MatthewSean Reviews

Book reviews, movie reviews, and other writing

Author Interview – Damyanti Biswas – You Beneath Your Skin — August 9, 2020

Author Interview – Damyanti Biswas – You Beneath Your Skin

Now for an exclusive author interview with Damyanti Biswas, author of the excellent debut novel, #YouBeneathYourSkin

Please click here for the link to my blog entry where I reviewed the novel.

Author picture:

And now for the interview!

This is a powerful crime novel, and in many sections, we read about horrible crimes against women in India.  How did you go about gathering research and information on this situation, and why did you feel compelled to write about this very real problem?

Thanks for the kind words on You Beneath Your Skin!

I started writing it in 2012, and at the end of that year, a New Delhi woman on an evening out was brutally gang-raped by a few men, who abused her with a metal rod that caused her intestines to spill on the road. This shook up all of India and made headlines around the world at the time.

My novel already contained snippets of crimes against women, but after this incident, that became the entire theme. I’ve also been volunteering for Project WHY, a small New Delhi non-profit that works for the empowerment and education of women and children, which gave me insights into New Delhi’s underprivileged communities. I wanted a plot point that made visible the violence that was steeped through our society and chanced upon acid attacks. Once I began interviewing acid attack survivors from Stop Acid Attacks, I realised that acid attacks couldn’t remain limited to a plot point alone, and that I had a lot more to say about patriarchy in India, and resultant violence against women.

How did you balance the novel in terms of the serious criminal nature of the plot with character development and allowing us to get to know the primary and secondary characters?

In some ways, I think the crime aspect allowed me to examine Indian society. When a crime is committed, those affected by it—the perpetrators, the victims and the investigators as well their families—are in a moment of heightened emotion. It is at these moments of crisis that our true selves are revealed. Character development and getting to know the characters is at the heart of a why-dun-it like You beneath Your Skin.

All my stories begin with characters, and it is through getting to know the characters that I know their narratives, and the plot of the novel emerges. All I do is take the readers along on this journey.

There are a variety of diverse characters in this novel, with different motivations.  How did you go about creating these various people to populate your book?  Were you conscious to try and ensure characters were not all perfect or all evil, but have a balance of character traits?

The novel emerged from Anjali Morgan’s character. She’s Indian American, has an autistic son, and has left the States to settle down in India in order to escape from the unpleasantness back home. The rest of the characters all emerged from a series of what-ifs.

What if this woman obsessed with perfection is caught in an imperfect relationship with a married man? What if this secret relationship leads to other problems, and so on and on. I need my characters to be very lifelike, with their own motivations, their desires, their wounds, secrets, affinities and peeves. If they’re not real to me, I can’t write about them. So all of them are flawed and imperfect, like we humans are. All of them have external goals, and they need something else on the inside. My role as a writer is to respect my characters and my readers. I let the characters lead me into the story, and hope their struggles are such that readers would bond with them, one way or another.

Did you develop a careful outline and then stick to it for the entire writing process, or did the story evolve and change as you wrote?

The story went through fifteen drafts. This was my debut novel, and I was learning to write as I went along. The first few drafts were written by the seat of my pants. Then I realised I needed structure. The novel had way too many moving parts, and I needed to keep track of all of them. So I developed an outline using index cards, and followed those in the later drafts.

How did you go about writing your novel – what is your approach to writing?

I finished writing the last draft of You Beneath Your Skin in 2018. My process has (hopefully) become a tad more efficient since then.

Earlier, I went with characters and let them tell the story. I do the same now, but I scribble the story on index cards first, and not a document. I also do a lot of pre-writing: character motivations, desires, wounds, secrets, watershed childhood moments that shaped their lives. I try and visit the places I plan to set the novel in. This helps me understand the sort of story I’m trying to write, the points-of-view I’ll use and why. The index cards become a sort-of-outline, and give me great pointers for a beginning, middle, and an end, and maybe a few plot points.

When writing the first draft, the story changes because of things I’d not foreseen—mainly because the characters take on a life of their own. Once the draft is done, I let it be for a long while, and then come back and do a read-through.

My next few ‘drafts’ are again scrawled on index cards—but this time I have cards for each scene. I stare into space a lot, transporting myself to the world of the story, checking for things like agency of the characters, pace, and the order in which the scenes fit together. I mark out the character’s evolution as the plot advances, and figure out whether the tension rises and falls as I want it to. If these things are unsatisfactory, changes are made on index cards, and I move them around on the board.

Based on those index cards, I write the next draft, referring to them often to remember the birds-eye view of the story. Rinse and repeat till I’m happy with the structure and pace of the story. At this point I send it to trusted beta readers and my wonderful agent, who is very hands-on with edits. If the feedback indicates big changes, I go back to index cards. If not, I use the input to add and subtract pieces from scenes, deepen characters as needed, add or take out setting descriptions, and improve dialogue. After a round of copy-edits, I brace myself for the submission process.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I’m wary of doling out advice. Each writer is an individual, and what works for me might not work for them, because we all come to writing from different social, work, and educational backgrounds.

If I had to give advice to those writing their first novel, I’d say: you only debut once, make it count. A little self-doubt is a good thing—use it to improve your story and your craft, but don’t let your self-doubt get out of hand. Read a lot, widely, and in your genre. You learn a lot through osmosis. Don’t give up, because that’s the difference between amateurs and professionals. And the last bit: listen to all kinds of advice, but follow only what works for you. The essence of the writing journey is to figure out what you want to write, and how you want to write it. No one else can do it for you, and no writing advice is absolute.

Do you plan to follow this up with a sequel, or a prequel?

You Beneath Your Skin has been optioned for TV screens by Endemol Shine, so I did write a synopsis for a sequel season. If some day there’s an opportunity, I would like to write it because I know all the characters and the setting very well.

What are your next projects we can be on the lookout for, and where can we follow you for upcoming news and writing?

I’m currently working on a crime novel set in Mumbai, about a policeman and a bar dancer.

To stay in touch, I run monthly gazettes: the writing gazette is a curated list of writing resources as well as calls for submissions from journals, agents and publishers. The reading gazette contains book recommendations, information on podcasts, and books on promotion. You can find the gazettes here.

I chat with everyone on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and blog a few times a month on my website.

Book Review – Educated – Tara Westover — August 8, 2020

Book Review – Educated – Tara Westover

Book Review – Educated – Tara Westover

Facts:

Book: Educated
Author: Tara Westover
Genre: Memoir
Year of Release: 2018
Read 335-page paperback edition in August 2020

Book Description:

In this memoir from Tara Westover, we learn about her childhood in a Mormon fundamentalist household, where her conservative father insisted the family of 7 children live off the grid, shunning hospitals and schools. As the youngest child, Tara grew up helping her mother in the kitchen with cooking and herb preparation to treat family sickness, and helping her father in the family junkyard. Tara never went to school, had limited lessons at home, and spent her time around the house, farm, and mountain in rural Idaho.

She also had to deal with emotional and physical abuse from one of her older brothers, as well as patriarchal attitudes of her father.

When she became an older teenager, she started to consider how she could get an education, which led to her own studies and preparation to pass the GED test and get into college. What followed was more colleges and universities, higher education, and the attempt to understand and break free from the ideas and hurt caused within the family.

This is a memoir of memory, religion, the complex feelings of forgiveness and love in a damaged family, and ultimately education.

Book Review:

This was a thoughtful and fascinating memoir by Tara Westover. Often painful and shocking, at times frustrating for what was happening to Tara and some of her other siblings, but also balanced with hope and love as well, which made it truly thought-provoking. Westover did a great job writing in a calm, balanced tone, even when describing horrible incidents of violence and pain. This measured approach led to the reader questioning what family is all about, and what unconditional love is all about.

Westover did a great job talking about both education and the family life she had growing up. Her story of this unconventional family made for a quick read, where you wanted to turn the pages quickly to find out what other shocking incident happened next. Between horrific accidents in the junkyard, to decisions not to go seek out medical attention, to the nasty interplay between an abusive brother and the people around him (especially Tara), the memoir was a fast read.

Westover has written something in a calm, measured tone, that is both readable but also thoughtful and filled with lessons. She speaks about her deep connection to family despite what has happened. She also references how hard it was to break free of thoughts and ideas and attitudes, even as a young adult. Internalizing the blame for something when you were the victim sadly occurs all too often, and Westover describes this so well in the latter half of the memoir.

The prose is a strength of the memoir, and Westover has a talent for writing in a sharp, crisp style.

There were a few missing pieces that felt like it would help fully paint the picture. For example, the theme of religion and the theme being off the grid were central to the Westover family growing up; but how did Tara’s father connect in his mind the religious ideas he had with his desire for isolationism?

Overall though, this was a great memoir, that was eye-opening. It was also hopeful, that we can overcome challenges, and reach our dreams, in this case, education.

Overall: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars

Book Review – You Beneath Your Skin – Damyanti Biswas — August 7, 2020

Book Review – You Beneath Your Skin – Damyanti Biswas

Book Review – You Beneath Your Skin – Damyanti Biswas

Facts:

Book: You Beneath Your Skin
Author: Damyanti Biswas
Genre: Crime Thriller
Year of Release: 2019
Read 275-page electronic edition in May 2020

Below: Picture of Author

Book Description:

In this novel set in Delhi, we meet psychiatrist Anjali, who is balancing her busy work life alongside her role as a single mother, raising a teenage son with autism. Anjali is also having an affair with a talented, ambitious police commissioner, Jatin, who is in a very unhappy marriage with the daughter of his boss.

Anjali, through her professional work, is providing some assistance to Jatin in a series of horrific murders of women, where acid has been used to literally hide their faces from any identification. But when Anjali herself runs into danger as she tries to help stop these crimes against innocent women, it causes her life and Jatin’s life to become unstable, and hard choices need to be made by everyone.

In addition to personal lives, finding the killer of these women before more victims turn up is paramount.

Book Review:

This intense, gripping crime thriller is one of those novels that keeps you thinking long after you finish it and put it down. Author Damyanti Biswas has done an incredible job bringing the troubles of modern day urban India to life, in this novel that is layered with interesting plot lines and characters.

Biswas has created a vivid setting that really brings the reader to an understanding of the pollution and crime in this large city. With roads filled with traffic, smog everywhere, crime in many corners, corruption in the police, and poverty all around, Biswas creates a haunting portrait of the struggles of life as India continues to try and advance in the 21st century. Biswas shows that so much of the population is indeed suffering, and this creates an intense and passionate novel.

The characters are well developed, and continue to advance in the book through their plot threads. Biswas has done a nice job of creating both a main plot, that of the crime being investigated, but also several subplots that allow us to learn more about the inner workings of the characters. We see the main and secondary characters in different lights and points of view, and also see that none of them are perfect. Their complexity allows us to see them as more reflective of real people, and we can empathize with many of them more for that reason. Character development as well as advancing several plots and stories in the novel has created an story that is enjoyable for the reader.

There are a number of shocking twists and turns in the novel as well, to keep the reader in suspense and keep the pages turning as well.

The actual crime itself is truly awful, and acid attacks on women do sadly occur. Misogyny is a disgusting fact that many women have to deal with, and this novel creates a forum to face these uncomfortable truths and show what the characters will do to face down the criminals behind these acts. This is a timely novel in that respect.

The one challenge for me in this book was that many of the main and secondary characters were related somehow, and as the early stages of the book played out, it was sometimes hard to remember all the connections between them. A family tree may have been helpful for readers to understand the connections and refer back to. But that is a minor issue, and may not be an issue for all readers.

In summary, I highly recommend this well-written and compelling novel. With fascinating characters that explore not only the main crime but also their relationships, friendships, and conflicts with each other, the reader is given an opportunity to truly step into another world.

Overall: 4.5 stars out of 5 stars

Special Note: The author Damyanti Biswas is donating all of her profits to support education and empowerment of Women at Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.

Link to author webpage: WWW.DAMYANTIWRITES.COM

#YouBeneathYourSkin

Book Review – How to Be an Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi — August 2, 2020

Book Review – How to Be an Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi

Book Review – How to Be an Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi

Facts:

Book: How to Be an Antiracist
Author: Ibram X. Kendi
Genre: Non-Fiction
Year of Release: 2019
Read 241-page hardcover edition in July 2020

Book Description:

Author Ibram X. Kendi combines powerful personal reflection with careful study to bring us to a new way of thinking on how to be an antiracist. Kendi explores what antiracism means, and the important difference between saying “I am not a racist” (never useful) and how to actively engage in antiracist idea and thought.

Kendi combines his study and concepts with an engaging narrative from his personal life to bring a thoughtful, readable, practical book that is sure to help all.

The book provides information on antiracism, definitions on what it means and how to apply it, as well as how this intersects with sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, and other ways minority groups are harmed through racist policy and practice.

Book Review:

This book by Kendi is a work of perfection. It is powerful and emotional on many levels. The combination of personal revelation and story combined with the education of terms and how to be a more active antiracist in life was a balance that Kendi got right. The book is both educational but also personal, making for a very insightful and also compulsively readable narrative.

Kendi is not one to shy away from the lessons he has learned and the mistakes he has made in life. This decision to shine the light on himself and his lessons is a great way for us as readers to not only learn a lot in a practical way, but also encourage us to also shine the light inward on ourselves. It is only by shining on ourselves, each one of us, can we then recognize where we have faulted, and how we can be better antiracist people.

Kendi does a wonderful job when talking about intersectionality. He explores the even larger dangers and racism faced by queer people of colour or black women or trans black women or lower income black people. He provides statistics and facts that show how racist policy affects these groups even more. He also does a wonderful job at talking not only about overt racism by white supremactists, but at focusing more on systemic and institutional racism, the subtle racism of wider populations, and of the dangers of white people reflexively saying “I’m not racist” when they are questioned or confronted with their part in our systems today.

Kendi encourages an antiracist philosophy. He provides real means of living an antiracist life, and confirming that it’s not just education, but it’s about more action and substance as well.

This was an informative, timely, and absolutely incredible book, required reading for all.

Well Done!

Overall: 5 stars out of 5 stars

Book Review – Call Me Evie – J.P. Pomare — August 1, 2020

Book Review – Call Me Evie – J.P. Pomare

Book Review – Call Me Evie – J.P. Pomare

Facts:

Book: Call Me Evie
Author: J.P. Pomare
Genre: Thriller
Year of Release: 2019
Read 357-page hardcover edition in July 2020

Book Description:

In this suspense thriller, Evie has been brought against her will to a remote cabin in a small town, by a man named Bill. Only Evie and Bill are not their real names. Kate knows her real name, but her memory is scattered from what happened to her two weeks ago on a fateful night. Something seriously wrong occurred regarding her ex boyfriend, her, and Bill, and she can’t remember.

Bill tells her he is trying to help, but can he be trusted? Kate continues to try and figure things out, while seeing if she can rely on help from the local town residents. She wants to get back home to Melbourne, but she is trapped, and confused.

Book Review:

This debut novel by New Zealand author J.P. Pomare, now based in Australia, is a very propulsive narrative. Pomare has done a great job writing a story that makes the reader want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. The suspenseful nature of the story, the unreliable narrator, and the mystery surrounding what happened a few weeks before that set the story in motion, all serve to create that momentum to keep reading. The author has succeeded in that regard, which is a key item in a successful thriller.

The characters are interesting and you develop care and consideration for main character Evie/Kate, even though she is not perfect. The fact she also doesn’t know what is going on allows you to sympathize with her, as we read along with her in that state of confusion.

Secondary characters from Evie/Kate’s past are well fleshed out for the most part, particularly Willow and Thom. However, other secondary characters sometimes feel a little understated and we can sometimes feel we don’t know enough about them, in particular the ones living in the small town.

The author has done a nice job creating more than one suspect in what has occurred, and has also successfully cast doubt on many people through this novel that twists and turns. There are great surprises that come up to keep the reader guessing.

The ending is plausible given what happened, and fascinating. That being said, it does feel like some loose ends that were presented in the novel are in some cases left unresolved. For example, the young child that Kate/Evie meets in the small town serves a purpose, but the backstory provided about that child doesn’t get clarified or cleared up, leaving us wondering.

As a whole though, this fast-paced thriller is exactly what it is marketed to be, and a solid debut novel by Pomare.

Overall: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars

Book Review – Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates — July 17, 2020

Book Review – Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

Book Review – Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

Facts:

Book: Between the World and Me
Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Genre: Non-Fiction
Year of Release: 2015
Read 157-page hardcover edition in July 2020

Book Description:

In this touching and powerful letter from journalist and writer Coates to his son, we read about a range of issues facing America and the wider world today, when it comes to racism against black people.

Coates speaks about the historical underpinnings of the racism today, and the foundations of America on the backs of slave labour. Coates speaks about how those historical foundations for the nation have led us to today, where police brutality and killings is common and where jails are filled disproportionately with black people.

Coates examines what it’s like to grow up as a child and teenager, and what it’s like to live as an adult, in a racist world as a black man. Coates looks at history, current events, and personal experience to examine these issues and questions in a fresh way.

Book Review:

This book by Coates was a fantastic, eye-opening read. In writing this as a letter addressed to his son, Coates made the work that much more personal. This style was definitely not a traditional non-fiction work, but the approach made it more passionate and real for the reader. Hearing the author speak to his son throughout the letter provided the writing with more intensity and helped the reader feel the emotion behind it.

Coates does a great job of weaving the historical narrative in with the present day issues, and making connections for the reader. His observations were spot on and thoughtful. His prose is amazing, and his ability to write lyrical sentences with intense heat on this subject are among the best of writers today.

As a white person, I have obviously not experienced being on the receiving end of racist violence, or had to deal with the raw aftermath of hate, that Coates and other people of colour have gone through in this world filled with racism.

For me, what the book has been able to do is go beyond just an intro on racism and provide a powerful and profound insight into race relations, where it all went wrong long ago, and how there are still so many wrongdoings in our present.

Coates does have some small references to the next generation (his son’s generation) having different hopes and dreams for the world, and a small kernel of optimism may be there for larger-scale change, although it would have been nice if Coates had spoken of his thoughts on this further in the book. That being said, the work stands solidly as a work of sincerity and a strong addition to an array of black people raising their voices on one of the most important problems of our time: racism. How do we become better anti-racists in this world, and work to stamp out racism? Reading from writers like Coates is a very good part of that process.

Well Done!

Overall: 5 stars out of 5 stars

Book Review – Spring – Ali Smith — July 13, 2020

Book Review – Spring – Ali Smith

Book Review – Spring – Ali Smith

Spring, by Ali Smith

Facts:

Book: Spring
Author: Ali Smith
Genre: Fiction
Year of Release: 2019
Read 340-page hardcover edition in July 2020

Book Description:

In the third of Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet, we turn to a number of characters going through great change, aligning with how change is a key factor for the season of spring as well.

Richard is currently undergoing a personal crisis, with his dear friend and mentor Paddy having recently passed away. Richard is a director who is long since past any notoriety, and is struggling to determine what he should do next.

Meanwhile, Brittany is a young woman working in a UK Immigration Removal Centre, and going through the motions of this work that detains refugees and migrants indefinitely, while they wait for removal from the UK.

A couple of other intriguing characters bring Richard and Brittany together in an unlikely scenario, and through an interesting train and van journey from England to Scotland we explore immigration, how the west treats migrants, the rise of social media, and numerous other topics in the age of Brexit and racism in 2019 Britain.

Book Review:

Ali Smith has continued the success of her seasonal quartet with the third installment, Spring. After the events of Autumn and Winter, we have moved to the changing season of Spring, and run into a complex, interweaving plot involving several characters. Smith has done a great job using plot and characters of this story to raise issues with Britain, and the wider world, in 2019.

At times the style of the novel can become hard to track, in particular when characters Richard and (otherwise interesting) Paddy start talking about their past stories. However, most of the time you as the reader are right alongside Smith, as she deftly moves from main plots of the characters to other commentary on society that connects to what she is talking about.

Smith does a wonderful job criticizing a range of issues in current society. From racism, to how poorly western governments are treating refugees and migrants, to the rise of social media and the demise of individual privacy, Smith finds a way to put it on the page.

Smith is very poetic and lyrical in her style, and this makes for an enjoyable read that challenges us as the reader at the same time. We see that if we are citizens of the western world, we are at times complicit in the luxury we have. Also, we are questioned, how are we supporting others, making things more equitable for others who are looking for safety?

Looking at the characters from Spring and comparing to Autumn and Winter, I would say the characters in Winter were most interesting. However, looking at the novel as a whole, and the commentary on our current society and how Smith is able to weave that into the plot and the novel itself, Spring is slightly better than the previous two novels in the seasonal quartet.

Definitely worth reading, and now looking forward to Summer, the final volume in the quartet!

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars

Movie Review – Knives Out (2019) — July 9, 2020

Movie Review – Knives Out (2019)

Movie Review – Knives Out (2019)

Movie Synopsis:

Wealthy crime novelist Mr. Thrombey invites his entire family to his large mansion for his 85th birthday celebration. It becomes quite apparent that not everyone gets along, and in fact there is a lot more drama than usual in this large, wealthy family. 

However, the morning after the party, Mr. Thrombey is found dead in his study. The police rule it a suicide, but not believing that to be true, an anonymous individual has hired private detective Benoit Blanc to investigate. He quickly realizes that there are numerous suspects in this tense family, many of whom had motive and opportunity.

Movie Review:

This mystery directed and written by Rian Johnson is set up in a classic whodunit style of film. We have a large host of suspects, a lot of drama, and an intriguing detective on the case. The good news for this film is that Johnson and his team execute the film flawlessly. 

The plot of the film moves forward quickly and propels us from scene to scene, making the audience anticipating what may happen next. Unlike some mysteries which feel too drawn out, in this film we get a sense of the action and problem solving elements, and feel a part of the action.

The acting of this ensemble cast is incredible. There are top-notch performances by Daniel Craig as the unique detective, Christopher Plummer as the family patriarch and victim, along with Jamie Lee Curtis, Ana de Armas, and Toni Collette. The entire cast does a wonderful job bringing their characters to life and creating a plot that is suspenseful, as we don’t know who is the murderer amidst this gathering.

The cinematography and props in this large mansion are designed to catch our eye, and help create a believable setting. This is a place we as the audience want to be, as we watch the unfolding of a complex crime.

This was a fun, light-hearted, and successful mystery film, and it is not surprising a sequel has already been confirmed. I will be the first to line up to watch it, based on the enjoyment of this one!

Well Done!

Overall: 5 stars out of 5 stars.

Movie Review – The Last Unicorn (1982) — July 6, 2020

Movie Review – The Last Unicorn (1982)

Movie Review – The Last Unicorn (1982)

Movie Synopsis:

In a magical forest, a unicorn finds out that she is the last of her kind. She ponders this sad news, and indeed wonders where all the other unicorns have gone. She decides to leave her safe homeland, and seek out others of her kind, or find out what happened to them at the very least. 

She encounters friends on the road, but also dangerous people as well. And when she gets to the end of a road, she discovers a castle with a red bull, an evil king, and a charming prince, and she must face ultimate dangers and face challenging emotions.

Movie Review:

The Last Unicorn is an animated classic from the early 1980s that really brought animation in a different direction. Unlike other animated movies, this one was not afraid to build frightening scenes, mature plot, and complex characters into the tale, making it accessible to adults and teens while still providing a story children could follow, even if it was scary. 

Based on the fantasy novel by Peter S. Beagle, the plot of this movie about a unicorn who must find others of her kind, is a creative examination of what it means to be different, and what it means to be changed as a result of sacrifice. It is a powerful story that has a lot of metaphor and lessons, that one can think about long after the movie and with watching multiple times. This is truly the sign of a good story.

The 1980s animation is beautiful and express the feelings of what is being spoken about perfectly. For example, the evil King’s castle feels dark, dank, and lonely, and we can tell from the scenes. Another great example is the opening sequence, which has breathtaking artwork to go along with opening narration and an opening title song that fills in what is to come in this story.

Speaking of which, the instrumental soundtrack and the songs written and performed by America are enjoyable and catchy in this movie, and are a solid fit with the story and the melancholy feel of the plot.

Acting in the movie is totally on-point, with great casting choices. Mia Farrow is perfection as the voice of the unicorn. Tammy Grimes is fantastic as Molly, and with these two main characters, we have a great film with strong female leads, great to have from an early 1980s film. Rounding out an all-star cast are Jeff Bridges, Alan Arkin, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee, and Rene Auberjonois.

This movie became a cult classic over time, and is a fabulous animated movie that can be enjoyed by adults, teens, and older children. This is a treat to watch again, even coming on 40 years after its initial release. It is a powerful, emotional, melancholy story, and teaches beautiful lessons about love, loss, sorrow, regret: the human condition.

Well Done!

Overall: 5 stars out of 5 stars.

Book Review – White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo — July 5, 2020

Book Review – White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo

Book Review – White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Race – Robin DiAngelo

Facts:

Book: White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Race
Author: Robin DiAngelo
Genre: Non-Fiction
Year of Release: 2018
Read 169-page paperback edition in June 2020

Book Description:

In this timely book, professor and antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo unpacks a number of terms that we are faced with in western colonial societies today. DiAngelo looks at what racism means; the myth that only “bad” people are racist; the understanding that all white people have racist behaviours that we need to watch out for, apologize for, and work to change; and the culminating definition of white fragility, and how white people are so reactionary and afraid when being called out for racist comments or behaviours.

DiAngelo looks at how white fragility and the associated actions taken by white people prevent meaningful cross-racial dialogue and prevent improvement in the systemic racism in all of western institutions.

This book tries to educate a white audience in how it can engage more constructively in this critical societal issue.

Book Review:

DiAngelo has done an incredible job at analyzing and presenting the case for white fragility. She starts by pointing out she is a white writer speaking to a white audience, and that terms like “we” refer to white people. She also clarifies this book is focused in the western / colonial context. This is a great clarification and she reminds the readers of these types of key principles of her work throughout.

In addition, she organizes the book in a systematic, structured way that works. Her definitions of key terms near the beginning set the stage for more complex analysis and review later on, as to how everything connects.

DiAngelo does a great job using stories and examples from her workshops, from politics, and from entertainment to make her points. For example, pointing out how Oscar-winning movie The Blind Side is a perfect example of white saviour culture is great way to illustrate points for the audience, where just narrative might be more challenging. Using these examples brings home the points and makes it clear.

Furthermore, DiAngelo does a great job pushing forward challenging concepts that many will feel uncomfortable about. For example, white people not being able to be the victim of racism, or that it is not just bad people who commit racist behaviour, but all white people who commit racist behaviours and hold some racist views, based on our socialization in this western society, that has been founded on racism for hundreds of years.

These are challenging, uncomfortable things to hear. But as DiAngelo says, if we are willing to be open-minded, listen, reflect, and learn, then perhaps we can see where that is true in our own lives, and learn how we can change our behaviours and learn when these things occur and are brought to our attention, rather than just become defensive or angry.

DiAngelo points out rightly that white solidarity must be broken down, and we must call out racism when we see it, even if it makes things uncomfortable at a workplace meeting or a family dinner. DiAngelo points out that we must realize that initial reactions of fear or argument are white fragility, and instead we must try to learn, reflect, accept feedback, and try to change our behaviour going forward. This requires resilience, and DiAngelo’s book provides some ideas on how to move forward in this challenging and troubling problem of the western / colonial world.

This is a must read, particularly in 2020.

Well Done!

Overall: 5 stars out of 5 stars