Waiting on Wednesday: Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: 16 Writers on their Decision Not to Have Kids

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: 16 Writers on their Decision Not to Have Kids, edited by Meghan Daum

Expected Release Date: March 31, 2015

One of the main topics of cultural conversation during the last decade was the supposed “fertility crisis,” and whether modern women could figure out a way to way to have it all—a successful, demanding career and the required 2.3 children—before their biological clock stopped ticking. Now, however, conversation has turned to whether it’s necessary to have it all (see Anne-Marie Slaughter) or, perhaps more controversial, whether children are really a requirement for a fulfilling life. The idea that some women and men prefer not to have children is often met with sharp criticism and incredulity by the public and mainstream media.

In this provocative and controversial collection of essays, curated by writer Meghan Daum, sixteen acclaimed writers explain why they have chosen to eschew parenthood. Contributors include Lionel Shriver, Sigrid Nunez, Kate Christiensen, Elliott Holt, Geoff Dyer, and Tim Kreider, among others, who will give a unique perspective on the overwhelming cultural pressure of parenthood.

Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed makes a thoughtful and passionate case for why parenthood is not the only path in life, taking our parent-centric, kid-fixated, baby-bump-patrolling culture to task in the process. What emerges is a more nuanced, diverse view of what it means to live a full, satisfying life.

(summary via Goodreads)

This is definitely a case where a nonfiction book hits me right in my niche-bone (that’s a thing, right?).  I’m not exactly quiet about the fact that I don’t want children, and so getting to read other perspectives on choosing not to procreate is something I genuinely enjoy.  This book looks feminist, incisive, smart, and totally up my alley.  I can’t wait.

What are you waiting on this week?

February 2015 Recap

I was pretty productive, pop culture wise, in the year’s shortest month.  Here’s what I got up to:

Reading:

Best Book of the Month: Girl Before a Mirror by Liza Palmer

Books Read: 19
Adult: 10
MG: 0
YA:  8
Children’s: 0
Fiction: 14
Non-fiction/Memoir: 4
Graphic Novel: 0
# of Pages Read: 4223

Thoughts on February’s Reading:

  • Much of this month’s success is due to reading a bunch of SVH.  I fell off slightly this month in terms of outside reading, but it’s still pretty good considering the slide I fell into late last year.
  • I’m still firmly entrenched in the adult fiction world, which means less YA than usual, though I expect that to pick back up as more titles I’m excited about are released this year.

Watching:

TV:

  • J. and I finished Friends and have fallen into a TV slump as a result.  We’ve both been watching our own stuff on our own and very little together.
  • I watched the entire first season of You’re the Worst (kind of love it) and also re-watched the entire Sex & the City series (haters to the left).
  • We’re still watching The Walking Dead every week, and I keep up with The Fosters, Switched at Birth, Hindsight, Broad City, and Empire on a weekly basis, too.  Everything else languishes on the DVR.

Movies:

amiraBest Movie(s) of the Month: Amira & Sam

Movies Watched: 14
New: 11
Re-Watch: 3
Theater Trips: 1

  • Just one theater trip this past month to see the mess that was Jupiter Ascending.
  • Much of what I watched was in preparation for the disappointing Oscars, and most of those movies were pretty underwhelming, but I mostly liked The Theory of Everything and Boyhood was ok.
  • I loved, loved Beyond the Lights.

Goals for March:

  • I’m hoping for 2-5 non-fiction books read, as well as 10 fiction books knocked out.
  • Another 10 movies down would be excellent, too.
  • These goals are generally the same, month-to-month.

My Weekend in Pop Culture

These are the pop culture items I consumed this weekend.

lockeLocke: J. and I watched this quiet, smart little movie and both generally liked it.  It’s remarkable in many ways, not least of all because Tom Hardy is the only person onscreen the entire time.  The movie takes place in real-time in Hardy’s car, and it features the voice work of a lot of other people, but you never see them.  It’s intense and interesting and I’m glad I saw it.

Sex & the City: I’ve been mainlining episodes of Sex & the City because sexcityI’m in a pretty large pop culture rut, and it’s been the perfect bit of escapism during the cold weather.  I finished it last night and sort of feel adrift once again, looking for another piece of pop culture comfort food to consume.  The show wasn’t always great, but it was fun to revisit it with a slightly different (read: even more feminist) lens.

What pop culture did you consume this weekend?

What I’m Reading and Thinking About This Week

These are the things I read this week that got me thinking.  Pretty straightforward, yeah?

Movie Yelling with Shrill and Mallory: Jupiter Ascending (The Toast)

The article is basically just a transcription of what (I assume) is a Gchat between Mallory Ortberg and her friend (who’s known as Shrill on Twitter and writes under the pen name Ezekiel Kweku for The Toast) about the movie Jupiter Ascending, which they saw together.  It’s long and hilarious, and they pose many of the same questions and concerns about the movie as I did when I saw it a few weeks ago.

Mallory: okay so like
speaking of nonsensical
I feel like we have to talk about the society/economy that apparently exists in this movie
because there are roughly four UNIVERSAL PHARAOHS
who are each flanked by lizard-dragons who wear leather jackets (WHY WOULD YOU WEAR LEATHER JACKETS IF YOU ALREADY HAD SCALES)
a handful of robot slaves
and planets of cattle people (us)
WHERE IS THE MIDDLE CLASS

The article is full of gems and works whether you’ve seen the movie or not (but it’s better if you have, and you should because it is so DUMB):

Shrill: there was more sexual tension between Channing Tatum and his metal-working machinery in the trailer for Magic Mike XXL
than the entirety of his relationship with Mila Kunis
Mallory: HERE IS A LIST OF THE PAIRINGS THAT HAD MORE SEXUAL CHEMISTRY THAN CHANNING AND MILA
IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
Shrill: even his PHYSIQUE was muted, he took off his shirt and it was “yawn” instead of “I feel simultaneously inadequate and quite possibly not entirely straight”
Mallory: Sean Bean/Channing Tatum
Any of the sexy evil alien wizards with each other (any configuration)
Mallory: The weird robot on Bureacracy Planet and his clone

It’s really great and made me laugh a lot, which was needed this week (February is rough, man).

Is Rudy Giuliani for Real? (Dame Magazine)

There are few people who are alive or dead on this earth that I hate as much as I hate Rudy Giuliani.  I’ve felt this way for a long time, but he keeps making it worse every time he opens his garbage chute of a mouth, spilling more vitriol and racism with every breath.  This article over at Dame Magazine takes a look at Giuliani’s upbringing and past to help shed light on what makes him such a garbage monster of a person:

Despite claims about his desperation or his race to bottom, this is a window into Rudy’s entire career. Giuliani has always been bitter, resentful, mean, and openly racist. His love of the 1950s, racism and sexism and all; his efforts to bring Jim Crow policing to streets of NYC; his red-baiting have been longstanding. But the man himself is not the main point. It would be a huge mistake to individualize this dynamic by focusing on one person, and let a whole lot of people and institutions off the hook while denying the bigger picture and the real dynamics at play.

This is Republican propaganda—the party line—based on their strategy of opposing whatever President Obama says or does, no matter what. This is White male rhetoric, from Tillman to Giuliani.

It’s important to note that even though I joke about how much I hate Giuliani and what a monster garbage person he is, he’s also indicative of a larger trend related to white supremacy and one that I’m terrified about.

To Rudy and his pals, American exceptionalism is not only a truth, but one resulting from the contributions of White men. In their constricted vision of the America they profess to love, there is no room for diversity, varied opinions, compassion or empathy for others. Their love is not for America but White America because, in their mind, exceptionalism is truly White male exceptionalism.

Definitely a disturbing and worthy read this week.

Ask Polly: How Do I Stop Being So Obsessed with My Boyfriend? (NY Mag)

It’s no secret that I love Heather Havrilesky and think that her Ask Polly column is one of the best things on the internet, hands down.  This week’s question is interesting, but Polly’s response is one  for the books.  It’s applicable to pretty much everyone:

DO NOT SETTLE FOR SAD. DO NOT SETTLE FOR A SOGGY LIFE. Keep trying. Make adjustments. Keep doing new things. You will find who you are. Stop looking at him and stop looking in the mirror.

She offers practical and applicable advice about how to make changes and to work on being happy and full and amazing:

I kept writing, to survive, and then one day I woke up and I thought like a merciless visionary, I thought like a conquistador, I thought like Wonder Woman with brass knuckles. Not every single day, of course, and not everyone loves me, no way. But I am my own rickety-ass invention, and every day I try to find my swagger all over again. I know how to find it most days. I don’t always look inward to find myself. Sometimes I just put on Vince Staples’s “Blue Suede.” Sometimes I just drink an extra cup of tea and do a dance and think about how good it is to stand tall, to be a monster instead of a dull girl, to not have to ask or apologize just for existing anymore.

So, so good.  Read it.

What did you read this week that got you thinking?

Book Review: Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

Quincy and Biddy have just graduated from their high school’s special ed program and are forced out into the unforgiving adult world.  Completely different and at odds with each other, Quincy faces her challenges ready to fight while Biddy is much more timid about everything.  They’re placed together as roommates and have to learn how to fend for themselves.  As the girls navigate their first year of independent living, they learn that they might not be as different as they originally thought.

Gail Giles’s Girls Like Us is remarkable in many ways, not least of all because of the treatment of her two main characters.  The vividly imagined Biddy and Quincy are both authentic, flawed, realistic teens being ushered into adulthood whether they’re ready or not, and they face a unique set of challenges.  Balancing some serious, truly terrible stuff with moments of humor and heart, Giles manages to craft a novel that is chock-full of genuine relationships, learning experiences, and truly memorable characters.

Told in very short chapters and alternating the narration between Biddy and Quincy, Giles takes a risk by allowing both characters to speak in specific, deliberate speech patterns that help readers not only understand the characters thought patterns but also how other people might view the girls.  Though it could veer off into sensationalized dialect, Giles keeps it true to the characters, and it never feels exploitative.  Both girls have genuinely funny observations about the world around them, and it helps readers build connections to both, even though they each have their own version of armor surrounding them.

The book deals with sexual and familial violence in very real, unflinching ways.  Giles isn’t afraid to let her characters or her readers grapple with the ugliest aspects of humans, and these issues are dealt with successfully overall.  The book’s only misstep is a brief foray into what happened to the daughter Biddy gave birth to, but this doesn’t derail the rest of the novel.  Overall a very strong piece of fiction that should have enormous appeal to readers across the board.  Recommended.

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles. Candlewick Press: 2014. Library copy.

Waiting on Wednesday: Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.  Its purpose is to spotlight eagerly-anticipated upcoming releases.

This week I’m eagerly awaiting:

Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles

Expected Release Date: March 10, 2015

Thanks to a bully in gym class, unpopular Nate suffers a broken finger—the middle one, splinted to flip off the world. It won’t be the last time a middle finger is raised on this day. Dreamer Claire envisions herself sitting in an artsy café, filling a journal, but fate has other plans. One cheerleader dates a closeted basketball star; another questions just how, as a “big girl,” she fits in. A group of boys scam drivers for beer money without remorse—or so it seems. Over the course of a single day, these voices and others speak loud and clear about the complex dance that is life in a small town. They resonate in a gritty and unflinching portrayal of a day like any other, with ordinary traumas, heartbreak, and revenge. But on any given day, the line where presentation and perception meet is a tenuous one, so hard to discern. Unless, of course, one looks a little closer—and reads between the lines.

(summary via Goodreads)

Jo Knowles is one of my favorite writers, so there’s no wonder that this book makes my must-read list.  It’s also  being put out by Candlewick, which is one of the publishers doing some of the most boundary-pushing, interesting stuff with YA.  So it’s definitely on my list for those reasons alone.

But it also looks like it’s going to be a really interesting, really thoughtful novel.  I trust Knowles enough to not allow the book to fall into simple stereotypes, and I love the idea of featuring different voices throughout.

What are you waiting on this week?

Book Review: Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

During the course of her senior year, Gabi Hernandez chronicles all the crazy things happening in her life.  Her best friend Cindy is pregnant, her other best friend Sebastian comes out, her father struggles with his meth addiction, and she has her first experiences with boys.  She also discovers a love of poetry and starts to develop an identity that is unabashedly feminist and unapologetically her own.

One needs only to read the first few pages of this excellent debut by Isabel Quintero to understand why it’s a knockout novel and well-deserving of the 2015 Morris Award.  Quintero’s excellently rendered character of Gabi, as well as the world around her, make this a standout of a novel.  Quintero is definitely an author to watch.

Gabi tells her story through diary entries that are compulsively readable and full of authenticity and emotional rawness.  Gabi’s world is wholly unbalanced and there is a great deal going on, but the myriad issues never actually overwhelm the book’s narrative, which is a tricky balance to achieve.  Quintero does it wonderfully here, allowing Gabi to grapple with some truly heavy adult stuff while also letting her be a teenage girl, too.  The normal teen trials and tribulations are present alongside the truly dramatic, and they’re woven together seamlessly.

Full of heart and humor, Gabi is a real character and feels like a real teen.  Her life is messy but full of hope, and her future is full of promise if she can survive her senior year of high school.  Quintero isn’t afraid to explore a burgeoning feminist identity and clashes with traditional culture.  She lets Gabi struggle with what it means to be a sexual being in a culture that tells her it’s wrong for girls to have wants.  She lets Gabi deal with how she sees herself and how others see her, and the result is fantastic.

On the whole an excellent debut novel.  One of my favorites of last year.  This belongs on all library shelves and should work for a wide range of teens looking for an honest, complex piece of fiction.  Highly recommended.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. Cinco Puntos Press: 2014. Purchased copy.