Review: Naturally Tan

Only nearly June and my first review of 2019! I have read SO much with good intentions and then there’s life and two kids and all the germs.  All the germs.  I so enjoyed this book that I had to finally stay up past my bedtime to post about it.

Naturally Tan, Tan France

Hardcover, 288 pages
Expected publication: June 4th 2019 by St. Martin’s Press
Source: ARC won from Shelf Awareness, St.Martin’s Press
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In this heartfelt, funny, touching memoir, Tan France, star of Netflix’s smash-hit QUEER EYE, tells his origin story for the first time. With his trademark wit, humor, and radical compassion, Tan reveals what it was like to grow up gay in a traditional Muslim family, as one of the few people of color in Doncaster, England. He illuminates his winding journey of coming of age, finding his voice (and style!), and how he finally came out to his family at the age of 34, revealing that he was happily married to the love of his life–a Mormon cowboy from Salt Lake City.

Are you watching Queer Eye on Netflix and crying regularly like me?  If you’re like me you’ll have a guess at how excited I was to get my grabby hands on an ARC of Tan France’s memoir.  Thankfully Tan comes off just as delightful in print as he does on screen.  I love how truly appreciative he sounds of the life he’s having – a gay, South Asian, Muslim man who had his share of hardships now holding himself out there to a whole world of queer, brown children.  As I reader I was appreciative of his honesty with what he wanted to talk about vs. topics like his faith not being for public consumption.

When Tan was open about his past he was definitely open though.  Romance, bad jobs, teenage exploits – as well as bullying, real sadness and hard feelings.  Best of all were the  warm fuzzies I got from reading about going out with his husband for the first time.

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The stories of meeting the Fab Five were everything a fan could want! Tan puts himself out in this book without giving too much of himself away.  He’s someone you just feel happy for over the success he’s finding.

Pick this up for good stories and fashion tips!  What other celebrity memoirs should I be looking for? Busy Phillips is pretty high on my list right now…

Thank you Shelf Awareness and St. Martin’s Press for this advance copy!

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Nonfiction November Week Two: Nonfiction and Fiction Pairings

The Nonfiction extravaganza continues this week!  Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves is taking the lead with matching nonfiction and fiction titles.  Don’t forget to check the other hosts: Katie at Doing Dewey, Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?, Julie at Julz Reads, Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness.

My first suggestion is a match to two nonfiction reads: Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann and Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot (thanks Eva at the Paperback Princess for this suggestion).  So these two are extremely far apart as nonfiction books go but both were heartbreakingly sad in their own way.  Both also had me thinking about the ways in which the Native American people have been hurt ever since being “discovered.”  So for a fiction that is kick ass on behalf Native people and women in particular you MUST read Trail of Lightening by Rebecca Roanhoarse.  I finished the book and immediately put it on hold at the library for my husband to read – and he doesn’t read fantasy.  I cannot wait for the next book to come out!!

This pairing feels a little random but this is the pairing in my head when I was reading Damnation Island – so maybe I’m just a little random.  Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad & Criminal in 19th Century New York by Stacy Horn and Libba Bray’s Diviners Series.  Book 2 of the Diviners, Lair of Dreams, is what linked for me with islands and mental hospitals – but I think this is a series worth diving into if you have time (they are loooooooong).  New York and the divisions of class and race are at the forefront of both of these reads so while it might seem like a stretch I think they go together quite well.  You might find them to be the cats pajamas!

I have one more bonus pairing! I started reading The Fruit of the Drunken Tree this morning  – I know it is fiction but library holds don’t wait! This book about two childhoods in Columbia under Pablo Escabar is quite good so far and it is making me think of Mark Bowden’s excellent Killing Pablo.   Highly recommended if you haven’t read that one!

Have you read any of these?  Any match ups you can suggest for me?

Nonfiction November Week One: Your Year in Nonfiction

Nonfiction November is finally here! I swear I’ve been saving up a list of books to read this month  – but surprisingly have still read quite a few this year.  Nonfiction November — hosted this year by Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) Julie (JulzReads), Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Katie (Doing Dewey), Rennie (What’s Nonfiction) — is a month-long celebration of everything nonfiction.

What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year?

 

I’m tied.  I just finished Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover.  I was holding off reading this because I was sure it was a case of hype over substance, and I am so happy I was wrong.  Yay book club pick!  I flew through this book!  Another winner is Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.  While Educated flew, this book took me weeks to get through.  This story was just so sad.  Reading as members of the Osage were picked off by predatory whites while also being held back by the legal system – not at uplifting book but the story was fascinating.  This feels so important still with the news about Native voting rights and events at Standing Rock. I just read this is going to be a movie and I hope it is as well done!  But then I also read So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and I don’t even have the words to do it justice.  I cried, I raged, I thought about this book a lot.  Just read it.

Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year?

Like the rest of my reading life this year, my nonfiction has been kind of a hot mess.  Politics (A Higher Loyalty), murder (I’ll Be Gone in the Dark), mental health (Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad and Criminal in 19th Century New York) and sex toys…  Looking through my goodreads shelf I definitely need some celebrity memoirs in the mix.  I have my eye on Busy Phillips’ and Ellie Kemper’s new books to scratch that itch.  I started From the Corner of the Oval last night and it is a delight!

What nonfiction book have you recommended the most?

I think everyone needs to read So You Want to Talk About Race so I’ve tried to talk that up.  For “lighter” reading I’ve been pushing I’ll be Gone in the Dark (so creepy!) and Killers of the Flower Moon.

What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

I love loading up my to read shelf during November.  There are so many great books I miss hearing about.  I love seeing other book nerds excited about book pushing!  I’m trying to avoid books by white dudes where I can so I have an eye out for suggestions particularly to keep reading more diversely.

So what am I missing that you love?  If you aren’t doing Nonfic November get over to Sophisticated Dorkiness to check out all the posts!

 

 

 

 

 

All the news is garbage – but I love my library!

I am reading the news in short snippets these days because unless it’s about Serena Williams or maybe Prince Louis’ christening it all gives me panic attacks. I’ve been reading fiction voraciously to escape (and a few nonfic too) and The Chicago Public Library is giving me everything.  Here’s a list of what I’ve been loving – other than reading Goodnight Moon on repeat.

Fiction

Non-Fiction

With Babycakes 

  • Ranger in Time series by Kate Messner – what is there not to love about a golden retriever traveling through time and space to help people in need?

What else is out there that I should be reading to avoid reality?

All Abuzz over Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy

Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy; Hallie Lieberman

Published November 7th 2017 by Pegasus Books
Hardcover, 288 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
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Once only whispered about in clandestine corners, vibrators have become just another accessory for the suburban soccer mom, showing up in all manner of pop culture, from sitcoms to talk shows to the pages of glossy women’s magazines. But how did these once-taboo toys become so socially acceptable? The journey of the devices to the cultural mainstream is a surprisingly stimulating one.

In Buzz, Hallie Lieberman—who holds the world’s first PhD in the history of sex toys—starts at the beginning, tracing the tale from lubricant in Ancient Greece to the very first condom in 1560 to advertisements touting devices as medical equipment in 19th-century magazines. She looks in particular from the period of major change from the 1950s through the present, when sex toys evolved from symbols of female emancipation to tools in the fight against HIV/AIDS to consumerist marital aids to today’s mainstays of pop culture. The story is populated with a cast of vivid and fascinating characters including Dell Williams, founder of the first feminist sex toy store, Eve’s Garden; Betty Dodson, who pioneered “Bodysex” workshops in the 1960s to help women discover vibrators and ran Good Vibrations, a sex toy store and vibrator museum; and Gosnell Duncan, a paraplegic engineer who invented the silicone dildo and lobbied Dodson and Williams to sell them in their stores. And these personal dramas are all set against a backdrop of changing American attitudes toward sexuality, feminism, LGBTQ issues, and more.

What bravery must Hallie Lieberman have to have said “I’m going to be the first person to pursue my doctorate in the history of the sex toy.”  I can’t imagine walking into a professor’s office to say that!  Bravo to her.

I know the personal is political but wow does Buzz get personal. The history of America’s sex toy industry is as fascinating as you might imagine, ranging from a man pursued by the Federal government under RICO to a bisexual woman who went from hosting masturbation workshops to opening one of the first feminist sex shops.  Feminism is everywhere in Buzz, but also advocacy for the sexual experiences of the disabled and the rights of gay couples.     

Lieberman also takes the story of America’s sex toy interest from garage manufacturing to sales at Macy’s.  Seriously, this book covers all kinds of ground!  I definitely recommend this one when you want a non-fiction read that doesn’t get too serious, but still covers surprising depth.  Even if I was giggling to myself at that cover every time I pulled Buzz out on my train rides.

 

Review: Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the WWII Ghost Army

I’ve been reading a lot of middle grade fiction lately, maybe I’m just way too excited for my big 7 year-old to be reading with me.  When asked to look at this middle grade non-fiction book I was way too curious to pass it up.

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Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the WWII Ghost Army, Enigma Alberti

Published January 23rd 2018 by Workman Publishing Company
Hardcover, 96 pages
Source: Finished copy received from publisher

Your mission: Find Victor Dowd’s missing sketchbook. And discover one of the most unusual stories of World War II.

Meet the 603rd Camouflage Engineers, better known as the Ghost Army. This group of artists and sound engineers were trained to deceive the Germans in World War II with everything from fake tanks to loudspeakers broadcasting the sound of marching troops. And meet Victor Dowd, a real-life sergeant who with his fellow Ghost Army troops fought his way from Normandy, through France, and eventually across the Rhine.

First of all, why have I not heard of the Ghost Army?  A whole unit devoted to fooling Hitler and the Nazis with artwork, sound effects and clever camouflage – what an amazing story!  I read this almost entirely in a train ride, so less than an hour, a fast read but I was completely engrossed.  Yes, this was written for kids but my interest is piqued and I will be finding some more titles on this unit to read soon.
This book didn’t talk down to the young reader but made the Ghost Army’s story engaging by talking about Victor Dowd and his experiences as an artist being used to paint planes and trucks to trick the Nazis about the soldiers and units in place.  I haven’t looked at kids’ nonfiction since I was a kid and I wasn’t sure how it would come together.  Victor’s individual story made it compelling on an individual level I think and then makes the branching out into the rest of the Ghost Army easier for a young reader who might not be used to nonfiction.  
And then there are the spy tools.  Spy tools!  My daughter wasn’t interested in the topic – she is too young and this isn’t her thing – but even she was ready to break out the spy tools to solve the mystery of the missing sketchbook.  These were awesome!
I loved this book! I will definitely be gifting copies to some young readers in my life and sending it to my daughter’s school.  I can’t wait to pick up Enigma Alberti’s first Spy on History book, Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring -that is a topic we’ve talked about at home so I hope the kid is ready. 
Thank you so much Workman Publishing for this copy in exchange for an honest opinion!

Overdue Reviews: The Dragon Behind the Glass

The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World’s Most Coveted Fish, Emily Voigt

Published May 24th 2016 by Scribner

Hardcover, 336 pages

Source: e-ARC from NetGalley

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A journalist’s quest to find a wild Asian arowana — the world’s most expensive aquarium fish—takes her on a global tour through the bizarre realm of ornamental fish hobbyists to some of the most remote jungles on the planet.

A young man is murdered for his prized pet fish. An Asian tycoon buys a single specimen for $150,000. Meanwhile, a pet detective chases smugglers through the streets of New York. Delving into an outlandish world of obsession, paranoia, and criminality, The Dragon Behind the Glass tells the story of a fish like none other. Treasured as a status symbol believed to bring good luck, the Asian arowana, or “dragon fish,” is a dramatic example of a modern paradox: the mass-produced endangered species. While hundreds of thousands are bred in captivity, the wild fish has become a near-mythical creature. From the South Bronx to Borneo and beyond, journalist Emily Voigt follows the trail of the arowana to learn its fate in nature.

With a captivating blend of personal reporting, history, and science, Voigt traces our fascination with aquarium fish back to the era of exploration when intrepid naturalists stood on the cutting edge of modern science, discovering new species around the globe. In an age when freshwater fish now comprise one of the most rapidly vanishing groups of animals, she unearths a surprising truth behind the arowana’s rise to fame—one that calls into question how we protect the world’s rarest species.

An elegant examination of the human conquest of nature, The Dragon Behind the Glass revels in the sheer wonder of life’s diversity and lays bare our deepest desire—to hold on to what is wild.

When I read the above blurb – a pet fish that people commit murder over! –  I knew I had to read this book.  What with life and babies and all I didn’t read this right away, but when I read mention of an arowana getting plastic surgery in Rich People Problems it sparked my memory and I knew I had to read the Dragon Behind the Glass soon.  And I learned Kevin Kwan didn’t make it up – people really are that extreme about the Asian Arowana!  

Once I started reading I was hooked!  (Also I’m clearly hilarious)  What started as one story in New York let Voigt into places that very few people travel to try to find the story of the wild arowana.   She follows both the collectors who want the fish for the prosperity it can bring and the scientists trying to study a possible new strain.   I know I am not such an explorer so it was fascinating reading how far the quest to see something new and wild would take Voigt and the biologists that she worked with.  I know I wouldn’t try to get into Burma just to catch a glimpse of a fish in its native environment! Especially for such an odd looking fish.  Fish conventions, fish nicknames, fish theft – quite a world out there.

Voigt also left me thinking more deeply than I expected about how we treat endangered or threatened species and how those animals end up on the list in the first place.  While I fear without an endangered list we would drive even more species to extinction she has me wondering if instead we do even more harm than good.  When my daughter and I took our usual turn around the fish department at the local pet store last week I definitely was looking at all those tanks differently.  

Thank you Scribner and NetGalley for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!