Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Children Are Jailed For Their Parents' Crimes in Blame (Book Review)

Blame is a near-future dystopian novel set in the UK. Following a global economic depression, public anger focuses on those who benefited financially from embezzlement, fraud or other crimes. The people want revenge, but in many cases the perpetrators are dead or can't be found. So attention turns to their descendants, and the concept of "heritage crime" is born.

As Abie (a.k.a. Ant) explains it: "People don't like us, Mattie, you know that. Outside it's because we 'got away' with it for so long, because we had this great life we weren't supposed to have…. It makes them feel better if they can blame us for everything. They used to blame black people, refugees, Jews, immigrants, whatever. Then they ran out of people to point fingers at. So now it's us."

Ant, her brother Mattie, and their foster parents Gina and Dan, are all found guilty of having criminal parents, and are put in one of the new "family prisons" in the UK. Their chief tormentor is Assessor Grey, the man who spearheaded the family-jailing movement. He also dreamed up the cruel strap that bolts onto the backs of these "heritage criminals" and prevents them from walking normally. The resultant gait gives them the nickname "strutters."

Ant is a rebel and unwilling to keep her head down until her "debt to society" is paid. She's looking for a way to escape, and not a moment too soon, as conditions are deteriorating, not only in their own prison but in the prison full of actual violent criminals, which, awkwardly enough, connects to their prison via a corridor.

Bizarre circumstances ensue, leading to Ant and her brother finding themselves on the lam with a gang of other strutters. In order to survive, they must commit some minor crimes—a reminder that when we label people as bad, fairly or not, and repeat it over and over again, they tend to oblige us by becoming so.

Other improbable things happen, and it all culminates in a bonanza of triumphant improbability. People who demand realism in their fiction may not be happy with this book. On the other hand, readers who can suspend their disbelief will find it a breathless ride. It is, in fact, much like a Hollywood thriller.

It's also thought-provoking. One is tempted to dismiss the novel's central conceit as something that could never happen in our allegedly enlightened society. But look at what's happening in the world today. Even well-off people are ready to see themselves as the victims of Syrians, Mexicans, etc., who come from other countries in search of a better life. A Trump presidency seemed a laughable impossibility to many just one year ago. Blame is popular right now. The Bible itself gives us a precedent for heritage crime, saying "The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation" (Numbers 14:18).

One of my favorite things about Blame is its sprinkling of foreign languages. Ant and Mattie are half Haitian and sometimes speak Creole to each other. A Creole nursery rhyme that serves as a metaphor for their condition comes up in a couple of places. Creole is a fascinating mix of French and something altogether different.

Another language that comes up in the book is German. Germany is the only country in Europe without heritage crime laws. They have learned from their history and no longer give in to the temptation to blame a group of others for their problems. Thus German is seen by the strutters as the language of freedom. Strutters dream of immigrating to Germany.

Finally, the strutters have their own slang, a glossary to which is provided at the beginning of the book. The author appears to take a special interest in languages. I'm curious to see if he plays with languages in his other novels.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Oh Yeah... Global Warming

I think almost all of us are getting caught up in the American election. It is, after all, the craziest spectacle of an election since Americans first started having elections. Those of us who aren't terrified of the spectre of a Donald Trump presidency think he's he's some sort of orange-haired misogynist superhero who going to Make America Great Again.

Yes, we should be afraid—but not of Donald Trump. We should be afraid of the wildfires raging in California right now, and the wildfires that raged in Alberta last month. We should be scared of reports that the temperature reached 54 degrees Celsius in Mitribah, Kuwait[1] (129 Fahrenheit for you Americans). This is the hottest temperature ever recorded outside of Death Valley (also in California).

The very name "Death Valley" suggests that this is not a climate we want proliferating over the globe. I read somewhere that plants can't live if the average temperature gets above 50 degrees Celsius. If plants can't live, neither can we.

So we should be very scared of global warming, and we should realize that no one is going to save us from it if we don't save ourselves. Here is an idea that is having some difficulty gaining traction. Most people are now at a point where they're willing to consider global warming a problem, and to accept that somebody ought to do something. The thing is, there is no other "somebody" out there. There's only us. We are the ones who need to do something. Not the politicians. (So not the politicians! All they want is our votes.) Not Elon Musk. You and me.

This is both good news and bad news. The bad news is that we can't be lazy and wait for Superman and Wonderwoman to show up. We have to change what we are personally doing.

The good news is that we have that power. We can do it. You're the one you've been waiting for. Isn't that exciting?

I suggest a three-pronged approach, though if you have other ideas, go with them. It's your life.

1. Change your commute

Remember when the car was something you fired up on a pleasant Sunday to go for a drive? Neither do I. The unfortunate norm that has developed is to drive everywhere, for everything. That's not working. To get to the office and the grocery store, walk, bike or take the bus. Do you live in one of those ghastly modern subdivisions with no public transportation and no real infrastructure? There are still things you can do. Contact your ward councilor and tell him you want bus service. While he's working on that, start carpooling with your neighbours. Do everything you have to do in one trip rather than being in and out of the car all day.

2. Change your house

If you live in a northern climate, get your house well insulated and install a heat pump. Yes, there's an initial expenditure, but you'll make it back, and after that, it's sheer savings. We installed a ductless mini-split, and now our electricity bill is about 40% less than it used to be. If you live in a hot climate, you can still benefit from a heat pump. They cool as well as heat, and are more efficient than traditional air conditioners. But don't just rely on heat pumps to manage temperatures. On a hot sunny day, close blinds, curtains and windows to keep your house cooler. On a cold sunny day, throw open the blinds and curtains to let the sun warm the house.

3. Change your vacations

I have long suspected that people in northern climates fly to southern ones in the winter strictly to make their friends jealous. There are better ways to spend your next vacation than lying in the sun working on your skin tumour. Stay closer to home, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at all the fun and interesting things you can do in neighbouring towns, even in your own town. There are a couple of nice things about going to overlooked vacation spots such as small towns. One is the lack of crowds. Another is that the volunteers in the tiny museum will be so happy to see you. They'll give you a tour, and maybe even show you neat stuff they're currently working on in their archives.

And why escape from winter when you can enjoy it? You can snowshoe, skate and ski. Yes, alpine skiing takes fuel and electricity. You have to drive to the hill, and a ski lift hauls you up the montain. That's still better than flying in a plane, or taking a cruise. Cruise ships these days are so gigantic that they're less efficient than airplanes. It's true. Also, they're in the habit of dumping their sewage (which is to say, passenger poop) into the ocean. That's just gross.

Do these three things, and you wont't just be saving the world and improving your fitness and health, you'll also be saving money, and lots of it. Who doesn't like saving money?

If you're poor, you're excempt from number 2, and you're already doing numbers 1 and 3 by default. But there's still something you can change.

4. (Optional) Change your dreams for the future

Instead of telling yourself, "One day I'll have a big house and a big car and I'll fly to the Caribbean every year!" tell yourself, "One day I'll have a passive solar house and a tiny electric car, and I'll live simply and non-materialistically, give my money away to causes I care about, and feel really good about myself!" That's a much better dream.

Gandhi is supposed to have said, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world."[2] Those are good words to live by. If you prefer to get your inspiration from stories, you might want to get a copy of How the Children Stopped the Wars. I read this book years ago, and it's stayed with me.

It's about a little boy whose father is far away. All the children in his village are missing their fathers--they're off fighting in the war. One day when he's walking by himself, he meets a strange little man who explains to him that the war has been going on for years and years. It's lasted so long that nobody remembers why they're fighting, and many have died.

The little boy asks, "Why doesn't somebody stop it?"

The little man says, "Why don't you?" Then he shrinks into a point and vanishes.

So the little boy gathers together the children of his village, and off they go. They have all kinds of interesting and scary adventures, and eventually find their fathers and stop the war.

That little man has a message for all of us.

1. See Back

2. Or maybe he didn't quite say that. See Back. So what? There's something to be said for pithiness and memorability.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Economy Should NOT Be Our Number 1 Priority

An election looms on Monday, following one of the longest election periods in Canadian history[1]. Not entirely coincidentally, the four-year term drawing to a close feels like one of the longest in Canadian history. During this period, our environmental laws have been gutted like our fish[2]. Our libraries have been trashed, years of irreplaceable data discarded like empty Tim Horton's cups[3]. We have acquired mandatory minimum sentences[4] and a habit of using solitary confinement as an oubliette[5]. Veterans—you know, those people who risked life and limb for us—have been stripped of their pensions[6]. Largely due to the tar sands, our pollution levels are increasing[7] and Alberta's caribou are disappearing[8].

Yet the Progressive[9] Conservatives are at 30% in the polls. The Oct. 5 issue of Macleans displays a picture of a Conservative candidate and her supporters holding signs that read, "Economy #1 Priority" and "Protect the Economy"[10].

The focus of many a political debate suggests that this premise is widely accepted. To hell with justice, human rights, air, water—it's all about money! This is what we get if we allow Stephen Harper and his spin doctors to control our conversations. Which is what we have done, so far. Let's stop it, shall we? Should the economy be our number one priority? Of course not. No sane and civilized society would think so.

This government has created a tremendous amount of human suffering. That should trump any discussion of the economy. Why aren't we talking about that? Why aren't candidates and party leaders bringing it up in debates? The assumption is that we Canadians are all selfish and care about nothing that doesn't affect us directly. If we as a country want to embrace that, then we need to stop pretending we're "nice." The out-of-date perception of Canadians as nice people persists for now, but it won't forever if we continue down this road, and we shouldn't expect it to. Nice people care not only about their immediate interests but about what's happening next door. Such people would have a problem with a government that refuses to do anything about sky-high rates of murder of Aboriginal women. They certainly wouldn't plan to vote for said government at a rate of 30%. (Yes, it's a minority but it's far too large a minority.) This is shameful and a disgrace.

Of secondary importance is the fact that making the economy our number 1 priority will not keep us safe and secure. Anyone who prioritizes the economy for this reason has not thought things through, and there are a lot of people who have not thought things through. Apparently it's a popular idea that as long as we have a strong economy, we don't have to worry if we're not growing enough food to feed ourselves; we can simply buy food from abroad. Pierre DeRochet says as much in the Oct. 5 edition of CBC's The 180[11].

Sure, that'll work—until we do something our food supplier doesn't like, and they decide to withhold food from us until we change what we're doing. What might the reason be? Well, maybe we have good relations with another country that our food-supplying country is at odds with, and they want to change that. Maybe they don't like our laws. Maybe they don't like our immigration policies. It could be anything, really. But as food diminishes on our grocery store shelves, we will do whatever they say. Once our entire food supply is in the hands of someone else, we will have zero autonomy.

Perhaps you think they won't do that because they want the money that we pay them for our food. That might work in our favour for a while, until something comes up that they hold more important than money. After all, just because we're stupid enough to value money more than anything else doesn't mean everybody else is that stupid. They can manage with less money for a while. They have food, and without the cramp of hunger in their bellies, they can hold out until they get what they want.

Another scenario is that the food-supplying country has seen a huge drop in their yields, due to unfavorable weather, and no longer has any surplus. They cease to export food, because they need it all to feed their own populace. In this scenario, there are no demands we can give into in order to feed ourselves, no terrible trade-off to make. We simply starve. This scenario becomes more likely as progressive global warming leads to more extreme weather conditions, droughts and floods[12].

When that happens, those who prioritized the economy can eat their money. Too bad it's now made out of plastic. The paper money we used to make would have been a little more digestible.

Canada, it's time to grow up. Start prioritizing the things that really matter: people, animals, lakes, rivers, beauty, compassion, love. Vote for these things on October 19. Stop prioritizing that crackly stuff in your wallet. Your infatuation with it degrades you now, and it will surely let you down in the end.

1. The longest election period in Canadian history was in 1872. See The Ottawa Citizen, Aug. 3, 2015.

2. Linnitt, Carol. "New Report Shows 'Systematic Dismantling' of Canada’s Environmental Laws Under Conservative Government.", Oct. 14, 2015.

3. Kingston, Anne. "Vanishing Canada: Why we're all losers in Ottawa's war on data." Maclean's, Sept. 18, 2015.

4. Department of Justice, Government of Canada.

5. White, Patrick. "Confined: the death of Eddie Showshoe." The Globe and Mail, Dec. 4, 2014.

6. See and

7. See

8. See

9. I believe that these days, the word "progressive" in the party name is short for "progressively worse."

10. See

11. The 180. "Food Security: Is it better to 'eat local' or global?" Oct. 11, 2015.

12. See

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review: The Sharing Knife Part 4: Horizon

Horizon (The Sharing Knife, #4)Horizon by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book 3: Passage, dealt with Dag and Fawn's journey down the rivers Grace and Grey and the experiences, good, bad, and ugly, that they have along the way. When Horizon opens, they have come to the end of their river journey, in the seaside town of Greymouth. Here Dag meets Lakewalkers of a nearby camp who are able to direct him to a medicine maker of great repute, and he is at last able to begin an apprenticeship. But the usual problem, Lakewalker non-acceptance of his farmer wife Fawn, asserts itself, and it's not long before Fawn and Dag are on the road again.

I found this to be the weakest of all the Sharing Knife books. The problem of too many characters, some of whom never get developed, cropped up to some extent in the previous book, but here it's a good deal worse. By mid-book, there are so many people tagging along with the party that it's hard for the reader to remember many of them, especially since a good five or six are little more than names, and four or so others get such short shrift that their motivations are unclear, their behaviour inconsistent, their characters murky—Calla especially. I think the book would have been better if she had been edited out altogether. I also would have edited out that poor family in the wagon; I don't think they added anything of value. Granted that there have to be some farmers around for the climactic malice encounter, they don't need to be that darned numerous. The excess of characters also bogs down the story, especially around three-quarters through, and the proceedings get downright dull for a while.

Which is a shame, because pulled down by all that bloat is a fine story, with many dramatic and even horrific elements, and once again, Fawn's talent for thinking outside the box proves essential. I mentioned Fawn's increasing domestic yearnings in my review of book 3. That does not change in book 4. Fawn still wants to settle down and have an iron cook-stove and babies. Yet she can still come through in the crunch, and so really, though fans of kick-ass women in fantasy fiction are unlikely to be pleased, I think it's for the best that she is presented this way; she makes for an unusual, and even unusually well-rounded, female heroine. And though Dag and Fawn may seem to have somewhat disparate needs, they manage to get them all met in the end while remaining together.

Speaking of Fawn having babies, there is a consistent theme of birth and pregnancy throughout the series, which culminates in an unexpected and bizarre fashion in Horizon. I haven't yet managed to work up a good analysis of this theme, but I feel it could and should be done, and that Freudian psychologists could very well have a field day with some of the imagery. Perhaps later I'll manage to come up with something.

I wonder if the book's problems may be due in part to its being fourth in a quadrilogy. It is an unusual form, and there may be a good reason for that; perhaps it is an unwieldy one as well. And of course, the longer and more complex a story is, the harder it is to wrap up. But wrapped up it is, neatly enough at the last. Whatever flaws Horizon has, it is still worth reading to see how well everything is resolved at the end.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Buy this book at Book Depository and get free shipping.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I ate cricket! (In chip form, mind you)

We had a treat for lunch today: my cricket chips, which I pre-ordered way back in mid-winter, arrived this morning. Amusingly called Chirps, these chips come in three flavours and are the creation of a new company called Six Foods.

As you can see in the picture, the chips came with a nice canvas tote bag. I quite like the slogan on it: "Bug Appétit." I'll definitely be carrying that around in public! Also included was a sweet handwritten letter, thanking us "Bug Lovers" for supporting the company, and also providing some interesting information on their process from dream to product:

We've worked with a food pilot plant for eight months to create the recipe & it has been a huge learning experience for us. We've experimented with 50 different recipes, obscure ingredients (teff anyone?), and called over 400 manufacturers till we found the right partners.

Thank you for being patient with us through this process. As a token of our love + appreciation, there's an extra Six Foods tote for you.

Bug Appétit!
Laura, Meryl, + Rose

Wow, Laura, Meryl and Rose, you are some hard-working entrepreneurs! Good for you.

The Chirps packaging advertises that Chirps contain "3X more protein than regular potato chips," but really, they should be compared not to potato chips but to tortilla-bean chips. So I'm doing that. According to, Kettle Tortilla Black Bean chips contain 3g of protein, 18g of carbohydrates and 7g of fat. Beanitos are another chip worth comparing with, as they also contain beans, although not corn. According to the Beanitos web site, Black Bean Beanitos have 4g of protein, 15g of carbohydrate and 7g of fat. Chirps chips contain 6g of protein, 12g of carbohydrates and 6g of fat. So yes, Chirps win, in terms of having the most protein. They also have less fat and a better carb to protein ratio.

At this point you may be thinking, "Never mind all that, how do they taste?"

When I ordered Chirps, I opted for the variety pack so that we could try all three flavours: natural, cheddar and BBQ. So we had to decide which one to open first. I thought the natural bag first would be a good choice, as it would allow us to better appreciate the unadulterated flavour of cricket. So we did that, and... they're quite tasty. Better than original Beanitos, I would say. They have little black dots in them, but those are the chia seeds, not the crickets. No visible bits of cricket can be detected in this product, so if you're squeamish about that, you can set your mind at ease. They look and taste somewhat like tortilla bean chips, but with a slight difference, and I'm not sure how much of that is the chia seeds and how much is the cricket. Also, they are stiffer and crunchier than the typical tortilla chip. In terms of hardness, they remind me of Mary's Crackers.

So I can recommend Chirps by Six Foods as a gentle introduction to the world of bug-eating for anyone who would like to take the plunge but is not ready to stuff a whole cricket or mealworm in their mouth, a la Millennium Farms. That's quite advanced for us weeny Westerners, and I'm happy to leave that for later.

Ingredients in Chirps, Natural Flavour

  • Navy Beans
  • Sunflower/ Safflower Oil
  • Corn Flour
  • Chia Seeds
  • Pea Flour
  • Cricket Flour (Gryllodes Sigillatus and/or Acheta Domesticus)
  • Salt

Allergy Alert

The Chirps packaging advises that "If you have crustacean shellfish allergies, you may also be sensitive to crickets."

Friday, April 10, 2015

Enforced Hugging and the Easter Bunny

I witnessed an ugly scene recently, at an Easter brunch buffet. Not a locale where one would expect to see an ugly scene, but then, I'm sure not everyone would see it as I did.

This Easter buffet had a giant bunny on hand, strolling about. What I mean, of course, is that some unfortunate fellow was paid to put on a ridiculous bunny-humanoid costume.

This is apparently something that has become a tradition while I wasn't looking. I was at the mall yesterday and there was a lineup of parents with their children waiting to sit in he Easter Bunny's lap. Is Santa Claus not enough anymore? Who decided that children didn't have enough opportunities as it was to be compelled to sit in the lap of a total stranger? At least with Santa Claus, you know you're going to get presents out of it. (Leaving aside the fact that that's a lie and you get the presents anyway.) What are kids getting out of sitting in the lap of the Easter Bunny?

Anyway, an extended family sat at a nearby table. There were at least three generations together, and one little boy. The guy in the bunny costume came along, and soon the little boy was standing next to him, fidgeting, while the adults took pictures. The coercion started immediately. "Give the Easter Bunny a hug. Go on, give him a hug. Go ahead, give the bunny a hug." And so on.

It was obvious that the child had no desire to hug the stranger in the grotesque bunny-humanoid costume, and equally obvious that his mother was not going to let up until he did. I tried to be of some aid&8212;"You don't have to hug him if you don't want to!" I called out from my table a couple of times&8212;but what authority did I have, compared to his mother? And the Easter Bunny was playing along, spreading his arms and waiting. Eventually, the boy gave in, moved into the waiting arms. I looked away.

"It's all right, he can hug the Easter Bunny," the mother said afterward&8212;aimed at me, I suspect&8212;"I don't want him to be afraid of things."

Of course no one wants their child to be overly fearful. But what does that have to do with hugging total strangers? What does that have to do with teaching a child that his own feelings are of no importance?

I think that as a society, we have a view of children as cartoons, as not real. I don't see how else we could possibly make such bizarre demands of them. I imagine that the mother's inner cartoon is of a child that loves everybody and wants to go about hugging everybody and everything. One does occasionally encounter children like this, but the nice thing about them is that they are acting out of their own inclinations. They're not doing it because someone told them they have to, but because they feel like it, and that makes all the difference.

That mother was probably not thinking of the issue of sexual predators. People don't want to think of such things, because it's unpleasant, so they put it out of their minds and go on doing the same things their parents did. If the mother had thought about sexual predators, as she should have, she might have asked herself this question: which child is more at risk from a predator, one who's been allowed to go with his own inclinations about physical expressions of affection, or the one who's been repeatedly coerced into providing insincere hugs and kisses?

Back in the 80's, it was starting to dawn on people that we have a child sexual abuse problem. And so, books and courses began to appear that tried to teach children to differentiate between touches that feel good, and touches that don't, and to be able to say, "No." There has been little discussion about why this is something we even need to teach our children. Aren't children born with the ability to discern what feels good and what doesn't? Of course they are, and they have no trouble saying "No" at age two, when they enthusiastically say "No" to everyone and everything. Until they are taught that their feelings are irrelevant and they have to kiss and hug Auntie and Grandpa and the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus and promiscuously give unfelt affection to everyone their Mommy orders them to.

So the books and courses have to fight an uphill battle. They're trying to teach one thing, and the average parent is teaching the opposite.

I'll tell you what breaks my heart. Children have so few defenses as it is. They don't have size, they don't have weight, they don't have authority in the world and they don't have easy, articulate speech. All they have, to begin with, is their clear understanding of their feelings and their ability to say "No!" And parents like Easter Bunny Mother are working hard to rob them of even that.

Further Reading

I did a search on Google Scholar to see if any research links forced displays of affection with greater vulnerability to sexual predators. I didn't find any research, but I did find this: Why Your Child Should Never Be Forced to Hug a Relative.

Also this: Parent Tips for Preventing and Identifying Child Sexual Abuse. Note that bullet point number two says, "Children most susceptible to sexual abuse have obedient, compliant and respectful personalities."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Book Review: The Twisted Sisterhood by Kelly Valen

The Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female FriendshipsThe Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Friendships by Kelly Valen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is important subject matter that merits more thoughtful treatment than it receives here. One might think that Valen is just the person to write on this issue, given her painful experience of being blamed by her sorority sisters for her rape. But I think that may be what handicaps her: the issue is just too painful for her, and she lacks perspective. Whatever the case, this is less a nuanced look at a complex issue than it is a generous helping of familiar mean-girl, queen-bee and green-eyed-monster stereotypes, padded with a lot of tiresome ranting and unsuccessful attempts at humour.

First comes a chapter on how wonderful female friendships allegedly are. It's unnecessary and outside the book's purported mandate, but it's there because Valen is scared that women won't like her if she doesn't put it in; after all, she was flamed online after writing of her sorority experiences, and is understandably nervous. It strikes me that if there'd been more here on this female fear around not being liked, and the inauthenticity it produces, this would be a better book.

But Valen deals only with nastiness, not excessive niceness, and thereby misses half the female equation, in my opinion. There is some interesting, in fact horrifying, information about female bullying and the damage it can do, from various sources as well as the author's own survey. What is lacking is insight on what created this state of affairs, and how it can be bettered. Valen makes it clear that we can't just blame men—much ranting is expended on that issue. Fair enough, but patriarchy is something that men and women both participate in and keep alive, and I would have liked to see some thoughtful exploration on how it might be contributing. What, after all, must it do to girls to be told explicitly that they can be whatever they want, while receiving the message implicitly that they must first and foremost be beautiful and desirable? Is this not confusing and disturbing, and might it not explain some of the strange behaviour girls exhibit towards other girls that they perceive as too pretty, or not pretty enough?

But Valen is tired of "blaming men," which is what she thinks feminism is all about. She even suggests that feminism may be part of the problem(!). "How is it..." she writes, "that we can progress into a new age of female competence and greater equality... only to find that our competitive spirits have deepened and we're tearing down one another as much if not more than ever?" The evidence that we're tearing down one another as much if not more than ever is nowhere to be found. We are expected to take it on faith.

Subtlety and insight are in short supply. Valen can't seem to decide whether she should be outraged, appeasing, or attempting to diffuse tension with humour, and so we are treated to sentences like this: "Maybe you're among the legions of women I heard from who were traumatized or marginalized in school, in girls' summer camp, sororities, at work, or in the cotton-pickin' sandbox because you were fat, Jewish, poor, acne prone, dressed like a dork, boasted a confidence, brain, or beauty that threatened others, or did something that managed to trigger an estrogen-laced, Lord of the Flies-like wrath." There's a lot to cringe at in this sentence, but what tops the list for me is "cotton-pickin'." Good grief, lady, you're writing a book about how women should be more sensitive to each other's feelings. How about showing some sensitivity to other races while you're at it? (The author is white.)

I think ultimately Valen is too close to this issue to see it clearly or analyze it well, and this sinks her book more than either her questionable writing abilities or her questionable sense of humour. Still, I admire her for having had the courage to write it.

View all my reviews on Goodreads