoirs (and comedy books) to be best for running, as there isn’t a plot I need to keep track of. I also enjoy books about the medical profession and, despite not having or wanting children of my own, I find books and TV about childbirth and parenting to be kind of fascinating.

Review:
I previously read The Secret Barrister, which I found to be a great introduction to the legal system after I moved to the UK. The concept of these ‘Secret’ books is that by not sharing their names, the authors are able to provide further, more honest insight into their respective professions. One might wonder why a midwife might need to keep her identity hidden – the parents, sure, would need to be anonymized for their privacy, but the midwife?

And then you read the book, and realize it’s because if she were identifiable, she couldn’t speak honestly about the failures of management and the NHS Trust for which she works without fear of retaliation. The more I think about it, the more I get it – pretty much every worker in every field fears for retaliation when they point out the failings of their companies and managers. Why would midwifery be any different?

‘Pippa’ trains as a midwife starting at age 17, becoming fully qualified by age 20. She shares stories of successful births, unsuccessful births, stillbirths, miscarriages (including her own), and angry parents who blame midwives when things do go according to plan. She also shares her own depression and stressed caused by a complete lack of support from management. Midwives are working more with fewer resources – at one point ‘Pippa’ shares that there could be as many as 40 women on the ward with only 6 midwives available! That’s absurd.

The NHS has been receiving loads of praise lately because of their herculean efforts during the pandemic. And that praise is justly deserved – doctors and nurses have been working flat out to save as many lives as possible. But the NHS has been stripped of so much funding as of late, treated less like what it should be – a public institution providing excellent care for everyone – and more like a private business. And anyone who as lived anywhere with a primarily private healthcare system knows that is NOT the model to emulate.

The Secret Midwife is an excellent storyteller, and the person who read the audio book did a great job bringing those stories to life. I’m not sure if this needs to be a listen instead of a read, but I think either option will work.

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N/A (Audio book)

Saturday

20

February 2021

0

COMMENTS

Skin by E. M. Reapy

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Women who have felt unseen – or too seen. Women trying to figure out what they want to do, and looking for ways to do it.

In a nutshell:
Natalie is a former teacher traveling, looking for what is next. She has disordered eating, binging when she is uncomfortable, sad, uncertain. She travels, lives with her family, travels some more, looking for what feels right.

Worth quoting:
“People always hoping that others will complete them, be their other half. It’s dangerous. We’re already whole. Don’t halve yourself for someone.”

“I’ve had my own body shit too. Some people carry their baggage on the inside.”

Why I chose it:
It was part of a subscription box.

Review:
When I read the description I was a bit concerned it might turn into an Eat Pray Love situation, but it doesn’t read that way. Natalie isn’t relying on ‘exotic’ locations to help her find herself; she doesn’t try on local cultures like a costume. She uses the time to try to work on herself.

The book starts in the middle – though not in a time-jumping sort of way. Natalie has already quit her job as a teacher, and is currently in Indonesia. She’s traveling alone, and is spending her evenings in her hotel room, binge eating. She meets folks on occasion, but doesn’t tend to have a lot of fun with them. She’s not a sad person, she’s just a person trying to grow and figure herself out.

I appreciate how the book unfolds – most chapters Natalie is in a new place. One chapter she’s in Australia with her Aunt; another she’s living in Dublin with friends. She spends time living with and taking care of her grandmother. She also starts working at a gym, and while I appreciate that the book doesn’t end (spoiler alert) with her suddenly becoming a star athlete, or married, she grows, learns more about herself. It’s a little two steps forward, one step back, like life often is.

Right from the start, I could relate to Natalie a bit. Me and food haven’t always had the best relationship, although I’ve not been where she is. I have travelled alone, however, and not being the most social, I’ve spent many evenings in a hotel room, alone, eating what I found at a local convenience store, watching local TV or reading a book. Most of my time alone has been spent in Ireland, so I didn’t have language barriers, but it was still hard at times. It was also wonderful – I loved the freedom of figuring out what and where I was going each day, not having to check with anyone on my plans. And I loved having the space to think, daydream, write, plan, without having chores or anything else to do. It was fun, a bit stressful, sometimes hard, sometimes sad, but I know helped me grow. That time was a real gift, and reading this book brought me back to those times, which was pretty great.

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Sunday

14

February 2021

0

COMMENTS

Fast Girls by Elise Hooper

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Anyone interested in how women have had to fight against sexism, misogyny, and racism to do simple things like run really fast.

In a nutshell:
Three women’s stories are told starting in the late 1920s through to the 1936 Berlin Olympic.

Worth quoting:
“Getting a taste of what it felt like to be good at something and then having it taken away still left her feeling crushed when she allowed herself to think about it.”

“Rules could be broken. Judges could be wrong. People did not always do the fair thing. Final results were only as reliable as the system that produced them.”

“It is well documented that women cannot be subjected to the same mental and physical strains that men can withstand … It is important not to overburden this developing young feminine mind with the distractions of sport and competition.”

Why I chose it:
It was a birthday gift from my mother-in-law, who knows I have a strong interests in women in sports and women’s rights overall.

Review:
If you’re mostly interested in reading about the 1936 Berlin Olympics, this is not the book for you, despite the title and cover. It’s definitely in there at the end, but takes up maybe 15% of the whole book. But if you’re interested in reading fictionalized accounts of real women athletes, fighting for their rights to compete and perform and receive anything close to the same treatment as men athletes, this is a good book to pick up.

Author Hooper follows three athletes primarily – Betty, a white woman who wins gold at the inaugural women’s 100 track event at the 1928 Olympics; Helen, a young white outcast who discovers she is an excellent runner while dealing with understanding her sexuality, and Louise, a Black woman who has to deal with both the sexism and racism of the athletic world.

These women, along with nearly every other athlete mentioned, are historic figures, and the major life events they encounter (including a plane crash that Betty survives, and sexual abuse of Helen) are all real. As the author shares at the end, unfortunately Louise is the woman she was able to find the least about in her research, though all are discussed in an afterward that shares how their lives went after the Berlin Olympics.

The author intersperses point of view chapters with letters and newspaper articles and oh MY gosh do you want to get angry? That last quote from up above, about women not being able to handle mental / physical strains, and how they shouldn’t be distracted? Flames on the side of my face. I’ve been an athlete (mostly soccer) since I was about six, and while most of the time I’ve had support and the ability to play when and where I want, the reality is I’ve faced sexism individually (when I played on a co-ed team — not from my teammates, but from opposition) and collectively (I now play in women’s soccer leagues here in England and the refs are shit and both make way too many technical calls like foul throws and then offer no protection from dirty play).

I also appreciate how the author spends time specifically focusing on the ways that Louise, as one of the two Black women who is on the women’s team during the Los Angeles and Berlin Olympics, deals with overt and casual racism all the time, from not being selected for the relay in Los Angeles despite having faster times, to being forced to sleep in lesser accommodations on the way to the Olympics. Betty, Helen, and the other white women athletes are definitely facing a ton of misogyny and sexism, but for Louise and her teammate Tidye, they have racism added on top.

As I mentioned, the book is more about the lives of the women in the eight years leading to the Berlin Olympics, but they do definitely talk about the proposed boycott, and the treatment the Nazis showed to their own athletes and to athletes from other nations. I’d say it’s hard to imagine being willing to compete at those games, but like, people went to the 2014 Olympics in Socchi, where Russia has horrible laws against people who are not straight. As I get older and more informed, the way the Olympics are run makes me less and less interested in supporting them at all (I mean, did you see the comments by the now former head of the Toyko games just, like, this month?), but I do still want to support the individual athletes and teams who work so hard to complete these amazing feats of athleticism.

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Saturday

13

February 2021

0

COMMENTS

Happy Galentine’s Day!

Written by , Posted in Feminism, Random

I didn’t watch Parks and Recreation when it was first on TV, but I’ve now watched the series through a few times (on my fourth viewing right now – thanks to UK Lockdown 3). Leslie Knope is one of my picks when doing one of those ‘which three TV characters describe you’ Twitter queries (Robin Scherbatsky and Monica Geller are the other two. I mean, I’m not wrong, am I?). One of my favorite parts about Leslie Knope is her love of her girlfriends, as demonstrated in her relationship with her best friend Ann Perkins. Obviously Leslie can be overbearing at times, which she eventually works on, but she clearly loves her friends. She’s a thoughtful gift-giver, and regularly celebrates how awesome her friends are.

Hence, Galentine’s Day, celebrated on February 13th every year.

I’ve been lucky to have some wonderful friends over the years. I’ve not been one to have a giant friend group of my own – I do best one on one, or in a very small group. I’ve had lots of great chats of hot chocolate and brunch (though lately those chats have been via WhatsApp and Zoom). This year, I decided to spend some time really thinking about how amazing all my Gals are.

There’s a Gal I’ve known since 1st grade, who spent many summers with me and my family up at Lake Tahoe. We watched Wayne’s World like every day one summer. We went to the local Mexican restaurant and flirted with the bus boys. We had uncountable slumber parties.

In college I didn’t end up becoming besties with my roommate, although she was lovely. But I did build three close friendships that, nearly a quarter of a century later (um, holy shit) are still going strong, despite the fact that for 11 of those years we’ve lived in separate cities. One Gal and I became friends because our boyfriends were old friends and college roommates. Neither of us are with those boys anymore, but we’re still friends. We participated in the Women’s March together and exchange texts about politics. Another Gal and her husband (an honorary Gal – he served as officiant at my wedding) took me in when I moved back to Seattle after graduate school, letting me live with them rent free for six months while I found a job and then saved up for my own place. But before that, in college, we hung out in her apartment, eating pizza and for some reason playing tag in the living room. She is the kind of thoughtful where she’ll buy Girl Scout cookies and send them halfway around the world to me based off an offhand comment about how I was bummed I couldn’t get them here. She is also the best person to take with you shopping, because she’ll definitely convince you to buy whatever you’re considering.

Another Gal called me just a couple of hours after she had her daughter (she was in Seattle, I in NYC), who is basically my niece. This Gal hosted a bridal shower for me, and was willing to throw me a bachelorette party (though I passed) even though that is not her thing. She lets me stay with her when I’m in town, and for the years I was back in Seattle, she and I had a girls night nearly every week. Sometimes it was Friday nights, when I’d join the family for dinner; sometimes it was mid-week, and we’d go grab a bite and then get ice cream or pie. We talk on the phone every week, and even if I’m a little cranky, that regular check-in brightens things. It’s not the same as a weekly meet-up in person, but it’s good enough for now.

When I went to grad school in New York, I met a Gal, and we were so close. We took trips together, hung out every weekend. Many a Saturday began with either me making my way to her place, or her picking me up, and us grabbing bagels and Diet Cokes and heading out on an adventure. She lived in Queens, and I was in Manhattan, yet even after an evening out in Manhattan I’d still get in a cab and end up back at her place on the couch. I spent a Thanksgiving with her family in Pittsburgh and a week with her parents and now-husband in Italy. She and I got sunburned in Puerto Rico, and had adventures in Barcelona.

In London, I lucked out and made friends with two amazing Gals. They are both from the US, so part of our friendship felt like home. We were in the same program so could study together, commiserate together. One is married with a little one, and we helped celebrate those milestones with her. The other is a rockstar at work, which has been awesome to see. She’s also a fantastic cook. Our WhatsApp chat can be quiet for a week or two, then lights up whenever anything big happens in the US or our own lives. I can’t wait to get together with them again when it’s safe to do so.

And then there’s the Gal I met in residence halls in London, who helped me find my job here, who receives and shares many a bitch session of texts, and has come out to see me and Austin during the lockdowns when we could still meet up with other households. And honorary Gal, who directs me to the best TV and movies. Personally I think he just sticks around because he knows I don’t always finish my lunch, which means he gets the leftovers. Our group text with Austin involves sharing absurd Tweets, knocking our respective governments, and live texting new episodes of Grand Designs. They helped me celebrate my 40th with a virtual tea.

One Gal is the wife of a dear friend, who originally thought I was his intern (we were coworkers at the time; I chose to believe it was down to my youthful good looks and not my immaturity). She’s so fun to text with, and run with! She helped me train for my first half marathon, and helped me get into my love of running, which has been so critical for my mental health. For a couple of years I was also basically the third wheel on Friday nights with her and her husband. Honestly, it’s so fun being good friends with both partners, and when I was single it was really nice to not need a date to hang out with a couple.

Another Gal and I met through our partners, and she had a spare ticket and invited me to see the musical Mama Mia (touring show, not the Meryl Streep movie), where we got to know each other better. Since then, we’ve become good friends, and we go on adventures with our partners. There was the World Cup in Vancouver in 2015, a couple of trips to New Orleans and a couple of trips to Vegas, then two summers ago we spent a load of time together traveling to the World Cup in France. They stayed with us in London, we had fun, and she was so thoughtful when I had the cough that never ended, stopping into a tiny French chemist to try to find something to help. Now she’s in Ireland, and I’m so excited for a trip to visit her.

Two Gals are married to each other, and used to be our regular double date to watch the Reign play in Seattle. I worked with one, and she made the workday so much better. We were lucky enough to also spend time with them in France for the World Cup, and I treasure those memories, especially as its unclear when we’ll get together again.

And another Gal – she is married to someone Austin went to college with. We text every few days, and even manage to talk on the phone on occasion. When we first moved out here, my partner flew her out to visit so I would have a familiar face to spend some time with, which was amazing. She keeps me honest to my values, and is a good sounding board for when I’m not entirely sure the best course of action on some things.

There are other Gals who have been in my life in the past, but for whatever reason are no longer around. We may have lost touch, or just moved in different directions. But I feel lucky for having known them, as they were amazing friends while we were in touch. And obviously this isn’t an exhaustive accounting of all the awesome women I’ve known, who have made a difference, and continue to make a difference in my life.

This Galentine’s Day, take a moment to reach out to your girlfriends and let them know how much they mean to you.

Saturday

6

February 2021

0

COMMENTS

Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for:
All the people, but I think white men really need to read and sit with this one.

In a nutshell:
Author Oluo explores the ways in which the elevation of the mediocrity of white men harms everyone (including white men).

Worth quoting:
“What I’m saying is that white male mediocrity is a baseline, the dominant narrative, and that everything in our society is centered around preserving white male power regardless of white male skill or talent.”

“How can white men be our born leaders and at the same time so fragile that they cannot handle social progress?”

“Perhaps one of the most brutal of white male privileges is the opportunity to live long enough to regret the carnage you have brought upon others.”

(That’s just a small sample of what I furiously underlined in the first 30 pages of the book. It’s SO GOOD.)

Why I chose it:
Ijemoa Oluo is an excellent writer. I loved her first book, and knew I needed to read this one. Due to living in the UK and different release dates (and our impatience and attempt to secure a copy from the US) we now have two copies – one for me and one for my partner.

Review:
Author Oluo is a brilliant writer. She takes on topics and explores them in ways that others may not have before. She makes connections and provides context, research, and new information to every topic she takes on. When I heard she had a new book coming out, and on such an evergreen and yet extremely relevant topic, I was excited, because I knew I’d learn something.

The book has seven chapters exploring connections between everything from the white invasion of what is now the western US to American football. I found myself wanting to share so much with my partner as I read.

For example, just in the first chapter Oluo connects Buffalo Bill to the Cliven Bundy incident in the Pacific Northwest. I was like 25 pages in and found myself saying out loud ‘oh my gosh, of course, but holy shit.’ Actually I think that could be my refrain throughout large chunks of this book – nothing is necessarily brand new, especially to people who have either taken an interest in social justice issues or have lived experiences in these areas, but the connections are on another level.

I think many of us realize how white male power constantly and consistently makes the world a worse place. The assumption that white male is ‘normal’ or ‘neutral,’ and everyone else is a deviation from that norm, a special interest, is literally killing people. White men are given repeated opportunities that women and people of color have to fight for and seldom get. And at the same time, when white men don’t reach the levels of power and supremacy they’ve been promised, they lose their shit, punishing the rest of us along the way.

I could go on, but anything I would say is said better by Oluo in this book. Just trust me and pick up a copy.

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Keep it

Saturday

23

January 2021

0

COMMENTS

Break the Glass by Rachel Edwards

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Five Stars

Best for:
Anyone needing a reminder that it is okay to ask for help.

In a nutshell:
Author Edwards shares her experiences with mental health needs in straightforward but lovely writing.

Worth quoting:
“If you talk and share your thoughts and feelings, you are less, not more, likely to crumble.”

Why I chose it:
This was published specifically for this month’s “Books That Matter” subscription box.

Review:
This essay is so needed in this moment. Author Edwards starts sharing what she recalls as her first experience with mental health concerns – what she describes as her father’s nervous breakdown. She then shares that during her last year at university, she had a rough go for a bit, though she didn’t seek professional assistance from the university at the time, instead relying on close friends for support. The essay ends with a call to seek support when needed, and the benefits of allowing one’s self to be vulnerable and honest with close friends and family.

While I know it wasn’t the main purpose, given the author’s story I couldn’t help read this without thinking specifically about other university students this year. I work at one in London, and I know that students across the UK are having an especially a rough year. They haven’t had the in-person courses they and administrators thought might be possible earlier in the fall. Regional lock downs saw some students stuck inside tiny residence hall rooms for weeks at a time, with no real support system if they were new this fall. Everyone is having a hard time right now, and in unique ways. Parents are working and doing home school; essential workers are managing the stress of commutes and exposures; those who live alone are dealing with isolation.

I’m going to hold onto this essay, and re-read it. I don’t generally have problems opening up when I’m having a hard time, but who knows, that might change. But also, people around me may be having a hard time, and I want to make sure they know I am someone they can be open with, and who can offer them support.

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Keep it.

Saturday

16

January 2021

0

COMMENTS

All This Life by Joshua Mohr

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
People interested in exploring how technology affects relationships.

In a nutshell:
Four different stories involving eight different people intertwine against the backdrop of an event that makes national news.

Worth quoting:
“All that matters in content. New content. More content.”

Why I chose it:
Gift from a friend.

Review:
CN: Suicide; Non-consensual distribution of sexual images

A young teen boy films a marching band on the Golden Gate bridge, the members of which end up jumping to their deaths. He then posts the video to YouTube. An 18-year-old finds that her boyfriend has posted a video of them having sex to a porn site. A boy turns 18 but still can’t speak more than a few words, after an accident. A man learns of his sister’s death and feels responsible. A mother leaves her son after an accident, and tries to stay sober. A teen runs away.

This book explores relationships, and what happens when things go ‘viral,’ though it isn’t framed exactly as such. What happens to the person who has a sex tape posted against her wishes, without her knowledge, and everyone she knows sees it? What happens what a young teen films a mass suicide and then chooses to post it online, racking up views and comments? How does the decision to come up with pithy names for incidents and individuals impact the victims of the events?

I like how Mohr weaves these stories together, though there are a couple of parts that don’t entirely make sense. It’s not enough to spoil the book or anything, just a bit out of nowhere. I also perhaps am too far removed from being a teen (and I certainly wasn’t a teen with social media), but the inner monologues Mohr assigns to the 14-year-old who posts the suicide video online seems a bit what an adult imagines a kid would think, as opposed to what kids are actually thinking, if that makes sense. I mean, obviously a grown man isn’t going to know what’s in the head of a teen boy with the internet at hand, but still, the decisions here don’t exactly ring true to me.

Then again, a bunch of grown adult white supremacists were recently convinced by a failed real estate mogul / reality star and a dude who sells pillows to stage a coup, so perhaps I think too highly of what goes on in most people’s minds.

I don’t think I’d go as far as to recommend this book, but if one were to receive it as a gift, or come across it at a library, I think it’s a decent read.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Donate it.

Saturday

9

January 2021

0

COMMENTS

Post-Growth Living by Kate Soper

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Three Stars

Best for:
Philosophy students and lecturers

In a nutshell:
Soper’s project is exploring how people can rethink their idea of the good life to fit in with the reality of our current consumer culture’s negative impact on our own lives and the environment.

Worth quoting:
“However critical they may be of capitalism in other respects, socialists are still much too ready to subscribe to conventional views on the ‘good life’ and what constitutes a ‘high’ standard of living.”

Why I chose it:
A podcast I listen to described it in the liner notes. As someone who enjoys a good philosophy book, and someone who has some fairly conventional ideas of what the good life is (especially where travel is concerned), I was intrigued.

(I’m not huge on interviews, so I didn’t actually listen to the podcast interview with the author, which may have been a mistake.)

Review:
Did you ever see the movie “In Time”? I remember reading the premise for it and I was so excited. It’s a sci-fi thriller, and the main concept is that people are allocated a certain amount of time to live, and then they work to earn more. Time is currency, so you lose time off your life when you buy groceries or pay rent or whatever. It seemed like such an interesting concept, and one that could be done really well. But the movie itself was … not great. Lots of missed opportunities, unnecessary parts. Not horrible, and still making some interesting points, but overall a let down.

I kept thinking of that movie when I reading this book.

It took me about ten days to get through the first chapter. It is (at least, I hope) more of an academically-focused book, and while I’ve read a few in my time, this one was a challenge to get into. After that first chapter, the rest was definitely easier to read, but still unnecessarily complicated.

But what bothered me the most, and what I found to be a missed opportunity, is that I don’t think Soper ever actually defined her concept of Alternative Hedonism. What does it entail? What are the main components? What could fit into her definition? She spends the book talking about different areas of life that need a review – work, overall consumption, the idea of what prosperity is – with a lot of focus on the impact of all this living on the environment to the detriment of our futures. But there isn’t anywhere I could find that laid out how she defined what she was arguing for. I’d think that would belong in the Introduction, but if it was there, I didn’t see it. So it makes for a challenging read, trying to figure out what argument the author is trying to make.

There are definitely important and interesting points the author is aiming to make, I just don’t think they are successful if the audience is anyone who isn’t a Philosophy professor, or someone who is deeply steeped into this style of writing.

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Thursday

7

January 2021

0

COMMENTS

Attempted Coup

Written by , Posted in Politics

So, that happened, eh?

I turned on the TV yesterday afternoon to see a bunch of pathetic men and women (MAGAs) storming the US Capitol Building, because they had a sad that they lost an election. Inside, a bunch of elected pathetic men and women (e.g. Republicans) were giving speeches about non-existent election fraud.

The MAGAs decided they were going to come inside, and the Republicans suddenly started clutching their pearls, acting shocked – SHOCKED – that exactly what they’d been encouraging the MAGAs to do actually happened.

And the MAGAs didn’t have to do much to get inside, because the Capitol Police appeared to just let them in.

So much about what happened yesterday is infuriating. The current president – who should definitely be impeached and immediately removed from office – encouraged the MAGAs in their march, and then released a video declaring his love for them. Meanwhile, the Republicans read their lies into the Congressional record during the certification process.

The entitlement of the MAGAs isn’t surprising, because we’ve seen how the police often act when faced with white people vs Black people and those supporting them. You’ve probably seen the photo of the Black woman with a flower being charged by police in full riot gear. Meanwhile, at the US Capitol last night, even though they’ve known for weeks that this riot was heading their way, they seemed to just let them in. And once the MAGAs were inside, they appeared to be allowed to run around like kids in a toy store. Destroying offices. Possibly accessing sensitive information. Disrespecting everything about our electoral system.

And then, once the MAGAs decided they were done, the Capitol Police just escorted them out. Fifty two arrests. The rest just got to go back to the Holiday Inn and exchange ‘war stories’ about the time they stormed the Capitol.

(But is it really storming when the people meant to keep you out welcome you, taking selfies?)

We should all be livid. We should be livid that the MAGAs hold these views, and that the Republicans encourage them. We should be livid at Mitch McConnell and Mike Pence. I see people praising them for “doing the right thing.” That is not okay. The bar is so low it’s being melted by the heat of the Earth’s core. If Mike Pence really had a problem with Trump, he could have resigned after the election. Shoot, he should never have signed on. Him remaining in his role is an acceptance of every single one of Trump’s actions, from putting children in cages to inciting an insurrection.

And McConnell? He’s always been horrible. Remember how he treated President Obama? McConnell is an asshole who is 100% concerned with power. That is it. He’s Trump, but smart. He doesn’t get to distance himself now. Just because he did the right thing when he’d tried all other options first doesn’t make him worthy of praise. For the next six years, he needs to be ignored, and when he isn’t being ignored, he needs to be shamed for his actions.

I disagree with President-Elect Biden when he says ‘This isn’t who we are.’ It is who at least 75 million are, and probably more. It’s a huge problem, and pretending it is a small group of people, or that this is anything new, isn’t helping.

Saturday

2

January 2021

0

COMMENTS

Amal unbound by Aisha Saeed

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Four Stars

Best for:
Young readers (8 or 9 and up); adults who want to know what their nieces and nephews are reading.

In a nutshell:
Amal, a young girl living in Pakistan, talks back to the wrong man and is forced to go work in his home as a maid to his mother.

Worth quoting:
“Until now, I didn’t realize how memories clumped together. Remembering one unlocked another and then another until you were drowning in a tidal wave threatening to sweep you away.”

Why I chose it:
My niece gave it to me as part of her family’s Christmas gift (she and her mother each picked a book they’d read this year that they loved).

Review:
Obviously I’m not the target audience for this book, but I definitely found it engaging. Amal is such an interesting character, one who I think many girls could identify with even if they wouldn’t find themselves in her particular circumstances. She loves school and wants to learn. She’s a big sister, and helps with her family. She also craves independence.

I appreciate how some of this book focuses on Amal’s lack of control and agency in her situation, but then finds ways for her to take back that control and agency. It also shows adults as complex people – there is obviously a villain, but there are other adults who are trying to help, and adults who actually DO help. Author Saeed writes parents who desperately care for their children but aren’t able to do anything to change Amal’s circumstances in that moment, showing the reader that just because a parent isn’t able to fix something doesn’t mean they don’t care or that they aren’t trying.

Amal also shows a lot of courage in the face of really challenging situations, serving as an example to kids that even if it might be easier to remain quiet, it is important to speak up and possibly help others. And that we are often faced with choices we don’t like, and sometimes we just must pick the best one in that moment, and sometimes we have to find an option that wasn’t originally there.

When researching for this review, I learned that Saeed is one of the founders of We Need Diverse Books (https://diversebooks.org/), so that’s awesome too.

Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Donate it – I want other young readers to have access to it.