Book Review: Rebel Girl by Kathleen Hanna

Kathleen Hanna’s “Rebel Girl” is the riot grrrl memoir we need right now. A poignant reminder of the struggle of women in music (and society) in the 1990s and, specifically, in the punk rock scene. Hanna lays bare her trauma to show us exactly why we have always, and still do, need a feminist movement. Other retrospectives of the Riot Grrrl movement don’t come close to the detail that “Rebel Girl” gives us. This is a deep and lasting portrait of a specific moment in time that Hanna skillfully brings the reader into, whether you lived through that time or not.

This book transported me back to my experience in the 1990s, attending shows and rallies while in college. The push to make change in small ways through music and zines while navigating the world of dudes ever-present in the scene. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get a clear picture of the 1990s punk scene, from the perspective of the founder of the riot grrrl movement.

The short chapters offer small vignettes, which made me want to keep reading longer than I have for other memoirs. Hanna is a skillful artist and author who also does great activism work, with her tees4togo campaigns. She is currently on tour for this book, but will likely be out on the road again with either Bikini Kill or Le Tigre soon, so catch her if you can!

Bonus: if you are a follower of Kathleen on Instagram, she has shared a spotify playlist of all the songs she mentions in the book. Great for listening to while reading the book – if you are into that kind of thing.

Click here and scroll down to find the spotify link: https://linktr.ee/kathleenhanna?utm_source=linktree_profile

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Book Review: Beyond Getting By by Holly Trantham

In this latest book from The Financial Diet, Holly Trantham gives us some real life strategies to manage money, get paid more at work, stop listening to the lies we tell ourselves, and learn how to truly value our time. Through sage advice and step-by-step exercises, Trantham helps readers gain the knowledge and insight necessary to fully advocate for oneself in the workplace and in life. Well researched and written, this text is a must have for anyone looking to better themselves financially and gain more security in their financial life.

Throughout the text, Trantham focuses on abundance and intention, which she stresses “are the most valuable [themes] when it comes to living a more fulfilling, happier life”. Trantham shares practical advice for how to focus on these themes and build a bright future. Unlike other financial books that you may have read, this book focuses deeply on systemic issues that face each individual, as well as larger societal issues that are inescapable in modern-day American life. These issues inform the readers own journey to financial success and help navigate the difficult terrain leading to financial stability.

Lauren Ver Hage provides lovely illustrations throughout the text, giving the book a sense of whimsy and light-heartedness, even in the midst of some difficult topics. Finances are often uncomfortable to read (and talk) about, but the combination of practical advice and watercolor visuals helps to soften the content and help the reader maintain focus.

If you are looking for a book that will help you gain practical knowledge of how to move forward with your financial life, dispel shame-based budgeting myths, live abundantly rather than excessively, ditch FOMO, leave behind the girlboss attitude, and set some useful boundaries, look no further than Beyond Getting By, coming to you from Crown Currency, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, on 23 April 2024.

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Book Review: The Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz

I was introduced to “The Chance to Fly” at the American Library Association’s (ALA) Mid-Winter conference this past January, during a session with the authors, Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz. Their book talk enticed me to search out an advanced copy, even though middle-grade reading isn’t really my thing. After completing the book, I would recommend that this selection be added to every school and public library collection. I am grateful that my fandom of Ali Stoker led me to the session and this heartwarming, nostalgia-inducing, story.

“The Chance to Fly” is the story of a dynamic, precocious, 13-year old, striving to live her best tween life, despite obstacles. Due to my fierce connection to musical theatre, along with the wonderful character development I was moved to tears (of joy) on several occasions during my reading. What begins as a story about Natalie, a strong-willed tween and wheelchair-racer from California, now tossed into a new life in New Jersey, quickly becomes an ensemble piece when she meets a diverse cast of characters while auditioning for a summer musical. This story caused me to reminisce about my own time in high school drama club, bringing back sweet memories of times shared with my drama club friends. The relationships between these characters are both timeless and timely and ultimately, the message of the book is that with a lot of drive and a little help from friends, anything is possible.

As the characters face several obstacles in their path to getting the show up and running, they learn about their own resilience and the things they can accomplish as a team. Throughout the story, we see ways in which the characters are both similar and different from one another and how the combination of their strengths is what helps them ultimately succeed. As the story develops, we also see how the characters change and grow and how one’s past doesn’t always determine their future. Overall, this is a story of triumph over adversity, shown through the eyes of a very hopeful group of musical theatre kids. If you like musical theatre, be sure to check this book out, when it hits the shelves on the 13th of April 2021!

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Book Review: Hello, Cruel Heart by Maureen Johnson

With this prequel to the upcoming Disney movie, Cruella, and the pre-prequel to 101 Dalmations, Maureen Johnson gives us a fresh perspective on why Cruella turns out to be Cruella. From the start of her journey, Estella navigates traumatic loss while struggling to find her way. Throughout the story, Estella grapples with the voice inside her head (Cruella) that mirrors that voice of self-reflection we all grapple with at times. Sometimes the voice casts doubt and sometimes it gives her strength.

Set in London, in 1967, Johnson weaves a tale of the swinging sixties that transports us back to the time in fits and starts. Referencing the Beatles and some other touchstones of the time place us there, but as a reader, I would have enjoyed much more detail about London at this time. Since it is a novel geared toward Young Adults in 2021, though, I believe that the level of detail was most likely sufficient.

Taking us through Estella’s journey to fit in while still remaining true to herself makes “Hello, Cruel Heart” a universal coming of age story with a twist. Since we already know who Estella ultimately becomes, the backstory is ever more humanizing for this character. I honestly have to say that I love Cruella even more than I did before reading this book and believe me, I already enjoyed the character immensely. I’ve always been drawn to the villains in the Disney canon.

If you are looking for a quick, light read that dives deeper into the character of Cruella De Vil, do not hesitate to pick up a copy of this book when it comes out in April 2021.

Book Review: White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America by Anthea Butler

With “White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America”, Anthea Butler gives us an important piece of work on the origins and continued persistence of White Evangelicalism in American right-wing politics, as well as the foundation of racism that continues to influence the White Evangelical church in America. Through a survey of the White Evangelical’s rise to political power through the Republican establishment, Dr. Butler shows just how insipid the movement has been and how White Christian racism continues to be a force in the Republican party. If you think that White Nationalism started with Trump and the MAGA crowd, you need to read this book!

Although I had a cursory knowledge of the subject matter going into the reading of this book, I did not understand how fully intertwined White Evangelicalism is in politics. Knowing that lobbies exist to restrict women’s, civil, and human rights is just the tip of the iceberg to fully understanding the motivations and ways in which the right has infiltrated the republican party and played it to their advantage. Dr. Butler clearly maps out the path that has been taken by White Evangelical leaders to embed in the existing structures and mold them to their will.

This well researched and presented tome is important reading. If you think you understand the politics of America, but you have never considered how the structures are built upon centuries of racism, you need to read Dr. Butler’s work. She also builds upon a wealth of knowledge previously published, shown in her endnotes of selected readings.

I am extremely grateful to Dr. Butler for compiling this work for the general public as it will add to the canon of important reads on the topic of race, society, religion, and American political theory. The book will be out on 22 March 2021, but don’t delay – pre-order a copy now here: UNC Press

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2020 Reading Recap

Hello fellow readers and welcome back! It is a new year and I have many new reads lined up for 2021. 2020 was a bit of a bust reading-wise, not to mention all the other things that failed in 2020, but a recap feels like a good way to end the year and move forward. So – here goes:

Book Club

As you can probably imagine, after March of 2020 the book club that I was attending in Huntsville trailed off. The meetings were sporadic at best and non-existent at worst. The librarian in charge of holding it together has resurrected it recently, but since I moved to Clarksville in July, I am no longer able to attend in person. For 2021, I am going to be participating in an online book club, co-hosted by my favorite living writer, Roxane Gay. The Audacious Book Club will be part of Gay’s newsletter, The Audacity, and seems like it will be both intriguing and enlightening. If you join The Audacity with a subscription, you can also participate in live zoom calls with various authors throughout the year. I’m looking forward to this as it will push me to read more books (always a plus!) and allow me to participate remotely in a low interaction mode. Sounds like the best kind of book club to me!

Book Challenges

For 2021, I have decided not to participate in any online book challenges, unless something really interesting comes along from one of my booktuber friends. I usually try to engage with the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge but this year I am going to focus on the Audacious Book Club picks and reading through my TBR list. I amassed quite a few new books in 2020 and I really need to catch up as much as possible.

Net Galley Book Reviews

In 2020, I severely neglected my book reviewing duties after March as reading was not really a priority during the first and second surges of the pandemic. Now that we are in surge 3 and it looks like things will be continuing in this manner for a while, I have recommitted to reading and reviewing on Net Galley. The first book up, which I am three-quarters of the way through is White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America by Anthea Butler. This book is set to be published on 22 March 2021 and I hope to have my review posted here by the end of January. My second Net Galley read of the year will be World Travel by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever, set to publish on 20 April 2021. I’m looking forward to this read and hope to have a review available here by the end of February.

Goodreads

I was hoping to transfer to a new platform for tracking my reading in 2021, due to my slow transition away from all things Amazon, but I have yet to find an app that has the same level of interaction with other readers. For cataloging, I prefer LibraryThing, but for social interaction on books, Goodreads is really the best. If any of my readers can suggest a better app to use, I’m totally ready to switch, but for now I am sticking with Goodreads.

This year, I’ve set my target number for books read at 36. This is the same number I set for last year, but I’m giving myself a pass on 2020 and setting it as a redo of that horrible year. It looks like we are going to be struggling this year with the pandemic, an insurrection, white supremacy, and social injustice as well, but I’m hoping that as I read and write things will improve. Not magically, mind you, but with additional resources and action. And amid all of this, I would also like to read 36 books. We’ll see how that goes. I am also prioritizing social movement involvement this year, so I’m not going to feel too bad if I don’t get to that reading goal. The future is more important.

If you would like to join me over at Goodreads, please click here, or on LibraryThing, click here!

2020 Wrap Up

Although the list is short, I did get some reading accomplished in 2020 and here are the results:

  1. Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone who’s Been There by Tara Schuster
    Completed on 10 February 2020
    Rating = ***
    Review here
  2. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
    Completed on 13 February 2020
    Rating = *****
  3. Anthony Bourdain: The Last Interview and Other Conversations by Melville House (Editory)
    Completed on 19 February 2020
    Rating = ***
  4. You Were Born for This: Astrology for Radical Self-Acceptance by Chani Nicholas
    Completed on 25 February 2020
    Rating = ****
  5. How to Be an Artist by Jerry Saltz
    Completed on 16 March 2020
    Rating = ***
    Review here
  6. How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin
    Completed on 25 May 2020
    Rating = *****
  7. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
    Completed on 25 June 2020
    Rating = ****
  8. Say It Louder!: Black Voters, Voices & the Shaping of American Democracy by Tiffany Cross
    Completed on 11 July 2020
    Rating = ****
  9. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi
    Completed on 1 August 2020
    Rating = ****
  10. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
    Completed on 3 September 2020
    Rating = *****
  11. Dreamworlds of Alabama by Allen Shelton
    Completed on 17 September 2020
    Rating = ****
  12. Whose Story Is This? Old Conflicts, New Chapters by Rebecca Solnit
    Completed on 3 October 2020
    Rating = ****
  13. I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
    Completed on 12 October 2020
    Rating = *****
  14. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    Completed on 22 October 2020
    Rating = *****
  15. W.E.B. DuBois Speaks Speeches and Addresses, 1890-1919 by W.E.B. Du Bois
    Completed on 4 November 2020
    Rating = ****
  16. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
    Completed on 18 November 2020
    Rating = *****
  17. Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister
    Completed on 20 November 2020
    Rating = *****

Final thought

My wish for you in 2021, dear readers, is that you may all stay safe, keep learning new things, keep moving forward for yourselves and our collective society, wear your masks, and read on! I look forward to sharing my reads throughout the year and discussing with you!

Peace, Chantale aka hippiegrrl

Currently Reading…

Book Review: How to Be an Artist by Jerry Saltz

Jerry Saltz is one of the most straight forward writers I have read in a while. He does not mince words in writing about art, artists, and the capacity that each individual has to create. “How to Be an Artist” acts as an inspirational guide and a kick in the ass for any aspiring artist who has doubts about their ability or worth. There are moments, throughout, where Saltz gets a little bit harsh, but being a critic himself, this is to be expected.

The book is not a blueprint for how to be an artist, but it does act as motivation to become a maker. “How to Be an Artist” is an expansion of the New York magazine article of the same name, which won Saltz an Ellie award in 2018, and continues to ruminate on the ideas presented within a larger (book format) frame. Adding to each section and step reveals more about the ideas that Saltz originally presented and allows the reader to delve deeper into personal creativity. Exercises provide direction for the reader and give artists the license to try out new techniques in a controlled fashion.

The ultimate theme of the book is one of action. For each individual to ‘do the work’. Stop thinking about it, mulling it over, letting those negative thoughts (demon voices) get the best of you and just DO IT. If you need someone to give you that push to create, I highly recommend picking up this book and then getting to work!

Book Review: Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life from Someone Who’s Been There by Tara Schuster

From the very first chapter of Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies, Tara Schuster takes you on a wild ride through her childhood and re-parenting adventure. This is the kind of self-help book that I can get behind 100%. Rather than the stodgy “here is what I have done to become perfect and you should do as well” self-help book, Schuster’s work reflects her own struggle as a demonstration for how to rise above the past and move forward into a better and more well-adjusted future.

I enjoyed taking this journey with the author, even when it was painful. By sharing her deepest, darkest regrets and her practiced ways of coping, the author reaches to the heart of what a self-help book should be. She shares her ups and downs and allows the reader to feel good about the fact that we actually aren’t all perfect. We may craft rituals around ways of becoming better humans, but being human means we will fall down on the job at times. The true self-help journey requires commitment and the ability to pick yourself up and get on with it by not wallowing in the past but using it to inform a better future for yourself and others.

The book had a few moments of privilege that the author could have self-reflected on a bit, but overall she does a good job of seeing her bias and framing the suggestions in a way that most people can get on board with. I really enjoyed Schuster’s humour but would expect nothing less from the vice president of Talent and Development at Comedy Central. Her ability to view herself critically in order to better craft her outcomes was more than admirable.

Overall, I enjoyed this book more than the average self-help tome that I have read in the past few years and think it would be particularly good for people that have had a rough time coping with less than perfect childhood experiences or poor mid-life relationships. Schuster focuses squarely on the ability to ‘do the work’ oneself and craft rituals as a way to cope with anything that comes one’s way. A truly enjoyable and informative read!

End of 2019 Reading Recap

Happy 2020! I am happy to be moving into a new year with new possibilities and a new TBR. Well, some of the old stuff made it to the new TBR, but still, a refresh for the new year is here. But before we can get started on the 2020 reading journey, we need to look back on the final 3 months of reading activity. So, here, for your enjoyment, is the 2019, end of year reading recap.

Book Club

In my last update, I mentioned that I skipped The Book Report two months in a row and I was not sure if I wanted to return, but in October I decided to attend a meeting and it was just what I needed. I made a couple new GoodReads friends and got a slew of great new book recommendations at the meeting. I skipped November (birthday month) and then December was cancelled (potential ice storm in Northern Alabama) and I will not be attending in January, but am planning to return full force with a pile of books to discuss, in February! There is also another project I am working on that might result in a book club, but it is top secret. I love reading and it is even better with the accountability of book groups to keep me on task.

Book Challenges

During the Fall of 2019, I cut back on my book challenge involvement. It was fun to participate in the summer, but I needed a bit of break from the stress of finishing books on such a heightened timeline. At the end of the year I continued to attempt reading books from the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge but also failed pretty miserably as you can see below. In 2020, I am going to try again to read a few books from the Read Harder Challenge and hopefully do a bit better this time around.

End of Year Reads

24. Saga, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan
Completed on 10 October 2019
Rating = ***
Read Harder Challenge Category = n/a

25. Recollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit (review here)
Completed on 23 October 2019
Rating = ****
Read Harder Challenge Category = n/a

26. This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins
Completed on 5 November 2019
Rating = *****
Read Harder Challenge Category = n/a

27. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Completed on 5 November 2019
Rating = *****
Read Harder Challenge Category = n/a

28. Paper Girls, Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan
Completed on 7 November 2019
Rating = ****
Read Harder Challenge Category = n/a

29. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino
Completed on 23 November 2019
Rating = ****
Read Harder Challenge Category = n/a

2020 Reading Plan

GoodReads

This year I have set my GoodReads book challenge total at 36. That puts me at approximately 3 books per month and with the pace I read in 2019, I think this year’s number is more than possible. It is already the 13th of January and I’m at 0 completed for the month, but I am about 2/3 of the way through a book I started in December and have a couple other digital books that are close as well. One of my big goals this year is to finish all the books on my kindle that I started in previous years (some are as old as 3 or 4 years) or DNF them.

TBR List and Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

My TBR list for this year will be listed on GoodReads at my 2020-reading-list shelf, but here is a sampling of books that I am hoping to read that also fulfill a category in the Read Harder Challenge (BR#)…

  • BR1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • BR2. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
  • BR4. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  • BR8. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
  • BR10. Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney C. Stevens
  • BR11. How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones
  • BR13. Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi
  • BR15. Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Reading Reviews

I will still be doing a number of Net Galley reviews in 2020, so keep an eye out for those. Next up is Buy Yourself the Fucking Lilies by Tara Schuster, which should be up by mid-January. In February I will be reviewing How to be An Artist by Jerry Saltz and in March, Think Like a Rocket Scientist by Ozan Varol. In April I will be taking a reviewer hiatus and then starting up again in May with We Are Not Free by Traci Chee. Reviewing new books is a rewarding experience and I highly recommend joining Net Galley if you are looking to become a reviewer as well.

That is about it for this update, but that sure is a lot! Happy reading and see you in the next update.

Peace, Chantale aka hippiegrrl

Currently reading…

How Sassy Changed My Life: A Love Letter to the Greatest Teen Magazine of All Time
The Art of Memoir
Living a Feminist Life
Thick: And Other Essays
Girl, Woman, Other
Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life, from Someone Who's Been There

Book Review: Recollections of My Nonexistence by Rebecca Solnit

The focus that it takes to write a compelling memoir is fascinating and Rebecca Solnit has not disappointed with her, “Recollections of My Nonexistence”. Beginning with snippets from her childhood in the Bay Area and returning to that time throughout the work, Solnit paints a picture of San Francisco through the eyes of a female author, struggling for recognition during the slow gentrification of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.

A large part of the work deals with the fear that women face simply walking down the street, but more so on their own in metropolitan places in America. This fear can carry over into the rural and suburban areas of the country just as easily, but there is something to be said for the distinct levels of anxiety that come along with being a solo, woman dweller in an urban area. This feeling of fear is not unique to living in America, as women all over the world deal with fear of place on a daily basis, but Solnit eloquently shows the depths of which this fear manifests in her own daily life, from the perspective of a middle-aged American woman.

But it isn’t all about fear. Solnit crafts a lovely history of her writing and the challenges she faced in the early days of learning to be a journalist and eventually moving over to the non-fiction (and later creative non-fiction) areas of composition. She weaves through her research on her early works and shows us the unique difficulties she faced to be taken seriously and to feel like she was on the right path. As she writes at the desk a friend gifted her after Solnit helped her release herself from a bad (to say the least) relationship, she allows her anxieties to inform her work in a way that is ever-engaging. Memoirs are so often rollercoaster rides of semi-good writing, but with this work, the prose often takes over in a way that transports you directly into the room where Solnit is writing. It allows the reader to come along for the journey, rather than to simply watch it unfold.

Overall, this memoir is well worth the read and I would recommend it to anyone that is interested in San Francisco history, memoirs of artists and/or authors, feminist scholars, or anyone that enjoys reading about the history of place through the lens of an individual lived life. I suppose that, in the end, is what a memoir should be and Solnit delivers fully with this work.