NetGalley Reads: Miracle Country

NetGalley Reads: Miracle Country

 

NetGalley

Before you read this post, make sure you have read my post I Can Do Better  to know how and where to donate, get informed, support, and follow the Black Lives Matter movement and people from the Black community. Si hablas español, y especialmente si vives en Colombia, lee mi publicación Puedo hacer algo mejor para enterarte cómo puedes apoyar a la Comunidad afrocolombiana. 

Hello and happy Friday. I barely slept last night and then woke up and did a full face of makeup, held a fun Instagram contest to celebrate Pride, recorded and drafted like six different TikToks, so it feels like I’ve already been up for a full day. I also continued to read Miracle Country by Kendra Atleework, and I couldn’t help but imagine that I was in the middle of a desert, surrounded by nothing by nature. Let me tell you, that’s a nice break, especially considering I have barely left my house since March.

I read this book between June 15th and July 1st, 2020 as part of a blog tour I was invited to participate in by Algonquin and gave it three stars, but it’s more like 3.5, really. I’d like to thank them, the author, and NetGalley for this opportunity. Now, this is nonfiction but it is nothing like what I’ve read before. I say this because it seems as if the main character in this book, other than being Atleewood herself or her family, is the place where they all live. I might be wrong, and if I am, please correct me, but the author is from Bishop, which is a desertic land in California.

To me, it was interesting to read about the weather, and the elements, and nature itself as characters, especially in an autobiographical book. It is especially interesting considering I have only lived in the city, and Colombia is a tropical country so the climate, biodiversity, and pretty much all other natural factors are very different from what the author experienced growing up. I think for that reason it took me a bit to get into the book, to really connect with what Atleework was narrating and describing, but I’ve hit that point and now I feel like everything is flowing.

That’s something important I want to say to potential readers of this book: it is slow and, honestly, kind of boring at first, but once you get past that, the author narrates more of her family life and history and focuses less on describing the landscape with excuciating detail. She still does, but I think by that point, the readers are used to that.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll explain it a little bit better because I think that way you’ll understand my three-star rating. Although I didn’t find anything particularly *wrong* with this book, I didn’t think it was my type of book at all, so I didn’t connect with it in ways other people would. That’s why I gave it the rating that I did. I didn’t think it was really fair to give it four stars because, other than entertaining me and teaching me about another place’s geography, it didn’t do much for me.

There are a few content warnings that I think you should consider before reading this book. You can perfectly skip the sections where they are mentioned, so it’s not like you can’t read the entire book because of them. There are mentions of self-harm and attempted sexual assault, both, I think, in the same chapter. If you can, get someone else to read it before and let you know what to skip.

What have you been reading? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

 

#BookReviewBlogChallenge Day 1

#BookReviewBlogChallenge Day 1

Hello and happy Saturday. The first prompt for the Book Review Blog Challenge was Dreams and Ambitions, which is an awesome prompt because it is open to interpretation, right? 
I immediately thought about the self-improvement books I own because usually, they revolve around success and achieving your dreams and being the best person you could be. And in a way Girling Up by Mayim Bialik is that, although I would categorize it more as a “how-to” guide. You know the type. For some reason (I wonder), there are way more guides on how to be girls than on how to be boys or guys, and of course, that’s super problematic, but considering that Bialik has defied many stereotypes by being a Ph.D. in neuroscience as well as an actress, a divorced mom, and a Jew, I thought that her take would be different and I was interested in reading about it. 

I read this book between April 17th and April 18th, 2020 and gave it three stars. Here’s the deal: I really wanted to like this book, and even though I don’t dislike it, I cannot in good conscience recommend it, at least not as an empowering read or an initial approximation to feminism as I thought it would be. Maybe that was my mistake, you know? I thought this would be a cool introduction to feminism for tweens and teens, but it’s not that. 

First off, this book was not empowering but it was rather informative. Like I said, the author is a Ph.D. in neuroscience and you can tell. This is very fact-based, and she uses, for the most part, a very straightforward, no-nonsense, no-bullshit language when she explains certain concepts. The book is divided into six chapters, one about the female body, another one about ways to properly care for our body, one about love, and another one about coping with stress. Yes, I forgot the other two, but you get the point.

We all know that I have issues with books that are targeted specifically “for girls” because I think they are implicitly heteronormative and sadly, this was. I don’t think it was the author’s intention, but in describing the female anatomy, for example, it was clear that the book was intended for cisgender women. Yes, she discusses trans people, but she dedicates a paragraph to them and continues focusing on cis folk. I get it, though; it was probably neither her objective nor her place to be discussing transwomen since she is not trans herself, but that’s something to keep in mind. 

I know I’m all over the place with this review, but I’m just typing as things come to mind. Reading this entire book gave me the feeling that this could have been titled “Growing Up” and changed so that it could be gender-neutral, or in other words, targeted to people from all genders because the information, which, like I’ve said was very straight-forward and facts-based is applicable to every young person, not only young women. Also here I want to add that the graphics, illustrations, and snippets of information were great and that I appreciated the resources provided throughout the book, although I think they were mostly U.S-based. 

Like I said at the beginning, I would not recommend this as a feminist read, but I think it is a valuable source of information, not for tweens particularly but for teachers, parents, caregivers or other adults that have young people in their lives. I think that this book would be way more helpful if an adult read it first and used its contents as a basis for conversation and reflection. I say this also considering that, since the book relies so heavily on science, it disregards the commentary that the social and cultural sciences must provide, especially in the “biology vs. culture” debate that is everpresent when talking about gender and sex. 

I would like to give you an update on Matilda since I hadn’t read it in my last post. It took me two days and a few hours to read it because I had work stuff, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The plot, I think, is way simpler than what the movie makes it out to be, but the language and the jokes in the book are way more “grown-up” than what I was expecting, especially since Matilda is only five and a half years old. I gave it four stars and I have all the questions for my book study written down by hand, so next week I’ll be working on the product to put in my TpT store. If you have a kid in your life who wants to read this book, I’d say fourth to sixth graders would enjoy and understand it the most. 

I hope you have a great afternoon and that you’re having fun participating in this challenge or at least following me on this journey. 

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila 

 

 

A Very Important Read

A Very Important Read

Hello and happy Wednesday. I just came home from a day of talking about every student from kindergarten to fifth grade and I am glad that I don’t have kids. Besides that, I’m excited about today’s review because it is directly related to education and the struggles some people have in order to have access to it. 

I am of course talking about I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb. I read this book between February 20th and February 29th, 2020 (yay for leap years!) and gave it four stars. Although I do think it is a very important read, I will refrain from calling it a “must” read because I think that everyone should be free to choose whatever they want to read. 

I was kind of dreading this book because I feel like everyone and their mom has read it. However, Malala’s writing style makes the reading experience comfortable and even pleasant amidst the heavy topics it deals with. This book is a memoir, and I know I always say this regarding nonfiction but this is a genre that I’m not used to reading. The difference here is that I have studied Malala’s life because we talked about her with my second-graders. Not only that, but I watched the Netflix documentary He Named Me Malala and I think it made the reading less dense. 

Because this is nonfiction, you should expect bits that are less anecdotal and way more info-dumpy than readers like me would enjoy. Malala’s culture and the history of the Swat Valley were (still are) absolutely foreign to me, so I understand why so much context was needed. What happened to me was that I could “hear” Malala’s voice in my head as I read the book, so it really did feel like she was telling me everything. And let me tell you, I was and still am shocked at how pure at heart she is. 

Through this book, the readers learn about Malala’s life, of course, but as I mentioned, the history of the Swat Valley, the ways the Pashtun culture and Islam operate are also explained. Malala’s dad is a wonderful man and we get to read how he influenced her and challenged all these archaic and sexist norms, which pushed Malala to fight for education the way she did. 

Please read the book, watch the documentary, and let me know what you thought about them. 

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila 

 

NetGalley Reads: Radical Self-Love

NetGalley Reads: Radical Self-Love

NETFLIX TALK_.png

Hello and happy Friday. I’m not one for reading a lot of nonfiction but I have been acquiring some books and the time has come for me to read them. Because I’m not an avid nonfiction reader, I don’t really have a stance on those books. I’ve read a couple memoirs I’ve loved, but I also want to read more self-improvement books and see if, you know, I can improve. This is why I recently read Radical Self-Love by Gala Darling, and trust me when I say I was super excited to get to it because the title sounded just like the thing I needed. I got this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, so I’d like to thank them, the author and the publisher.

I read this book between February 10th and February 16th, 2020 and gave it two stars. I was very excited at first because I felt like it would be a treat to myself, learning how to love myself and all that. I thought it would live up to its title, but it was more superficial than anything else. There was nothing truly radical about the advice given.

Within the self-improvement books, this would be the kind in which the author addresses the reader, so it’s like having a conversation with a friend. This book has illustrations, so I thought that would make it a quick read. It wasn’t really, but considering the fact that I only read it after work, it didn’t take me that long to finish either. Although it doesn’t explicitly say that this book is targeted for women only, it is, and I found that unnecessary. This could have been easily a book for everyone, had the author actually succeeded at making it gender-neutral, but more on that later.

At first, I think I was being way too nice because I wrote that although it was full of clichés and commonplaces, it was a well-intended and light read. Now as I have time to digest this book I keep feeling that I was lied to; I was promised a book about RADICAL self-love, and I got a list of fashion advice. There is also conversation about eating disorders and how to “get rid” of them, which I found problematic. I understand that the author was talking about her own experience and how she dealt with her eating disorders, but this is not a memoir, it is an advice book. There wasn’t a real talk about mental health or going to therapy, which I think would be crucial if as a reader you are at a point in which you’re seeking advice from a book titled Radical Self-Love.

The author has a blog and she constantly includes plugs for readers to visit and download resources, which I thought made the book even less serious. Like I said, the advice provided was very superficial and not a lot of research (besides quotes from other self-improvement books) seems to have been made. Another issue that bothered me was the fact that the author tried to be inclusive in her language when she discussed relationships, but she failed to do so and let her heteronormativity show. It would have been much better had she stuck to gender-neutral language.

Have you read a self-improvement book that changed your life? I’m still in search of mine, so do leave me your recommendations in the comments.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

Let’s Talk About Sex, Babies (2/2)

Let’s Talk About Sex, Babies (2/2)

Hello and happy Wednesday. We know what we’re here for, so let’s get started, shall we?

Last week I started sharing my thought about 21 Myths (Even Good) Girls Believe About Sex by Jennifer Strickland, which is a book I got via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, and decided to divide the post in two so that it didn’t become one long-ass rant.

Obviously, as a book reviewer, I can’t just talk about the content of the book, especially when there were aspects of the format that I didn’t like one bit. In the first chapters of the book, the author took quotes and inserted them in this text frames or whatever you call them in the middle of the page. She was literally quoting herself within the same page. What’s with that? Was that really necessary? I don’t think so.

I’d previously talked about how heteronormative this book was, and again I felt the need to take notes on that issue. One example of this book being heteronormative is the fact that it revolves around reproductive sex and the seemingly “natural” desire everyone has to have sex. Here’s a fact: some people love having sex. Maybe even the great majority of people do so. But that doesn’t mean that we all have the desire to have sex, and it doesn’t mean that we want to reproduce, either.

There are many experiences in life associated with sex and pleasure, different from sexual intercourse. Some obvious ones are kissing or touching, but there are other experiences like eating, watching a movie or reading a book that can provide pleasure comparable to the sexual one. I’m not talking about watching porn or reading erotica, although that might be more attractive to some people that having sex with another person. I’m talking about seeing sex as an experience.

Experiencing sex can be a priority to some, as it can be something that “just happens” to others, a natural part of life. It can be something you seek, and it can also be something you avoid or simply don’t think about. Sex as an experience means you have a choice to decide what role it plays in your life, if any at all, and that choice you make is just as respectable as any other.

I’m in my happy place right now, physically and mentally because I’m happy writing this post, but when I was reading this book there were times when I became annoyed, and others even infuriated. The contents of the book got to me, they really did, but so did the poor writing style of the author, up to the point where I thought “man, I’d never want to meet or even go near this woman, thankyouverymuch.” I’m a teacher, and I get upset when I see people trying to spread teachings that are just wrong, and I’m not sorry about that.

I previously talked about how this author sees marriage as the ultimate reward in a woman’s life. Only married woman should have sex, according to what I read in this book, but something the author didn’t manage to explain is how the glory of marriage will prevent an STI. I know the facts, okay? I know that having a stable partner reduces the chances of getting an STI, but it doesn’t prevent them. And even so, people don’t need to be married to be in a committed, stable relationship. People cheat, whether they’re married or not, and people can get a sexually-transmitted infection or disease whether they’re married or not. That is a fact.

Okay, I went from my happy place to an angry place for a while after I read the following quote I wrote down in my blogging notebook: “Kind of like ‘Blacks don’t associate with Mexicans.'” Now, if I’m not mistaken, the author was talking about assumptions people make, right? This is just an assumption, according to her. It is really, an assumption, I agree, and a very stupid one, but it’s also really problematic.

In terms of race and ethnicity, as well as gender, sexual orientations and other social “issues” that some people just don’t seem to understand, I think the best policy is for “some people” to keep quiet. Mrs Strickland, the author of this book is clearly part of “some people,” given that she’s very heterosexual and very white. There’s nothing wrong in being any of those things, and if you think I said that, then the problem is all yours. But I do believe that there is something wrong when you are those things and make assumptions about people who are not.

Nobody has the authority to speak for somebody else if not explicitly asked to. Heterosexual people don’t want the LGBTQ+ community to speak on their behalf, so why is it okay when it goes the other way around? POC need real representation, not white people wrongfully appropriating aspects of their culture and background because it’s on trend. And in that same way, blacks and Mexicans don’t need to be an example for a misleading book on sex by an white American woman.

After that comment, I was left exhausted, really, and I kind of stopped taking notes because I felt like I was repeating myself and becoming angrier by the minute, but that in the end I was getting nowhere, so I decided I’d just read. It was tough, getting past the random, out-of-context Bible references (and this is coming from a person who loves reading the Psalms), but I finally reached a point where I could see a hint of light, something salvageable, something that it’s safe to read.

Dear Mrs. Strickland, I want to give you credit for the whole chunk you did on STDs. You know what chunk I’m talking about, the one that was scientifically accurate, the one where you cut your talk about what G-d wants and went ahead and said “if you’re having sex, in or out of marriage, you should be responsible.”

I want to personally thank you for that one, and for the chapter on LGBTQ+ people, for your honesty and your openness. I think that chapter was the reason why I decided to give it three stars as opposed to two, because it literally was the light at the end of a tunnel that I felt was narrowing down by the second. And while we’re at it, thank you for your definition of consent. If I were you, I’d put those three (which I know are the most controversial) chapters first. If I were you, that’s all I’d put in the book, if I’m being honest.

I wouldn’t recommend this book for the life of me, but if you have any cool resources that can help young people learn about sex, please share them in the comments.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila

Let’s Talk About Sex, Babies

Let’s Talk About Sex, Babies

Hello, and happy Wednesday. If the title of this post makes you giggle, blush, or start crossing and uncrossing your legs uncomfortably, then welcome, and enjoy because I wrote this just for you.

I’m writing this post as a response to the book 21 Myths (Even Good) Girls Believe About Sex by Jennifer Strickland. I got this book via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, so I’d like to thank both the author and NetGalley.

Now, this isn’t just me talking about the book, like I normally do when I’m reviewing something I read. Here, I’m going to give you my personal opinion, but I’m going to go beyond the book in doing so. And just to be clear, yes, I’ll be talking about sex here, and yes, to me it’s crucial that we all have that one person to talk about sex with, but I understand if you’re uncomfortable doing so openly, like some people do.

I’m very picky with the way I talk about sex depending on the situation and the people I’m surrounded with. I like to keep my experiences (or lack thereof) private; if not just for myself for my closest friends. I think there’s a lot that can be said about sex, and I think that even though we have the right to be informed, we also have the right to decide when and if we’re comfortable to talk about it.

That’s one of the reasons why this book caught my eye, because I thought it could give (especially) young women the chance to exercise that right without being put in a spotlight. Upon starting this book, however, I realized it’s clearly focused on religion, so if you’re looking for cold-hard scientific facts like I thought I would, you might be disappointed. You do get some scientific facts, and we’ll get to them later on, but in a big chunk of the book you won’t get them. I’ll give you facts, though, so keep reading.

Listen to me loud and clear because here’s a truth you need to remember every second of your existence: there is nothing on or within you to “give away” or to “save,” no matter how many times the author of this book tells you so. Do you want to abstain from having sex until marriage? Cool! Was your “first time” not a big deal at all? Nice! Your thoughts regarding sex are valid as long as they come from you and you are convinced of them. Your opinion on virginity is respectable when it comes to you doing you, not you telling other people how to live their life.

We’re all queens and we’re all great, and all that, but in all honesty, there’s no such thing as virginity. Virginity is a social construct, it’s something men invented way back when women were treated as goods to be traded between the father and the groom. It was a way to ensure that the good was new, hadn’t been damaged, that the seal hadn’t been broken. Yes, some women bleed the first time they have sex; some, but not all, and that’s because they get hurt while having sex, which is why it is also painful for some women.

Here I just threw you two other truths, so let’s rewind and organize our ideas. One: whether you want to remain a virgin until marriage or you think virginity is stupid, you are ascribing to the construct of virginity, of something that is there and then isn’t. Just make sure you’re safe and you’re sure your first time, physically, mentally and emotionally. Two: though it seems to be the norm, you’re not “supposed to” bleed when you first have sex. Three: sex the first time is awkward, I get it, but it shouldn’t be painful either. Don’t get used to painful, uncomfortable sex just because you think it’s normal because it’s not.

You know I’m trying my best to let you know about trigger warnings in books, and even if this is non-fiction, there are mentions of sexual abuse. Now, this is a book about sex, so it totally makes sense to at least mention this issue, but I felt that at the beginning, it was not being handled in the most appropriate way.

Another problem I had with this book was the fact that the author claimed that one of her goals was for non-sexually active girls to remain as such until marriage. Okay, if that’s your purpose, then you shouldn’t have sold your book as being about sex, that is misleading, that is lying in a way, and it is the reason why on Goodreads many people marked this book as DNF.

I did read through the whole thing, made notes of all my thoughts, and am now sharing them with you. If you feel like asking a question or just telling me something at some point, please send me a message or write a comment. I do want us to talk. I know that was the purpose of the author as well, to have this “chat among girlfriends” kinda deal, but the style was super annoying to me. Something else that annoyed me as well is the continuous use of the word “girls” when referring to women, up to the point when it became problematic.

There was a point in which annoyance wasn’t enough and I started becoming enraged towards this book, which gave me all the more reason to keep reading it. Here’s another set of truths: getting an abortion is your decision and nobody else’s; your sexual orientation doesn’t define your worth as a person; rape is never a victim’s fault. But here’s the biggest truth: those situations I just listed can never be compared or even put near the same category as cheating on a spouse. I’m saying this because there was a bit in this book where the author just made a list of “sins,” and included the aforementioned examples. No. I won’t allow it. Who you are is not a sin, whether it’s your choice or not. If you want to talk about sin, talk about actions, condemn cheating because that talks about what a person does, not how a person is.

It obviously makes sense that if this book is written by a Christian author who wants “girls” to “save themselves” for marriage, then this book will be inherently heteronormative. Hear me when I tell you that you weren’t born to be the complement to anybody. You were born to be free, to live and love, to make your own choices about your life. Again, if your choice is to get married and have kids, good for you! If you decide that’s not the life for you, well, go ahead and live your best life. But pretty please, don’t ascribe to archaic gender stereotypes that “determine” what is our role in society based on whether or not we have a penis. And pretty please, don’t judge others just because they live differently than you do.

Not everything can be bad, right? After all, I’m not a bitter feminist, I’m just a radical one. Well, turns out that just as I’m sharing some of my thoughts with you, the author talked about her personal sexual experience. Now, I’ve already told you that it’s my choice not to share about my experiences with people other than my closest friends, but I respect when people choose to talk about theirs in a respectful way.

Now, something you need to know about this book, although you probably already inferred it, is that it is totally, 100% against sex out of marriage. If you’re looking for advise because you want to have or are having sex and are not married, then look away because this is not the book for you.

And, now it’s time for another truth: remember when I told you that “sins” are not related to who you are but the choices you make? Okay, although that might be true to some people (people who like condemning others for their “sins”), it doesn’t mean that sex outside of marriage or “bad sex” as the author calls it is a sin. First and foremost, if it is something two consensual adults are doing in a responsible way, it is not a sin at all, it is a decision two consensual adults made responsibly. Second, the responsibility of what you do is not solely yours because you made that decision with another adult, the responsibility is shared.

Okay, so this is getting super long and I’m nowhere near done, so I’m going to make a part 2 of this post that you can read next week. Let me know if you have any questions or if maybe there’s a topic you’d like me to explore further on.

Happy reading!

Love, Miss Camila