Non-Fiction, Memoirs, celebrity memoir

Book Review – Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of “The View” by Ramin Setoodeh

The View is one of the longest running daytime talk shows hosted by a panel of women. Created by vet, Barabara Walters, it was the first of its kind at the time. Over the years, the show has gone through numerous hosts and public and private drama. Ladies Who Punch with interviews from almost all the hosts (in fact, all the hosts except for Elisabeth Hasselbeck) explores the behind the scenes drama and revisits the drama the public knew about.

You know, I am never quite sure what genre to classify these sort of books in (Read: Not All Diamonds and Rose, The Housewives etc) but I think they have shot up to the top of my list of favorite genres. These books basically read like reality shows and as a fan of reality shows and memoirs, it should be no surprise. I always welcome a peek behind the curtains on the actual personas of celebrities vs. the public personas we get.

All this to say, I truly enjoyed this book and it came at a good time as a palate cleanser. It was such an interesting feeling recounting some of the drama or notable episodes that I remembered and hearing what the true stories were about. I stopped watching The View many years ago, so everything read as new. I felt like I was just learning about Barbara Walters for the first time (might I add I wonder a lot about where she is these days?)

It was also interesting to learn just how much the crew HATED Rosie O’ Donnell. I used to love Rosie’s show back in the day, so learning this other side to her was new. On the flip, in the book, Whoopi seems to have rated highly with viewers in focus groups but arguably didn’t come off so great in the book. Star Jones seemed to take accountability for her mistakes and Meredith Viera seemed to genuinely be a sweetheart. In some way, The View played a part in Donald Trump being President (don’t ask me how lol) but he is featured a lot in the book.

Overall, if you are into behind the scenes and let’s call it what it is – gossip – then this is the right book for you. I will say that I hesistate to call it gossip because Setoodeh comes with straight facts and a lot of what is in the book is straight from the horse’s mouth with people backing up what was being said. He speaks a little with Meghan McCain who he has known for a while but we interestingly get nothing from Sunny Hostin. I wonder why…?

Taynement

celebrity memoir, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, romance, Uncategorized

Book Review: Foreverland: On the Divine Tedium of Marriage by Heather Havrilesky

But I have to admit, there’s something reassuring, to me, about breaking down, falling into disrepair, losing your charms, and misplacing your keys, when you have an equally inept and irritating human tolerating it all, in spite of a million and one very good reasons to put on his walking boots and take his love to town. In other words, if marriage is irrational, as with child-rearing and ambition and art, that’s also part of its appeal.

I had never heard of Heather Havrilesky until a twitter thread of hers made its way to my timeline. A thread complaining about the sexist treatment of her book about marriage. She talked about how people had read only an excerpt in the New York Times and decided she was just a wife who hates her husband and then without reading the entire book for context found her hateful and not grateful enough. Even though I am not married, I put her book on hold at my local library and promptly forgot about it until it checked out to me. Then I debated on if I really wanted to read a book about marriage but after clicking “deliver later” twice, I finally just caved and started it and then read it all in 24 hours.

“People always assume that love is all about celebrating someone else’s amazing qualities. But true love is also about accepting another person’s flaws. In order to create a love that grew and adapted over the years, you had to commit to someone else’s flaws the same way you commit to their qualities. That was love. Loving someone’s bouts of neediness and self-loathing the way you love their hot face.”

Heather has written a very honest book about her marriage. She doesn’t try to sugarcoat the intricacies of it. She doesn’t sell you the rom com view which a lot of books on marriage and a lot of relationship pages sell you on instagram, and I understand why that would make people mad and uncomfortable. But I ask you to sit in your uncomfortability and ask yourself why honesty makes you squirm. Why we have to sanitize the truth of two strangers meeting, living together and raising children? This is not a book of advice, Heather does not implore you to adopt her marriage style, she only tells you how she and her partner, Bill, have managed to navigate theirs.

“Marriage is a lifelong market correction to true love’s overvaluation.”

Considering the sexist world we live in where women are supposed to be eternally grateful to have a man love them and everybody around the world works around the clock to protect the ego of men they have not met, the New York Times excerpt was probably not the best to go with. Yes, it’s loud and controversial and I can see how a publicist or Heather herself thought it would garner attention and lead people to the book but only a man can get away with that kind of excerpt without context. Heather loudly declares in the excerpt that of course she hates her husband and everyone ignores the dichotomy of sometimes hating someone you genuinely love and adore. I saw people giving this book one star based only on that excerpt without even reading the book. It was quite interesting to see people rushing to the defence of an imaginary bruised ego instead of just deciding – that book is probably not for me and moving along, they had to punish Heather for daring to be open and vulnerable about all her feelings even those we might think are ugly and should not be spoken out loud.

“Oh, Bill, Bill, Bill,” she said, sounding disgusted. “He’s not so perfect, you know!”

Me who has actually read the book thought because she was being brutally honest she made sure to actually point out how amazing her husband is at the end of every anecdote. He actually does 50% of the housework, does actual parenting and always tells her how hot she is. At some point I felt exactly like her mother in the quote above. Like Girl, you must have hit the jackpot with this man. The most uncomfortable I felt while reading this book is when she tells her husband about this author she had dinner with hitting on her. They talk about it in such detail and she kept bringing up the fantasies she’s been having about this man and they even discuss rationally the idea of her having an affair with this man. It made me so uncomfortable because me as a single person, my idea of love and long term relationship does not include this type of radical honesty. I kept thinking, why can’t she just shut up about this man and deal with this privately? We all are so sure that we want absolute honesty from our significant others but I think that the romance that has been sold to us has convinced us that it won’t include having conversations about attraction to the opposite sex and possible affairs. I think in my mind once you’ve found the one you love every feeling of desire you have about everybody else just dies especially if you’ve really and truly found the one!

Maybe in the future Bill can save himself a lot of time and effort and just hand his future third wife this book and say, “It’s all in there.”

This is a brutally honest look at Heather’s marriage. If you are someone who worries about airing out dirty laundries or you care deeply about how this book may have made a man you do not know feel, this book is probably not for you. If you are someone who refers to themselves as a good person, this is probably not for you. I think if you see yourself as an individual capable of being complicated and do not intend to project your view of marriage and companionship on another person’s reality then this book is for you. If you just want to sit back and read how someone else has navigated her 15 year marriage even though it might not be how you navigate yours or how you intend to navigate yours then read this story. Again, this is not an advice book. This is a book sorely about Heather’s marriage.

Every book about marriage is actually a book about survival, and about trying to find happiness together in spite of the fact that you’re doomed to fail from the start. You’re doomed because even though you’re aiming for forever, forever doesn’t really exist. You either die or your marriage does. There is no forever.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this one and have recommended it to Taynement because I want to hear what an actual married person who I like and trust thinks about it. If you intend to read this book, I implore you not to read that excerpt in the New York Times or read any angry reviews of this book. Judge this book purely on the words the author has put down on paper in its entirety. I gave this one 4 stars on Goodreads. I docked one star because I actually did not laugh once. Yes, a lot of the digs at her husband were tongue in cheek and meant to be funny but I think the best part of this book is the quiet honesty and the fact that the author does not shy away from the ugliness that makes us human.

Leggy

celebrity memoir, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, Self Help

Book Review: Will by Will Smith

“Stop thinking about the damn wall!” he said. “There is no wall. There are only bricks. Your job is to lay this brick perfectly. Then move on to the next brick. Then lay that brick perfectly. Then the next one. Don’t be worrying about no wall. Your only concern is one brick.”

Will is the eponymous autobiography by Will Smith. At the beginning of the book, Will tells us that his personality is one that tries to clean up and make everything nice and I think that is what he did with his book. While one could argue that he was honest and vulnerable, you could also argue that it was a case of saying a lot without saying much.

“How we decide to respond to our fears, that is the person we become. I decided to be funny.”

I think Will did a good job of laying the groundwork on us understanding where he came from and what led to his fears and insecurity and also his strong work ethic. It was good to see behind the curtains how he became a force in movies and music through intentional planning but also a splash of luck. I found it interesting that Will didn’t focus a lot on his race during his journey to fame and I don’t think it’s something I fault him for and I wonder if it was a conscious thing. I also didn’t get the impression that it isn’t something he doesn’t consider because he does tell a story in the book when he was in South Africa, where he stood up for the right thing.

“If you cultivate the fantasy that your marriage will be forever joyful and effortless, then reality is going to pay you back in equal proportion to your delusion. If you live the fantasy that making money will earn you love, then the universe will slap you awake, in the tune of a thousand angry voices.”

With the many stories that have come out about Will and Jada, it is a safe assumption that this is something most people would be curious about but you will be dissapointed in because he doesn’t get into the salacious details. Will focuses a lot on just himself in his book and doesn’t speak much for other members of his family only in context as it relates to a story about himself. A lot of the stories he tells, you may have heard about before and all he does is add a little bit of context with his humor.

“We’re all waiting until we have deep knowledge, wisdom, and a sense of certainty before we venture forth. But we’ve got it backward—venturing forth is how we gain the knowledge.”

I have to mention that this book veers into self-help where Will gives a lot of nuggets he has learned along the way. You’re not always in the mood to get preached to so in those moments, my eyes glazed over. I wish there was a count for every time he said the word “Every”. It was a lot. He does remind us of all his accomplishments and I have seen some people refer to it as him bragging and I did not get that sense at all. To me, it was straight facts and especially as a black man in America, it is a hell of an accomplishment so I have no issues with him tooting his horn.

As always, with celeb memoirs I did this on audio and I recommend you do the same. Besides, the voices and imitations he does, we also get the added bonus of actual music which adds a different level of interaction. While it still seems a tad performative, your thoughts on the book will ultimately depend on what you are hoping to get out of it so for those looking for inspiration this is a 10/10 but you won’t lack for entertainment.

Taynement.

Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Book Review: Sex Cult Nun by Faith Jones

Sex Cult Nun: Breaking Away from the Children of God, a Wild, Radical  Religious Cult by Faith Jones

Trigger Warning: Sexual assault (some involving minors), rape

Sex Cult Nun is a memoir of sorts as the author recounts the story of being part of a cult, Children of God(CoG), founded by her grandfather. She recounts living in hiding in Macau with her family as the cult was having terrible PR with its controversial way of living. Her family constituted of two moms as CoG allowed for sexual liberation and anyone could sleep with anyone. As if that wasn’t enough, contraception was banned.

The terrible PR eventually led to a change in name of the cult to The Family. With locations around the world, members just showed up anywhere in the world and had to live in a Family house. If they felt you did wrong, they could reassign you anywhere. There was no formal education because her Grandfather (who she never met by the way) told them the rapture was going to happen in 1993, so there wasn’t even a plan for retirement.

I am fascinated by cult themes because I always try to understand how a person gets to this point and the mental strength it takes to get out of it. Everything about this book sounded unreal and quite frankly, inhumane. Everyone I told a synopsis of the book, asked me why I was reading it. This is a group that had its law modified to exclude sex with children under 16 ONLY because police was getting involved – imagine what it was before that.

As gross as it was, I had to remember that this was someone’s real life. I felt for her as a kid because this was all she knew. The kids didn’t ask for this. Her grandfather was in hiding for most of his regime so he was barely seen but he communicated with his followers through “Mo Letters” that were highly sexual. The cult promoted sexuality in what they called “sharing”.

At some point, her mom got pregnant and didn’t know the father. That’s because there was something called “Flirty Fishing” – preaching the gospel and trying to convert them, even if it means sleeping with them and her mom took her along on these expeditions. This is me letting you guys know that this book is very graphic. How graphic? There is a scene where her mom makes her watch as she masturbates her dad and I will leave it at that.

I completely understand being grossed out by the subject matter and detail but if you are able to stomach it, I found it quite fascinating. I think Jones was convincing as a reliable narrator and watching her journey to realization and eventually to freedom was worth it for me because even I didn’t know her, I was proud and happy for her.

The book doesn’t give much information into the psyche of the parents which would have been more informative. There’s lots of detail and people that might be a little difficult to navigate. It’s written in a matter of fact tone which is expected because it truly is a lot to unpack and is probably how she is able to get through. I was so intrigued by this book that I sought out old documentaries by other survivors and seeing it on screen backing up everything Jones said, was just a jarring experience.

Some people are confused about the name of the book. The sex and cult part are self explanatory but the nun part she says is tongue in cheek reference to the isolated devotion where she felt like she grew up like a nun except there was lots of sex involved.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars and I think I left out one star because of how uncomfortable it made me but if it made me that uncomfortable, doesn’t that mean it did its job?

Taynement

Memoirs, Non-Fiction, race

Book Review: Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

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“It felt like the world had divided into two different types of people, those who had felt pain and those who had yet to.”

I know Zauner’s book was all the rage last year but for some reason, I just never paid attention to the hype. I don’t even remember putting this book on hold at the library until it checked out to me first week of 2022. I didn’t have anything else to read so I decided to give it a go. Also, I never paid attention to what this book was actually about. I just assumed it was a collection of essays about being Asian in America but instead what I got was a heartbreaking memoir about grief, mother-daughter relationships and identity.

“I remember these things clearly because that was how my mother loved you, not through white lies and constant verbal affirmation, but in subtle observations of what brought you joy, pocketed away to make you feel comforted and cared for without even realizing it.”

Zauner writes about her complicated relationship with her Korean mother and her white father and losing her mother to advanced pancreatic cancer. She doesn’t shy away from the difficult times and what actually caring for a loved one is like. She also doesn’t paint her mother to be just one thing. That was my favorite part of this book. Her mother was never shoehorned into a stereotype, she let her mum be a full human being who had flaws. After a tumultuous relationship with her mother during high school, she runs away to college in the east coast and when she finally returns to care for her mother full time, she wants to heal her mother through Korean food and repair their relationship.

Food was how my mother expressed her love. No matter how critical or cruel she could seem—constantly pushing me to meet her intractable expectations—I could always feel her affection radiating from the lunches she packed and the meals she prepared for me just the way I liked them.

The way Zauner talks about her Korean identity through food and travel was really lovely to read. The author went to Korea every summer for 6 weeks with her mum until high school and talks about the cultural differences. She wasn’t a beauty in America but because she was mixed in Korea with white skin and had the coveted double eyelid, she was considered a great beauty there. She even got scouted to be an idol singer during one of her trips but her mum told her she would never be happy being an idol*. These anecdotes made her connection to her mother and her country very real. She was very immersed in her Korean identity despite having a white father. In fact, she was born in Korea but they moved back to the US when she turned 1.

The boy’s mom placed pieces of beef from her spoon onto his. He is quiet and looks tired and doesn’t talk to her much. I want to tell him how much I miss my mother. How he should be kind to his mom, remember that life is fragile and she could be gone at any moment.

Crying in H Mart was absolutely worth all the hype. It had me feeling so many different emotions and also had me bawling in my office while reading it. Seriously, fuck cancer. This is a thought provoking and emotional memoir that reminds us that our parents are human and are winging this parenting thing. Zauner wrote a very honest book that doesn’t shy away from difficult topics or gloss over who her parents were, but you come out of it feeling like you saw a full picture instead of one single perspective. You feel compassion for her mother even when her actions come off cruel.

“In fact, she was both my first and second words: Umma, then Mom. I called to her in two languages. Even then I must have known that no one would ever love me as much as she would.”

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone looking for a nonfiction book to read with a trigger warning that this book is about loss and grief. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.

*Idol – a Korean star who has been trained from birth to be a star usually scouted purely on looks.

Leggy

Memoirs, movie related topics, Non-Fiction

Book Review: Not All Diamonds and Rose by David Quinn

Not All Diamonds and Rose is the official Bravo/Andy Cohen approved memoir of sorts of the Real Housewives franchise. Spanning interviews from majority of the women from across franchises – from OG’s to one season’ers, execs and producers behind the scenes. People editor, David Quinn crafts a story from words straight from the horse’s mouth and provides us with behind the scenes insight into well known scenes and things we hadn’t heard about before.

I am a reality show junkie and a fan of the Housewives franchise. Translation – I have watched every single episode of every single franchise since inception. I was excited to read this because I can never get enough information on them. I had recently read a rival book, The Housewives: The Real Story Behind The Real Housewives by Brian Moylan. Besides thinking the writing was not the best, my biggest criticism was that as a non-casual fan, I didn’t think there was anything I didn’t know before, I learned nothing new. It was revealed that he was blacklisted and the past and former housewives were instructed not to speak to him. Now we know that it’s because this book was coming out.

It was different with this book, I learned new info or as the kids say, got some new tea and that was all I needed. Granted some people think it was edited and we don’t get the full story since it is being controlled by Bravo, that’s fair but I think even with that, they shared enough to titillate the fans’ senses. At the end of the day, it is still a brand and I expect them to protect it.

I enjoyed the format of the book. It was written interview style and you can tell when the same people were asked the same question or if rivals were confronted with the answer the other gave. It was very reminiscent of how the interviews are held on the shows themselves so you really feel like you were still in the Housewives world. You could tell the Housewives understood the assignment and didn’t hold themselves back. The way it was written, each franchise was in chronological order of when they debuted, with quotes from the cast and producers. Each chapter followed the same formula: origin of picking the city, casting, hitting big, a memorable fight, when things fell apart and I enjoyed it for each franchise especially for those I wondered how they got cast.

My favorite cities recounted were RHOC, RHOA and RHONJ and I enjoyed them for different reasons. RHOC was truly a trip down memory lane (so much so, I went back to watch some episodes with new eyes and new info), RHOA for how much behind the scenes info the producer Carlos King gave and RHONJ for the confirmation on how much Theresa hates her sister-in-law (lol) and the wild story on how the cast got arrested in Dominican Republic and have never been back since then.

A question I got asked a lot is if a casual viewer would enjoy this book and I really don’t know the answer because I read it as a full on fan so I could identify the major incidents mentioned. The book does a good enough job of summarizing whatever incident it might be but I’d be curious to know what it feels like as a casual or non viewer.

Overall, I recommend this book because it gave me a lot of enjoyment. I gave this book 4 stars because it was not consistent in letting us know how people were cast which was of interest to me. They’d do so for some and for people like Candiace or Wendy on RHOP, I was curious to know who recommended them or how they made the list and that was not included. It was disappointing that some big names weren’t included – Nene, Bethenny. It was unfortunate that this was written before the current Erika fiasco and RHOSLC was not included but regardless, if you are looking for mindless, fun reading, this was it for me.

Taynement

Memoirs, Non-Fiction, We Chit Chat

We Chit Chat – You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union

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Leggy: I really enjoyed Gabrielle Union’s first book. I even named it one of my favorite books of the year, the year it came out and I listened to it 5 times! So I was very excited to listen to this one.

Taynement: I honestly am still always shocked when you mention that you listen to books multiple times. Like how?? But yes, I was in the same boat as you. We’re Going to Need More Wine was so good, I immediately got on the waiting list for this one.

Leggy: I was disappointed. I did not think this book was a worthy sequel. I for sure did not need more wine.

Taynement: Ha ha. Or something stronger. They were quite different. Quite frankly, this one was unnecessary.

Leggy: So unnecessary and quite repetitive. Why did she have to revisit Bring it On? She already had an essay about this movie in her first book, which was perfect? Why are we rehashing it all over again? I guess it’s because it’s her only mainstream movie.

Taynement: It’s funny you say that because that was my favorite story. Not sure what that says about the book itself but I didn’t find a lot of the stories compelling. It just didn’t grab me.

Leggy: The only story I found compelling was about her surrogate journey, the rest of the book was just not needed.

Taynement: I enjoyed the surrogate story as well, which is what she started with but it went downhill from there.

Leggy: I’m sure as a celebrity and a black one at that, Gabrielle Union has multiple stories from her life to pull from, so I don’t understand the essays she chose to publish. They didn’t make any sense to me at all. Also this entire book reads very performative. It did not seem genuine. It’s almost like she’s writing for a particular crowd.

Taynement: She unfortunately did the thing where the best part of the book is what she used as promo, so even if you didn’t read the book, you already read the best part. I have always thought Gabrielle Union was performative but she could pull it off in We’re Going to Need More Wine because it was personal stories. In this book, she suffered greatly from a lack of direction. She wasn’t sure if she wanted it to be about race or personal and even with the personal it wasn’t completely her story. I learned more about her stepdaughter in this book than her.

Leggy: Yup. It’s as if she went about collecting all the twitter hot topics and then wrote very impersonal and contrived stories about them. I was so bored. I kept waiting for her to turn the book back towards her and it just never got there. Also, do you believe her when she said the woman she is now would have left Dwyane?

Taynement: It wasn’t more so I didn’t believe her. It was more so it didn’t make sense to me? If in fact that is true, the woman you are now, can still leave? From the book and interviews she has done, I did not get the sense that she is over that whole situation.

Leggy: Exactly. That’s how I felt. So what’s stopping you from leaving now? I think she thinks the audience this book is for, would hate that she stayed. But it’s your decision, it’s your marriage. You have to own the fact that you stayed and recognize that you don’t owe anybody any explanation.

Taynement: Yep. You chose to stay so screw everybody else.

Leggy: She sounded so angry with Dwyane in this book, I was a bit taken aback by it. All while trying to convince us that she’s done the work to make the relationship stronger and better.

Taynement: When she said that people have accused her of not talking about the break baby, I looked around cos I was definitely one of them and then she described it as a trauma. I am ashamed to say I never thought about the angle that he had a baby while they were going through conception struggles. That’s deep.

Leggy: Yeah that’s insane. I can’t imagine how she felt about that.

Taynement: In summary, I don’t think this book was as sincere as the first and the sincerity is what made the first so great.

Leggy: Yes, this book was extremely performative. I wish she hadn’t written it. I did not enjoy it and it sucks because Gabrielle really is a good writer.

Taynement: It definitely was a struggle to read and I have told people I don’t recommend it.

Leggy: I wish she had written something totally different and personal.

Taynement: Last thing, if you do decide to read the book I think we should let people know that it is very heavy on racial topics.

Leggy: Very heavy. Almost all the stories veered into a commentary on race.

Taynement: And I think we need to mention because if you are mood readers like us, sometimes you have to prepare your mind to read certain topics and it’s easy to think this would be a light hearted book because of We’re Going to Need More Wine.

Leggy:If you think this is going to be a fun and compelling book like her first one, just skip it. It’s nothing like it.

Taynement: What she said.

Leggy: Go read her twitter threads instead. It’s just that but in long form.

Taynement & Leggy

Memoirs

Book Review: The Meaning Of Mariah Carey

I’m having a rough book year y’all. But it seems that while it is hard to get myself to focus and get into most books, it is much easier to dive into a celeb memoir. So here we are, with yet another memoir.

I am not the biggest Mariah Carey fan. I appreciate her talent and her contribution to the music industry but personality wise, based on the persona she chooses to share with the world, she’s not exactly my favorite. That was not going to stop me from picking this one up. She is iconic status and I thought it would be great to hear her perspective on her life and straight from the source vs. what we have heard over the years through the tabloids.

Mariah starts from the very beginning being born to an Irish mother and a Black father. She details the hardship, the tension between her and her siblings with resentment sprinkled in because she looked white and they thought she was passing and the age gap not helping. The tension between her father and brother to the point of violent scuffles. She also talks about not really fitting in and falling in love with music.

We hear the story of how she was discovered, marrying Tommy Mottola and being in a controlling marriage with him, her various love affairs (Derek Jeter, Luis Miguel, Nick Cannon). She talks extensively about her career. How the magic was created for each album, the people she worked with and the challenges she faced.

I came into this book with the only things I knew about Mariah being the things we’d heard through the media. I have mentioned before how I don’t care for the childhood stories in memoirs but oddly enough, I did not mind Mariah’s. Being honest, I found out probably later than most that Mariah Carey was biracial. For the longest time, I thought her father was biracial, so I found it interesting to read about her upbringing.

I liked this book because I learned so many new things that I did not know before. For one, as mentioned earlier, I did not know Mariah identified as a black woman. I don’t think I knew she was from New York and listening to her audio book narration, I wondered how I’d ever missed her NY accent. I also learned about her strong adoration for Marilyn Monroe who is her she-ro (I mean duh, her child’s name)

Mariah must have one hell of a vivid memory because every story told, even in childhood, was very hella detailed. This could have been the work of her co-writer, Michaela Angela Davis (look her up. I’m sure you have seen her before) but Mariah had to have presented the material for it to be written, so I don’t even think I can say it is because of her.

The biggest flaw this book had was the flaw of omission. You could just tell a lot of things were missing. I moved on to a chapter and all of a sudden she tells us she is singing for demos and I would have loved to know how she got that foot in the door. While she tells us a lot about how marriage to Tommy Mottola was, I still couldn’t tell if he was ever physically abusive because she never explicitly said so and I wondered how a man that controlling only stopped there. She did not touch on her public relationship with James Packer, her time on American Idol or deciding to do a reality show. I know she has said in interviews that only the important things made it in the book but like I always say, don’t write a memoir if you are not ready to lay it bare.

In every story she tells, she comes off as the person done wrong in every situation/story that she tells. That is to say, there wasn’t a strong sense of accountability in certain relationships. I chuckled because Mariah is the only person who would refer to their siblings as ex-sister and ex-brother. There was not a lot said about Nick Cannon, in fact it was almost like she breezed through it. I didn’t get the sense she was in love with him, as she put it he indulged her perpetual 12 year old and he was probably what she needed at that stage of her life.

She speaks a lot about bullying and racism from white people but I find it hard to beleive that she never experienced a hard time from black people for looking white but identifying as black but she never mentions that and it just felt like yet another omission.

Overall, it doesn’t meet my usual criteria for a good memoir because this was a curated memoir but I still enjoyed it. As always I recommend doing this in audio. She is a fantastic narrator and is pretty good at doing voices. I know some people found her breaking into song periodically in the audio book annoying, but I quite liked it.

There are loads of stories and behind the scenes and actual demo tracks (like ODB’s verse for the Sweet Fantasy remix). There is also shade on J.Lo (we find out the reason for Mariah’s issue for her) and Celine Dion (of all people!) but its a fun ride. I saw different sides to her, like her strong faith in God and her resilience. I gave this book 3 stars and I would recommend it.

Taynement

Memoirs

Book Review: Eat A Peach by David Chang

Eat A Peach - by David Chang & Gabe Ulla (Hardcover) - image 1 of 2

“Recovering alcoholics talk about needing to hit rock bottom before they are able to climb out. The paradox for the workaholic is that rock bottom is the top of whatever profession they’re in.”

David Chang is well known in the culinary world through so many arenas. He has a number of restaurants, books, cook books, podcasts and has featured on a number of cooking TV shows including his Netflix show, Ugly Delicious. He has a reputation for having a DGAF attitude and has amassed a lot of success in his career. And yet it is possible that you may never have heard of him. There is nothing I love more than a good ol’ celebrity memoir and if it involves the culinary world, that is even better (Exhibit A and B – Padma Lakshmi’s to be specific) So, I was eager and curious to read Chang’s memoir.

How David Chang defined the decade in food, through ramen, noise and  rebellion - Washington Post
David Chang

I had prior knowledge of who he was and a little insight to his carefree personality. I have even visited one of his restaurants, Momofuku (which I found overrated), so I wasn’t going in completely blind. Chang delivered the basics. I think he was open and honest and really gave insight to his rise as a chef. Chang also was open about his bipolar diagnosis and being heavily prone to outbursts of rage, even among people he loves.

I added this book to my TBR list when I read an article and excerpt of his book that focused heavily on his outbursts and diagnosis – which I did not know about. I think the book missed the mark for me because the excerpt I read, made me think this book would be focused on his personal life but it turned out to be more of a “How to” book that focused more on his career. I take responsibility that this could be my fault for having different expectations but an example is that the excerpt had my curiosity piqued because I honestly was curious on how he navigated his anger issues within his marriage and how his wife handled it. He barely mentioned his wife in the book but we got loads of examples of how it played out in his various kitchens.

Like I mentioned earlier, Chang was very honest about his life especially the ugly (which there is a lot of) He spoke about being a child of Korean immigrants and how it influenced his desire for success. But his honesty was not something that exactly sat well with me. He talked about behaviors he was not proud of, but for me being honest about awful things doesn’t necessarily excuse the fact that it happened. I didn’t exactly think he went super deep on certain topics. It almost read like he was telling us just enough to be defined as a memoir but you can tell things are missing. He tells us on more than one occasion that he did not create the best working environment for his employees, who were sometimes scared of him but in another says how his greatest talent is bringing out the best in people so that dissonance was hard for me to comprehend.

Something else I struggled with is the fact that Chang’s account of himself made him unlikable. I have mentioned before how this affects my enjoyment of a book, when a protagonist is unlikable, and it was no different here. Once I realized that I was only going to get his version of a memoir, my interest waned. His career trajectory was impressive but I don’t think it was told in a compelling way, I was just ready to be done with the book.

Something Chang does well is actually go deep about the reasons for his restaurant choices, his love of food and the history of food. Fun Fact: Momofuku means “Lucky Peach”. He does give the appropriate kudos where credit belongs for example to black women and Taiwanese women when he started a fried chicken place. A tiny segment of the book that for some reason struck a chord with me was Chang giving his former intern, Madge a chance and making her Momofuku’s CEO at age 30. That is a huge risk that I applauded him for.

I think if the book was presented as a career “How To..” it would have leveled my expectations and been a better representation of what kind of memoir it was. Not to discount his hard work, but it’s hard to take advice from someone who flew a lot by the seat of his pants and even by his own admission was lucky from the very beginning starting with how his dad gave him 100k as seed money. He does have an appendix chapter titled “33 Rules To Being A Chef” that could be applied to any career path that I think aptly fits what I think would have been a better direction for the book.

Per usual for a memoir, I audio’d it and gave it 2 stars for all the reasons mentioned above but that is not to say this book won’t work for a lot of people. For people who may not know anything about Chang, who may be more interested in knowing more about culinary success or who don’t need their protagonist to be likable, this book might actually be a good read for them.

Taynement

Book Related Topics, Historical, Memoirs, Non-Fiction, Uncategorized

Book Review: Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker

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“We are more than just our genes. We are, in some way, a product of the people who surround us—the people we’re forced to grow up with, and the people we choose to be with later.”

Don and Mimi Galvin were an average middle class family living out what seemed to them at the time, their American dream. After World War II, Don moved his family to Colorado for his work with the Air Force and there, they created their large catholic family. Mimi went on to have 12 children, the oldest born in 1945 and the youngest in 1965.

Mimi tried to create a good domestic life for their children. Encouraging structure, hard work, and an interest in sports. Their family was huge enough to be well known and also well respected in the community but behind close doors was a different story – psychological breakdowns, abuse that went unnoticed by the parents, violence between the boys. By the mid 70’s, 6 of the 10 boys had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and were in and out of hospitals.

“And so I was crushed,” Mimi said. “Because I thought I was such a good mother. I baked a cake and a pie every night. Or at least had Jell-O with whipped cream.”

The Galvins became popular in the debate of nature vs nurture in the psychiatry field concerning schizophrenia. A lot of the theories in those days, laid a lot of blame on the mothers. A lot of psychiatrists, even without a suitable peer reviewed study, were quite convinced that children developed schizophrenia because they had an overbearing mother that they tried so hard to please that they lost touch of reality. This was a very sexist theory and completely discounted the presence of fathers in the house. The theory also prevented a lot of people from going to get help early because a lot of mothers feared they were going to be blamed for their children’s condition.

“They have been warehoused where nobody can really deal with them,” he said. Here was the real reason, he thought, why big pharma could afford to be fickle about finding new drugs for schizophrenia—why decades come and go without anyone even finding new drug targets. These patients, he realized, can’t advocate for themselves.”

What went on inside the Galvin family house led to them being one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. We see the medical field move and evolve as we follow their family story over the years. As we talk about the past and present protocol for schizophrenia patients from lobotomies to institutionalization and the ebb and flow of shock therapy in mental health.

We also see the harm this sickness brought to even the healthy people in the family and the innocent bystanders too. We follow scientists as they start looking for genetic markers for schizophrenia and find a compromise to the nature/nurture debate.

“For a family, schizophrenia is, primarily, a felt experience, as if the foundation of the family is permanently tilted in the direction of the sick family member. Even if just one child has schizophrenia, everything about the internal logic of that family changes.”

This book contains a lot of abuse, so consider this a trigger warning. There’s a lot of domestic violence, physical abuse, sexual abuse (we also see abuse from a catholic priest) etc. I found this book to be very compelling and very readable. I did this one on audio which is how I do most non fiction books I read. Even though there is a lot of science in this book, I do not think it bogs down this book in anyway. I actually think the science elevates it.

I completely recommend this book and hope we as a community think about the way we treat our mentally ill. This book is also a huge indictment of the pharmacology industry for their non interest in putting money into developing more drugs to help with a wide variety of mental health illnesses because of how difficult the trial process is. I gave this one 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy