Sunday, September 15, 2019

Review: Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism

Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism Indigenous American Women: Decolonization, Empowerment, Activism by Devon Abbott Mihesuah
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Devon Abbott Mihesuah passionately discusses the role of Indigenous American Women in tribal and American life. Three themes are covered in her book: Research and Writing, Colonization and Native Women, and Activists and Feminism. In Research and Writing, Mihesuah explains that writings on Native women and tribal culture should be expertly researched and include the voices of Native women. Broad generalizations should be avoided. Each tribe has their own culture and caution should be used to generalize culture across all tribes. Specific examples are used. In Colonization and Native Women, Mishesuah discusses how Native women have lost their gendered roles after colonization. Where women were once revered within their tribes, many have suffered from abuse and relegated to subservient roles. Boarding houses and seminary life is examined showing how colonization has contributed to abuse and violence toward women and how they have been taught to be "civilized" at the expense of losing a part of their culture. Finally, Mihesuah covered today's activist and feminists who work hard to raise awareness of the female gender role in Native American life.

This is an excellent book. I do think that overall, Mihesuah discusses tribal life in general and does not always discuss just the female role. A lot of time is devoted to the American Indian Movement and the long-unsolved mystery around the death of Anna Mae Pictou-Aquash, a Mikmaq indigenes woman who went to the Pine Ridge Reservation in the 1970s to help with their grassroots civil rights movement.

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Sunday, September 1, 2019

Review: Woman's Consciousness, Man's World

Woman's Consciousness, Man's World Woman's Consciousness, Man's World by Sheila Rowbotham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a short discussion by Sheila Rowbotham on the state of socialist feminism in the mid-1970s. Rowbotham is a British social feminist who offers the argument that sexist attitudes pre-date a capitalist society. Although more women leave the home to work a job in a capitalist society, they are still expected to manage the home which is a job in and of itself. Women do not receive equal pay or equal treatment and are relegated to female-oriented jobs, such as secretarial positions. Life at home resembles a feudal institution as women are provided a home and needful things in exchange for managing the home. Rowbotham believes that the feminist movement needs to make societal changes to eradicate the patriarchal life that women are bound to.

Although this was written in the mid-1970s, many of the concerns highlighted by Rowbotham continue today. This is a good foundational discussion on the modern feminist movement.

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Review: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anthony Bourdain is a no holds barred kinda guy. He is extremely candid and unapologetic in life and that attitude comes across loudly in Kitchen Confidential. The man could be an ass and he admits it. He has been around the block a few times, been chewed up, and spit out. That is what you call experience and when it comes to the culinary world, he has that in spades. This book is Bourdain laid out raw from his youth traveling to France with his family and discovering what food should really taste and look like to being a well known culinary personality known worldwide. The art of eating is about using all the senses and Bourdain gained this understanding at an early age. As a young man, he went on to be a mediocre sous chef before going on to school at the Culinary Institute of America. He worked his way up to be an Executive Chef at Les Halles in New York and finally as a journalist and television host of shows like No Reservations and Parts Unknown. This man knows food, how to cook it, how to eat it, how to savor it.

I have seen Bourdain's shows off and on over the years. I was never very fond of him because of the way he would bash other chefs in the media, but then I saw him on The Taste, a short-lived cooking competition that seemed to try to copy cat The Voice. I had more respect for him after watching him on there. He was less "loud" and more compassionate and I could see the respect he had for culinary arts. I was saddened to hear of his passing in 2018. The man was extreme and likely dealt with a lot that did not come out to the public. I had planned to read this book for some time. It's sad to see how full of life he was when he wrote this book. He was a person that never considered giving up but would cut his losses at one job to go on to something that would be better and build on his skills. Something got lost somewhere along the way, I suspect. He definitely had a heart and was compassionate of people, at least those he was close with, outside of work. All of these aspects of his personality come out in this book.

I will say that after reading this book if I ever had an inclination to go into the restaurant business, this has killed that desire. I appreciate restauranteurs and others that work in the business more than ever. It's a hard job and takes a lot of work and planning. I much prefer to enjoy the end result, something that Bourdain often did himself. It's what made him an icon in the culinary world.

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