Review of ‘No Fixed Address’, by Susan Nielsen (Must-Read)
When I read Nickled and Dimed, I remembered thinking that this book should be turned into a movie, a TV show, and a series of books, and that the story of the struggle of the working poor should be shared in a way that will make people care deeply about the issue, in order to combat the prejudices around poverty. No Fixed Address is exactly that. I felt the story of Felix at the very core of my being, and shed tears at a particular point in the story when I thought that maybe this was it, that he was going to be helped—and it just turned out to be a dead end. Poverty is not a choice, and I wish people could see it as clearly as described in this book. No one thinks “I’m just going to live in a van for now, use facilities at the community centre, and lead a financially and physically unsafe lifestyle because I want to.” There is so much prejudice that it holding us back as a society and I really feel that books like these are an important tool in girding our loins in order to embark on the tough work of transforming the world for the better.
Review of ‘Big Summer’, by Jennifer Weiner (Runner Up)
One of my favorite authors has come out with a book that could be classified as a murder mystery, I guess. But it is so much more than that. It’s about body shaming. It’s about one’s online versus IRL personas. It’s about bullying. It’s about classicism. It’s about neglect. All of this, rolled into one. It was an addictive, unstoppable read (I might have stretched reading time as long as I could for and skipped a few hours of precious sleep…) and it left me feeling both a little raw, emotionally, but also uplifted and hopeful. In the last couple of years, I have “broken up” with a few toxic friendships, and the pull that bully Drue has on Daphne was something quite familiar that kept me, miserable, in toxic friendships for many years. I really felt heard in Daphne, both when it came to her relationship with Drue, but also in her self-description as a “not-that-influential influencer”. I mean, I’m even less influential, so that description really made me laugh. I didn’t see the twist at the end; I’m going to have to reread the entire thing to see if the hints were there, because it did seem to both come out of the blue but make sense. Or maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to dig into this one, even through I really should be getting to the rest of my TBR pile…
Review of ‘Rules For Being A Girl’, by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno (Second Runner-Up)
These are the rules as written in the book, which are so true they made me cringe all the harder: “Rules for being a girl: Don’t wear too much makeup. Don’t wear short skirts. Don’t distract the boys by having a body. Don’t get so skinny your curves disappear. Don’t get so curvy you aren’t skinny. Be funny but don’t hog the spotlight. Don’t be a doormat, but god, don’t be bossy. Act like one of the guys. Don’t actually act like one of the guys. Don’t give him the wrong idea. Don’t be cold. Don’t give it up. Don’t be a prude. But calm down! Don’t worry so much. You can do anything! Just don’t forget to smile!” How I hate the rules for being a girl, but oh how true it is that those of use who don’t go by them pay the price. I think it’s better a little better, but I always felt like my tendency of speaking my mind (until I was broken, but I’m getting back to my old self, slowly but surely) had people categorise me as a bossy bitch. But then when I’m quiet, people wonder when I become such a doormat. After some experimentation, I refused to straighten my hair, and I like light makeup—combined with a preference for modest clothing, it made people tell me things like “Good thing you’re kind of smart because you’re definitely not the pretty one” and “You’ll never find a husband.” (Spoiler alert: I did and he is amazing so neener.) But when I experimented with dressing up and putting a full face of makeup on every day, I was called an attention whore and my modesty was mourned. There is only one way girls can win, and that’s by refusing to play the game. You do what is natural to you and use it to build a better world in which these rules are tossed out of the window—and I should be talking about the book, shouldn’t I. It’s a great book. It’s a simple story, not overly complicated with other topics and matters, and, well, at the end of the day, it really shows why girls and women don’t bother reporting sexual harassment, because the price we pay is just too high, even higher than a traumatic incident—just take a second to absorb that.
Review of ‘Frankly in Love’, by David Yoon
This is another one that really made me feel heard. I mean, how many of us children of immigrants have had to deal with elders like Frank’s parents? To give you an idea: Frank’s big sister married a Black man, only to be disowned by her Korean parents. It’s so hard to let down your immigrant parents because they put so much on the line and worked so hard to come to North America and build a better life that we benefited from, but when the education they provided us with turned us against them, well, it can get pretty ugly. I was lucky enough that my parents were of the enlightened kind, so thankfully the awkwardness was only felt a couple of times a week at other people’s homes, and yet it was completely exhausting to live through. Frankly in Love might come off as a silly romantic comedy to some people. But the issues of race, immigration, class, gender, family, and friendship, amongst others, that are obviously and not obviously weaved into the plot will leave many others with a lot to think about, for a long time. Refreshingly honest without being patronizing, another book that slips into my “world transformation” shelf.