Book Review: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bad FeministRoxane! Why?! I’ll be honest, Bad Feminist was hard to get through. I read it for my book club and when it came time for us to all talk about the book, we looked around the table at each other with a collective “ummm…”

Don’t get me wrong — the Scrabble story was great. Who wouldn’t want to know what it’s like to be in a competitive Scrabble league in the middle of America? Better yet, who wouldn’t want to hear about Gay’s hot pink playing board and the intensity with which competitive Scrabble aficionados adhere to the rules?

But after those fun and games (pun intended), I hit a rut with this one. Gay presents a number of book reviews, movie reviews, and pop culture analysis as a lens through which to comment on race and feminism. But there’s not enough tying the essays together to make the work feel like anything cohesive.

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Freddie-Gray-portraitThe privilege of being white or rich is the privilege to question. To say: but he ran… but he did drugs… but he was guilty…

I don’t know much about the man who died in Baltimore last week. I know my friends’ and allies’ rage. I know their pain. I see it splashed across social media.

Who gets to believe is one of the biggest problems. Who gets to believe in the roots of this epidemic and who gets to turn away or add in skepticism.

Writers are telling us that these deaths are different, reminding us that each black person killed is a unique human being. Let’s always remember that. Let’s never let a black death become just another number.

Shifting Identity and the Public Gaze

Image via Flickr.
Image via Flickr.

As a kid I quickly developed coping mechanisms for the racialized comments I’d hear on the playground or in the classroom — whether it was a friend telling me that my braided-in extensions felt like “Barbie hair” or other students making fun of elements of black culture, like our high school’s step team.

Growing up in a predominately white community I was acutely aware of my race most of the time. I didn’t know how to understand or articulate it at the time, but my experience of being black in in a mostly-white community was also layered with gender — being a black female meant that I was disempowered, objectified, and not “cool” in the sense that some of the black boys in my class were. In reflecting back now I understand some of the ways in which the black boys were stereotyped and feared by the community in a unique way, which is very important also, but different from how we black girls were perceived.

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Book Review: The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae

Misadventures of Awkward Black GirlIssa Rae is my best friend.

Okay, so maybe she’s more of a friend of a friend. Well, really, if I’m being completely honest she was friends with my RA in college and I never talked to her… but still I knew of her!

What I’m really trying to say is that reading The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl was even more fun given that I kinda sorta knew who she was before she got famous. For anyone who’s seen her most popular web series (same name as the book) they’ll be equally happy as I was to see the awkward Issa Rae they know and love in print.

The book is a combination of really funny anecdotes and some serious personal stuff explored in a thoughtful way. Issa Rae writes about everything from her early obsession with online chatting and a humorous guide on different types of black people, to her father’s infidelity and her own challenges with body image. At first I was really surprised by the serious stuff, but I actually love that Issa Rae opened herself up so much here — fans of her work will definitely get a chance to know her better through the book.

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Who’s an Employee in the Sharing Economy?

Photo by Adam Fagen via Flickr
Photo by Adam Fagen via Flickr

One of the hottest topics in city news this week is that suits against two of the U.S.’s biggest sharing economy players, Lyft and Uber, will be heard by juries. The question at hand? Whether the people who drive users around in their cars should be considered employees rather than independent contractors with the two giant companies.

Lyft and Uber say that their drivers don’t count as employees because they can work whenever they want and however often they want. Drivers say they are employees because the rates they can charge are set by the companies and they can be fired for not following the rules. The decisions in these cases could potentially affect the many other sharing economy companies out there, such as Airbnb and car sharing services.

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