Thursday, August 4, 2016

Not From Here-Allan G. Johnson

Not From Here-Allan G. Johnson

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 176
gender: M
nationality: USA
year: 2015
memoir

Johnson explores what home and identity really mean.



I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. At first, when I looked closer at the blurb after picking it up properly, I was a bit disappointed-a straight white male struggling with identity? Really? Isn’t that like…culture? This was a knee jerk reaction from a person classified as ‘other’ with regularity. I’m aware that Johnson was unaware of me judging him so quickly but I want to apologize anyway.

This is a well crafted and extremely thoughtful memoir. Johnson doesn’t shy away from the hard aspects of being identified as white (i.e. the complicated feelings about immigrants who made a life on land that was cleared for them) but doesn’t rely solely on the white man’s burden. He is, throughout the memoir, clearly making strange decisions through grief and the writing meanders and goes off into tangents but his main struggle is a relatable one-how can we truly understand another human being, history? His search for a place to place his father is his attempt at this and along the way, he learns more about himself. Johnson writes well and emotionally while refusing to accept simple explanations or reasons for anything. He is always examining concepts and feelings from multiple angles-fully embracing the complexity of lived experience and the ways that the dead and the living are interconnected.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Plucked: a history of hair removal-Rebecca M. Herzig

Plucked: a history of hair removal-Rebecca M. Herzig

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 280
gender: F
nationality: USA
year: 2015
non fiction

An exploration of attitudes and methods of hair removal in North America.



As a Western female, I have been told all sorts of stories about my hairiness and why the ‘unsightly’ hair must be removed. It should come as no surprise that many of these stories have been wildly contradictory and/or told to me by people who are naturally far less hairy than me and/or men. Not all the messages have been bad but the overwhelming majority of messages about body hair is to have just the right amount. So, when I saw this book, I picked it up because I like to intellectualize my problems. I was hoping to get a better measure of why these attitudes to body hair exist and Herzig delivers, detailing how attitudes have changed and situates attitudes towards hair removal within social contexts. This is not a self-help or how-to guide but a very well researched academic treatise talking about attitudes towards body hair. The more modern chapters were things I already knew but the earlier chapters were fascinating though be forewarned-this is hair removal in North America. Herzig is not out to entertain but she is also not needlessly pedantic or bogging the reader down in details and often allows herself some dry wit so this is very readable. She stays on the objective side of research until her concluding chapter which made me want to go hang out with her. I was pleasantly surprised by this book and I feel better having read it-history can be academic AND fun.