Review: Not That Bad by Roxane Gay

Title: Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture
Author: Roxane Gay
Rating: ★★★★
Summary: Edited and with an introduction by Roxane Gay, this anthology of first-person essays tackles rape, assault, and harassment head-on to address what it means to live in a world where individuals have to measure the violence and aggression they face. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, this collection is heartbreaking and searingly candid, reflecting the world we live in while offering a call to arms to insist that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.


The essays in Not That Bad were difficult to read—mainly because I could do nothing but listen and stew and sigh in recognition—and I often found myself waiting days before picking back up. (Reading the book while also watching season one of 13 Reasons Why made that week… rough.) Twenty-nine writers are featured, and their stories feel both overwhelming and not enough. The pain and anger and sadness and shame and guilt and frustration contained is suffocating and endless… and then mere routine, just another example of why this book is needed in the first place. Almost everyone who contributed to the collection believes that whatever happened could have been worse, that their experience wasn’t that bad comparatively.

Because catcalling is not that bad when it could have been harassment.

Because harassment is not that bad when it could have been assault.

Because assault is not that bad when it could have been rape.

Because rape is not that bad when it could have been death.

But the onus of stopping this swift glide from words to action shouldn’t rest on those who experience the trauma that Not That Bad contains. If we—as both readers and potentially witnesses to such behavior—don’t allow victims to acknowledge that what happened to them was the worst that could, will we have to have this same conversation over and over again?

Maybe it’s good that I was forced to only listen, because it made me feel strongly that something can be that bad. There is no guide against which to measure; all grief is justified, all anger appropriate. I think it’s the very (very) least I can offer.

Top Ten: Things Books Have Made Me Want to Do or Learn

logo-TopTenTuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme was top ten things books have made me want to do or learn about after reading them, but I tweaked it slightly to include things I actually learned or did rather than things about which I got curious or still want to do.

BetweenTheWorldAndMeWhenBreathBecomesAir

1. I want to learn to be be more socially & racially aware of my privilege because of Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

2. I want to learn to be braver and more proactive (and have less regrets) because of When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.

 

 

WeShouldAllBeFeministsBadFeminist

3. I’m learning to say the ‘f’ word with pride because of We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

4. I’m learning to be more forgiving of myself because of Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.

 

 

LolitaWhereThingsComeBack

5. I learned that there are just some things about which I can’t read because of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

6. I learned that I can’t relate to teenagers anymore because of Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.

 

 

TheRoyalWeFourthComings

7. I want to study abroad because of The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan.

8. I want to live in NYC because of Fourth Comings by Megan McCafferty.

 

 

ASpyAmongFriendsLipLock

9. I wanted to Google because of A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre.

10. I wanted to tumble down the romance rabbit hole because of Lip Lock by Susanna Carr.

Top Ten: Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2016

logo-TopTenTuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme was my most anticipated releases for the second half (July through December) of 2016.

Yay new books! I am also very excited about Roxane Gay’s new memoir, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, and Justin Cronin’s The City of Mirrors.

ttt_NewReleases07-122016_A

July

5: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson

12: Lumberjanes, Vol. 4: Out of Time by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooke Allen

26: The Unseen World by Liz Moore

August

2: The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race by Jesmyn Ward

9: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

ttt_NewReleases07-122016_B

16: The Gentleman by Forrest Leo / The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

September

27: Black Panther, Vol. 1: A Nation Under Our Feet by Ta-Nehisi Coates / Time Travel by James Gleick

December

16: Lumberjanes, Vol. 5: Band Together by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, and Brooke Allen

The Hold Shelf #1

Very rarely do I place library holds on new releases – either because I can’t predict when a book will find its way to me (when I’m in the middle of something else??) or because there just isn’t anything I absolutely have to read right away. And then there are these titles:

26891429The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin: all I can say right now is some variation of this and this. Not only am I planning on reading The City of Mirrors right away, I’m about 110% sure that I am going to pre-order the hardcover copy because I AM SO READY FOR THIS BOOK.

AGatheringOfShadowsA Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab: after (basically) speed-reading through A Darker Shade of Magic, I knew I wouldn’t be able to wait very long for its sequel.

HamiltonHamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeffrey Seller: I am obsessed with this musical (and its soundtrack), okay. OBSESSED. I want need this in my grubby hands asap because reasons. (Also Lin is my queen.)

HungerHunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay: after reading (and loving) Bad Feminist, anything Gay writes is pretty much going to be a “stop what you’re doing and read this right now” kind of deal – especially if its nonfiction.

AMothersReckoningA Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold: not all school shootings get their own biographies (a la Columbine by Dave Cullen), and not all school shooters are revisited decades later, but, for better or worse, the tragedy at Columbine stands out. Cullen’s book is already on my tbr list, but reading A Mother’s Reckoning might push it up to the top.

RosalieLightningRosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir by Tom Hart: this book will probably make me cry (I’m sort of expecting it to), but, from what I’ve heard, it’s going to be amazing (in that heartbreaking sad kind of way).

WhenBreathBecomesAirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: I rarely get seized by literary FOMO – either something that “pops” sounds interesting and I put it on my tbr list to be revisited when the hype dies down (and library copies become available) or I do a little research and am, like, “eh, not for me” – but Kalanithi’s posthumous memoir is something I’m willing to wait months to read.

Top Ten: Authors I Read for the First Time in 2015

logo-TopTenTuesdayTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme was authors I read for the first time in 2015.

Some of these authors had been on my radar before the start of the year, and then some of them popped up along with whatever book I ultimately read! (I included the titles that got me hooked as well.)

  1. Amy Poehler (Yes Please)
  2. Andy Weir (The Martian)
  3. Aziz Ansari (Modern Romance)
  4. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (We Should All Be Feminists)
  5. Emily St. John Mandel (Station Eleven)
  6. G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal; Vol. 2: Generation Why; Vol. 3: Crushed; and Vol. 4: Last Days)
  7. Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan (The Royal We)
  8. Mindy Kaling (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and Why Not Me?)
  9. Noelle Stevenson (Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy and Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max)
  10. Roxane Gay (Bad Feminist)

Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

18813642Title: Bad Feminist: Essays
Author: Roxane Gay
Rating: ★★★★
Summary: In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman of color while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years and commenting on the state of feminism today. The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.


I don’t remember when “feminist” became such a buzz word in the pop culture strata during the last 3-5 years, but I do know that I started noticing it in my vocabulary a lot just last year. I may not have all my beliefs in order or all my shit together – which sort of makes the idea of embracing the possibility that there really are no “good” feminists out there, that we’re all “bad” in some way, kind of perfect – but I’m really in love with anyone who at least tries to, if not get their own shit together, then realize they are incapable of such clean-up. They own that mess, they curate it, and sort it, and protect it. Roxane Gay is one of those people.

Although Gay’s essays were too disjointed for my liking*, they were poignant and insightful and raw and questioning. She wrote about her discovery of competitive scrabble with the same passion as her conflicted feelings on misogynistic rap lyrics (especially Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” #ugh #gross). She gave me irrefutable proof on the mess that is Fifty Shades of Grey (god bless you for reading that pos, Roxane) and then delved even deeper into how prevalent rape and female violence are in literature.

Basically, there was an essay for everyone who either calls him or herself a feminist or is just interested in the concept. Gay took what could have been very personal diary entries on race, gender, sexuality, problematic faves, and politics and put all that messy shit into the world and fully explored what being a feminist means to her – and how, in both little and in big ways, she goes against that definition. Because, ultimately, what makes a feminist a feminist? What does it mean if you consider yourself a feminist and enjoy songs (or movies or celebrities) that go against the very ideals you hold dear? Is being feminist a be-all end-all philosophy or something more fluid and inclusive? If there is no singular definition for feminism, then how does one define it???

I don’t know, but Gay doesn’t know either. And maybe that’s the whole point of her collection of essays, to “try to keep…feminism simple.” She says, “I know feminism is complex and evolving and flawed. I know feminism will not and cannot fix everything… [but] feminism is a choice, and if a woman does not want to be a feminist, that is her right, but it is still my responsibility to fight for her rights.” Damn straight.

*There was some semblance of structure by way of loosely curated sections, but the essays in each section overlapped with or referenced earlier points (without actually referencing earlier essays) that I couldn’t help but think there would have been a better, more flow-y way of pulling everything together.