Non-Fiction Week: On Writing

Cover of "On Writing:  A Memoir of the Cr...

Cover via Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5

Today is the last day of non-fiction week, and I’d be lying if I said I’m sad that it’s over. Turns out blogging for five consecutive days is a lot harder than I imagined. On the bright side, I’ve reached a new milestone of 30,000 total views, so that makes all the work worth it!

I am glad, however, that I chose Stephen King’s On Writing as my last piece of non-fiction. I’ve never actually read one of King’s fictional novels, because I’m a huge scaredy-cat, but this half-memoir, half-writing-guidebook was one of my favorite books from my creative writing classes at UC Santa Cruz.

On Writing (2000) is great precisely because King has lived a fascinating life. I appreciated his honesty when discussing his drug abuse and enjoyed excerpts where he explained the origin stories of his novels (for example, did you know that it was King’s stint as a janitor cleaning girls’ locker rooms that led to Carrie?)

And let’s face it, King is so crazy rich and famous in the literary world that it’s natural to be curious to learn his secret to success. Readers usually love the “Toolbox” chapter the most, as he lays down his rules to good writing.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes, courtesy of Goodreads:

  • “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
  • “Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.” 
  • “Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
  • “Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”

King also shares edits of his own work and ends with a list of the books which most influenced him. I like his straight-shooting, unapologetic approach to writing, and I’m still reminded of his advice years after reading it.

And speaking of reading, I know that it seems a travesty that I haven’t read more of King. Anyone want to recommend a book or series of his that won’t give me nightmares? Please and thanks!

I hope that you’ve enjoyed Non-Fiction Week here at Book Club Babe! Now it’s time for me to enjoy the weekend!

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Non-Fiction Week: Full Frontal Feminism

Image via JessicaValenti.com

Rating: 5 out of 5

The Boston bombings. The Waco explosion. The MIT shooting. And that’s just the recent horrors in America. It’s been terribly heartbreaking this past week, so overwhelming you wonder whether the world is falling apart right in front of you. These tragedies make any book review simply a speck of triviality, but the blog must go on…

And to make things more light-hearted given the nature of the topics about to be discussed, I’ll be inserting music videos of what I consider my favorite feminist songs!


Starting with “Independent Women, Pt. 1” by Destiny’s Child!

What Jessica Valenti does in Full Frontal Feminism (2007) is drive home the fact that you shouldn’t be ashamed to call yourself a feminist, because everyone should fight for equal rights between the sexes.

She starts off the very first page contemplating why it is that the absolute worst names you could call women AND men are all derogatory toward women only. “The worst thing you can call a girl is a girl. The worst thing you can call a guy is a girl. Being a woman is the ultimate insult. Now tell me that’s not royally f***ed up.


“U + Ur Hand” by P!nk

Hopefully, you’ll immediately be engrossed in her argumentation, shaking your fist with agreement. The chapters of this book address essential aspects of women’s rights, including the demand for reproductive freedom and the battle against the materialistic beauty, fashion, and wedding industry complexes.

And importantly, she discusses how sexism impacts men as well. Upholding traditional gender stereotypes like “boys don’t cry” further strengthens patriarchy and keeps everyone from reaching their true potential.

Valenti got her start as the founder of Feministing.com, so she brings plenty of social science stats to the table. Here are some of the most powerful:

  • “One in six women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. (Keep in mind, rape is one of the most underreported crimes, so that statistic is likely too low.)”
  • “A 2006 report showed that 87% of ‘pregnancy crisis’ centers–which have received more than $30 million in federal funding–provided false or misleading information about abortion.”
  • “The government stat reporting that women make only 76 cents to a man’s dollar comes from data that looks at women and men who work full-time. It doesn’t include women who took time off or who worked part-time. So there.”
  • “For every year a woman in her twenties waits to have children, her lifetime earnings increase by 10 percent.”


“I Don’t Need a Man” by The Pussycat Dolls

It’s hard not to become filled with rage reading about all the sexual inequality in this country, but what can you do? Here are some of the ways Valenti believes you can make a difference:

  • Support the pro-choice movement by voting down restrictive reproductive legislation and the sexist politicians who push it.
  • Speak out against abstinence-only education. Teens deserve access to accurate, comprehensive information in order to make knowledgeable decisions about their sex lives.
  • Don’t, under any circumstances, believe that a woman deserves to be raped. She can be a naked, drunk prostitute walking down an alley at 2:00 am and she should expect nothing but a hangover in the morning.
  • Don’t uphold marriage and motherhood as the only legitimate life paths for women, thereby looking down upon those who choose to be single and childfree.


“King of Anything” by Sara Bareilles

There are many other nuances about feminism that I could discuss, but that’s not the focus of my blog. Women’s rights is just an issue that I feel very strongly about, so please ask me any questions or share your own thoughts in the comment section.

I just wanted to highlight Valenti’s book as an example of fantastic non-fiction that urges you to rethink traditional gender roles and take notice of everyday sexism. She’s a strong, opinionated, passionate woman who refuses to censor herself to sound “ladylike.” Like all the authors this week, you can also follow her on Twitter. I recommend all of her other books as well!

And lastly, if you’re feeling really brave, check out my last favorite feminist song. It’s definitely R-rated so I won’t link to it, but just search for “The Loophole” by comedic female duo Garfunkel and Oates. You’ll either find it hilarious or horrifying–you’ve been warned!

Non-Fiction Week: Life After College

Cover via Small Hands, Big Ideas

Rating: 4 out of 5

I think that it’s safe to say that only recently have people been trying to cash in on promising to relieve others’ anxiety about graduating college. Heck, most from previous generations didn’t even go to college, so life didn’t present as many transitions as it does today.

But now that the college attendance rate has been steadily climbing, young adults are experiencing an extended adolescence, especially since less than half will actually finish school in the traditional four years.

In a world of stressed-out over-achievers, nobody speaks their language like Jenny Blake, author of Life After College. Much like Christine Hassler whom I discussed yesterday, Blake has made a living as a Millennial life coach. By the time she was 25, she had snagged a job at Google, ran a marathon, bought a house, and created a blog. Her ambition drove her into the ground with exhaustion, so she decided to transform herself into a mentor for other 20-somethings.

Needless to say, I enjoy reading non-fiction books about coping with life transitions, and it was fun to compare Blake to Hassler. Hassler comes from a background in spiritual psychology, so she specializes in reaching the source of your emotional issues. Blake, on the other hand, is an expert in goal-setting, so her book offers practical, straightforward advice on getting what you want in life.

With chapters on work, money, home, organization, friends/family, dating/relationships, health, fun/relaxation, and personal growth, Life After College has exercises for everything. Along the way, you get tidbits from other college graduates via Twitter and interviews. Each chapter also contains recommended reading and inspirational quotes.

The book’s format is a huge plus, as it’s super easy to read, and has plenty of space to complete the exercises and write miscellaneous notes. Type-A folks will definitely appreciate its matter-of-fact layout and design.

As with any favorite mentor, I recommend reading Blake’s updates on lifeaftercollege.org (where you can download Google Doc organization templates) and following her on Twitter.

This would be a fabulous gift for a friend or relative graduating from college, as it’s a positive, useful text that doesn’t even read like others in the self-improvement genre. Think of it as your roadmap to the “real world!”

And the real world charges interest…

Non-Fiction Week: 20 Something, 20 Everything

Cover via Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Do you feel a need to “have it all?”

Do you feel older for the first time in your life?

Are you stressed out by choices that seemingly will affect the rest of your life?

If you answered “OMG yes!” to these questions, according to Christine Hassler, you might be suffering from a new psychological trend called “the quarter-life crisis.”

At 25, Hassler ditched her lucrative job as a Hollywood agent because the stress and lack of fulfillment were making her crazy. Then when her next job and engagement to her fiance fell apart, she found herself on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

But instead of throwing in the towel, she decided to help other 20-somethings through their struggles by becoming a life coach. 20 Something, 20 Everything (which she published in 2005 at 28) caters to young women, while her second book The 20-Something Manifesto (2008) is gender-universal.

And although the book is a bit outdated, considering that Hassler’s new boyfriend which she gushes about goes from being her husband to her ex-husband in a few short years, she still effectively addresses the anxieties of Generation Me.

If you prefer self-help with structure and well-thought-out guidelines, Hassler is for you. Her whole coaching strategy revolves around three questions: Who am I? What do I want? How do I get what I want? 

Life doesn’t work like that, Marnie from “Girls.” There’s fun in figuring it out for yourself, and Hassler can help you!

She takes a basic foundation and examines the nuances behind these questions. The book provides 69 exercises to confront your preconceived notions of success, the societal pressures you experience, and the changes you can make to achieve a more balanced, rewarding life.

Through the chapters addressing love, work, and independence, she sprinkles words of wisdom from older women she interviewed to further demonstrate that what you’re feeling is normal and that you are not alone.

While it’s interesting to read statistics of living as a Millennial in books such as Twenge’s Generation Me, it’s also nice to look at the emotional issues as well. A lot of self-improvement texts are full of hot air, but 20 Something, 20 Everything has so much substance that you walk away knowing that you got your money’s worth. Why spend thousands of dollars working with Hassler personally when her book is therapy enough?

And the best part? Her advice applies to everyone! Male, female, gay, straight, rich, poor–everyone has felt lost and overwhelmed at times. You can go through a “crisis” at any age, especially when you’re dealing with unresolved issues or trying to live by anyone’s standards but your own.

If you’d like to experience Hassler’s advice for free, I encourage you to follow her on Twitter. Although she takes a more spiritual approach to life coaching, most of her sentiments appeal to a wide audience.

So what do you think? In what ways could your life use a little boost?

Non-Fiction Week: Generation Me

Cover of "Generation Me: Why Today's Youn...

Cover via Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5

GenY. Millennials. NetGen. iGen. Jean M. Twenge, Ph.D., is throwing another term in the ring to describe the current generation of young adults: Generation Me.

Twenge defines GenMe as anyone born in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, thereby including the later part of GenX, but I’d argue that that timeline is much too long. Typically, we’re talking about those born between 1982-2000. (Sorry, Twenge, you’re too old to play in our clubhouse!) Some extend the demographics a little longer, and overlaps can exist, but in my opinion, 9/11 serves as a stark divider between generations in America.

Media outlets would have everybody believe that anyone under 30 is snotty and spoiled, which Twenge addresses in the full title of her book: Generation Me: Why today’s young Americans are more confident, assertive, entitled — and more miserable than ever before.

Who wouldn’t pay attention with a title like that?

Huh? Pay attention to what? I’m too busy texting people right next to me.

What I like about Twenge is that she actually examines the stereotypes to determine to what extent they apply. Using data from 12 studies on 1.3 million young Americans, she highlights the differences between the babies and the Baby Boomers.

Here’s just a sample of her research:

  • GenMe is not very religious: Only 18% of 18-29yo attend weekly religious services, and while few would label themselves non-believers, most prefer their faith unorganized.
  • GenMe has high expectations of success, but few actually meet them: 75% of college freshman in 2003 desired an advanced degree, but only 4% will go on to receive a Ph.D. In 1999, teens also predicted they would be earning $75,000 at 30yo. The average income at that age that year? $27,000.
  • GenMe has delayed traditional markers of adulthood: Average age of first marriage is 27 for men and 25 for women. “In 2002, 57% of men and 43% of women ages 22 to 31 lived with their parents.” And only 37% receive their bachelor’s degrees in four years.
  • GenMe is house-poor: “The number of middle-class families who paid over 35% of their income toward the mortgage more than quadrupled between 1975 and 2001. With the median home now selling for $219,000 and the median family income at around $43,000, the average American family would need to spend 5 times their income to buy this home.”
  • GenMe is buried in debt: “Average student loan debt has increased 85% in the last ten years alone; 66% of recent college graduates owe more than $10,000, and 5% own more than $100,000.” And that’s just undergrad!
  • GenMe is risking its health: Only 25% of adults 25-34 have health insurance, and bankruptcies caused by illness or medical debt increased 2,200% between 1981 and 2001.

I’ll admit that after reading this information, you can feel so overwhelmed that you just want to give up. How can anyone survive with such a rapidly rising standard of living?

Sounds about right!

And even though over half my paycheck goes to rent, I’m lucky enough to have a Bachelor’s and Master’s with only a small student loan, a full-time job that provides health insurance and a 401(k), no credit card debt, and a family that supported me until I was able to find a place of my own.

That doesn’t mean that life can’t take it all away at any moment. Everyone is only one accident, illness, or layoff away from poverty. So I’d argue that these hard economic times mean that the majority of 20-somethings are working insanely hard to support themselves.  Sure, there’s always freeloaders mooching off their parents or the government, but for a generation that doesn’t expect to receive Social Security, most try their hardest to move up the income ladder.

But times were tough in the old days too. So why is GenMe medicating depression and anxiety like never before? I’m so glad that Twenge pulled from this quote from “Fight Club,” because it explains the sentiment perfectly:

“God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables – slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of the history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve been all raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

Although, it’s awfully hard to stay pissed off when staring at Brad Pitt…

And it’s that gulf between expectation and reality that has GenMe miserable. Twenge discusses how telling kids that they can “achieve their dreams” because “anything is possible” is damaging. Inflating their self-esteem and giving them trophies just for participating has increased narcissism to rampant proportions.

Ask any teacher who’s been working for decades, like my mother. She has witnessed the decline of children’s behavior due to their parents treating them like special snowflakes who are perfect and can do no wrong. And there’s nothing a school can do when parents refuse to have their child held back a year or recognize their learning disabilities.

It seems harmless to let your children dress themselves or pick what they want to eat. But when parents forfeit all decision-making power, their kids grow up to be obnoxious princes and princesses.

Amen!

And when they realize they’re not actually princes and princesses? They’re now part of a disgruntled, attention-deficit workforce, making employers frustrated by high turnover.

I’m not saying that all young adults are ungrateful brats. But too many are, and it’s giving GenMe a bad–but often deserved–reputation. Yet, it’s easy to point fingers, because who do you think raised us? The Baby Boomers and GenX are simply reaping what they sow.

So what can we all do? Twenge’s last chapter gives some suggestions for several groups:

  • Employers: Recognize hard work and give praise when deserved; Offer good salaries, benefits, and flexible schedules; Establish paid maternal/paternal leave.
  • Educators: Provide better career counseling; Create a system of public pre-schools; Change school hours to mirror working hours.
  • Parents: Teach self-control and good behavior; Don’t automatically side with your child; Limit media exposure to violence.
  • GenMe: Limit consumption of materialistic media; Avoid overthinking; Value social relationships; Cultivate realistic expectations; Get involved in your community.

I particularly love the idea of changing school hours because it would make afternoon day care unnecessary, keep kids from getting into trouble, and improve academic performance. Why adults start their day at 9am, but kids who need more sleep are forced to start at 7:30am boggles my mind!

Ultimately, I recommend Generation Me to anyone interested in generational research and would like to learn more about what it means for the future. Whether you’re 27 or 72, Twenge’s findings demonstrate that there is much to discover about how young Americans play a major role in society.

“When Life Gets Really Hard” from #whatshouldwecallme…If only!