We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of “We Should All Be Feminists…””

4/5 stars.
ebook, 32 pages.
Read September 20, 2018

I can’t recall how I found this short essay but I’m really glad I did. I have often a wondered what exactly feminism means today? Especially in this volatile political environment. How can we as women explain our situation to the many men (and some women) who still don’t think that it is a relevant position to take a stand on in the present day? Well, I think the continued awareness and prevalence of rape culture, that a misogynist is the American president, how toxic masculinity is creating more and more troubled men, and the potential uproar over women’s basic rights in first world countries and all over the globe is more than enough time to consider how important feminism still is. This essay is important, so much so that I wish I could casually hand a copy of this to nearly everyone I know.  Essays like this should be required reading in high school and universities everywhere. 

“Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”

How do you persuade people to understand a point of view? You explain how your point of view will benefit them and to not attack them for their current views. Chimamanda finds this wonderful balance between stating facts firmly to diffusing difficult aspects of feminism with grace and humour. She discusses the marginalization of men and women and the archaic beliefs that shape this discrimination, while also recognizing that we’re all unconsciously shaped by our culture so it’s easy to get caught up in what’s perceived as normal. Feminism is here to help us dismantle the beliefs that no longer benefit us in society, and that’s for both men and women. Feminism is not something to be feared, as many men do, as there is a history has a prevalence of fearmongering when it comes to women empowering themselves and others. 

“We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. “

In end, people will believe what they want to believe. You cannot move people like Trump and those who follow him, but for the rest of us that want better for humanity and are constantly trying to understand and improve, this essay is a wonderful, pervasive and persuasive read. 

“A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: We must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.” 

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

If you have ever found a science textbook boring, I assure you this is the furthest thing from it.

4/5 stars.
Hardcover, 222 pages.
Read from September 1, 2017 to September 4, 2017.

Many of us don’t explore physics past high school. I know I sure didn’t. It was not out of lack of interest but my math skills were always poor and so I just avoided the class altogether to save myself and my grades. Yet before school smashed my learning desires on the subject I loved science and space. I grew up adoring Bill Nye the Science Guy and appreciated the fun approach that the show took. Neil deGrasse Tyson is like Bill Nye but for adults. He makes the idea of learning about space fascinating again.

This book is exactly how it is described. A short read that is a little over 200 pages long that entails the basics of astrophysics and some of the major people and discoveries that have been made. If you have ever found a science textbook boring, I assure you this is the furthest thing from it. This book covers all the basic theories, like gravity and Einstein’s theory of relativity and how they are both still playing a major factor in the progress of science today. The book is able to get technical without getting overly complicated as it perfectly caters to beginners in astrophysics.

“Everyone of our body’s atoms is traceable to the big bang and to the thermonuclear furnaces within high mass stars that exploded more than five-million years ago…We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out—- and we have only just begun.”

While I did not know much about Neil prior to this book, his personality is hard to miss. I often read the interviews that he does in National Geographic as well as watching the few educational shows that he has cameoed in. Neil is funny, smart and engaging and his writing style is very much the same.  At one point in the book when he is going over a few of the essential laws, he describes a funny situation in which he orders a hot chocolate with whipped cream at a coffee shop and when it arrives there is no whipped cream. The barista states that it has sunk to the bottom but as Neil knows that “whipped cream has low density and floats on all liquids that humans consume” so he offered the barista two possible explanations, “Either the laws of physics that apply everywhere in the universe are suspended in your coffee shop or you didn’t put whipped cream on my hot cocoa.”  Neil’s lighthearted humour is what makes this book truly exceptional and enjoyable.

Even if you are only moderately interested in science and astrophysics I would recommend reading this book. Its content is important and awe-inspiring. It is truly remarkable how much we have been able to learn about space and our world and just how much further we have to go. It is a lovely reminder that we are all apart of the bigger picture.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

“Dear old world’, she murmured, ‘you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 333 pages.
Read from June 13, 2017 to June 19, 2017.

Don’t ask me how I did not manage to read this book when I was a child. Most Canadian girls have read this yet some how it alluded me. However, I am glad I read this book as an adult as I do not think I would have appreciated it in my youth.

Anne’s young life has been a trying one. She has spent the last few years in an orphanage after both of her parents passed away. Despite the fact that they specifically wanted a boy, Anne is temporarily taken in by Matthew and Marilla Cuthburt who live in the Green Gables house on Prince Edward Island. Anne must then convince the couple that she is worth keeping. The problem being that Anne is wildly imaginative, talkative, and has a temper that is as fiery as her flame-red hair. Matthew instantly takes a liking Anne, despite him normally being shy and reserved, but Marilla however, will take more convincing. Anne wants nothing more than to be loved after feeling unwanted and abandoned for so long but can she still be herself and convince the Cuthburt’s that she worthy of their home?

“I’ve just been imagining that it was really me you wanted after all and that I was to stay here for ever and ever. It was a great comfort while it lasted. But the worst of imagining things is that the time comes when you have to stop and that hurts.”

Anne has a wonderful imagination. That was by far my favourite aspect of the book, however I found Anne to be so damn dramatic that it was borderline annoying. While I appreciate how brave and ballsy she can be at times, which I would have adored in my youth, her dramatics would have also likely put me off the book. For example:

  • “I can’t cheer up — I don’t want to cheer up. It’s nicer to be miserable!”
  • “I can’t. I’m in the depths of despair. Can you eat when
    you are in the depths of despair?”

However, you have to give it to Anne, she is unique through and through and her story is fun and adventurous. Montgomery’s writing style is lovely as well. She mixes chapters that have a third person narrator to direct first person accounts from Anne’s diary (spelling mistakes and all). It is easy to see how this book became so acclaimed and how it wormed its way into the hearts of so many readers.

While I enjoyed the book and all of Anne’s little adventures, I do not feel inclined to read the rest of the book in the trilogy as I did not connect with Anne’s character as much as I was hoping to. However, the Canadian setting was gorgeously depicted and I can’t fault any details of the plot line as the book kept me highly engaged. Overall I would recommend this book for any young girl of reading age or for any Canadian who has yet to read this timeless classic.