The World According to Star Wars by Cass R. Sunstein

Okay, first off, I know I don’t look like a Star Wars fan but as I’m sure many can attest, Star Wars is my jam. It’s like Rocky but the nerdy version and less fighting meat racks & running up stairs. Star Wars reminds me of the days and weekends spent with my brother and dad just watching the original trilogy and trying to figure out who shot first. Which was Han — am I right or am I right?

Anyway, I picked this book up on a win because a blog I follow recommended it and I needed a geeky yet fun book to read. I honestly thought that this was a fun read about some nuances to Star Wars trivia that I didn’t know before. But what I didn’t realize is that I’d finish this in 48 hours (because, ya know, sleep and work. adulting stuff) and learn more than I thought I would about religion, philosophy, and political rebellion in terms of pop culture and potentially the world’s largest movie phenomenon.

I almost want to read this book again right now just to absorb all the knowledge dropped on me in 180 pages — it’s a short read with a ton of references to studies, papers, and more that were actually done on the relevance of Star Wars in today’s society and culture. It makes sense if you think about it and if you’ve seen every installment, including the less than stellar trilogy in the early 2000’s.

Anyway, the author, Cass R. Sunstein, is one of the United States’ most cited law professors both stateside and internationally. He’s married to the US ambassador to the UN and has been published more times than I can count on any limb. His main argument is that while Star Wars is a timeless installment in our media files, it also draws a lot of parallels to modern and current affairs.

Take for instance, the Empire v. the Resistance. throughout Amerian history, when has there not been some sort of counter culture or outright rebellion against the government? For Christ sake, we were founded on one when our Four Fathers led a revolution against England on religious freedom and taxation with representation. Sunstein (what a fun last name by the way) dives into how each factor of Star Wars is basically a metaphor for strife, overcoming hardship, and making something out of nothing. He also highlights the potential reasons why a movie like Star Wars was such a hit and became such a classic today. It’s mostly, as with anything, timing and a bit of luck. Plus, in the 70’s, there was Nixon, and from what I’ve heard from first hand accounts and history books — the people needed any form of good they could get.

Additionally, I was shocked to find out that not only George Lucas but also Fox Films, who financed the original trilogy, didn’t even think Star Wars was going to be a success and that it’s a loose remake of the old Flash Gordon series. Star Wars makes you feel good. It makes you realize that there are people with truly good intentions and that there is real evil in the world. We’ve all got both sides in us, it just depends on which side we feed the most and what circumstances we fall into when we need to make the decision the most.

Read this book. You need to. It puts our history into perspective and how we can learn from the past without fear of knowing we’ll repeat the same mistakes again with our own children.

Favourite quote: Because casual chains are so complex, and because so many events are necessary conditions for others, the idea of a butterfly effect is not at all preposterous. If someone’s dog had gotten sick on an important occasion, or if someone else had stayed home….perhaps everything would have been different. World changing butterflies are everywhere; they define our lives. 

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Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay

I am obsessed with this author. Roxanne Gay is phenomenal. I’ve also read her book Bad Feminist and it was enlightening. Difficult Women was no different. Gay divides up the book with short stories about — you guessed it — difficult women. Each story is endearing, heartbreaking, and gut wrenching. They highlight women, real women, with lives, secrets, and scars. It’s beautifully written and you won’t want to put it down.

I highly recommend this book. As a woman reading this, I related to more stories in this than i care to admit publicly. I fell in love with characters as well as the possibility that my story was difficult but still so incredibly valid.

This book is wonderful. It’ll punch you in the gut at times but it’ll make you fall in love with your “flaws” as well. It’ll make you proud of all the things you can accomplish with the body you’ve been given and it’ll remind you that there are women out there just like you.

Pick this book up wherever books are sold. It’s a quick read but it’s worth it.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

TW: this will be frank in discussion about sexual assault and revenge. If you are in danger, please either call 911 or, if you need help, RAINN at 1-800-656-4673.

This book has been wreaking havoc with my nightmares and has probably been the main reason why I’ve been in a weird mind space recently. It’s not because of the way it’s written or the themes it dives into. I mean, it’s a YA novel, for goodness sake’s. It’s about the subject matter and how close I am to it, whether i care to admit it or not.

The Female of The Species is heartwrenching and an important novel to read, especially today. It’s about a few teenagers — Peekay, Alex, and Jack — with appearances by other key characters as well. Alex lost her sister in one of the most violently brutal ways a person can go, in my opinion. She goes because someone took the time to rape, torture, and murder her in seemingly cold blood. Or on a meth binge, that part’s not really clear.

Anyway, we come into the novel after the attacker of Alex’s sister has been killed (we learn later on that it’s Alex. this isn’t a spoiler, promise) and the small town is coming to grips with not only one murder, but two. Though this book revolves around high school students and the weirdness that is high school, it dips into some pretty significant themes. Like how do you say no when you’re terrified for your life? And is it rape if you froze? And does God frown upon it if you have sex while on an altar in a historically abandoned, rotting church?

The Female of The Species also takes into account how in several other species, the female is often, more so than not, the protector. The defender. And the one who brings home the bacon, often literally. They’re the strongest links and often the ones that are defended first, not because of weakness but of  necessity. And this novel brings the conclusion that the human species isn’t too far off either from the natural kingdom.

Alex is the protagonist and throughout the book, you can tell she has no problems taking revenge out violently, if the end result takes out a child molester, a rapist, or another vile kind of person. And she understands that her decisions were hers and hers alone. And Peekay & Jack are drawn to her, not because they knew what she was capable of, but because of her strength and her ability to remain standing while everything else was crumbling.

I picked this book up for selfish reasons. I wanted to read a book where an assailant got justice, vigilante or judicial. Mostly, I wanted to see someone with a harrowed past actually be talked about like they were human, instead of some space case where what has happened to them will be all they ever be. And this book broke my heart. It made me cry more times than I care to admit, not because anything necessarily sad happened. But because I know the themes all too well. Maybe not to this degree but Mindy McGinnis has a way of writing that even the coldest of hearts will have their muscle grow a few times too large after reading this. Even the Grinch couldn’t read this without a little change in soul.

Anyway, if you have the steadfast resolve to pick this book up and finish it cover to cover, be prepared for your insides to go through the ringer. Be prepared to question so many things and be at the ready to have things distorted for you.

Maybe it’s the current political climate, maybe it’s that women make up most of the purchasing decisions, but YA novels are becoming more and more nuanced with real, honest stories. ANd though I often feel a little old to be reading, it feels really great to know that a generation is being taught through novels that sexual assault is nuanced, gray, and horribly complicated. And according to this book, revenge is a dish best served cold.

Favourite quote: I wonder what would happen if I went down there, took a ball out of the cage, and pretended to have sex with it. I think people would stop & look….but boys will be boys, our favourite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eye roll. 

6/5

 

‘Scrappy Little Nobody’ by Anna Kendrick

If any celebrity would be my twin in real life or my so called spirit animal (i always feel like such a douche when i say that), I feel like it would be Anna Kendrick. She makes me laugh hysterically and I secretly just want to be her when I grow up. Even though she’s only, maybe, a couple years older than me. Whatever.

Anyway, when I heard she had a book out, I knew instantly that I needed it in my life. And my boyfriend’s sister gave it to me for Christmas and I AM so obsessed with it. Finally sat down to read it these past couple weeks and it’s endearing. Though not my favourite memoir I’ve ever read, I feel like it was one done in the most Anna Kendrick way possible, if it makes sense.

This novel makes her even more approachable and likable and relatable if that was even possible. It’s full of stories from when she made Twilight to the time she was nominated for a Tony when she was freaking 12. Can we say badass? I think we can.

If you’re a fan of anna kendrick or even just a fan of quirky women and sarcasm, then this book is for you. It’s a beach read and wont take many brain cells to process but it makes you see celebrity stature in a whole new light. ANd for more than the tabloid ‘They’re just like us!’ segments we all like to pretend we don’t browse through while at the supermarket.

Plus that title though? I feel like it was written just for me.

favourite quote: women encounter this in social situations as well. let me take you out. don’t be so uptight. just one more drink. and if you don’t, someone might strip you of an adjective you’ve been convinced has value, and label you as something else. Professional people are usually clever enough not to use this term, but in social situations, the threatened brand is ‘bitch’. 

3.5/5 

‘The Year of Yes’ by Shonda Rimes

Now, if you watch any form of TV – whether it’s Hulu, Netflix, and/or cable – you’ve probs heard of Shonda Rimes. She’s the brains and writer behind fan favourite shows Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, and, my personal favourite, How to Get Away with Murder. If you haven’t, you’re probably living under a rock. Because her shows are rich in story telling, diverse backgrounds, and the best/worst cliff hangers you’ve ever witnessed on a show. Holy wow, those cliff hangers. If you watch How to Get Away with Murder, you know cliff hangers. That mid season finale? Oh my god.

Anyway, back to the point. I recently picked up her book The Year of Yes because it came highly recommended by a friend of mine and i love Shonda. I want to be friends with her and know how on Earth she could put my heart through the ringer every week without thinking twice. Whatever, anyway.

This book is lovely. It’s a little slow to start but it picks up. And it’s great insight. It follows her journey into the year of yes, inspired by something her sister said during Thanksgiving in 2013 or 2014. And her goal was to say yes to basically everything for an entire year. SHe couldn’t say no. Now, Im sure this excluded anything that was illegal, vastly immoral, or other caveats I’m not thinking of right now because I ordered Chinese delivery for the first time in forever.

The Year of Yes is filled with great side notes about your favourite shows as well as her journey of saying yes to everything and then some. You learn how she mustered up the courage to speak at the Human Rights Campaign awards show, take on Jimmy Kimmel, and change her own narrative into something motivatingly fantastic. You learn about her insecurities as well as her triumphs and how saying yes for a year turned into a lifelong habit.

This book, at times, is cheesy but you feel as though Rimes is encouraging you along the way, when you haven’t the words to do so yourself. It’s an easy read, perfect if you just finished an intense book or you need something that doesn’t take much brain cells to follow along. It’s funny, darling, and everything I needed right now.

It’s inspired me to do my own year of yes and take on my fears head on. It’s a self help book that doesn’t feel like one at all. ANd if you like Shonda’s shows, just wait until you read her book. It’s wonderful. Pick it up wherever books are sold and you’ll be in for a ride you weren’t expecting.

Favourite quote: No one is meaner than a pack of human beings faced with someone who is different.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors. I’m 95% certain i’ve read every one of her books and when my mom texted me saying she had picked up a SIGNED copy of her new book Small Great Things, I freaked out a little bit. FIrst off, I knew I had to take extra good care of this book as it was hardcover but it had her signature in it! And so I finished the book i was reading at the time and got to reading.

Not knowing what this book was about, it came as a surprise that it was taking on institutionalized racism head on, by a white woman no less. Racism in the US is a serious issue and I’m only just starting to learn just how deep it goes as well as all the nuances of it. But i won’t get into that now.

Small Great Things follows Ruth Walker, a 20 year veteran of the nursing industry-most notably in the Labour and Delivery ward of a well to do hospital in New Haven, Connecticut. Walker also happens to be black. And after helping deliver the child of two white supremacists, she’s abruptly told via post-it note that she’s no longer able to touch or care for the child since she’s African-American.

Then the baby has a seizure and later dies, while Ruth was in the room alone. The couple charges the hospital and Ruth with murder. And a truckton of page turning intrigue ensues. The great thing about Jodi Picoult’s writing is that she provides back stories for every character involved and you resonate with people you never thought possible.

You learn caveats about Ruth’s upbringing as well as why the white supremacists decided to break off from the KKK and start their own chapter of hatred and violence. You learn how little things suddently turn major when the local pastor takes up your case and exploits it to the media. All these little things you never think about until they’re staying in your own backyard.

THe ending isn’t what I expected in the slightest but it made me address my own internal biases and what I can do to change them. It plays into a theme i’ve been trying to live by in  my real life, that it’s time i got comfortable with the uncomfotable. I need to surround myself with stories and narratives that make me a little uncomfy or make me question my own beliefs in order to become a more informed, better person. And this book does just that.

Small Great Things is a must read. It’s wonderfully written, hard to read at times, and deals with a lot of complicated issues. If there’s one book that’ll start conversations at the holiday dinner table this year, this is it.

Favourite Quote: there is nothing more selfish than trying to change someone’s mind brcause they don’t think like you. Just because something is different does not mean it should not be respected. 

5/5 

The Girl with The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

I’ve been on a kick of buying my favourite female celebrity books lately. And recently, in a purchase from Amazon, I picked up the new book by Amy Schumer. Say what you will about Amy Schumer but she’s flipping hilarious. She says what she thinks with a smart alecness not found in many comedians these days. She’s somebody to look up to both in style, humour, and personality. Plus she’s ridiculously successful and most of her social media feeds are pretty damn relatable. Maybe celebrities really are just like us…..

Whatever. Anyway. This book is a collection of essays from her life, a trend that’s gaining in popularity amongst the rich and famous it seems like, but the great thing is that it wasn’t what I expected. In the best way. I was triggered in some chapters but she presented the material in such a way that I knew what was coming and was able to take a breather when I needed one. And I could not stop laughing in some parts. This book has a wide array of emotions, topics, and depth to it that was a fresh sigh of relief. It wasn’t like other memoirs I’ve read before, except for maybe Amy Poehler’s Yes Please (another fantastic read), and it was lovely.

What I was really surprised by was her sincere dedication to feminism, ending gun violence, and more importantly, making sure her readers and listeners knew that they were more than just what the media was trying to spoon feed us as important. She’s authentically herself in the good, the bad, and the viciously ugly. And she’s a great reminder that it may not get easier but it does get easier.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s interested in a celebrity who isn’t a size 2, is hilarious, and brings a ton to the table. Schumer is a necessary force in today’s tabloid obsession with the vain, vapid, and uber skinny. And she’s a breath of fresh air in the celebrity game.

SO moral of the story? PICK UP THIS BOOK. It’s hilarious, has a few f bombs, reminds us why it’s so important to be knowledgeable, and why sometimes, it’s alright to laugh at the bad parts in life because sometimes, that’s all we can do. But we mustn’t ever give up. Not then, not now, not ever.

Favourite Quote: I know my worth. I embrace my power. I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story. I will. I’ll speak and share and fuck and love and I will never apologize for it. I am amazing for you, not because of you. I am not who I sleep with. I am not my weight. I am not my mother. I am myself. And I am all of you. 

2nd favourite quote: Isn’t it sad that wehn a girl says she was sexually assaulted, our first instinct is to think she’s probably lying? Statistics and facts tell us the exact opposite. We demand ‘perfect victims’ who better not have been drinking or hanging out at a party in a short skirt or revealing dress or have ever been known to enjoy sex. 

6/5