The Round House

My lovely cousin, who is doing a bike tour in South America, recommended I check out the author Louise Erdrich. Following her recommendation I searched Amazon for my potential next ebook buy and realized I had already purchased one of the her books. My cousin and I seem to have very similar taste in books 🙂

“The Round House” was a magnificent book, and really hit home with me. I was fortunate enough to go to school in New Mexico, which is home to the largest reservation in the U.S. (Navajo Nation). Thanks to living in New Mexico I was exposed to the complicated nature of the sovereignty of reservations and the laws that go with it. One of the most startling things I learned, besides the high rates of obesity and diabetes within the Native American population, were the high rates of violence against women on reservations. Even more disconcerting is how much of it is perpetuated by white men. There is an unfortunate loophole where if a white man sexually assaults a tribal woman on reservation land, he can (almost) always get away with it. The tribe doesn’t have jurisdiction over him. The local authorities that are not tribal police, have no jurisdiction on tribal land where the crime is most often committed. So the case falls into the hands of the FBI, where it is almost always forgotten. Indigenous women never get justice.

I attended a TEDxABQ Women event back in 2013 and will always remember the poem that was written and recited by this indigenous woman (to my great dismay I don’t remember her name and can’t seem to locate her information online). Her poem was centered on violence against women like her, and one of her most striking lines was “For a Native woman it’s not a matter of if you will get raped, it is a matter of when.”

Louise Erdrich did fantastic job of displaying the consequences this sort of violence has for not only the victim, but the family as a whole. Sexual violence is a tool used by the patriarchy to control women and the psychological ramifications are not something one can just get over (“Vagina” by Naomi Wolf is a good book to read in regards to the effects of sexual assault).

I felt the choice of experiencing this story through the eyes of Joe, rather than his mother, to be very well chosen. Sexual violence against women is not something that just effects them, it can negatively impact all who are connected to the woman who was the unfortunate victim. I also felt that hearing the state of his mom after the rape through his eyes was all the more poignant.

Joe is a very lovable character, and incredibly real.  He isn’t perfect, he is reckless, he is sometimes an awkward teenage boy, he does things he shouldn’t. At the same time though, you feel how much he loves his parents and his friends. You feel him wanting to be good and to support his family however he can, while also being self-preserving.

The author did an amazing job constructing all the characters and interweaving them all together. Every single character was their own entity but they all somehow related back to each other. No character was created without connecting back to the bigger picture, no matter how small. You didn’t always find out immediately how a certain character was relevant, which kept the mystery alive.



The Beauty Myth

Audiobooks take so long to finish sometimes, and by so long I mean almost a year for this one. But I finally finished “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf on my commute the other day.

Naomi Wolf is most well-known for this book, although I enjoyed her other book “Vagina” just as much, if not more than “The Beauty Myth”.

“The Beauty Myth” is definitely a must read in the spectrum of feminist works. It explores the creation of the beauty myth as a reaction to the shattering of millennial old chains that kept women in their place within society. In other words, as women gained more and more freedom and rights, something had to be created by the patriarchy in order to ensure that we were still controllable. And so the birth of the beauty myth.

The book is extensive and covers many topics, from eating disorders, to plastic surgery, to pornography, to the every changing face of the beauty myth. Naomi Wolf dives into this conception of beauty and what it represents not only for women, but for men as well. I particularly enjoyed the part of the book that was devoted to exploring the ill effects of the beauty myth for even men. It resonated with me that heterosexual relationships (and homosexual relationships, although she did not explore this aspect of the beauty myth) are deeply affected by this myth and that it is to it’s advantage that heterosexual relationships, and in that vein, any male and female relationships always have this facade; a certain disingenuousness. That they always lack a certain intimacy and understanding between the two parties, that men always feel separate from women. I would go so far as to say that Naomi Wolf was illustrating the revolutionary act that is men loving REAL women; male and female romantic relationships that are filled with mutual understanding, friendship, and most of all authenticity. This quote from the book illustrates this idea so well: “Women who love themselves are threatening; but men who love real women, more so.”

True feminist works have to expose the ill effects of the patriarchy on more than just the female body. They have to include a discourse on how men are also negatively impacted by the cultural and systematic patriarchal ideas that plague all aspects of our society. This is key as well in enabling people to better understand what feminism is. Feminism is not supposed to be male hating, feminism is supposed to be inclusive to all. The goal of feminism is to destroy the gender norms that chain both women AND men. The goal of feminism is to create equality between the sexes, and promote the idea that your gender does not determine who you can be, who you should be, or how you should be.

I do have to make a pointed critique on “The Beauty Myth”, particularly in regard to my earlier statement that feminism must be inclusive. I acknowledge that the book covers a breadth of topics, which potentially makes it hard to cover everything. However, I do not think that is a valid excuse to forget that the female experience is not the same across the board, and Naomi Wolf writes as if it was. A trans woman has a very different experience than women born biologically female. Just like a woman of color has a very different experience than a white woman. When writing feminist work one cannot forget the idea of intersectionality. The female experience is not universally the same. Writing as if it was, does the movement as a whole a disservice, and, most importantly, ensures that the lived experiences of most women are ignored and irrelevant. We should be using femaleness as a means to unite us, but we shouldn’t be using it as a means to equate the lived experience of all women. Doing so silences and disenfranchises the very women whom feminism should be serving.





Leave of Absence DONE

I unfortunately failed at keeping up with my book reviewing with the end of the semester and other life things occurring. Always breaks my heart when personal life goals get sidelined for other life things, namely graduate school life things for me at this present time.

Now that I have acknowledged that, it is time to renew my vigor with this and continue to work on maintaining a steady flow between both reading and reviewing…they do go hand in hand.

Cheers to accepting that sometimes life does get in the way and that it is okay. Double cheers for not letting life get in the way for too long.

**Also this is my post for officially unveiling my LOGO! Hurray for graphic designers at school who can help you with this stuff.

No Land’s Man

One of the hardest things to navigate on this book reviewing journey are those books that just don’t necessarily inspire you but they are feel good books. Simple, easy reads, after long weeks that give some relief from the daily dramatics of life. They are the books I read to give me energy to read the harder, more emotionally draining books. “No Land’s Man” fits exactly this bill.

Through this feel good book, Aasif is able to take the reader through the intricacies of his own life and how they formed his journey to achieving his career goals. Aasif Mandvi also have a very interesting story and background that make his experience growing up rather unique. He speaks of the struggles that face actors everywhere, particularly actors of color who are cast only into very specific roles. Goes to show that stereotypes reign strong still and that breaking out of them is particularly hard. Can we not all just be humans? A silly question to ask of course, given that would require the dismantling of a structure of oppression that has been going strong for so long now. Regardless, it begs the question as to why people of color cannot just be themselves? Why must their identity and their story be so chained to the color of their skin? Why can’t an actor like Aasif not just play a “normal” role? Why must he always play the middle eastern man? Why must he always have an accent? Why must he be the spokesperson for all muslims? White people are seen as individuals, people of color are seen as part of a group of people.

All in all, I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to tell someone to pick up this book, but I do respect the fact that this book adds voice to the otherwise homogeneous narratives that are offered on the struggles of making a career out of acting.