Review: The Story of English in 100 Words

The Story of English in 100 Words by David Crystal

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Despite my family’s best efforts and how much shouting I do about my mother tongue, I do not speak French fluently. I was a very cruel and contrary child, and the pitiful rebellions of my youth (“I’m going to learn Gaelic!” is, hilariously, an actual tantrum from my past) deprived me of, according to modern linguistics, my prime secondary language learning years. But, nonetheless, growing up around French (and my mother’s Britishisms) has flavored my command of English.

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Review: 1963 — The Year of the Revolution

1963: The Year of the Revolution by Robin Morgan and Ariel Leve

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In the course of human history, teenagers are a fairly recent invention. Of course, humanity’s always gone through adolescence, but as a social construct, young adulthood was really developed after World War II, when post-war prosperity meant that teenagers had money—and, therefore, agency—for the first time en masse. Add to that the baby boom, and you’ve got yourself prime conditions for changing the culture.

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Review: Hair Story

Hair Story by Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps

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Everyone has their own hair story. Mine focuses largely on attempting to maintain length without it developing sentience and killing me in the dead of night (that’s barely a joke; I’ve woken up several times in my life with my hair wrapped around my neck), seeing how long I can go without highlights before my natural hair color starts bothering me, and the occasional empty threat of shaving my head. (Hey, there could be a treasure map back there. How else will I know?) But for black women and especially for African-American women, their hair stories are complex, often painful, and always political. Fairly late in Hair Story, Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps quote the screenwriter Lisa Jones: “Everything I know about American history I learned from looking at Black people’s hair. it’s the perfect metaphor for the African experiment here: the toll of slavery and the costs of remaining. It’s all in the hair” (158).

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Review: Fic

Fic by Anne Jamison

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I may not have been raised by fans, but I was raised on (and by) fandom. While I consider that first viewing of The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001 the revealing of my fannish destiny, I watched my first episode of Digimon in 1999. Add Internet access and the now actually lost Lost Temple of Ishida (a thousand blessings on the Wayback Machine, seriously), and I was reading and writing fanfiction well before I understood that I had the ability to wear different shoes on different days. I mean, I was nine years old when I got my first FanFiction.Net account. Given the shoddiness of my memory, I’ve practically never known a world without fanfiction.

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Review: Louder Than Hell

Louder Than Hell by Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman

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As you might surmise by my love of Rock of Ages and all things eighties, I like glam metal. I was practically reared on a copy of ABBA Gold, so I’m instantly drawn to anything with a singalong chorus and a look. But, as a kid, the only musical genres I really understood were “eighties,” “emo,” and “country.” (The only extent to which I indulged in defining my identity musically in middle school and high school was to sneer at country, a time-honored but ultimately cruel tradition.) “Metal” encompassed too many seemingly disparate elements for me to wrap my head around—KISS was definitely metal; Rammstein was German and therefore inherently metal; but where did Fred Durst come into all this and why was he so terrifying?

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Review: Among the Janeites

Among the Janeites by Deborah Yaffe

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Among the Janeites’ title is a bit misleading. It suggests a non-Janeite journeying forth to explore the alien world of the Janeites, recalling both the microgenre of year-long experiments and mainstream media rubbernecking at the strange habits of fans. Neither are particularly my cup of tea. Much to my relief, when author Deborah Yaffe says she is among the Janeites, she’s simply counting herself as one of them. She’s a literally card-carrying Janeite, having a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America (or JASNA) since 1974. In her almost forty years in the fandom, she’s seen Austen go from obscure but beloved writer to a commercialized pop cultural touchpoint.

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Review: The Poker Bride

The Poker Bride by Christopher Corbett

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America is a land of immigrants. I was always pretty aware of this basic fact as a kid, because I knew exactly where I came from. My paternal grandfather had a thing for genealogy, and, well, the rest of my grandparents were French. While I definitely absorbed the stereotype of an American being white, blonde, and blue-eyed, it puzzled me to some degree, because just looking at the world around me said different. As an adult, I know why: the 2010 census predicts that, by 2043, America will be composed of minorities as a majority. This pictorial featuring mixed race people in National Geographic offers a view of what the average American really looks like. This may seem like a new development to some, but that’s only because the American history taught in American schools is a little pale.

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Review: Don’t Stop Believin’

Don’t Stop Believin’ by Brian Raftery

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If you’ve been reading this blog long, you’ll know that I adore bad music. The cheesier the more bombastic, and the more overproduced, the better, in my opinion. Accordingly, my karaoke song is “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” (I do both voices and, if the mood strikes, the synthesizer.) And yet, while wailing eighties power ballads to a crowd of strangers is a telling allegory for my life, I shy away from singing with people. It’s not stage fright—the public or an audience don’t register as “people” to me, so I can do that fine. It’s just that music, for me, can be intensely personal: I have songs that I adore that I will only listen to once in a very long while and songs I can’t listen to any more because they remind me of certain times in my life that I don’t want to revisit.

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Review: How to Create the Perfect Wife

How to Create the Perfect Wife by Wendy Moore

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The first time I watched My Fair Lady with my mother, I was disgusted when she sighed over Eliza returning to Professor Higgins as “romantic.” (Keep in mind, this was the thick of the Wombat Years, so it took very little to anger me.) Eliza, a spitting tigress of a slip of a woman, had spent the whole musical suffering under his tyrannical hand. Plus, she had a love interest—the adorable Freddie—and even had a whole song about wanting him to be more direct in his affections. (Were this tumblr, I might refer to it as a “WE SHOULD TOTALLY MAKE OUT” song.) George Bernard Shaw wrote Pygmalion to poke fun at the Galatea myth, and he, like myself, was infuriated that the musical adaptation pulled this.

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