Compelling, transformative, and reflective—this memoir of "the last nomad" is a must-read for fans of memoir and nonfiction.
Pacing: ★★★ 1/2
The Last Nomad is one of those books where it arrived to my house, I said "oh, let me get a feel for the writing...I'll just read the first page" and then 45 minutes later, I realized I was several chapters in and fully, completely invested in the story.
The best type of book, am I right?
Shugri Said Salh's compelling memoir details her experience as her family's "last" nomad. Now, as she immediately explains, Salh knows she is not the literal "last nomad" in the world. Not by a long shot. But for her familial line, generations of whom had existed similar lives as nomads in the Somali deserts, Salh IS their last nomad—her upbringing as a nomad transformed into her adulthood as a mother living in present-day suburban California.
What does it mean to straddle two lifestyles, worlds, and realities so dramatically?
From survival to excess, the hunt for water to the overabundance of brand options, the intimate oral histories of your elders to the immediacy of the now at the cost of the internal memory, The Last Nomad highlight's Salh's desire to record her story for posterity and for her children to keep the link to the past within her and her family. And, luckily, for us readers too. She quotes the African proverb, "when an elder dies, a library burns" and with this poignant remark as a touchstone, she walks us through her life experiences.
I don't want to get too specific with her stories, as it would merely be a pale regurgitation of Salh's own words, so take my word for it--The Last Nomad is one-of-a-kind. It'll linger with me for some time.
Many thanks to the publish for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
4.5 disturbed stars
Amongst Jack the Ripper, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.H. Holmes, and the birth of the modern medical movement... there was another man murdering prostitutes and women of no means in London and Chicago. His story has somehow faded in the background of more sensationalized figures—and yet his reign of murders was no less terrifying.
Ease of reading: ★★★★
"In the span of fifteen years, Dr. Thomas Neill Cream poisoned at least ten people in the United States, Britain, and Canada, a death toll with almost no precedents. Structured around Cream’s London murder trial in 1892, when he was finally brought to justice, The Case of the Murderous Dr. Cream exposes the blind trust given to medical practitioners, as well as the flawed detection methods, bungled investigations, corrupt officials, and stifling morality of Victorian society that allowed Cream to prey on vulnerable and desperate women, many of whom had turned to him for medical help."
I've pulled right from the book's blurb above because I think it's a near-perfect way to describe the contents of this piece of research.
Are you aware of London's Jack the Ripper? Of course.
But are you aware of Dr. Thomas Neill Cream? You should be, as he was worse.
The only way I can describe my reading experience for this book is: baffling and horrifying. Here was a white man from a rich Canadian family hiding behind a doctor's degree in the late 1800s—who managed to evade justice for literal decades of murdering across three countries. He was suspected, questioned, arrested, and identified as a predator on multiple occasions throughout his reign of global terror... and yet money, corruption, sexism, racism, and more kept him on the streets.
How did he do it? HOW did he get away with it, when his murders were nearly identical, he was tied to the scenes of the crime and the victims, and his mental state gave him away at nearly every turn with erratic behaviors and letters of confession sent to the police?
Author Dean Jobb takes us on this chilling, ominous journey through immaculately researched chapters and photos detailing every leg of Dr. Cream's life. In a similar manner to The Devil and the White City, this work includes direct quotations in a narrative style—all sourced—and play-by-play journeys from each of Dr. Cream's murderous explorations. The writing style with dialogue and descriptions made for an easy, almost fictional/narrative read, but this is no work of fiction.
I found it chilling to see Dr. Cream in photos, and even more disturbing to read the blackmail letters he sent to the police and the documents written down about him at the time. Seeing the plight of the Victorian single woman—often existing at society's fringes in prostitution, one of the few lucrative positions available to her—and her fatal encounters with a doctor whom she thought she could trust... chilling.
Dean Jobb has done a fantastic job with this work. I put it right up there with Devil in the White City and The Butchering Art, both nonfiction works dealing with similar subject matter.
The only elements of this work that I wish the author had provided more context for were the discussions on sexism and race that played out in Dr. Cream's ability to evade justice. He preyed on white female prostitutes, and in one particular court case his lawyer was easily able to discredit a witness because she was a Black woman. Jobb discusses the sexism at work during these times in an afterword at the end—most likely as a way to keep the editorialization minimal within the "narrative" timeline—but he does not go into detail on the levels of racism at play. Even though we as readers could reasonably take it as a given, due to the time period, it would have been appropriate to give that topic more airtime.
Thank you to Algonquin Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
The future is hopeful. And it's being led by our youngest generation.
Walk in the steps of those who protested in 1903 in the March of the Mill Children and see where the fight continues on in those who participated in the George Floyd protests... as well as all of the ones that came between. 15 powerful stories. 1 nation.
Organization of stories: ★★★★★
When you think of a line of protesters, who do you picture? How old are they?
If you're like me, the group of people attending a social protest is a varied group in my imagination but, in general, they have one thing in common—they're adults. Adults tend to have louder voices, more ability to self-advocate, and more experience to draw from in an organized space. Right?
In Kids on the March, you'd be wrong.
Delving into 15 stories of kid-led and kid-focused protests for social justice, this slim volume packs a very memorable punch. When the youngest of us know what is right, and what is wrong, and they decide to speak up... their voices are loud enough to be heard. And they have a right to their space.
I devoured this collection. There's no other word for it. Author Michael B Long is on to something when he pulls us along on a journey through the twentieth century's most active youth-led protests—and the changes they demanded. From young children desperate for more ethical work hours in 1903 to the 1951 Strike for a Better School that led to the Brown v. Board of Education titan of social justice to the more modern March for Our Lives and the Black Lives Matter protests.... this is a powerful body of work. And an inspiring one.
"Let us pray with our legs. Let us march in unison to the rhythm of justice, because I say enough is enough." -Demetri Hoth, Senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (2018)
I recommend this to all, especially my fellow Americans.
Many thanks to Algonquin for Young Readers for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
A celebration of girlhood from all around the world told from the girls themselves... a beautiful, moving, and heartwarming collection of what it means to be female across the globe.
Book construction: ★★★★★
Brought about by freelance journalist Masuma Ahuja's series featured on Washington Post's The Lily, which featured a few samples of girls growing up throughout the world, this work broadens the original grouping of young girls and their experiences into one collection spanning 27 countries and including 30 girls and their stories.
I thoroughly enjoyed this collection. Teenagers, and female teens in particular, experience certain life moments across all borders. And yet their individual experiences also showcase startling differences across countries, socioeconomic classes, racial divides, and the ever-present gender divide.
Girlhood: Teens Around the World in Their Own Voices attempts to showcase what girls' lives are really like—told in their own words. I think it delivers.
From an Argentinian football player with a passion for play to a 16-year-old Cambodian scholarship student learning in Australia (and more), this collection provides intimate snippets of 30 lives. Some are more lighthearted than you'd expect. Some are much darker. Some showcase the resilience of womanhood and others highlight the still too large gaps between the female and male experience.
One of my favorites was Jocelyne's story—mainly because she mentioned an interest in ASMR (a YouTube phenomenon that involves sensitive sounds and microphones, google it!). Jocelyne and I have that in common, but her life in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is worlds away from mine in the U.S.
I'd encourage all to check out this collection. It's a quick read due the format of blurbs and diary entires, but a powerful and heartwarming one all the same.
Thank you to Algonquin Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
What an interesting and thoughtful memoir / self-help guide. Really sticks with you at points.
Chapter flow: ★★
Enjoyment: ★★★ 1/2
I initially rated this 4 stars when I finished it, but once the high of the last few sections wore off, I realized that while there were parts I loved there were also some significant clunks that I...didn't.
Untamed is an interesting nonfiction read, in a genre hybrid that I would classify as memoir meets self-help book. This is obviously Glennon Doyle's niche, as her previous books sound like they fit that mode as well (I haven't read them, but they are mentioned often in this one).
In Untamed, Glennon is telling us the radical moment that changed her life: as a fully-formed, middle-aged adult, married with three kids and with a career as a Southern Christian motivational speaker, Glennon realizes in an instant that she is actually attracted to women, and she finds her match across a (semi) crowded room—just like a fairy tale. Thus begins the moment that radically alters her established life and leads her on the path to acceptance. Welcome to Untamed.
What was truly amazing about this story was the love in its pages. It is clear that Glennon loves, and those around her also love. I loved, even, when it came to hearing about her children, her path to true acceptance as a gay woman, and her intimate decisions when it came to self awareness and reflection. As a woman reading the story of a woman coming into her own, both sexually and as a woman who'd let the cultural systems break her into the box they'd predetermined for her, I loved this book.
Where Glennon lost me was in the structure of Untamed itself. I am really, really not a fan of non-linear fiction or nonfiction. This book had us in one timeline (Glennon realizing her true love at a writer's conference) and then it went back in time to the before (Glennon as a child)—that transition was fine, I've read many a book like that before. But then, two pages later, we would be in a new chapter break and that new break would be in the future (Glennon now, with her wife) and both the past the present are gone. Then we would go back to a slightly different present or past. Ping pong, ping pong. Coupling that fact with the fact that each chapter varied in length from 2 pages to 8 pages, on average, and it was on the wrong side of confusing for me.
I also struggled with this book's strong metaphysical overtones (the "Knowing" and her faith), but to a much lesser degree than the nonlinear transitions—just placing it here for those who also might have felt the same way.
Overall, a thoughtful and memorable read!
What a compulsively readable nonfiction book on a topic that I would have never read without the hype.
Boring?: at times, but surprisingly not for most of it
The Devil in the White City is a book that is—exclusively and extensively—focused on one topic: The 1893 Chicago World's Fair. In particular, on two white men of relative means who represented two very different faces to Chicago. One face, wealthy architect Daniel H. Burnham, who was the driving force behind the fair's creation. The other face, blue-eyed middle class conman H.H. Holmes, one of America's most memorable and horrifying serial killers.
Gripping concept? YES.
One the one hand, we're following Chicago's brash attempt to beat all the global odds stacked against them and host an international World's Fair to rival the previous one in Paris...where they unveiled the architectural feat, The Eiffel Tower.
On the other hand, we're following the disturbing rise of H.H. Holmes and his aptly-described "demonic" concept for a murder hotel essentially across the street from the future site of the World's Fair. Holmes was a murdering soul at the start, but his luck at the fair led him to new heights of horror in a stunning twist of fate.
I found the detailed account of these two men and their stories to be extremely gripping. Considering this was nonfiction down to the dialogue used, I was amazed at how quickly I flew through this story. It's well researched and well told.
However... I wish this story had been more all-encompassing in its quest to tell the tale of the World's Fair. This is essentially the lens of one white man telling the two intersecting stories of two other white men...and in an uncomfortable way, it feels like it. I wanted to know more about the minority groups that were involved in the fair—especially the outdated and racist practices of the Midway, which was essentially a "zoo" of international races and cultures—and their struggles. I also wanted to know more about the women involved as opposed to the borderline footnotes that existed in the story—one woman was chosen to design one of the buildings at the fair! And yet she is barely discussed...even though her plot line is clearly an interesting story of the glass ceiling at work. And, taking out both the minority groups and the women, we did not fully dive into the class inequalities at play either. The labor unions were discussed at length (mainly as irritants to Burnham) but the stories of the poor themselves were not handled as fully as I was expecting.
So, overall, a good book. I just wish there had been more of a balanced lens, even though I understand the argument that there is only so much room in a book and it's impossible to cover it all.
Oof. No one is more surprised than I am...I really struggled to finish this, and struggled even more to enjoy the reading experience.
Actual highlighting of genius women: ★★★
The Genius of Women was a nonfiction book given to me for review, and I immediately was excited to open it up. It's a nonfiction book dedicated to sharing the stories of women overlooked throughout history! Yes! Amazing! Let me learn about these women!
The first few chapters of this book got to me—they had valid feminist points, they highlighted several women from history that I had never heard of, and they incited a fire in me to learn more. I wanted to learn their stories, feel their histories, and know where their accomplishments stood today in 2020. I wanted more!
But then...the chapters started to feel the same. We'd have a killer chapter title. Then we got a great bite-sized nugget of information about a historical/current woman genius who was terribly under-recognized by the patriarchy. And then, very quickly, we abandoned her. It became a personalized essay on behalf of the author about her experiences and strong (strong!) opinions on repeat about all that is wrong in today's society as it relates to women.
This would have been fine-ish—let's be real, I wanted to raise these women UP, not abandon their narratives for opinion promotion, so it wasn't "fine" to me personally—but the opinions and personal anecdotes felt repetitive. I'm a proud woman who promotes female rights and am aware of what's wrong with the world's lens of men first, women second. I didn't need those issues shoved at me at every turn. Maybe, if you're somehow new to gender inequality, it was worth the hammered approach?
I guess, if you boil it down, I wanted the lens of this work to focus on the women and their accomplishments as opposed to using them as brief touchstones and a launch pad to discuss the gender imbalance in all things through the highly personable layer of author opinion. This was probably a "me" issue as others have reviewed this work much more positively, but I can't ignore my thoughts. I realize that my review falls into the trap of what the author herself mentions...that when a woman decides to tout accomplishments and opinions, the reaction to that is to say it's not enough, too much, negativity, etc. I agonized with whether to say my feelings on this because I didn't want to become one of the negative voices being part of the problem. But in this case, it's still important to be honest. I didn't love this.
Thank you to Dutton for a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.
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"Yes, we are witches, and we're hunting you."
What an impressive and readable collection of essays. Lindy West, the author of Shrill, has returned and she's ready to share some facts and clapbacks.
"In a laugh-out-loud, incisive cultural critique, West extolls the world-changing magic of truth, urging readers to reckon with dark lies in the heart of the American mythos, and unpacking the complicated, and sometimes tragic, politics of not being a white man in the twenty-first century. She tracks the misogyny and propaganda hidden (or not so hidden) in the media she and her peers devoured growing up, a buffet of distortions, delusions, prejudice, and outright bullsh*t that has allowed white male mediocrity to maintain a death grip on American culture and politics-and that delivered us to this precarious, disorienting moment in history."
I have to be honest, these essays were at times hard to read--not necessarily due to the author, but due to the wounds that they reopened for me. Being a woman in today's world isn't easy, and we're still fighting to be heard. Being a woman in America...yeah, it's rough, especially given the current political leader. These essays have receipts. They have anecdotes. And they'll throw you into each and every one of the political turmoils of the now.
The title The Witches Are Coming is derived from West's analysis of Trump's frequent use of the phrase "witch hunt." While Trump is determined to use it as a label that is pro-men, West is quick to remind us that witches were always women who spoke out and had agency, and the phrase "witch hunt" has historical roots in female oppression...not the other way around. So for West, yes, the "witches" are coming. And it's time for a reckoning and reclaiming of the term.
Also, a side note: the chapter on Adam Sandler is inspiring. I, too, hate Adam Sandler for what he represents. West gets it. You tell 'em, girl.
Thank you to Hachette for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.