Forever Your Girl: Lazy Sunday Tribute Post

I often post my music posts on Mondays (Music Monday) but this post is inspired by the lazy Sundays I used to have when I was a child.

My Sunday afternoons in the late 80s/early 90s were spent sat at the dining room table, reading Usborne mystery puzzle books that I’d borrowed from the library whilst listening to Paula Abdul’s Forever Your Girl album (on tape) over and over and over.  My poor parents!

I had a little pang for those days and decided that today’s post would be a tribute to the Forever Your Girl album.  I would like to present for your listening pleasure, a mixture of original versions and covers of some of the songs from Paula Abdul’s 1988 classic Forever Your Girl.

Paula Abdul- Knocked Out

Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers- Forever Your Girl

Paula Abdul/The Wild Pair- Opposites Attract

Alyssa Edwards vs Coco Montrese lipsyncing Paula Abdul- Cold-Hearted

Paula Abdul- The Way That You Love Me

Postmodern Jukebox (ft Ashley Stroud)- Straight Up

My favourite song from this album is Straight Up so I’ve decided to give you another version of this song. Here’s the original recording by Paula Abdul, synced by Raja and Carmen Carrera.

PLEASE NOTE- Clothes get shed and things get a little rude- NSFW!!!

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AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Too Much Information- Dave Gorman

Nowadays, the world is full of people trying to tell us things. So much so that we have taught our brains not to pay much attention. After all, click the mouse, tap the screen, flick the channel and it’s on to the next thing. But Dave Gorman thinks it’s time to have a closer look, to find out how much nonsense we tacitly accept.

Suspicious adverts, baffling newspaper headlines, fake twitter, endless cat videos, insane TV shows where the presenters ask the same questions over and over…

Can we even hear ourselves think over the rising din? Or is there just too much information?

This audiobook is narrated by Dave Gorman.

The books of Dave Gorman tend to be a go-to holiday read for me.  They’re light, they’re funny and they’re easy to read.  I’m (unfortunately) not on holiday at the moment but I was searching for an audiobook that I could use to fill in the little entertainment gaps in day to day life, to listen to when I do the dishes or unload the washing machine or wipe down the bathroom surfaces.  You know, a soundtrack for greatly fun activities! What I really wanted was something that I could listen to in little bursts but would keep me entertained whilst doing the boring bits of everyday life.

Dave Gorman is a stand-up comedian who is known in the UK for his PowerPoint based comedy shows.  Yes, he does comedy with the aid of PowerPoint… and it is great! He’s very funny and makes extremely valid points.  One of his strengths is the validity of his observations on everyday life.  He’s also written several books, generally narrative non-fiction detailing his aims to: meet 52 people called Dave Gorman, travel across the world meeting Googlewhacks, play a variety of games with people, travel across America without using any chain supermarkets, petrol stations, restaurants, hotels etc.  I’ve enjoyed them all and especially would recommend America Unchained.

This book does not follow the same narrative pattern as those books, it doesn’t take us on a journey.  Instead, we have a set of reflections about the modern world- from Cillit Bang adverts to the Mail Online’s liking for the use of the word “matching”.  I watch Gorman’s show Modern Life is Goodish on DAVE (non-UK readers, please note- I do not just watch the show reflected onto Gorman himself… here in the UK, for some reason, we have a TV channel called DAVE.  It mainly shows repeats of panel shows but it does have some original programming.  It did used to have a catch-up sister channel called DAVE JA VU- really!!) and thought that this sounded a bit like a book/audiobook version of that.  And, basically, that is what this is.  To the extent that if you have watched the TV show some of the subjects that Dave talks about will be very familiar to you which can be a little annoying when you feel you are being given the same material in a different form.  The other thing is that the show is, in essence, a comedy show.  The loss of the little experiments he does in the show (putting Smarties in the dishwasher tablets, posting out £5 notes in envelopes to see if anyone steals the contents of the post) means that a little of the irreverence and joy that is at the core of Gorman’s comedy is missing.  The book seems to be more of a rant at times.  I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that.  I like to rant as much as the next person and lots of subjects that Dave tackles are definitely rant-worthy but the comedic element was missing at times, meaning that he comes across as a little less friendly than he does on TV.

Some of the chapters are really short and the choppy nature of the audiobook means it is perfect for when you don’t have a long time put aside for listening.  Short journeys, doing chores- it’s great for this.  The few times I tried listening for longer periods of time I just started getting aggravated.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t annoyed with Gorman- it was this modern world and the modern media.  Due to the strength of Gorman’s arguments and hearing it in his own voice it was easy to get carried away with a feeling of “Yeah! What is it with adverts these days? Bloody advertisers!”  This is great for a short while but after a bit I just ended up in a mood.  I think I do prefer a narrative when listening to audiobooks for longer periods of time.

Due to the nature of this book, the strength of the chapter sort of depends on how much you agree with him.  I too was shocked when I found out about one of the biggest cover-ups in UK advertising (it all centres on Barry Scott!), have now taken to noticing the inane questions asked of quiz show contestants and have been keeping my eyes peeled for wrong information being constantly retweeted on Twitter.  Most importantly, the main thing I took from this book is to repeatedly check that my Spotify account is not posting all of my guilty pleasure music onto Facebook!!

A good listen but definitely for filling time rather than long lazy audiobook days.

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Kingdom Rush: Origins

I’m not a huge gamer. I occasionally like to play a game or two on my phone or iPad but I’m not really primarily that sort of geek girl. I like the Lego games (Batman, Harry Potter) and have a real love of the Plants Vs Zombies games but my true gaming love for the past few years (since 2011) has been Kingdom Rush.
The Kingdom Rush games are produced by a company called Ironhide Games Studio, based in Uruguay. They are tower defence games set in a medieval/fantasy world. A range of fantasy creatures come towards your settlement and you can use a range of archer/Mage/artillery/barracks towers in order to defend yourself and stop them from invading.
The third game in the series, Kingdom Rush:Origins came out yesterday and my husband and I couldn’t wait to buy (£2.99) and download this game onto iOS! We’ve been fighting over whose go on the iPad it is ever since! It’s a game which builds on the successes of the earlier games. It doesn’t deliver astonishingly new concepts but it continues to build on the style and playability of the earlier versions.
Why are we so in love with these games?
First of all… the graphics are clear and well designed. From the beautiful interactive maps on the title page…
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to the actual levels, everything present on the screen has been incredibly well designed and thought through.
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The levels start simple and then build up gradually until you reach the fiendishly difficult end levels. It’s really addictive and the more types of towers you unlock the more possibility for different elements to the gameplay.
There are pop and geek culture references littered freely throughout the levels. In this new game I am only on level 5 and have already spotted references to The Lion King, Castaway, The Hunger Games, Star Wars, George of The Jungle and Game of Thrones.
If you enjoy fantasy fiction or TV I would definitely recommend taking a look at the Kingdom Rush games.

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REVIEW: Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror- Mike Tucker

“Well, I doubt you’ll ever see a bigger insect.”

Gabby Nichols is putting her son to bed when she hears her daughter cry out. ‘Mummy there’s a daddy longlegs in my room!’ Then the screaming starts… Kevin Alperton is on his way to school when he is attacked by a mosquito. A big one. Then things get dangerous.

But it isn’t the dead man cocooned inside a huge mass of web that worries the Doctor. It isn’t the swarming, mutated insects that make him nervous.

With the village cut off from the outside world, and the insects becoming more and more dangerous, the Doctor knows that unless he can decode the strange symbols engraved on an ancient stone circle, and unravel a mystery dating back to the Second World War, no one is safe.

Thanks to NetGalley and BBC Books for the opportunity to read this e-ARC in return for an honest review.

I enjoy reading Doctor Who books. They are a really enjoyable and highly readable series. I think one of the strengths is the reader’s familiarity with the characters. We don’t need to learn too much about them because we know them inside and out.

I suppose this is what makes writing for a new doctor both a blessing and a curse. You probably have a little bit more lee-way with his character as reader expectations won’t be totally set in stone. Conversely though this means that you have less of a background to set your characterisation on. Some of the other 12th Doctor books have compensated for this by having the viewpoint narrated by a third person previously unknown to us character- such as Lights Out and The Blood Cell. Silhouette tackled it by surrounding the Doctor with familiar characters, meaning that he is not only ably assisted in this case by Clara but also by Jenny, Madame Vastra and Strax.

In my opinion, The Crawling Terror does suffer in comparison to the above named books. Some of Tucker’s decisions about the representation of the Doctor seemed a little out of character for me (having now had the luxury of watching the whoLe first season). Would he have such a good understanding of contemporary pop culture? Would he be an avid fan of Call The Midwife?

I loved the concept of giant insects taking over a village and enjoyed having the opportunity to see the Doctor engage with the military- never something he particularly enjoys having to do, but particularly the case for this incarnation. However, as the book became more entrenched in action rather than character development I just began to lose interest. I understand that a Doctor Who book needs to be action filled and exciting but personally prefer the more character-driven titles.

I was glad to see more of Clara in this book compared to The Blood Cell and I liked the references to her relationship with Danny but part of me wanted to see him in this situation too. It would be interesting given his dynamic with the Doctor and again with the Doctor’s dislike of soldiers.

I did really like the link to historical setting. I thought it was a great idea to link this to the war and thought that the mixture of fiction and real historical setting would be a great introduction to the topic of the war for older children. It’s not, however, necessarily a children’s book and I do think it’s a pretty scary read for more easily frightened young Doctor Who fans.

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REVIEW: Doctor Who: Lights Out (12th Doctor)- Holly Black

Last year, in honour of the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who and the soon-to-be re-generation of the Doctor, Puffin commissioned some of the leading authors of children’s fiction to create a series of e-novellas which would be released month on month (one for each Doctor) until November. Now, a year on, we have just had the first season of the 12th iteration of the Doctor, his time played by Peter Capaldi, and Puffin have now released the 12th novella for children featuring this Doctor.

It’s a novella so it’s a relatively short read. Incredibly short actually, it’s only 39 pages long.  Although the book is marketed as a read for older children and teens I would definitely say that is a great read for adult Doctor Who enthusiasts too.  Most Doctor Who books are generally presented from a third person omniscient point of view but the choice of a first person narrator for this book works well.  We’re still getting to grips with who this Doctor is so it makes sense to present not a definitive view of the Doctor but the point of view of a previously unmet character.

I really enjoyed how Holly Black gradually gives us information about the main character and invites us to make certain inferences for ourselves.  I actually thought that the opening of the book would make a really good extract for developing inference and deduction skills with a Year 5/6/7 class.  However, apart from being really skillfully written, this is a really exciting book.  At it’s heart it’s a locked room mystery with hints of the Agatha Christie in it yet it’s set in space on an Intergalactic Coffee Roasting Station peopled with a whole variety of different extra-terrestrial beings.

I really liked the link to the first episode of this new season where the Doctor offers to go and grab some coffee for him and Clara.  It was a comment which seemed rather throwaway (apart from as a knowing reference to “Rose”, the first 9th Doctor episode).  Adding this is cemented the events in the book as canon but also just cemented the idea of the novels and TV series being consistent to each other.

I don’t want to give away too much of the plot at it’s only a 39 page story and saying much of it will give away major plot points.  However, it should be said that it’s a hugely character driven story but more in terms of the narrator rather than necessarily the Doctor.  It’s a great read and a fantastic introduction to the Doctor Who novels (or even Doctor Who in general) for younger readers.

not that kind of girl

REVIEW: Not That Kind of Girl- Lena Dunham

“If I could take what I’ve learned and make one menial job easier for you, or prevent you from having the kind of sex where you feel you must keep your sneakers on in case you want to run away during the act, then every misstep of mine was worthwhile. I’m already predicting my future shame at thinking I had anything to offer you, but also my future glory in having stopped you from trying an expensive juice cleanse or thinking that it was your fault when the person you are dating suddenly backs away, intimidated by the clarity of your personal mission here on earth. No, I am not a sexpert, a psychologist, or a dietician. I am not a mother of three or the owner of a successful hosiery franchise. But I am a girl with a keen interest in having it all, and what follows are hopeful dispatches from the frontlines of that struggle.”

Lena Dunham is definitely someone who seems to split opinion right down the middle.  People don’t tend to have mid-way opinions on her, they usually either love her or hate her.  I didn’t really know much about her before reading this book.  I hadn’t watched Girls and haven’t seen Tiny Furniture or anything else that she’s done.  I saw this book around the time I picked up Bad Feminist and the blurb interested me so I thought I’d give it a go.

I think the main thing about this book is that if you do already have clear defined views on Lena Dunham, this book is not going to change them.  If you already think that her writing is extremely white, extremely middle class and extremely privileged then you certainly will not be swayed of those beliefs by this book.  It is dripping with a sense of privilege but never really acknowledges the unusual nature of this sort of upbringing.  I think as an autobiography you do have to explain how your life was, and her life was full of opportunities that others did not have.  However, I did feel that the book was written for an audience who had experienced similar lives.  I felt excluded to a certain extent and felt that Dunham didn’t acknowledge this.  I wasn’t quite as annoyed about this as I was at Elizabeth Gilbert when reading Eat, Pray, Love but it did rankle, especially in the sections about her ‘hardly working’ days at the children’s clothes boutique.

On the other hand though, if you like Lena Dunham’s dry sense of humour and her openness this book is choc-full of it.  I did find myself openly laughing at some parts and I did her writing to be incredibly honest.  I particularly enjoyed the reproduction of embarrassing emails sent to boyfriends and lists of things you shouldn’t say at parties but that she had.  It was cringe-worthy but brilliant.  We’ve all done this sort of rubbish (I used to get drunk and ring my ex-boyfriend and propose so my friends tried to take my phone off me when drunk.  I then stole it back, ran to the toilet, rang him (at 3am!!!) and proposed!!!   Ooops!)  and this part actually did resonate with me well.

The part of the book about her experience of rape was harrowing and eye-opening.  I really felt for her and was just absolutely shocked by this.  I felt that the introduction of this story as an “unreliable narrator” just made it even more powerful.  We see one version of events (which already sounded extremely worrying to me) and then see it again but in a new light.  It was a really hard part to read but well written.

There has been a lot of controversy around one particular part of the book.  I know that somebody wouldn’t willingly bring allegations of molesting their sister onto themselves but the cynical part of me does wonder whether someone in the publishing company knew that this would bring a whirlwind of publicity to their door? I think sometimes Dunham’s writing in this book is almost too open and I wonder whether she (not particularly in this case but generally) has got used to courting controversy in her writing. It did feel so when I was reading it (and this was before the original article claiming it was child abuse was published).

I think if you like Lena Dunham’s work it’s definitely worth reading (but then if you’re a big fan you probably will have already read it by now).  If you are new to Dunham I’d say give it a go but be prepared to feel strongly about it (either love or hate).

Extravanganza Eleganza: Performance, Clothes and Lip Syncing for Your Life

I noted in my last post that sometimes large changes in our life can affect our sense of identity. Certainly when I had some upheaval in my life due to bereavement I was not only sad for the loss of my loved one but also for what it meant to me now. Who am I if I don’t have them? During my last really down time I found myself binge watching Netflix compulsively. I got through most of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and seemed to watch The I.T. Crowd on a loop but the programme that I seemed to return to and watch the most was RuPaul’s Drag Race.

At first I thought it was just the beautiful dresses, the amazing makeup, the incredible shoes and the lip synching (oh my word… how much do I want to lip synch on that stage?) but one day I realised there was more to it than just this. Not only do we get to see the amazing costuming of these incredible performers but we actually find out about the people behind the make-up. Not only do we see the queens in drag but we also see them in their boy clothes and find out about their day to day lives off the stage. What I found very moving was the way in which drag seemed to have provided a community, a family and an escape from unhappiness. Pandora Boxx and BenDeLaCreme have talked openly about their struggles with depression and the way that drag helped them move on with their lives.

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I’ve recently found that accepting this idea of performance in my own clothing choices has actually been a stepping stone with my own mental health problems. If I can imagine having the confidence of Jafar, the strength of Anna or the joy and naivety of Winnie The Pooh (yes, I have a WTP outfit lined up!!) then it just gives me a little lift as I start my day. I certainly don’t go around announcing that I am going to marry princesses or trying to climb up to bee hives to collect the honey but it just gives me a bit of confidence that I didn’t have before. I’ve started expanding this out from Disney characters. I’ve got an awful lot of grey and blue in my wardrobe so I’ve started to see this as an expression of my inner Ravenclaw- luckily I was a Ravenclaw when sorted on Pottermore! I don’t have a heck of a lot of yellow in my wardrobe- I’d never have been able to do too much with Hufflepuff!! I’ve also started thinking about how I can channel the styling choices of Myrtle Snow and Misty Day from American Horror Story: Coven or Claudia from Warehouse 13.

Anyway, in thanks to RuPaul and the fabulous queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race for keeping me going during my lowest points, here are my absolute favourite Lip Sync For Your Life performances.

TOP 5 LIP SYNCS in RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE

NUMBER 5- Toxic- Jiggly Caliente

(I couldn’t find a video with just this clip but you will find it at 6.25 on here).  This song is one of my guilty pleasure songs and Jiggly Caliente just made it even better. I love the post apocalyptic dreadlocks and the amount of energy she uses! I even love the way that the accoutrements from her outfit are dropping off on every beat. So good!

NUMBER 4- Cover Girl- Bebe Zahara Benet

I loved Nina Flowers. She was probably my favourite all of the way through the first season but this lip sync just shows that the right queen one. She is so polished, so beautiful, and such a cover girl! It just works so well! Cameroon!

NUMBER 3- This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)- Dida Ritz

I’m not a great fan of her outfit but boy does Dida show how a lip-sync is done. The Princess actually does a good job of trying to keep up with her but the energy that Dida Ritz shows is amazing.

NUMBER 2- (You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman)- Latrice Royale

This was never going to be an easy one. Dressed like a mother-to-be for the ‘Dad’s I’d Like To Frock’ challenge and lip syncing to Aretha Franklin but Latrice Royale brings it! This lip sync just shows that drag is a bona fide performance art- I believe every little bit of emotion that Latrice shares with that padded baby bump. I understand why Kenya Michaels is trying to grab the judge’s attention by dancing right around where she is but there is no way that any amount of acrobatics or balletic movement could trump the stationary beauty of Latrice Royale’s performance.

NUMBER 1- Malambo No 1- Jinkx Monsoon

I do think that Detox did a good job with this but Jinkx! Wow! I know the outfit didn’t have candy on it and that was basically the whole point of the task but she looks amazing in it even before she starts grinding and gurning and moving. I love This video makes me want to ‘Connie and Carla’ it up and go and be a drag queen. I love Jinkx’s attitude to life. She keeps going and trying even when she is feeling low or struggling with her narcolepsy. I could watch this on a loop! (Did I say could? I do watch this on a loop to cheer me up when I’m low!)

NOTE: My husband read this post and then promptly continued to tell me why I was wrong and should have put Latrice Royale’s lip sync of ‘Natural Woman’ at no 1.  He was very adamant about this (which I found quite amusing! This is only a subjective list on my blog.  It really doesn’t matter if others don’t agree) and I really do see his point about the emotional power of the performance but… this is my list and I get the last say. No T, No Shade.

Grayson Perry's 'The Memory Jar', currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Identity

Grayson Perry: Who Are You? was an absolutely riveting piece of television.  Turner Prize-winner Grayson Perry met a range of individuals, families and groups and created artworks about them which would help him to explore the concept of ‘identity’.  If you are based in the UK and can access 4OD I would definitely recommend taking a look at it.  Here’s a clip taken from the Channel 4 News of Jon Snow and Grayson Perry discussing some the artworks created in the series and their relationships to Perry’s own identity.

During this documentary/Art series, Perry met such a wide-ranging group of people to consider how race, gender, religion, nationality, disability, celebrity affects our ideas of our own identity and belonging, and also the identity that we portray to others.  One segment looked at the way that our memories cement our identity and the struggles that those suffering with Alzheimer’s have with their own identity and their identity within a family.  What I found moving about this was the discussion that Perry had with a wife whose husband had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  They discussed the effect upon him but also upon her, seeing his own sense of identity and his memories of their life together fade.  The Memory Jar that Perry creates to represent the couple’s issues shows the disease as a sort of demon with a pair of scissors that has cut up their photos (and thus their memories/lives) into tiny shards.  When they were looking at the pot, the couple were so taken with how it accurately depicted their experiences with Alzheimer’s.  What I found really interesting was that the wife recognised this idea of identity being cut not only in her husband but in her too- that their identity as a couple, a family, had been so affected by the disease. In the documentary Perry commented that often our identity is so entwined with that of our family that the loss of them in anyway will affect how we see ourselves. My own experiences of bereavement have caused me to question who I am. I grew up in the daughter/granddaughter role- what happens when that role is no more? Similarly (but less drastically), I have have questioned my identity during my sickness leave from work. Even the subtitle of my blog (Reader, Teacher, Nerd) feels 33% wrong whilst I’m off work.

So many YA books and Middle Grade books look at how identity can be constructed/displayed.  Gracefully Grayson shows a young trans girl explore her inner self and true gender identity. A Boy’s Own Manual To Being a Proper Jew shows the main character, Yossi, work out how two important parts of his identity (his sexuality and his religion) can both be expressed simultaneously. Lottie Biggs is (Not) Mad shows a girl struggling with anxiety and depression but shows how her mental illness does not necessarily define who she is. How To Build a Girl, the book that I reviewed yesterday, depicts a young girl exploring her both her sexuality and creative output.  Books are a way for us to explore the concept of identity and to be able to see how others cope with the struggles of realising who they truly are.

I’m 32 and still trying to work out who I am.  Maybe I’ll get there but maybe the idea is that we don’t ever really understand our identity fully.  I suppose, as our life changes our identity will bend and change with us.

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REVIEW: How To Build A Girl- Caitlin Moran

What do you do in your teenage years when you realise what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes – and build yourself.

It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, 14, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde – fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer! She will save her poverty stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer – like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontes – but without the dying young bit.

By 16, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realises she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all?

I like Caitlin Moran. I actually have done for a very long time. I first read her writing when I was about 12 and she was 16 and published her first book The Chronicles of Narmo.. She’s open and she’s honest and although I don’t always agree with everything she says in her journalistic writing I do enjoy it. I was a little worried about reading this though. I’ve read How To Be a Woman and after reading the blurb of this book felt like I was looking at basically the same book. We’re again reading about a sexually driven intelligent young woman from a West Midlands based family who changes her name and becomes a writer. Despite the announcement at the beginning of How To Build a Girl that this is a work of fiction there is no doubt left in me that Johanna is based on Caitlin herself. And did I want to read her story again (albeit in a fictionalised form)?

At first, it did annoy me that I felt we were treading over the same ground but after a while I just got caught up in Johanna’s story. I’m not saying she’s a character I would love to spend time with. I think her Dolly Wilde persona would have intimidated me no end and I found her tendency (especially early on in the book) to give citations for every book reference as self-consciously intellectual and twee but I loved it. I loved that she annoyed me that much. She felt like a real teenage girl. I was bloody annoying as a teenager and I know that I tried to come off as brighter than I possibly was at times.

I am very interested on the idea of identity as a construct (more on this later this week) and enjoyed how the novel explored this. Johanna embarrasses herself on local TV and begins to build herself a new identity- mainly by dressing in a top hat and writing bitchy reviews of concerts and albums. So many of us go through different phases in our teenage years of trying to be something else and I felt like Moran nailed this so well. I also loved the 90s setting. Moran really captured the time and the music scene really well.

I would definitely recommend this book as it’s funny, snarky and honest. If you’ve read Moran’s non-fiction works don’t expect this to be completely sparkly new and different but do expect a true reflection of life as a teenaged girl.

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REVIEW: Bad Feminist- Roxane Gay

As I stated yesterday, I’ve not always felt comfortable with labelling myself as a feminist. However, in the past five years or so I have realised that the term can apply to me. It doesn’t mean that I always find it easy but this book helped me to understand myself as a feminist, and more generally as a person, a little better. The opening introduction and the end ‘Back To Me’ chapters accurately depict the difficulty that Roxane Gay has found in always being a “good feminist.” She explains that she feels like a ‘bad feminist’ at times and shows us that part of holding strong beliefs is understanding that sometimes you will feel that you are failing them. It is part of being human.

The book is divided into sections about Gay herself, gender and sexuality, race and entertainment, and politics, gender and race. Each section is comprised of a number of essays, some of which have been printed in various forms and publications before. Gay touches on such disparate subjects such as the sexual assault she faced as a young girl, the portrayal of race and gender in pop culture and Scrabble. In each essay Gay writes honestly, clearly without jargon and intelligently. Reading her work I feel like if I met her I could just listen to her talk for hours.

I personally feel that Gay’s writing is at her strongest when she writes from her own experience and she uses her own experiences to make her points eloquently. ‘What We Hunger For’ seems to simply start off as both the declaration of a fangirl (“Teem Peeta”- me too, by the way) and a critical look at the issues in play in The Hunger Games. However, found within this essay is a harrowing account of sexual assault and a greater comment about female strength. I felt that she made a really important statement about YA fiction, the power it can have and the messages it can give our young people.

Roxane Gay’s feelings upon popular culture are made abundantly clear in Bad Feminist. She absolutely loves TV, music, film and popular fiction. In a range of essays covering subjects such as Django Unchained, Sweet Valley High, Orange is the New Black, Disney princesses etc she starts on a surface level but then is able to critically dissect the representation of gender or race within these cultural constructs. I was absolutely shocked and heartbroken reading “Dear Young Ladies Who Love Chris Brown So Much They Would Let Him Beat Them” that this attitude actually exists. Shocked that Gay would actually need to address this through an essay, surely no woman would actually declare that they would be abused in return for proximity to a rapper. This essay doesn’t just, however, explain the falsehoods in their beliefs, it also looks at the way that modern society has failed these young women. They have been brought into a world where people think that this is ok.

I’m not saying I always agree with everything that Gay writes. I personally am a huge fan of Orange is the New Black and believe that it is one of the most inclusive shows on TV. (I’m not saying it isn’t problematic at times- look at the portrayal of Chang!) I disagree that Suzanne/Crazy Eyes is “more caricature than character”. Yes, she starts off as a fairly one note character as we see her through the eyes of the other inmates but by end of Season 1 we see her as a much more nuanced character, someone who just wants to be loved and doesn’t always fully understand the world around her. In Season 2 we find out more about her back story and her vulnerability. However, despite not necessarily agreeing with some of the points in the essay ‘Less is More’, I did appreciate the intelligence and eloquence of her writing. She debates a point well.

I feel that this is a really important book and is one that I will return to time and time again.