Raise Your Hand if You Need the Last Word.

montoya“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Over lunch the other day, a few of my girlfriends and I mused over how we grew up on The Princess Bride.  I mean literally like an after school snack. A drug of choice for hip 90s girls who knew we’d grow up and really want to be more like Robin Wright on House of Cards, but for a little while, we could love Wesley and his sexy bandit costume.  There were two movies that I obsessively watched as a child, Grease and Princess Bride.  I feel like between these two movies PLUS Clarissa Explains It All, I can be discovered.  This may or may not be true for most girls, we shall see in the comments section, but I think a lot of girls found themselves binge-watching The Princess Bride because it wasn’t your normal “princess story.”  Sure, she had to be saved several times from Humperdinck, but Princess Buttercup was no pansy.  What I love most about this movie is that it convinced me that there’s such a thing as a final word.


I have sought that final word to the point of damage a few times.  I’ll argue until the height of high-pitched yelling.  There’s a moment when I say something despicable that I know can’t be taken back, but I still release it into the world like it’s a clattering truth.  I never remove myself from arguments.  I have a hard time walking away.  And even when someone is trying to give me the hint that there’s no place for me in their life, I pursue them until the ache grows softer and I, too, can let go.

It’s a downfall for sure.  I’m no hero.

shrill-lindy-west-magnumBut with that all said, I think Lindy West’s first book is doing just what I’ve done my whole life, just what Inigo Montoya does with every man who even narrowly looks like his father’s killer.  It’s what a lot of feminists do when they realize that maybe they’re being heard (the sound) but they’re not being listened to (the meaning).  They keep going. Shrill, West’s memoir really encapsulates this idea that silence isn’t golden, it’s boxy and the only way out of it, is to keep on talking.

hqdefaultI knew this book was going to pack a punch when in the beginning she lists out every “Fat Female Role Model” that existed for her as a child.  Characters like the Queen of Hearts, Mrs. Trunchbull, Lady Cluck, Mrs. Piggy, and Ursula were the most prominent according to my notebook. I listened to this on audiobook, so I had to pause to write down little tidbits I wanted to remember forever.  In Chapter 2, she says, “There is not a thin woman inside me awaiting excavation.  I am one piece.”  With this quote I began to realize that we were going to witness every bit of Lindy West, whether she thought it appropriate to show or not, she was nothing but transparent and relatable for the entire book.


This image is from Lindy West’s article in Jezebel “How to Make a Rape Joke”

(If you don’t know who Lindy West is, she came for Tosh.0 in Jezebel with a piece called “How to Make a Rape Joke.” And she rocks).  She has been trashed by internet trolls, even one impersonating her deceased father, and she married a man who in her words is “conventionally attractive” who plays the trumpet.  The reason why I say her book is a final word of sorts is that it gives all of the baggage (and I don’t mean this as a negative) to the stories that everyone else construed about her.  These stories created by trolls, comedy show hosts, feminist bloggers, newspapers and magazines, and her blog were in some ways all fabricated.  While I blog my life blood into everything I write at Books & Bowels and Almost an Independent Clause, that doesn’t mean I owe every single one of my followers a pound of flesh.


Internet Troll image from Kotaku

But in the eyes of the public, Lindy West did.  She was trolled, tattered, and left on the defense over really important issues like fat shaming, rape jokes, abortions, periods, and privilege.  At one point, during the comedy chapters, she says something like, I can easily name 20 white male comics, but … “Name 20 female comics.  Name 20 black comics.  Name 20 gay comics.”  Early in the book, she writes so unabashedly about her abortion when she was dating a guy that she loved, but didn’t quite like very much, that I heard every woman who walked the women’s march sigh in relief.  It wasn’t some grotesque tale like the biblical posters of “baby waste” will have you think, it was a real woman’s life trial, true to each hard step.  She even at this point in her life (what I would argue is probably a low point for some women) thought about her privilege, about the way it was so easy for the owner of the Abortion Clinic to let her pay later.

“Privilege means it’s easy for white women to do each other favors.”

I’m not going to lie, I found the chapters rehashing her experience of Tosh.0 kind of boring, but I knew they needed to be said.  I’m not going to put words in Lindy West’s mouth (like everyone else has done before me), but I get the need to have one last say, to make sure people understand your point, to make one even when all corners are trying to silence you. For me, what she said had value, is valuable, and should be repeated even if the “shrill” is deafening.  Especially in today’s political climate.

“We live in a culture that actively tries to shrink the definition of sexual assault.  That casts stalking behaviors as romance.  Blames the victims for wearing the wrong clothes, walking through the wrong neighborhood…Convicts in less than 5% of allegations that go to trial” (Chapter 13).


Lindy West, Fierce AF at KUOW.org

I loved this book because it didn’t ask for anything.  You know how sometimes you read memoirs and you can feel that the writer is asking for pity, or asking for understanding, or even just asking for love and adoration? This wasn’t like that.  This was just a girl, standing in front of a really bookish crowd (with a pack of Lena Dunham’s behind her) telling a few truths about life.  She wasn’t asking for you to understand why your fat joke is sorry, why rape jokes aren’t funny in any contexts, why free speech isn’t necessarily free, or why feminist voices matter, she was just telling you an experience in a life of a human being.

If we could find more writers that do this, our world might open up a little.  Internet trolls might apologize more and Lindy West may have a twitter full of quips that crack a girl up while she’s at a boring desk job.  We haven’t gotten there yet, but if Lindy West keeps publishing, we just might. I liked Slate’s review here.

Because Everyone is Reading Rebecca Solnit.


This is totes me on a day when I just couldn’t take anymore news.

I’ve crowned this year, “Year of Essays.”  And while I’d also really like to dedicate some time to the Outlander series and the free audiobooks I got when I cheated the system and got Audible for only as long as it took me to choose four free books — I may have stolen BJ’s too — approximately four minutes and thirty-seven seconds, I still want to read more nonfiction in the form of the essay.  I want to finally unpack Annie Dillard, Virginia Woolf, and Annie Proulx from my shelf. Basically, I want to read more women who fought back.  I’ve read A LOT of memoir and can swallow a short story in a sitting, but the form that always eludes me is the essay.  Maybe because I’ve tried to write several about the same ex-boyfriend? And maybe because I’m not sure how to know when to stop writing an essay?

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-9-24-29-pmI think it’s only fair then that I start with Rebecca Solnit.  She is the new age queen of the nonfiction essay. You may have seen her book Men Explain Things to Me all over Subways and feminist Instagram posts.  Her latest Hope in the Dark is on my reading list for this year so that I can try to make it through a Washington Post Twitter feed without crying in the morning before I’ve even had coffee.  However, I started with A Field Guide to Getting Lost. If you follow me on Instagram (@bookishcassie, shameless plug) then you know that I’ve felt very lost lately.

I actually think I’m losing brain matter, teaching kept me sharp. And I’ve always loved the poem by Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art.”  During my worst year in college, the frustration came out in the form of locking my keys in my car.  Even once overnight, while running in the rain, I lost my keys to a dead engine. I cried to the last triple A guy, on the twelfth time.  You read that right, 12 incidents in a year of losing my mind long enough to leave my keys enclosed somewhere I wasn’t. In the beginning of our relationship, BJ was constantly losing things, or leaving them somewhere and forgetting them until just the right moment of overtime when we were walking out the door.  He doesn’t do this anymore, but I remember it being a test for me, I thought.  The little things we can handle due to love.


Reading last week. It took me 10 days to read this book which is long for me. 

And I imagine these scenes of oddly connected things is what leads an essay.  At the deconstruction of an essay, if demolished, it would be these strange miscellaneous tools and objects that we’ve weaved together, not like a loom, but like shaking-hand crochet, to make meaning.  I think, at least, this is what Rebecca Solnit is doing in A Field Guide to Getting Lost.  There were moments where it worked for me so hard that I was furiously underlining passages and moments where this read more like a text book than a thoughtful process of braiding moments.


Saturday trying to finish it, not even close. 

In the beginning she loiters over the idea of distance and the color of distance, blue.  We walk through mountains, towards an island on a dry lake, and through paintings — the amusement of painters in flight. This idea that distance and going towards it is a way of getting lost guides the reader through Solnit’s dreams from her childhood home.  Memories from this place haunt her dreams although she left the place in her late teens. There’s the distance between men and gold, the distance of extinct animals who both come back and remain undone.  This long-form essay is both a love letter to the distance of the desert and to a home that we can’t go back to.  All of these geographically lost things given new homes on the page. What we can know, what we pretend to know, and how our previous knowledge fills in gaps that we shouldn’t fill in is all also a part of this.  It’s our minds mixed with our place if I could describe it in the weakest terms.

“I survived not the outside world, but the inside one” (90).

I know this just sounds like some weird gak of nonsense, but it was beautiful at times.  There were moments where I could have licked the words to hold them in and moments where I was falling asleep reading.  I didn’t understand the ending on the Gold Rush trails, it all felt very boring-Oregan-Trail to me, but I think the message stands firm.  One must get lost to know oneself.  I’m sure some philosopher has said that well before me and in better form. We all do have something to find after all, right?


Image from the Women’s March Raleigh, the rest of my images are on AlmostanIndependentClause.com

There were moments too when I was like “YAS, GIRL” because what she was saying was so true to what we’re currently living.  If you wake up devastated to the news you read, then you are feeling somewhat lost in a place that no longer looks like the home we’ve built as a nation.

“In these terms, even nostalgia and homesickness are privileges not granted to everyone” (123).

If you don’t read that quote thinking about refugees that have been further displaced by new “Executive Orders,” then you need to pick up a newspaper, or phone a friend.

“Such moments seem to mean that you have surrendered to the story being told and are following the story line rather than trying to tell it yourself, your puny voice interrupting and arguing with fate, nature, the gods” (134).

This, the time we finally decide to stand, against any odd.

“Between words is silence, around ink whiteness, behind every map’s information is what’s left out, the unmapped and unmappable. One of those in-depth local or state atlases that map ethnicity and education and principal crops and percentage foreign-born makes it clear that any place can be mapped infinite ways, that maps are deeply selective” (160).


Today when Fro and I finally finished this one. 

I’d be lying if I believed that where you were born didn’t immediately dictate about fifty-percent of your life choices.  As a privileged American woman, I face the idea of sliding into complacency and believing I’m owed what I’m given.  The other option is realizing my own privilege and trying to narrow those gaps by fighting side by side, and listening to those who are faced with far less than I. I think Solnit finds that deep connection to geography, to home, to the memories that we apply to every landscape we press feet to. I think Dr. Seuss and the mantra “Oh the Places You Go” would be the child version of this idea.

I can’t argue that this is a perfect book by any means.  But the ideas in it, the way they’re imperfectly balanced against and for one another made this such a meaningful read.  I will read the rest of Solnit this year and I will eat each word like a delicacy because I know not everyone, and especially not all girls are given that right.

And words are everyone’s right.


Girlhood is a glass vase.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

It’s probably sad how attached I am to this book.  I wanted to simultaneously fall down a rabbit hole and climb into a dark hole while reading it.  Lena Dunham in Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells What She’s “Learned” is so spot on with her pseudo-memoir that I was practically highlighting the entire book.  I thought that she found the voice between psycho-tire-stabber and romantically-involved-with-herself girlhood.  I used to think Taylor Swift was my ultimate girl crush, but Lena Dunham has now taken the number one spot.  If I could have a moment with Dunham like she had with Nellie sans-vomit, I would drink the red wine, and curl up on a vintage french rug and tell her all my secrets with our bodies, knees together, and spines curved, into a heart shape (totally platonic).

Joana Avillez’ Art for Lena Dunham’s book @ SVA.Edu

At some point during my reading, I started coloring all the tiny pictures.  I think this was in an effort for the book not to end, but that makes me even more of a guppy so pretend I didn’t admit this.   Like Dunham’s memoir, it’s clear that I can’t go linear through it. I will do my best though.

Dunham starts with relationships.  I needed to read this so I could not choose the devil on my shoulder that said I could just artificially inseminate myself at 37 and choose the man on paper who would father that child.  (It’s still a serious thought though.  I talk about it over Mexican food to my best friends).  I’ve never written “Amen” in the sidelines of a book, but in this relationships section, I did too many times.  My personal favorite “Here’s who it’s not okay to share a bed with: Anyone who makes you feel like you’re invading their space.  Anyone who tells you that they ‘just can’t be alone right now.’ Anyone who doesn’t make you feel like sharing a bed is the coziest and most sensual activity they could possibly be undertaking (unless of course, it is one of the aforementioned relatives; in that case, they should act lovingly but also reserved/slightly annoyed) Now, look over at the person beside you. Do they meet these criteria? If not, remove them or remove yourself. You’re better off alone.”

Still of Lena Dunham’s Vimeo Video with illustrations by Joana Avillez

Art by Joana Avillez for Lena Dunham’s book.

I think that quote highlights the very essence of this book.  Everything she was saying I had either experienced, or knew was inherently bad/good for me, but sometimes, I need to be told literally in print to stop dating jerks because “When someone shows you how little you mean to them, and you keep coming back for more, before you know it you start to mean less to yourself.”

This rang so true for my high school first boyfriend (who was a total douchebag who I thought was so hot because he would start fights with boys that just looked at me over their shoulder) and rang true for a few boyfriends after that who treated me like I was good enough as their back-up dancer.  In this relationship section, I learned how okay I really am.  I highlighted many parts on self-respect, and continuing on your personal journey regardless of the man who either thinks he is on rungs higher than you, or doesn’t appreciate your oddness.

The amazing inside of Lena Dunham’s book by Joana Avillez.

The body section was a little weird, but still important to the general idea of being a woman and being told you’re not good enough in any shape unless you’re a Victoria Secret model (and even they’re told they’re too skinny).  We apply creams, sprays, dyes, lenses, glosses, surgeries to ourselves to look like someone we don’t even know, or someone’s ideal that we haven’t even really thought out for its purpose (Hello, obese women were the most popular in England for hundred of years before any Barbie ever came out — not that I recommend obesity for it’s general health problems, but still, the point).  This is the section people really have problems with on Goodreads. One girl actually counted the calories Dunham put for each item to find the errors.  I wasn’t looking for problems with Dunham while I was reading, I was just enjoying the kindred spirit affect of this book.

Maybe this makes me narcissistic.



I am, probably.  I enjoy a selfie-a-day.  I pout my lips in the mirror after I pop my lips together just following glossing them.  My Mom told me I was pretty (probably more than the average girl, but I wouldn’t know if this is true or not) and honestly, I believe it. And I think that’s important.  I feel pretty and I feel happy and I wear purple lipstick when I want and I still think I’m chic. So, BAM.

This was the other negative about Dunham’s book.  People thought like Joan Didion (pressing her riches into her memoir), Dunham is only famous due to her acclaimed parents and her “rich-girl” upbringing.  I beg to differ.  The girl who wrote this book is sensual, worldly, expecting, honest, experienced, and still learning.  I don’t care what the “haters” say at this point, this is someone’s life and it’s a story that’s worth telling like every life story is worth telling.  She even outlines her troubles in the industry and how she was treated not as a threat to her male counterparts, but as a sponge for ideas to steal.  She went to college and earned a degree in creative writing (even if she was the girl that everyone hates in workshop who tears their pieces apart and then has no merit in their own writing).  Girl got goods, she’s doing big things and I think at some point people need to learn to not be jealous of the way someone got to their light, but that they got there and they’re spreading it.

Image @ Blissfullvida@wordpress.com

Let the girl shine.

Dunham even writes about this jealousy, “And I decided then that I will never be jealous.  I will never be vengeful.  I won’t be threatened by the old, or by the new.  I’ll open wide like a daisy every morning.  I will make my work.”  If nothing else, this is advice to live by.  If everyone just tried to “do them” and better themselves and encourage others to continue to raise the tide, we would all be creating waves together.

Lena Dunham at the Globes 2010 (I think).

I think the biggest problem I have with people who hate this book is that they obviously were oblivious to the feelings of those around them in childhood and college.  Dunham opens doors to our most secret selves that we hide behind masked personalities.  She talks about her college sexual encounters and drug use (that ring true for so many college woman), and discusses her constant need for a therapist due to her anxiety about life’s bigger problems.  So many of the truly wonderful women, one of my very best friends especially, have trouble with anxiety and paranoia.  This is a true account of a society that either shuts its doors to people like this or just chooses not to recognize their struggle.  Regardless of how much money your parents make, your inner self can still struggle with so many things that are beyond financial.

Overall, this book gave me so many feelings.  I dried out a pen underlining and I couldn’t stop reading.  I wanted to keep knowing Dunham.  She had something to teach me even when she sounded just like me, because sometimes you need to hold up a mirror to yourself in order to understand.  Don’t believe the haters.  I know the girl can’t pick a Globes dress … ever, but she can write a damn memoir, and every girl should read it.

*I’ve never watched Girls so this review is totally based on Dunham’s memoir and short interviews at award’s shows (and the fact she’s best friends with Taylor Swift).

“I always remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.”

My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman @ Smithsonian Press

Everyone has favorite things.

Julie Andrews sang a whole song about hers as she floated around mountain landscapes and swung around light poles.

I think it’s important to have favorite things, and even more, it’s important to have unusual things that don’t make sense to anyone but you because you’ve added some sort of sentimentality to the object itself.  I keep my grandmother’s strainer under the sink, not because it still works, but because sometimes I bring it out just to filter my kitchen light.  It’s got a star design of holes and it reminds me of a Christmas luminary.  Every so often, I need that speckled sunshine on my kitchen floors.

Used Chairs. Maira Kalman @ The Smithsonian

Maira Kalman wrote another fabulous illustrated memoir about some of her favorite things. Things she found in museums, in the muse of her childhood, on the side of old neighborhood streets, in fancy living rooms, books, embroideries.  In every Maria Kalman book I’ve ever read (even illustrations in current YA novels), she gives me some philosophy about life that opens the doors of my soul so I can hear the singing.  This one is no different.  My Favorite Things is built like a small gift, fabric binding, smooth hardcover, and vintage decorated inside cover and endpaper.

Teacup @ Smithsonian Press by Maira Kalman

I just think she’s so unusually creative.  She has an eye for quirky elegance like listing both Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh pages in her favorite things, as well as a collection of obtuse hats.  From a man lying in the park with a pug to Abraham Lincoln memorabilia, Kalman is looking at the world through the holes of a flower petal and the telescope of history.   This book originally began as a way to showcase the new Cooper Hewitt collection for the Smithsonian Design Museum.  However, it becomes this interweaving of life story, and how life story impacts the baggage we bring with us into a museum.  I might carry a large purse, but I find art compelling when it tells me something about myself, or my world.  It’s hard for me to connect to art when it doesn’t seem to deal inherently with me.  I’m sure that’s totally egocentric, but I think I match a typical American.  Art inspires because it smoothes and then oils the gears within us.

Embroideries by Maira Kalman after her mother’s death @ The Smithsonian

I think this is something Kalman has conquered with her favorite things, and her other books.  I am always inspired, I found myself turning the page just to see if we could share a story.  This is the best part of the book, it’s both memoir and trinket collection.  She tells the story of embroidery she stitched after her mother’s death, my favorite being, “my rigid heart is tenderly unmanned.” In another moment, she photographs a spoon with engraved initials, it says, “Before there were forks, there were spoons.  The spoon can be used by a baby, by a person eating soup.  Watching a person eat soup can break your heart.”

Hats by Maira Kalman @ Smithsonian Press

She even jokes about fringes being added to Lincoln’s pall that covered his coffin.  It’s both a story about the life of a woman, and the story about history as told through the eyes of the viewer, even the late-comer who views history much after it’s happened.  She is the eyes of the museum-goer, the photographer, the backpack traveler, the person who wants to reach out and touch the gold pot on the mantle in the Biltmore House, but resists just in case it trembles.  I adore Maira Kalman and I even almost used this book as a diary.  I wanted to write on the pages that she colored.  I’ve held back to keep it pristine, but I hope someone gets that close to this book.  It’s never a blush to get intimate with a good read.

“What We Have In Common Are The Words At Our Backs”

My Great Grandparents

My Great Grandparents

I wonder how my grandmothers took their tea.

I wonder what women influenced them to have strength.  I actually wondered this one today when I put a temporary tattoo on my mother’s wrist.  It was a blue bird with a banner that said “strength” in bold black letters.  There was a station at my nephew’s birthday party.

I wonder if my great-grandmothers had cold feet and an affinity for tall, or bulldog-like men.

My Aunt June

My Aunt June

I wonder what my great, great, great, great grandmother did with the house and the eight out illiterate members of this house when my grandfather was shot in the arm and died during the Civil War.  I have great ideas that she didn’t just shrivel up and set all her worries into a far off gaze while resting her chin in her palm and her elbow on some window mount.  My great, great, great, great grandmother may have worn aprons, but a later census shows she kept the house running, possibly with or without a wealthy gentlemen heir.  I can’t know because these stories have been lost in the clouds of perfume and cigarette smoke that my grandmother’s wafted out.

All I have for those later women in my family tree are census records and collected data of years of birth, years of death and household numbers.  I do have a lot of heirlooms from my grandmothers, but beyond that it’s black and white photos and the last whispers of “talk-story” that my Aunt June still has left.

The Woman Warrior | Memoirs Of A Girlhood Among Ghosts @ Book Critics

This gets me to the pinnacle of my jealousy over Maxine Hong Kingston’s memoir The Woman Warrior | Memoirs Of A Girlhood Among Ghosts.  I don’t know if it’s the Chinese culture, or just this woman, but her writing was insane, literally and her cultural stories and history were both whimsical and brilliant.  I feel like I would know her sitting at a dinner table after reading this collection of narratives about what it means to be a woman, what it means to be Asian-American and what it means to know your own voice based on the voices that you’ve come from.

Fa Mu Lan Woman Warrior @ Chinese Swords (.net)

I’m a bigot in the sense that I don’t believe we’re ever just who we make ourselves, and I will NEVER believe that.  There will be no change of opinion.  We’re an odd conglomeration of the histories kneaded into our hometowns, the deep-seeded truths of how our parents or guardians were raised, even if we go against those truths, our family trees, and the people we encounter in this lifetime (if not other lifetimes that we may have lived).

Off topic branch:  I believe in old souls, not necessarily reincarnation, but I meet people sometimes and they’re my people.  I’ve known them before.  Grey’s Anatomy said it best, “You’re my person.”  One of my closest friends at school is a 60+ year old woman who owns a horse farm and hunted foxes when she was younger.  We should be the least likely people to form close bonds (I’m deathly afraid of horses and I can shoot a gun, but definitely not hunt anything) and yet I love her and I’ve known her forever.  The same goes with my best friend, Seth, who couldn’t break up with me if he tried, and my boyfriend right now who has the thigh muscles of a Greek champion so we must have been sea-faring lovers.  There are ancient traditions of my history with these people, but I can’t tell you what they are because I have very little knowledge of my own family history in order to puzzle these things together. It’s not a miracle of science, just a miracle of miracles and being the Catholic (with a few twists) girl that I am, I have to believe that God purposely put each of these people in my life because they make me comfortable and they’re my partners through the journey.

Orchid for “Brave Orchid” @ Envy GFX

I bet Marie Hong Kinsgston would know all the answers to my questions about this because she has the rich stories of her kin to explain life’s trials, life’s expectations and life’s roads.  I could read four more books on her history without batting an eye, that’s how inspiring this work of literature was.   She has the major story of three women that determine what she believes it is to be a woman with an Asian-American background.  There’s the story of a woman fighter (who I think is the inspiration behind Mulan) and Kingston takes the soul of this fighter on within herself.  Then there’s the history of her Aunt and Mother who in my eyes belong to one single history of womanhood.  Her mother is a doctor in Asia only to “escape” to America and run a laundry mat. Her Aunt is not brought to America until late in her own life because her husband never sent for her, and she is over saturated.

Maxine Hong Kingston @ UCLA International

Then, there’s the history of Kingston which I believe is a weaving of the last three histories and the idea of “talk-story” which is this idea that women in the family pass on … well everything.  Any knowledge of her mother’s past, of Asia, of heroic tales from Asia, comes from the elder women in Kingston’s life and whatever they determine the girl’s should know, they know.  It’s an odd coming of age because when this memoir was written (and probably still although publicly dormant), it wasn’t bountiful to have a girl and girls were assumed to be mostly worthless as far as aging parents were concerned.  At one point, Kingston’s Mother, Brave Orchid, talks about cutting her daughter’s talk so that she can “talk story” which is probably my favorite part of this story because she literally raised a daughter who “talked-story” enough to write an award winning and eye opening memoir.  I really liked Brave Orchid because I think she knew how to live the dichotomy without being found out, she managed to make a living as a medical doctor but still follow the deeply embedded codes restricted to women within in Asia.  I think, even though she comes off abrasive in the book, she influenced her daughters to do the same in their own ways and through their own narratives.  I definitely can appreciate a strong women who must live inside boundaries, but has discovered ways to approach and climb the fence.

“Perhaps women were once so dangerous that they had to have their feet bound” (23). 

Bound Feet @ Danwei.org

Last thing, my favorite story in Sandra Cisneros’s Woman Hollering At The Creek is “Salvador, Late Or Early.”  I always start my students off with this reading at the beginning of the semester and then I have them do a fill in the blank to learn how much they know about figurative language and to see what they reveal about themselves based on what they say in the blanks.  Some students take this very seriously, some students joke about it, and some students just plain hurt me with their raw descriptions of themselves and who cares about them most (or least, unfortunately). In this story, Salvador’s brother drops his cigar box of crayons and I always told my students that that was because he was so poor that he had to hold his crayons in a cigar box.  However, I was reading Woman Warrior and found this quote, “After American school we picked up our cigar boxes, in which we had arranged books, brushes, and an inkbox neatly, and when to Chinese school from 5:00 to 7:30” (194).   I love when cultural things blow my mind a little.  I originally thought that this was a hispanic way of carrying school supplies, but obviously I was wrong.  This is just a little bit of proof that we’re constantly being educated by literature.  It doesn’t matter what country, what language, or what source, books can teach about our world in big or small ways, we just have to want to read between the lines.

“Man Didn’t Kill Poetry. Men With Mustaches Killed Poetry.”

Art Journal @ Apollo-Cabin (Tumblr)

I can’t help but think that all the girls in this story are somewhere filled with regret like a claw-foot tub and they each own an entire DNA strand of fractured creative genes.  Each one a little bit broken and a little bit lost, a road trip gone bad.   Girls that act broken all of the time from a childhood trauma, or a high school breakup.  You know all those essays that discuss the problems of the world with the huge and completely inadequate title of “daddy issues.”  This is a whole different conversation about the book that I need to obviously have with Slash Coleman.

I feel like Slash Coleman is the perfect guy for every single one of my Beyonce-style, single lady friends.  Ladies….

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I’m secretly hoping he’s going to laugh out loud at this since I just read his heartbreak of a memoir and feel like he’s lived next door to me for the entirety of my young adult girlhood.  He’s like that guy that your mom always hears rumors about in the neighborhood and she comes home saying, “Oh Cass, did you hear about Mrs. Coleman’s son, he’s been out on a compound, he’s been painting paper mache in the basement of a mansion, he’s been dating this girl with the name of a flower, but I can’t really remember what the name was exactly, she was blonde though, his mother says, if that tells you anything.  He’s attempting to write a book like you, isn’t that cute?  Two people on the street are trying to write books, adorable.  Now you go ahead and go back upstairs and continue your Pulitzer, dinner will be ready at five.”

“When you escape one crisis without resolution, you often unwittingly enter into a continuation of the very same crisis in a different location.” – Zinnia from Bohemian Love Diaries @ Garota Criatividade on We Heart It

There’s something intimate about reading the book of someone who is telling their own story.  You want to believe every single second about it.  Yes, of course Slash made corn bread after being told he couldn’t use milk at a weekend of rejuvenation retreats.   Then you think about your own memories and how your mind has dissected them and turned them each into a Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde of their own being.  My memories have become something that I can look at from my own viewpoint, but they certainly aren’t the whole truth.  That’s what I like about memoir.  If I went to Slash’s flower girlfriend today and asked her to read the few chapters about herself, would she remember it the same?  Probably not.  But that’s what stories are for, right?  We pass them down so they can form and change in other people’s perspectives.  This is also why we argue, we compromise, we vent, we conquer, so many of the stories we tell ourselves are stories that are made-up from true experience.  I love that, write, write, write, people.  Write yourself into a place that you’ve never been too, you can do that.  It won’t be memoir, but it will be that perfect balance of truth and lies.

Slash Coleman is a hero for college creative writer’s everywhere who were told what a great writer they were and then realize that writing is something you do everyday and not something you get rewarded for.  He’s also my personal hero for pointing out tiny flaws between the lines of his memoir with MFA programs.  It’s clear to me that Slash can write, and write well, and make me laugh out loud at the idea of a boy hacking at a tree (not my usual laugh-sequence), but it took him a serious journey to get to where he was writing down his own story.

I loved every embarrassing moment he shared, every moment that would never happen to me in my real life.  This is the kind of story where you say, “YES, now HE should write a memoir, look at the way he’s lived.”  It’s a bit Running with Scissors mixed with Mennonite in a Little Black Dress meets I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell has dinner with every six-word memoir book made at Smith, sleeps with Girl, Interrupted.  I think that pretty much covers it.  Slash puts the humanity into life’s scavengers.  He’s the creepy voice in all of us that tells us how awkward we are in normal situations.  The WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT, JENNY. Except he’s actually living through his own oddness which is truthfully known as “creativity” to those of us that are odd.

Bohemian Love Diaries by Slash Coleman

I guess I should share the title.  Bohemian Love Diaries is a book of a boy growing up and learning how to be himself.  We all go through that “coming of age” story, but we definitely don’t do it all the same way.  It takes some of us longer, some of us need to travel by foot or plane, some of us need to chase others who are “coming of age,” or do something incredibly weird to realize that we just aren’t like everyone else and should Peter Pan our way into not aging.  There’s so many ways to “come of age” which is why I hate that book category, but I guess it can cover this memoir and Jane Eyre at the same time, why not.  Slash begins with his Jewish childhood (and the small hints that his mother is a “closeted Jew).  We learn about his tense relationship with his father and how they come together on terrifying fishing trips.  We also learn that his grandparents and mother were survivors of the Holocaust which I WOULD LIKE YOU TO WRITE THAT BOOK AS WELL, SLASH COLEMAN.  There was a need for all-caps because I found that hint of history so important to his story, and so important to the humanity within this book.  The Holocaust is the defining moment of crushing creativity in our people’s history.

In the middle of the book and throughout the rest, we read about Coleman’s history of important relationships.  We muddle through some relationships, but others are profound in the way we see ourselves.  I think it’s safe to say people have around 2-5 of these profound relationships in their lives.  I really enjoyed the coming clean of Coleman’s relationships because they show how couples can fall apart without the huge deal-breakers that people think end relationships.  It was a really strange, but natural way of showing how a relationship unfolds and why.  The best part of the relationship sections was reading how Coleman got through the after-break-up-ice-cream-gorging-phase.  It felt so real to me and almost uncomfortable in it’s honesty.  I love being uncomfortable when I read.

Moleskine which I suspect had a heavy-hand in the creation of this book. We need an ask Slash session to know for sure.

The book ends in a full-circle road trip with his father.  I won’t give it away, but it’s beautiful.  I don’t often say a plot is beautiful, I’m usually a word person, but the way that this bohemian discovers the truth of his father is devastatingly pretty.  Not girl-pretty, just something-floating-in-space-pretty.   This book won’t be hard to spot since the cover has a small child in underwear and a helmet, which just dawned on me makes complete sense to parts of this story.  I dare you to read it to get to the truth.

It’s the Jr. that makes me wonder if this is real or fictional.

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie, Jr.

This book is like Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain’s relationship.  When it’s good, it’s grand, when it’s bad, it’s awful.  I think every girl wants to be Emma in Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie, Jr. (Thank you, Penguin for the advanced reader’s copy).   She’s the woman that the main character desperately and blindly loves for the entirety of his life.  No matter what young coed happens to pop into his life on a drunken night, what island he moves to, or what desert village he finds himself in halfway through the book, he’s still in love with Emma.  In fact, he’s so in love with Emma, we get 352 pages about Emma.

If you’re into love stories that aren’t always “happily-ever after” and are more the real-life played-out dramas that feature, then here it is. WARNING | GENERALITY: I think every woman has Emma tendencies.  People hold on to those first loves when they’re young enough to doodle that person’s name in flowery script along the edges of their college ruled.  What girl didn’t write, “Mrs. Edward Cullen,” “Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy,” “Mrs. Heathcliff (unknowable first name).”  I’ve never known a guy who talked about his first love in too-nice of words, but Ron seems to have a heart about him.

The part I found the most connection with though was when Ron discussed his father.  I thought these parts of the story were particularly moving and really captured the essence of a family in turmoil over a devastating disease.  I’ve never been close to a family member who had cancer, but I can find myself becoming obsessed with the body of it.  When my grandmother had her stroke, I would find myself staring at her skin.  I always wanted to write out her skin, the purple bruises and the webbed veins.  As a child, you know veins as shadows under skin, but when you see them rise to the surface like expensive and painful lace, it’s hard to disregard the illness.  I knew what it meant to have a stroke because I could look at my grandmother and see the way her body was becoming inside-out.  We use these metaphors to make connections between what we already know and what we have yet to discover.   There’s only one way to feel something and that’s to feel it, but the next best thing is to see it and try to gather something from the swell.

Ron Currie, Jr’s other book & makes sense here on the blog.

However, what did bother me about this book was the post-modern novel narrator.  Can we get over this: “am I the author or the narrator” thing soon?  Why does it matter?  If you write the memoir, write the memoir as if it were incredibly good fiction and not your actual life.  OR on the other hand, write the fiction as if this was some person’s incredibly interesting life.  Do we really have to play the game of “Is Emma real” and “Does Ron Currie, Jr. the character actually love a girl in ‘real-life’ named Emma?”  Excuse me if I say that fiction is my real-life people, they blur more than occasionally.  I understand Ron (which is also my father’s name) was trying to write this book as if it’s the third Emma book in a string of two and therefore a series of books on one woman in her mid-life that is making one man in his mid-life a little insane.

Singularity. It’s amazing what you can find on the internet. Everything in this book about the singularity was in a real book by someone else.

I mean, the guy ends up moving to a shack beside the Red Sea.  The Red Sea to me is some distant sea on a map that makes me imagine a sea of blood.  I can’t help myself.  I know it should be more than that as I am American and America likes to dirty their hands with countries and businesses that are not ours and also because that is a predominant oil region and I drive an unfortunately oil-mannered car.  Honestly, it was at this point in the novel when my suspension as a reader was totally corrupted.  What man moves to the Red Sea (without ruining any of the plot for you) over a woman?  Is this why this is fiction?  Now albeit, my best friend did move to New Zealand for a guy, but everyone at the time, thought she was insane.  Maybe this is just the fate of all people who move for love and heartbreak to foreign places?

This post is making me look like a bigot.

While researching, I did find this Nat Geo on the sister seas of Saudi Arabia.  Exquisite!

This Red Sea business isn’t even the half of it.

The Hurwitz Singularity by Jonty Hurwitz

The worst part of this book and I mean epically bad is this “singularity” business.  We’re all going to become machines, making Dolly look like a quack scientist’s work.  The “singularity” will be this period of time when people are finally able to not be bound by their body, but instead by their mind.  I really enjoyed making the connection between the singularity and his father.  I think it’s really interesting for me to think about my grandmother’s stroke as if she had a stroke of the mind (which she obviously did) and what it would be like for me if her body wasn’t touched by the stroke, just her speech.  However, it interrupted the flow of the narrative.  This was not a science fiction story and I understand that Ron Currie, Jr. has been someone who writes about the after-life, but it took me completely out of the novel when I was reading these small insights of extra-terrestrial futuristic advice and longing.

Maybe this is just a book that’s ahead of itself.  (Or maybe I just need to get better at science fiction).

Now, this is not to say that I don’t recommend this book.  I’m more than mildly obsessed with the fact that the publisher accepted the book with so much white space.  I wish Currie took his white space a bit more seriously, but there’s 352 pages that could have easily been 160.  I also really liked the fact that this was a social commentary on the love story down to the author/narrator juxtaposition.

Be Your Best Self

He says, “And I was no better.  Like everybody else, I had trembled my whole life for something true.  I had hidden, and called it living” (270).  I think this is the real fruit of the book.  We are all living these lives dreaming that we’re something else, or someone else.

Joe B., the NC Poet Laureate came to speak to my classes today, he was wonderful.  He said something really poignant though, I thought.  He said to my students, “when you’re listening to those words through your headphones and all these words coming at you everyday, do you ever say to yourself, ‘I have some words to say.’ And if you do, what are those words?”  My students all wrote down three words against their will, just like they do when I ask them to write something and they make guttural noises and turn their necks into their desks like cranes.  But then they spoke these secret dreams they have, “no more poverty, more justice, fame, more girls, etc.”  And Joe B said to them, “This is your best self.  This is the good you that you hide away and dream.”

Newsday Tuesday:

I’ve found so many things I love for this weeks addition of book news.  In fact, this may be my favorite book news…ever.  Even though there’s only been like eight weeks of Newsday Tuesday.

Mine is perfection.

  • Let me preface this by saying, yes, I follow MuggleNet.  And it seems that Harry Potter helps college students study classic literature.  It certainly didn’t help me with Jane Austen, but maybe others are experiencing euphoria from classic literature.  Personally, I took a whole class (one whole semester) on Chaucer where my teacher spoke Old English (it is another language) and I only realized how dirty he was by the time Wife of Bath came around.  I’m clueless.
  • I found the holy grail of articles for tumblr.  This is a Guide to Literary Tumblrs.  I plan to spend entire days perusing this. The best part: NIKKI GEMMEL HAS A NEW BOOK.  SHE’S ONLY ONE OF MY FAVORITE AUTHORS EVER IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE KNOWN UNIVERSE, EVEN PRE-DINOSAUR, HOLY BALLS.


The sad thing is...I remember dancing to this on the bar at City Limits Teen Night. "Dontcha"

Cracks me up, and my grammar isn't even on par.

And that’s it folks; read, read, read.