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

Memoirs, Uncategorized

Book Review: Inside Out by Demi Moore

Inside Out by Demi Moore

“Unfortunately, even as we try to submerge our pain deep down inside, it finds a way to bubble up: Through addiction. Through anxiety. Through eating disorders. Through insomnia. Through all the different PTSD symptoms and self-destructive behaviors that assault survivors experience for years on end. These incidents may last minutes or hours, but their impact lasts a lifetime.”

My love for celebrity memoirs continue, this time with Demi Moore’s Inside Out. Moore is famously known for being an actress who at some point was the highest paid actress in Hollywood. She is also known for her high profile marriages to both Bruce Moore and Ashton Kutcher. These days, she is living a lower key life and the last thing I saw her in was as a guest actor on Empire (alongside her daughter). This is after a publicized entry into rehab and the news that her daughters were not speaking to her. We all know there are two sides to every story so I was curious to know what her take on everything was.

“Taking responsibility for your own reaction is the gateway to freedom”

To begin, Moore gave us all the ingredients that is required for a memoir. She came raw and was quite fair when saying all sides of the story. But I think what elevated her book was you could tell that despite her struggles and hard childhood due to terrible parents, she took responsibility for her actions. You could tell that she had learned a lot from everything she had been through and done some work on herself and for herself, including forgiveness and letting go – which in her case after you read her story, you will admit was a hard feat.

“What if everything hadn’t happened to me but had happened for me? What I learned is that how we hold our experiences is everything.”

I have mentioned before that I usually do not like the childhood stories in memoirs but I didn’t mind it here. I think it’s because honestly, her parents were horrible. Particularly, her mom. I don’t want to give any spoilers but there is a chapter that details a horrific thing her mother did and it reminded me that it’s unfortunate that anyone can be a parent. Moore started early in acting and it was probably a dangerous combination, having all that dysfunction coupled with fame. She talks about her issues with her body and never feeling good enough. Throughout the book it seemed like she traded one addiction for another.

“I have since come to understand that there is no such thing as someone “loving you enough” to be better. People can only be as good as they are, no matter how much they love you.”

I hate to admit that when a celebrity has a high profile romance, that is usually what I look forward to in their memoir. I like to know what the behind the scenes was like and what was true or not. Moore did not skimp out on this with us. From her first marriage to her first husband, Freddy Moore, at age 18 (she mentions how she cheated on him the night before their wedding). To her whirlwind romance with Bruce and how it degenerated into ships in passing, even though their third child was conceived even after Bruce had asked for a divorce. Though she mentioned a lot about their union, I still think she kept some things from us, probably as respect for him and the good relationship they have.

Her story with Ashton really sounded great in the beginning stages but in hindsight, I think she probably liked how he made her feel vs. the realities of who he was. Not a good combination when you consider the deep insecurity and trauma she’d carried around. She went against her morals and did things with Ashton she didn’t want to. Including a threesome and forgiving him for cheating. Her obsession to have a baby was also so heartbreaking.

“They divorce and years later the dad mellow as men tend to when they get older. You know the kind. They’re assholes when their young then they get sweet when they age. It’s the mother who seems bitter and unpleasant by comparison but, he’s the one who made her”

I liked how Demi wrapped up her story and how she managed to clear some stories up about her perception and that infamous nude pregnant picture (there is a whole backstory to that). I hope the internal peace she seems to have found is genuine because it took a lot to get there. She sure has seen some things in life. As always, I recommend this in audio (read by Demi herself), just as I recommend this book. A good story on overcoming struggles – both man made and life lottery given – and getting out the other side. I gave this 4 stars on Goodreads.

Taynement

Memoirs

Book Review: Open Book by Jessica Simpson

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When I heard Jessica Simpson was coming out with a memoir, I rolled my eyes and was like “yet another celeb with a memoir, what do we possibly want to know about her?” Then snippets started to dribble in the media about her sexual abuse and how it led to sleeping aids, then her alcohol addiction. I read a snippet of her book combined with my love for memoirs and reality shows (I watched Newlyweds when it was on), I promptly put myself on my library wait list.

“Sometimes we are all so afraid to be honest with ourselves because we know that honesty will lead to somewhere.” I wrote this ten years ago. “Can fear walk us to something better?”

Let’s just say that Open Book is the memoir I did not know I needed in my life. It was amazing. The back story is that 5 years ago, Jessica was approached to write some sort of motivational and inspirational book but she backed away from it because she didn’t want to lie and say everything was okay when it wasn’t.

She took a step back and went through her journals that she had been keeping and mined them for content to become the book we have today. Jessica came prepared for a memoir and bared her soul to us. She shared her fears, anxieties and learnings and I really enjoyed how she balanced them all. It was not just a tale of tragedies but she was sure to share what she learned from experiences in her life and drop a kind and encouraging word.

“Did he repeatedly stab me in the heart, or did I just keep running into the knife he aimed at me?”

Jessica is famously known for wanting to wait till marriage back in the day and her love life was something else she was open about. She shares with us how her marriage to Nick Lachey was doomed from start, her emotional cheating with **** (you’ll find out who when you read the book). Her most prominent relationship in the book was with John Mayer and whew, he was terrible, terrible to her (see quote above) I applaud her for being bold and stating all the things he did to mess with her mind and heart. It was heart warming to see how she ended up with her now husband who treated her like a queen in comparison.

I think she was respectful of her family and she didn’t say much to disparage them but my opinion is that her parents were quite toxic and given her need to please personality, it was not a good mix. It was a bit sad to see all the weight of insecurity she carried around from when she was young and I am sure playing third fiddle to Britney and Christina did not help.

Even though she did touch on it, I wish she spoke more about how she got her fashion industry to be a billion dollar company. The way it’s written it seems like it was an easy thing to accomplish but on the flip she does acknowledge that she is one of those blessed people who have things go her way. The other thing I wish she explained was given her stance on no sex before marriage and her still current faith, I wonder why it didn’t apply after her divorce. In her book, she tells us how she went on a dating/sexual spree and I wondered why she didn’t stay celibate per her beliefs or what changed.

As mentioned before, I really liked this book and gave it 5 stars. Normally, I would audio a memoir but if you have ever heard Jessica Simpson talk, I wasn’t going to risk it (especially after suffering through Busy Phillips) BUT I shouldn’t be so harsh as the early pages of the book she mentions a car accident she was in that had her thrown through the windshield and affected her brain somehow and me thinks it is why her speech is slurred sometimes. Also, I heard the audio came with 6 new songs done to accompany the book so you can make your choice.

I can’t tell you how many times I stopped to google something mentioned and look for the picture or what the headlines said. I even went to look for old Newlywed episodes. I was also reminded that we are not kind to celebrities. Do yourself a favor and read this one.

Taynement

Memoirs

Book Review: Notes From A Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi

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I first knew about Onwuachi when he was a contestant on Top Chef. I was excited to see a Nigerian name on such a global scale, even though I was confused that his first name was not. Even though I was rooting for him, I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t seem to embrace his Nigerian side fully and even the judges told him he needed to find a point of view. I say this to say, my knowledge of him via the show made me form a not so keen  opinion of him especially now that he is the executive chef of the widely popular Kith/Kin which fully embraces Nigerian cuisine with a flair.

Onwuachi tells us about his life growing up in the Bronx to a Nigerian father and Louisiana mom. The marriage was not a good one and his parents split. Onwuachi suffered physical abuse from his dad (who overall just sounded like a horrible man). His love of cooking stemmed from his mother who was a caterer. He never told his mom about how his dad beat him up and instead acted out which led to his mom sending him to Nigeria to be with his grandfather. This was a short section but had a major impact on him. He connected with his grandfather who told him stories of his ancestors and he learned about Nigerian dishes.

By the time he made it back to America, he had forgotten all the lessons he had learned and started rolling with the wrong crowd. Onwuachi tells us how he got involved with gangs and dealing drugs. He didn’t last long in college and feeling lost on his mother’s couch he got a cooking job on a boat which started his rise in a career as a chef.

So I will admit, I pegged Onwuachi wrong. So wrong. I had a better understanding of why he was the way he was on Top Chef. While addressing the racism he has encountered in his career he mentions how a producer told him that America was not ready for a black chef who did fine dining.

I always say the best ingredient for a memoir is being open. I originally wanted to say that Onwuachi was open because he was about his life although he mentioned nothing about his personal life until the end when there was a random mention of a fiancee. He had no qualms mentioning names including a racist chef in a Michelin star restaurant. He was very detailed about the rise and fall of his restaurant Shaw Bijou within months. I feel like I got a good sense of who he was and who he is. I thoroughly enjoyed the flow and how it was written.

I was disappointed that the book didn’t extend to how Kith & Kin was borne. Another thing that irked me was that every chapter included a recipe and during the Nigeria section he kept calling Egusi soup, Egusi stew and I cringed every time I heard it.

Overall, I really liked this one. Onwuachi’s unwavering belief in himself was palpable and motivational. He is not humble about it and is very confident in his abilities and what he can do, which is a much needed quality for a black man in America, regardless of your field. It was a quick read that you would easily find yourself immersed in.

Taynement

Memoirs

Book Review: Darkness to Light by Lamar Odom

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Darkness to Light is a memoir by Lamar Odom who is known either as a basketball player or better known as Khloe Kardashian’s ex-husband. Much of Lamar’s life has been played out in the media for better or worse but I think the difference with the memoir is that we get to hear from Lamar’s point of view.

Using a ghostwriter (who was not very good), Lamar tells us about his life which is riddled with issues from the start with his parents. Lamar had a hard life. His parents got together young but it did not last long and his father left and became an addict. He loses his mother young and honestly, I think that was the catalyst to a lot of his problems because he never really dealt with it and he was filled with a lot of grief and confusion.

He discovers his talent for playing basketball and throws all his focus and emotions into basketball. He meets the mother of his children, Liza in high school and chronicles his journey into the NBA. His deep spiral into drugs and how he hid it – including the dodgy ways he bypassed drug tests. His constant cheating and sex addiction diagnosis. The many deaths of loved ones, he has to go through. Dating Taraji P Henson, meeting, marrying and being part of the Kardashian clan and his infamous overdose at the Bunny Ranch.

The good thing about this book is that Lamar is very open and vulnerable in this book and he shares things that he didn’t need to. Although, I always say the key to a good memoir is laying everything out on the line, if you aren’t then there really is no point. If I am being honest, a big propeller of reading this book was to get to the Kardashian bits and see if there was tea to be gathered.

I think Lamar was very respectful of everyone he mentioned in the book and while still being honest, was not disparaging. For example, he doesn’t hide his distaste for Mavs owner, Mark Cuban and says being a part of the Kardashians was one of the best times of his life as he felt like he belonged to a family unit, which is something that he had never really had.

Lamar used a ghostwriter for this book – Chris Palmer, and I have to say, he had to have been the cheapest one they could get because he was not a very good one. It was such basic writing, that the book read like a middle school essay. He particularly had issues with transitioning. I can’t tell you how many times he had a sentence that said “xyz did I know that this will be the day that would change my life forever”. In a particular instance where he describes the death of his best friend on Khloe & Lamar, Jamie (who we find out wasn’t really his best friend but the producers wanted him to have a white best friend and they did drugs together so he won the spot of best friend) it basically was reduced to one page and that was that.

On the flip side, I couldn’t help but think that Lamar seems quite detached from the world. While you sympathize with all he had to go through, I couldn’t ignore how he also did a lot of things that hurt people. I couldn’t understand why Liza stood by him and even had more kids with him even though he constantly cheated and ignored her (Lamar claims he has been with over 2000 women and has paid his fair share in abortions). His wily ways to beat a drug test, shows insight into a side of him that some may say just comes with being an addict.

Overall, I think I got what I wanted from the book. I’ve seen a lot of people comment that he was name dropping in the book and I find that ridiculous because he was a famous man moving in famous circles, it is expected. You get a better picture of how Lamar ended up as a drug addict and you feel some kind of sadness wondering where he would be if he had dealt with the depression from losing his mom or losing his child instead of turning to drugs.

It was a quick, easy read but don’t go in there expecting quality writing but instead expect to ponder life and how the little or big things change the trajectories of our lives.

 

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Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Book Review: Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me by Adrienne Brodeur

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me

“Deception takes commitment, vigilance, and a very good memory. To keep the truth buried, you must tend to it. For years and years, my job was to pile on sand – fistfuls, shovelfuls, bucketfuls, whatever the moment necessitated – in an effort to keep my mother’s secret buried.”

On a hot summer night when the author was 14, her mother (Malabar) woke her up to inform her that her husband’s best friend had just kissed her. She wasn’t sad about the fact, she was happy and giddy and demanded happiness from her daughter too. From that summer onwards, Brodeur became a very willing participant to her mother’s lies, betrayal and affair that spanned more than a decade, orchestrating avenues for her mother to cheat on her husband with his best friend.

In Wild Game, Brodeur reflects upon the very disjointed and convoluted relationship with her mother, Malabar. Our mothers leave an indelible mark on us including fingerprints of their own shortcomings and it’s left to us to either break the chain or continue in the cycle.

“I knew only what pleased my mother; I didn’t have a moral compass. It would be years before I understood the forces that shaped who she was and who I became and recognized the hurt that we both caused.”

I found this book to be an easy and short read. It is less than 300 pages and reads like fiction. I found the relationship between the author and her mother very compelling. Brodeur’s personal life suffers enormously because she spends most of her young life lying for her mother and to everyone around her who cared about her. Her mother would confide in her the most disturbing details of her affair and I just found that a fascinating thing for an adult woman to do to a girl who was barely a teenager. I also found this detail indicting of every adult who knew Brodeur. They basically played a huge part in her mother’s affairs and never called it out for how inappropriate it was.

“Don’t ever forget that you and I are two halves of one whole.”

I found Malabar fascinating. I was not wooed by her charm though and found it confusing that anyone would ever find her charming, I just thought she was very manipulative. It was obvious that she loved nobody but herself and put her own needs above everyone else’s. She was a classic narcissistic person. She dangled her love as a prize her daughter would win for helping her lie her way through life. It was also surprising to me how long her daughter put up with her antics. At 14, I felt sympathy for her but at 26? I was simply over it.

“‘Tell me what it’s like,’ I said, even though we’d had this conversation before and I’d witnessed firsthand how the volatile forces of passion and infidelity had give my mother exuberance. I just loved to hear her talk about it.” 

Ultimately, I felt very detached reading this book. Even though I was appalled at the level of involvement this 14 year old had in this affair and the unfairness of it all, it just felt like I was watching a soap opera. I did not feel an emotional connection to this book at all. I found it all very shallow. Summers in Cape Cod, living in mansions, private schools, Ivy league schools. I felt like I was reading about the life of the rich and the famous. Everything ultimately came off as shallow. I just didn’t consider this to be a memorable memoir, I think you need more than a messed up rich and published mother to create one. I gave this book a 3 star rating on good reads.

 

Leggy

 

Memoirs

Book Review: Born A Crime by Trevor Noah

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I heard so much about this book and for no good reason at all, I just had no desire to read it, so I stayed away from it. Sometime, late last year I was looking for an audiobook to listen to and it was available in my library so I decided to go for it. Born A Crime is an autobiography of sorts that focuses on Noah’s childhood in South Africa. The title, Born A Crime is because being born in the times of apartheid where having a black mom and a white dad was illegal, he literally was the product of a crime.

The book is written as a collection of essays and Noah talks about his childhood in depth right from the moment his mother made a decision to get pregnant with him. He talks about how mischievous he was as a child, how his mother – who is really the heroine of the book – did so much to protect and raise her child to be his own person in the most unconventional way, how he grappled with religion as a child and basically navigating this world he was in as a biracial child.

This book was great. I started it and was instantly drawn in. Noah’s intelligence seeps through in the way this book is written because he is able to tell his story even when it is at its most gruesome in a light hearted way. He finds a way to come out with a lesson  and how it contributed to who he is today.

As mentioned earlier, his mother was a major character in the book and wow what a woman or should I say, what a human being. Patricia Noah’s fearless energy shone throughout the book. She made bold decisions and was a determined person who fiercely loved her children. She had interesting child rearing tactics but it worked for her. It was also so fascinating to me that a woman with her characteristics still ended up with bottom barrel men who were abusive towards her, to the point where she almost lost her life.

The essays were not written in chronological order, so in one chapter Noah could be 19 and in the next he is back to being 11 years old. I didn’t quite like that. And even though I know it was about his childhood, I would have liked to know how he veered into comedy. Other than that this book really was an absolute delight. I feel like I say it a lot but listening to it via audio was a treat. Noah’s inflections, voices/accent imitation, singing and comedic chops made it even funnier and really took you to the setting of the book.

If you are looking for something fun that’s also serious, I definitely recommend.

Taynement

Memoirs

Book Review: This Will Only Hurt A Little

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Busy Philipps is an actress that is probably known more for other things than her acting roles. In recent years, she has become more popular from her Instagram stories and being so open about her life. I wasn’t privy to this knowledge and was surprised when she got a book deal. I was like who wants to hear about her life? The book was everywhere so I decided to get in on the action.

Busy obeyed the golden rule of memoirs and was very open. Like super, duper open. We get a detailed account of her life starting from her childhood, which unfortunately is always my least favorite part of celeb memoirs, I just can’t find myself wanting to care about it and would rather get to the juicy stuff. Busy shares her family dynamic and how her sister was so mean to her. She gets into the dirty when she talks about losing her virginity at 14 and having an abortion at 16.

She progresses to when she decides to be an actress, her first few years in college, her first big break with Freaks and Geeks where she was not a fan of James Franco and considered him to be a douche. She speaks about the set of Dawson’s Creek, becoming friends with Michelle Williams, her failed relationships. Meeting her husband and their difficulties, her weight struggles in Hollywood and struggling with being a parent and much more.

As is the rule, I audio’d this one and I liked the layout and pacing of the book but man, getting through her vocal fry and valley girl accent was a chore. She was also so hysterical for most of it and came off as entitled. Or was it bratty? She did give the disclaimer that her version of stories were her memories and it could quite possibly be wrong.

While she comes off as privileged, I did like how she acknowledged she had a sparkly personality which she explained as people always wanting to do stuff for you and things working out for her. But in another breath, she was open about how hard it was for her and her husband when the jobs dried up and they couldn’t afford a nanny before she got the Cougar Town gig. She wasn’t very kind to a lot of Hollywood figures in the book which was bold of her considering most people don’t speak up on this.

Overall, I think I liked the book but now in hindsight, I am thinking “did I?” because I am not sure I would recommend it? If Busy is someone that has been on your radar then I think it would be worth your time because she doesn’t skimp on details at all. That much I’ll give her.

Taynement

Memoirs

Book Review: Educated by Tara Westover

“On the highway below, the school bus rolls past without stopping. I am only 7, but I understand that it is this fact more than any other that makes my family different. We don’t go to school. Dad worries that the government will force us to go, but it can’t because it doesn’t know about us. Four of my parents’ seven children don’t have birth certificates. We have no medical records because we were born at home and have never seen a doctor or nurse. We have no school records because we’ve never set foot in a classroom.”

This book was all the rage last year. It made all the best of 2018 lists I saw but I consciously avoided it because I had read “The Sound of Gravel” by Ruth Wariner and it was being compared to it in certain circles and I decided that I didn’t have the stomach for it. For some reason, I still requested it from my library last year where I was so far down on the list and promptly forgot about it, until it was released unexpectedly to me earlier this month. I am super glad I didn’t have anything else to read, so I took a chance on it.

“To admit uncertainty is to admit to weakness, to powerlessness, and to believe in yourself despite both. It is a frailty, but in this frailty there is a strength: the conviction to live in your own mind, and not in someone else’s.” 

Tara was born to survivalist parents in the mountains of Idaho. They were fundamentalist Mormons and her father forbade hospitals, drugs, formal education and isolated them from mainstream society. Her father worked in a junk yard while her mother was a mid wife and that’s how they made their living as a family. Tara, never having been to a classroom, teaches herself math and grammar, takes the ACT and gets a high enough score to get admitted to Brigham Young University for undergrad. This book is about the tenacity of a child to want and envision better for herself than the life she was handed and to overcome the emotional and physical abuse she experienced in the hands of members of her family to go on to Ivy league schools.

“It’s strange how you give the people you love so much power over you, I had written in my journal. But Shawn had more power over me than I could possibly have imagined. He had defined me to myself, and there’s no greater power than that.” 
I quite enjoyed this book, I thought it was well written and interesting to read. I really enjoyed and appreciated the descriptions of physical and emotional abuse that comes with certain aspects of religion and I like how delicately she handled that. She stresses that this is not a story about Mormonism, but a story about her family. I found it fascinating how much she still wanted to be loved and accepted by her family, even after getting an education and attaining so much for herself.  Even after she had rejected their way of life and religion and calling out her older brother, Shawn, for the abuse he meted out to them.They were all she had known and she loved them dearly and did not want to be alienated from them.

“I am not the child my father raised, but he is the father who raised her.” 

One of the things I found contradictory about this book was how much leeway they gave themselves on their isolation from the government stance. They still had a phone and a television even though they never went to the hospital or school. They even filed taxes which I found  incredible considering how terrible her dad thought the government was. I thought he made a lot of excuses for the excesses he allowed himself but would dig his heels in on things like, going to the hospital when he was burned all over, on the basis of religion. The author felt like her father had undiagnosed mental health issues and without sounding like a couch doctor, I definitely agree that there were some medical issues that made him stick with some beliefs while completely disregarding them when it suited him.

“We are all of us more complicated than the roles we are assigned in the stories other people tell”

A common criticism heaped on this book is questioning how much of this book is embellished. This was another reason I wanted to wait till the hype died down to read it for myself and make up my own mind. I do think that a lot of our memories might not be what they are.  But in the book, she consults the siblings she is still in contact with, to have them collaborate a lot of her memories and if she doesn’t remember something exactly, she lets the readers know that.

Also, having read the book, there is really nothing over the top that happens. I can see how this exact scenario can play out especially in the country I grew up in that is rampant with a lot of undiagnosed mental health issues masquerading as religion. I really enjoyed this one and urge people to read it with an open mind and away from the hype. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Leggy.

Memoirs

Book Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

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“If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others” 

The best selling book of 2018. A million and one people, including myself, made their way through this book over the holidays. A memoir of the former First Lady, Michelle tells us her story in 3 parts – her childhood, meeting and “becoming us” with Barrack and her time in the White House.

If you read our “Best of” post, you will recall that this was one of my favorite books of 2018. The #1 thing a memoir requires is openness and honesty and Michelle gave us that. You could tell that Michelle has been holding back and being PC because she sure had a lot to say. Every stage of her life was laid out in great detail in a way that lets the reader into her mind and understand what made her the way she is today.

I generally am inspired by women of substance and I don’t know if anyone exemplifies substance more than Michelle. This book was like a little self help/guide book to me and reminded me a lot of “Year of Yes” (which I gave 5 stars). I love how intentional Michelle was with a lot of things in her life and I identified strongly with her need to plan.

While I do think she lucked out with Barrack, I think she played a part in that “luck” because she had a strong sense of self and was ready for him in her life. It was so awesome to see how full of a life she had independently, before being Barrack’s wife. I am still in awe of how these two came to cross paths but the part where she set aside her fear and reluctance to be in the public eye and give Barrack the blessing to go into politics because she knew she couldn’t be the one to hold him back from his greatness was so admirable to me.

“It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open the fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look at something you’d otherwise find beautiful—a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids—and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.” 

The quote above is another facet in her life that Michelle shared with us when she lost people in her life. Susan’s story was a big life lesson for me. I liked that Michelle wrote this book through the lens of being a black woman. Gabrielle Union did the same thing and honestly I think it is quite impossible as a black person/woman to not view life through the lens of your color and gender.

Things I didn’t care for. The childhood part. It’s not a Michelle thing, I just generally find childhood stories in memoirs boring. I couldn’t wait to get to the future part. The most talked about things during the book promotions – her lust for Barrack and immediately spending nights at his apartment and how she would never forgive Trump were just that. As in, just those lines. We didn’t get any expanded or salacious stories.

I don’t know how Michelle was able to find the balance of being open and yet still not stepping on any toes but this worked on so many levels. Like with any memoir, I think it should be consumed audio style. She reads it herself by the way. I came away from this book just thinking of how amazing a woman she is. This is a strong recommend from me.

Taynement