Friday 17 May 2024

Black Friend by: Ziwe

Genre: Non-fiction, essays 

Published: October 17, 2023 by: Henry N. Abrams 

Pages: 192 

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: anti-Black racism, discussions of police brutality 

In this collection of essays from comedian and host Ziwe, the writer reflects on her years of being a Black woman in the comedy world, as well as looking back on the numerous popular interviews she has conducted on some controversial guests. Ziwe considers how her childhood impacted her career, though this text cannot be categorized as wholly a memoir. Instead, it is a culmination of various essays that ponder the state of the United States and the world, and how comedy attempts to address various issues. 

I wasn't totally familiar with Ziwe's comedy before starting this book. I knew she had conducted a viral interview with disgraced politician and fraud George Santos, but that was pretty much all I knew about her. I figured that this book might give me greater insight into her personal comedic modes and how she goes about choosing interview subjects and questions. This book definitely answered some of the questions I had on Ziwe, while also teaching me a bit more about the comedy world and how comedians deal with current affairs in their writing. 

Ziwe's humour is quite unapologetic, satirical, with tinges of sarcasm throughout. Her book has a lot of footnotes that add greater comedic context to her writing, which I definitely appreciated. I love when authors add comedic footnotes to books, to me I find them so entertaining. That was definitely a huge reason why I stayed engaged throughout all of the essays. I also did really love how most chapters began with a snippet of an interview that Ziwe has given. Most of these interviews are with controversial figures, some of which have been "cancelled" in mainstream media. Ziwe's interviews are always laced with sarcasm, but I find it fascinating how she is able to both learn more about the interview subject and make room for jokes, but not with the intention of simply tearing the subject down. While she may not agree personally with the politics of the subject, the whole interview doesn't seem like just one big roast. Instead, she can put subtle jokes in between questions to allow the subject to reflect on their own behaviour. 

I wasn't so much interested in Ziwe's childhood or personal life, moreso about her career as a comedian. This was mainly just a personal preference; I am not too familiar with her so instead of knowing more about her personally I just wanted to get a sense of her as a comedian. I think this book had a good balance of the personal with the professional, with some inevitable overlap. For example, the title of the book, Black Friend, is both a nod to a popular question Ziwe asks to her subjects: "how many Black friends do you have?, while also being pointed to how Ziwe in her personal life has been tokenized as the "Black friend." She weaves throughout the text anecdotes of being confused with other Black comedians and celebrities simply because ignorant people would group all of the Black women together. Her commentary on American politics and current affairs I thought was sound and appropriate to the time. I do find it interesting to see what comedians think of the state of the world, and if in real life they tend to have more cynical views compared to just wanting to make people laugh all the time. I would say Ziwe thrives off of her comedy, but at the same time, she is not naive to real issues. 

Overall, this was a solid read. I didn't think it really blew me away, but it had a good balance of interview snippets, commentary, and funny footnotes to keep me engaged. I think anyone curious about Ziwe's interviews might like this behind the scenes look at some of her more viral moments. 

Have you read Black Friend? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday 10 May 2024

Where I've Been!

Hello all! It has been a hot minute since I've posted anything. Similar to the break I took when fall term began, I also took a break during winter term to focus solely on school. But now that the term is over and I've survived my first year of grad school, I'll have a lot more time to dedicate to blogging. But for now, here's an update from the past few months. 

What I've Read

I'll be honest, I wasn't reading consistently over winter term. In fact, I had to shorten my Goodreads goal from 100 books to 75 books this year. I think this goal will be more achievable. I did read some memoirs from Indigenous authors, such as A History of My Brief Body by Billy-Ray Belcourt. Belcourt is a queer Indigenous writer and his memoir explores familial bonds, masculinity, and critiques of Canadian colonialism. It was very well-written and I'd recommend. 

My sister has also recommended to me some thrillers to read over the summertime. I will definitely be getting into those and hopefully then my reading will become a lot more consistent. Despite not reading a whole lot, the books I did read I enjoyed, and that really is all that matters! 

Blog Stuff 

I'm really sorry that I haven't been all that consistent in commenting since the fall. Usually even if I don't blog I can blog hop, but now I'm feeling very out of the loop with what other people have been posting. I will definitely be more consistent now with keeping up with what y'all are reading and writing! 

Life Stuff 

Of course, school is now over for the year and I'm really happy with where I'm at. My grades were good, I have a solid plan for the next few years, and I'll have the opportunity later this month to visit a Canadian province I've never been to; Manitoba, to attend an Indigenous literary studies conference. I really do love presenting conference papers, so I'm excited about that. 

Over the winter I started dating again, and I have now been with my partner for five months. He makes me super happy, but of course at the beginning of our relationship we were busy getting to know each other, and figuring out if we'd be compatible. Given my social anxiety and panic disorder, entering a new relationship was not without its stressors. But I am happy to report that my partner has been amazingly supportive of my mental health and he has educated himself on how best to help me during times of panic attacks. I am truly grateful for every moment we spend together, and now that we have been dating for a bit of time, things have mellowed out so that we can just enjoy each other's company without any pressures attached. It's been very very nice and I am so happy. 

This summer I'll have to prepare for my comprehensive exam, which is a big examination that I will do in the fall which will test me on foundational texts within the field of Indigenous literary studies. Luckily I have friends also prepping for the exam, so we will definitely be supportive of each other and help one another study. But I also have some fun stuff lined up for the summer as well, including weddings, a family vacation, and maybe a baseball game or two. So it won't be all work for sure! 

That is basically what I've been up to the past few months. A lot of work, but some happy life updates as well. Like I said, I am looking forward to blogging again and reconnecting with blog friends. I'm glad to be back! 

How have you all been? Has anything new/exciting happened in your lives? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday 12 January 2024

Educated by: Tara Westover

Genre: Memoir 

Published: February 20, 2018 by Random House 

Pages: 352 

Rating: 5/5 stars 

CW: graphic depictions of physical and emotional abuse

Educated is a memoir depicting Westover's childhood growing up in an ultra-religious Mormon family. Due to her parents' conservative beliefs, Tara and her siblings grew up sheltered from contemporary society. They were forbidden to listen to secular music, watch tv, and were heavily surveilled by their parents. But most importantly, they were forbidden from attending school. As such, Tara grew up with curiosity for what existed beyond her upbringing, and this curiosity eventually led to her taking an interest in getting an education. Educated follows the emotional and physical difficulties that Tara endured in trying to pursue her education while the people around her who were supposed to protect her failed her the most. 

I read this book fairly recently, just towards the end of 2023. Normally it takes me months to review books, but given that I don't know how regular my blog schedule will be, I just needed to get this review out into the word. This book is not an easy read. It is emotionally gripping, at times frustrating, and incredibly heartbreaking. There are also some graphic images in this text, so people should approach it carefully. But it is also so moving. As a student myself, who has had the privilege to learn so many things into my 20's, I admired Tara's drive to keep learning even when the odds were stacked against her. Educated therefore contextualizes years of yearning for an education that eventually accumulates into success despite many tragic difficulties. 

This book does a great job at contending with the many different facets of trauma. Since Tara endured so many layers of abuse throughout her childhood and young adulthood, she takes great care in explaining how these traumas affected her memory. There are many points throughout the book in which she admits that the memory she has around certain events are fuzzy. Sometimes she will recount her memory of an event, and then go on to recount a completely different version of that event based on how one of her siblings remembered it. I thought this was a very considerate way of writing because she takes into consideration how at times, she is not *really* a reliable narrator because of her memory loss. But being an unreliable narrator is not a bad thing, it just shows that she is careful not to accept one universal truth. She takes care to accept multiple truths based on how her trauma has contextualized those truths. If anything, Tara's willingness to accept memory loss as a part of her narrative made me more trusting of her as a storyteller. 

Since Tara's book deals with multiple people, some who had positive and some who had very negative impacts on her life, she also does a good job at protecting the confidentiality of her subjects and of herself. Tara is not the only victim of abuse in the text, as her siblings also encountered various levels of manipulation and trauma. As such, Tara makes it clear at the beginning of the text that some names are pseudonyms. I thought this detail made for a very ethical piece of non-fiction writing. Sometimes in memoirs you get writers who like to air out other people's trauma despite those people not consenting for them to do so. This detail showed me that Tara is conscious about how some people may receive her story and she protects herself from blame in how she portrays certain events. 

I thought the text was very well organized in its portrayal of how Tara achieved her education. We follow her from a young girl, and then into her teens, and then young adult years. Sometimes she does go back in time to connect something happening in the future to something that happened in the past. But she does so in a way that is easy to follow. I really was impacted by the natural gift that Tara had for learning, that was just not put to use as a child. I couldn't imagine the childhood she could have had if she had been given the resources to thrive. She is definitely one of those naturally intelligent people, and it was wonderful to watch her come into her own as the story transpired. 

Overall, I was touched by the ways that Tara was able to thrive in the educational system once she unlearned her parents' abusive ways. This book does well at unpacking how trauma can affect the mind and body to not perform at its fullest potential, and I am so happy that Tara was able to get the education she truly deserved. This book did make me sad at times thinking about the fact that there are children in similar situations, and I think this text drives a great sentiment that education is not a weapon, it is a tool for change. If you like memoirs, please read this! 

Have you read Educated? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Friday 5 January 2024

Looking Back on 2023

It's been a hot minute!! I'm really sorry for dropping off the face of the earth. As I mentioned in the summer, I moved to a new city to complete a new university program. The fall term went by so fast that I barely had time for any blogging at all. To be honest, this post is just to confirm that I am in fact alive, but with winter term coming up in a few days as well, I doubt that my blogging habits will become any more consistent. But, I still want to recap what went down in 2023 and insist that I am definitely not shutting down the blog, but will just need some time to get back on track. 

What I Read 

My reading was all over the place this year, but in a good way. I read a bunch of comic books and graphic novels, some YA, a whole lot of romance, and a lot of books focused on Indigenous Literatures for my program. I noticed this year that I really did branch out from my usual focus in YA and I started to read more adult fiction. I'm not surprised by this change. I am now in my mid-20's and so I find myself wanting to read about characters who I can relate to a bit more. But I definitely do still have room in my heart for whatever Rick Riordan puts out! 

It's difficult to pinpoint what my favourite book of the year was. I read 111 books and my goal was to read 100. A few special shoutouts go to Educated by Tara Westover: an AMAZING memoir, Halfbreed by Maria Campbell: also a memoir, from a Metis author, and Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich: an adult dystopia. Non-fiction may have been a standout genre for me last year, alongside my normal love for post-apocalyptic texts. 

I set my Goodreads goal this year for my usual 100, and I'll just take reading as it comes. I don't have any other real wishes for my reading other than hoping I get to read a lot of wins and that I continue to read diversely. 

What I Blogged 

In 2023 I finally changed up my blog design, implementing some new logos courtesy of Canva. This was a long time coming, but I finally feel more content with how my blog looks. 

My blogging was consistent until it wasn't. However, I am happy that I got to review a bunch of books, but also at times just talk about what was on my mind. This blog isn't really just a book blog anymore, rather a space to reflect. I hope to do more reflections in 2024. 

Special Shoutouts 

I want to take some time to shoutout some bloggers I loved reading from in 2023, including some old blog buddies and new finds: 

Cee @ Dora Reads 

Roberta @ Offbeat YA 

Lissa @ Postcards from the Bookstore 

Greg @ Greg's Book Haven 

Sofia @ Bookish Wanderess 

All of these bloggers are amazing at their craft, and if you haven't already, you should check them out in 2024. 

Life Stuff 

2023 was a life changing year. I decided I wanted to go back to school, I moved, and I got to participate in a lot of amazing opportunities in my field. But the year wasn't without challenges. I had many panic attacks along the way. I struggled with my mental illness. I questioned things a lot. I don't want to put pressure on myself to have a "better" year because I know that pressure often backfires on me. But I do want to applaud myself for making the life changes that I did make and I want to continue to do the things I enjoy doing this year. That's all that really matters. 

So, that was my 2023! I wish you all a Happy New Year and I hope to see you again soon. If you're comfortable, I'd love to know how your year went and if you have any goals (reading or otherwise) for 2024. 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Paperback's Pondering's: Weak Knees

CW: discussions of panic attacks, OCD and self-doubt while recovering from mental illness

Today (or at least on the day I am writing this post), I had therapy. I see a therapist who specializes in OCD treatment, and I have gained so much from meeting with her. While it does seem like we have something new to talk about each session, I find myself always finding new ways to cope with my intrusive thoughts and compulsions, and she finds me ways to not seek reassurance for my thoughts and to think a bit more independently. In today's session, she said something that really stuck with me, and so I thought I would share. 

When discussing one of my obsessions and compulsions, I lamented how it seems as if every time I get an intrusive thought, I am back to square one and I feel as if I will never be able to recover. My therapist responded with a quote that she had learned from another therapist, whose name escaped me in session, but she told me the quote is: "weak knees will still carry you across the room." 

I had a chance to ponder this quotation for a bit, and I actually get a bit emotional thinking about it now. So many times when I am in a bad intrusive thoughts spell, or having a bad panic attack, I think that there is no possible way I can be able to pick myself back up and recover. But the funny thing is, every time I have been in that situation, I have always recovered. There have been times I have had to go to school during a panic attack because I couldn't miss the class. And although I am very uncomfortable at the beginning, my panic subsides after a while and I am able to listen in my classes. There have been times where I felt like I should just throw in the towel on an event, and not go because I think it'll just be too stressful for me. But then I do end up going and have a good time. My mind goes into this cycle of always thinking that there is no way out of the panic, but my weak knees always find a way to carry me across the room. 

I liked that quote because it doesn't insinuate that everyone should just suck it up because we are stronger than our panic. The "weak knees" implies the acknowledgement of the disease, whether that be OCD, panic disorder, or something else. But it also encourages me personally to take things one step at a time, not try to fight the panic but instead try to simply float to the other side of the room; and soon, things will get better. I think this is a good way of thinking about recovery after a bad bought of mental illness, and is something that I hope I will continue to implement moving forward. 

When it comes to my own personal therapy journey, I have not always been a big fan of inspirational quotes, meditation seminars, etc. But this simple quote did influence the way I look at my OCD and anxiety, and offered me a bit of hope during a tough time. I figured if this could help someone else, it is worth sharing. 

I know that everyone copes with their mental illness in a different way. What may be helpful for one person may be a hinderance to another. I would never preach a certain way of treatment onto someone. However, if you like this quote, then I am glad to have shared it. And if anyone can trace down the origin for me; if not I will ask my therapist next session, I would appreciate it! I hope anyone else who currently has "weak knees" will make it across the room :) 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Tuesday 5 September 2023

Funny You Should Ask by: Elissa Sussman

Genre: Romance 

Published: April 12, 2022 by: Random House 

Pages: 352

Rating: 4/5 stars 

CW: death of a pet, divorce 

Twenty years ago, Chani Horowitz was a struggling masters student looking to get a book deal. By a twist of luck she is hired to write a profile on a Hollywood movie star: her celebrity crush Gabe Parker. During the interview, her and Gabe get to know each other on an emotional level, and Gabe invites her for a whirlwind weekend that sweeps her off of her feet. And then, she never hears from him again. Now freshly divorced, Chani is forced to revisit that profile from her early twenties and reunite with Gabe once more. Despite what she thought, Gabe had not forgotten about her, and the two pick up where they left off. 

I started this book on recommendation from my cousin. We buddy read it because it was marketed as a fanfiction-esque novel, and I was intrigued. I didn't know until recently that the main character is meant to be based off of Chris Evans, which I find just slightly creepy as I don't love fanfictions with real people. But since I only found out about this yesterday it doesn't really change my opinions on this book. I thought it was a fun read, different from the romances I'm used to. I would recommend! 

I thought Chani and Gabe were both well rounded characters. Chani in her early twenties was quite relatable, as Sussman depicts her close to graduating and really struggling to find a job. I thought this depiction, specifically Chani's frustrations, were very realistic, albeit her big break is certainly not something a lot of people can relate to. But I digress, I thought Sussman wrote about a writer very well. 

Gabe was also an awesome character. He's not a stereotypical romance leading man in the sense that he seems too perfect to be true. He has flaws, but grows as a character as the book goes on and as he gets older. He has a love for animals, especially dogs (ok, maybe I should've seen the Chris Evans comparison coming), and he is very caring towards his family and to Chani. Since Chani and Gabe were both likable characters in my opinion, this made for a really easy read. 

The book alternates between two time periods: Gabe and Chani's first meeting, and their reunion. I liked this structure of the book as I think it added more context to their relationship and how their feelings have progressed overtime. I also thought this aspect added more layer to the characters, as I could develop an understanding for how Chani's maturity overtime changes her opinions on love. There is very much a fluffiness to the flashback scenes, and while this isn't to say the future is bleak, I thought Chani and Gabe definitely grow to be a bit more level-headed when they get older. 

This was a very easy to get through book. It doesn't rely much on a lot of drama, or a lot of harsh topics. It wasn't the best romance I've ever read, but it was pleasant and a good break away from some more dramatic reads. I would reread if I was looking for an escape. 

Have you read Funny You Should Ask? What did you think? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess

Wednesday 30 August 2023

Month in Review: August

I barely blogged in August, because of some major life changes. But that's ok! What are new school years for if not for getting back into a normal routine? Anyways, here's all that went down in August: 

What I Read: 

Crow Winter by: Karen McBride: 3/5 stars 

Walking the Clouds edited by: Grace Dillon: 4/5 stars 

Moon of the Crusted Snow (reread) by: Waubgeshig Rice: 4.5/5 stars 

Future Home of the Living God by: Louise Erdrich: 5/5 stars 

Stone Blind by: Natalie Haynes: 4/5 stars 

Unfortunately Yours by: Tessa Bailey: 4/5 stars 

Chase Me by: Tessa Bailey: 2/5 stars 

Favourite book of the month: Despite being too busy to blog, my reading didn't falter this month. I loved reading Future Home of the Living God. It's a dystopia featuring an Indigenous protagonist who has to hide her pregnancy from the government. I thought it was a really interesting premise, and while sad in subject matter, it was very well written. 

What I Blogged: 

Not much, to be honest! I managed to get up my review of Tomorrow x3 by: Gabrielle Zevin, which was great because my feelings about that book were complicated. I'm happy I finally was able to put thoughts into words. 

Favourite Blog Posts of the Month: 

Lissa shares Book Beginnings She Dislikes

Greg makes me ponder life in Sunday Post# 516

Life Stuff: 

As forementioned, I had a lot of big changes happen to me in August. The main thing being that I moved to another city for school. I still have a few days until I begin my PhD program, so I've just spent my days getting acclimated to the city and to my new apartment. It has been nerve wracking and at times very stressful, as change often is. But I am proud of myself for keeping things together and establishing a new routine. I am equally as excited for the future. 

I did have some fun times going to concerts in August and to FanExpo right at the end before I moved. I do love the end of summer because I tend to ramp up on exciting events and it kinda symbolizes the last hurrah before jumping back into routine. I am looking forward to fall and enjoying coziness and spookiness. 

So that was August! Here's hoping I post a bit more regularly on here. How was your final month of summer? 

Emily @ Paperback Princess