The Return of Mid-Month Mini-Reviews!

Hello Bookworms!

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

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 Bristerother

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!

 

unicornUnicorn 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!

Save this post on Pinterest!

Pinterest - mini reviews

 

Review: Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed


Or…the YA novel that made me realise I AM TOO OLD FOR THIS SHIT.

Maya Aziz is a typical teenager. She hangs out with her friends, goes to school and dreams of moving to New York to study film making at college. The only problem is her Indian Muslim super conservative parents are more interested in Maya meeting A Suitable Boy and getting married. Maya, however, is too busy giggling, blushing and hair twiddling at boys (Suitable and Unsuitable) to pay much attention to what anyone else wants for her and blindly follows her own path, regardless of the consequences. 

You see, this book is all about the cute. It is a magical sparkle pony of adorable rainbow puppies on a candy floss cloud of glitter. It is super cute boys meeting a super cute girl and falling in love with blushes and nose scrunches and flippy shiny flip hair. It is so saccharine it could give you diabetes. Luckily, the sugar coated lipgloss gloop is tempered with a storyline about – you guessed it – terrorism. 

Yeah, no – really.

And actually – it kind of worked. Had the book continued in the “he’s so cute! I want to stroke his hair!” vein, then it would have been a definite DNF. I hate fluffy romances and the main character Maya seemed to fall in insta love at the drop of a hat. However, because she’s Muslim (ish – more on that later) she’s subjected to horrible abuse. It’s awful to say, but it was the violence and borderline psychopathic hatred from some of her fellow students that kept me reading. This is an #ownvoices novel and I really got the impression that the Islamophobia represented in the book came from previous experience. Some of the scenes where Maya is targeted were upsetting but brilliantly written and gave the novel some depth.

As a character, Maya seemed quite two dimensional when it came to her emotions. She really fancied someone – then she didn’t. Then she decided it was because she liked another boy that the first one had to go. Then she became insta-friends with the first boy. Urgh. Who can turn their emotions on and off like that? Maya’s relationship with her parents was basically pretty uncaring – she spent an awful lot of time sneaking around behind their backs with absolutely NO GUILT whatsoever. Now, I can remember what it was like to be seventeen (just) and “staying with friends” when I was actually going to parties with boys and getting drunk but I always felt guilty about it, especially if I had to lie to their faces (in fact, there was no point because my mum would know instantly that I was up to something). Maya, however, gives no fucks. Bikini on, off to secluded swimming ponds with a boy from school, staying out overnight regardless of her parents getting crazy worried. Surely even the most self-centered teen would feel some kind of remorse? Even to my liberal western values she was way out of line.

This leads me to the cultural and religious representation depicted in the novel. Now, I am neither Indian nor Muslim so I can’t really say if the representation was realistic or not but as someone looking in the depiction of many of the characters, including Maya’s parents felt somewhat stereotypical. They literally only seemed to care about her getting married – I get that that’s still a big cultural issue but it’s not the only thing that Indian parents are about. Oh, and they liked to eat samosa and pakora and roti and why were these foods italicised like they were some exotic new thing that no-one has ever heard of? Is it because I’m British and Indian food is so widely available here, but not in the US? Answers on a postcard…

The other thing I found weird about the MayaBot is that if she hadn’t explicitly mentioned being a Muslim, you’d never know. Religion just isn’t part of her life – but then she’s shocked when a fellow Muslim drinks wine. It felt utterly incongruous to be so judgemental towards others but also completely guilt free about some of the things she’d been up to. It would have been nice to see a little bit more about religion within the book, especially to see how second generation immigrants blend their beliefs and cultural heritage with a more western lifestyle. 

Overall, I thought that Love, Hate and Other Filters was a pretty trashy quick read saved by the more hard hitting elements about Islamophobia and terrorism. Parts of the book were terrible, whole swathes of text were average-forgettable with just a few bits that were brilliant. 

Rating: An average two and a half lovestruck dumbass teens out of five.

Saccharine cute fluffy nonsense underpinned with tales of hatred and terrorism made this novel just about palatable. 

Please note that I read this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks Netgalley! I also read this novel as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2018 #10 Read a romance novel by or about a person of colour.