Posted in 2018, Non-Fiction, Our Shared Shelf

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot

This book was the official March-April book of Our Shared Shelf (a Goodreads book club started by Emma Watson).

Emma picked it because she fell in love with the sentences of the book. I was confused because this book had little to do with feminism, and Our Shared Shelf is a feminist book club.

Although the sentences did read like poetry, the content was about an emotionally abusive relationship. In other words, easy to read, hard to digest.

Out of all the books I’ve read this year, this is probably one I would not recommend. If you can handle mature content, then maybe it’ll be worth the read since it probably won’t last more than one or two days. (I read the e-book version so I can’t tell you page counts). All in all, it was not life-changing in anyway.

According to the Goodread threads though, it helped a lot of people reflect. Since I read many books regarding mature content and self-help, this book didn’t stand out in any way. Not to mention, I have friends who go to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous who always tell me what an unhealthy vs a healthy relationship looks like.  So given my background knowledge and information, clearly this book was not intended for me as the audience. It’s also hard to judge a biography since the whole point was that she was trying to release her memories in order to heal and recover, it wasn’t necessarily to change my life or to act the way a good book acts.

I don’t regret reading the book, it’s just not one that I really cared to be engrossed in, or to talk about or to even think about after I was done. In retrospect, I didn’t really emphasized with the protagonist.  She lead us into some really dark trails but failed to expose herself to the audience. She told us all the dark details of her relationships but none of the dark details of her heart (well, maybe like one or two). She completely revolved her life on this relationship that I don’t think she has an identity outside of it. Maybe that was the point of the book, to find herself. Still, she described herself in forms of relationships. She was either a mom, or an ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, student, daughter, grand-daughter. She was a mix of every person she has become attached to that I don’t think I know anything about Terese Marie Mailhot other than she has a misfortunate life when it comes to love. I know she’s been published a couple of times, but none of that seemed more important than whether or not Casey loved her back.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite quotes from this book (these quotes are more feelings inspired than thinking inspired so I will not be commenting on them. Also, I combined a few of them together since some were of similar topics) :

It’s too ugly–to speak this story. It sounds like a beggar. How could misfortune follow me so well, and why did I choose it every time?

I learned how to make a honey reduction of the ugly sentences. Still, my voice cracks.

My professor told me that the human condition was misery. I’m a river widened by misery, and the potency of my language is more than human.

Time seems measured by grief and anticipatory grief. I don’t think she even measured time.

I know the math of regret and nostalgia.

Empties are a cliché–the sound of them is so familiar.

He knew something was wrong, and that’s when I wondered if maybe falling in love looked like a crisis to an observer.

You ruined me with touch. It was a different exploitation.

He fell asleep and spun a restlessness that comes when people are waiting to die. Sometimes grief is a nothing feeling.

I learned that any power asks you to dedicate your life to its expansion.

If my security depends on a man’s words or action, I’ve lost sight of my power.

Observation is a skill. Observation isn’t easy, and the right eyes can make me feel like a deer, while the wrong ones make me feel like a monster.

I think self-esteem is a white invention to further separate one person from another. It asks people to access their values and implies people have worth. It seems like identity capitalism.

I don’t think that I am lonely. I think that I am starved and maybe ravenous for the very thing you withhold from me.

I thought unseeing would be a cruel game to play with myself. But now I am reading the dark and knowing how my feet drag on every inch–feeling monstrous and tired. I’d like to have familiarity back.

I was polite enough, and considerate enough, to hurt myself like a secret.

Romanticism requires bravery and risk. The obsessive thoughts ruined things. Good news was met with a numb feeling. The voice I heard was practical. It noted every opportunity to die and then noted how I refused to jump out of a moving car.

I was not right to want to die. I didn’t want to leave my family. I liked my mind and its potential. I knew the type of burden I was. I was like my mother.

She taught me that I didn’t own things. I really liked the idea of possession. We don’t own our mothers. We don’t own our bodies or our land–maybe I’m unsure.

I remember that motherhood is mostly bearing shame to dress my children, to feed them, and to spare them the things I wasn’t spared.

The knowledge proposes I either start each day as new and take you for your word, or I tear the walls down to illustrate my pain. I feel pregnant with burden, and I chose it. I want to take it back.

That pain didn’t burden me. Trying to forget damaged me the most.

Pain is faster than light, and I wish people would not fault me for things I can’t forget or explain.

We’ve become too symbolic and never real enough.

When a man’s hands become a ghost, there is no way to strip them from a body. Haunting, what a mother does not see.

There is some stillness, even in my history–a good secret in so much bad. It almost feels like a betrayal to have good thoughts.

Things were created by story. The words were conjurers, and ideas were our mothers.
Thunder is contrary. Thunder can intuit, and her action is the music caused by lightning. She comes because we ask, and that’s why falling apart is holy.

I felt the sticky notes of my lips pull apart from his. The right love is an adhesive. I realized that I had a singular mind with Casey. Even with my duplicity and my rambling. I felt unworthy of that kind of love and ready for it.

The rest of the year was a practice in language. Every new word became more horrific. I can say full sentences. In the shower, before I knew how to be scared or protect myself, I disappeared. Ten minutes of my life were enough to kill me. Every day I negotiate the minutes of my life, remembering that I can’t remember enough.

We tried to be explicit with each other. Some knowledge can only be a song or a symbol. Language fails you and me. Some things are too large.

My people cultivated pain. In the way that god cultivated his garden, with the foresight that he could not contain or protect the life within it. Humanity was born out of pain.

God foreordained Eve’s transgression. He didn’t see you though. You were stealthier than Eve. So stealthy, there is no text for you–until now. You were folklore and rumor, and there is a myth a man took, like the apple, but of your person.

Both of your mouths, weapons. That’s how love works for a spirit like you: a determined torture. Who could fault you? Did you come from misery?

 

 

(Featured image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35840657-heart-berries)

Posted in 2018, Non-Fiction, Our Shared Shelf

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

This book, due to the content, inspires discussion. However, since racism is a controversial topic, I have to come to terms that my opinion will be contentious.

I tried to keep an open mind throughout but there were parts of the book I disagreed with. I should first mention though, that I am not black, nor am I British. Therefore, I have no way of knowing what goes on in Black British culture. Therefore, I can’t disprove any of her validity in this book, nor do I want to. I simply want to accept her perception of the truth, and acknowledge mine.

I will say that after reading this book, I started questioning everything in my society again. I questioned all aspects of my life again to see if I have been unknowingly racist, or if I had been a target of racism without knowing it. If you know anything about me, you know that I love books that make me think even after I’m done reading them. Therefore, this book was worth the time.

I would not recommend this book if you have a closed mind or a political agenda. Yes, racism is a matter of politics, but education is not (I mean it is, and that’s the problem). If you read this book, use it as an educational tool and not as a political rant, is what I mean. Otherwise, you completely miss the point. If you can’t separate yourself from your beliefs, even just to humor the author, you have no business reading this. You’re not ready.

Format

Reni Eddo-Lodge provided a brief, yet quite detailed, history of blacks in Britain. She then talked about the injustices in the system (both past and present) of Britain against blacks. Then defines and argues her case on “white privilege”, followed by the intriguing idea of the “black planet.” She also dives into feminism, class and our current situation of racism and how to overcome it.

She talked very little about religion (the only reason I bring this up is because the most controversial topics are race, money, sex and religion…she covered 3 of the 4) and how that affects black people. Maybe it’s not too big of a deal there as it is in the United States (so much so that we have separation of church and state. Or Maybe I’ve read too many books where religion is discussed by minorities and now I just expect it.)?

Quotes and Discussions (SPOILERS AHEAD) 

Who really wants to be alerted to a structural system that benefits them at the expense of others?

Sometimes stepping up means change. Change for your own security, change for your own habits and change for your own community. It’s hard to act when there are things at stake. This is why, the ones who do, are idolized and called heroes. Fighting for change is a courageous act. The willingness to change the system to right the wrongs takes strength and heart. Not everyone has what it takes to fight the good fight.

I have to tread incredibly carefully, because if I express frustration, anger or exasperation at their refusal to understand, they will tap into their pre-subscribed racist tropes about angry black people who are a threat to them and their safety.

I know that this backfires a lot. For example, if a woman is being “difficult,” everyone just assumes she is on her menstrual cycle. People who don’t want to take things seriously make joke of situations and blame it on exterior forces for why someone is upset instead of looking at the issue.

The options are: speak your truth and face their reprisal, or bite your tounge and get ahead in life.

This reminds me of the Hamilton musical where Burr is giving Hamilton advice.

I stopped talking to white people about race because I don’t think giving up is a sign of weakness. Sometimes it’s about self-preservation.

This is an insightful thought. I, personally, don’t know the difference between giving up and self-preservation (I dig myself in a lot of rabbit holes this way). To be able to understand the difference takes wisdom. I remember a teacher once telling me “you gotta learn how to pick and chose your battles, otherwise you will waste your time.”

To be white is to be human; to be white is universal. I only know this because I am not.

Interesting statement….

I’d only ever encountered black history through American-centric educational displays and lesson plans in primary and secondary school. With a heavy focus on Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad and Martin Luther King, Jr, the household names of America’s civil rights movement felt important to me, but also a million miles away from my life as a young black girl growing up in north London.

This really frustrated me. I couldn’t fathom the idea of learning about your history from a different country.

In a tutorial, I distinctly remember a debate about whether racism was simply discrimination, or discrimination plus power. Thinking about power made me realise that racism was about so much more than personal prejudice. It was about being in the position to negatively affect other people’s life chances.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

But I know now that I was resentful of her because I felt that her [a college friend who dropped the class because it wasn’t for her] whiteness allowed her to be disinterested in Britain’s violent history, to close her eyes and walk away. To me, this didn’t seem like information you could opt out from learning.

I know the feeling. There are topics that I have no choice but to hear, and there are topics that I can easily opt out of because it has little to do with me. For the longest, what 3rd world countries were going through didn’t matter to me because they were so far away and I had little power to do anything to help anyway. It’s easy to shut the world off with all these distractions of technology and good times around me.

‘I thought Black History Month was a great idea. What I wasn’t going to do was make it like the American one, because we have a different history…There’s so many people who have no idea–and I’m talking about white people–no idea about the history of racism. They don’t know why we’re in this country.”

Ansel Wong and Linda Bellos organised and hosted the first Black History Month event. I found it interesting that they wanted to do it differently. In the States, Black History Month is when you celebrate the tenacity, innovation, and overall impact black people had/have in our country regardless of the odds they faced and the racism they’ve encountered. However, our history with slavery is so open that we do not need to spend the month explaining it. It’s in the school curriculum. It’s how, as a kid, I saw black and white people as Americans. Not, slave owner and slave. They were both given so much detail in their history, with our pioneering forefathers and our pioneering civil right movement heroes, that it didn’t occur to me how strong and alive racism really was until this past 2016 presidential election. I knew it still existed, but not to the extent of the KKK and Nazis coming back and taking a predominant say in our society. I miss the times when we all agreed they were too crazy.

This was an inadequate education in a country where increasing generations of black and brown people continue to consider themselves British (including me).

I can relate to this. I come from a hispanic household but since I learned all about American culture in my schooling, it never occurred to me that I was actually Hispanic, but rather, American. I feel like the history we learn is the culture we are a part of. That’s why when people travel and actually get to know different places and different histories, we call them “worldly.” I feel more in touch with my American heritage than that of my Hispanic hertitage.

‘Mugging’ was an American term, imported from police statements and press coverage in black-concentrated cities. The fear of mugging was imported, too.
Street robberies have always existed in Britain. But importation of the word mugging brought with it a coded implication that the perpetrators were overwhelmingly black, and that mugging was an exclusively black crime.

The power of words….

In a radio documentary broadcast on BRMB Radio Birmingham in 1982, PC Dick Board, a police officer working in the city, made his feelings about unemployed young black people clear. ‘Let’s be fair,’ he said.’We’re talking about a certain type of people now. We had all these reasons in the twenties and thirties, and we never had this. We never had the soaring crime rates, and what we now know as the American phrase “mugging”. Which is robbery with violence. We have a different sort of person, who by hook or by crook is going to get his own way at the expense of everybody else. Even his own kind. That’s the point. Never mind this unemployment business, we’ve got a situation here now that is being used deliberately and there’s no question about it, they couldn’t care less whether they’ve got a job or not, in fact they’re happier without them.’ He continued: ‘All this is complete twaddle about they’re looking for jobs and “I can’t get a job” and all this…A lot of them use their colour as leverage against us…they use it, and they use it very well. There’s enough people in this country prepared to listen, and turn a blind eye to what these people do.

Minorities face this in the United States.

I think there’s truth in both perspectives, and that the extremity of a riot only ever reflects the extremity of the living conditions of said rioters. Language is important – and the term ‘race riot’ undoubtedly doubles down on ideas linking blackness and criminality, while overlooking what black people were reacting against.

By making a fuss, disrupting the everyday, and pointing out the problem, they had become the problem.e

Similar to Black Lives Matter. They are protesting AGAINST unjust police brutality but the way it has blown up has made it feel like blacks against whites, regardless of circumstance. Instead of realizing that the “take a knee” approach was to symbolize the death of civility, the majority of people took it as a disgrace to the flag and that “these black people are ingrates!”

But I don’t think my ignorance was an individual thing. That I had to go looking for significant moments in black British history suggests to me that I had been kept ignorant. While the black British story is starved of oxygen, the US struggle against racism is globalised into the story of the struggle against racism that we should look to for inspiration – eclipsing the black British story so much that we convince ourselves that Britain has never had a problem with race.

I know so many people who never knew Britain had black slaves. Come to think of it, I only learned about it 4 years ago myself. It’s not surprising for me though since that is not my country; however, if  I were British and didn’t know, I’d feel like I’d been robbed of knowledge.

When passing the sentence, Judge Mr Justice Treacy described the crime as ‘murder which scarred the conscience of the nation’.

Deep.

I used to have feelings, a vague sense of security in the back of my mind, that if I returned home one day to find my belongings ransacked and my valuables gone, I could call the police and they would help me. But if the case of Stephen Lawrence taught me anything, it was that there are occasions when the police cannot be trusted to act fairly.

That’s a fear most minorities (of any kind) face.

People feel that if a racist attack has not occurred, or the word ‘nigger’ has not been uttered, an action can’t be racist. If a black person hasn’t been spat at in the street, or a suited white extremist politician hasn’t lamented the lack of British jobs for British workers, it’s not racist (and if the suited politician has said that, then the racism of his statement will be up for debate, because it’s not racist to want to protect your country!)

Growing up, I would have told you that racism is about calling people slurs. Or that racism was about laws about segregation. Or that racism was a two-way street,  that anyone can be racist. I probably would have said that words like the N word were worse than someone calling somebody a cracker, for example, but I would have said that cracker is still racist. Now, that sounds ridiculous to me, but that was my very simplistic understanding. That racism was individuals, and I would not have seen systemic things.

I was had this thought process. That’s what we were told racism was.

We tell ourselves that good people can’t be racist. We seem to think that true racism only exists in the hearts of evil people. We tell ourselves that racism is about moral values, when instead it is about the survival strategy of systemic power. When swatches of the population vote for politicians and political efforts that explicitly  use racism as a campaigning tool, we tell ourselves that huge sections of the electorate simply cannot be racist, as that would render them heartless monsters. But this isn’t about good and bad people.

I think maybe instead of using the words good and bad we can use mature and immature. Emotionally speaking, of course.

Structural is often the only way to capture what goes unnoticed – the silently raised eyebrows, the implicit biases, snap judgements made on perceptions of competency.

Don’t have much to say about this, just that I liked it.

A staggering 45 per cent of black sixteen-to twenty-four-year-olds were out of work in 2012 compared with just 27 per cent in 2002.

Talk about regressing. I wonder why that is.

A 2013 British report revealed that black people are twice as likely to be charged with drugs possession, despite lower rates of drug use. black people are also more likely to receive a harsher police response (being five times more likely to be charged rather than cautioned or warned) for possession of drugs.

What?!

In the same year, an inquiry into the death of David Bennett, a black man who died in a psychiatric unit, added ‘[black people] tend to receive higher doses of anti-psychotic medication than white people with similar health problems. They are generally regarded by mental health staff as more aggressive, more alarming, more dangerous and more difficult to treat.

Double standards!!

They are both in and of a society that is structurally racist, and so it isn’t surprising when these unconscious biases seep out into the work they do when they interact with the general public. With a bias this entrenched, in too many levels of society, our black man can try his hardest, but he is essentially playing a rigged game. He may be told by his parents and peers that if he works hard enough, he can overcome anything. But the evidence shows that that is not true, and that those who do are exceptional to be succeeding in an environment that is set up for them to fail. Some will even tell them that if they are successful enough to get on the radar of an affirmative action scheme, then it’s because of tokenism rather than talent.

I think a part of my innocence died when I first learned this fact about society.

Despite this, many insist that any attempt to level the playing ground is special treatment, and that we must focus on equality and opportunity, without realising that levelling the playing ground is enabling equality of opportunity.

See, I see this as the government version of being a mom, telling her children to play nice with each other even though no one wants to play with the youngest. Having the mom enforce the rules keeps the siblings connected and together, otherwise, why would they want to get along on their own terms? As we age, we start to automatically trust each other and hang out with each other but that wouldn’t have happened without mom’s interference. It’s why the movie “Remember the Titans” was so great! Two difference races get together and eventually become family but someone had to interfere and tell them they weren’t being nice and they had to grow up. As diversity and acceptance sets in as a norm, we won’t need to have these laws anymore.

If the current system worked correctly, and if hiring practices were successfully recruiting and promoting the right people for the right jobs in all circumstances, I seriously doubt that so many leadership position would be occupied by white middle-aged men.

Well, most jobs are found by networking. If white men have been dominated the work force for years, they will help their friends and family whom just happen to be white as well. Therefore the work force will be predominately white men.

My blackness has been politicised against my will, but I don’t want it wilfully ignored in an effort to instil some sort of precarious, false harmony.

Hm. I can see her point.

Colour-blindness is a childish, stunted analysis of racism. It starts and ends at ‘discriminating against a person because of the colour of their skin is bad’, without any accounting for the ways in which structural power manifests in these exchanges. With an analysis so immature, this definition of racism is often used to silence people of colour attempting to articulate the racism we face. When people of colour point this out, they’re accused of being racist against white people, and the accountability avoidance continues. Colour-blindness does not accept the legitimacy of structural racism or a history of white racial dominance.

I guess a good analogy to this would be you can pretend you don’t see people as handicapped, but if you ignore the fact that they need help, they might never get up the stairs. Build a ramp, so to speak. Instead of thinking it shouldn’t play a factor, figure out how to help.

Meanwhile, it is nigh-on impossible for children of colour to educate ourselves out of racist stereotyping, though if we accumulate enough individual wealth, we can pretend that we are no longer affected by it.

I used to think that. Mostly because of Will Smith. I grew up watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and he always seemed like this happy guy. And everyone seemed to love him regardless of race or gender or age, even.

In order to dismantle unjust, racist structures, we must see race. We must see who benefits from their race, who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes about their race, and to who power and privilege is bestowed upon – earned or not – because of their race, their class, and their gender. Seeing race is essential to changing the system.

I think this is what is happening with the MeToo movement. We must see it no matter how uncomfortable it has been. But we have seen many changes because of it. We also see some changes because of Black Lives Matter. I remember reading this story in middle school where these people were treated so badly by their government that they were practically starved. This mother saw her baby and realized she didn’t him to live in this world. So she barbecued him and when the soldiers came around, they were upset that she had food and didn’t share (since that is what you were supposed to do, offer your food to the government first) and she said something along the lines of “go ahead, take a bite” and eventually told them that they just ate her son and that they reduced them to this.. The soldiers were obviously disgusted but she made her point. Not that I think that we should go around killing and eating babies, let’s not do that, but making the point as serious as possible can open people’s eyes. It’s like, killing the first born is how the Pharoah learned to cave to God. Sometimes it does need to be dramatic.

You might be surprised to learn that it was a white man who first gave white privilege a name.

Actually, I was surprised.

Some black people hold a burning hatred for white people, they will say, and it’s unacceptable. It’s ‘reverse racism’, they insist.

Thank you! I think hating any kind of race is racism. I remember Deepak Chopra told a lady that by refusing to date men of her own race was still a form or racism.

There is an unattributed definition of racism that defines it as a prejudice plus power. Those disadvantaged by racism can certainly be cruel, vindictive and prejudiced. Everyone has the capacity to be nasty to other people, to judge them before they get to know them. But there simply aren’t enough black people in positions of power to enact racism against white people on the kind of grand scale it currently operates at against black people.

This is why the idea of mutiny is so intriguing in utopians and dystopian societies. In the end, it’s always the same. The people without power got power and used it to abuse the people who originally had power and nothing ever changed. The huge parody to life. We never learn our lessons.

‘Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.’

This reminds me of a quote from Humans by Matt Haig where he says “love something or hate it, don’t insult it by being indifferent.” That’s probably not word for word, but that’s how my memory remembers it.

‘who are used to having people of all backgrounds in their midst, race already matters far less than it did for their parents. In a generation or two more of the melting pot, it may not matter at all.’

I feel like that’s the direction it’s going. I mean we are already accepting gender-neutral and transexuals in our society. Pretty soon, none of the labels we’ve felt the need to use will matter to the future generations.

‘Race was something I was always aware of, just not in relation to myself,’

I know the feeling. In Southern California, diversity is a big thing so it’s not uncommon to see a myriad of ethnicities scattered about. I would have never pegged the world as racists if all I had was SoCal to influence my decision.

It’s the people who control the mass media, the big corporations, big business that wants cheap labour, to undermine the power of organised unionised labour. They’re the people to blame, not the immigrants.

Very true.

Forget the Daily Mail, it’s the soap operas that decide how people work in their heads.

Media brainwashing is a real thing. Media influence is alive and powerful. I remember someone telling me that we learn to accept the difficulties of life once we see it on a sitcom. Therefore, once we started having black people on sitcoms (as main characters, not as props), blacks were accepted more in society. Same thing happened with gay people. Pro-choice vs pro-life. Anything controversial can seem not-so threatening behind the screen. We can learn with our guards down.

They would have engaged with the ideas being put forward rather than using intellectually dishonest tricks designed to circumvent taking the protesters seriously. I think that there is a fear among many white people that accepting Britain’s difficult history with race means somehow admitting defeat.

The dangers of pride.

The real test of this country’s perimeters of freedom of speech will be found if or when a person can freely discuss racism without being subject to intellectually dishonest attempts to undermine their arguments.

 

Freedom of speech means the freedom for opinions on race to clash. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean the right to say what you want without rebuttal, and racist speech and ideas need to be healthily challenged in the public sphere.

I can see that. It’s what support groups do. Safe spaces, so to speak…only…think globally.

As an adult Harry Potter fan, I’d begun to think of Hermione Granger, with her house-elf liberation campaign, as a well-meaning but guilty-feeling white liberal, taking on a social justice cause with gusto without ever really consulting the views and feelings of the people she was fighting for. Outside of the wizarding world, Hermione would be working at an NGO or a charity, or slowly climbing the bureaucracy of the United Nations. With her strong moral compass, she’d be educated and adamant about animal rights or global warming.

I just think this is cute since Emma Watson recommended this book for her book club.

I suppose we will all have to wait in suspense until 2066 – the projected year when white people will be a demographic minority in Britain – to find out.

The curiosity in me wants to witness this faster. I hope I’m alive then.

the only way to foster any shared solidarity is to learn from each other’s struggles, and recognise the various privileges and disadvantages that we all enter the movement with.

I feel like this should be in a library wall somewhere.

‘I is for identity politics.’

I is also for intersectionality, the tearaway offspring of identity politics, where you must constantly wonder how your various personal identities intersect with each other.

This reminds me of another quote along the lines of “a dog doesn’t need to prove that he’s a dog, a cow doesn’t need to prove that he’s a cow but a human needs to define himself to be a man.” (I might have butchered that quote entirely).

The trouble is, it has become a faddish among people who don’t read books or essays but merely tweet and Internet comments, and they don’t know what they are talking about.

Funny!

Women of colour were positioned as the immigrants of feminism, unwelcome but tolerated — a reluctantly dealth-with social problem.

Wow…

If the last five years have taught us anything, it’s that feminism is a broad church that has less to do with the upkeep of your appearance, and more to do with the upkeep of your politics.

Love that!

Each time a celebrity stakes her claim on feminism, a little bit of the stigma surrounding the word is shattered.

Yes!

White feminism is a politics that engages itself with myths such as ‘I don’t see race’. It is a politics which insists that talking about race fuels racism — thereby denying people of colour the words to articulate our existence. It’s a politics that expects people of colour to quietly assimilate into institutionally racist structures without kicking up a fuss. It’s a politics where people of colour are never setting the agenda.

Yeah *sigh*

Feminism is not about equality, and certainly not about silently slipping into a world of work created by and for men. Feminism, at its best, is a movement that works to liberate all people who have been economically, socially and culturally marginalised by an ideological system that has been designed for them to fail. That means disabled people, black people, trans people, women and non-binary people, LGB people and working-class people. The idea of campaigning for equality must be complicated if we are to untangle the situation we’re in. Feminism will have won when we have ended poverty. It will have won when women are no longer expected to work two jobs (the care and emotional labour for their families as well as their day job) by default.

She does admit that these demands are unrealistic.

I should recognise that we live in a world in which women are constantly harangued into being lusted after, but punishes sex workers for using that situation to make a living.

YES! TRUE! UGH!!!

‘your silence will not protect you.’
-Audre Lorde

*Shivers*

Forget politician-speak about Britain being a tolerant country. Being constantly looked at like an alien in the country you were born in requires true tolerance.

That should be a shirt.

 

 

 

 

 

Featured Image taken from: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33606119-why-i-m-no-longer-talking-to-white-people-about-race

Posted in Our Shared Shelf

The Power By Naomi Alderman

NON-SPOILER REVIEW

The Power by Naomi Alderman has an interesting set-up that confused me at first. It starts out with a letter from a gentleman named Neil writing to a Naomi. So naturally, my first thought was that Neil was writing to our author and she just liked the letter and decided to include it. When, in the letter, he said he included a manuscript, and then it went from “The Power: A Novel by Naomi Alderman” to “The Power: A historical novel by Neil Adam Armon” I realized it that he was a fictional character himself, and this was his book.

Quite creative! Except that the way he wrote it didn’t feel historical at all. With the exception of the few diagrams here and there…it felt like a novel. But maybe he’s on to something. If history teachers thought like this, maybe we’d learn our history better.

The story then takes on 4 characters point of view (with later additions of 2 more characters but I won’t mention whom).

Roxy is the first character we’re introduced to. She was one of the first to gain the power, and she was one of the strongest with the power. Her story was quite incredible and overwhelming that it was unrelatable. She is the daughter of one of the most feared gangsters. Her story lies mostly within the “business” which actually, weirdly enough, makes her seem quite normal. Although she was the most powerful girl with the power, she didn’t abuse it. She used it for her day to day life, but it never went over her head. She was the most responsible with her power and used it wisely. She was mostly always in control. This could be because she has complete confidence in herself and/or she has strong values.

Tunde is our male character point of view. He first discovers it exists when a girl he likes…um…I guess electrocutes him playfully and he doesn’t know if she should be scared or turned on. He wasn’t able to talk about it with anyone and it was driving him crazy. Then, finally, he realized another girl was about to shock someone and he caught it on film. When CNN asked to buy his rights, he realized he could make a living as a reporter. He found his purpose. Throughout his story, we get an insight of all he saw in 3rd world countries regarding The Power and we get an insight of the male perspective and his feelings towards The Power’s existence and usage.

Margot was perhaps my least favorite character. If you like her, great, please leave a comment as to why. I’d be curious to see your point of view on her. I tried liking her at first. She’s a politician and she had to make a decision on whether or not to close down the school since little girls were bullying little boys. She was in a tough position, I get it. I can respect that. When her daughter (which I thought would make an even more interesting point of view character…she was one of my favorite characters) was caught shocking a boy, her mom asked her to do it to her. When she did, that little spark reminded Margot that she had it within her all along as well. That’s when they realized that girls can awaken the skein (that’s what they called the part in the collarbone where it is said The Power lies) of their mothers and grandmothers. At first, I was excited about this because I thought this would be a mother-daughter relationship discovering The Power together. Nope. Margot cared more about her position than her own daughter. Yes, she cared…but she cared more about work. Margot was the person to whom we get to see how greed and fear really affects a person. Which I guess makes sense that she’s a politician. It’s satirical. However, for the sake of interest, I believe it would have been better if she was a regular mom (because how cute would it be having to discover the power together?), a scientist (because it would be interesting to find out more detail about the skein and the power instead of just the blurbs here and there), or even a teacher witnessing the change of behaviors (but I guess there would be no use if the school shuts down….oh! Maybe a police officer seeing all the different crimes or a doctor seeing all the different victims. Seriously her parts were so boring that I would rather read about gory barbecue cases than about her power-hungry driven thoughts). For the most part, she just seemed pointless to the progression of the story. At least with Tunde, who had no power, served as eyes to the story.

Allie was my favorite character…up until she became Mother Eve. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the transition of Mother Eve, but after a while, she just became a symbol rather than a person. But Allie herself was really cool. She is a foster kid who had the misfortunes of the system. She winds up running away and in her adventure, she finds an aquarium with an eel and learns that eels have the power to control the nerves of they prey to do whatever they wish. That’s when Allie gets the idea that maybe, she can do it too. Allie is the only one who experiments with her power to that extent. What Roxy has in energy, Allie has in intelligence. What also makes Allie interesting is that she hears a voice. What that voice represents is up for debate (I included my thoughts in the In-Depth section of my review but it does contain spoilers so I didn’t want to include it here).

The momentum of the story was really slow. I started reading this book on Dec 29, which was the first annual Book Fairies Day of Reading. The rules are simple, read all day (or for the majority of the day) and don’t go online. Because I didn’t have the distraction of my phone, I was able to gain some distance in the book but the first half was brutal when it came to transitioning. There is a pleasurable way to do multiple person points of view, and then there’s a rough way. This one was the latter. Because the characters were spread in different parts of the world going through different things, and for the most part, their only correlation was The Power…there was no real connection. The second half was a little easier with the character change although the story was more gruesome.

I would recommend this book if you like to challenge your thoughts, beliefs and if you generally love contemplating a world where women take over. It’s  I would not recommend it though if you don’t have reading discipline. The subject matter gets repulsive and there is a lot of controversial topics.  Contrary to the storyline, it’s not a fun book. I felt physically tired reading it (but I have an overactive imagination).

IN-DEPTH REVIEW (CONTAINS SPOILERS)
(if you are an Our Shared Shelf member and you read the blog threads, some of the content might seem familiar because I posted it there as well)

I don’t even know where to begin. This book was so much. SO MUCH!

I’m still questioning whether or not I like this book. On the one hand, women being walking tasers is pretty great. Women having power is pretty great. But calling it a feminist book when it basically represents gender inequality doesn’t seem fitting. It’s gender reversal. It’s still the “patriarchy” as we perceive it now, but now vaginas are in charge. That’s why Naomi (from the book, not the author) asked if Neil would believe that the world would be better if men ran it since they are gentler. It’s satirical. It’s supposed to be “eye-opening” but I find it hopeless. Yeah, an overwhelming amount of power would become easily corrupt. I get that. I agree with her decision.

My thoughts on “The Voice”
It could be a mental disorder activated as a coping mechanism to survive all the trauma. It could be a way of her separating herself from herself in order to get comfort, especially since she didn’t have a trustworthy adult figure. Which would imply that Allie is extremely intuitive, which she was since she was able to sense fake people. So when she met Roxy and her voice was silent, she found a companion to trust. That’s why she was surprised she had a friend. Another evidence is that she, at first, thought it was her Mom. Whom do we turn to when we’re afraid? Our parents (well…if they were loving anyway).

I eventually believed that it was the skein. And Allie just happened to be more in tune with her inner self. She didn’t always have that voice, and by the time she had the voice, she was aware of her powers. She was also the only one who was able to manipulate her powers to do as she wanted….the power led her to that information. The Power needs a strong host to get stronger. But then again, the book reference Allie speaking to her heart a lot. So it could be her heart and not her skein.

But towards the end, it just felt too Godlike. I could believe that the skein was able to sense the coming of Roxy since like I said earlier, she seems to be more intuitive than most, and Roxy tends to be the strongest. But then wouldn’t she sense the skein alive when she was speaking to Darrell? Unless the skein changes DNA to match, which is possible and that’s why people have died from the operation. But then why would Allie’s skein bring up Samuel? And how did the skein know that Jos was supposed to get in trouble? And why would the skein be so opposed to her reconnecting with Eve unless of course, the skein is still recovering from the trauma of the past? But would skeins even have emotions? Allie’s seemed sympathetic, especially to her needs and desires. Which makes sense because a skein needs a host. But doesn’t anger help it become stronger? And didn’t that realization help her come to grips with what the skein wanted her to do all along? And why would the skein say I’ll see you on the other side? Is the skein a spirit? Was the skein being funny? Was that God saying she would have to face death (like Jesus, maybe? Or in war…we never did hear what happened, we just know the women won). But if it were God, why would God be surprised when Tatiana goes crazy and has her servant lick the liquid from the floor?

My thoughts on Jocelyn
I liked Jocelyn from the moment we were introduced to her. She is the daughter of Margot. On page 231, we finally got to read her own POV chapter. What made her interesting were that her powers weren’t as powerful as others.  Different is interesting. At first, I thought it was due to self-esteem. That the power was connected to your energy. Her’s sounded more bi-polar. Sometimes it was strong, sometimes it was non-existent, and pills tend to help balance it. Also, Roxy’s power failed at first. Roxy. The most powerful woman with the Power. Yet, when she was scared that her mom was being kidnapped, it failed her. That’s why I associated with esteem.

But then Ryan (her soon to be boyfriend) e-mailed her about gender-bending confusion. Turned out he had a skein as well. I started thinking it could be about identity. It could be gender-identity and she is not sure about hers and her skein works when she feels more feminine. Then on page 171, the author writes “Jo quite likes girls. She quite likes boys who are a bit like girls” meaning that Ryan kind of looks like a girl. So then maybe that’s why Ryan had a skein too. But looks are different than identity. But if that’s accurate, it would make sense why when men were trying to get their skeins implanted, it would fail. Because it didn’t register with the masculine mentality. It could be a symbolism of how out of place LGBTQ people feel even when the power shifts. Or it could just be that Alderman wanted to have an imperfect character because statistically speaking, some things do fail and not everyone can be so fortunate. Genetics doesn’t always get it right.

Or maybe it’s the stress of her mom. Having a family that is being under watch. The pressure she has on not getting to be a reckless teenage girl. That perfectionism taking hold and limiting her abilities.

There was a comment on page 235, after Jos accidentally overcharged the man that was trespassing that said: “She has the sense that if she starts to think about it she’ll tumble down into the deep, dark water; there’s a black ocean waiting for her now, it will always be waiting.” I wish Alderman would have elaborated on what the deep, dark water represented to Jos. I feel like it could be depression. Or it could be an inescapable truth.

My thoughts on the Newscasters and Urbandox
From time to time, Alderman squeezed these newscasters in the story. It was weird at first because 1) I wasn’t expecting it and 2) it wasn’t part of the setting. It was quite well accomplished. The newscasters represented the thoughts and gossip of the community at large. Basically, they were voicing the questions we would be asking if we were part of that society. It’s a perfect way to get answers and to feel involved in the story.

Urbandox is a conspiracy website. Just like every huge moment, there are the conspiracy theorists. Although I personally disliked the leader, I appreciated his presence in the story. They represented the resistance. They represented the people who were not okay with life-changing without their consent. The people who are scared and unable to accept that they are not in control anymore. But given at how fast-paced the change seemed, I don’t blame them. I think I’d like the leader more if he weren’t an entitled prick. This is the quote that just rubbed me the wrong way:

“They’ll only keep the most genetically healthy of us alive. See, this is why God meant men to be the ones with the power. However bad we treat a woman–well, it’s like a slave.
See, people got slavery wrong. If you have a slave, that slave’s your property, you don’t want damage to come to it. However bad any man treated a woman, he needs her in a fit condition to carry a child. But now…one genetically perfect man can sire a thousand–five thousand–children. And what do they need the rest of us for? They’re going to kill us all.”

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Eye roll after eye roll. Then he says that men need laws to protect them (which I agree) and that women need to have curfews (right, because historically speaking, the people in charge are the ones with curfews…usually it’s the minorities that have the curfew for their own protection, not the other way around. The exception: criminals have “curfews” when on house arrest. But these women haven’t broken the law…yet) and that the government should try to find a cure (because it’s a sickness? It’s a genetic trait. They just don’t understand it so they treat it as a disease or illness. Well, given that it is somewhat “contagious” I can see his confusion. Well, that’s the wrong word. He is not confused, he does not like it).

I am totally against killing all men. But if someone were to execute this guy, I wouldn’t be heartbroken. I might actually cheer. This guy is making slavery seem like the owners did the slaves a favor! Abusing a situation doesn’t make you a hero, bro!

Day of the Girls
In the book club I’m in, someone made a very important observation, that the “Day of the Girls changed the power structure but not individuals” (see the thread discussion here). My argument to this was that The Day of the Girls was a global acknowledgment that the power exists…and in girls. They weren’t aware that it can happen to all women (well, the majority of the women, and some men). I don’t think it would have a huge change in character.

Think of it as Women History Month. We still go to work. We still do the same things we normally do on a regular basis, we just celebrate that we have more freedom now than we did then. Then over time, we make our dreams come true if we’re lucky. But rarely does a person do a complete 180 because of a day, unless that day happened to be rock bottom.

My Thoughts on Mother Eve
Firstly, I love the symbolism of Eve. I may not like the character because she’s boring, but I liked her significance. I thought it was funny that she chose the name of her former foster mom (and how later that backfired on her). But also thought it was cool that it was the name of the first biblical lady and how she turned the Bible into respecting and celebrating women. I really liked that Mother Eve used her electric eel knowledge to help heal and cause “miracles.” Although she was going after what she wanted, so she was a very selfish selfless person. But I will say this, she sure is patient. Unlike all the other women with power, she took her time establishing her plan. She did so well, no one saw it coming. I knew Allie would be special when the grey fox accompanied her for 3 days. I took the fox as a foreshadowing of her future leadership. It’s interesting that it’s a fox because, in some cultures, a fox represents wisdom…in others, it represents a trickster. So her role is perfect. I don’t know if I should take symbolism in the 3 days aspect.

Favorite Quotes
e347628b-985f-422c-ad22-d45f36805c74-c2c6fc9d-a9ca-4363-8ef0-ed51522b6d12-v1“She listens at doors and around corners. She has always had this habit. A child in danger must learn to pay more attention to the adults than a child loved and cherished.”

“There is a noise that is different to grief. Sadness wails and cries out and lets loose a sound to the heavens like a baby calling for its mother. That kind of noisy grief is hopeful. It believes that things can be put right, or that help can come. There is a different kind of sound to that. Babies left alone too long do not even cry. They become very still and quiet. They know no one is coming. 

“It doesn’t matter that she shouldn’t, that she never would. What matters is that she could, if she wanted. The power to hurt is a kind of wealth.”

“‘They have said to you that man rules over woman as Jesus rules over the Church. But I say unto you that woman rules over man as Mary guided her infant son, with kindness and with love.'”

“‘The day someone else knows where your money’s going better than you do, that’s the day you’ve lost.’ It’s like a magic trick, money. You can turn money into anything.”

“They’re waiting for something to happen. We’re only pretending everything is normal because we don’t know what else to do.”

“She shouts out, ‘Don’t you fucking touch me!’ and pulls at the thing on her head. And blood and iron bloom at the back of her skull because someone’s hit her as hard as she’s ever been hit and her last thought is ‘A leopard, as a pet’ as she goes down into night.”
I know this quote seems very messed up, and it is…but I like it because it’s Roxy’s own version of “Et tu, Brutus? Then fall Ceasar.”

“He has written in the scribbled notes for his book: ‘At first we did not speak our hurt because it was not manly. Now we do not speak it because we are afraid and ashamed and alone without hope, each of us alone. It is hard to know when the first became the second.'”

“This is the magic by daylight; tricks and cruelty. The magic is in the belief in magic. All this is, is people with an insane idea. The only horror in it is imagining oneself into their minds. And that their insanity might have some consequences on the body.”

“The kind of face her dad would have said was a bad bet for business. Never keep someone on a job who likes it too much. She knows when she sees the single flash of that gleeful and hungry face that they’re not here to raid for what they can find.”

“When did he get so jumpy? And he knows when. It wasn’t this last thing that made it happen. This fear has been building up in him. The terror put its roots down into his chest years ago and every month and every hour has driven the tendrils a little deeper into the flesh.” 
Welcome to rape culture, Tunde.

If there’s anything you want to talk about from the book, please leave a comment. I wish I could post all my thoughts but I don’t want to take any more of your time. It’s long enough as it is.

P.S. Did your heart hurt when Naomi asked Neil if he considered publishing his book in a woman’s name instead? Ouch

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(Featured Image was taken from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29751398-the-power?from_search=true)