Titleall about love: new visions
Author: bell hooks
Published: 2000
My Edition: Harper Perennial

I had no idea what to expect when I picked up all about love: new visions.  I had never heard of bell hooks before.  I knew from a cursory search of the internet that she was a writer and that she was a feminist, which immediately made me like her – writer and feminist are qualities that speak to my soul.  BUT Emma Watson was reading her so hey, might as well listen to the voice of my feminist generation.

I can’t say I enjoyed the writing itself, though not for any particular reason.  I didn’t find myself exclaiming over turns of phrase or seamless transition from information to anecdote and back again.  In fact, I found myself jarred by a particularly convoluted sentence more than once.  The book just didn’t seem to flow for me in any coherent way.

But the message.  I felt the message down to my bones.

Some context: for the first time since Christmas, my entire family gathered this past weekend.  The occasion wasn’t a happy one – we had a funeral to attend.  But during the forty-eight or so hours I spent in close quarters with my aunts and uncles and cousins and others, I found myself thinking about what bell hooks had to say about love.  I watched the different dynamics that occurred between generations in my family.  I watched how parents treated children and how adult children treated parents.  I made notes.  I put questions to myself regarding the situations I didn’t directly participate in: would I have scolded a child for that behavior?  Did I know how to explain death to an eight-year-old?  For that matter, could I council my own mother in her grief?

The vast majority of my hypothetical questions led me on thought trails that ultimately ended in intention.  Sure, a parent had restricted a child in a way I might not agree with.  But (ignoring the fact that I haven’t raised any of my own children, and can thus only imagine the constant flux of emotion involved), I knew that every member of my family acted in ways that they thought would produce the best possible child and later, the best possible adult.  And I knew that each and every member of my family acted with love, no matter how occluded the love became when commingled with societal restrictions and traditional punishments.

And therein lies my favorite part of bell hooks’s message, as well as my biggest problem – love can change all of our behaviors.  Love, as intention, can make the best out of grief, out of family, out of a parent chastising a child.  But here I stray from the message.  bell hooks believes love can’t exist along with dishonesty or anger or any number of negative emotions – and I believe life just ain’t that simple.

So yes, I want the love bell hooks professes exists.  I think I’ve even had snapshots of it before, in friendships and in moments and with family.  But humans are far too complex to eradicate the negative feelings that come with the good.  I’m pretty sure the entire plot of Inside Out was about that very fact.  This isn’t to say we shouldn’t temper our poor attitudes, or learn to manage them, or do our absolute darndest to overflow with so much love that the negativity can’t get out.  I personally don’t want a relationship, romantic or otherwise, as riddled with control/power dynamics as previous ones I’ve been in.  I want to live the love ethic!  I want the good I know can come by believing in everyone’s inherent ability to improve.  And maybe I’m too harsh a critic by complaining bell hooks is ignoring the complexity of human personality when she insists love conquers all.  I just think her narrative misses the practical side of the world by a wide margin.

But, in the interest of practicing the love ethic starting right this very minute – I’m happy to forgive and let her try again.

Other thoughts:

I thoroughly appreciate whenever any author (or speaker, or politician, or layperson on the street…) acknowledges the harm patriarchy does to both women and men.  bell hooks navigated that territory very well.

I read the grief chapter the night before my grandfather’s funeral, and I truly believe it had an immediate, clear purpose in my life.  That’s a little miracle if there ever was one.

Finally, I love when I find new authors (or friends!) who treat spirituality as a blending of beliefs rather than claiming you have to practice your religion in the manner identical to person XYZ.  Whatever your religious background of book of choice, humans are interpretive creatures – which means there is NO ONE on this ENTIRE PLANET that agrees with you identically.  Hooray for bell hooks being so calm and put together in her own beliefs.  It translated quite well to this particular reader.

I’ve been in a bit of a weird reading limbo for the past month, so when The Classics Club said they were going to do a Spin, I decided to participate!  A spin is basically a chance for me to narrow my to-read list down to 20 books that I have good, bad, or mixed feelings about.  Then, the folks over at The Classics Club will pick a number one through twenty, and I’ll read that book by May!

I tried to keep my spin list on books I already own, as I’m on a purchase hiatus right now.  I also tacked in a couple of classics that aren’t actually on my official list – but I’m okay with breaking the rules for literature’s sake 😉  I’d have to say I’m most afraid of one of the larger books being selected, as I don’t know if I have the conviction to punch through them right now.  No matter what, though, I will be reading one of the listed twenty books quite soon!

  1. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  2. War of the Worlds, H. G. Wells
  3. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  4. Candide, Voltaire
  5. The Color Purple, Alice Walker
  6. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  7. Persuasion, Jane Austen
  8. The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  9. The Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  10. The Invisible Man, H. G. Wells
  11. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
  12. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
  13. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
  14. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  15. Little Men, Louisa May Alcott
  16. The Iliad, Homer
  17. The Odyssey, Homer
  18. The Aeneid, Virgil
  19. The Epic of Gilgamesh
  20. China Men, Maxine Hong Kingston

I find out on Monday what book I’ll be subjected to – er, which book I get to read next!  Hooray!  Thankfully they all look so good 🙂

Are you participating in The Classics Club?  Share your Spin lists below!

Well, when you start your morning with a two hour appointment for your car, you really can’t expect anything else to go as planned.

I had scheduled a post about the decluttering/reexamining I’ve been doing of my hygiene routine, but I’ll save that for a different date.  Instead, you get my answers to the 30 question Harry Potter tag!  This can also serve as a teaser to a future Harry Potter post I have in the works (hint: I may have been threatening to write it for a year now, whoops).  Obviously this post is much faster and more fun than my original idea, so really I’m just trying to brighten my own day in the midst of all the coding I have to get done.  YAY HP.

1) Favourite book?
Prisoner of Azkaban, because you get to meet the marauders for the first time, and some of the stranger bits of magic really start coming out in this book.  Before Azkaban Harry was just a kid getting into trouble at a wizarding school.  After Azkaban, we as readers had our eyes opened to the rest of the wizarding world.

2) Least favourite book?
I’m only saying Chamber of Secrets because I have to say one, but just because it’s my least favourite, doesn’t mean I don’t like it.

3) Favourite movie?
Deathly Hallows Part 2.  The best book to movie of the series, in my opinion.  Also, I saw it while I was living in Oxford, so I have warm and fuzzy feelings about the whole experience.

4) Least favourite movie?
Prisoner of Azkaban.  I know that this is probably the most cinematic and lauded movie, but it just felt like there was a lot of wasted time that they could have filled with plot and book-things, and they choose to be pretty instead.

5) Favourite quote?
The one I seem to reference the most is Fred and George’s fight over “ear-related humor” at the beginning of Deathly Hallows, though I wouldn’t call it my favourite.  I do love when Dumbledore tells Harry:

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?

6) Favourite Weasley?
Ginny.  She’s a badass.

7) Favourite female character?
Luna, because she’s smart and unique and confident.  I want to be her.  Just a little.

8) Favourite villain.
Snape, because complexity.

9) Favourite male character?
I actually really like Draco, not because I think he’s worth two spits as a person, but because he (like Snape) has a lot of internal warfare that we don’t see in the books.  We hear about it a bit, yes, like when Myrtle mentions him crying in the bathrooms, but we don’t see it.  He was never taught how to be good, but he isn’t sure he wants to be bad.  That’s the stuff of interesting characters.

10) Favourite professor?
Professor McGonagall.  She’s a tough one but she’ll make sure you learn.

11) Would you rather A) wash Snape’s hair or B) spend a day listening to Lockhart rant about himself?
Listening to Lockhart, because it would be great fodder for a tell-all biography I’d author about him 😉

12) Would you rather duel A) an elated Bellatrix or B) an angry Molly?
Both of these choices are terrifying.  I don’t want to duel either of them, I’d die.  But at least maybe I could run away from Bellatrix?  Because she’d be too excited to kill me immediately?  This is a lose-lose question.

13) Would you rather travel to Hogwarts via A) Hogwarts Express or B) Flying Car?
Hogwarts Express, though maybe I’d try out the flying car just once.

14) Would you rather A) Kiss Voldemort or B) give Umbridge a bubble bath?
I feel like both of these things would end with a violent death for me.  But at least kissing Voldemort wouldn’t last as long as Umbridge’s bubble bath…

15) Would you rather A) ride a Hippogriff or B) ride a Firebolt?
A hippogriff!  I like friendly animals.

16) Is there a character you felt differently about in the movies?
Neville – mostly because of the actor getting quite hot, if I’m honest.  Good work, Matthew Lewis.

17) Is there a movie you preferred to the book?
No, all the books > all the movies.

18) Richard Harris or Michael Gambon as Dumbledore?
Richard Harris.  I can never forgive the whole “DIDJOPUTURNAMEINTHEGOBLET HARRRYYYYY” scene.

19) Your top thing (person or event) that wasn’t in the movie that you wanted there the most?
So I may not remember this correctly, but I think that Harry never uses the Elder Wand to restore his phoenix wand back to functioning in the movie.  And this DRIVES ME MAD.  It would have taken two seconds of screen time.  Why leave it out??

Also, Peeves.

20) If you could remake any of the Harry Potter movies which would it be?
Prisoner of Azkaban, but also Half-Blood Prince.

21 Which house was your first gut feeling you’d be a part of?
Ravenclaw.  Blue and silver and riddles?  My people.

22) Which house were you actually sorted into on Pottermore?
Ravenclaw 🙂 though I was actually a Hufflepuff/Ravenclaw hat stall!

23) Which class would be your favourite?
I can never answer this question well, because I don’t know how my current interests would transfer to the magical world.  I guess I’d probably love Muggle Studies, since I’ve got a social justice lean.  Probably also Charms.  I think I’d be good at Charms.

24) Which spell do you think would be most useful to learn?
Lumos.  Much nicer than wearing out the old phone flashlight.

25) Which character do you think you’d instantly become friends with?
Ron, because we’d make fun of each other ruthlessly.

26) If you could own one of the three Hallows, which would it be?
The invisibility cloak.

27) Is there any aspect of the books you’d want to change?
No, because changing one thing changes a lot of things.  I like them the way they are, flaws and all.

28) Favourite Marauder?
Sirius Black!  Love him forever.

29) If you could bring one character back to life, which would it be?
Can I have Remus and Tonks?  They’re perfect.  Teddy needs them.

30) Hallows or Horcruxes?

Have you done the Harry Potter tag?  I’d love to read your answers!

Title: My Life on the Road
Author: Gloria Steinem
Published: October 27, 2015

I’m a big fan of memoir (particularly the celebrity kind!), so when Emma Watson choose My Life on the Road for her first book of her new feminist book club, Our Shared Shelf, I immediately got myself to Barnes and Noble and picked up a copy.  Steinem wove together anecdote and history and reflection in a beautiful, engaging way.

But beyond that, it’s been really hard to formulate coherent thoughts on this book.  Gloria Steinem is a household name, a name almost synonymous with feminism, and not an icon I would want to throw together a couple of comments on and then dismiss.  It’d be easy to say her memoir was interesting and informative and call it a day.  It was interesting and informative – but those words don’t expand on the content, nor do they provide concrete examples of what I found so immersive.  I think part of the lack of concrete examples is because the parts of My Life on the Road I found most abiding were the overarching themes as they related to me, not the stories contained within the book.

The major themes of the book are also the major themes of Steinem’s life: travel, writing, and communication.  I related to these themes because they’re ones that I want to embody in my own life, ones that I try every day to include in my personal journey.  Steinem has decades of experience in living these ideals.  Each story reflects one or more of these, whether it be the itinerant nature of her childhood or her incidental involvement with event organizing.  She’s still living the lifestyle she’s mastered over the course of her life.  She’s not flawless – no one is – but she has been and remains an outspoken proponent of feminism and social change.

So I won’t try to force a critique of her book.  It’s her memoir; and while she’s a political person and that may make her memoir inherently political, I’m not going to comment on her life and how it could have/should have/would have been different.  I will say: it was an enjoyable perspective of how social justice can impact the life of individuals and the life of groups.  Gloria Steinem has lived a fascinating life and I’d love to learn more about her.  As a narrative, I might have rearranged some of the telling – she doesn’t follow a chronological order but the groupings she does use didn’t feel incredibly cogent either.

But ultimately, read this book if you want to hear about the life of a great woman from the woman herself.  Don’t read it expecting to reinforce your own beliefs or start an argument about Steinem’s.  Read it for educational purposes, yes, but maybe don’t use it to educate others.

Do you have a different opinion of the book than I do?  How do you feel about commenting on someone’s memoir as a political piece?


What Books I'll Buy, 2016


Back in the day, I had a book buying problem.

Okay, more accurately, I have always had a book buying problem and always will.  But around my sophomore and junior years in college, I just bought and bought and bought.  Don’t get me wrong – I would more than happily buy every book I could, both to build my own library and also to support authors.  But I am still a student with student finances, and I move about once a year, so having a growing library is a lot a bit irresponsible.  I offset it by taking home books to store in my parents’ house a few times a year, but that’s hardly an effective solution if I’m buying dozens at a time.Continue reading

The November book of the month for An Aspiring Heroine‘s book club was Beowulf – specifically, the translation by Seamus Heaney.  This lengthy epic is also one of my selections for the Classics Club (my Classics Club list here).  I was excited to finally read one of the first English language epics, though a little surprised at the choppiness of the story overall.  However, we’ll write that one off as differing expectations from narration between the 8th century and the 21st, and discuss other things below!  Beware of spoilers!Continue reading