Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed is a delightful mix of what it’s like to be a therapist, how therapists behave when they go see a therapist for their own struggles (and not just to get a second opinion on a client), and the author’s personal, twisted journey into becoming a therapist (it’s LA, so show business in involved, but also med school!)
The three strands come together perfectly and you will close the book wanting more.
The best parts of Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do, for me, are when the author describes experiments that show how deeply rooted prejudice can be, for instance that we don’t process “out-group” faces as deeply as more familiar faces, or that we do not notice nonverbal slights against minority characters in TV shows (and the actors in the shows may not notice either!). Other chapters present a more standard recitation of past and present racism horrors of various types. Sadly, there’s not a whole lot that can be done to change implicit bias, although training can, blessedly, avoid applying the biases blindly.
Want a light but not completely silly book for summer? Cheer Up, Mr. Widdicombe fits the bill. It stars a carefully composed set of characters, from the pater familias settling uncomfortably into retirement, his wife who is on a house decorating frenzy, their heartbroken and bored son, and assorted house visitors. Minor drams ensue.
I kep wondering why the wealthy couple employs a personal assistant (so fancy!) and a gardener (reasonable) but no housekeeper. It may be better to not think too much about such details.
Women who read Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger already know that girls are raised not to express their anger, and that angry women are seen as threatening, even crazy. The author suggests (without scientific proof, alas) that anger that cannot be expressed can also cause physical pain and depression. And she explores how anger in men is, on the other hand celebrated or at least excused. I thought that the unrelenting tone of outrage was a bit much (would I have accepted it better from a man?) and that the length could have been pruned, but the topic is certainly interesting.
Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss stars an aging and famous economist who, after a bike accident in England, is told to reduce his stress. He has lived his whole life as a brainy professor, aloof, divorced from the real world, and, not surprisingly, estranged from his wife and adult children. Surely, it will be a cinch to show his children that he is smart and always right.
He arranges a sabbatical at what is clearly UC Irvine but very strangely called UC Bella Vista (why? not clear; there’s another passage in the book when he sees the Great Lakes while flying from Hong Kong to California, so the writer may be geography challenged). While there, he tries to connect with his struggling teenage daughter, attends a new-age retreat at Esalen, and tries to understand his son’s self-help business in Hong Kong (hence the strange plane route). The story exposes him, very sweetly, as the misanthropic, clueless person he’s always been, and delightfully does not end on a complete success, although he does take huge stride towards a more human version of itself. Very funny but also a very kind portrait of a nerd trying to reform.
They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South is a professional historian’s account of the role of women in slavery, concluding with the perhaps obvious statement that they (or at least some of them) were eager and often sophisticated actors in slavery. To make her argument, she cites legal records showing gifts of slaves to women (even girls), lawsuits between wives and husbands for control of slave ownership, and sales records proving that women were active and savvy traders. The details are stomach turning.
When a serial killer is caught, what happens to his family? A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming shows us how harrowing it is to discover that one’s father killed (and tortured!) many people. Sure, he was a man with a temper, but no one in the family suspected him, and he seemed content to continue his relationship with them as if nothing had happened.
The story could have been edited to make for a much more solid outcome, but the theme is heartbreaking.
The title of Life Admin: How I Learned to Do Less, Do Better, and Live More makes it sound like a self-help book but it’s not, not really. It’s more of an expose of how much time we spend doing administrative work we need to do every day, work that’s neither fun nor recognized (nor paid!) but is nevertheless required to live. The author, with a full-time job and two small children, has a particularly hard time with the volume of life admin.
She astutely points out how life admin easily shifts to the person who does a task once, or better, or faster–and stays there forever. I’m not sure I would FaceTime with a friend to get through onerous tasks, but it might work for you! And, to the creators of life admin (schools, medical insurance companies, and the like): lighten up, will you!
Eli, the hero of Boy Swallows Universe, has a drug-dealer stepfather (who will be killed in drug wars), a depressed mother (who will end up in prison), an alcoholic father (who cannot hold a job), and a mute brother (with other issues). But he has a plan: to corner the heroin market in Brisbane. It will take him to a career in journalism, a terrifying meeting with a drug kingpin, and back to a family drama he tried to forget. I just loved this story of a boy with big ideas in a world that thinks that children can’t do much.
The Emperor of Shoes is a young American who is poised to inherit a shoe factory from his father, but wants to change the direction of the company from safe and staid white labels to a new line. At the same time, he is in love with one of the workers who is organizing the workers to demand safer work conditions and better pay. Obvious contradictions need to be resolved, and cultural misunderstandings abound. It’s a debut novel, and a promising one.