Book Review: The Suburban Micro-Farm

suburban micro farmThe Suburban Micro-Farm: Modern Solutions for Busy People
by Amy Stross
Nonfiction/Gardening/ Homesteading
347 pages
Published 2018

I’m going to buy my own copy of this book. It is stuffed full of useful information! It focuses on growing food in your yard when you don’t have much time to spend on the yard, so there’s a lot of permaculture techniques and gardens that are largely hands-off once you get them set up, which is exactly what I want. With the chronic fatigue, I often don’t have the energy to get outside and work on a garden, and Maryland summers exhaust me simply by stepping outside. I really want to garden and grow food, but I need easy ways to do that.

The Suburban Micro-Farm delved into planting hedgerows, which is something we’ve been thinking of, rain gardens (which we probably should do, we have a couple places in the yard that do not drain well), and tree guilds, which are plantings that go under trees to work together in little micro-environments. One of the tree guilds Stross specifically talks about is a Black Walnut tree guild, which I was excited to see because we have a huge, beautiful mature Black Walnut that I’ve been trying to figure out how to plant around. Black Walnuts produce juglone, a chemical that kills a lot of plants, so you have to be very mindful of what you plant near them.

This is an excellent reference book for suburban gardens, and she has lots of extra resources on her site, The Tenth Acre Farm. I will be exploring those as well, but I’m definitely going to buy my own copy of this book!

From the cover of The Suburban Micro-Farm:

Yield abundant harvests from your own yard with only 15 minutes a day!

Do you long to find the secrets of gardening with the time you have?
Are you ready to feel more connected to your home?
Would you like the satisfaction of growing healthy food for your table?

Author Amy Stross talks straight about why the suburbs might be the ideal place for a homesteading lifestyle. If you’re ready to create a beautiful, edible yard, this book is for you.

In these pages you’ll learn how to:
-Stop letting your garden overwhelm you
-Develop and nurture healthy soil
-Use easy permaculture techniques for stress-free, abundant harvests

Advertisements

Book Review: You Have The Right To Remain Fat

right to remain fatYou Have The Right To Remain Fat
by Virgie Tovar
Nonfiction
128 pages
Published 2018

You Have The Right To Remain Fat is a short manifesto on why society needs to change the way it treats fat people, and that we don’t need to lose weight to fit into society. Tovar talks about the sexism, classism, and racism that is often behind fatphobia and discrimination, the way culture has shifted around looks, and feeling comfortable in your own skin. She rips diet culture to shreds, shining a spotlight on the gaslighting technique that is heavy in dieting language. (You’re not losing weight because you’re not doing it right. You don’t have enough willpower to deprive yourself of essential nutrients? Shame on you.)

I could understand people being offended by this book – she basically says if you’re trying to lose weight for the sake of losing weight, you’re wrong. But if you really look at it, if that really is all you’re losing weight for, to be thin, shouldn’t society accept you as you are? If you need to lose weight for actual, valid health reasons, that’s different. But if it’s just for the sake of being thin – maybe rethink your reasons.

I’m going back on the Auto Immune Protocol as soon as we settle in to the new house – and while losing weight is a nice side effect, I’m doing it to control autoimmune symptoms. And in all the literature around AIP, it’s about not feeling fatigued or nauseous. It’s about getting your digestive system back on track and reducing the chronic pain. It’s NOT about losing weight, though people often do lose weight on it because it boosts the metabolism and cuts sugar. (Although it’s also used for hyperthyroid people, who often have unhealthy weight loss, so really it’s about stabilizing your weight!)

One of the most interesting parts of the book was when she discussed a conference she’d gone to and talked to women about fatphobia and inferiority complexes. First she asked if anyone there felt inferior. Of course, no one did. But then she asked a series of follow-up questions that pointed out behaviors born of feelings of inferiority. Things like: “Are you wearing something physically uncomfortable because you believe it makes you look better? Today did you refuse to do something you wanted to do because you were worried how it would make you look to someone?”

Out of curiosity, I read all the questions (there were eight or so) to my husband. He’d done exactly one of them. I have done all of them in the past, and still do some. (I’m currently a housewife. I don’t wear uncomfortable clothes.) It was rather eye-opening.

You Have The Right To Remain Fat is a quick, thought-provoking read that is uncomfortable at times but also makes you want to shout HELL YES at other times. I definitely recommend it.

From the cover of You Have The Right To Remain Fat:

Growing up as a fat girl, Virgie Tovar believed that her body was something to be fixed. But after two decades of dieting and constant guilt, she was over it―and gave herself the freedom to trust her own body again. Ever since, she’s been helping others to do the same. Tovar is hungry for a world where bodies are valued equally, food is free from moral judgment, and you can jiggle through life with respect. In concise and candid language, she delves into unlearning fatphobia, dismantling sexist notions of fashion, and how to reject diet culture’s greatest lie: that fat people need to wait before beginning their best lives.

Book Review: Are You Tired and Wired?

tired and wiredAre You Tired and Wired? Your Proven 30-Day Program for Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue and Feeling Fantastic Again
by Marcelle Pick
Nonfiction/Health
289 pages
Published 2011

One of my 2019 goals is to get my health under control. I have at least two auto-immune diseases, with two more suspected (they often jumpstart each other, yay!) and one of the things I struggle with A LOT is fatigue. Adrenal dysfunction often goes hand-in-hand with autoimmune diseases, especially those dealing with the thyroid gland, like my Hashimoto’s Disease. This book spends a lot of time on figuring out if you have Adrenal Dysfunction and why that’s important. A lot of the questions made me feel REALLY called out. I perk up at 9 p.m. after being tired throughout the day. I crave high-protein, high-fat, salty foods like meats and cheeses. I’m exhausted all the time, absent-minded, and have to take breaks often when doing things like housework or walking. There’s a quiz in this book that has five categories for your score. The worst score is anything over 26 points. I scored 64!

So, according to this book, my adrenals are SHOT. Unfortunately, the 30-Day program involves a lot of foods that contradict with the AutoImmune Protocol, which I was on for about six months in 2018 and made me feel fantastic. I’m still avoiding gluten, nightshades, and some dairy, but I want to go back on full elimination AIP. It’s just difficult to do because it means cooking almost every day. After we move, we should have more fridge and freezer space and I can start doing big batch cooking. That should make it easier.

In the meantime, though, there isn’t actually a whole lot of lifestyle changes in this book I can make. There are herbal supplement suggestions, which I might try, and prescription medication suggestions, which I will consult with my new doctor about as soon as I get insurance straightened out and make an appointment. But I won’t do the 30-day diet program, and as far as reducing my daily stress, well.

I’m a housewife. I have no children. The vast majority of my stress comes from living with roommates, and I can’t do anything about that until we move! Now that my husband is done with school, there will be less stress coming from that direction, at least. But really, I lead a pretty low-stress life. Looking back on things, I think I’m actually improving from where I was a few years ago, when I was working retail while my husband went to school and worked, while being financially strapped and living with roommates. And that was after the five years of near-constant background levels of stress from him being in the military. So it could be that my adrenals actually bottomed out a few years ago and I’m just now noticing it because there isn’t a constant pressure forcing me to be on the go constantly anymore. Or, according to the book, I’m through the Racehorse and Workhorse stages and in the Flatliner stage.

I’ll probably look into more books about adrenal dysfunction – I always take these kinds of books with a grain of salt, because so many self-helpish health books are just trying to sell their own protocols or diets or “this one simple thing will change your LIFE!” But it was worth reading and mulling over the information.

From the cover of Are You Tired and Wired?

Do you wake up every morning feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and stressed? Are you constantly reaching for coffee, soda, or some other promise of energy just to keep yourself going? Do you struggle through the day – tired, irritable, forgetful, depressed, and craving sweets – only to have trouble sleeping at night?

If you answered yes to any or all of these questions – you’re not alone. In fact, hundreds of thousands of women are fighting these same feelings as they strive to live the lives they want. 

In Are You Tired and Wired?, Marcelle Pick, co-founder of Women to Women – one of the first clinics in the country devoted to providing health care for women by women – and the author of The Core Balance Diet, gives you the knowledge and tools to overcome this epidemic of fatigue.

Pick sets her sights on adrenal dysfunction – the root cause of these symptoms. In our modern lives, the adrenal glands, which are responsible for providing the fight-or-flight hormones in response to stress, are triggered much more often than they should be. Everything from challenges at home and at work, to environmental toxins, to chronic health problems cause the adrenal glands to produce a constant flood of stress hormones that can ultimately lead to multiple health issues, especially severe fatigue.

The good news is that through diet, lifestyle adjustments, and reprogramming of stressful emotional patterns, this can all be fixed!

Pick helps you identify which of three adrenal dysfunction profiles you fit – Racehorse, Workhorse, or Flatliner – and then lays out an easy-to-follow, scientifically based program to help you restore adrenal balance, regear your metabolism, and regain your natural energy to live a happier and less-stressed life.

Book Review: Don’t Call Me Princess

don't call me princessDon’t Call Me Princess: Essays on Girls, Women, Sex, and Life
by Peggy Orenstein
Nonfiction/Essay Collection/Feminism
378 pages
Published February 2018

This is an interesting collection of essays because it’s drawn from the author’s previous work, so some of the essays are a little…dated. Each essay is preceded by a few paragraphs about it, though, talking about what was going on when Orenstein wrote the essay, or how the subject has changed since the essay was written, so instead of being out-of-touch, it’s more like a historical look back in time. Some of the essays even update other essays! In particular, one essay is about her first fight with breast cancer, and beating it, and a second essay is about when the cancer comes back years later. Similarly, there are essays about her issues with infertility and miscarriages, and later about being a mother.

I really enjoyed these articles, especially since I was reading the book while sick, and 3 or 4 page essays were about the limits of my attention span! I could sit down and read one (or two, if I was feeling particularly good) and actually absorb the contents. I tried to read a novel and wound up setting it aside because I couldn’t focus! I enjoy keeping anthologies and short story collections in my stack for that reason. Sometimes I just need something I can take in small bits, and this fit the bill nicely.

The essays ranged from profiles of remarkable women (Caitlin Moran, Gloria Steinem, Atsuko Chiba) to essays on the author’s personal life, to essays about our educational system, sexism in daily life, and intimate issues like cancer and infertility. It’s a wide range of topics, but all dealing with being a woman, and/or having a uterus. There are a couple of essays in the very back about masculinity, but it’s mostly a woman-centered book. That doesn’t mean men shouldn’t read it, quite the opposite! While the book isn’t quite as engrossing as some of the other feminist nonfiction I’ve been reading lately, it’s still quite good, and does deal with topics that I don’t see discussed often, like breast cancer and IVF, so it might be more interesting to people who have a personal connection to those topics. Well worth reading, though!

From the cover of Don’t Call Me Princess:

Named one of the “40 women who changed the media business in the last 40 years” by the Columbia Journalism Review, Peggy Orenstein is one of the most prominent, unflinching feminist voices of our time. Her writing has broken ground and broken silence on topics as wide-ranging as miscarriage, motherhood, breast cancer, princess culture, and the importance of girls’ sexual pleasure. Her unique blend of investigative reporting, personal revelation, and unexpected humor has made her books bestselling classics.

In Don’t Call Me Princess, Orenstein’s most resonant and important essays are available for the first time in collected form, updated with both an original introduction and personal reflections on each piece. Her takes on reproductive justice, the infertility industry, tensions between working and stay-at-home moms, pink ribbon fearmongering, and the complications of girl culture are not merely timeless – they have, like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, become more urgent in our contemporary political climate. Don’t Call Me Princess offers a crucial evaluation of where we stand today as women – in our work lives, sex lives, as mothers, as partners – illuminating both how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.

Book Review: Rage Becomes Her

Rage Becomes HerRage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger
by Soraya Chemaly
Nonfiction/Feminism/Civil Rights
392 pages
Published September 2018

This book goes in the same category as One Person, No Vote for me. I knew a lot of the general principles, but not the details, the statistics, the true scope of the problem. This book delves deeply into the statistics, but, like One Person, No Vote, is still very readable. I like nonfiction – when the author’s voice doesn’t bore me to tears. I’m slowly building up a list of nonfiction authors who I enjoy – Mary Roach, Soraya Chemaly, Carol Anderson – interesting that they’re all women.

Anyway.

Rage Becomes Her is about women’s relationship with anger. How we tamp it down for the men around us, because being angry makes you a target. Having an opinion online usually means getting harassed, stalked, threatened, swatted. We fear to provoke violence, so we don’t show our anger. And that’s fucked up.

Rage Becomes Her is also about why we are so angry. The rampant sexism and violence against women, the pressures put on us as women, the lopsided assignation of unpaid and underpaid labor.

Rage Becomes Her is about how boys and girls are socialized in regards to anger – it’s expected from boys, but girls are socialized not to show it, to be polite, to give way instead of saying NO. (I know I was brought up this way.)

Rage Becomes Her talks about the effect that anger has on our bodies. Did you know research shows that anger is “the single, most salient emotional contributor to pain”? Which leads into a very interesting passage:

Unaddressed anger affects our neurological, hormonal, adrenal, and vascular systems in ways that are still largely ignored in the treatment of pain. It’s hard to overstate what this means in terms of women’s health.

All over the world, women report much higher rates of both acute and chronic pain than men do. Of the more than one hundred million Americans who report living with daily pain, the vast majority are women. (A comprehensive study involving more than 85,000 respondents in seven developing and ten developed nations found that the prevalence of chronic pain conditions in men was 31 percent but in women it was 45 percent.) (Rage Becomes Her, p. 51)

Well that’s interesting. I’d never thought of my pain being connected to my anger. I certainly have plenty to be angry about currently, as a liberal woman. Interestingly, the book mentions that in the lead-up to Trump’s election, the angriest demographic was white women, especially conservative ones. It makes me wonder about the subconscious anger they must have felt while siding with white supremacy over their own gender. Internalized self-hatred is one hell of a drug. Chemaly delves into that, too. The myth of the “kind patriarch” and “benevolent sexism” and how women are often guilty of system justification, to their own detriment. If you gossip about a woman for showing her anger, it only reinforces that you won’t be able to show yours.

There is so much in this book that was eye-opening, like the fact that doctors are TWENTY-TWO MORE TIMES likely to recommend knee surgery to men with severe arthritis pain than to women, because women are expected to just suck it up and deal with being in pain. There were also unspoken rules spelled out, like when women swear, they tilt towards the “impure” in our social understanding of “purity” and hence, deserve punishment. Why is that a big deal? Numerous studies have shown that cursing numbs pain. Expletives alter our perceptions of pain, and if women aren’t allowed to use them, we’re saying women deserve to be in pain more than men do. (Also the point that women, using the same curse words men do, are considered more offensive.)

What I did find disappointing is there’s really only one chapter giving us any hint as to what to DO with all this information (and the anger it causes, ironically) – and it’s not all that extensive. I’ll be doing more reading on women’s anger; there’s several books out there right now, including Good and Mad: the Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, which is currently on hold at the library for me.

This is a book I’d like to go back to and reference in the future, so it’s going on my list of books to buy eventually. It really is excellent.

From the cover of Rage Becomes Her:

A TRANSFORMATIVE BOOK URGING TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY WOMEN TO EMBRACE THEIR ANGER AND HARNESS IT FOR LASTING PERSONAL AND SOCIETAL CHANGE.

WOMEN ARE ANGRY, and we have every right to be.

We are underpaid and overworked. Too sensitive or not sensitive enough. Too dowdy or too flashy. Too big or too thin. Sluts or prudes. We are harassed, told we are asking for it, and asked if it would kill us to smile. (Yes, yes, it would.)

Contrary to the rhetoric of popular “self-help” and entire lifetimes of being told otherwise, our rage is one of the most important resources we have, our sharpest tool against both personal and political oppression. We’ve been urged for so long to bottle up our anger, letting it corrode our bodies and minds in ways we don’t even realize. Yet our anger is a vital instrument, a radar for injustice and a catalyst for change. On the flip side, the societal and cultural belittlement of our anger is a cunning way of limiting and controlling our power.

We are so often encouraged to resist our rage or punished for justifiably expressing it, yet how many remarkable achievements would never have gotten off the ground without the kernel of anger that fueled them? Rage Becomes Her makes the case that anger is not what gets in our way, it is our way, sparking a liberating new understanding of this core human emotion.

Following in the footsteps of manifestos like The Feminine Mystique and The Beauty Myth, Rage Becomes Her is an eye-opening, accessible credo, offering us the tools to examine our anger and use it to create lasting positive change.

Book Review: Feminasty

FeminastyFeminasty: The Complicated Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy Without Drinking Herself to Death
by Erin Gibson
Comedic Memoir/Feminism
280 pages
Published September 2018

Comedic collection of essays about feminism? Yeah, I’m in. I was actually unaware of Erin Gibson prior to this book; she’s apparently pretty popular as one of the personalities on a podcast named Throwing Shade. But she’s got a way with words, and a sharp undercurrent of anger under the jokes, which happens to be just the way I like my political comedy.

That said, there wasn’t really anything new in this book. It’s the same ranting I’ve seen millions of times on Facebook and Twitter and online editorials. I really enjoyed her summary of the annual ob/gyn visit. I just didn’t find it all that original.

She’s got some amazing chapter titles – “THE TERRIFYING PROSPECT OF MIKE ‘VAGINAS ARE THE DEVIL’S MOUTH FLAPS’ PENCE” for example, or “EVERYONE HAS A CHOICE . . . UNLESS YOU’RE A WOMAN AND IT’S BEEN TAKEN AWAY FROM YOU.” She sums up a lot of topics that fledgling feminists might not know many details about, from abortion rights to sexist dress codes to teen abstinence pledges. But for the well-read, politically informed feminist that I try to be, I didn’t get much out of this book.

So – funny, yes. Sharp, angry wit, yes. Worth taking up space on my list when I have SO MANY other things to read? Not really.

From the cover of Feminasty:

Too bad I don’t give a f*ck about what the patriarchy wants.

Erin Gibson has a singular goal: to create a utopian future where women are recognized as humans. In Feminasty – titled after her nickname on the hit podcast Throwing Shade – she has written a collection of make-you-laugh-until-you-cry essays that expose the hidden rules that make life as a woman unnecessarily hard and deconstructs them in a way that’s bold, provocative, and hilarious.

Whether it’s about shaming women for having their periods, allowing them into STEM fields but never treating them like they truly belong, or dictating strict rules for how they should dress in every situation, Erin breaks down the organized chaos of old-fashioned sexism, intentional and otherwise, that systemically keeps women down.

Feminasty is Erin Gibson’s revolutionary handbook for dismantling the patriarchy, one pay gap joke at a time.