Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

I’m Afraid of Men [review]

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I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya
Published by Penguin Books Canada on August 28, 2018
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.28 (as of 2021-05-31)
Spoiler-free review

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In I’m Afraid of Men, Vivek Shraya reflects on her experiences from being “sensitive” and feminine boy who learns to perform masculinity through her adulthood as a transgender woman. She explores how her relationships to and perceptions of men have changed with a bluntness that is educational to those who may not have experienced the intersection of misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia that she has faced. This is an incredibly compelling set of essays that force one to examine how they may be complicit in the ongoing oppression of others.

She describes how carefully her life must be navigated, how she often goes out in public dressed as a man to avoid violence, how she will remove her makeup before leaving a show she’s performed at, how her boyfriend sometimes accompanies her as a bodyguard of sorts. She reflects on how this anxiety, this terror, has weathered her body and her mind:

My fear of men… both protects my body… and erodes it… I have been stricken with numerous freak pains… that practitioners are unable to explain or cure. When they suspiciously ask me, ‘Are you sure nothing happened? You didn’t fall somewhere?’ I want to respond, ‘I live in fear.’

As she reflects on her experiences with men, she notes the women in the background. The girlfriend of the classmate who spit on her, who giggled instead of stopping him. A friend at a bar who told her she should be flattered when she was repeatedly groped. Cisgender women who dismiss her stories of transmisogyny, assuming the oppression they face is the same that she faces. Women with internalized misogyny who continue to tear down other women. As she recounts them, she adds “I’m also afraid of women.”

Shraya’s essays provide unique insight into how boys are socialized and how expectations of masculinity can be damaging, both to boys and men and the people they interact with. She also shares how dangerous life can be for men who do not adhere to our expectations for masculinity as well as for transgender women. This was a short, informative read that I highly recommend. I would love to see a full memoir from Shraya someday and will keep my eye out for more of her writing.


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This Common Secret [review]

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This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor by Susan Wicklund
Published by PublicAffairs on December 7, 2007
my rating: ★★★ ★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.28 (as of 2020-04-07)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


“I know exactly what kind of work you do, and it is a good thing. People like you do it safely so that people like me don’t murder their best friends.”

This is an incredibly powerful book that quickly puts to rest the most common misconceptions about abortions. If you believe that life begins at conception and therefore abortion at any stage is murder, this isn’t going to change your mind but then again, nothing is. If you hold any other reservations about abortion regarding the process and its outcomes, I think this would be an interesting read for you. Even as a staunch pro-choice advocate, I learned a lot reading this.

But this is not just about abortion, this is also Dr. Wicklund’s memoir and her experiences with anti-abortion activists are truly harrowing. I did not realize the full extent of harassment and danger that abortion providers face; Dr. Wicklund is stalked, threatened, barricaded in her driveway, and even had her home broken into. She somehow still manages to go in day after day to help her patients. Her philosophy and practice comforted me a lot: she ensures that every patient is positive they want an abortion before she’ll perform one, and she always covers the alternatives available. This should be the case with any elective procedure, but particularly abortion.

My only qualms were that some conversations just didn’t feel real. Perhaps some stories were amalgamations of other stories, but at times they just felt scripted. I guess when you have the same conversations day in and day out, that can be the case though. It’s not that I felt they weren’t real, just a little too polished. But this was really a minor complaint and I’m really glad I finally got around to reading this and would recommend it to pretty much everyone.


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Surviving the White Gaze [review]

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Surviving the White Gaze by Rebecca Carroll
Published by Simon Schuster on February 2, 2021
my rating: ★★★ ★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.02 (as of 2020-04-06)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


Rebecca Carroll is a very impressive writer and I found her memoir difficult to put down. As a white person from rural New Hampshire, the complete lack of diversity and the perpetual casual racism became very visible to me once I had moved to more urban areas and began to learn about race. Carroll, the only Black person in her town, didn’t have that luxury. She’s raised by two white adoptive parents and in late childhood meets her white birth mother; she doesn’t meet her Black father until well into adulthood. Her familial relationships are charged and her journey to form her identity is long and eventful. Overall, I found this incredibly powerful and compelling; my only complaint is that it feels a bit jumbled in certain areas and the timeline isn’t always clear. I think this is a really important read, particularly for those from primarily white areas and/or parents who have or plan to adopt a child of another race.


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A Lab of One’s Own [review]

A Lab of One’s Own by Rita Colwell, PhD and Sharon Bertsch McGrayne
To be published by Simon & Schuster on August 4, 2020
my rating: DNF
Goodreads avg: 
3.75 (as of 2020-08-04)
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

Spoiler-free Review

Goodreads | Bookshop | Author’s Website


i really struggled with the writing in this. i don’t think it was particularly bad, but really felt like it was rushing through things. while the timeline was somewhat linear, following Colwell’s career, it also branched off haphazardly to describe other scientists and events. this might mesh better with someone more strongly interested in the history of the field and who is more familiar with the names mentioned. it also honestly felt more like a summary of Colwell’s resume than anything else, like she was trying to go down a list rather than provide an actual narrative. while easy enough to read, i just didn’t really find it engrossing at all.


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How to Be an Antiracist [review]

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Published by One World on August 13, 2019
my rating: ★★★.5
Goodreads avg:
4.55 (as of 2020-06-27)
Spoiler-free review

Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America—but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.

In this book, Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website


The problem of race has always been at its core the problem of power, not the problem of immorality or ignorance.

This book is part memoir, part instruction manual for how to be antiracist, as the title states. The personalized pieces of Kendi’s life help to provide context for the concepts he shares and demonstrates how racism functions in the lived world.

As a White person, there was a lot for me to learn here. While I was familiar with some of the concepts and histories, others were new to me. The experiences Kendi had as well as his internal struggle as a Black man were obviously things I could not relate to and were often things I was not aware of. It was helpful to have this all shown to me so I could better understand what Black people in the US have been dealing with for years.

My only complaint was that it could get pretty repetitive at times. I understand repetition can be helpful in learning new ideas, but it felt more like filler in some parts. I think shortening it a bit, or expanding more on his personal experiences, could have made it a more engaging read and more accessible for some folks. I did also disagree with his assertion that Black people can be racist against White people, but also acknowledge it’s not really my place to speak. I still definitely recommend this and am quite excited to pick up Stamped from the Beginning sometime soon.

I am a White woman and my review is written through that lens. If you are an ownvoices reviewer who would like your review linked here, please let me know!


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Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

The End of Policing [review]

The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
Published by Verso on October 10, 2017
my rating: ★★★★
Goodreads avg:
4.25 (as of 2020-06-14)
Spoiler-free review

Goodreads IndieBound | Author’s Website


PSA: The ebook version of this is currently FREE on the publisher’s website and can be delivered in multiple formats!

A kinder, gentler, and more diverse war on the poor is still a war on the poor.

this is a really great primer on criticisms of the police as well as alternatives. the book has 10 parts and covers topics such as the school-to-prison pipeline, race, homelessness, sex work, and the war on drugs. it was really helpful to see such a breadth of topics laid out, as it is clear that the current policing system fails many people within our society and in a plethora of ways. it’s certainly more of an introduction and i was left wanting further information, but i think in that way the book accomplishes what it’s set out to do. i definitely recommend it to those who are interested in the current discussion of police reform/abolition and are not sure where to start.


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Mini-Review Compilation #22

Gone at Midnight

disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own.

I kept trying to push myself to pick this up, but just couldn’t press any further. The writing leaves a lot to be desired; I didn’t feel engaged with the content at any point. It really felt like the author was just regurgitating info they found online, and jumping from topic to topic without much of an idea of where they’re going.

There were several points at which I had to wonder how much independent research they had really done. One of these involved a quote from Elisa’s tumblr, where some thought she could have been commenting on graffiti from the roof. But I recognized it right away — it’s literally a quote from the Game of Thrones books. Could she have just been reading asoiaf? Yes! There’s no way for me to know whether the author knew this but either they intentionally left it out to make it look like Elisa had written it herself or they didn’t do the bare minimum of research it would take to realize this was a popular quote from a popular book series.

Regardless, I just didn’t feel like putting time in energy into reading a book I wasn’t at all enjoying.

Rating: DNF @ 15%

Face Off

pros:
-quick read
-mostly fun

cons:
-biphobic mc; assumed another wlw must be a lesbian and later said that she thought her ex (who she had dated for YEARS) who left her for a man was just a straight woman looking to experiment with “a dyke”
-the premise itself didn’t make that much sense to me (two people obviously into each other decide to fake date instead of just… dating)
-using an abusive stalker ex for drama
-mc has a homophobic teammate for ?? no reason, just more drama i guess even tho nothing comes of it
-editing issues (inconsistent timelines, mixed up names, etc)

Rating: ⭐️⭐️.5

The Outsider

This was a really great read, especially after I struggled so much with Mr. Mercedes. We run into just a couple of the same issues — namely, King’s obsession with Holly taking Lexapro (yes, Holly makes an appearance!). It was kind of funny to see Holly saying she absolutely could NOT drink because of her Lexapro when just about everyone I know who is on it drinks to no ill effect. Regardless, I thought this was a pretty clever way of doing the shapeshifter trope. As I began it, I thought “wait, how is he going to do this in a creative way?” but he really pulled it off. This was quite the spooky read and I had to put it down a few times while reading it alone at night. My only real complaint is that things kind of fell apart in the finale and I felt dissatisfied at the ending. Regardless, I highly recommend this but do be forewarned that there are major spoilers for the Bill Hodges trilogy. While it is not necessary to read the trilogy before this, do NOT read this first if you do plan to read the trilogy.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


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