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  • Monique Alice 12:40 pm on 2016/09/06 Permalink
    Tags: Authors You Need to Read, , , glennon doyle melton, , , ,   

    Oprah Names a New Nonfiction Book Club Selection 

    Glennon Doyle Melton has unleashed a memoir of epic proportions with Love Warrior. This is the latest book from the Internet sensation, who, since beginning her blog in 2009, has steadily asserted herself as the online voice of an entire generation of mothers. After gaining a groundswell of popularity through her funny, relatable, and vulnerable blog, Melton published her first book, Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, in 2014. The book shot to the top of bestsellers’ lists and received loads of acclaim from everyone from Brené Brown to Meredith Vieira. Two short years later, Love Warrior seems destined to surpass its predecessor, having already earned the honor of Oprah’s Nonfiction Book Club selection.

    In Love Warrior, Melton devotees will recognize her trademark blend of warmth, honesty, and unflinching truth. Where Carry On, Warrior centered mostly on motherhood, Love Warrior turns its focus onto marriage and what it means for two people to build a life together. Between her ex-model husband, three beautiful children, and a writing career that was rocketing through the stratosphere, Melton’s life and marriage looked picture-perfect. But, as she shares in Love Warrior, she was struggling underneath it all to truly know herself and the man to whom she’d been married for over a decade.

    The simple version of Love Warrior is: husband cheats, wife embarks on a quest to find herself. The real story, however, is so much deeper than that. In an attempt to make sense of her present, Melton circles back to her past. She begins with her near-perfect childhood, goes on to an adolescence pockmarked with self-doubt, and lands in a young adulthood besieged by bulimia, alcoholism, and vacant, soul-crushing sex. She leads us by the hand through the darkest hours of her life, when even her parents seemed ready to wash their hands of her and her priest treated her with derision.

    Melton is so completely honest in the rendering of her own desperation and self-disdain that the reader is struck with a yearning to climb through the page and lead her by the shoulders to a warm place and a hot meal. Her rock bottom is palpable—striking in its wretchedness, yet still relatable. Glennon Doyle Melton did not fit many people’s idea of a lost soul; she never sold her body for drugs, she wasn’t homeless, and she always held down a job. Melton is also purposeful in outlining her picket-fence childhood and uneventful, albeit painful, teen years. She seems to say pointedly that there is no easy origin story for her personal demons—nor was she, at her worst, a caricature of a person run off the rails. From the outside looking in, she appeared to be a perfectly functional, intelligent, attractive young woman with a loving family and a good education. Inside, though, she was drowning in pain, loneliness, terror—that moonshine-and-motor-oil cocktail that is the dark side of being alive.

    All of that changed on Mother’s Day, 2001, when Melton found herself staring down the barrel of a positive pregnancy test. Facing the prospect of motherhood, Melton chose to look her demons squarely in the eye for the first time. She began the long, hard road toward recovery from bulimia and alcoholism, and she and her then-boyfriend made the decision to wed and start their family. Through the intervening years, Melton paid her dues on the altar of mommy-dom—as anyone who has read her blog can attest. She and her husband were like so many couples with young children—two ships in the night, volleying babies and poopy diapers and soccer carpool schedules, often without making direct eye contact. It was a struggle, sure—but one in which the dividends far outweighed the cost. Until, that is, Melton’s husband dropped the bomb on her: he had been sleeping with other women.

    In the wake of this truth-telling, Melton doubles back to the work of self-discovery that had previously saved her from the trenches of despair. She digs deep, sparing nothing and no one from the high-powered beam of her soul searchlight. During the ensuing journey, she learns that she and her husband have each run from pain in their own unique ways. She learns about how she has continued to avoid the terrifying depth of her emotions—no longer through food or alcohol, perhaps, but through a simple failure to be present with herself and the ones she loves the most. Like a child learning how to walk, Melton sets out on unsteady legs to reclaim her life. She seeks healing and solace from community, family, and, most of all—from her true self. 

    More than simply a memoir about marriage, Love Warrior is what the title suggests: a manifesto for a fight. It is a fight that so many of us will face—against addiction, against fear, and against the desire of a wounded soul to protect itself by shutting out the light. Glennon Doyle Melton reminds each of us that we have, deep inside, a soldier who will fight for hope, for truth, and for love—if only we are brave enough to invite her into the world.

    Love Warrior is on shelves now.

  • Monique Alice 5:00 pm on 2016/07/28 Permalink
    Tags: Authors You Need to Read, , , lindy west, shrill: notes from a loud woman   

    Feminist Book Club: Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, by Lindy West 

    Welcome to Feminist Book Club! FBC is a monthly column in which we explore written works through a feminist lens. Each post features one book and announces the pick for the following month’s post. We cover everything from essay collections to novels, and from memoirs to plays. This column is meant to be inclusive of all gender identities and features works from many different perspectives. FBC also aims to present an intersectional view of feminism, meaning that race, ability status, sexual orientation, and many other factors are considered alongside gender issues. We hope you will read along and share your thoughts in the comments!

    There are a few names that are sure to be mentioned when history looks back on feminism during the early 21st century, and it seems a sure bet that Lindy West will be near the top of that list. A prominent Internet presence for more than a decade, West is best known for her work on feminist mainstay site Jezebel. Fans of her outspoken, unapologetic, and funny articles will be doubly captivated by her debut memoir, Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman. The magic that West brews into her Jezebel articles is twice as potent in this powerhouse book. West lovers, prepare to rejoice—newcomers, prepare to join the fan club.

    While Lindy West would be in good company on a list of our era’s icons, she stands out as arguably our greatest champion of the body positivity and fat acceptance movements. In Shrill, West allows us a window into her life as a bigger person. However, West would not use “big,” or “heavy,” or “overweight,” or any other euphemism—she makes no bones about the fact that her preferred label is “fat.” West describes her process of coming to terms with her body as it is, and the many obstacles that have threatened to block her from doing so. From her school days, to her dating years, to her life in the workplace—she was never far from a do-gooder all too willing to tell her what she was doing wrong, that it was “dangerous” and “unhealthy” to be fat, and casting fatness as a moral failing worthy of derision. West shows us how natural is was for her to believe this narrative for so many years, and how monumental an act of rebellion it was when she finally rejected the notion that she needed to change in order to be worthy of happiness, success, and love.

    In telling us the story of her own self-acceptance, West yanks back the curtain of one of our culture’s ugly truths: that fat people are second-class citizens in America. We treat them as invisible while simultaneously begrudging them for being too visible. We give them dirty looks on airplanes and in movie theaters, we drown them in unsolicited weight-loss advice, and we infantilize them with the assumption that they cannot control themselves. Simply put, we, as a culture, have no respect for fat people’s boundaries. We think they are fair game for criticism, and even ridicule. Indeed, fat people are one of the last groups in America that is is acceptable to publicly malign, especially under the guise of “concern.” West is on the frontlines of the battle to change all that. She and other fat-identifying folks are declaring that enough is enough, and demanding to be treated as sovereign human beings who take ownership of their bodies and reject the notion that they owe anyone thinness. The point is not that it is healthy to be fat (although there is lots of evidence to suggest it absolutely can be), the point is that it’s simply none of anyone else’s business.

    Speaking of respecting other people, Shrill also tackles the controversy over rape jokes and other forms of misogyny within the comedy world. As a lifelong fan and occasional purveyor of stand-up, West is uniquely qualified to examine this conflict. She describes the ways in which many of our most beloved (often white, usually male) comics have wielded jokes about raping, beating, and otherwise mistreating women in their sets, and the ways in which this can affect survivors and women in general who are members of the ticket-paying, podcast-listening audience.

    Though some have spoken out in support of West, her critique has been met with cries of “PC Police” and that old favorite, “feminazi” by members of the comedy elite and the fedora-wearing masses alike. It brings to mind Jerry Seinfeld’s recent whinge about how he doesn’t perform at colleges anymore since the students are too “politically correct” to laugh at his jokes about gay people. What Seinfeld and other supporters of no-holds-barred comedy often fail to consider is this: no one is challenging your First Amendment rights and demanding that such humor be banned. Rather, it just might be that a progressive audience simply does not find low-hanging fruit jokes about rape victims, LGBTQ people, and other oppressed groups funny. It might mean this new audience is humorless—or it might mean today’s comics need to work a little harder for their laughs.

    Continuing the theme of boundaries and respect in Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman is West’s expose of the particularly virulent strain of abuse she has received from anonymous Internet trolls. In excruciating detail, West outlines the refrains of “kill yourself,” the horrific (although not particularly original) names that people call her regularly, the rape threats, the admonishments that she is too fat to be raped (as though rape is some sort of thinness prize)—the list goes on and on. In one particularly abusive incident that West explored in an episode of This American Life, one troll went so far as to impersonate West’s recently deceased father in order to torment her over a period of months. In an uplifting moment, West’s segment about the ordeal appears to inspire former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo to take a tougher stand on hate speech and harassment levelled via the social network. However, it remains unclear how much has changed on Twitter since then. Currently, SNL cast member Leslie Jones is withstanding a barrage of racist and misogynist tweets after the release of her new movie, Ghostbusters. As of the time of this writing, current Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has reached out to Jones in an apparent pledge to help stop the abuse. Let’s hope he does.

    Though there is still much work to be done in making the real and virtual world safer for oppressed groups, books like Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman provide us with the armor we need to continue to do that work. Equal parts vulnerable memoir, inspirational manifesto, and laugh-out-loud roast of the patriarchy, Shrill is West at her outspoken best. Whether she is defending the rights of people to control their own bodies or refusing to back down from an online harasser, Lindy West reminds us that the loudest people make the most change.

    Next month’s selection: Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

  • Melissa Albert 1:09 am on 2016/07/03 Permalink
    Tags: Authors You Need to Read, ,   

    In Remembrance of Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor and Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 

    Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and author of concentration camp memoir Night, has died. He was 87.

    A Voice for Six Million
    Wiesel’s defining work was Night, a wrenching autobiographical account of his imprisonment at the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps, told through the perspective of fictional alter-ego Eliezer. In 1960, fifteen years after the liberation of the camps, no defining account of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust had emerged. Night became that account, an indispensable record of the razing of Eliezer’s people, identity, and faith. The young Wiesel was taken from his hometown of Sighet, Romania, and transported with his family to Auschwitz in 1944. There, he lost his mother and youngest sister to the gas chamber, and his father to a fatal beating following their transport to Buchenwald, just three months before U.S. forces arrived to liberate it.

    Though it seems impossible now, there was a time when the horrors of the Holocaust, endured by a traumatized people without a mouthpiece, were under threat of fading in the public consciousness, of being whitewashed by time. Wiesel’s Night, in all its brutality and semantic power, secured one of history’s darkest chapters a place in the canon of required reading for humankind.

    The Aftermath
    Following the war, Wiesel found asylum in France, where he worked as a choirmaster, Hebrew teacher, and journalist, before immigrating to the U.S. in 1956. Though he worked as a writer for newspapers in France and Israel, it wasn’t until 10 years after the end of World War II that he broke his silence on what he endured in the camps. Those writings began as a 900-page memoir, then were edited down into Night, first published in France. Slowly the book found an audience, and would eventually be translated into over 30 languages, selling millions of copies around the world.

    A Great Humanitarian
    In the years following Night‘s publication and subsequent rise to prominence, Wiesel devoted himself to writing, including two more volumes in what became the Night trilogy; to his teaching career, with stints at New York’s City University and Boston University; and to his tireless advocacy for victimized peoples around the globe. He remained committed to drawing the world’s attention to large-scale atrocities, speaking out on genocides in Darfur, Rwanda, and Bosnia.

    Over the course of his life, Wiesel received dozens of awards and honors. In 1985, 22 years after he became a U.S. citizen, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, among the United States’ highest civilian accolades.

    The following year, he became the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. In his speech he questioned, “Do I have the right to represent the multitudes who have perished? Do I have the right to accept this great honor on their behalf? …I do not. That would be presumptuous. No one may speak for the dead, no one may interpret their mutilated dreams and visions.”

    A Rich Literary Legacy
    Wiesel continued writing well into his later years, producing not just novels but plays, children’s books, and cantatas. His most recent work, published when he was 83, was Hostage, a novel about a man abducted by two strangers, who begins telling stories in a bid to save his life.

    But Night will endure as the book that both defines Wiesel’s literary contributions and informs the way the world understands and speaks about the Holocaust. In a preface Wiesel wrote to a later translation of his most famous work, he begins like so: “If in my lifetime I was to write only one book, this would be the one.”

    The world is a richer place for that book, for its author’s tireless championing of peace and of human rights, and for his astonishing example: that of a man who endured unspeakable horrors, yet came to represent the best and the brightest possibilities of mankind.

  • Lily Lawrence 8:00 pm on 2016/06/21 Permalink
    Tags: Authors You Need to Read, , first comes love, sibling rivalries   

    A Moving Story of Sisters, and a Perfect Book Club Pick 

    Sibling relationships of all kinds are complicated at best, coming by definition with a lifetime’s worth of family baggage. The relationships that should be closest are the ones most prone to stress, as Emily Giffin (author of bestsellers Something Borrowed, Where We Belong, and The One and Only) explores in new novel First Comes Love. The complicated bond between sisters Meredith and Josie, who share narration, forms the story’s crux, and the dual storytelling is crucial, giving us an intimate view of both sides of the long rift between them.

    From the start, we know theirs is not going to be an easy journey. The book opens with the death of their college student brother, Daniel, in a car crash that happens when he’s home for Christmas, with a beautiful woman he wants to marry in tow. It’s a tragedy whose effects ripple throughout the book. Meredith and Josie, despite their chalk and cheese personalities, share a caring bond—which their brother’s death begins to erode.

    Good girl Meredith presents a poised face: she’s a successful Atlanta lawyer, and mother to a young daughter. In the wake of the accident, she was seemingly “saved” by her husband, Nolan, Daniel’s one-time best friend, with whom she purchased the family home from her now-divorced parents. Nolan also gives the family a tangible link to their lost son. It seems that all is well, but the murky tang of emotional obligation underpinning Meredith’s marriage won’t stay submerged forever.

    Josie, on the other hand, has always been the wild one. Still single and harboring a broken heart from a previous relationship gone awry, Josie has a biological clock that’s not just ticking—it’s ringing an alarm bell. As a first-grade teacher and loving aunt, she’s coming to the conclusion that she’ll have to take matters into her own hands if she wants to become a mother.

    Readers will be rooting for these sisters to find some common ground, mend their differences, and move forward together. The route they take together will be a bumpy one, requiring they both revisit their painful past and start to let go of old feelings of guilt and regret. Readers will love joining them for the ride.

  • Brian Boone 7:00 pm on 2016/05/25 Permalink
    Tags: americana, Authors You Need to Read, cosmopolis, , , the futuuuure,   

    4 Times Don DeLillo Predicted the Future 

    Most of us would consider Don DeLillo to be among the Great American Novelists, the author of towering works of classic, cerebral, (but approachable) American-flavored fiction such as White Noise and Underworld. And now, with his cryonics-themed new novel Zero K, DeLillo goes all-in on science fiction. But he’s actually been doing it for years. Good sci-fi—or speculative fiction, the more descriptive umbrella title purveyors of the genre prefer—attempts to depict the future based on where humanity seems to be headed at the time of writing. By that definition, that’s DeLillo. He’s uncannily nailed the future many times before, particularly in the four novels below.

    White Noise (1985)
    A recurring motif in White Noise is media saturation. Jack Gladney and his large, blended family (which also are more common today than in 1985), always have at least two televisions blaring somewhere in their house, transfixing children and adults alike. DeLillo writes, “For most people there are only two places in the world. Where they live and their TV set. If a thing happens on television, we have every right to find it fascinating, whatever it is.” This passage also demonstrates how technology has made the world smaller…by choking it with information. “What good is knowledge if it just floats in the air? It goes from computer to computer. It changes and grows every second of the day. But nobody actually knows anything.” In that quote, DeLillo has predicted both the rise of the Internet and online culture.

    Another main theme of the novel is an increased awareness and fear of “toxic” products in daily life, far before that was a commonplace worry. (There’s a chemical leak in the novel, or as DeLillo calls it, an “Airborne Toxic Event”—a phrase which has made its way into the vernacular.) This fear that pollution and toxins are omnipresent preceded the present-day “green” movement by decades.

    Mao II (1991)
    In Mao II DeLillo contrasts isolation (one character is a reclusive writer, another is homeless) with crowds (terrorists, angry mobs). DeLillo calls his shot in the last line of the prologue: “The future belongs to crowds.” And the future, or rather the present, does. In spite of, or maybe because of, the lonely Internet culture DeLillo suggested in White Noise, culture is in the midst of a new kind of tribalism. Crowds are a very alluring way to connect with something bigger, or something important, like the righteous and dedicated groups in Mao II. DeLillo’s novel shows crowds of homeless people living in parks, a gigantic sea of mourners at a funeral, and a mass wedding at a baseball stadium. Today we’ve got “crowdsourcing,” “crowd funding,” social media, massive protests, and massive grassroots campaigns for perceived political outsiders. Over twenty years ago, DeLillo saw this coming.

    Cosmopolis (2003)
    Cosmopolis unfolds over the course of one day, primarily through the lens of one character. Eric Packer, a young hedge fund manager, rides in the back of an absurdly well-appointed limo through Manhattan on route to a haircut. He’s delayed by a traffic jams owing to a presidential motorcade and an anti-Wall Street riot. By the end of the novel, Packer has lost billions when the foreign money markets crumble. Wall Street protestors? Financial meltdown? Those things happened for real in 2008 and 2009—DeLillo just got the order of the two things reversed.

    Americana (1971)
    DeLillo’s first novel concerns TV executive David Bell, who helps produce tone-deaf documentaries about indigenous peoples. David and his cohorts find ways to make their productions as easy as possible, caring less about the truth and more about whether it makes for good TV or not. Eventually growing disenchanted, David leaves his corporate job behind to hit the road and make a documentary about the experience. Once more, he learns how easy it is to manipulative the truth of nonfiction film in favor of artificially constructing a more palatable, more commercial story. In other words, DeLillo’s 1971 novel is about…reality television.

    What is your favorite DeLillo novel?

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