Category: nonfiction

HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton

Book cover: HRC by Jonathan Allen and Amie ParnesThere was a lot that went on behind the scenes after Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the 2008 presidential election. As one of the superstars of the Democratic party, she’d been expected to breeze on in as the front runner for the election, but as we all know by now, the Obama campaign crushed her in the primaries. HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton, written by political journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, look into what happened the the aftermath of this defeat.

The authors note that after her failed presidential bid, Clinton didn’t yet know what her next move would be. One thing was for certain: she hadn’t expected having to return to the Senate. Those still rooting for her encouraged the new administration to give her a position of importance, and when Obama offered her the Secretary of State position, both camps had to proceed cautiously. There was still a lot of animosity and mistrust between the Clinton and Obama worlds in the early days, but Clinton eventually managed to win most people over by working tirelessly to fill her new role and showing everyone that she could support Obama and his policies. She traveled the world, earned Obama’s trust and respect, and fulfilled her tasks as Secretary of State almost without a hitch until Benghazi happened. In the time since she’s stepped down as Secretary of State she’s laid low politically, but pretty much everyone is waiting for her to announce her intent to run in the 2016 presidential election.

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Generation Roe: Inside the Future of the Pro-Choice Movement

Book cover: Generation Roe by Sarah ErdreichRoe v. Wade legalized abortion 41 years ago, and access to abortion is a right that a lot of people living in the United States now take for granted. The reality is a lot more grim: the pro-life anti-choice movement has been hard at work chipping away at abortion access. They often rely on intimidation tactics, misinformation campaigns, and — especially during the 1990s — sometimes violence. In recent years, TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) have proven successful at chipping away at abortion access on a state-by-state level. At a cultural level, the picture is just as grim. 1 in 3 women will have an abortion by the time they turn 45, but abortion remains a taboo subject. It’s a common medical procedure that few are willing to talk about for various reasons.

Sarah Erdrich discusses all of this and more in Generation Roe. It’s a great primer on the current state of abortion access in the United States because of the way it outlines what the pro-choice movement is up against. She interviews abortion providers, clinic escorts, pro-choice activists, and the patients themselves to give a fuller view of some of the effects that TRAP laws and the constant barrage of intimidation tactics have created. It’s a terrifying picture, with the barriers climbing higher the further along a person is into their pregnancy. See, for instance, the hardships one woman had to endure in the wake of Dr. George Tiller’s murder; she needed a late-term abortion because of severe birth defects:

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Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More

Book cover: Redefining Realness by Janet MockJanet Mock had a recognizable presence on social and mainstream media for a few years now. In 2011, Marie Claire published a profile of her, her first major introduction to the public as a trans woman and activist. A lot of people got to know her for the #girlslikeus hashtag on Twitter, which allows trans women to share their experiences, and she continues to speak out about the issues that trans people — especially trans women of color — face.

Redefining Realness is a memoir about coming of age as a young trans woman in Hawaii. She was the firstborn son of a couple whose relationship was doomed from the beginning; they divorced because of her father’s constant philandering. She and her little brother stayed with their mother, but that arrangement was also short-lived. Her mother was someone who always needed to be in a relationship, and with a new man and a new baby on the way, Mock is sent Oakland (and later, Texas) to live with her father and younger brother. By that time, Mock already knew she was different, but she didn’t know exactly how. Her father also knew she was different, and Mock could never seem to fit the role of firstborn son/big brother that was expected of her.

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Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol

Book cover: Drink by Ann Dowsett JohnstonPart memoir, part journalistic exploration, Ann Dowsett Johnston’s new book, Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol, looks at the rise of alcoholism in girls and women. Just as women caught up to men’s rates of tobacco use a few decades ago, women’s rates of alcohol abuse have also increased at an alarming rate. And just like it did with tobacco, the epidemic is drastically impacting women’s health.

Johnston is frank about how alcoholism affected her own family. Her mother was an alcoholic, her father became an alcoholic later in life, and Johnston herself — even though she knew the signs and was terrified of going down the same path — became an alcoholic as well. Her story mirrors the story of thousands of other women in the United States, and because of alcohol culture and the alcohol industry itself, the prevalence of alcohol abuse among women shows no signs of stopping.

Alcohol has always had a role in popular culture, but once the alcohol industry realized that women were an untapped market, marketing towards women skyrocketed. Unlike beer, the alcoholic beverages marketed to women — from wine coolers to cocktails — tend to have a higher alcohol content. Add this to places where people are particularly vulnerable (college parties, for instance), and you have a recipe for disaster. Women are physiologically more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, but Johnston considers other risk factors associated with drinking culture as well. Binge drinking is one behavior that by now most people are aware of, but doctors are starting to see the other behaviors at play that come before binge drinking, such as “drunkorexia” (intentionally refraining from eating in order to consume more alcohol) and pre-drinking (getting buzzed or drunk before heading out to the bars, which has the additional effect of people to keeping more alcohol stocked at home).

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Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me

Book cover: Marbles by Ellen ForneyWhat’s the difference between “crazy” and “creative”? Is there a difference? And if you take away the “crazy,” will you also be taking away the “creative”?

These are just some of the questions Ellen Forney found herself grappling with right before her 30th birthday, when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Suddenly, all those manic highs that she’d once thought made her eccentric and endearing and whimsically artistic took on a scary new meaning.

Though it shed light on some of her behaviors, she was also terrified of what it meant in the long run. Medications might help, but there was the chance that they’d dull her senses and take away her artistic abilities. Then again, the other option wasn’t much better: people diagnosed with bipolar disorder were at a high risk of suicide and recurring hospitalizations; not treating her condition could also lead to more extreme manic episodes that might be harder to control. And so, with a lot of uncertainty, Forney began her rollercoaster ride of different treatment plans and medication combinations.

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