Thursday, January 31, 2008

How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls by Zoey Dean

iconiconI'm extending my break from Unbending Gender to read some more light-hearted fiction: How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls by Zoey Dean. The problem is, I'm not enjoying this one as much as I did Part-Time Indian.

I'm not crazy about Dean's writing style. I've noticed she is excessive about descriptions, frequently stopping the action for half-page paragraphs describing this or that character's appearance. Even worse, she did this within the first few pages.

I've always been taught that fiction — well, good fiction — should never stop the action for lengthy descriptions, especially in the beginning of the book, where you're trying to hook the reader. Descriptions can be worked into the action (i.e. I tugged on my dark blue sweatshirt instead of I was wearing a dark blue sweatshirt) to give the reader a visual picture without stopping everything for it.

Another thing that bothered me was a fake Vanity Fair article the main character/narrator reads in the beginning of the book. Granted, I don't read Vanity Fair, but this article just didn't sound to me at all like a genuine feature. I'm guessing the author doesn't have any experience as a journalist.

There's some really good chick lit out there, but so far I'm thinking this book is just not one of them. However, I rarely ever stop reading a book partway through, so I'm going to keep reading. After all, some of the best books out there start off unspectacularly!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

iconiconThis is the second time I have taken a break from reading Unbending Gender to read another, shorter book. The main reason for taking the break is that this book, Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, is due back to the library soon, and I don't want to have to put my name on the wait list again.

I heard about this book on NPR, when it won the National Book Awards for Young People's Literature. I didn't realize it was so long ago, but according to the NPR story that was two months ago! Since I've had the book checked out for almost three weeks, that means I was on the hold list for more than a month before I got it.

I started the book last night, and so far I'm several chapters into it. The book is a fast read (exactly as YA fiction should be). It's also written in an authentic voice for a young teen, and although most of us didn't have the health problems the main character has endured, chances are most of the book's readers know what it's like to be picked on.

I also think Part-Time Indian is a great window into life on an Indian reservation — a life that most of us are so removed from that we don't even realize that third-world conditions exist within the boundaries of the richest country in the world.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Good Dog. Stay. by Anna Quindlen

iconiconDon't get too excited — I'm actually not done with Unbending Gender quite yet. I took a short break to read Anna Quindlen's Good Dog. Stay., a short memoir focusing primarily on her dog Beau, but also touching on other dogs she has owned over the years.

Dog lovers will find a lot of truth in Good Dog. Stay. It's beautifully told, capturing perfectly all of the joys and heartbreaks of owning a dog.

The book is actually more of a personal essay in length, with lots of adorable dog pictures thrown in. As a result, it's a quick read, and one I highly recommend to any dog owner or dog lover who has an hour to spare.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Unbending Gender by Joan Williams

iconiconNote: The ebook is listed on a different page than the physical book: Unbending Gendericon.

After reading Lord of Hawkfell Island, I decided my brain was going to rot if I didn't follow it up with something more intellectual. So I decided to read Unbending Gender, by Joan Williams.

The good news is I got what I wanted: something more thought-provoking and intelligent. The bad news is also that I got what I wanted, because it's taking me forever to read. According to my blog, it's been more than two weeks now, and I'm not quite halfway through the book!

Part of the reason why it's taking so long is that I'm extremely busy right now, writing my little heart out in order to pay my not-so-little bills. As a result, by the time I get into bed it's either too late to read more than a few pages, or I'm too tired to read more than a few pages.

The book itself is wonderful. I've always considered myself a feminist, but Williams puts the work/wage equality discussion in a way that outshines every other argument I've ever heard.

For instance, one of her arguments is regarding the feminist idea that women should have careers just like men. Unfortunately, this push has left many women struggling to maintain their careers, while still being responsible for managing the childcare and the housework.

Williams points out that the problem is not only that women are working this double shift, but also that society requires "ideal workers" to be able to put in 40-plus hours of week a work. Because women are still responsible for the kids and the housework, they can't put in the overtime, and therefore aren't able to enjoy the same levels of success at work as men.

Men, on the other hand, can work the overtime because their women take care of the house for them. They don't have any responsibilities to hold them back from excelling at work.

The problem, Williams argues, is society's notion of the ideal worker. Rather than trying to push women up to men's level, she instead advocates restructuring the requirements of the ideal worker. She suggests that women and men should be able to work fewer hours and still enjoy success in their careers. With the ideal worker expectations reduced for both the sexes, men would be able to participate more in family life, and women would be able to have a career without sacrificing her family in order to do so.

Personally, I think it's brilliant.