Review: Bygone Badass Broads by Mackenzi Lee

Based on Mackenzi Lee’s popular weekly Twitter series of the same name, Bygone Badass Broads features 52 remarkable and forgotten trailblazing women from all over the world. With tales of heroism and cunning, in-depth bios and witty storytelling, Bygone Badass Broads gives new life to these historic female pioneers.

Though I was struggling a bit at the start of this book with the super casual language used for chronicling each historic woman, I realized (rather quickly, thankfully!) that the modern take on these badass broads is exactly what makes this read that more approachable and original.

My issue with previous feminist collections always stemmed from the fact that they came to read like Wikipedia-esque entries and as a result failed to keep me engaged. Which is why I came to like the shorter biography summaries, such as The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont & Bad Girls Throughout History by Ann Shen.

So Mackenzi Lee’s intriguing take on these “badass patriarchy smashers” in Bygone Badass Broads helped keep them in mind long after I continued to the next entry.

So here is a taste of some of the memorable Badass Broads squad members:

  • Queen Arawelo: C. 15 CE, Somalia

The Queen of Gender EqualityBygone Badass Broads 1-- bookspoils

“Arawelo’s new decrees regarding gender roles and government appointments passed the Furiosa Test—meaning they got men’s rights activists riled up. When husbands across the land protested the shake-up, Arawelo and her massive populous of feminist badasses staged a kingdom-wide walkout, leaving their men with nothing but a note on the pillow: Roses are red, gender’s performative, your ideas about women are so hella normative.”

The little poem there had me giggling out loud, which is the last thing I expected from a Nonfiction/History book. Having Lee succeed not only at educating us about the lesser-known women of our times but actually making it enjoyable while doing so is the biggest accomplishment, in my eyes.

“It’s almost like the phrase “yaaaas kweeeen” was invented for her.”

  •  Khutulun: 1260–1306, Mongolia

Wrestling Champion of the Ancient WorldBygone Badass Broads 2-- bookspoils

This particular entry had me giddy with the many pop-culture references*. It’s quite a feat on the author’s part to connect present day to hundreds upon hundreds of years ago, so I will continually applaud her for that.

*Phrases include: TBH, swaggery bro, and the timeless reference at the end of this passage:

“When one particularly swaggery bro bet one thousand horses he’d pin Khutulun, her parents begged her to throw the match because she needed to just settle down with a nice boy already! Khutulun agreed . . . until she heard the bell and looked that smug dude right in his smug dude eyes, at which point animal instinct took over and Khutulun did what she did best: She threw him to the GROUND.”

Cue: The Lonely Island’s Threw It On The Ground.

  • Friederike “Marm” Mandelbaum: 1818–1894, United States

New York’s Queen of ThievesBygone Badass Broads 4-- bookspoils

This unheard of Queen of Thieves who ruled the criminal underworld of Gilded Age New York City was a true surprise for me.

“They call me Marm because I give them money and horses and diamonds,” she said, which are the essentials I, too, expect from my mother.

  • Juliette Gordon Low: 1860–1927, United States

Founder of the Girl ScoutsBygone Badass Broads 3-- bookspoils

This entry screamed for a reference to be made to the Pawnee Goddesses from Parks and Recreation (which I did a whole book tag about). And thankfully Mackenzi Lee delivered at the very end with this closing line: “Hear her womanly roar.”

  • Emmy Noether: 1882–1935, Germany

Theoretically, the Most Important Woman in PhysicsBygone Badass Broads 5-- bookspoils

“When Einstein calls you the most significant and creative woman in the history of mathematics, you can probably call it a day and go home.”

It seems appropriate to note that with this entry I came to see the unshakable commitment to bringing the most color and vibrancy out of these historical women. And it was a delight to discover this time and again in this gorgeously illustrated compendium.

Oh, but before I leave I have to include a few other phrases I got a good laugh at, such as giving Irena Sendler’s dog a WeRateDogs™ worthy rate (“12/10, would pet.”), using the infamous record scratch in Sarah Breedlove’s entry, and comparing Kumander Liwayway’s childhood to that of “a Disney Channel teenager.”

There’s so much more I’d like to share, but calling it a day on this note seems like a fine endpoint.

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

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Review: Beaches by Gray Malin

My love for everything and anything concerning summertime – the beaches, the weather, the freedom – is unlike anything other. I’ve had it instilled in me since childhood and it’s not going away anytime soon.BEACHES 8-- bookspoilsBut since I began browsing through this gorgeous book at the end of January, aka the coldest month where I live, it made me ache so dearly for all the aforementioned. In particular, that irreplaceable sensation of swimming in the ocean, even if I still make sure to walk down to the beach and breathe in that unique hit of saltwater every day. Beaches will make you reminisce about the summers filled with nostalgia, bliss, and laughter.

So I made sure to savor the collection until the weather would warm up, and lo and behold, flipping through this ethereal photography collection must’ve brought some good luck into my life because the weather is sure warming up a lot this week! We’re so close to summer where I live, and I’m bursting with anticipation.BEACHES 9-- bookspoilsI think it goes without saying that a book dedicated to capturing different beaches around the world was a shining, bright star for me. Gray Malin’s Beaches offers an extremely rare and unique experience by including aerial photographs of beaches around the world that are shot from doorless helicopters.

I also adored the fact that if you get the digital version of the book, you can zoom in on the picture and spot people looking up at you. It’s like the summer version of Where’s Waldo?.

Without further ado, here are some of my personal favorites shots taken from Beaches:BEACHES 1-- bookspoilsBEACHES 2-- bookspoilsBEACHES 3-- bookspoilsBEACHES 4-- bookspoilsSECRET BEACH
Saint-Tropez, France

BEACHES 5-- bookspoilsDUBAI BEACH UMBRELLAS
Dubai, UAEBEACHES 6-- bookspoilsBEACH WITH GRASS
Kaua’i, USA

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I will be sure to revisit this work of art many times in the future, especially come summertime!

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

Publication Date: May 10th 2016

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

Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

“I don’t know what I think until I write about it.”― Joan Didion

I was in need of a Nonfiction read to compel me from the start when I came upon Big Magic. Elizabeth Gilbert starts off this very book by writing about a reclusive poet she’s passionate about (“I loved him dearly from a respectful distance”), and I became swept up in the accessible, talkative writing tone. It’s the classic case of ‘I should’ve been bored me but instead, I was fascinated.’ The author has an eye for telling stories and introducing people, as I noticed the further I read on.

I was officially won over when she exposed her earlier years riddled with fear. Unlike a lot of self-help books I read in the past, the author in here actually offered up a lot of specific advice and dared to venture into her easily scared childhood to give examples of things that petrified her, so that we could see that she wasn’t all talk and no show.

“My fear was a song with only one note—only one word, actually—and that word was “STOP!” My fear never had anything more interesting or subtle to offer than that one emphatic word, repeated at full volume on an endless loop: “STOP, STOP, STOP, STOP!”
Which means that my fear always made predictably boring decisions, like a choose-your-own-ending book that always had the same ending: nothingness.
I also realized that my fear was boring because it was identical to everyone else’s fear. I figured out that everyone’s song of fear has exactly that same tedious lyric: “STOP, STOP, STOP, STOP!” True, the volume may vary from person to person, but the song itself never changes, because all of us humans were equipped with the same basic fear package when we were being knitted in our mothers’ wombs.”

Her honest and raw take on such a close topic to my heart made me bond with her.

And this fearsome line thrown at fear was utterly exquisite to read:

“There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still—your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote.”

But I considered Big Magic a truly successful read for me when I was finally moved to open up a new document and release over 1K words in a sitting before I’d even finished reading. The author really has a way with words so that I can give “this creative endeavor my wholehearted effort.”

Also, her recalling the “exhilarating encounter between a human being and divine creative inspiration” by showing the story behind Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder and her subtle connection to it was something else entirely.

“There’s no logical explanation for why this occurs. How can two people who have never heard of each other’s work both arrive at the same scientific conclusions at the same historical moment? Yet it happens more often than you might imagine. When the nineteenth-century Hungarian mathematician János Bolyai invented non-Euclidean geometry, his father urged him to publish his findings immediately, before someone else landed on the same idea, saying, “When the time is ripe for certain things, they appear at different places, in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring.”

The kick in the butt I need because I keep thinking I have all the time in the world to write.

As well as this next passage that touches on putting her work out there and her subsequent rejection letters:

“I knew that nobody was ever going to knock on my apartment door and say, “We understand that a very talented unpublished young writer lives here, and we would like to help her advance her career.” No, I would have to announce myself, and so I did announce myself. Repeatedly. I remember having the distinct sense that I might never wear them down—those faceless, nameless guardians of the gate that I was tirelessly besieging. They might never give in to me. They might never let me in. It might never work.
It didn’t matter.”

“Recognizing this reality—that the reaction doesn’t belong to you—is the only sane way to create. ”

I will admit, however, that there were a couple of minor hindrances to my overall enjoyment of the book. It mostly turned out to be so when the advice wasn’t applicable to my current situation or when it was an argument already repeated numerous times before.

If anything, the most cherished lesson I took from Big Magic was to pay closer attention to all the noise in my head. Sometimes taking a step back and listening intuitively to my thought process was the solution to releasing myself from a burden. Simply put, the author reassured me to trust myself in “following the trail of curiosity”.

One of the most exciting moments, however, came when I finally found the mastermind behind one of my favorite sayings shared online that I couldn’t trace back. It goes as follows:

“Long ago, when I was in my insecure twenties, I met a clever, independent, creative, and powerful woman in her mid-seventies, who offered me a superb piece of life wisdom.
She said: “We all spend our twenties and thirties trying so hard to be perfect, because we’re so worried about what people will think of us. Then we get into our forties and fifties, and we finally start to be free, because we decide that we don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of us. But you won’t be completely free until you reach your sixties and seventies, when you finally realize this liberating truth—nobody was ever thinking about you, anyhow.”

I’ve repeated this last line one too many times in the past year, so it was worth coming across this read just to make the connection!

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