I cannot and will not support Donald Trump. In the first day after electoral results came in there were numerous attacks on marginalized persons. This is not the America that we need, it is not a great America, it is a shame on all that we have ever even hoped to represent. Clinton is problematic, but she is not vehemently racist, sexist, and homophobic. I fully believe that a Trump/Pence presidency will bring about the end of our nation and the end to safety for so many people. It is time for us to stand up for what we believe in and affect change. The Electoral college’s votes are not made final until December 19th; though it has never been done in the history of this nation, there is a chance for the results of this election to be changed – we elected Clinton, the EC elected Trump. Make our voices heard, demand that the EC changes their votes and allows our people to remain safe.
Can I just say, I haven’t been this excited for a book in QUITE some time! Nugent has a knack for titles, choosing cover images that wow, and making people laugh. You Don’t Have to Like Me is her second book, and though I haven’t read the first it’s certainly on my list. From what I’ve heard, it’s pretty damn good too.
I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of this book, and on Valentine’s day I got to pick it up off of the shelf from my local Books A Million (shoutout to my mother for keeping me in books and dark chocolate these days).
I knew I’d picked up the right book when the intro was hilarious (and contained a nice little Hannibal Lector reference). In the first essay, I was pretty pumped at her use of “fuck donut,” as an insult. It just got better from there… I expected more in the first chapter about raising kids with the freedom to choose their gender instead of just teaching girls that they don’t have to be beautiful and removing gender from toy concepts, but I wasn’t entirely disappointed. She comes back to the topic of gender and sex in her chapter on Sex Ed and does a nice job at approaching the concept.
I fell in love with Nugent when she dove into self love; she has the attitude about it that I revel in. I love her unapologetic love of her face, her mention of wearing way more makeup than people advise and NOT CARING what they think. That’s my view of it all, and as an avid lover of all things cosmetic and dramatic, I really enjoyed seeing her mention it in her book. Makeup can be a controversial topic in feminist circles, and Nugent’s advice to do what you like was exactly what I want to see more of. Her bits about buying and loving makeup for herself made me happy.
Image credit: Amazon.com
Nugent doesn’t spare herself or her readers; she delves into dark moments in her life, discusses her flawed and problematic behavior before feminism, and takes her readers on a walk through her eating disorder. Coincidentally enough, Nugent briefly mentions Beloved, the last book I reviewed. I enjoyed her musical references and the frequent pop-culture references. I’m madly in love with her comment on Robin Thicke. She also commented on the Kardashian/Rose issue, and sides with the author of the next book I’ll be review, I guess she’s just a bad bitch like that!
“They will never buy the cow if they can get the milk for free.
Never once do they consider that I might not want to be bought, and that I am not a cow at all.”
A few more things; This book cover is amazing; orchids are sexy flowers, it’s not everyday that nature blooms and looks like female genitals. The world is full of phallic symbols dating back to ancient times, so the floral symbolism on this book isn’t lost on me. I love it, and I love Nugent’s title – it’s so true, such an honest way of letting the world know that her main concern isn’t pleasing everyone around her.
Nugent’s blog seems pretty damn awesome, and I’d definitely recommend giving her a follow. Her personality translates well through her posts, and I’d say that her content is what you’d expect from reading her book; hilarious and pointed.
I did have an issue with an instance of implied fat shaming on page 151 (“down his fat throat,”), though I didn’t have much else to critique.
I give this book an 8/10.
Disclaimer: I do not think that Nabokov himself was a pedophile. I do not think that he wrote this book with the intention of romanticizing the situation. I believe that Nabokov’s intention was to write a narrative from the perspective of a true villain/criminal. I am in no way saying that this book shouldn’t be read/sold. Though I think that this narrative is important, I am adamantly against romanticizing the events. I decided to post this concept piece right after Valentine’s Day because of the common misconception that Lolita has anything to do with love. It doesn’t. It is anti-love at best. Expect spoilers.
Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is an extremely well known book. Some consider it a love story, something that I consider deeply flawed, flawed being a gross understatement. We see and hear quite a few references to Lolita in pop culture. Lana Del Rey’s songs Lolita and Off to the Races both incorporate either lines or concepts from the narrative, Pretty Little Liars uses the book as a clue in season two to explain a character’s alias: Vivian Darkbloom, and the unrelated Lolita style to name a few. A lot of us have heard the introductory sentencing “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins…” and without proper context those lines might seem romantic. The initial reason that I picked Lolita up as a junior in high school was definitely those opening lines; I wanted to read this great love story I’d heard about vaguely, and I felt compelled to read more classics. I’d like to be honest here; I had no idea I was picking up a narrative written as perspective from the mind of a pedophile, and I was quite shocked at the things I’d heard before
Here are my top ten reasons NOT to romanticize Lolita.
- Humbert Humbert is a pedophile.
He is sexually attracted to children. the ‘nymphets’ that he describes are not women, they are pre-teen girls. Pedophilia, when acted on, is a horrendous thing that traumatizes it’s victims. Humbert acts on his fantasies. Humbert is a child molesting rapist.
- Lolita, real name Dolores, is a child.
Dolores Haze, Lolita herself, is a 12 year old girl. You read that right, she is twelve. Humber meets her when he comes to see a vacant room at her mother’s house and decides to stay because of her.
- Humbert manipulates his way into her life.
After initially situating himself closer to Dolores, Humbert pretends to love Dolores’s mother, eventually marrying her while continuing to obsess over Dolores.
- Humbert kidnaps Dolores and lies about her mother’s death.
When Dolores’s mother is killed after finding Humbert out and being hit by a car, Humbert goes to pick Dolores up from camp, lying and claiming that her mother is just ill and that they are on the way to visit her. Humbert is her new step-father, and though he knows he shouldn’t, he rushes to pick her up, fearing that she would be sent to live with blood relatives.
- Humbert repeatedly rapes Dolores.
After abducting Dolores, Humbert repeatedly rapes her. The assaults begin in hotel rooms and last through the rest of the novel until she eventually escapes with the help of a man that Humbert does not know.
- There’s never a good time to romanticize rape.
I feel like this should be obvious… If there is a disconnect, say you read Lolita and did not interpret those scenes as rape, keep in mind that Dolores is a child.
- We live in a society that is riddled with the hypersexualization of young girls.
The concept of the nymphet is in and of itself horrifying. It is a term coined to refer to children who a grown man finds sexually attractive. This is not a process that should be condoned in our society, much less romanticized.
- Delores’s experiences aren’t romantic, they are traumatic.
I will not begin this concept with “imagine being a twelve year old rape victim, forced to live with your rapist,” because, fortunately I cannot imagine that sort of hell. There’s no way that someone who wasn’t in that situation could, but I feel comfortable assuming that it was incredibly traumatic and ruinous. To even begin to consider that sort of situation positive is poisonous. Humbert’s obsession with Dolores (it was not love, potentially infatuation) is not some sort of supreme love. There is absolutely no reason to label that as a relationship goal, a life goal, etc. Do not misconstrue his abuse as love, it is not love, it is abuse.Do not misconstrue the repeated rapes as sex, there is no way to have consentual sex with a twelve year old, NONE.
- Nabokov’s intention was likely not to romanticize this situation.
Nabokov, when interviewed, indicates that Humbert was not written as a lovable or morally good character. Thought that interview deals with more than just Lolita, it’s worth reading to gain some more context on his writings and intentions. There are other examples of how the concept of the nymphet has been misunderstood in society listed in the article as well.
- Validating and romanticizing the rape of a child contributes to rape culture, victim blaming, and self-blame for victims.
Again, I feel that I shouldn’t have to explain this. Rape-culture is a concept that basically boils down to the normalization and occasional romanticization of rape. The protagonist in this narrative is a rapist, he should not be seen as someone who is loving and wonderful, he is someone vile and hate-worthy. The concept of the nymphet being even remotely to blame for her abuse, be it that she was too suggestive in pulling on her sweater or eating a sucker in front of Humbert, is incredibly indicative of rape culture and victim blaming. Blaming a child for the rapes that she endured is not acceptable. Self-blame for victims stems from victim blaming; when society tells a victim that she was to blame, she believes it. She is fragile, she is traumatized, and she should not be told to blame herself. Again: a child is not to blame for their abuse, the only person to blame is their abuser.
As you’ll likely hear me say again (maybe in an upcoming book review on a memoir), I am not (and never will be) here for the romanticizing of Lolita. If you plan on commenting an argument against that go ahead and reconsider. My stance will not change. There’s literally zero chance that I will suddenly decide to condone the repeated rape of a twelve year old, even in a fictional context.
I decided against including a link to purchase Lolita in this post, mainly because I don’t feel 100% comfortable profiting from the sales of it, though I don’t think it should be banned, etc. Again, I would strongly advise against reading it if you’d be triggered by the content.
This list is in no particular order.
The quotes listed in closing for each description will come from the beginning of the author’s book; for authors with two publications, I will be sure to indicate which text.
Waheed is excellent; salt. was her first book, if I’m not mistaken, and it was my favorite of the two. Her description of race and her pride are poignant. She writes of love, loss, ethnicity, race, and community just to name a few. Both books are full of stunning works, and her generosity is how I was able to download nejma, bone, and Zimbabwe for free on salt.’s one year anniversary.
I would definitely suggest following all five of these authors on twitter and instagram. That’s where the news was for free downloads, and all of these stunning artists share work on social media fairly regularly. That’s probably the best way to get a good sampling of their works and see their personality before investing in their books, if you’re feeling thrifty.
“it was only ever love.” -salt.
Yrsa Daley Ward
Ward writes in a way that compels the reader to turn each page for fear of missing the next glint of pure light that she pours into the page. She is Jamaican and Nigerian, raised in England. Her writing blends those cultures beautifull, providing some perspective on her life and the way that each influence affected her.
bone contains some prose, which can be quite refreshing when breezing through a book as compelling as hers is. Taking a break, reading a slower page like that truly does show the versatility of her writing style. The title of the book is fitting for the nature of her writing; we are looking at the bones of who she is.
“because writing is a soft and a hard place, all at once.”
I remember waiting for Milk and Honey to be released. I downloaded the preview on kindle long before I bought the book itself, and I followed her Instagram page religiously. Kaur truly captivates her audience through passionate and powerful writing, and through her gorgeous artwork. The sketches that some of her poems live inside of or are adorned with set her apart, and I honestly wouldn’t mind having my body covered in her artwork.
The four chapters that Kaur separates her poetry into are each like concentrated forms of the chapter title. The hurting deals with intense topics such as child-molestation, rape, loss, and pain. Reading it is like a swift punch that lasts for nearly forty pages. The loving is stunning; I remember quite frankly what an emotional relief it was to be pulled out of the dark place that the hurting put me in and to read those beautiful poems full of joy and love. The breaking was again, quite honestly hurts. We feel her loss, we are pulled through the rut of being left and feeling the ache that the loss leaves behind. The healing ends the book on a soft, sweet, inspirational note that never comes across as sappy. I thoroughly enjoyed every emotion that Kaur pulled me through, and I couldn’t put the book down until I’d felt it all.
Kaur writes about her Sikh heritage quite frequently, and even informs readers on how being bilingual shaped the way that she punctuates her work. She is based in Toronto, Canada. Her Instagram is often loaded with poetry, conversation, and other artwork.
As the only man on my list, Mugabe stands out as an extraordinary writer on gender and family structure. He frequently writes on being similar to his mother, someone he loves dearly, and on how he doesn’t understand the way that his father and other men disaprove of his feminine qualities.
I selected him because his writing offers a different perspective, and one that is refreshing. A challenge to masculinity is so valuable, especially in such male-centric societies, and his willingness to write so openly about it is astounding.
“Ndinotenda Nayirrah and Yrsa for seeing this book in me when I was full of doubt, for sharing this wonderful journey with me.”
Shire is Somali-British, and she definitely writes with emotion. I can’t begin to convey how breath-taking her work is. She was the first poet on this list that I read; her title jumped out at me, and I could reread her work a million times.
She includes notes in the back of the book to help readers understand the terms and references she sprinkled throughout, a thoughtful touch. Her frequent references to Islam show her strength in faith and help to beautifully illustrate the intricacies of her personality.
Shire doesn’t provide much biographical information in her book, though she managed to write an entire book that is so raw it might as well have been carved into flesh.
“I have my mother’s mouth and my father’s eyes; on my face they are still together.” -Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth
Her Blue Body is the only work on this list that I don’t personally own. I have read all other works on this list and would recommend them to anyone who admires poetry, modern poetry, African poetry, millennial poetry, stories from People of Color, feminist poetry, and writing on race. All are available in print or via ebook.
As a writer myself, I can also deeply appreciate their poems which deal with the subject of writing. Most, if not all, of these writers discuss the act of writing and the nature of poetry through their own poems. Such a task can often come across as cliche or trope-y, but their work reads organically even in those cases.
As I’m starting this blog late in the year, I’ll go ahead and lump my first five books of the year into one long post. Bear with me, it crosses multiple genres and it will be lengthy.
Book 1: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy by Tao Lin
Lin’s poetry was very different from anything I’d read before. I was definitelly surprised by the choices he made as far as personification and imagery. This book was good in that it was unique, but it was also a little hard to follow in some parts.
The harder to follow poems often flowed through multiple pages, without clear titles aside from in the table of contents. Though the resource was available, it was inconvenient at best.
Lin’s writing definitely does speak on mental illness, something that I can appreciate due to having been diagnosed recently with three illnesses of my own. His title alone deals specifically with a type of therapy that has recently grown in popularity.
I’d give this book a 6/10.
Book 2: Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov
Genre: Self-Help / Relationships
I’ll admit, I was fairly skeptical when I picked this up. It had been on my Amazon wishlist for over a year and I finally purchased it a few weeks ago.
Argov definitely over-simplifies gender roles and reinforces the ideas of masculinity and femininity to an annoying point. Her comparison of men to various animals and women to various animals was quite ridiculous, and undeniably this entire book was heteronormative.
There were some points about relationship behavior and not being too giving of oneself that might stick with me. I’ve always had a tendency to be a ‘doormat,’ as Argov would say. Her idea that every relationship would work the same way is also flawed.
Overall, though I learned from this book, itwas a reminder that no self-help book will teach me a whole concept that works for everyone;.
I’d give it a 4/10.
Book 3: bone by Yrsa Daley Ward
It’s kind of cheating because I’d already started this beauty, but I finished up bone as my third book this year. Ward is one of a slew of African poets that have captivated my attention lately.
I have the ebook and was lucky to download it during one of the free downloads that she did in collaboration with a few peers in celebration of one of their book’s first anniversary.
10/10 would definitely recommend.
Book 4: Zimbabwe by Tapiwa Mugabe
Clearly I’m on an African millennial poetry kick. I hadn’t read Mugabe’s work before, but he and a few of my favorites are a close-knit group so I had high hopes that were definitely met and exceeded. #4 was a quick read, but certainly a beautiful collection of poetry.
The way that he writes about gender and masculinity is stunning. His relationship with his mother and sisters was beautifully written, and his poems about growing up in Zimbabwe were packed with imagery.
10/10 would definitely recommend.
Book 5: Strong Looks Better Naked by Khloe Kardashian
Genre: Self-Help / Personal Growth
Brace yourselves, I have lots of thoughts here…
First off, TW for misgendering and deadnaming of trans people, specifically Caitlyn Jenner (this book even includes a brief chapter on her transition which includes the aforementioned issues). I was highly disappointed in that entire situation, and I don’t think is excusable.
Khloé spends a good chunk of the book discussing the gym and getting in shape, something that I don’t necessarily relate well to, but she also discusses healthy eating, which I definitely have been more interested in lately. I especially enjoyed the recipes she shared, and the fact that she doesn’t suggest a clear- cut zero tolerance for indulgence lifestyle. Her choices are definitely relatable diet-wise and I have made some small lifestyle goals related to food based on her writing. However, I seriously doubt I’ll be joining a gym any time soon. For some reason, I thought this book was more pointed towards body positivity, which is what peaked my interest in it, but it wasn’t.
I will say one thing about her writing that I think might leave a lasting impression on mine: she speaks about avoiding negativity and whining, though in many places her writing is laced with it. Khloé mentions dozens of friends and family members, some by name, in a negative light. She doesn’t spare them; as a writer I don’t necessarily believe that she should spare them, but I don’t think every slam was totally necessary either. I don’t want my writing to come across that way.
My overall thoughts are that it wasn’t an entire waste of time/money, and I will keep it for the recipes if nothing else, but most of that is because of my writing observations.
It’s definitely not considerably feminist due to the serious issues with deadnaming and misgendering, and I didn’t appreciate the gossipy girl-on-girl hate vibe I got.
I’d give it a 3/10.
In conclusion: I’ll be updating the blog with more books as I finish them, as well as posting frequently about other feminist and literary topics. I have two posts in the making and I’m starting a new book tomorrow!