October 2013 Book Review

November 28, 2013

October was the month for hits and misses-some books were fabulous and some books were absolutely awful!
Graceling was the book my feminist book club picked out for October and it was fabulous!  It’s the first book of a trilogy and I will definitely read the other two.  I so enjoyed watching the tale unfold that I will actually try not to spoil the story too much for you.  It is the story of Katsa who was born with the grace, which is like a special talent, for killing and fighting.  She meets the prince Po, who become friends and together leave to save his cousin Bitterblue from the clutches of King Leck.  The book is a feminist allegory, which makes it a delight to read, in my opinion.  My book club thought King Randa represents the patriarchy in the way that he controls Katsa in the beginning of the book and I think they’re right, but I also think King Leck could also represent the patriarchy, but I won’t say why, because that would spoil too much of the book.  (Look at that, me being all nice!)  I fell in love with the book on page 79 when Po and Katsa fight together-they are both graced in fighting and so they fight as equals.  I wrote down in my notes that it was, “satisfying and refreshing” and that was how I felt reading the whole book.  It was refreshing to see a relationship between a man and a woman where they viewed each other as equals.  It was refreshing and satisfying for the male to be the one in the sensitive, more emotional role and the female to be more impulsive.  Po, the male, was the one who appreciated beauty.  I thought the book was very effective in teaching feminist lessons to teens, much more effective than probably a scholarly lecture ever would be.  Probably the most effective lesson taught was that every woman should know self-defense and it really would have been appropriate for my book club to have ended the night by looking up a self-defense class.  In fact, as I write that, I realize that that is still not bad idea.  It is a sad fact that we live in an extremely dangerous world and one way to not let the patriarchy have power over us is to feel more confident about our ability to defend ourselves.  I’ve felt a little intimidated about signing up for a self-defense class before but after reading Graceling I realized that that is a very foolish way to live and I just might sign up for the next class that comes along and that, my friends, is how you write an effective feminist book!  Towards the end, the book even brings up the point that one can have a disability and still be a whole person, which is incredibly progressive and lovely.  I cried a little when I finished the book, which was only unfortunate, because I was at Starbucks.

This one was a complete miss!  DO NOT buy it or even borrow it from the library!  My nutritionist recommended that I read some books on the subject of mindful eating and she said that any book that was on a certain website would probably be good.   I picked this book out, because it was available at the library, but apparently that was not a good enough reason.  Mindful eating is a practice that I believe in, but like all practices there are those practitioners who err on all or nothing thinking.  Jan Chozen Bays is one of those people and my nutritionist and I agreed that she seems fanatical and extreme.  The first time I tried to read the book it majorly triggered me and brought out my perfectionist tendencies.  Fortunately, the second time I started to read it I realized that the problem was hers and not mine.  I say that because while in mindful eating a person is supposed to ask themselves how hungry they are before and after they eat, Bays wants a person to ask themselves how hungry they are in seven different ways before they eat!  That is ridiculous!  That is perfectionistic!  And for someone who claims that they are going to have a person rediscover a healthy and joyful relationship with food-what she is suggesting seems awfully obsessive and eating disorder-y and I cannot support that.  I expressed my concerns to my nutritionist and was quite relieved that she agreed with me and even apologized she had somewhat encouraged me to read that book.  There was only one point she made that I liked and that she replaces the stigmatizing term “emotional eating” with “heart hunger” and says that it is okay in moderation-that while we cannot eat enough to fill the hole inside if what we are yearning for is really comfort, love, affection, or touch, but we should take care to listen to our hearts and what it is really hungry for-does it long for a food that reminds you of home?  Then mindfully eat it.  Does it need a hug?  Then hug a friend or stuffed animal.  (By the way, I got most of this from the blog, A Weight Lifted – I still wouldn’t read the book.)
I only very, very cautiously recommend this book.   I found this book also on the mindful eating website and yes, the book is on mindful eating, but it was not the type of book that my nutritionist wanted me to read about, but about being conscious of where your food comes from and whether it was treated/raised ethically or not.  Once I realized that I was a little annoyed, but it was a subject that I was already interested in, so I continued reading.  I found Jane Goodall to be presumptuous and classist and arrogant, which sadly, did not surprise me too much.  It did make me very sad though, because I have always been fascinated by her work with animals.  She made great points and I recommend it, because it really did convince me to change some of my habits.  I only cautiously recommend it though, because the graphic explanations about the violence towards animals could be triggering to people and her classist attitude may be more than some are willing to read.  For instance, she is vegetarian and even though she would repeatedly talk about ethical ways to eat meat, she almost always would follow it up with some form of comment about how it would still be better to be vegetarian.   There were subtle and some not-so-subtle classist digs all over the book.  I nearly threw the book down in disgust when she showed a picture of a nameless fat boy eating a big sandwich over the words similar to, “the obesity crisis is happening to our children.”  The nerve, she didn’t even let the kid keep his own name, but took away his agency and turned him into a symbolic fat child.  I think that is incredibly, incredibly disgusting and dehumanizing behavior.  So yes, read it to learn about where your food comes from and then write a letter to Jane Goodall expressing what was so problematic with her book from a humanistic standpoint. (Please let me be clear-I still enormously admire Jane Goodall, I just think she is out of touch with the common person and especially with the problems of poor people.)

I love good children’s books and am in the process of reading all the books I should have read as a child.  My mom says that I did read the book and that I didn’t like it then, but I don’t remember that at all.  I find it hard to believe, considering that I do remember that I liked the 1988 movie.  I found the book fascinating, especially since the book was written in the 1940s.  Pippi is great!  Okay, so sometimes she seems a little bratty to my adult sensibilities, but overall she’s fabulous.  I love that she has superhuman strength, stands up to bullies, and thinks outside the box.  There’s no princess-girlie crap, but a strong girl descended from pirates who can take care of herself, which makes her appeal to both boys and girls and a strong role model.  Pippi is very sure of herself, which is very nice in this age where I feel like girls are constantly pressured to please everyone else and so do not have the foundations for strong and stable self- images.  I also liked that there were several passages where the children (Pippi spends a lot of time with her two next-door-neighbors) are so full from eating that they lie down, satisfied in being stuffed.  There can hardly be any better measure of perfect childhood than that!  It’s not that we shouldn’t teach our children about mindful eating and listening to our bodies, but I think in our anxious, body-conscious culture we often go too far.  Most little girls are not happy with their bodies.  From the National Eating Disorders Association website, “81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat” and that was way back in 1991-unfortunately, I’m sure it’s gotten worse.  That is why the thin-girlie-princess motif needs to go and the strong girls like Pippi need to come back-and why the fat acceptance movement is so important!  Fat ain’t something to fear, it’s a part of our body and I shouldn’t have had to find that out in an inpatient unit, sick with ED-NOS.   Also, I hope you followed the author's link-it turns out that in her later life, she became an awesome activist speaking out on issues related to economics, ethical treatment of animals, and against corporal punishment for children. Speaking out for others is another lesson that our children should learn.

A Great Picture of Astrid Lindgren

Link Love:
RD Magazine-"Flipping the Script" to Win Gays Back to the Evangelical Church
If God declares that it is not good for the human being to be alone, if God says we should have a partner who fulfils us, then surely condemning gay people to lives of singleness and celibacy opposes divine will. (Amy-Jill Levine)

 What do you have to say to naysayers out there who say things like "Stop being so sensitive!" and "It's just a word!" 
I have no interest in addressing them. My energy is limited—I am raising a kid, I have a job, I write, I have a life. My energy is for moving the conversation forward with whoever I think can help me. The reality—the word is a reflection of how we view "these people." That is true whether someone means that when they use the word or not.This sounds very grand but my goal is to help change the world in favor of people like my son. I cannot be pulled down by people who want to plant their flag on saving a hateful word.
This is a pivotal time in LGBT history, one in which transgender people need our support. The outdated bigotry we see on TV, particularly on some of CBS’ comedies, gets in the way of progress for everyone.

Why does tagging someone as “probably queer” automatically mean that if they’re dating someone of the opposite gender, they’re deceiving themselves or flat-out lying?

I can remember being in Oklahoma amongst a lot of different tribal people when I was in junior college and Thanksgivingwas coming around and I couldn’t come home—it was too far and too expensive—and people were talking about, Thanksgiving, and, yeah, the Indians! And I said, yeah, we’re the Wampanoags. They didn’t know! We’re not even taught what kind of Indians, Hopefully, in the future, at least for Americans, we do need to get a lot brighter about other people.

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