Book Review: The Last Black Unicorn

blackunicornThe Last Black Unicorn
by Tiffany Haddish
Comedy/Memoir
276 pages
Published December 2017

I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since I saw Haddish’s interview on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. This woman is HILARIOUS. Somehow I didn’t realize she was in the movie Girls Night until I read about it in her book – I really do need to see that movie. That aside, this book was pretty great. It’s written in her speaking style, so it’s not technically correct grammar, but it SOUNDS right, which is more important in a memoir, in my opinion. It’s supposed to show the author’s personality, and this does.

I don’t know that I’d put this on quite the same level as Trevor Noah’s Born A Crime, or Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy, but it’s not far behind them. Haddish talks about her childhood in the foster system and then raised by her grandmother, her string of no-good boyfriends, and her abusive marriage. She’s had a rough life, but somehow she’s come out of it with a gift for comedy and a grounded personality.

Her swamp tour with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith is one of the most hilarious stories in the book, and one of the few that is purely funny. Most of them are underscored with a serious issue that make me feel a little bad for laughing at them, but Haddish laughs at them, so how can you not? It’s an interesting conflict that leaves me with slightly mixed feelings about the book.

It’s a pretty quick, easy, fun read, and if you like Tiffany Haddish, it definitely shows what she’s gone through to get where she is now.

From the cover of The Last Black Unicorn:

From stand-up comedian, actress, and breakout star of Girls Trip, Tiffany Haddish, comes The Last Black Unicorn, a sidesplitting, hysterical, edgy, and unflinching collection of (extremely) personal essays, as fearless as the author herself.

Growing up in one of the poorest neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles, Tiffany learned to survive by making people laugh. If she could do that, then her classmates would let her copy their homework, the other foster kids she lived with wouldn’t beat her up, and she might even get a boyfriend. Or at least she could make enough money—as the paid school mascot and in-demand Bar Mitzvah hype woman—to get her hair and nails done, so then she might get a boyfriend.

None of that worked (and she’s still single), but it allowed Tiffany to imagine a place for herself where she could do something she loved for a living: comedy.

Tiffany can’t avoid being funny—it’s just who she is, whether she’s plotting shocking, jaw-dropping revenge on an ex-boyfriend or learning how to handle her newfound fame despite still having a broke person’s mind-set. Finally poised to become a household name, she recounts with heart and humor how she came from nothing and nowhere to achieve her dreams by owning, sharing, and using her pain to heal others.

By turns hilarious, filthy, and brutally honest, The Last Black Unicorn shows the world who Tiffany Haddish really is—humble, grateful, down-to-earth, and funny as hell. And now, she’s ready to inspire others through the power of laughter.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

mausMaus
Art Spiegelman
Graphic Novel
295 pages
Published 1996

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day set aside to remember the six million Jews that died in the genocide of World War 2. This is an especially important day given the things that have been taking place in America over the past year. I partially read Hitlerland a few months ago, about Americans living in Germany when the war broke out, and how they reacted to the events happening around them, and was horrified at how closely the early events mirrored what is happening now with Trump. I also read the Diary of Anne Frank in high school, as so many other students did.

What I read this year was the Complete Maus. Maus is a graphic novel about the author’s father’s experience in the concentration camps. In the novel Jews are mice, Poles are pigs, and Germans are cats. (Humans are dogs and French are frogs.) The art is stark, but it fits the subject matter. It’s almost entirely black and white, with the exception of a few cover pages. The time period jumps back and forth a little. Most of it is set during the war, with the father, Vladek, narrating what’s going on. The rest of it is in modern time, sometimes with the author interviewing his father, sometimes just the author dealing with his elderly father’s eccentricities. maus-swastika

While the graphic novel doesn’t shy away from the violence and sheer number of people dying, it’s not graphic about it. There’s no gore. I feel like this would be a good first book for learning about the Holocaust, though depending on age, kids might need help with the vocabulary.

It’s a fairly fast read for an adult. I think the animals were a really well done metaphor – Vladek, a mouse, often has a pig mask on as he masquerades as a Polish non-Jew. I get most of the animal metaphors – Germans as cats while the Jews are mice, French are frogs, and Americans are friendly dogs. I had to ask Google why Poles were pigs – apparently they were represented as pigs in Nazi propaganda. There’s also an element of Poles being non-kosher, and, also, a certain amount of racism. Whether that racism is Art’s or Vladek’s is unclear, but ultimately Art chose to represent them with pigs, so. That problematic factor aside, this was a really good piece of art.

From the cover of Maus:

Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek’s harrowing story of survival is woven into the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century’s grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.

Book Review: The Goddess Companion

goddesscompThe Goddess Companion: Daily Meditations on the Feminine Spirit
by Patricia Monaghan
400 pages
Published 1999
Pagan/Spirituality

This is one of the first pagan books I bought myself, and I absolutely love it. It has an entry for every day of the year, so you can read it daily as a meditation, or open it when you feel you need guidance.

An example of a day:

February 16

The flood receded, leaving swamps
where life emerged anew like seeds
sprouting in a mother’s womb.
It was just like spring, when peasants
overturn the soil to find a world
of creatures there, as though the earth
itself crept and wriggled and was alive.
Life begins in heat and water,
those apparent opposites that stir
creation. Thus the sun, rising on
the flooded earth, brought forth new life.
– Ovid, Metamorphoses
In the myths of many cultures, the earth is destroyed – often by a flood – and then reborn, re-made. So it was in Greek and Roman mythology, which told of a great flood that only the woman Pyrrha and her mate Deucalion survived. Told by an oracle that she would bear children from “the bones of her mother,” Pyrrha figured out that her mother being the earth, the bones would mean the rock skeleton of the planet. Throwing stones behind herself, Pyrrha produced an entire new race of humans to repopulate the earth.

After the destructive flood, the earth replenished itself anew. Such myths capture the special freshness of spring, when all seems reborn. In our own lives, too, we will find times when an order is overturned – a job or love lost, a home transformed – but new order emerges from the ruin. Trusting in such rebirth is difficult, but every spring reminds us that renewal is an inevitable part of life.

Each day in the book brings a quote from ancient poetry or song or religious text about some aspect of the goddess. Some days it’s Horace or Homer, some days it’s a Lithuanian Folk song, or an Indian prayer to Kali. I love how it draws from such widely different traditions to show different faces of the goddess.

It’s quite seasonal; it doesn’t have days of the week, but it does go by dates, so you’ll find things about spring in February, March, and April; entries about depression and the dark of winter in December and January; entries about death and ancestors in October.

I highly recommend this book; it is well-written, insightful, and well-researched. This is a book I crack open not-quite-daily, but at least once a week, and whenever I need a goddess fix. I used to have quotes from this book written out on paper and posted all over my house. I did not realize the author had written so many other books – she has about 20 listed on her Wikipedia page! I only own The Goddess Companion and The Goddess Path, but I think I’ll be looking up more of her work. Sadly, she died about a year ago, but she left behind a wonderful body of work. If you’re interested in reading about the divine feminine, this book is a great place to start.