Friday, October 12, 2007

Three books you have to read. Right now.

I just got these from the library, and these are some of the best books I've gotten hold of in a long time.

Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws by Kate Bornstein. This book will save lives, I have no doubt of it. Some of her alternatives may seem flip, but the introduction alone (which discusses dealing with societal oppression, homo/transphobia, the bully culture that encompasses not just middle-school sluggers but corporations and governments, depression, and a lot more) is worth the price of admission. Her alternatives to suicide include seven self-evident steps suicidal youth/outlaws can take...calling a suicide hotline or a friend, going to an ER, visiting a therapist or alternative medical practitioner, or joining a support group. After that, things get both more playful and more difficult: she suggests making art to express feelings, meditating, asking others for help, providing help for others, accepting your own sexuality (and having sex--orgasms are great mood-boosters!)...but also more self-destructive options that she specifically labels as last resorts. For example: drinking, doing drugs, starving yourself, or cutting. Anything that keeps you alive. Of course, she encourages her readers to try more loving versions of self-care first, but as someone with a history of these sorts of difficulties (suicidality, eating disorders, etc) it was really validating to hear someone say, "I've been there. I've cut. I've been anorexic. I've done drugs. It kept me alive, and that's good. And if it keeps you alive, that's good too." Buy it for you, for the troubled teen you know, for the twenty year old woman you know who was born a man, for the depressed communist omnisexual you do shifts at the co-op with. This should be required reading for everyone who is, or works with, or loves, an adolescent.

Second, Persepolis, a graphic-novel memoir of Marjane Satrapi's childhood in Tehran during the Iranian revolution. It's several years old, and there's a Persepolis 2 on the shelves now, too. Simultaneously poignant and hilarious, thought-provoking and entertaining, this book looks at larger sociopolitical issues like revolution, poverty, religion and war through the eyes of the author's young self--through the eyes of a kid. We often forget that big geopolitical conflicts affect human beings; that each casualty, civilian and soldier has a human face. Persepolis is the perfect antidote.

Last, The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical Christians are Winning the Culture Wars. Let me just say for the record that I think James Dobson is a total douche. He doesn't shout crazy shit from the rooftops like Falwell or Pat Robertson; he tries very hard not to give the impression of being politically involved. The image he projects to the world is that of a loving, patient but firm therapist/father figure who wants what's best for his "children" (ie listeners and those who read his books). In reality (says Anne, who hated him all through middle and high school but didn't have the tools of theoretical feminism in order to mount a proper critique and explain to herself exactly what her dislike stemmed from) he's an old-school Nazarene Patriarchy-Man who suggests that women are happiest as wives and mothers ("It's just biology, the way God created women, and it's a beautiful thing," he says, simultaneously putting women on a pedestal so they can't escape and encouraging subservience to husbands, fathers etc.), that parents need to break their children's wills as early and as completely as possible (in his book Dare to Discipline he opined that spanking with a belt or a switch on occasion was not only acceptable but often neccessary; the belt should be left on prominent display in the child's room as a reminder of the consequences of 'disobedience.') My parents had copies of Dare to Discipline and The Strong-Willed Child, both by Dr. Dobson; I for one hold him partially resposible for my mental f*cked-upedness. Since when is a strong will a bad thing? What is the purpose of exercising such control over one's child? Preparation for them to submit to the powers that be after they've grown up, ensuring they never rebel against oppression? For mere convenience, so that parents don't have to deal with childhood exuberance? I won't even get into his stance on homosexuality, but suffice it to say it's SO last-century. Read this book to see what all he's up to; he's a secretive little bastard with a lot of influence in Washington, and the great thing (for evangelicals) is that a lot of folks outside the hardcore Christian community have never heard of him, and so have no idea who or what they should be protesting.

Those are the recommendations for now; more personal stuff to follow.

1 comment:

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