african author, Nigerian Author, Non-Fiction, Self Help

We Chit Chat – Bamboozled by Jesus: How God Tricked Me into the Life of My Dreams by Yvonne Orji

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Leggy: How did we end up with this title?

Taynement: I recommended it.

Leggy: Oh right. You did. We both did it on audio too. What were your preconceived notions of the book and was it what you thought it would be?

Taynement: As usual, I had no knowledge of what the book was about. I just assumed it was a memoir. I remember wondering why anyone would care about an Yvonne Orji memoir.

Leggy: Lmaoooo. Taynement! I didn’t know what it would be about either. I wondered why someone so young in the industry was writing memoir.

Taynement: I’m not a fan of hers per se, so I honestly can’t tell you what compelled me to read this. My FOMO spirit is strong.

Leggy: I only read it because you told me too. Would never have. Also, it’s literally called “Bamboozled by Jesus” and I was still shocked when it turned out to be a religious book.

Taynement: I will say that this was a pleasant surprise for me.

Leggy: Oh really? You liked it? I’m shocked!

Taynement: Haha! I’m shocked myself.

Leggy: At first I was going to DNF it. I remember complaining that I would have never finished it if we weren’t doing a chit chat on it but then I just kinda got into it.

Taynement: Here’s the thing, I think the premise was a good one. It was a self help book wrapped in religion that was not preachy with sprinkles of hip hop culture. It worked for me.

Leggy: I didn’t love it but I certainly enjoyed following her journey. It’s quite interesting how dogged she is because there were a lot of times I feel like I would have given up. Also, she’s quite trusting in God, a lot of the things she believed in would have never worked for me. Like giving up her rent because God said so.

Taynement: So, in the beginning when she is laying the premise of the book, she said something like even if you don’t believe in the Word don’t think this book isn’t for you and I think she was wrong about that. It worked for me because I like to consider myself a person of faith, albeit a weak one, but she’s on a level of faith I aspire to be on. If you aren’t religious at all, this book will make you break out in hives because you will be ready to prove why it was something else and not God.

Leggy: Definitely. You should not read this one if you’re not religious. I believe in God but even I was turned off by the many Bible passages so I can’t imagine how this book could possibly work for someone who doesn’t believe.

Taynement: I wasn’t. I actually complained to my husband that I need to do better in reading my Bible. I really liked how she wove Bible passages into every day scenarios.

Leggy: This is how you know you’re a better Christian than me

Taynement: I should also add that sometimes a book works for you depending on your headspace and I read this book at a time where I need crazy faith like hers and it encouraged me.

Leggy: Also, I thought she must be very familiar with the Bible to be able to tell these stories in this way. It was very well done if you know the Bible and that’s why I fully consider this book a religious book. I also liked the Insecure parts of the book which is what I was actually looking forward to. I wanted to hear how she booked the role.

Taynement: I would kill to know who the actress was that peaked at audition 1. Now, my gripe with the Insecure parts – which is where she addresses what I have always wondered with her, which is her choice as a person of faith with highly sexualized scenes. Her explanation didn’t answer my questions, AT ALL. I still can’t reconcile that she had a conversation with God and He told her she’s being used to send a message? I think that’s when she used the analogy that Denzel wasn’t a murderer but played one.

Leggy: Did you read where she said she started looking forward to the sex scenes? and enjoying them? I was like what?! And God had to be like this isn’t a loophole.

Taynement: I appreciated her honesty. Ha ha. Body no be firewood.

Leggy: I really hope her faith in regards to finding a life partner comes through because I felt quite weird reading all of that. I’m hoping it all works out for her but what if God doesn’t want her to have romantic love in her life? Would it affect her faith?

Taynement: I hope her faith will carry her through if that’s not the case for her. There’s something I wondered – Based on her comedy special, I could have sworn I saw her mum and dad but in the book there was barely a mention of her dad.

Leggy: I have a feeling she didn’t want to discuss her family directly. It was obvious they just came around when she became successful. Her mum and dad are still together though.

Taynement: I just thought it was odd that she didn’t mention her dad except jointly as parents but she definitely had a lot of mom stories.

Leggy: Oh, I didn’t notice at all. Just noticed that she limited giving concrete details of her family and their reactions to her decision and just generally mentioned that they wanted her to go get a Masters and a regular job. I got the feeling she was trying to spare them the embarrassment but I can only imagine – they are Nigerian parents after all.

Taynement: I think that makes sense given it wasn’t necessarily a memoir – more like a collection of essays. She gave just enough regarding upbringing and how it contributed to her career path. Did you have a favorite story of hers?

Leggy: I really enjoyed her Insecure journey since that was what I really wanted to read about. Second best was when she was raising money to make a pilot for the first gen show she had been shopping around.

Taynement: My favorite story was the one about finding her dream house. It truly resonated with me because it was a metaphor. Overall, I’d describe this book as the book I didn’t think I needed but I did. Trust me, I’m still surprised myself. I gave it 4 stars.

Leggy: Wow. It really resonated with you. I didn’t feel that strongly about it. I gave it 2 stars.

Let us know if you have read this one or you’re planning to!

Taynement & Leggy

Non-Fiction, Self Help

Book Review: Maybe You Should Talk To Someone by Lori Gottlieb

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“But part of getting to know yourself is to unknow yourself—to let go of the limiting stories you’ve told yourself about who you are so that you aren’t trapped by them, so you can live your life and not the story you’ve been telling yourself about your life.”

Lori Gottlieb is a therapist in LA. She starts the book by giving us a brief history of her career which did not start out in medicine. She seems to have lucky breaks aiming to be a journalist but finds herself being a TV writer most notably on Friends and ER. For those who don’t know, ER is a medical show and Gottlieb who was already feeling discontent with her job, finds herself intrigued by medicine and goes to medical school to become a therapist.

Gottlieb goes through a bad breakup that throws her for a loop and she starts seeing a therapist, Wendell who lets her view her life through a different lens. Gottlieb introduces us to four different patients of hers – an obnoxious Hollywood TV producer, a young newlywed woman with terminal cancer, a pessimistic senior citizen who has threatened suicide and a young woman who makes bad dating choices. With these four patients, Gottlieb manages to tell a story about her, us, them and life in general.

“Relationships in life don’t really end, even if you never see the person again. Every person you’ve been close to lives on somewhere inside you. Your past lovers, your parents, your friends, people both alive and dead (symbolically or literally)–all of them evoke memories, conscious or not.”

This book started out slow but I had heard so many good things about it and since I am trying to increase my non fiction reads, I was going to stick it through. Sticking it through was worth it because it was so good. I am so fascinated by the human psyche and this book fed every human psyche appetite I did. I am most in awe of how Gottlieb managed to pick the right four stories with which to tell a story, while also, in some ways wrote a memoir while giving us life nuggets along the way and giving us a window into what life as a therapist is like.

“Peace. it does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. it means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

I mentioned memoir because while the book seems like it could be about her patients, she does a good job in talking about herself – flaws and all and we get a good sense of who she is. By no means do I think she tried to make herself look like a saint or a therapist that has it all figured out. I don’t think we got it all (I have read that in her previous books, she has written about how hard it was for her to find a partner – which may give context to why she took the break up so hard) but I do think because the focus was on the patients, she gave enough and didn’t want to make herself the focal point.

“Don’t judge your feelings; notice them. Use them as your map. Don’t be afraid of the truth.”

Now what killed me the entire book was trying to figure out who the Hollywood producer, John was. I was thinking of all the clues dropped and finally gave up which led me to the other thing. If names were changed, I am sure other things were changed so they couldn’t be identified and it makes you wonder, so how much alteration was made to the stories? I also kept wondering how she was able to get permission to tell the stories. Even though this wasn’t the original story she was going to write, it still made me wonder if in some way knowing it would be for a novel, did that impact how she went through the process?

“Above all, I didn’t want to fall into the trap that Buddhists call idiot compassion – an apt phrase, given John’s worldview. In idiot compassion, you avoid rocking the boat to spare people’s feelings, even though the boat needs rocking and your compassion ends up being more harmful than your honesty. People do this with teenagers, spouses, addicts, even themselves. Its opposite is wise compassion, which means caring about the person but also giving him or her a loving truth bomb when needed.”

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I did it on audio and the narration was fantastic. It was very compelling and I felt invested in most of the characters. I took away some nuggets and life lessons from this book. I am not entirely sold on Gottlieb, given her experience in Hollywood and what I mean by that is I don’t know if we know her fully as a person. I think she knows the machine and how to engineer it and I am okay with it. If this was a true proper memoir, then maybe it would bother me. Not surprisingly, the book has been optioned for TV by Eva Longoria. If you are looking for part memoir, part self help, part sounds like fiction with good storytelling – pick this one up.

Taynement

Book Related Topics, christmas, Fiction, literary fiction, Non-Fiction, Self Help

‘Tis The Season – Gift Ideas For The Book Lovers In Your Life

Wow! We can’t believe that Christmas is round the corner. The world is still burning all around us but the fact that we survived this hellish year, only means we deserve an actual Merry Christmas for real. In a bid to make the holiday as close to normal as possible, most of us are still planning to give gifts. Good thing gifts are socially distant conducive. As we do every year, we have curated a list to make gift giving easier for the book lover in your life.

Cookbooks

Cookbooks are great to gift because everyone loves a good cookbook even if they have no plans of cooking from it. Pictured above are some of the cookbooks we loved this year. A lot of the recipes are easy to make with ingredients you can get from your local grocery store so anyone can cook through these or just admire the pictures and dream about cooking through them!

Here are some cookbooks we recommend:

  • The Full Plate by Ayesha Curry (this is very basic and the recipes are all under 1 hour but utterly delicious!)
  • Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin
  • Modern Comfort Food by Ina Garten (she’s a household name and she knows good food!)
  • Home Style Cookery by Matty Matheson
  • The Rise: Black Cooks and the Soul of American Food: A Cookbook by Marcus Samuelsson

Coffee Table Books:

Noone is visiting but because we are spending so much time at home, it’s always good to have aesthetically pleasing, conversation starters ready for when people do start coming over: There were so many coffee table books we loved this year apart from the two pictured above! Some of them are listed below:

Celebrating Blackness

With the kind of year we’ve had, this would be a great time to gift books that’ll help people learn a little more about their neighbors, and it doesn’t have to be very heavy books about race. Support and gift them books from their favorite black authors:

Fiction

Non-Fiction

  • I Don’t Want to Die Poor by Michael Arceneaux
  • Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
  • Any Black Classic like anything from Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes. Support black art!

Reading Related Knick Knacks

  • Reading Rests
  • Reading Lights
  • Holiday Lettering Artist Pens
  • Or this amazing reading journal from Etsy! (Also, there’s always collectibles in your loved ones’ favorite books that are widely available on sites like Etsy!)
  • They love Harry Potter? Get them this amazing collectible quidditch set!
  • Love Game of Thrones? Get them this miniature Game of Thrones iron throne!
  • From stickers, to bookmarks to stationeries. Visit The Seasonal Pages and you are sure to find something at such affordable prices (Support Small Businesses!)

Good Ol’ Fiction and Non-Fiction Books

The first step to choosing a book for a loved one is finding out what they actually enjoy reading. Find out the genre they’re most comfortable in, the last thing they read from that genre that they actually loved then try to find them something in the vein. There are so many blogs (LIKE OURS!) that are great resources for reading different reviews and making a suggestion. There’s always nonfiction books on topics they’d enjoy like TV shows, books from their favorite personalities (podcasters, reality show characters, athletes etc.) and if all else fails, get a gift card to their favorite book store (Shop locally if possible!)

Self Help

As we’re getting into the new year, a lot of people might be interested in reading books that might help them achieve whatever goals they’re currently setting for the next year. Self help is always a safe go to as a gift. Just be careful what titles you gift them! LOL.

Here are some of our favorite self help books from 2020:

  • Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster
  • Wisdom from a Humble Jellyfish: And Other Self-Care Rituals from Nature by Rani Shah (considering we’re currently living through a pandemic and are looking for different ways to protect our mental health and develop a self care routine, I highly recommend this one!)
  • Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life by Mary Kondo and Scott Sonenshein
  • Untamed by Glennon Doyle

For The Nostalgic (and possibly older reader in your life)

Book Sets of Old Favorites like Tom Clancy, Ken Follet, Mary Higgins Clark etc.

Don’t Forget Yourself!

While you are shopping for everyone else, don’t forget to get yourself something. We are all hoping for a better year and whatever you need to help you plan, read better or remind yourself of the bad ass you are, here are some journals, notebooks (if you would like to take notes/quotes from the many books on your TBR list) and inspirational cards that are great gift ideas.

Hope this was helpful and you find some great ideas on here. Let us know if you have any questions or got some inspiration from the list. Happy Holidays!!

Taynement & Leggy

Self Help

Book Review: Talking To Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

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I know the name Malcolm Gladwell but I am not familiar with his work. This is the first of his books I have ever read. A reader of ours asked when I was going to read the book and I was hesitant because it is not usually the type of book I go for, but I figured I could switch things up a bit and go ahead and read it.

Talking to Strangers is basically a social science report written in an easy to digest narrative. It examines what happens to a society when it does not know how to talk to strangers. The book begins with the story of Sandra Bland, the African American woman who was arrested for a traffic violation and found dead in her cell, 3 days later after committing suicide.

It explores some well known stories such as stories that involved Jerry Sandusky, Amanda Knox, Brock Turner etc. and also explores some government related instances involving Hitler and Ana Montes (who even though a traitor, I low-key think was a bad ass). Gladwell’s main point is that we have difficulty communicating with a person we do not know or understand mainly because we are not privy to the full background of what makes up who they are.

One of the examples is the relationship between Neville Chamberlain and Hitler. Neville believes Hitler when he says he is not aiming for war even though he met him in person and had a chance to get a read on him, even when people like Winston Churchill believed he was. It exemplified Gladwell’s point that the people who were right about Hitler were those who knew the least about him personally and the people who were wrong about Hitler were the ones who had talked with him for hours. On the flip, Amanda Knox was innocent but was presumed guilty because her actions didn’t seem like how an innocent person would ask.

Early into the book, I was ready to drop it because Gladwell was jumping all over the place and I couldn’t quite get the point he was trying to make. It took me a second to realize that the main issue with this book is its title. It really isn’t about strangers and is really more about the different ways of communication. Gladwell seemed like he was stuck with this title or focus and was trying to make his stories fit into it. The minute I let that go and stopped feeling like I had to be convinced about something, I began to enjoy it. Funny enough, in an interview Gladwell says he is not trying to convince anyone either way.

As mentioned above, I leaned in and began to enjoy the stories and it was so informative and fun at the same time. Even though I had heard of the high profile cases, it was nice to get full picture and behind the scenes. I learned about things I did not know about and found them fascinating.

I audio’d this book and at the risk of sounding like a broken record, I am glad I did. I really liked how for most of the stories, we heard real audio. For example, with Sandra Bland we had real audio of her interaction with the cop and also the cop’s interaction. It added an element of realism to it. It also had Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout” as its soundtrack that played at interludes.

I enjoyed the last few chapters of the book that talks about coupling and how humans are married to an idea.  For example, if a person decides to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge and a safety net is included, you’d think that they’d just find another way but Gladwell says stats show the chances of that are low, since they are married more to the how. I questioned the idea because I’d have thought people would be more married to being dead than the method of how they achieved it but the story examples he gave fit his narrative, so I guess.

Ironically, my least favorite chapter was the one that used the show, Friends as a centerpiece to demonstrate facial expressions. I liked how the book was book ended with the Sandra Bland story since it was how it began. It was a nice book end situation. Gladwell is not neutral when he speaks about the Bland story and is one of the few times you know where he stands.

Overall, even though the book kinda lacked focus and Gladwell’s point didn’t really apply to just talking to strangers, I have to say that I really enjoyed this. I think it is worth your time and you’d definitely leave with a lot more knowledge that when you started.

Taynement

Self Help

Book Review: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

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Leggy mentioned this book to me and told me I’d like it. I trust her recommendations so I joined the hold list at my library. I thought I had thoughts on Cheryl Strayed but I realized I might have been confusing her with Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote “Eat, Pray, Love. I watched the movie, Wild based on Strayed’s book of the same name, that chronicled her grief after losing her mother. I watched her talk about her grief on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah while bawling my eyes out. So I think that made me think I had an opinion on her but I have never read a book by her and never read the column this book was based on; so it was going in with a blank slate.

“Dear Sugar” is based on a collection of an online advice column on The Rumpus. For the longest time, the identity of the author was anonymous until it was revealed that “Sugar” was actually Cheryl Strayed. I think every experience in life was covered in this collection in the form a letter that was written in. Relationships, addiction, the realization that one is a shitty mom/friend, dealing with illness, abuse, sick fetishes, infidelity, grief, trying to leave a marriage, jealousy, boundaries, weight/body issues. I could go on and on, but almost – if not everything, was covered.

What makes this book work is that you can tell Cheryl has lived a full, full life. I say this because the format in which this was done was that Cheryl would respond and provide advice by telling a story from her life experience that was relatable to the issue at hand. So yes, she lived a very full life because she had a story for every topics. The other important thing is that she actually learned from her experiences. Because it is one thing to have experiences and it is another to learn from them and grow.

I did this book on audio and Cheryl herself narrated it. The first few chapters had me like “ehn, I hear you but nothing groundbreaking”. I think I was fully in by Part IV of the book. Another good thing is that Cheryl mastered the art of being honest and giving it straight without being rude or judgmental. I had to read this in sections because reading a help letter one after the other was a bit much, so I had to space it out. I also found it aggravating how she kept interspersing tears of endearments to those who write in. She’d call them names like “honeybun”, “sweet pea”. I get the joke (because her name was Sugar) but it irked me and got annoying real quick.

The last letter where someone asked what she would write to her 20 something year old self, might have been my favorite because it embodies everything I believe life should be about. Throughout the whole book, Strayed encourages people to not be afraid of life and to always choose happiness above all things and not let fear in. At some point she says “Courage is a vital piece of any well lived life”.

Overall, I don’t expect every letter to resonate with whoever is reading but just like life, I do think something can be learned from each letter. I think the book as a whole serves as a gateway to self reflection that every person should be having with themselves. It gives perspective and reminds you of how life can be awful and amazing at the same time. It’s a strong recommend for me.

Taynement