Category Archives: Nonfiction

The Princess Diarist (mini-review)

Finished The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher. 

This is Carrie Fisher’s account of making Star Wars; it includes part of her actual diaries of that time. It includes a lengthy chapter detailing her affair with Harrison Ford but it also discusses how she became ultra-famous and how weird that was. (I’m guessing her other two memoirs discuss fame in greater depth.) Obviously everyone knew who Carrie Fisher was anyway (her parents were famous) but it’s different than being famous in your own right, and it’s hard to be more famous than “I was in Star Wars.” (Maybe Harry Potter?)

If you only know Carrie Fisher as an actress, read this. It’s really funny but also relatable. I’m excited to read her other two memoirs and I hope to reread her novels at some point. 

Hillbilly Elegy (mini-review)

Finished Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance. 

Hillbilly Elegy is a sort of class discussion. JD Vance grew up in the Appalachians, with a large extended family of hillbillies. His family dealt with poverty, drug addiction, fractured relationships and a sense of no future. He managed to break the chain in his own life but others weren’t so lucky. 

This is a hard book for me to parse. I’m not sure how much of my reaction to some of his family is justifiable and how much may be latent snobbery. I don’t think a college degree makes someone better than anyone without it but I’m also not sure I believe that he genuinely didn’t know you should dress up for a job interview. (Also, his grandmother set his grandfather on fire after a fight. And she was one of the best people in this book.)

Also, I don’t think anyone from my high school went to Ivy League schools either and that’s not class warfare. It’s because they are really hard to get into. My hometown also suffers from the “brain drain” (people with college degrees typically leave; people without tend to stay) and a recent article estimated about a quarter of my hometown has more than a high school education. Jobs there are low-paying. And, of course, heroin has hit there like it has everywhere. Obviously people there are still not Appalachian-level poor but still. 

This is still interesting but I think I may do better with the other famous book on class in the US (White Trash). 

All the Lives I Want

Finished All the Lives I Want by Alana Massey. I received a copy for review. 

The subtitle of this essay collection implies that it is a fun, frothy set essays on celebrity. Possibly it discusses the way that we feel we know celebrities, that they are our friends (or enemies) when all we know are their carefully created personas. 

Instead, these essays are about famous women we all have opnions on, including Britney Spears, Anna Nicole Smith and my beloved Winona Ryder. They take a more scholarly approach (think the sociology of celebrity) as well as a very personal relaying of their relationship to the author’s life. 

This is not the journey I expected to take but one I loved anyway. 

Graphic Novel Roundup #1

For the 24 in 48 readathon, I read a bunch of graphic novels (including the Alison Bechdel ones I recently reviewed). I’m a really recent convert to this genre, and I’m glad I had help picking these. :)

I read Marbles by Ellen Forney, Stitches by David Small, Becoming Unbecoming by Una and Ghost World by David Clowes. 

The first three are all nonfiction. I think so far this aspect (nonfiction graphic novels) are working for me the best because the illustrations add a lot. (I’m not describing it well, I know, but I have read seven books in 24 hours so my brain is mush.)

Of these four, my favorite is Becoming Unbecoming, which juxtaposes a serial killer who murders prostitutes (The Yorkshire Ripper) with the author’s sexual abuse. If you’re not sure what rape culture is, that’s a great place to start. 

Marbles is about the link between artists and mental illness. Ellen Forney was diagnosed bipolar and she has an incredibly hard time initially because she’s an artist and what if medication ruins that? This graphic novel really worked because I think it’s easier to understane mania if you can see it. 

Stitches is another messed-up childhood story. That sounds dismissive but I don’t mean it to. David Small’s family seems absolutely horrible and abusive but by the end, I found some sympathy for them. (A testament to him, because I didn’t want to at all.)

Ghost World was probably my least favorite but I still enjoyed it. It’s also the most famous (maybe) especially to non-fans because of the movie. 
My next batch is the inverse: three works of fiction and one of nonfiction, in that order. I didn’t plan that. 

Are You My Mother?

Finished Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel. 

If Fun Home is about Alison Bechdel and her father, this is (obviously) about her relationship with her mother. (And also a great deal about psychoanalysis, which was really interesting.)

It’s not exactly noteworthy that mothers and daughters have a complicated relationship, but the way it’s portrayed here IS. It’s universal but also unique to them. It perfectly describes pretty much every mother-daughter relationship I know, but at the same time, there are also parts that are theirs alone. 

Alison Bechdel is amazing and I admire the way she lays herself completely bare. (Yes, her parents have been exposed, too, but nowhere near as much as she tells her own stories.)

Highly recommended. 

Fun Home

Finished Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. 

This details Alison Bechdel’s childhood and especially her relationship with her father, who committed suicide when she was 20. (He was also a closeted gay man, who had a complicated relationship with his wife and children.) 

There are some correlations between Alison and her dad (both love literature and that really formed the crux of their relationship; both are also gay). 

It’s an excellent graphic novel but it also broke my heart. I wonder how much better and easier Bruce Bechdel’s life would have been if he had been born later. 

Recommended. 

The Trump Survival Guide

Finished The Trump Survival Guide by Gene Stone. I received a copy for review. 

It would be easy to dismiss this as whining and handwringing. That’s not accurate, however. Instead, this book breaks down several issues (including the environment, reproductive rights, LGBT rights and the environment), gives a brief background and shares what President Obama did for said issue. Then it explains what President-elect Trump could do, THEN gives ways to fight back and gives a few books to read for further education. 

This is such a valuable resource. I know a lot of people (including myself) who have felt helpless since the election. It’s been really good to see that we do still have options and that while the next few years may still be awful, we can certainly mitigate that if we stay involved.

Highly recommended. 

Interviewing Anna Fields

Anna Fields was kind enough to stop by and discuss The Girls in the Show, which is out August 8 (but may be pushed back–I hope not, though; I need it!).

1) What is the Twitter pitch for this?

Not sure — I’m so bad at writing for Twitter that I hardly ever do it. In a few words, though, the book is about comedy, culture, and kick-ass feminists throughout comedic history.

 
2) If you could meet one of the “girls in the show,” who would it be?

 
That’s so tough. Dorothy Parker, I think. If she’s unavailable because she’s too busy committing suicide, as she was prone to do, then Moms Mabley. But I can’t imagine she’d find me interesting enough to lunch with.

 
3) What’s the most surprising thing you learned?

 
How much the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.

 
And the ones I ask everyone:

4) What 2017 releases are you most excited for?

 
My goodness, if I had time to leave my writing studio, I would have any idea what’s coming out. Alas, I don’t.

5) What are you reading now?
TONS of historical articles. Books: Like a Lampshade in a Whorehouse by Phyllis Diller, Fear of Flying by Erica Jong, and everything ever written by Andrew Dorkin.

 

6) If you could make one book mandatory, what would it be?

 

Fear of Flying — it changed my life. I own five copies and give out others as presents.

 

7) What are your five favorite books? (You can do authors, if that’s easier.)

 
The Aeneid, Fear of Flying, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, A Wolf at the Table, My Happy Life

Hyperbole and a Half (mini-review)

Finished Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. I received a copy for review. 

This book is fantastic. It’s an incredibly fast read but manages to be both poignant and laugh out loud funny. 

It’ll appeal to pretty much everyone. Do you have dogs? There are chapters you’ll relate to. Do you suffer from depression? It’s in here. Basically if you are a human being, you’ll love this. 

I’m sad I waited so long to read this but I appreciated it enough for everyone. You will too (but I hope you read it before now; if not, fix it). 

Highly recommended.