Personality Tests & Modern Feminism in Choose Your Own Disaster by Dana Schwartz

It’s known by now that I’m a fan of memoirs, given that I’m easily swept up in the juicy secrets of someone’s thoughts and secrets without having to reciprocate; it’s bliss for my nosy self. With this new release part-memoir, part-VERY long personality test, Choose Your Own Disaster is a manifesto about the millennial experience and modern feminism and how the easy advice of “you can be anything you want!” is actually pretty fucking difficult when there are so many possible versions of yourself it seems like you could be. Dana has no idea who she is, but at least she knows she’s a Carrie, a Ravenclaw, a Raphael, a Belle, a former emo kid, a Twitter addict, and a millennial just trying her best.

This memoir-ish book was a) entertaining b) morally questionable and c) utterly vulnerable when covering such topics as:

  • eating disorders, bulimia, and binge-eating.
  • the creation of @GuyInYourMFA. And the story behind the profile picture:

You are definitely, and almost assuredly illegally, using his picture (you had done a Google image search for “guy in hat” and gone with the best candidate). You apologize, profusely, and that afternoon you bring a slouchy hat you own to meet your friend Simon in the library, the same library where you took your Introduction to Fiction class, and you ask him to stand there, against the shelves, and you take a hundred pictures of him with your cell phone and replace the picture of the stranger by that afternoon.

  • tinder dating while on her Eurotrip and meeting a genuinely nice guy.

You and Rory will stay in touch, and you’ll flirt and text and email your writing back and forth for months, a year, after you meet. Once, you will sing and play the guitar over Skype while he accompanies you on glockenspiel and secretly you’ll imagine a version of your story in which you and Rory end up together. You’ll imagine loving him, and you like how it fits. But you only talk in words on a screen anymore, and then, one day, both of you will meet someone else and fall in love for real and will have to tell the other person, a stranger across the ocean who you were never actually dating, that you’re actually with someone else now. Whatever flame you two had, whatever nonrelationship, will be quietly folded and put away in the linen closet.

  • celebrity sightings and her internship at The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
  • titles like, Are You an Introvert or Just a Lazy Asshole?”.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 09.46.55But my reading experience encountered some minor hindrances when it came to the series of men in this book…

Firstly, I couldn’t help but hear the uncanny resemblance Dana Schwartz’s writing voice bore to Esther’s from the TV series Alone Together (probably because they’re both New York millennial Jewish girls). In particular, those moments when Dana’s hanging on to a guy who’s giving her the clear ‘He’s just not that into you’ signals (which she herself notes more than once).

I appreciated when Dana focused more on chronicling her personal life, instead of wasting time on the men in her life that ditched her or vice versa, like a broken record. (I have to admit, though, that I felt delicious victory at putting together the identity of a certain established writer she was keen on that ended up ghosting her…) It threw me off with the overtly sexual details that I truly don’t care enough to spend pages on pages. I mean, there’s this lawyer dude that I skipped reading (because he came off as the biggest creep), but he was still written about for over twenty pages…

If nothing else, the aforementioned made for a comical line in her acknowledgments:

To all of the men I’ve slept with, thank you for giving me what I needed in that moment, for making me feel special or wanted or loved. And if you hurt me, thank you for helping me to learn while I was young. Hope you bought this book full price just to see if I wrote about you.

Oh, what last lines…

On another note: I couldn’t shake off my annoyance when it came to the constant excuses for her bad calls by comparing herself to problematic fictional women. It just brings home the point that fiction shapes your viewpoint, in particular, when she tries to brush off flirting and sleeping with a married man by using these women from TV shows that cheated (Carrie Bradshaw, Rory Gilmore, Olivia Pope). Everything about this screams midlife-crisis-with-precocious-college-kid.

If I’d gotten a more individual take on Dana Schwartz as a person – not Dana Schwartz in a relationship – I would’ve grown to appreciate this memorable take on memoirs that more.

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

Expected publication: June 19th, 2018

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

 

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Roller Derby, Girl-Power, and Friendship

I was pumped to read this middle-grade graphic novel all about recognizing female empowerment within the roller derby community, especially after having read and loved Pamela Ribon’s SLAM! Vol. 1, which is a YA comic bundle set around the same premise.Roller Girl 1-- bookspoils

Twelve-year-old Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. So when Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, she assumes Nicole will too. But Nicole signs up for dance camp with a new friend instead, and so begins the toughest summer of Astrid’s life. There are bumps and bruises as Astrid learns who she is without Nicole…and what it takes to be a strong, tough roller girl.

Roller Girl tackles a lot of important issues within the story arc, such as the giddy start of a new blossoming friendship, growing apart from childhood friends, standing up for yourself and those in need, the power of positive role models, and channeling your inner TOUGHER, STRONGER, FEARLESS-self.

Plus, I know I really enjoyed a middle-grade book when I can’t wait to share it with my little sister. She adored Raina Telgemeier‘s work in the past and has been on the search for anything and everything similar, so she’ll be pleased to know that Roller Girl reads like the perfect follow-up book.

I do have to note that, personally, the story hit a bit of rut when it focused too heavily on supplying all the technical terms in roller derby, but thankfully it more than made up for that with its following character-defining moments.

So without further ado, here are some of my personal favorite bits from Roller Girl:

Roller Girl 2-- bookspoilsThat resilient moment of overcoming adversity is an ever-shining star.

Roller Girl 3-- bookspoilsI was all smiles reading the many descriptions and was even pleasantly surprised to see my name, Natalie, included… until I read her silly defining characteristic.

Another comical moment happens in the following hair coloring scene:Roller Girl 4-- bookspoilsThis brought to mind how Louis C.K. has a whole standup bit just around kids names.
Roller Girl 5-- bookspoils“3-4 weeks” got me good.

Roller Girl 6-- bookspoilsGentle parenting and patience is key.

Unrelated: I find it funny that this is the second book I’ve read that featured both my name as well as my sister’s (Rachel).

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

 

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!