I don’t talk about it a ton on here, but I’m low-key obsessed with The Good Place. I’ve watched the entire series all the way through maybe six or seven times (not an exaggeration). I also make other people watch it so I can talk about it all the time. It just makes me really happy. And one of my favorite things to come out of me watching the show is discovering Jameela Jamil (who plays the lovely Tahani). She is also behind the iWeigh movement, which targets body shaming. Oh, and she’s done a ton of awesome work on getting ads for dangerous diet supplements as well as unrealistic photoshop ads targeted towards young people on social media removed or redesigned. Basically, she rocks.
And one day, when I was perusing lists of celebrities’ favorite books, I came across hers. Which has a ton of nonfiction on it, so I immediately thought it would be perfect for Nonfiction November. I chose five books I had not yet read (I’d already read both Lucky by Alice Sebold and Hunger by Roxane Gay, both of which are great). And here’s what I thought about them:
She Must Be Mad by Charly Cox
I honestly had no idea what to expect going into this one. It’s a book of poetry that reads more like a memoir. But it is not the author’s memoir, more a memoir of the collective female experience and the impact objectification has on our mental health. There was so much discussed in this book that I identified with. The uncomfortable comments, being made to feel that you’re crazy, feeling unsafe, the constant misogyny, and just generally how the way the world treats us affects how we treat ourselves.
I struggled with my mental health for a very, very long time. It’s just been this past year that I’ve been finally able to work on it in a constructive, mature way. (I’m in a good place now.) But in my healing process, I have realized that the way I was treated simply because I was a girl had a huge negative impact on my life. Charly Cox looks at this from a more adult perspective – which I have definitely encountered as well – but I think sexism is something most girls grow up knowing.
While I did absolutely appreciate the message of this book, and I actually liked the poetry, I struggled to connect with this one the way I wanted to. And I’m not sure why. This just didn’t hit the way I wanted it to, given the subject matter. It’s entirely possible that this was a personal issue and I disconnected a little bit simply because of my own past and trauma (although I didn’t feel like this was even a little bit triggering for me). Either way, I liked it, but didn’t love it. If you want to give this a try, I do recommend the audiobook – the author reads it, and I really enjoyed listening to her tell this story.
The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil
I was pretty prepared for this to be a difficult read. But it was seriously a tough read. This is Wamariya’s story of living and escaping from the Rwandan Genocide when she was just six, spending the next twelve years traveling through seven different countries in Africa over the next six years, and finally making it to America. It’s hard enough reading a memoir about war, but this one especially so because the author was just six years old when she experienced the effects of war.
This book has actually been on my reading list for a few years, but I just kept putting it off. But despite the fact that I procrastinated reading this for a ridiculously long time, I am very glad that I finally did. It’s just one of those books that I like to read because they expose me to experiences that are wildly different from my own. That’s something I value, because it has made me a better and more understanding person. I think it’s important for everyone to read books that broaden their worldview and help them be more open to other people, and this is a great one. I can definitely see why it made this list.
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
If you know me or read my blog, you can probably guess that this book made me a little angry. Because despite making an effort and actually reading a lot of books both by black authors and about racism, the fact that racism is still such a problem royally pisses me off. As a white person, let me just say that we suck and I’m sorry. And even though I am obviously not a “but what about all lives?” asshole, I still want to make up for the fact that my neighbors almost certainly are.
This book did not teach me that black lives matter – because if you need a book to teach you that, you have a lot of work to do before reading this. But it did give me more insight into exactly what black people have to go through pretty much on a daily basis. Like, I know racism is very real and a pretty big problem. But knowing that and living it are not the same thing. And I think it is important to read books like this so that I can better understand and empathize without experiencing it exactly the same way.
One thing I have learned (not just from this book, but it did help) is that people who have the privilege of not being discriminated against constantly truly can’t understand what that feels like. I can imagine it. And the more I read, the better I am at imagining it (at least, that’s what I hope is happening). But I will never truly know what I would do or feel in that situation. So it is really valuable to read and listen to the voices of people of color. And I really appreciated this book for that. Plus, it was cool to read about the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement. Definitely recommend this one!
Breaking and Mending: A Junior Doctor’s Stories of Compassion & Burnout by Joanna Cannon
So when I initially put this list together (months ago), I kind of just picked a semi-random selection of books on Jameela’s favorites list that I hadn’t already read and that sounded interesting. The title of this one gave me This is Going to Hurt vibes, and I loved that one, so I had to choose this one. What I did not anticipate was that I would read this tale of burnout while I was actually burnt out. Which is to say, this hit a little closer to home than anticipated and, as a result, was not the most enjoyable read.
But it was pretty good. I did like how Cannon viewed her job. She approached it with a lot of compassion, and that was nice to see. But I just didn’t connect with this one as much as I wanted to. Something about the writing didn’t quite work for me, and while there was nothing I particularly disliked about this book, it wasn’t the most enjoyable read for that reason. Which was a little bit disappointing. As it always is when I read a good book that just isn’t for me.
I Never Said I Loved You by Rhik Samadder
I will give myself a little credit and say that having to read a book partly about burnout during my own burnout was coincidence. Following it up with a memoir about depression? Past me must have had high hopes for my mental state going into the holiday season this year. I won’t lie, I was a little annoyed with her when I first started this book, especially coming off the last few. But it ended up being completely fine because I identified with this book so, so much. And instead of it being painful to read, it was kind of nice to find a book that felt so similar to my own experience, both in having depression and healing from it.
There was also something about the writing style of this book that I really enjoyed. It was honestly pretty fun to read (despite being about a not-fun topic). Which was honestly kind of nice after reading the rest of the books on this list. And I am just now realizing that the book about depression is the only book on this list that didn’t make me feel more depressed because it’s not all about how much the world sucks. So I guess that’s good.
Seriously, though, this was a really great book. Having been depressed for a very long time and just recently recovered, I can say that Rhik Samadder did a great job of describing how that feels. I honestly think this might be a great book to pick up for anyone. Because if you know what depression feels like, it is nice to find out you’re not totally alone. And if you are lucky enough to never have had to battle depression, this will give you a lot of insight into what other people go through. Because it sucks, and we should be more understanding of it. Basically, the takeaway is that you should probably go read this book.
And that’s it for this reading experiment! I have one left in 2021, but I think this is definitely the most successful so far. I didn’t dislike any of the books I read, and I even gave three of these books five-stars. So definitely a win!
Honestly, it’s not too surprising that this one worked for me so well. Partly because I think nonfiction that I’m interested in just tends to get higher ratings from me. But also because Jameela Jamil is awesome, so clearly the books she likes are, too.
I can’t say I had fun doing this experiment because these were not the easiest, most lighthearted books I’ve read this year, but I did enjoy it. I learned a lot. I appreciated each of these stories, and I do think it made my Nonfiction November more successful.
What did you think? Did you like this experiment? Have you/do you plan on reading any of these books?
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