How to be a Woman is part memoir and part feminist educational material. Caitlan Moran is a British journalist and she uses this memoir to explore her relationship with her own womanhood and help define feminism for woman who may be uncomfortable with that term. She sums it up basically saying if you have a vagina and want to be in charge of it, you’re a feminist! I can’t disagree but was surprised that it took this comedic look at feminism to admit that they were feminists. A little disappointing in some friends, but at least they learned.
Anyway, this was a funny look at all things woman: from waxing, periods, pregnancy, how society views women, aging, and so much more.
I was amused throughout the book and thought Moran’s personal history was worthy of a book by itself. Her relationship with her sister cracked me up!
Read February 2017
Amy Poehler is fucking funny. I want to be her best friend. In Yes Please, she talks about how hard she’s worked to get where she is in her career and she doesn’t take any of it for granted. She talked about her beginning in improv, her stint on SNL, her current work in Parks and Recreation, and she’s just so funny.
In the book, there were many guest writers which I thought appropriate since she’s used to writing with a team. And you can tell that she loves all the people she talks about, even her ex-husband, and never says anything bad about her friends. She’s also a mom to 2 young kids and hasn’t always been the best person. She owns up to her failures and makes me cry with her, and then makes me laugh because she’s just so fucking funny.
Anyway, this is a memoir and she talks a lot about things that I’ve never heard of or watched. But the best part of reading this is looking up all the stupid skits online and laughing out loud.
This was a great book! Much funnier that any memoir I’ve ever read.
Read July 2015.
Before talking about Diane Keaton’s memoir, Then Again, let me say that I’ve never had a strong opinion about Diane Keaton. Her role in Baby Boom was one of my favorite as a young girl, but I never saw her iconic movie Annie Hall until I was in college and at that point, while I could appreciate some of its charm and cinematic significance, it just felt dated. I also knew nothing of her personal life or much about her acting life.
Now that I’ve read Then Again, I don’t feel like I’m better off. For someone who led a pretty interesting life, Diane Keaton mostly focused on her relationship with her mother. A relationship that, while not great, was a pretty decent mother-daughter relationship. She describes her mother as a lost artist and she shares a kinship with her. But, to be honest, I don’t really care about her relationship with her mother. I also was not interested in very much that she had to say. In this memoir, Keaton relates that Woody Allen wrote the role of Annie Hall based on her and her family. That is interesting. Her description of Warren Beatty as a lover, director, and actor didn’t last long, yet it was one of the more interesting sections. Yet, somehow, her mother’s presence dominated the pages.
It felt like Diane Keaton had a ghost writer and anytime something too personal came up, Keaton wouldn’t allow the writer to expand on it. But the writer recognized the interesting parts of the story and tried to include them as best as they could. Or Keaton knew that people’s interest would be peeked by her small personal revelations, and included them to help boost sales. Either way, this book might be better suited to a contemporary of Diane Keaton’s who could appreciate the time period where the majority of movies came out. I kept having to reference her movies online to try to remember if I’d ever seen them. For the most part, I have not.
Overall, I would say this book was not terribly engaging since I knew very little about the topic ahead of time and the most interesting parts were condensed stories. For anyone interested in Diane Keaton’s life, this memoir would be a required read and wouldn’t take too long to get through.
Read July 2014.
Amanda Knox’s Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir, is Knox’s own story about her brief time at school in Perugia, Italy and the four years that followed in an Italian prison. I followed the case after the murder of Meredith Kercher in November 2007 and learning the story from Knox’s perspective was an exciting listen (I listened to the audiobook version).
Knox reveals how her actions caused the Perugian police to hone in on her as the suspect, but she does it without owning up to her part. She couldn’t remember what she and her boyfriend did the night of the murder only a couple of days after so the police began to suspect her of covering up. She ended up dragging 2 men through the Italian court system because she couldn’t remember what happened when she went over to Raffaele Sollecito’s apartment the night of the murder. I’m not excusing the Italian justice system for their mishandling of this case, at least from the horrific tale that Knox takes us through.
Knox’s memoir is filled with the details that I remember from the crime and her defense is that she was naive and innocent and didn’t think of how her actions would look in the light of a murder investigation. I get that she was young and unworldly, but I also understand why initially the police took her actions as guilty. And I feel this way after hearing her own words about the events.
However, based on the evidence that was finally admitted into her second trial, I cannot believe that the police let the case proceed based on the minimal evidence and intuition with which they relied. I’m relieved to know that at least one of the murderers is behind prison, although how he had his sentenced lowered is ridiculous.
This book also acts as a tutorial into the Italian legal system which is a scary place viewed from the perspective of a wrongfully convicted prisoner. And after reading this, I truly believe that Knox is innocent of the murder and its unfortunate that so many lives were ruined, including the Kercher family who lost their daughter and sister.
Read/listened July 2013
In Chelsea Handler’s Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea, she looks back over her life and includes a collection of stories about her ridiculous exploits, family, and travels. Handler is primarily a comedian, not a writer, and this is apparent in this novel. While the stories can be funny, many of them fall flat.
The stories also range from a variety of topics including her love of midgets and why red haired men aren’t attractive. There is nothing that weaves the stories together, which would be a bigger problem if this were a serious literary collection. But since its not, the fact that the stories were a hodgepodge from her life didn’t really matter to me.
If I knew Handler’s comedy better, I think this book would have worked more for me. If the reader is able to put Handler’s voice and comedic timing into the reading, which I tried to do, the stories worked better. But the writing itself didn’t do this. The reader needs to do it. Which makes it a difficult read if you don’t know her comedy very well.
For a light hearted summer read, I think this book worked well enough. It was a quick read and it had some amusing stories, so I think it served its purpose as a humorous book.
Read July 2013
Alexandra Aldrich’s The Astor Orphan is a memoir about growing up in the American Aristocratic Astor family with the twist that although she lived a childhood in one of the oldest, largest homes Alexandra grew up in poverty. The mansion was falling apart, her parents never worked, her grandmother almost drank herself to death, and yet their pride of a great family remained.
While this book was interesting to see how the other half lived, I think in order to have a successful memoir, the author should have more insight into the circumstances that she’s writing about. Understandably, it would be difficult to grow up in a former prosperous family where her uncle and aunt seem to still be somewhat successful, Alexandra did not live the life of someone in actual poverty. For example, Alexandra tells that she may have had to figure out how to get enough food, but she and her mother travelled every year or so to Poland. She never discusses where this money came from to support this extravagance. Also, while she complains that she has to wear thrift store clothes, she tells of extraordinary hippie events that her father allowed to be hosted on the property. Alexandra complains that whenever her wealthy aunt came to visit, her grandmother would buy new bedding for her family, but this same aunt paid for her to go to a boarding school.
I understand that this story is told from a young girl’s perspective, but the years should have give Aldrich more insight into how her family’s life was able to remain as it did. Part of the problem is that she is self centered and thinks her part of this family’s story is the one that should have been told, but she’s the wrong point of view for this memoir. Every adult in this novel sounded much more interesting that the whining of a young girl, yet we don’t get the the nitty gritty behind their lives. Where does the grandmother get her money? How do they afford to travel to Eastern Europe enough for her to feel more of a connection with her Polish roots than the aristocratic family she lived with. Who the hell are the Astors? If you’re going to write a novel about how your once great family has fallen on hard times, don’t assume the reader has a clue who your family it…especially if your last name is not Astor.
Anyway, the memoir had some interesting tidbits of a fall from wealth, but it was told from the wrong perspective without enough details to make it a good read.