Book Review: Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl – Issa Rae

misadventures-of-awkward-black-girlTitle: Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
Author: Issa Rae
ISBN: 9781476749051
Pages: 224
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Atria / 37 INK
Genre: Nonfiction, Essays
Source: Personal Copy

Summary

Based on Issa Rae’s hit YouTube series, Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl is a collection of humorous essays on multiple identities: What it is to be American, black, a geek, a woman, and all the way these intersect and interact with one another.

Review

Haven’t heard of Issa Rae? Trust me, it doesn’t matter. If you were at all awkward in your childhood, and if you identify as a nerd in any way, then this book will speak to you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a similar background as Rae’s or whether or not you share her personal issues. She’s open and accessible in this essay collection; her humor and warmth makes this an excellent read.

Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl isn’t a memoir exactly; it’s a serious of essays about Rae’s history and personal life. You get to see different areas of Rae’s life, and this is the rare collection where every single essay is equally enlightening and engaging. I loved reading my way through this collection; whether you want to read it straight through or savor each essay individually, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself while reading this.

This is a quick, funny read; it’s very contemplative on Rae’s part, and while it might not inspire your own deep self-reflection, it doesn’t need to. It works very well for what it is: an honest, candid, and humorous collection of essays examining different identities and how they interact with one another.

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Audiobook Review: No Land’s Man – Aasif Mandvi

No Land's Man coverTitle: No Land’s Man
Author: Aasif Mandvi
ISBN: 9781452107912
Listening Time: 4 hours, 23 min / Pages: 240
Release Date: November 4, 2014
Publisher: Audible (audio) / Chronicle Books (print)
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Cultural (South Asia), Essays
Source: Publisher (Audible review copy)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

Aasif Mandvi delves into his personal history in this memoir, discussing his upbringing as an Indian Muslim in the UK, move to the United States, and his life as a conundrum, a nonreligious Muslim who has become the spokesperson for an entire skin color and region of the world because of his role as a Daily Show correspondent.

Snapshot Review:

Celebrity memoirs are a dime a dozen, but Aasif Mandvi’s stands out for its frank look at Mandvi’s complicated cultural and religious identity. It’s laugh out loud hilarious, and Mandvi’s audiobook narration is a real treat. Whether you’re a fan of Mandvi’s or not, if you enjoy memoirs and cultural stories, this audiobook is worth seeking out.

Full Review:

I’m generally a big fan of Aasif Mandvi, so when I heard he had written a memoir (in the form of an essay collection), I was very excited. Then I found out he was narrating his own audiobook, which just made me clamor for this book even more—when it comes to funny celebrities, if they narrate their own audiobook, I’m almost always interested in listening. The fact that I already loved Aasif Mandvi only added to my excitement at this book, and I am thrilled to say it didn’t disappoint for a second.

The theme of Mandvi’s memoir is clear from the title: No Land’s Man. It’s about the bundle of contradictions that makes up Mandvi, and the identity issues that he experienced growing up and beyond. Each of the essays in this collection reflects this, from being bullied as a child because of his skin color and religion to representing his idol, Michael Jackson, in a dance for a talent show (an essay that had me gasping for breath because I was laughing so loud). Anyone who’s felt different, regardless of race, culture, or religion, can sympathize with Mandvi’s fish out of water stories and understand his feelings.

No Land’s Man cover the bulk of Mandvi’s life, from his childhood to his role as a correspondent on The Daily Show, but because they’re essays, they’re more focused. I really appreciate the combination memoir/essay for celebrities because it allows them to hone in on individual stories and memories, rather than trying to jam pack everything into one book. There’s plenty of room for a second memoir from Mandvi (and I certainly hope it’s coming), but the reader gets a great sense of who Mandvi is, what is important to him, and how his past experiences has shaped who he’s become.

The audiobook of No Land’s Man runs for almost 5 hours and is unabridged. It’s a quick listen, and Mandvi does a great job as the narrator. I imagine this memoir would be hilarious regardless of what format you read it in, but I have to say that I absolutely loved it in audio. Listening to Mandvi narrate his own stories, with his emphases and inflections, had me laughing out loud again and again. It is just so funny, but it’s also heartfelt and sincere. Most of all, I really loved how frankly Mandvi talked about his culture, his religion, and his identity, and how much his stories resonated with my own cultural identity as an American woman with a Hindu Indian heritage. This is an extremely well done memoir, and I hope it’s not the last one from Aasif Mandvi.

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Book Review: Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist coverTitle: Bad Feminist: Essays
Author: Roxane Gay
ISBN: 9780062282712
Pages: 336
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre:  Nonfiction, Essays
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary:

In Bad Feminist, author Roxane Gay examines the question of feminism. What makes Gay a feminist? What does that mean? And how have her life experiences informed that identity?

Snapshot Review:

An incredible book full of the honesty of the human experience, Bad Feminist: Essays is a collection that everyone—man and woman—should read immediately.

Full Review:

What can I say about Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist: Essays?I feel like any attempt to describe what I so loved about this collection will fall completely flat, yet of course, I will try anyways. To put it succinctly (and to be overly broad), Gay perfectly captures what it means to be a woman today. Regardless of your race, creed, or age, this book speaks to the experience of every woman, whether you realize it or not. It’s incredibly well done and is just one of those books I want to hand out on street corners to everyone I see.

Gay covers so many issues in Bad Feminist. The book isn’t just about feminism; it’s about what it means to be a woman. It’s about sex and love and race and culture and rape and The Hunger Games and Scrabble. It’s about those big, broad issues that we all hate having to deal with, like reproductive rights, but it’s also about the simple pleasure of losing yourself in a good book. The breadth of this collection is what makes it so remarkable. Gay writes beautifully on so many different topics, but she’s smart and savvy with each word she puts on the page.

Perhaps the thing I loved most about Bad Feminist, and what spoke to me, is Gay’s honesty. It’s not just that she speaks frankly about personal experiences, such as gang rape (just brutal), but she acknowledges that she has principles, but that she’s also human. She’s a feminist and firmly believes in the power and equality of women, and that women shouldn’t be objectified—but she also loves to dance to the song “Blurred Lines.” Being a human is messy and complicated, and it’s okay to give ourselves a break. It’s so much better to accept our flawed selves than to hold ourselves to standards we can’t attain. Roxane Gay is a bad feminist, and so am I, but we’re both trying to do better. And it feels so great to be able to admit that and accept it.

This is the book I’m going to be telling everyone—male or female—to read for the foreseeable future. It’s so good and so honest that you will crumple under the weight of its beauty. Gay’s voice will draw you in so completely that you’ll feel as if she’s speaking directly to you, that she’s airing the thoughts you’ve had over and over again. Somehow, you’ll feel as though this incredible author reached into your soul to write out how you feel, and seeing yourself reflected on that page is a humbling and awe-inspiring experience. Bad Feminist is everything you could ever want in a book: smart, honest, witty, and self-reflective. You’d do well to pick it up immediately.

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Book Review: How to Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran [TSS]

Title: How to Be a Woman
Author: Caitlin Moran
ISBN: 9780062124296
Pages: 320
Release Date: July 17. 2012
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Essays
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Summary:

In her memoir/essay collection, Caitlin Moran muses about the difficulties of growing up from a teenager into an adult and faces puzzles about being a woman.

Review:

Caitlin Moran’s linked essay collection focuses on one important topic: How to Be a Woman. Though these are different essays about varied subjects that woman must face today, Moran frames the collection through her own experiences. Memories and stories from her difficult adolescence and young adulthood are what she uses to contemplate topics as varied as sexual harassment, body hair, and feminism.

If you’re easily offended, you’ll want to stay away from How to Be a Woman. Moran is crass, direct, and not afraid to broach serious, sensitive topics such as abortion. Her sense of humor isn’t for everyone, and she delves into some strange topics in this collection that not every woman will be able to relate to. Still, if you appreciate frank, honest discussions, then this is a book you should definitely consider. Whether you agree with Moran or not, her musings will definitely get the gears cranking in your brain.

How to Be a Woman is meant to be funny, and it often is. However, I didn’t find this book as laugh-out-loud hilarious as I’d hoped. Moran is clearly sharp and smart, and at times her wit is spot on and sparkling. But that’s not usually, or even often, the case, and as a result, I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I thought I would. That’s not to say it’s not worth reading; Moran is insightful and she will definitely make you think. If you’re a woman, especially in your 20s and 30s, this is a book you should absolutely consider picking up, if only to help you evaluate where you stand on various issues that face women.

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Book Review: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls – David Sedaris [TSS}

Title: Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls Author: David Sedaris ISBN: 9780316154697 Pages: 288 Release Date: April 23, 2013 Publisher: Little, Brown and Company Genre: Essays, Non-Fiction Source: Publisher Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: With his trademark wit, essayist and satirist David Sedaris explores such interesting concepts as the Australian kookaburra, the British healthcare system, […]

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Book Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? – Mindy Kaling

Title: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns) Author: Mindy Kaling ISBN: 9780307939807 Pages: 240 Release Date: November 1, 2011 Publisher: Three Rivers Press (Print) / Random House Audio (Audio) Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays, Memoir Source: Personal Copy Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: In this collection of essays, Mindy Kaling discusses such varied […]

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Book Review: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson [TSS]

Title: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) Author: Jenny Lawson ISBN: 9780399159015 Pages: 336 Release Date: April 17, 2012 Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Essays Source: Publisher Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: In this memoir, popular blogger Jenny Lawson (also known as “The Bloggess”) chronicles her hilarious and incredibly […]

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Book Review: Ali in Wonderland – Ali Wentworth [TSS]

Title: Ali in Wonderland: And Other Tall Tales Author: Ali Wentworth ISBN: 9780061998577 Pages: 272 Release Date: February 7, 2012 Publisher:  Print: Harper / Audio: HarperAudio Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Essays, Audiobook Source: Publisher Rating: 4 out of 5 Summary: Ali Wentworth is an actress and comedian; she is the daughter of political journalists and her […]

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