Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Three Quickies

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I don't read a lot of fiction. I think 'The Wallcreeper' is one of those super acclaimed books, or something. I will say that it's super odd. Nell Zink is a talented writer who created a very readable book. It's sort of strange to write this, but her story got in the way of the writing. The narrator and the beginning of the book make it hard to put down- it's only in the last third of the book (and it's a short book) that 'The Wallcreeper' gets sort of annoying- again, this is weird- but the plot gets in the way of the book. It's almost like a moral is kind of creeping in, or at least some kind of point that we're supposed to understand. The book is best when you're just floating through the odd beauty of an odd couple living in Europe. I couldn't put it down though, and if you need a strange, quick read, it's worth a shot.

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'The Sisters are Alright' is probably a very important book- a book that needed to be written, sort of to have on record. Tamara Winfrey Harris presents a narrative by black women about black women- a story that isn't frequently told: "black women illuminate the reality of their lives- a reality that has been too often and for too long obscured by biased news coverage, GOP dog whistling, postracial and postfeminist progressives, and other people looking to make a fast buck reinforcing everything the world thinks is wrong with us." The progressive bit in there is important: The book challenges even those of us who know that life as a black woman isn't perfect, that a lot of shit needs to get cleaned up, to after acknowledging the stereotypes (Mammy, the Matriarch, Jezebel and Sapphire) and how they affect black women, how they might NOT affect black women all the time, and to circle back and to remember that black women are individual women. If that seems complicated and circuitous, it's because it is. Essentially, it's easy to get caught up in the theory and believe in it and forget that people are individuals. 'The Sisters are Alright' humanizes the individuals- black women in this case- again. I would quibble with the book, however, in that the spin is a bit too positive. I'm glad that Winfrey Harris opens this dialogue. I feel like, by problematizing the problem, however, she may have gone too far. She reminds us that "These women cannot represent all black women. But that is also the point. Black women's lives are diverse. The diminishing mainstream portrait of black womanhood cannot contain its multitudes." While the book offers a new and important segment of voices, I felt a little bit like I was being hammered with empowerment literature. Still an important book, not necessarily a great read.

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I have a thing about crappy TV. I can't help it that my favorite shows are CSI and Law and Order SVU. I feel guilty though when I watch, though, which means I'm extra grateful for books like 'Lost Girls': extra-readable nonfiction that is basically SVU in book form. It's even in hardback (at the library, at least), which I'm pretty sure means it's quality nonfiction. Robert Kolker tells the story of five women who disappeared, their lives before they disappeared and their families' quests to understand what happened. The women worked as escorts and sex workers and used Craigslist to find work. Fortunately, Kolker doesn't really demonize the work, it's just a fact of their lives. Unfortunately for the reader, there's not a resolution to the case like in SVU- no suspect is charged or convicted. Fortunately for the reader, you'll be hooked for two days, or as many hours as you can stay away from work reading the book. The only problem I had was that five women and all of their family members are hard to keep track of. Some kind of headers or deliniation in the book would have been helpful as the book jumped back and forth between the women.


thb said...

Lost Girls was "did not finish" in 2014, Wallcreeper will be a "recommended" in 2015...weird is right!! captivatingly weird