Podcast of the Month: Girl on Guy with Aisha Tyler

Lately I have been thinking to myself that this blog could use a feature. I figured this would be more interesting than an episode-by-episode commentary of How to Get Away with Murder.*

I love podcasts. My favourite part of the day is sitting with my podcast and my porridge in the morning.

I fear I am aging myself a bit.

2013_NEW_LOGO_FIN_SM

Girl on Guy with Aisha Tyler is a podcast about life. Art comes up a lot too. Every month, Aisha sits down with a different actor and gently prods them into telling her their story. They are all fascinating, and – even though most of the time the interviewee and Aisha only just met – totally natural-sounding. Aisha Tyler has a way of making the listener (and, I imagine, her guest) feel like she’s known them for years. There is none of the standoffishness or obvious guardedness that you often see on celebrity interviews. I think that’s because to listen to Girl on Guy is to participate in a real conversation. There is fluidity in the content of every podcast because Aisha simply follows up on what’s interesting rather than heavy handedly directing the conversation or obsessing over certain details like so many interviewers do (I’m talking about dating, obvs).

Listening to Girl on Guy is like the rare and surprising conversations you occasionally have in a pub, or a cold kitchen after midnight or on a bus with an interesting stranger, those conversations when you realise that for once you’re being totally genuine with another human.

Aisha Tyler has conversations that you feel in your heart.

Also, despite the title, she doesn’t only interview men.

This is part where I casually bring up How to Get Away with Murder again. A few weeks back Aisha interviewed Sarah Burns AKA Emily Sinclair AKA The Worst Person Ever. But it turns out in real life she is totally charming and interesting and really not someone you’d want to hit with your car.

A lot of times, for me at least, the people Aisha interviews are not actors I have previously heard of. She had a truly fascinating guy on the other week who turned out to be – among many, many other things – the voice of Fat Tony on The Simpsons. Whether or not you’ve heard of a person really has nothing to do with your enjoyment of their interview. As it turns out, all people are interesting.

I really recommend this one if you want to receive some wisdom. Aisha and her guests are full of it.

*Remember when Charlie Weber was Ben on Buffy and you didn’t even care that he existed? I am now unable to imagine such a state. Despite it all, HTGAWM fans, I would drop everything if Frank Delfino came calling. Everything.

Furiously Happy

Jenny Lawson made a community of crazy when she started writing about her struggles with her mental health on her blog. She writes about the times when life is just bizarre – most of the time, actually – and when it feels like too much to handle. People fell in love with her first because she’s hilarious, and second because she’s honest. She hasn’t so much defeated the stigma attached to mental illness as she has hunted it down with an army of taxidermy animals and a felted vagina* (I really can’t stress enough how much you should read this book). Clearly our collective crazy is something that we want to talk about.

Furiously Happy is her second memoir. It calls itself a funny book about horrible things. And it has a taxidermy raccoon called Rory on the cover. He’s the happiest damn taxidermy racoon you ever did see. I promise.

IMG_0361

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See? He’s loving life.

Jenny Lawson’s funny and ridiculous stories just make you feel better about life. There is a sincere tone to all of her essays that made my heart feel full throughout. It is this truthfulness at the centre of the work that allows Jenny Lawson’s writing to veer so fluidly between talking about laminated cats and self-harm, I think. Whatever emotion she is in, she is in fully, and as a result, so are we.

I ended up giggling with this book in the corner of a library (not recommended. People get annoyed) and doing that thing where someone is talking but you can only nod because if you talk you will inevitably cry. Kind of like after you watch a really emotionally manipulative advert and you don’t want the people around you to know it got to you because you’re smarter than that. Except Jenny Lawson isn’t trying to sell you a new phone plan. She’s just telling you about her life, which, like most people’s, is made up of the pretty great and the very bad.

‘…There is something wonderful in accepting someone else’s flaws, especially when it gives you the chance to accept your own and see that those flaws are the things that make us human.’

Furiously Happy, for me at least, was a book that demanded I see life outside of my own skin sack. When you look at the community that Jenny Lawson has created you notice one overwhelming truth: everybody is struggling. For the past few months I’ve been feeling pretty lost in life, and when you’re in that space it becomes really easy to consider yourself… kind of a failure. Reading this made me feel – for a little while, at least – like that’s bullshit. Everybody’s struggling with something. Whatever negative feelings we’re dealing with right now don’t make us failures, they just make us people. And that’s totally okay.

‘…Stop judging yourself compared to shiny people. Avoid the shiny people. The shiny people are a lie. Or get to know them enough to realize they aren’t so shiny after all. Shiny people aren’t the enemy. Sometimes we’re the enemy when we listen to our malfunctioning brains that try to tell us that we’re alone in our self-doubt, or that it’s obvious to everyone that we don’t know what the shit we’re doing.’

*Reading Jenny Lawson’s life makes your own more amusing. While writing this review I searched through the whole book asking myself what was that vagina made of? and then, after a while had passed and I still hadn’t found it did I imagine the vagina? and, eventually finally! The vagina! This is only one of the many gifts reading Furiously Happy provides.

The Blogger Recognition Award

Thanks to the lovely Orang-Utan Librarian for nominating me!

blogger-recognition-award-debbie-in-shape

 

Rules:

  1. Select 15 other blogs you want to give the award to. Do some digging if you must! Find those blogs. You cannot nominate yourself or the person who has nominated you.
  2. Write a post to show off your award! Give a brief story of how your blog got started, and give a piece or two of advice to new bloggers. Thank whoever nominated you, and provide a link to their blog. List who you’ve nominated in the post.
  3. Make sure to also attach the award itself! (You can do this by right-clicking, saving, and uploading the image above).
  4. Comment on each blog and let them know you’ve nominated them. Provide a link to the award post you created.
  5. Provide a link to the original post on Edge of Night. That way, anyone can find the original guidelines and post if needed, and we can keep it from mutating and becoming confusing!

How my blog got started:

I received a letter through the post one day inviting me to join the world of the book bloggers. I was, at the time, still a very busy student trying to get through the last few weeks of my degree, however, so I ignored it. The letters continued to come, each more insistent than the last. I placed them with my other papers, those that reminded me of my student debt (as if I could forget) and that I would soon have to start paying council tax (why must you intrude, adult life?).

Despite my determination, the blog world would not give up its pursuit of me. After a few weeks and several thousand more letters, a strange boy sat next to me on the bus. His skin was so white it was almost translucent, and his gaze was intense and brooding. He smiled a crooked smile at me that showed a hint of his fangs. I sighed.

‘You know why I’m here,’ he said.

‘This again?’ I groaned.

‘You must book blog,’ the vampire told me.

‘But I was planning to spend this entire summer worrying about my future.’

‘You can do both,’ he assured me.

The sun came out, and he burst into flames. I moved down a few seats, rolling my eyes. When would the book blogging world get the message? I wasn’t interested.

The reason I eventually gave into book blogging was, as always, circumstances beyond my control. I was having obsessive thoughts about books. I couldn’t suppress my desires to share my opinions with uninterested friends. I became so invested in ships I almost turned to violence.

In a few short weeks it became clear: I was the chosen one.

I had to strike forth into the world of book blogging. I had to trust that I would defeat all of the challenges the world threw at me – sometimes you wouldn’t quite understand how I defeated them, or indeed why everyone thought that I was quite so brilliant – but nonetheless, defeat them I would.

So, that’s how I became a book blogger.

Advice to new bloggers:

Have fun and try not to care what other people are doing. Don’t take it too seriously.

I nominate: 

The Book Finch

Book Box By Kat 

Bookidote

The Book and The Bone

Trust in the Words

Writing and Musing

The Book Keeper’s Secrets

Adult Reads YA

Percy Reads

Stellar Scrutiny

Musings from Neville’s Naval

The Enchanted Book

Jayme the Scibbler

Big City Bookworm

The Book Satchel

 

 

 

You Don’t Have To Like Me

Alida Nugent wasn’t always a feminist. There was a time when she was much more interested in being cool. Not Like Others Girls was a prized label and she was aiming for it. She considered herself a Guy’s Girl. I think most of us know at least one woman who sees herself that way. The question that led Alida to eventually realise that One of the Guys wasn’t a prize she needed to be aiming for, was this: Why do you hate being a woman so much?

I mean, it’s kind of understandable. We live in a culture where women are considered less than. There’s the serious, if you leave the house after dark there’s a genuine possibility you might be raped/murdered issue. But in addition to that there’s also the blatant derision that exists toward anything that is created by women, for women. Just to use an appropriately bookish example, rather than being simply, writers, women who write books aimed toward women produce ‘chick lit’, a title that has intrinsically less value than literary or genre fiction. What’s the massive difference? Usually that it’s written by a woman and the romantic relationship comes from the woman’s perspective (rather than her simply being the sexy catalyst for the character development of a white guy who’s sad about the quality of his art – that’s literary.).

nugent

‘Calling yourself a feminist is like making a comment on the Internet in real life: there’s always somebody who is going to disagree with your beliefs, and that person is going to express their disagreement with great passion and little digs at your life choices.’

With all this in mind, it’s not difficult to see why girls want to distance themselves from their female-ness. Everything that they create, enjoy, and – let’s face it – are, is considered somehow less. That Alida Nugent used this perspective to explore the discomfort that she felt about feminism when she was younger was really refreshing to read. She talks about how this anti-women attitude can lead to committing what she refers to as ‘crimes.’ A lot of these ‘crimes’ have to do with language choices. For her, part of growing up and finding feminism was realising the harm the words she had used about other women – slut, crazy, bitch – were doing. Sometimes we only learn the damage words can do when we’ve already said them, but that doesn’t make it too late to change.

‘Ah, to be the kind of person who declares that she just doesn’t get along with many women. What this can also be translated to is, “I don’t get along with half the entire world.” That is most definitely a “you problem.”’

What I like most about this part of the book is the demonstration that a person’s entire worldview can change. We can get so stuck in our beliefs that we totally shut down the possibility of being wrong, and in doing that the chance to learn gets lost. Nugent shows that it doesn’t have to. We can grow and change – even when doing so means we’re left cringing at the person we used to be. Whether you’re a feminist or not, I think that’s a pretty great message.

Alida Nugent writes with an intent that reminded me of Roxanne Gay’s book, Bad Feminist – that declaring oneself a feminist is by no means and mistake-free process.

You Don’t Have To Like Me takes the challenges that a woman faces during her teens and early twenties, and studies them through a feminist lens. Nugent covers female friendships, eating disorders, unwanted pregnancy, bonding with women in club bathrooms and the amount of thought a girl puts into the five minute walk from her subway station to her door. A lot of thought goes into that 5 minute walk.

I would like to give this book to all the girls I know who say they aren’t feminists ‘because of all the radical stuff.’

‘There are three truths you need to remember as a feminist: (1) You are allowed to shift beliefs and be wrong and learn. There are times you will realise you were part of the problem, and the best you can do is correct your behaviour and acknowledge that. (2) If you were so strict that you never did anything problematic or watched anything problematic or listened to anything problematic ever again, you would have to sit in a room with yellow wallpaper for the rest of your life. We live in a patriarchal society, babies. This stuff is everywhere. (3) There is no one singular kind of woman.’

How To Say I Love You Out Loud

Jordyn has two lives. School, where she gets along fine – people like her well enough and she’s relatively important to the success of the hockey team. She’s a high achiever, but nondescript is her MO. Then there’s home, which she shares with her autistic brother Phillip. The one rule of Jordyn’s existence is that these two worlds never, ever meet. It’s a rule that has consequences. So far it’s already cost her a shot at happiness with hot football player, Alex. They’re still friends, but when he starts dating Leighton, the captain of the hockey team, Jordyn starts to wish she hadn’t stopped them from becoming more. Then Phillip’s school closes, and he is forced to transfer to mainstream high school with Jordyn. It’s her living nightmare. Her carefully constructed, perfectly separate life begins to crumble.

howtosayiloveyou

DISCLAIMER: I attempted not to get super personal with this review and totally failed. I am all bias. My brother has autism. He’s less severe than Phillip – he has a much easier time communicating verbally (when he’s calm, anyway), but unless you’re the type of person to know the mileage of your car (or if you have brought him food) then he has no interest in talking to you. He’s really into cars. As I write this, a DVD of the 1992 touring car world championship is likely playing somewhere in my house. That or Ice Road Truckers.

As a result of all this, I approached this book with some pretty intense trepidation. On the rare occasions I read books about disability, specifically autistic characters, they usually make me

  1. Really angry. I feel like autistic characters are quite often used as props with attributes that read like a checklist of Things Autistic People Do.
  2. Feel guilty. When I was 8, a well-meaning teacher gave me a book about autism that would more accurately have been titled Everything You Do Wrong, You Terrible Person.

All this is to explain why this book has been sitting on my shelf for several weeks, while I read everything but it.

As it turned out, all my worry was totally unnecessary. How To Say I Love You Out Loud, by Karole Cozzo, is a really great book. It totally made me cry, but not for either of the bad reasons I was expecting.

I liked Jordyn a lot. Often-times as a reader, you can see things more clearly than she can, but not in an annoying way. I really enjoyed watching her identify her self sabotage and eventually even overcome it.

She had a hard time in the early years of school with kids bullying her because of Phillip’s difficulties. She was often cut out of social circles by children too young to understand what they were doing. Sometimes she was left out by parents who had no excuse not to know better.As a result, when her family moves to a new town to be closer to Phillip’s school, Jordyn decides it’ll make her life easier if her new friends don’t know he even exists. She’s decided that her heart can’t take any more judgement. But the thing about secrets, Jordyn quickly learns, is that they have much more far reaching consequences than she would have thought. Her friends are hurt by how closed off she is. They don’t understand why they know so little about a person they see every day.

And then there’s Alex. Perfect Alex. I am not exaggerating. He’s totally hot, sweet , funny and he cares for his mother, who is a wheelchair user as a result of a stroke she had a couple previously. In his spare time he builds parks for disabled children. Does this guy exist in real life? Probably not. Did this limit my enjoyment of him? Are you kidding? Of course not.

(this is why I have such unrealistically high standards for the men in my life. Sigh).

Alex seems like the perfect guy to trust, right? I thought so too. But Jordyn can never be sure. And even when she is, she then has to worry about him judging her for keeping the secret in the first place. The only option is to push him away, and the more she does, the more miserable she becomes.

In defence of Jordyn: It is easy, during many stages of this book, to get a little frustrated with Jordyn. You are totally supposed to. But I just want to say that she’s not being totally unreasonable, because people do get really weird about autism. As an adult, I find a person’s reaction when I first mention my brother a good test of whether or not we will become friends. If they respond with abject terror (which happens way more than you’d think) then it’s unlikely we’re going to be buds. It’s also a really useful way to figure out whether or not a guy is worth dating. I would go as far as to say that inventing an autistic sibling is actually great dating advice.

(Just kidding. Mostly.)

outloud

Anyway. Back to the book.

What I loved most about Cozzo’s writing was the total acceptance of Jordyn as she was. Generally speaking, there isn’t someone in your life with a How To book that explains exactly how you deal. Jordyn, like anyone is in her situation, was simply handling it the only way she knew how to. She got pissed off with her mum and frustrated with her brother but that didn’t make her a bad person. Even when, as a reader, I couldn’t agree with her actions, I never felt like Cozzo wanted me to be angry with her. Each of the walls Jordyn had built around herself existed for a reason. When you grow up with a person the world was not designed for, you can end up feeling like it wasn’t designed for you either.  It’s a feeling Cozzo does a really good job of exploring.

Cozzo has written a book about the fact that love is hard sometimes. So is opening up or taking a risk. What I took from How To Say I Love You Out Loud in the end is that it’s okay that it’s hard. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to realise that you were doing something wrong, because in the end you can always course-correct. It’s never too late for that.

The Creative Blogger Award

The lovely Kiwi Reads nominated me for The Creative Blogger Award. Thanks!

 

creative-blogger-award1

 

The Rules:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
  • Share 5 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate some bloggers in return and notify them about their nomination.
  • Keep the rules in your post to make it easy for everyone to know what to do. 
  1. I own a Labrador called Rumble. He looks like this:

IMG_0349

2. I am a feminist. I figure this is fairly obvious considering everything I post, but it’s always worth clarifying the matter.

3. I like running. I did not think I liked running until my friend invited me to do the Race for Life with her a couple years ago. I’m generally an anxious person and it’s surprisingly helpful for that. A run can turn around a really bad day for me.

4. I graduated six months ago and I have had four jobs since. I am currently on the hunt for number five.

5. I am terrified of flying. I am loudly and obviously terrified. Strangers laugh at me for it. If I were less panicked, I might find this embarrassing, but instead it’s an odd comfort. If an entire family are chuckling at my insanity then I have to assume I’m probably not about to die.

I nominate: (Sorry if you’ve done it already. I find it impossible to keep track!)

Tanaz @ Bookish Freaks

Megan @ Adult Reads YA

Samantha @ Reed’s Reads & Reviews

 

Americanah

Sometimes we fall in love too early. Ifemelu meets Obinze when they are both still at school in Lagos, Nigeria. They are perfect for each other, and it’s assumed by just about everyone that they will be together for a long time. But Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and the greatest success a young person can achieve is to leave the country, so when Ifemelu is offered a part-scholarship to an American university, she has to go.

Life in America is not what Ifemelu had expected. Everything is much harder than it should be, and her race, which she had never even thought much about in Nigeria, now seems to be the most important thing about her. Unable to get a job, and forced into situations she would never have chosen in order to survive, Ifemelu’s life drifts farther and farther from Obinze.

Many years later, after much struggle, Ifemelu has built a successful life in America. She writes a blog about race that is considered one of the foremost sources of the subject. But something doesn’t feel right, despite her success. In search of the missing pieces, Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, and Obinze. After almost a decade apart their lives collide once again.

Americanah

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a book about everything. It’s about love, coming of age, race, family, politics, heartbreak and hair.

The story weaves in and out of time. We begin with Ifemelu having her hair braided in a sweaty salon in Trenton, New Jersey, prepping herself to go home to Lagos. From there we fall with her back to her teenage years when she met and fell in love with Obinze, and gradually work our way toward the present.

I love Ifemelu. She was one of those girls people spent a lot of time telling to be quiet when she was a kid, but it never really stuck. She’s frequently the smartest person in the room, and she always knows it. She holds people to high standards they can’t always meet. She avoids situations that scare her until they become unavoidable, and then throws herself in whole-heartedly. She’s not afraid to use her voice. One of the most interesting things in this book is watching Ifemelu’s journey from complete bemusement by America, to being able to satirise it to perfection. She repeats the process when she returns home to Nigeria.

There is a distinct sense of otherness surrounding Ifemelu throughout the book. Some of this she places upon herself, and some a result of the racism embedded in Western culture.

She considers herself an outsider in most of the social groups she’s in throughout the novel. When she first arrives in the US, she feels like her friends from Nigeria there are too ‘Americanised’ to have anything in common with anymore. Even once she joins her university’s African Student’s Association and starts down the path that will define her professional life, the sensation never truly leaves her. She gets in a serious relationship with a man she has politics in common with, but little else. She’s uncomfortable with his friends. It’s this feeling of being an outsider that eventually sends her back to Nigeria. Ifemelu is a person in search of home, and I think that’s an experience most of us can relate to.

americanah2

As for the racist othering? There is a ton of it. As both a woman of colour and an immigrant, Ifemelu finds it near impossible to get a job when she first arrives in America. In order to be considered employable she is asked to change her physical appearance. She relaxes her hair until the chemicals that sting her scalp cause it to start falling out. She has to relearn her place in society as American culture makes her race the most important thing about her.

She starts a blog to share her experiences. Posts from the blog are scattered throughout the novel. They are wonderful, thought provoking and funny and made me love Ifemelu (and Adichie) even more. One of my favourite articles she posted was a list of questions determining white privilege. Questions included:

‘If you criticise the government, do you worry that you might be seen as a cultural outsider? Or that might you be asked to “go back to X,” X being somewhere not in America?’

‘When you turn on mainstream TV or open a mainstream newspaper, do you expect to find mostly people of another race?’

Once she is back in Nigeria, it’s not long before Ifemelu starts to blog again. Writing about her life is like an irresistible pull. There is a certain joyousness with which Ifemelu approaches her second blog. She’s writing with the knowledge that she is finally home.

‘Still, she was at peace: to be home, to be writing her blog, to have discovered Lagos again. She had, finally, spun herself into being.’

This book is perfect. I can’t recommend it enough.