Top Ten Books Read in 2012

Exploring Feminisms’ Top Ten in 2012

10.  Eva Braun: Life with Hitler by Heike B. Görtemaker

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This book epitomizes the phrase, “there’s a lid for every pot.”  Little is known about Eva Braun, the woman who was romantically linked and died with Hitler, due to the fact that towards the end he ordered all existing documents to be destroyed, even ones kept by Braun.  However, author Heike B. Görtemaker has pieced together through existing documents and letters a plausible picture of their courtship.  Görtemaker gives us a tale that can be both gripping and questioning, leaving much open for the reader to gather his or her own conclusions as to the validity of Hitler and Eva Braun’s relationship.

9.  Shaken, Not Stirred by Tim Gunn100_2026

 In this Kindle-only short story, Gunn briefly describes his father’s physical deterioration due to alcoholism and Alzheimer’s disease towards the end of his career, and the subsequent effect on his family.  Holding true to steadfast Tim Gunn-style, he is candid, witty, and introspective, thereby recognizing the flaws in his past and kneading them into something fruitful for the future.

IsEveryoneHangingOutWithoutMe

8.  Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling, also known as Kelly Kapur on the American version of the “Office”, has written an intelligent and introspective autobiography that offers us insight into the life of a truly funny woman.  Kapur’s writing is highly accessible: she’s sweet, silly, candid, and she possesses an incredible gift that makes you care about her, even though you’ve never met her.

7.  Armadillos and Old Lace by Kinky Friedman
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If you don’t know Kinky, get to know Kinky; the best Jewish cowboy country singer turned Jewish cowboy mystery writer around.  Friedman’s body of work, both fiction and non-fiction is impressive so it may be difficult to find a starting place besides at number one.  If you are going to skip around, then Armadillos and Old Lace (next to Elvis, Jesus and Coca-Cola) would be a safe bet.  Though peppered with slight vulgarity and delinquent humor (mercy!), Friedman always manages to be tender.  The main character, aptly named Kinky, loves animals, old ladies, his cigars, drinking, and saving the day.  He’s a good old boy with liberal sensibilities and stands up for those without a voice.  It’s a light mystery and you know that when  you get Kinky, you always get a happy ending.

GirlsWalksintoaBar6.  Girl Walks into a Bar by Rachel Dratch

Saturday Night Alum Rachel Dratch has written an adorable memoir about becoming accidentally pregnant in her 40s to a man that she is casually dating.  If you need an uplifting true story, especially to do with having children past what society deems to be your “prime” years, then definitely give it a go.  Dratch is a rebel who doesn’t apologize for her life choices and relays her experiences with honesty and a gentle touch; she’s to the point, but doesn’t come down too heavy.

5.  Rotters by Daniel KrausRotters

This book was an accident.  As I was perusing the horror table at the Printers’ Row Book Fair in early 2012, I picked up this book whose appeal factors included grave robbing and corpses, and thinking it was adult fiction, bought it.  Little did I know that in all actuality, it was young adult.  Little did I also know is that teen/young adult novels can be as gory and poignant as an adult novel.  The great thing about this novel, and perhaps in many teen novels, is that little is open to interpretation because it’s messages are blunt; very little beating around the bush.  Sometimes, don’t we all just want to be handed a message that we can understand immediately?  I know that sometimes I do.

IHateEveryone4.  I Hate Everyone, Starting with Me by Joan Rivers

Women aren’t supposed to be funny without femininity.  It may sound archaic, but women are only allowed to be accepted into our society on a large-scale unless their mouth is paired with pretty.  Pretty looks, pretty hair, or pretty jokes intermingled with ugly ones.  Rivers tosses her jokes in the face of a society that is based on the consumption of pretty, feminine women.  She offends everyone to the most extreme degree, including herself, but it’s all one big joke.  Does she really hate mentally disabled children?  Of course not.  It’s all part of staying true to the purity of her craft.  She gets plastic surgery because she understands that no one wants to see an old wrinkled woman on television (isn’t that the ultimate paradox?), but then she uses her place in the spotlight to subvert what is expected of her as a female comedian.  In a nutshell, Rivers’ book is an offensive hoot.  Have fun.

3.  Amy, My Daughter by Mitch WinehouseAmycovers

Written posthumously by Amy Winehouse’s father, Mitch Winehouse pays the ultimate homage to his daughter–he writes her life.  Previous to picking it up, my knowledge of Amy’s life and music was limited to what the radio stations doled out, which was mainly negative gossip.  MW paints Amy as realistically as a father can, except he ups the credibility factor with fault.  He finds fault with himself and with Amy, and this is what brings the reader in because really, who wants to read 300 pages of praise?  If so, where can connections be made?  MW ultimately lets us grieve along with him, his family, and for the tragedy that was Amy’s death.

Bedwetter2.  The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman

It’s jarring to hear a woman be so vulgar, compared only to the likes of Joan Rivers and a sprinkling of other female comedians who don’t give two shits about what mainstream culture says about them, but it’s also extremely refreshing.  Silverman’s no-holds-barred tongue is just the ruffling of the waters, much like Rivers’ book, that is needed to chip away at gender inequity, bit by bit.  Silverman’s book is a memoir of how comedy entered her life and how she has existed in that world.  Bedwetter is sometimes a tangled tale of inequality in the comedy arena that leaves you pissed off, intertwined with inspiration and gumption that makes you glad that there are women like Silverman out there who are disrupting at least one person’s sleep.

1.  It’s Always Something by Gilda Radnerit'salwayssomething

If you are seeking a solid story that leaves you feeling truly human and truly grateful, then read Radner’s autobiography.  In it, she hands us raw Radner on a plate and it leaves you completely changed at the end.  Radner’s memoir is one of cancer and her will.  She takes us on a journey that is the definition of bittersweet: getting cancer, its recession, fathoming her own possible demise, the ebbs and flows of hope, and her relationships and their own dealings with her cancer.  This book was written over twenty years ago and it reads as if it were written yesterday because love, friendship and struggle are (un)fortunately constants in life.

 

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Pop Culture Presence: Five Memoirs

The Bedwetter by Sarah Silverman

I wasn’t a fan of Sarah Silverman before I read her book.  I knew that she was a Saturday Night Live cast member and I had seen her television show on Comedy Central where I had felt that she was “trying too hard”.  The book opens with the most shocking and candid family secret, leaving me stunned and staring into space.  I had no idea where she was taking me, but it certainly wasn’t funny.  As I read on, the layers of judgement were quickly stripped away as she discussed her experience and hardship as not only a woman trying to make it in comedy during the 1990s, but also one who often leaned towards vulgarity and potty humor-often synonymous with the masculine realm of the comedy business.  Her stories left me face-to-face with a new Silverman–witty, sensitive, hilarious, and honest with a heart as big as her ovaries.  This autobiography was a humbling lesson in shutting my mouth when I don’t know what I’m talking about.

What can I say?  Don’t judge a woman by her cover.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

If you read my previous post, which directly addresses Mindy Kaling on marriage, then you know that I greatly admire her first book.  Kaling’s autobiography describes her journey from childhood, being a somewhat overweight, comedy-loving child with hardworking immigrant parents who set the bar for her current work ethic, to present day (roughly 2011) on becoming a comedy writer, an actress, and a true believer monogamy.  She has a fiercely pragmatic outlook on life and love that is soberingly inspirational.  Kaling’s style is intelligent, smart and the book extremely well-written.

This book is A-List material for any gal or guy who has faced the following:

1. Thought s/he was too fat

2. Worked for really long and hard on what s/he loves and had to jump what seemed to be too many hurdles

3. Had an obsession with any number of TV shows and/or romantic comedies

4. Believes in the power of love

Hiding from Reality by Taylor Armstrong

Now you may be questioning why reading Taylor Armstrong’s (from Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) autobiography on her husband’s suicide would be good for your health.  True, you may not have a lot in common with a Beverly Hills housewife, you may not have ever been in an abusive relationship, and you may not even have cable and have never heard of the show.  Despite all these and possibly more, Armstrong’s book is good for your health whether it be physical, mental or emotional.  She describes a lifetime of abuse in all varied forms, low self-esteem, helplessness and co-dependency.  She shares her story to reach out to women or men in abusive relationships and also probably to make some money after the debts lumped upon her after her husband’s suicide, and also to talk about that suicide, which so many of the show’s viewers want to get the dirt on.  Hiding from Reality sneaks up on you, leaving you to reflect on your own current or past relationships and also shines spotlight on your treatment of others.

Girl Walks into a Bar by Rachel Dratch

 You most likely know Dratch from Saturday Night Live as the quirky and elvish cast member who often had a baby-arm stemming from the top of her head.  Post-SNL, she was left with a somewhat open professional calendar filled with roles that type-cast her as the butch lesbian, the best-friend, the crazy person, the old woman with severe deformities…use your imagination.  As she approached her early 40s, Dratch found herself unmarried, underworked and accidentally pregnant.  She begins by taking us back down her dating roads, filled with absurdity, alcoholism and red flags and drives us right up to her future, filled with an uncertainty that encompasses boyfriend and her baby, which she appropriately deems her “midlife miracle”.  Dratch’s point of view is refreshing as she resists framing her story through rose colored glasses.  Her life took an 180 degree backflip and she’s taking it day by day.

Oh, and she loves being a mother.

Bossypants by Tina Fey

I don’t know how she does it, but when I closed this book, I felt like we truly were best friends.  Though that may sound brimming with stalker tendencies, I also heard that same reaction from likeminded girlfriends.  Despite the fact that I am a huge Saturday Night Live aficionado, I can’t exactly pinpoint which sketches Fey had written.  However, it is clear to see that her comedic acting skills, especially as Sarah Palin, are nothing to sneeze at.  After absorbing her book for a few months now, I see that there are obvious reasons for her popularity in television–the girl has mastered the power of introspection and incredible observation.  Fey’s autobiography is similar to that of Kaling, Silverman and Dratch where she documents little girl Fey through adulthood and her journey to becoming the  comedic powerhouse that she is today.  What sets Fey’s style apart is that she talks about the obvious and while this may seem to be a simple task , it’s extremely jarring given that she has such insight into her own life experiences and what happens around her.  When Fey describes her childhood and living in Chicago (she even went to the Planned Parenthood that I worked at years ago!), it reminds us that many artists come from humble beginnings and have tripped more than once along the way.

A Direct Response to Mindy Kaling, RE: Marriage

Dear Miss Kaling,

I would like to respond to the chapter in your book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, entitled “Married People Need to Step it Up”.  To give you a little bit of information about myself, I have been married to a man for nearly four years, and we have been together for about five.  After I read this chapter, I thought that maybe I had always been right in that I was Indian in a past life, and that obviously, you and I are soul mates.  But I digress!  Your faith in the institution of marriage, and hope for other marrieds (we’ll refer to those legally wed or those involved in long-term, co-habitational, monogamous situations as “marrieds” from now on) has sparked something inside of me.  Please allow me to express my personal situation to you and to reinforce that you can still maintain hope in marriage.

Marriage is a tricky beast.  I found myself engaged after three and a half months of knowing this fella, we’ll call him “Mike”, which is coincidentally his real name.  We wed a year after that and have been going strong for nearly half a decade.  When we first announced our intentions to friends and family, some words that infiltrated our bliss were, “crazed, insane, wow (in the most negative of terms), are you sure?, why?, and my personal favorite, ‘don’t do it Jill, he’s mad clingy'”, to name a few.  After the marriage, a good amount of our “close” friends fell off the face of the earth and we are still awaiting smoke signals or a flare to alert us as to their whereabouts.

When we got engaged, we discussed the kind of relationship that we wanted so no one was surprised by some hidden and crazy stuff.  I didn’t want to change my last name, I would not be expected to wait on him or his friends unless it was my choice, I was not into traditional male/female gender roles, and if we had kids I wanted them baptized (which he disagreed with but we’ll deal with that when and if it happens).  As our time together progresses, some of these things will change, morph and disappear, and that’s okay as long as we have an understanding of what each other wants out of this thing called marriage (or maw-widge, Princess Bride style).

So we said those oh so sacred vows given to us by the justice of the peace who we found on the internet and picked because Mike thought that he looked cool.  Shortly after, people began to ask me in a tone that could only be reserved for asking how one’s latest herpes outbreak is healing, how marriage was going.  It was going great, and still is!  I find marriage to be extremely easy, much easier than I thought it would be.  The problem was, and is, that for some reason, I have found that when most people, single or married, ask me how marriage is going, there seems to be an underlying tone and insinuation that they hope it’s not going well.  I don’t know if this is because their marriage is not going great, or because they are single and want to be married.  Let me say right now that there are single and married people who are truly happy that we’re not pulling a Titanic, but admittedly I find them to be few.

Please let me list a few reasons why I find marriage to be so easy:

-Joint checking and savings account.  I always have money now!

-Rent is cheaper

-I always have a date, every night of the week, and when I don’t want a date because I want to be alone, he’s cool with that.

-When I gained 22 pounds just before the wedding, he said he didn’t even notice and swears to this day that he never could see a difference.

-I can talk in circles about how much I hate a co-worker that he’s never even met, and his eyes only slightly glaze over.

-He’s totally cool with eating cheese and pickles, frozen egg rolls or artichoke dip at 11:30 at night.

-He converted to being a vegetarian because it made things much easier in our house.

-I can leave my reusable, blood stained pads to dry on our shower rod after being hand-washed in our bathroom sink without one word of disgust.

By this point, you may be seething because how can anyone’s marriage be that great?  She’s full of it!

Well I usually am, but in this situation I’m not.  Marriage, as in any long-term situation where two people live together, is trying.  Sometimes it is hard that someone is always there.  Sometimes I want to watch The Real Housewives of Abu Ghraib (wait for it…) and he wants to watch something boring entailing Buster Keaton.  And yes, the temptation has been there to flirt with another guy.  But in the short years I’ve been with Mike, I think that the keys to sustaining a committed relationship are:

-Honesty and communication (Seriously.  If you are thinking of cheating, for example, tell you partner and figure out a solution if you want to salvage your relationship.  Can you see a pattern yet?  No?  You will.  Mike, if you ever cheat on me I will throw you down the stairs.)

-Focusing on the positive

-Expecting that sometimes shit isn’t always good between the two of you, but knowing that it’ll be okay because you love each other and you’re married.

-Knowing that no matter how bad shit is, you are not going to cheat, either emotionally or physically because you’re married. And if you didn’t believe in marriage, then why did you get married?  And if you don’t believe in marriage as was agreed upon by you and your spouse, then get a divorce.

Do I ever think about the fact that I will never date another person?  Have I ever thought about how weird it is that I will only see one person naked forever?  Yes and yes.  Once in a short while, I do see someone good-looking on the train or meet someone funnier than Mike.  Would I ever leave Mike or cheat on him?  Of course not, because cute and/or funny can also be bat shit crazy.  Also, I’m in it to win it.  I believe in the marriage that I signed up for which includes monogamy, love, honesty, and constantly reminding each other that if we choose to have kids, we will always tell them that we love them and kiss and hug them and each other daily.  And after all, who else can I fart in front of without only slight judgement?

Sincerely, your new bestie,

Jill

p.s. I also LOVE Joni Mitchell’s album, Blue.  It’s my favorite one.