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Book Review: Manifesta – Young Women, Feminism, and the Future

Manifesta goes through the gradient of feminism from the “girlie culture” to the passionate feminist activists to the jackass feminists who pride themselves on how feminist they are.

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It seems to me that the term feminism is met with an excessive amount of opposition. Ironically, it is many women who constitute a major force in inhibiting the progress of the feminist movement. Simply relying on observation it seems to me that many females (we are talking about when I was in high school mind you) were hesitant about even using the term feminism because they feared the boys in school would then think they were gay. As juvenile and amusing as this sounds the theme still somewhat penetrates through the structure of society in all stages of an individual’s growth. Granted as one grows this theme starts to fade, but not very rapidly.

I think one of the major misconceptions about feminism is that it is seen as a type of extremist group. Not quite along the lines of terrorism but people seem to be more likely to admit to being a terrorist than a feminist. I, for one, refuse to wear a skirt without hairless legs. Still, I would like to see equality among the sexes. The more hardcore feminist may see this as a contradiction but I do not. Manifesta goes through the gradient of feminism from the “girlie culture” to the passionate feminist activists to the jackass feminists who pride themselves on how feminist they are. While each type of feminist is talked about in a positive manner in this work it is not difficult to tell that there are some ranges I oppose.

The book also approaches the subject of potential disagreements with assumed standards of feminism. Just because one does not agree with some aspects, routes, or factions of feminism does not mean one should completely abandon the issue. Make the argument your own, personalize it, and take into consideration your other influences. For example, the girlie culture that is mentioned in the book refers to the women who wear those almost skanky three inch skirts with heels, have smooth legs, and are not lacking in their sex lives. Ok so I am not sure about the sex lives part but I figure with clothes like that it seems like a rather safe assumption to make. Nonetheless they are seen by some as aiding, in a minimal manner, the cause by being proud of the stereotypes applied to women.

Anyhow, the authors mention how those who were present for the onslaught of feminism are disappointed in the lack of progress (as viewed through their eyes) made by the current generation and this causes even more internal conflicts than are needed.

While reading this book I was not exactly intrigued but I suppose I was pacified and determined to finish the work. I found it a very active read because there was some stuff I agreed with and other views that repulsed me. Repulsed is a rather harsh word and more of an extreme feeling than I encountered but it is a great word. At the end of my meager feminist education (given solely by this book) I was better able to state what I believed in. Sometimes it helps to be confronted by thoughts that you do not agree with so that you may establish what it is you DO agree with or believe.

I do not mean to sound preachy but at least I am carrying the tone of the book. The book is not terrible. In fact it even addresses the integral part the riot grrls played in pushing the feminist movement and envelope not only in rock but our culture as well. Buying this book is not a great idea (I made that mistake). It is not an unbearable read and does attempt to call others to action on behalf of the feminist movement. If you are bored, need something to read, have finished reading the current Harry Potter series at least twice, and feel like thinking then pick this book up … men and women alike.

Manifesta – Young Women, Feminism, and the Future

by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards
(Farrar Straus & Giroux)

Books

Book Review: Crossfire – A Litany For Survival

Unflinching and authentic, Chin’s work shakes, confronts, and envelops you

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Stacey Ann Chinn

LGBTQ poet and spoken-word artist Staceyann Chin is a powerhouse of an artist. (Exhibits A, B, and C: Her mesmerizing Def Poetry Jam performance of If Only Out of Vanity.” Her essay “Paradise of Lies,” published in the New York Times. And her hit play “MotherStruck,” set to soon work its way through the festival circuit as a series. Need we say more?) Unflinching and authentic, Chin’s work shakes, confronts, and envelops you. She is a rare talent that can captivate you in an instant — both by the political gravity of the subjects she so fearlessly and intelligently dissects and her sharp, mesmerizing, and sometimes hysterical turns of phrase. Her “snap-elastic words” can leave anyone who’s ever written for a living marveling (and wishing they had come up with them first).

This same fire is seen throughout Crossfire: A Litany for Survival, Chin’s first full-length collection of poems. Weaving adeptly between verses about the intersection of love, sex, race, gender, feminism, trauma, sexuality, queerness, motherhood, oppression, and so much more, Crossfire is a foot-on-the-gas-pedal kind of eye-opening, from start to finish.

In “Tsunami Rising,” she writes of the “weeping white women” who stood behind Tarana Burke’s #MeToo movement only once a rich white actress co-opted it — a heartbreaking address dripping with explanation and patience we don’t deserve, and a tired, frustrated anger that we do.

“We are unable to process our pain with you,” she writes, “Because we are exhausted from centuries/of holding you and your children.”

In “Zuri-Siale Samanaya” — named for her daughter, with whom she often records “Living Room Protests” — Chin reflects beautifully on raising a child who is both following in her activist footsteps but coming into her own as an individual:

I can hardly wait
to hear your voice
I expect us to rumble
to create generational bruises that will have to be survived

In “Raise the Roof,” Chin’s worries that this power will not be enough to carry her daughter safely through a world intent on silencing the voices of Black women are heartbreaking.

Every day I have to drown my fears
for my child/born Black and a girl in a country
in which her safety does not matter
to anyone with power

Among the book’s other standout gems are a reflection on 9/11 titled “September in New York” and a hilarious and incisive retort to the misogynist who harassed her on Twitter (aptly titled “Tweet This Motherfucker”). But really, there is no plateau in Chin’s collection of poems. Each page of Crossfire: A Litany For Survival is fire, soul, and just damn good writing.

When artists like Chin bare their souls to put the revolution to paper, it’s up to us to truly listen.

Crossfire

by Staceyann Chin
(Haymarket Books)

Crossfire: A Litany For Survival will be published as a paperback original on October 1, 2019 by Haymarket Books.

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Books

Book Review: The Disaster Artist – My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made

I cannot recommend The Disaster Artist highly enough. It might be one of the best reads I’ve had in a very long time.

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In 2003, the world of filmmaking was shaken to its very foundations. Bursting onto the scene and blinding the city of Los Angeles and Hollywood like a renegade supernova, was a film that went by the insipid title of The Room.

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made is a book all about the making of that film. For those who haven’t seen The Room, the basic synopsis boils down to a ‘love triangle’ plot, between a banker, Johnny, his fiancée, Lisa, and the best friend, Mark. There’s romance, betrayal, drama and finally tragedy. Seems simple enough, right? Wrong.

The final instalment of The Lord of the Rings trilogy might’ve won all eleven Academy Awards that year, but it was The Room that still managed to be the talk of the town (and eventually, the world) amongst many filmgoers.

Don’t be mistaken, The Room wasn’t a sleeper hit or master class in filmmaking. In fact, it was the complete opposite. A train wreck so disastrous that it’s still being watched, studied and talked about, to this day. “So bad it’s good” and “The Citizen Kane of bad films” are quotes often thrown around whenever The Room is muttered.

What makes The Room so bad? Well, to put it bluntly, everything. From the acting to the directing, to the sets and continuity, is a consistency of abysmal filmmaking. Yet despite its terribleness, there remains a kind of loveable charm. Most of this charm seems to stem from the man who helmed the project, the weirdly fascinating and enigmatic, Tommy Wiseau. Wiseau was responsible for acting as the lead character, Johnny, writing, directing and producing The Room (Orson Welles, eat your heart out).

Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell’s book, The Disaster Artist, doesn’t start at the premier of The Room in Los Angeles, 2003. It starts instead a year earlier, with a lunch between Greg and Tommy, a lunch so bizarre and off-the-wall, that it almost reads like sketch comedy. It’s a day before official production is about to begin on The Room, and Tommy with genius-gusto, decides to offer Greg one of the lead roles in his film, as Mark, Johnny’s (Tommy’s character and fictionalized version of himself) best friend. A plan so flawless, until Greg reminds Tommy that the role is already cast.

In the next chapter, we are taken back to 1998 in San Francisco with Jean Shelton and her acting class, where Greg relates his early origins into acting and his dreams of “making it”. It’s here that he meets the one-and-only, Tommy Wiseau, for the very first time. They’d later on become acquainted with one-another, after Tommy steals the show by giving one of the most ludicrous renditions of the famous ‘Stella’ scene from A Streetcar Named Desire ever witnessed.

“Most bad performances are met with silence. This was something else. There were murmurs. There were giggles. Everyone in that basement studio knew they had just witnessed one of the most beautifully, chaotically wrong performances they would ever see.”


 – The Disaster Artist

What follows throughout the book is parallel storytelling, or intersecting storylines. One side focusing on the making of The Room, and the haphazard tyrannical way in which Tommy went about acting, directing and interacting with the cast and crew. The other, on the growing friendship and relationship between a young, Greg Sestero and not-so-young, Tommy Wiseau, both bonding on their dream and love for acting (and in particular, James Dean). Each storyline is as equally entertaining, funny and at times touching as one another.

The Disaster Artist is a book that doesn’t quite feel like it’s written from someone with journalistic prose looking-in on The Room, or the life of Tommy Wiseau. Instead, it’s a book written by someone who lived and breathed these experiences and moments. The final result is a raw and believable account, with a striking amount of humility and sincerity. The praise in this regard goes solely to Greg Sestero; he is quite possibly the best—and only—person capable of telling this story. His perspective is paramount to understanding the making of The Room, and Wiseau.

In terms of the content itself, there are many reasons why fans—or even those unfamiliar with The Room—might want to pick this up. For years, people have been baffled about almost every aspect of this film and the mysterious man behind it. From, “How did Tommy manage to get $6 million to fund this film?” to something as simple as “Just where in the hell is Tommy actually from?”

You don’t have to be familiar with the film itself, or even know a great deal about the players such as Tommy Wiseau to find this book enjoyable. After all, driving the engines is a timeless story, full of great characters and great moments.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It might be one of the best reads I’ve had in a very long time.

The Disaster Artist

by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell
(Simon & Schuster)

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