Yes Please

Occasionally, I like to take a little break from my standard fare of children’s, middle grade, and YA literature. That break generally takes the form of a romance novel or a memoir. This time, I chose to read a memoir, specifically Yes Please by Amy Poehler.

This book could be classified in a number of ways: nonfiction, autobiography, humor, and, of course, memoir. What I’d like to emphasize here, though, is that it is a book for adults. Unlike most of the other books I feature here, this is not a read that belongs in a YA collection. Are there certain elements that will appeal to teens? Sure. But this is a book written for adults and should be treated as such. It contains frank talk of marriage, sex, drug use, being a woman in a male-dominated industry, parenthood, and simply navigating life.

Now, all that being said, I did like Yes Please. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, but I guess that’s a good thing. I started this book thinking that I would be getting something similar to Tina Fey’s Bossypants (which I loved). To a certain extent, that’s what I got, but there was also a more serious side to Poehler’s book. It wasn’t the laugh-out-loud experience that I anticipated. Sure, there were moments of hilarity, but, at least in my opinion, the book was more about Poehler reflecting on what led her to where she is today.

Amy Poehler takes readers through her admittedly wonderful childhood, through her early days in improv, on to her time with the Upright Citizens Brigade, SNL, and Parks and Recreation. She paints a very vivid picture of how difficult and exhilarating it was to be a young comedian in both Chicago and New York, and she doesn’t shy away from the–in my eyes–darker aspects of the world she inhabited. There was a great deal of partying and lots of drug use, and Poehler did her share of both.

Things began to change for Poehler when she got married and became a mother. In this book, she talks more about the latter than the former. She only briefly glances on her divorce from Will Arnett (which I totally understand), but the love she has for her two boys pours from this book. It’s clear that those boys are adored by their mother…but also that she works to make time for herself. She admits that she has no desire to be a stay-at-home mom, and she cautions women to stop shaming each other for their choices. Her motto of “Good for you, not for me” is one that could serve us all…and maybe help some people to mind their own business.

I like to think I know a fair amount about the entertainment industry, but I have to admit that I’m not familiar with a lot of the names Poehler dropped in this book (and she dropped a lot of them). I knew some of them simply because I’ve watched Saturday Night Live for years, but others were completely new to me. I’m not sure what that says about me or this book, but I’m guessing other readers may also feel like they need to bone up on their “Who’s Who of Improv” after reading Yes Please.

Aside from the name-dropping, if I had to make a complaint about this book, it would be that it felt a bit choppy. Poehler jumped from event to event and back again fairly regularly. I eventually got used to it, but the frequent back-and-forth was a bit jarring at times.

All in all, Yes Please was an enjoyable read, and I would recommend it to adult readers who want an inside look at the world of comedy, particularly how a young woman worked like mad, paid her dues, and went on to become one of the most beloved and recognized comedians in the world.

 

 

El Deafo

This weekend, I dove into another of next year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees, El Deafo by Cece Bell. (It’s also the April book for my faculty book club…which meets this week.) It was wonderful, and I look forward to talking to both students and colleagues about it.

To my knowledge, El Deafo is the first graphic novel to ever make it to the SCCBA list, and I’m hoping that it will encourage many educators–some of whom don’t consider comic books and graphic novels to be “real” books–to really embrace these types of books and use them in their classrooms.

Not only is El Deafo a graphic novel, it is also a memoir. It truly is Cece Bell’s story. This story–which depicts young Cece as a rabbit–tells of how she lost her hearing and adapted to the world around her. It shows her difficulties fitting in as well as her triumphs. It’s hilarious at times and heart-breaking at others, and anyone who sees himself/herself as different will relate to Cece in some way.

But you don’t really need me to tell you about this book. Let’s hear from the author herself…

I think El Deafo is a great book for introducing a variety of concepts. Some of those may include:

  • telling stories in a variety of formats
  • exploring the relationships between art and writing
  • memoirs
  • accepting/celebrating differences; tolerance
  • empathy
  • self-confidence
  • handling conflict

In short, El Deafo is an awesome book, and I’m thrilled it made it onto the 16-17 SCCBA nominee list!

To learn more about this amazing book and author Cece Bell, visit her website. You can also connect with her on Twitter.

Furiously Happy

After following Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess, on her blog and Twitter and reading her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, I knew that I would absolutely read her second book, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, as soon as possible. (Also, who doesn’t want to read a book with a lovely, ecstatic, taxidermied raccoon on the cover? Who, I ask you?!) Well, “as soon as possible” turned out to be this week. (The book came out last week, so I guess I’m doing okay.)

Furiously Happy is a candid–and hilarious–look at Lawson’s own struggles with depression, anxiety, and a few other issues. As it turns out, I really needed that this week. Like this beautifully broken author, I also deal with depression and anxiety, and the depression hit me pretty hard this week. (And no, I cannot pinpoint why. That’s not really how depression works. At least, not for me.) This book was just what I needed to make me laugh until I cried and to let me know that I was not alone. I have a whole tribe of weirdos out there who are just like me. (Well, maybe not just like me. I don’t know of any other 36-year-old spinster librarians with depression and social anxiety who have a fondness for Star Wars, Doctor Who, and playing the tuba.)

If you have a somewhat twisted, irreverent sense of humor–or if you’re broken in your own particular way–I strongly suggest you read Furiously Happy. It’s crazy, uproariously funny, eye-opening, comforting, and just plain awesome. I love it.

For those who are still not convinced to read this amazing book, check out the video below. It brings me to tears–and gives me hope–each time I look at it.

*Note: Furiously Happy is NOT a YA book. I would not put it in a high school library or YA collection. This book, in my opinion, is meant for adult readers.*

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

*Note to regular readers of this blog: This is not a YA/middle grade book. It’s a memoir (intended for adult-ish readers) packed with irreverent humor that the easily offended will not be happy with. (Those people need to lighten up.)*

Every once in a while, I have to put aside books that I just can’t get into and read something different. It’s usually because I need a break from the seriousness of many YA books…or I need a good laugh. The book I finished last night, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson (also known as the Bloggess), definitely qualifies as different…and it was so over-the-top hilarious that I’m still laughing.

When even the dedication page makes you laugh-snort, you know you’ve got a winner.

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It just got better–and weirder–from there.

Now, I’ve only been reading Jenny’s blog, The Bloggess, for a short time, but I still thought I knew what to expect in this book. Yeah…not so much. From her childhood in rural West Texas, through her struggles with anxiety both as a teen and an adult, and her life with her daughter and husband, Jenny addresses just about everything with irreverent humor and her own brand of crazy. I loved it, and I laughed so much that I gave myself a headache and had to take some Advil and a nap.

I’m not going to go into everything I liked about this book. I don’t have that kind of time. But, if you think you might be interested in reading Let’s Pretend This Never Happened–and learning more about taxidermy, impregnating a cow, sadistic turkeys, couch etiquette, the wild world of working in human resources, or what it’s like in the head of someone with an anxiety disorder–you might want to check out Jenny’s blog first. If the Bloggess seems to float your boat (and you’re not easily offended), you should definitely read this memoir. I don’t usually even read memoirs, but I’m now recommending this one to every crazy person I know. (And there are a lot of us. I work in public education. I’m pretty sure being medicated is now a job requirement.)

After reading this insane (in a good way) book, I feel like Jenny Lawson and I could be great friends…who never meet and only communicate via email/social media because our anxiety issues make actual physical meetings awkward and unpleasant. Welcome to the blogging community. We’re great in print.

If you’d like to learn more about Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and the Bloggess, check out Jenny’s blog (obviously), Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. You’ll likely never be the same. You’re welcome.

Bossypants

This is a bit of a departure for me. Followers of this blog have probably already figured out that I don’t read a ton of nonfiction. (I think I’ve posted on a grand total of two nonfiction titles in the past five years–Snow Falling in Spring and Four Perfect Pebbles. I should be ashamed…but I’m not.) Anyway, when my book club decided to have everyone read different nonfiction titles for our January meeting, I knew I’d have to stretch myself a bit.

I’d seen a few reviews for Tina Fey’s Bossypants throughout the past couple of years–and I think Tina Fey is one of the funniest women in the world–so I decided to make this book my nonfiction pick for book club. That was a great decision. I zoomed through this book, and I was actually disappointed when it ended. Tina Fey’s voice comes through so clearly in this book that I felt like I was sitting in my living room having a conversation with her.

Fey is absolutely hilarious, but she also explores some issues that are common to working women–dealing with sexism in the workplace, the importance placed on appearance, and balancing career and family. (I may be single and childless, but even I have to remind myself to work less and spend more time with my family.) She talks about her family, how she got started in comedy, and writing/performing for Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. I thought the process that went into her performance as Sarah Palin was especially enlightening!

In some ways, Bossypants is a look at the differences between women and men in power. Tina Fey, in my opinion, is a power player in the world of comedy. Does that mean that she’s held to the same standards as the men around her? Not exactly. But I think Fey is doing everything she can to make the ground more level for other women in comedy…and society as a whole. If you don’t believe me, watch Mean Girls and see if you can figure out what the basic message of that movie is!

While Bossypants does address some hot-button issues, even the most serious of topics are treated with Fey’s trademark humor. I appreciate that, and given that this book is a best-seller, a lot of other readers enjoy it too!

Now, normally the books I review are intended for YA or middle grade audiences. This one is a little different. Can some teen readers handle something like Bossypants? Sure! What about middle school students? Not so much. I would give this book to teens who are a little more mature, don’t mind colorful language, and understand wry humor. Having worked with high school students, I realize that narrows things down a bit.

This foray into nonfiction has proven so successful that I may read more of it in the future. For now, though, it’s back to stuff that is pretty far removed from reality…or is it?