Review: Dancers Among Us by Jordan Matter

“Dancers are storytellers.” 

In one thrilling photograph after another, Dancers Among Us presents professional dancers from across the country–leaping, spinning, lifting, kicking, while in the midst of daily living.

There’s no photo manipulation here, no trampolines, no gimmicks, no tricks. Just a photographer, his vision, and the serendipity of what happens when the shutter clicks.

I went into this not knowing what to expect, but was ultimately blown away by the sheer joy and awe I felt just flipping from page to page in this book. The seemingly effortless and effervescent way the dancers were captured by Jordan Matter made my head spin.

Divided into seven parts with short essays by the author accompanying each one, I was quickly swept up inside this world where everything seemed to be vibrant, sparkling and moving. There’s also a lovely dose of quotes from well-known individuals sprinkled throughout Dancers Among Us.

But for now I’d like to focus on those bits and pieces that most pierced my heart:

#1: Rise Above It All
Michelle Fleet
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 1-- bookspoils
#2: Opening Night
Parisa Khobdeh
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 2-- bookspoils

#3: Big Day
Kristin DeCesare, Jessica Press
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 3-- bookspoils

#4: Mama’s Boy
Sun Chong, with his mother
Washington, DCDancers Among Us 4-- bookspoils

#5: Vista
Evgeniya Chernukhina
New York, New York
Dancers Among Us 5-- bookspoils

#6: Save the Day
Ricardo Rhodes
Sarasota, Florida
Dancers Among Us 6-- bookspoils

#7: Saving Lives
Duncan Lyle
Boston, MassachusettsDancers Among Us 7-- bookspoilsI stared at the above picture for an hour trying to figure out how it looks so damn effortless.

#8: Transfer
Jeffrey Smith
New York, New York
Dancers Among Us 8-- bookspoils

#9: Park It
B-boy Gentl Minsung Kim
New York, New York
Dancers Among Us 9-- bookspoils

#10: Close Shave
Alyssa Desamais
Montreal, Canada
Dancers Among Us 10-- bookspoils

#11: Book Worm
Casia Vengoechea
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 11-- bookspoils

#12: Cram Session
Michelle Fleet
New York, New YorkDancers Among Us 12-- bookspoils


However, the one thing I kept wondering throughout was what happened the second after the shutter clicked… Like, how did the dancers get out of their position safely?
But thankfully the author included a section at the end titled “about the photographs.” So if you’re interested in knowing more context about the inspirations or ideas behind any particular photo, you can just check out said section at the end of the book. It’s utterly brilliant and adds immense depth to each picture.

4/5 stars

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

Review: This Is Really Happening by Erin Chack

I’ve been waiting for this particular collection of essays to come out ever since I read the very first essay about a month ago in this preview. And This Is Really Happening really lived up to the hype I’d created in my mind. The writing was just as laid-back, wise, heartbreaking and laugh-out-loud funny as I’d remembered.

In this book Erin Chack recounts everything from meeting her soulmate at age 14 to her first chemotherapy session at age 19 to what really goes on behind the scenes at a major Internet media company.

She authentically captures the agony and the ecstasy of the millennial experience, whether it’s her first kiss (“Sean’s tongue! In my mouth! Slippery and wet like a slug in the rain.”) or her struggles with anxiety (“When people throw caution to the wind, I am stuck imagining the poor soul who has to break his back sweeping caution into a dustpan”).

And my favorite essays remain to be the first one, where she recounts the story of telling her friends she has cancer. It was so damn poignant yet Chack still managed to insert some of her whip-smart humor. And In “BURY ME WITH POISON IVY,” when she tells the story of how she met her boyfriend, Sean, in school over a decade ago. It was quiet and intimate and so similar to an actual YA novel because the author excels at creating an authentic teen voice. I loved it.

But my attention was held in particular by the sharp insights on every page. We have a broad range of essays in this collection: from going on a ten-thousand-mile trip and getting nearly attacked by a bear towards the end, crappy jobs at the age of ten and then the privilege of working at BuzzFeed, losing her hair because of chemotherapy, meeting her best friend while studying abroad in London, the stress of high school, getting pranked as hell on April Fools, “being frustrated with the version of cancer we see in books and movies” (!!!!) and The Fault in Our Stars, on periods and switching to menstrual cups, and a healthy dose of mortality discussion to top it all off.

The innovative and self-aware remarks had me enchanted from start to finish. And I also loved those inside scoops we got on her workplace:

“I saw John Green once when he came to BuzzFeed to be interviewed for a profile. I can always tell how beloved a celebrity guest is by counting how many BuzzFeed employees pretend to make coffee when he or she visits. The way the office is set up, it’s easiest to catch a glimpse of the person by taking a long, ambling route to the canteen. A lot of people made coffee that day.”

But the piece that stuck with me most was this next one on Chack’s anxiety throughout high school:

“There were so, so many rules about where I was allowed to be and at what time. I was a compulsively good student, but the stress of keeping my grades up ate away at me until I started having panic attacks so violent it felt like I was leaving my body and watching myself drown from across the room. When I finally got to leave the physical confines of school at the end of the day, I went home to mountains of homework. On the weekends, there were projects and reading assignments and studying. There was always studying. That whole year I felt like someone was holding my nostrils to the surface of a murky pond and I could only breathe when I concentrated very hard. One false move and my lungs would fill with water.”

I think about this a lot.

Overall, the essays in This Is Really Happening were everything I’d hoped for: smart, conversational and powerful… Exactly what I look for in nonfiction collections.

4/5 stars

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

Review: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo

I recently read Bad Girls Throughout History by Ann Shen and was naturally craving for more when I came across this equally fantastic collection of extraordinary women.

Illustrated by sixty female artists from every corner of the globe, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls introduces us to one hundred remarkable women and their extraordinary lives, from Ada Lovelace to Malala, Elizabeth I to Serena Williams. Empowering, moving and inspirational, these are true fairy tales for heroines who definitely don’t need rescuing.

Initially I went in a bit worried that this would have the same set of women as in the aforementioned collection, but I needn’t have worried because Good Night Stories features a brand new exciting and enlightening group of women to the table (save for a few classics, of course).

And I just have to say that my heart soars every time I learn of books similar to this one that shine light on groups of courageous and inventive women. Plus, the illustrations are hypnotic and ethereal. Speaking of which, here are some of my favorite ladies I loved to learn about:

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim (1959–): President and Scientist.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 1-- bookspoilsAmna Al Haddad (1989–): Weightlifter.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 2-- bookspoilsAnn Makosinski (1997–): Inventor.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 3-- bookspoilsAstrid Lindgren (1907–2002): Writer.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 4-- bookspoilsLindgren has written some of my favorite childhood tales, so I was beyond ecstatic to read about her in here!!

Coy Mathis (2007–): Elementary School Student.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 5-- bookspoilsIt warmed my heart to see a transgender girl represented in Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. It made the book that more accessible.

Eufrosina Cruz (1979–): Activist and Politician.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 6-- bookspoilsThe above quote speaks volumes to me.

Frida Kahlo (1907–1954): Painter.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 7-- bookspoils

Grace O’Malley (c. 1530–1603): Pirate.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 8-- bookspoils

Hatshepsut (1507–1458 BC): Pharaoh.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 9-- bookspoils

Jane Goodall (1934–): Primatologist.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 10-- bookspoils
Maud Stevens Wagner (1877–1961): Tattoo Artist.Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 12-- bookspoilsI can’t stop staring at the detailed beauty of the above piece, especially once compared to the real picture:maud_stevens_wagner


This diverse collection of women — from different backgrounds, religions, disabilities, ethnicities, sexualities — was as inspiring as it gets. And not only was their courage and strength legendary, but I found their worldview on life and all its aspects to be very illuminating and comforting.

Bottom line: This is the quality content I’m here for in feminist collections.

5/5 stars

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