For the first time in what feels like FOREVER I’m returning my previous feature – Mid-Month Mini-Reviews! (Gosh, that’s a lot of hyphens, even for me. Emily Dickinson eat your heart out.)
This, um, year..? I’ve decided to try to tackle my appalling NetGalley backlist so that they don’t banish me from the site entirely. Luckily, I’ve had been given ARC’s of some amazing books through the site (sort of) recently so I get to squee and fangirl all the way through the reviews! Today, I’m looking at non-fiction books from queer authors (yes I meant to post this during Pride month but I got waylaid, ok?)
Happy Fat by Sophie Hagen
I can’t begin to tell you how much I learnt from reading this book. Sophie Hagen has taken one of the final taboo topics – being fat – and spoken so openly and so beautifully about what it’s like to live in a world that’s constantly treating your size like it’s something that you should definitely, absolutely be ashamed of – regardless of how you feel about yourself. She examines the issue from a variety of different viewpoints, providing her own insights and observations along the way; some of them are funny, some of them heartbreaking but it’s shocking at how aggressively, patronisingly or downright rudely Sophie has been treated.
As a non-fat person, I really appreciated the section where Sophie talked about how to be a good friend to someone who is fat, even though I was cringing at some of the things that I have very definitely said or done in the past and how problematic they are in hindsight.
By the end of this book, I can guarantee that you’ll feel like you’ve had your eyes suddenly opened to just how fat phobic the world actually is (unless of course this is just your lived reality, in which case I apologise for being so blind to it all). Once you’ve read Happy Fat you can’t go back – but I guarantee you’ll be a better person for reading it.
The Other Mother by Jen Brister
I really loved reading about Jen Brister’s experience of motherhood as “the other mother” – the partner of a woman giving birth to their twins. It provides a totally different perspective on the parenting experience and made me laugh, squirm and never, ever want to have children. Jen doesn’t shy away from the grim realities of motherhood and the *quite literal* amount of shit that having children brings.
What shines through the text is the sheer amount of love that Jen clearly has for her family. From seeing her partner as some kind of breastfeeding goddess (aww) to feeling her heart break a tiny bit every time one of her kids wants to be comforted by his other Mum, the text is imbrued with a sense that, even in the most desperate moments, she wouldn’t change it for the world.
As a child-free person I read this book with a certain amount of smug satisfaction, knowing that I can still go out when I want, book a meal out mere hours before I’m eating, drink too much wine and spend a leisurely day nursing a hangover with no need to get out of bed. I genuinely don’t know how anyone copes with TWO babies let alone one (especially when one of them doesn’t sleep for MONTHS) so I was also left with a huge sense of admiration.
Just don’t read it if you’re pregnant!
Unicorn by Amrou Al-Kadhi
I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved this memoir – I would have given it six stars if I could. Unicorn is the life story of Amrou Al-Kadhi; growing up in a strict Iraqui Muslim family, battling with the prejudice and racism of public school, dealing with their family’s homophobia to come out as queer and non-binary and finding themselves in their drag alter ego Glamrou (also marine biology and quantum physics seemed to help).
The story has a bit of everything – drama, regret, sadness, anger, love, drugs, loneliness… it’s a real rollercoaster of emotions and my heart went out to Amrou as they were confronted with almost every different type of prejudice that exists – often all at the same time.
As a cis-gendered white woman I found a surprising amount of commonality between Amrou’s feelings growing up and my own (EDIT why do I always write this? I really need to learn that underneath it all, people are all basically the same). In particular, their mother sounds like a Middle Eastern version of my own. I have vivid memories of watching my Mum doing her makeup every morning and tottering round town in stiletto heels and a cloud of hairspray. I could relate to those feelings of power that come from makeup and clothing – the exotic danger of red lipstick and the glamour of an 80’s shoulder pad. Except for me, the thrill of dressing up was seen as cute – for Amrou, it was a shameful betrayal of their culture.
Seeing Amrou battle their own mental health issues to find love and acceptance in the queer drag scene was incredibly uplifting, even though it wasn’t all plain sailing. I loved how Amrou drew strength from the things in their life that they loved to process their own feelings and how this strength formed the basis of a new relationship with their family – especially their Mum. If you’re looking to read an emotional, beautifully written and honest account of how to belong in a world that doesn’t understand you then this is the book for you.
Five “Why can’t I be friends with these people?” out of five for them all!
Please note that I read these book for free in exchange for an honest review courtesy of NetGalley. Thanks NetGalley!
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