November 21st, 2016

_brown girl dreaming_, Jacqueline Woodson

Book group pick this month for Mayberry, NH (<-- not its real name). I got this copy from my local library (technically, it's from the Minuteman library network and comes from Goodnow).

It's prose. It's a super fast read and it is amazing how it just sinks into one's brain and the details just _stick_. Incredible writing, deceptively simple, and it seems clear from interviews (and from the content of this book, as it is a memoir) that that is both what the author intends and what the author is really, really good at. If you're wondering whether you should try a book by this author, the answer is, yes! Yes you should.

I don't generally go out of my way before reading a book club selection to research a book or author, the way I often do before reading a book _I_ pick. So I was quite startled to find partway through the book that she had been raised a JW. When she talks about the pink songbook and quotes a line or 4 of lyric, she caused my past to come right back out of its box and now I have that goddamn song stuck in my head again. Not likely to happen to most readers!

I'm looking forward to this evening's discussion, and may update this post after.

_You Are What You Wear_, Jennifer Baumgartner

I got this on the kindle, so if there are amazeballs illustrations in a paper version, I didn't see them.

I picked this up some time after reading Marie Kondo's book, I forget precisely why but presumably it had something to do with the psychology of closets (what your closet says about you, type of thing).

It's okay. It's not great. My recollection of Grant McCracken's _Big Hair_ is that it did a better job than this one on a related topic, and I think that's probably because McCracken took an anthropological perspective (these people have agency and are doing really interesting things to change their lives by changing some physical attribute) versus a psychologist's perspective (these people need help and I will explain to them what their clothing says about them and help them identify what they want to say about themselves and assist in the journey to get from here to there). But it has been long enough since I read _Big Hair_ that it's possible I have rose-tinted memories.

There are a couple elements that really stand out. First, as with McCracken, this is mostly aimed at women. At least McCracken acknowledged this as a problem and explained what he tried to do to get around that and why he thinks he failed. Baumgartner actually has cases in the book involving men -- and immediately applies those lessons to a presumed female readership. That's just taking the easy road. There's no apparent awareness. Second, Baumgartner has the usual failings of someone writing this kind of book. Inevitably, all the fashion advice points women in a particular class/race/socioeconomic direction.

I'm sure she's helpful to her clients; I'm less convinced this book is particularly helpful to anyone. I mean, whenever I read lists of The Only Clothes You Really Need and I don't own any of them, I wonder what the hell is even going on here anyway.