Thursday, November 30, 2023

Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay

Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture
edited by Roxane Gay
Read by various authors
8 hours, 41 minutes
Published May 2018 by HarperCollins Publishers

Publisher's Summary: 
In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, and Claire Schwartz. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. Like Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, Not That Bad will resonate with every reader, saying “something in totality that we cannot say alone.” 

Searing and heartbreakingly candid, this provocative collection both reflects the world we live in and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.

My Thoughts: 
When she was 12 years old, Roxane Gay was gang raped. In order to mentally survive that, she had to convince herself that it was "not that bad" and that other women had it worse. Read that again. Gay did not allow herself to fully comprehend the horrific thing that had been done to her, and at such a young age. 

Women have been brainwashed for so long that we all begin to believe that things are "not that bad." Even when they truly are that bad. And we live in a world where we are constantly comparing what has happened to us against what has happened to other people. We're prone to convincing ourselves that what happens to us really isn't that bad. The reality is that most women have a certain amount of fear at all times. We are less likely to go out after dark. When we do, we are (and have been raised to be) constantly vigilant of our surroundings. We carry our keys webbed through our fingers as weapons. We double and triple checks locks before we go to bed. We have been catcalled, touched in ways we haven't allowed, followed. We are blamed for the terrible things that happen to us. I live in a very safe suburban neighborhood and it makes me uncomfortable to be in my own backyard after dark if my husband is not at home because I have lived so long in fear that someone is lurking in the shadows, ready to harm me. But it is not just women who suffer in our rape culture. 

This collection of twenty-nine essays is one of the most difficult books I've ever read. Listening to it, I believe, made it that much more difficult, emphasizing, as it did through all of the different voices, the size of the problem. As with any collection, some stories were more compelling for me, more relatable. Told from a wide variety of perspectives, this collection speaks to how widespread rape culture is and how many different lives it touches. I meant to write down the names of the essays that most impacted me and the reasons why; but I put off writing about the book because it was just so damn hard to think about and now those titles are gone from my mind, I'm sorry to say. 

As hard as it is to read, I'm hoping that more people will read this book and understand that no matter how rape culture has impacted your life, it is that bad. None of us should have to live in fear, no one should be blamed for the terrible things that others do to them, all of our sons (because the culture is primarily the result of male behavior) should be taught how to behave and how to speak, and all of us deserve to be heard and believed. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder 
by David Grann
Read by Dion Graham
8 hours, 28 minutes
Published April 2023 by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Publisher's Summary: 
On January 28, 1742, a ramshackle vessel of patched-together wood and cloth washed up on the coast of Brazil. Inside were thirty emaciated men, barely alive, and they had an extraordinary tale to tell. They were survivors of His Majesty’s Ship the Wager, a British vessel that had left England in 1740 on a secret mission during an imperial war with Spain. While the Wager had been chasing a Spanish treasure-filled galleon known as “the prize of all the oceans,” it had wrecked on a desolate island off the coast of Patagonia. The men, after being marooned for months and facing starvation, built the flimsy craft and sailed for more than a hundred days, traversing nearly 3,000 miles of storm-wracked seas. They were greeted as heroes. 

But then ... six months later, another, even more decrepit craft landed on the coast of Chile. This boat contained just three castaways, and they told a very different story. The thirty sailors who landed in Brazil were not heroes – they were mutineers. The first group responded with countercharges of their own, of a tyrannical and murderous senior officer and his henchmen. It became clear that while stranded on the island the crew had fallen into anarchy, with warring factions fighting for dominion over the barren wilderness. As accusations of treachery and murder flew, the Admiralty convened a court martial to determine who was telling the truth. The stakes were life-and-death—for whomever the court found guilty could hang.

My Thoughts: 
I hadn't really considered that it's, in the blogging world, Nonfiction November. But I've managed to read a couple of nonfiction books this month, one of which is David Grann's latest, The Wager, which is being widely touted as one of the best books of 2023. I actually started it almost six weeks ago, when the Big Guy and I were on a road trip; I knew it was the kind of thing that would appeal to both of us. But this was another one of those books that BG found hard to listening because he found it so troubling. So we didn't actually listen to more than about three hours of it on that trip; while waiting for another opportunity for the two of us to listen to it, my loan expired and it took weeks for me to get it back. 

We hadn't even gotten to the worst of it. In any review of this book that you'll read, they will inevitably start at the point where life was hard on the journey around Cape Horn but the trials of tribulations of the crew aboard The Wager, and the other ships with which it set sail, began long before then. 

We're accustomed to thinking of the British navy as one of the greatest military forces in history. What we don't read about it how difficult it was to maintain a wooden ship of that size, how prone they were to rot and hard it was to find sufficient crew to man such enormous vessels. It was, in fact, so difficult that many of the 2000 men in the squadron of ships that included The Wager, were impressed and either in poor health, elderly, or had no sailing or military experience. Before the squadron had even left the coast of Europe, typhus began to reduce their numbers. Life on the ships was miserable, especially if you were a regular seaman, and not an officer and the journey dragged on much longer than expected. Rations were already running low when The Wager became separated from the squadron as it was rounding Cape Horn so that when The Wager ran aground, the men were already feeling the effects of it. The island they landed on made it difficult to fish and offered little in the way of edible vegetation or animals. Almost as soon as the ship wrecked, there were men who began to defy the officer who had become captain when the original captain died at sea. 

Yes, things just kept getting worse and worse. Men went off hunting and died. Men died of starvation and disease. One man died when the captain shot him. And when help, in the form of natives of the area who were experts in finding food, arrived, the men managed to frighten them off. Finally, the remaining group decided that they must make an effort to leave the island and the divide in loyalties reached a mutinous level. Some stayed with the captain, others left with a sailor who, it seemed, had a much safer plan, one more likely to get the men home. Most of both parties perished before they were finally able to return to England and face what had happened on the island. 

It was, to say the least, a big deal, at the time. Which makes the fact that none of us have really heard of The Wager before surprising. Grann tells readers up front that The Wager will be shipwrecked, that there will be a mutiny, and that some of the sailors will return home, telling very different stories. We know all of that and it it still shocking to read about what happened to these men and how terribly they suffered. It's truly amazing that any of them survived at all. For my money, that isn't the most stunning part of the book. The highlight for me is in learning why The Wager is not a story any of us have heard before and it ties in so well with what we know about how the military, the press, and governments work today. 

It's a tough read. BG wasn't wrong in his assessment that it was hard to listen to too much at once. Any book about human suffering is difficult to read, particularly one where the suffering was so unnecessary. But it's certainly a book that readers will sink into and not be able to pull themselves out of until you find out what happened to these men. 

Monday, November 27, 2023

Life: It Goes On - November 27

Happy Monday! Hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving, however you celebrated it. Miss H was not even joking when she told a friend that she'd be perfectly happy having a day at home to herself without anything she had to do - this mama was happy that she was convinced to go out to dinner with this wonderful friend who treated her to a fabulous multi-course dinner. We ended up with just 13, which still required almost all of the table space we could muster without putting up another table. It was such a good day - so much good food, so much fun, so much healing laughter and conversation. 

When Saturday hit, and our family had all headed off to spend time with their other families, I put my feet up for a bit and then took all of Thanksgiving down and put it away. Thought I would start putting Christmas up on Sunday but life had other plans. Christmas decorating will have to wait a little longer. 

Last Week I: 

Listened To: I finished Darling Girl. I had several others all come up at the same time; but with a long weekend, I actually have less time to listen, so I've returned them all and put new holds on them. 

Watched: A sad weekend for my beloved Huskers. The football team lost in the last seconds, the previously undefeated volleyball team was swept, and the soccer team was knocked out of the tournament in the Elite Eight. 

Read: I'm still reading The Fairytale Life of Dorothy Gale; and, surprisingly for me, considering that it is, in addition to being a Wizard of Oz spinoff, a romance novel, enjoying it. 

Made: Cranberries, pumpkin spice breakfast cake, stuffing, brined turkey, glazed ham. And then I didn't have to cook again the rest of the four day weekend, what with leftovers and takeout pizza. 

Enjoyed: Spending so much time with my family. 

This Week I’m:  

Planning: Late Saturday, my dad fell and was taken to the hospital for assessment. While there, it was discovered that he has blood clots in his lungs and leg. Needless to say, all plans have now shifted to getting him the care that he needs as he recovers from this. 

Thinking About: Saturday night, as we were sitting in the emergency room, a doctor left the room and closed the door firmly. Immediately, it slowly reopened. My sister and I joked that it was our mom's spirit coming to be with us. At that point they had not discovered my dad's clots and the doctor was about to send him home. Then a nurse spoke up and convinced him to looked into something more closely. We know that it was our mom giving that nurse the nudge to speak up and point out what the doctor had missed. We felt her with us so strongly all weekend. 

Feeling: Guys, I'm tired. Glad that my dad is getting better and getting such good care. Sad that this means he'll need to move to assisted living and leave his beloved apartment. So many feelings. 

Looking forward to: Saturday we're going to see the touring company of My Fair Lady, my favorite musical (well, at least my favorite old school musical). 

Question of the week: Do you believe that the spirits of those we love stay with us? 

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving!

Not my usual traditional, vintage post but I saw this and decided we could probably all do with a little levity today! Hope you are all enjoying your Thanksgiving, however you are spending it.