21 Mar 2017
in Book Review
Tags: abortion, accomplished, Ahamefule J. Oluo, Ahamefule Oluo, anecdotes, articulate, arts writer, blogger, book, books, came out of her shell, comedy, comedy writer, commended, compelling, cry, dan savage, essays, excellent, fat activism, fat activist, fat debate, fat girl, film critic, funny, grey matter, guardian columnist, hybrid, internet troll, jezebel blogger, jim norton tv debate, jubilant, laugh, laughing matter, lindy west, mean, memoir, outspoken, paul west twitter, periods, personal, personal anecdotes, prose, rage, rape, rape jokes, relatable, review, reviews, rollercoaster ride, sassy, seattle's alternative newspaper, shrill, shrill - notes from a loud woman, shy girl, strike a chord, tackles uncomfortable topics, the stranger, this american life, thoughtful, uncomfortable truths, uncompromising, well-considered arguments, witty, writer
Lindy West was one of the highlights from this year’s All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House. So it is unsurprising that this Guardian columnist and Jezebel blogger’s book, Shrill – Notes From A Loud Woman is funny, accomplished and excellent. West’s book is ultimately a hybrid between memoir, with personal anecdotes, and essays, where she writes about important issues and uncomfortable truths in a compelling and articulate way.
For those people who are unfamiliar with West’s work, the Seattle-born writer first came into prominence while working as a film critic for Seattle’s alternative newspaper, The Stranger. Her review of Sex & The City 2 went viral. Initially her work focused on reviews of the arts, film and comedy but over time she started to become an activist for causes she felt strongly about, and a lot of these causes are covered in some detail in Shrill.
This volume opens with West’s account of growing up as a shy, fat girl. She admits that she was once so overwhelmed and consumed with shyness that she was unable to ask her classroom teacher if she could be excused in order to go to the bathroom. In the end Lindy peed her pants and she tried to blame this on a nearby water jug.
For years West grappled with the shape of her body and society’s demands, where women are often taught from birth that we should be small both physically and in presence. But over time West realised that she could not ignore the fact that she was fat. She also came out of her shell, and all of these things meant that Lindy eventually came to the realisation that she wanted to obliterate those views that permeate society.
Lindy’s fat activism means she’s received her fair share of negative retaliation. Her former editor, Dan Savage tried to weigh into the fat debate, using the argument that accepting fatness contributes to the obesity epidemic. West, however, addressed the argument raising the idea that fat people should not be considered acceptable human punching bags. West’s arguments were both well-considered and thoughtful. It is this same style that was particularly evident in West’s TV debate with comedian Jim Norton, over rape jokes in comedy, and as well through much of this book.
Shrill includes a lot of things that are clearly quite personal to Lindy. One of the hardest parts to read is where she takes on one of her meanest internet trolls. They had created a Twitter page where he pretended to be West’s father, Paul, shortly after he had passed away. The troll also wrote that Paul West was the “Embarrassed father of an idiot.” This broke Lindy’s heart and she penned an essay about the ordeal. The troll eventually apologised to her and the two had a frank and open discussion on an episode of This American Life. Score sheet Lindy West: 1 Trolls: 0.
In Shrill, West should be commended for tackling some uncomfortable topics (abortion, rape, periods, etc.) and for being outspoken, witty and sassy in her remarks. West makes some compelling arguments, whilst also letting the reader in on some very intense and private moments from her own life (including her love for her husband, Ahamefule J. Oluo). Shrill is ultimately a bit of a rollercoaster ride where you’ll laugh, cry, feel rage and be jubilant at West’s uncompromising and relatable anecdotes and prose. West clearly knows how to strike a chord with readers, so some things are a laughing matter, others will appeal to your grey matter, and then there are even more topics that just matter. Period.
Originally published on 19 March 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-lindy-wests-shrill-will-make-you-laugh-cry-rage-and-feel-jubilant-at-her-uncompromising-prose/
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14 Mar 2017
in Book Review
Tags: 1st person account, a manifestation of her illness, a memoir of obsessive compulsive disorder, a memoir of ocd, alter ego, because we are bad, because we are bad - a memoir of ocd, bio, biography, book, books, cbt, cognitive behavior therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, complex, crippling disease, diagnosis, disorder, dispels misconceptions, distress, distresses, elaborate systems, english female journalist, exposure, first person account, forthright account, grapples with mental illness, group therapy, heart-breaking, honest, journalist, lily bailey, medication, memoir, mental health, mental health struggles, mental illness, model, negative thoughts, obtrusive thoughts, raw, relatable, remove the stigmas, resonate, response prevention, review, reviews, rituals, ruminating, rumination, silent battle, therapy, turbulent life, vulnerable, writer
Because We Are Bad is a devastating memoir where the author actually lived, breathed and believed the title. The book is a chronicle of Lily Bailey’s years spend living with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) from her initial diagnosis as a child through to becoming a young woman. The story is a relatable, first person account of the mental illness and it’s one that should resonate with people who have this disorder as well as helping to dispel some of the misconceptions that are out there.
This book is reminiscent of Emily Reynold’s A Beginner’s Guide to Losing Your Mind. Both volumes are by young, English female journalists and they are honest accounts of their grapples with mental illness. Neither book attempts to romanticise the individual’s respective disorder, instead they attempt to remove the stigmas surrounding it with their brutally honest and forthright accounts.
In Bailey’s case the story is told in the first person along with her complex alter ego (a manifestation of her illness). Bailey recalls the distresses she experienced from early childhood when she was concerned that her sister would come into harm or even die if she failed to check up on her. These ideas became obtrusive thoughts that were repeated to the point of becoming an elaborate system consisting of actual rituals.
Lily spent a lot of time ruminating over negative thoughts. She would worry that she had poor personal hygiene and that people hated her or thought she was a pervert. She collected these ideas and constantly thought about the first letters of each word relating to these things. Bailey’s struggles escalated and became a silent battle that plagued her day and night to the point that it became a crippling disease.
Because We Are Bad may be a raw and heart-breaking read but it’s also a hopeful one. Bailey is now a successful model and journalist and hopefully readers can take away and learn from the things that helped her. In Bailey’s case this was cognitive behaviour therapy, which included response prevention and exposure as well as medication and group therapy. Because We Are Bad shows the inner turbulent life of a vulnerable young woman who has OCD and it also proves that people do not need to be alone in their mental health struggles. By reading such accounts we can all have a more realistic view of what the individuals with these diseases experience so that we can all get real about mental illness and the way it impacts life.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer through a Bookstr giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.bookstr.com/book/because-we-are-bad/10700167/
04 Mar 2017
in Book Review
Tags: adrian lewinski, australian, australian writer, balanced, becoming a better individual, becoming a better person, book, books, break-up, break-ups, buddha, buddhism, buddhists, change, clever, comedian, comfort, compassionate, considered, dating, dependent arising, essential reading, evolution, fear, fundamental buddhist principles, grief, growth, guide, happiness, heartbreak, impermanence, logical collection, loneliness, love, manual, marriage break down, meshel laurie, navigating negative emotions, positive aspects of a break-up, practical, radio personality, real-life experiences, relatable, relationship, relationships, relationships will end, religion, review, reviews, right direction, self-help, separation, spirituality, television personality, therapeutic, thought-provoking, tv personality, volume, well-explained, well-written, what would buddha do?, writer
There are many people who ask themselves, “What would Jesus do?” but in the case of Meshel Laurie, it was, “What would Buddha do?” The Australian writer, comedian and radio personality was looking towards her Buddhist faith as a way of making sense of the end of her 19 year marriage. Except that there were no self-help manuals on successfully separating, not from a Buddhist standpoint, so she wrote her own and it’s a thought-provoking, relatable and compassionate read.
Laurie’s book finds the right balance between offering her own personal tale as well as the fundamental principles that Buddhists believe. She describes her separation from her ex-husband, Adrian Lewinski in some detail, whilst also offering a template for navigating through the negative emotions of fear, grief and loneliness that are synonymous with heartbreak.
If you’re sitting there dismissing this book as a bunch of hippie nonsense then think again. This book is instead a rather practical and logical collection of different chapters. Early on Laurie has us considering the fact that we will all lose somebody close to us someday: “No relationship – romantic, familial or platonic – is absolute and forever. We will all lose someone we rely on at some point in our lives. Sometimes the other person chooses to leave us, sometimes they’re taken from us tragically, and sometimes we discover that they were never ours to begin with. But one way or another, the relationship will end.”
This means that the ability to deal with the loss of a relationship is a useful skill. Another handy lesson that Laurie offers is to learn about the Buddhist principles of “impermanence” i.e. understanding that everyone and everything is constantly changing and “dependent arising” or understanding that we never actually stop evolving or changing and that this process is shaped by the conditions around us. For Meshel she simply wants us to consider and focus on the positive aspects of a break-up – even if it’s just being able to lie in a large bed and watch your favourite shows on Netflix – you should seize this opportunity for happiness and growth.
Meshel Laurie offers us some very practical pieces of advice in her second book, Buddhism for Break-ups. This combination of well-written, well-explained and considered Buddhist teachings as well as her own real-life experiences can offer some real comfort to readers in much the same was as Chicken Soup For The Soul has done. You can really get a sense that, “If Meshel can do it then perhaps I can too.”
Buddhism for Break-ups should be essential reading for anyone that finds themselves broken-hearted and open to the prospect of learning new things and becoming a better individual. Buddhism for Break-ups may not answer all of your questions but it is certainly clever and therapeutic enough to steer you in the right direction. Namaste!
Originally published on 28 February 2017 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-meshel-lauries-buddhism-for-break-ups-is-the-buddhist-dating-equivalent-of-chicken-soup-for-the-soul/
Visit The Au Review’s homepage at: http://www.theaureview.com/
08 Aug 2016
in Book Review
Tags: 1st person account, book, books, cassie, creative, crime, crush, drama, enjoyable, fiction, first person account, hears voices, inner demons, long, longing, love letter, mental illness, minor flaws, most screwed up love letter, murder, nick lake, post traumatic stress disorder, ptsd, relatable, review, reviews, right the wrongs of the past, romance, schizophrenia, serial killer, strippers, teenagers, unique, unresolved ending, whisper to me, ya, young adult
For a story proclaiming to be a “Most screwed up love letter” this book is actually not a bad read. It’s not excellent but it does a solid job, especially when you consider the fact it tackles some rather difficult subjects. And that it does this in a rather unique and original way.
This book is the latest one from YA writer, Nick Lake. Whisper To Me is basically one long love letter from its protagonist to a sweet young man. The main character is a teenager named Cassie who has schizophrenia insofar as she hears voices. This is a first-person account by Cassie and it’s addressed to a boy she loved but also pushed away one summer.
This story has a number of different threads including showing Cassie’s widowed father who is an ex-army Seal and a man that is refusing to deal with unresolved PTSD. There is also a serial killer on the loose and this individual is targeting sex workers. To say this is a difficult world for the characters to inhabit is an understatement. Cassie has already lost her mother some years ago to a robbery that escalated to manslaughter and she’s concerned about some of her newfound friends who work as strippers due to a killer being on the loose.
There are some aspects of this book that feel quite real and believable like Cassie’s struggles with her inner demons and mental illness in general. But some things seem rather far-fetched like her romance (when there are only a limited number of interactions with her crush and most of them see her acting highly awkward towards him.) Others still seem quite implausible like two young people bonding over ancient mythology and a teenager that doesn’t know a thing about social media and the internet. Cassie also has a tendency to ramble and go off on different tangents and this means the book could have been tightened up in order to make a much stronger impact.
Whisper To Me is full of drama, longing, a desire to be understood and a need to right the wrongs of the past. It’s an intense and ambitious tale that is told in a unique and creative way. There are some minor flaws with the execution and the ending does leave open a number of questions and this may not sit well with some readers. But in spite of this, Lake should be commended for being prepared to tackle such difficult subjects and for turning it into an enjoyable and relatable read.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was won by the writer through a The Reading Room giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: https://www.thereadingroom.com/book/whisper-to-me/9689508/
06 Mar 2016
in DVD Review
Tags: adaptation, amiable, Anthony Brandon Wong, asian, asian australians, australian, benjamin law, colourful, comedy, contemporary australian life, creative, drama, dramedy, dvd, dvds, eccentric, emotion, family drama, family show, featurettes, Fiona Choi, fun, gay, George Zhao, hot australian summer, irreverence, irreverent, jenny law, Jonathan Brough, Karina Lee, large family, lasagne of shit, long-overdue, Marieke Hardy, michelle law, middle child, modern australian life, queensland, relatable, review, reviews, sbs, series, shenanigans, show, Shuang Hu, sitcom, teenage life, television, the family law, Trystan Go, tv, Vivian Wei, warm
For too long, Australian TV shows have been white-washed and white bread but a series like The Family Law looks poised to change all of that. The SBS dramedy feels authentic in its depiction of the Law family living in Queensland in the nineties. The show has real heart and it will make you laugh and it’s no surprise that it has become a swift favourite among viewers.
The program is an adaption of writer, Benjamin Law’s 2010 memoir of the same name. The TV series was also co-written with Marieke Hardy. It uses some of the vignettes from Law’s memoir where he describes growing up as a gay, Asian kid in Australia. The TV show also fashions it all into a cohesive whole by making it seem like it all took place over one long, hot Australian summer.
The six-part series is mostly told from Law’s perspective. He is a creative, enthusiastic and well-meaning middle child who is close to his large family, especially his mother. Here, Law is played by the well-cast, Trystan Go, whose acting credits include the theatrical production, The King & I. But one character’s star shines the brightest out of the Law family and that is Ben’s mother, Jenny (played by the wonderful, Fiona Choi). Jenny is the family matriarch and a rambunctious, eccentric and colourful character. Jenny can be inappropriate at times and a no-nonsense and kind woman at others. She also has no filter and has by far, some of the funniest lines.
The Law family also includes the hard-working father, Danny (Anthony Brandon Wong (who plays a villain in several Matrix films)). Danny is thrown-out of the Law house and is forced to sleep at the restaurant he owns. There are also Ben’s four siblings- Candy (Shuang Hu), Andrew (George Zhao), Tammy (Karina Lee) and Michelle (Vivian Wei). The show is a warm, relatable and amiable one that focuses on Ben’s teenage life- from aspirations of fame and entries into school talent quests, to his parent’s wedding anniversary and marriage break-up to family Christmases, engagements and visits from friends.
The special features are interesting and include a trailer as well as a series of featurettes where there are interviews with Law, the actors and director, Jonathan Brough (It’s a Date, Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane). It is fascinating to learn that the production team went to great lengths to make the setting feel like a cosy, lived-in family home. Law referred to it as a “lasagne of shit” and this is particularly obvious in the mountains of laundry and family bric-a-brac. It’s also nice to see the real members of the Law family meeting their counterparts (they make a cameo in episode one which is lovely and rather funny).
The Family Law is a fun, Australian family show that expertly straddles the lines between drama and comedy. The show has some funny moments but it also doesn’t shy away from depicting some real drama and emotion. In all, this is a long-overdue program about a dysfunctional Asian family that everyone can enjoy thanks to its rich tapestry and depiction of modern Australian life that is full of off-beat irreverence and colourful shenanigans aplenty.
Originally published on 5 March 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/the-family-law-dvd-review/
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