Review: Nasty Women by 404 Ink

“No one can do this alone and now more than ever we need each other.”

With intolerance and inequality increasingly normalised by the day, it’s more important than ever for women to share their experiences. We must hold the truth to account in the midst of sensationalism and international political turmoil. Nasty Women is a collection of essays, interviews and accounts on what it is to be a woman in the 21st century.

I’ve shared my immense excitement for this riveting collection before in my original Skam book tag, so I was beyond ecstatic to finally complete my journey. Full of inclusive, educational and politically relevant essays, this collection breaks all barriers. AND I LOVED IT.

Also, I’m beyond grateful that the triggering essays had warnings at the start. So I did end up skimming or outright skipping some pieces because my heart can’t handle certain topics. But, again, I’m immensely thankful for the mentions of trigger warnings at the start of certain essays.

Plus, I learned so much in the span of just 240 pages, and my mind is still reeling. Touching upon topics such as:

  • institutional sexism in the medical profession, along with contraception and women’s health.
  • the year 2016. It was… tough, socially and politically.
  • immigration. And the likes of certain people in their white, middle class bubble still believing that “Difference is bad. Difference is dangerous.”
  • female icons.
  • raising awareness of LGBTQIA+ rights.
  • racism, sexism and microaggressions being uttered in the same breath.
  • disability, faith, pregnancy, grief, underrepresented bodies, and so much more are also respectively addressed.
  • the reclamation of the phrase ‘nasty woman’ ‘a pretty glorious thing’.

There are also so many game-changing and mesmerizing quotes in here, I feel compelled to share them all in this review, instead of going out to shout it from the rooftops… It seems to be the wiser and more practical option, somehow.

“As a black woman in the Dirty South, can someone please explain to me how America was great, when it was great, and when it stopped being great?
I make ~70% of the salary of white male counterparts in my industry and specialty. Statistics show that I am significantly less likely to be married in my lifetime than any white female.The establishment of whiteness as normal and the impact of slavery negatively affects black women disproportionately to every other ethnic group in almost every aspect of American life. I’ve spent my entire adult life seeking the Greatness of America, but I’ve yet to find it. Can I find this Greatness with Google Maps?”

“You’re expected to feel grateful towards a country that has given you a better life than you would have had otherwise, but the idea of feeling grateful towards Britain makes me feel as if we’re in a host country, rather than our own.We have to give back more than those who aren’t a product of immigration.We have to earn our place here.We have to never give anyone a chance to say that we shouldn’t be here.”

“Success to me is no longer ‘passing’, but standing out. Making a measured difference. Changing attitudes, opinions, through being visible and asking questions that challenge oppression. Carving out a new space through the process of not accepting less than inclusion.”

“That being good means different things to different people and it’s impossible to please everyone.That pleasing everyone should never be anyone’s goal.That being good was not making me happy, in fact it was making me lose myself. A good woman is not necessarily a happy woman.And I choose happiness above all. Freedom.”

“‘Not everything is about race.’
‘Not everything is sexist.’
Perhaps not. But enough of it is for it to be an on-going problem that we simply cannot sweep under the carpet anymore. Being dark and female has made me hyperaware of nonsense, insults and abuse targeted at me and if I want change, I have to fight for it and write about it. Women like me are on the receiving end of both bigotries, so big congratulations for proudly proclaiming that you ‘don’t see race’ and that ‘men and women are completely equal in this day and age’. It’s great that you are privileged enough to never have to deal with both issues, so you can just speak it out of existence and deny misogynoir.”

“We need allies. We need support, we need you to acknowledge your white privilege and we need to be believed when we open up about the shit we’ve had to deal with our whole lives.
If all those things are too hard for you to accept and put into
practice, then you are not an intersectional feminist, wanting equality for all women, regardless of race, sexual orientation, class, etc., and if you are not an intersectional feminist then you are not a feminist at all. Remove your badge and hang it up for someone else to use because the battle for equality will only ever be but only half won.”

“The world is a dangerous place right now, but not as dangerous as a nasty woman with a pen in her hand and story to tell. These voices telling our truths cannot be shaken and they certainly will not be drowned out any more.
Why fear us when you can join us?”

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: March 8th, 2017

5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Nasty Women, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: Flying Lessons & Other Stories by Ellen Oh

Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology—written by the best children’s authors—celebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us. Flying Lessons & Other Stories includes a variety of characters — from different backgrounds, disabilities, ethnicities, sexualities. And so here’s a look of some of my favorite short stories featured in here:

Sol Painting, Inc. by Meg Medina

Twelve-year-old Merci Suarez is helping her father out at his work the summer before entering her first year at “fancy Seaward Pines School.” Her science loving brother, Roli, is also helping out. And when they arrive at their painting locating for the summer, it turns out to be their newly shared school. But the day takes a turn for the worse when some high school students walk in and destroy the hard work of Sol Painting, Inc. without even a hint of remorse.

“My brother has always been strangely good at reading my mind. Can’t he see how awful it felt to be unimportant, to watch Papi stand there like a chump?
“What did you want Papi to do, Merci? Pitch a fit and blow your free ride?”
Without warning, tears spring to my eyes. He pretends not to notice. Instead, he cups my scalp with his enormous hand and gives a squeeze. “Try to let this idea into your thick cranium. Papi chose to be invisible today so you won’t ever have to be.”

That last sentence really hit hard.

Medina is a great storyteller that managed to really give depth to her characters in such a short amount. With Roli’s passions and Merci’s dedication to the business, I was more than swept into their lives. I hope they receive everything their heart desires.

Main Street by Jacqueline Woodson

I love Woodson’s writing a lot, so I was truly pumped when I saw her as one of the contributors to this collection. Main Street is told from the point of view of a main white character, Treetop, befriending Celeste, who has brown skin in a predominately white town.

“I had never known anyone brown, and Celeste had never lived in a place where brown people didn’t.”

It is a sprawling look at race, harmful stereotypes, childhood friendships, and identity. And that ending left me feeling hopeful for the future.
I was also left wanting more of Jacqueline Woodson’s writing, so I’ve got to get her books into my hands very soon!

Oh, and just to give you an excerpt, here’s one of my favorite passages from the story:

“Last winter the snow fell so long and rose so high, my father hired a man from Keene to plow it. When the man arrived, his huge plow moved silently through the mass of snow. The silence surprised me. How could so much power exist inside such quiet? As I watched, pressing my head against the window, I said to my father, I want to move through the world that quietly. That powerfully.”

I’m in love with Woodson’s way with words.

Flying Lessons by Soman Chainani

About a month ago, Santosh’s sixty-nine-year-old nani informed (not asked) that she would take him on a three-week trip across Europe. “Less than a month later, I am alone on a naked beach.” To say that his grandmother was quite a character would be an understatement.

“In Berlin, she left me stranded in the middle of a dodgy parade. In Marseilles, she paid a fast-talking young cabdriver named Gael to take me out with his wild teenage friends while she shopped for shoes. And yesterday, on our first night in Spain, I dressed up in a suit and combed my hair so I’d look nice for the “theater,” only to end up cowering in the front row at an adults-only burlesque.”

But I ended up liking her so much more than expected, particularly after this next passage:

“Did you take Mom away too when she was young?” I ask later, struggling to crack a stone crab at dinner.
“Your mother is like your grandfather,” Nani says vaguely, already finished shelling and eating hers.
“What’s that mean?” I ask, trying to keep the slippery crab in the silver cracker.
“They’d rather stay home and do work.”
“Yeah, but that’s how they both make money—”
“And what do they do with it?” Nani fires. “Your mother hoards every dime as if she’ll live forever. Your grandfather hasn’t taken me to a movie or dinner or show or anywhere else in fifteen years. ‘We’re old now,’ he says. ‘We’re old.’ ”
“But he lets you spend as much money as you want—”
“Money!” She pounces. “What good is money to a bird in a cage?”

That last sentence left me speechless.

Since this was the title story and my first read by Chainani, I was quite excited to say the least. And the author did not disappoint: the characters were lively, complex, and the dialogue was gripping. And Kamla Sani (the grandmother) speaks the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I loved her.

I appreciate her so much that I need to share this next dialogue, because with one final sentence she managed to shift my whole point of view:

“Do you know why I brought you on this trip, Santosh?”
“So you could get away from Grandpa?”
She lets out a cackle. “No! Well, yes. But no. I brought you on this trip because you win too many awards at school.”
I stare at her blankly. “What?”
“Best in math, best in English, best in debate, history, science, chorus…How many awards can you win? Every year I come to the ceremony and watch you go back and forth to the stage, picking up all the trophies and making me and your mother carry them, because there are too many for you to hold.”
“Nani,” I say, losing patience. “What does winning awards have to do with anything?”
“Because when you’re older, no one cares how many awards you win, Santosh. People care if you have something to talk about. And right now, all you have to talk about are things from books.”16467132I’m not even joking with inserting that gif because that passage really was inspirational for me. Nani notices how receiving those awards year after year doesn’t make Santosh happy as it used to do, and so she offers up some really useful advice that I took to heart.

And as if this story couldn’t get any more hearts from me, it included a LGBTQIA+ storyline!! Props to Nani for fake fainting so that her grandson can talk to the cute boy he likes.

“Come, Santosh, darling,” she wheezes, adding a few hacking coughs, as if while fake fainting she also happened to contract tuberculosis. “Stay with your nani and this handsome boy who rescued me.”

Is there anyone better than her?? Nope…
I know for a fact that I won’t forget her anytime soon. And so I think it goes without saying that Flying Lessons was my favorite short story. (However, I need to have more clarity on that ending!! Help.)

Overall, I’m so glad this collection exist; I need more like it. Flying Lessons & Other Stories is the best thing that’s happened to me this week. And I have nothing but love for it.

5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Flying Lessons & Other Stories , just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: Love Is Love by Phil Jimenez

Love Is Love is a collection of one- to two-page stories about the tragedy that took place on June 12, when 49 people were killed when a gunman opened fire in Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando. It includes stories that mourn the victims, examine love and celebrate the LGBTQ community.

To say that I was anticipating this would be understatement — Love Is Love had incredible potential to become a complete game-changer. But I quickly found that instead of targeting its focus on highlighting #ownvoices, this anthology decides to voice a lot of straight white men feeling sad and not really using their privilege to speak up in their immediate communities. To paraphrase one of the contributors, I felt like they were inserting themselves into a story that wasn’t about them… the people who can actually contribute something to Love Is Love were being overshadowed quite heavily.

I’m just flummoxed over the fact that they would ask multiple straight white men to contribute to this collection when you could have featured #ownvoices who know what they’re talking about compared to this: love-is-love-3-bookspoilslove-is-love-4-bookspoils(Just one example out of quite a few.)

If you know this isn’t your story to tell, why are you still telling it??  It just really bothered me that these supposed allies put the main focus on themselves rather than on the people that actually got hurt and affected.

So in order to take my mind over how worked up this made me, I’m instead going to feature the 1 page stories that actually did contribute something more than “I don’t know what to say because I’m privileged as hell.” If I sound bitter, it’s because I am still a little bitter.

love-is-love-2-bookspoilslove-is-love-8-bookspoilslove-is-love-6-bookspoilslove-is-love-10-bookspoilslove-is-love-9-bookspoilslove-is-love-11-bookspoilsThat last one knocked the breath out of me.

Love Is Love was for the most part a heartrending and hopeful tribute to the LGBTQIA+ community. And I’m more than appreciative of the contributors that participated in this collection.

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Love Is Love, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!