3 New Books by Badass Women You *Need* to Read RN
It’s tough to go against the grain. Society has any number of unwritten rules, and it takes a lot of courage to break them. This week’s book club features collections of personal stories and essays that buck the trend and show what it means to stand up for your convictions. One woman writes a brutally honest takedown of cancer clichés, mental illness and her unconventional relationship with her sort-of adoptive mother (who just happens to be a Nobel Prize-winning author herself). Another woman refuses to follow the traditional reality show (or life) narrative, that all a woman needs is to find a handsome prince. A third insists that you can love yourself (and the way you look) no matter what the world says about your size.
1. In Gratitude by Jenny Diski ($19): When Jenny Diski was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in 2014, she decided to write about it. Diski, who sadly died in April shortly after her book’s completion, is perhaps best known for her thoughtful and spare fiction, as well as her regular contributions to the London Review of Books, which formed the basis for essay collections and memoirs. She’s also known for a long history of not flinching away from the difficult subjects; her books cover depression, drugs, sadomasochism and rape in their own ruthless prose. “I am and have always been embarrassed by all social rituals that require me to participate in a predetermined script,” writes Diski.
In this vein, and unwilling to focus solely on the cancer or end-of-life platitudes, she instead found she had a different, untold story to explore: the years she spent with author Doris Lessing, who took her in at age 15. Lessing would shape the rest of her life, particularly as a writer, and introduced her to a fascinating literary world. “When she died last November at the age of 94, I’d known Doris for fifty years. In all that time, I’ve never managed to figure out a designation for her that properly and succinctly describes her role in my life, let alone my role in hers.” Diski explores that role, and her lifelong relationship with the brilliant writer and unabashed feminist, while facing the last few months of her life.
2. It’s Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak into Happily Never After by Andi Dorfman ($15): Reality TV might be a little less literary than Doris Lessing, but it’s impossible to deny the impact it’s made on our culture, promoting the “virtues” of scheming, quick fixes and instant gratification. Most of us are guilty of dipping into the Reality TV well once in a while, even if we know the “reality” is often scripted and manufactured to create the highest amount of drama. One of the most addictive shows out there is The Bachelor, and its sister show, The Bachelorette, which put forward the idea that true love can be found simply by weeding down a slate of suitably attractive applicants. Real reality, however, is a little more complicated.
“Seriously, you have nothing to lose.” “Um… except my dignity.” Lawyer Andi Dorfman became famous on season 18 of The Bachelor when she did the unthinkable: As a contestant for bachelor Juan Pablo’s love, she instead rejected him, highlighting his poor behavior and leaving the competition on her own terms. The unexpected nature and popularity of this action resulted in her being offered the lead role on the 10th season of The Bachelorette. This time, she chose contestant Josh Murray, but eventually rejected another “fairy tale” romance, later calling off the engagement. In It’s Not Okay, Dorfman dishes about her time on both shows and her fellow contestants, some of whom remain her good friends (another surprise in the cutthroat reality world).
Dorfman hopes her story will help her readers with their own trials and breakups, as well as providing juicy gossip. “I couldn’t believe they even watched these crappy dating shows, let alone think that I would be the type of cray-cray who would actually go on one,” she says of her friends’ advice. Little did she know she’d be on two. Let’s hope her advice is better.
3. Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman by Lindy West ($17): Lindy West is a fabulous woman who lets the haters know she’s not going to deal with any of their body-shaming garbage. She’s a passionate advocate for social justice, a pop culture maven and an outspoken writer with an acid wit. You may have seen her work published in Jezebel, GQ or The Guardian, or heard her on This American Life.
Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman is a collection of essays on topics of great personal meaning to West, the title pushing back at a common insult levied at women who dare to speak their minds (particularly women who aren’t rail-thin or economically or racially privileged).
In a world where so many women have been silenced, threatened or “doxxed,” Shrill is a refreshing clarion call from a woman who learned to wear her ideals on her sleeve, and to bravely fly her own flag. Even Lena Dunham says that “her talent and bravery have made the Internet a place where I actually want to be.” Essays leave few targets unscathed, and include “Are You There, Margaret? It’s Me, a Person Who Is Not a Complete Freak,” “You’re So Brave for Wearing Clothes and Not Hating Yourself!” and “It’s About Free Speech, It’s Not About Hating Women.” Caitlin Moran calls it “literally the new Bible,” and Ira Glass admires West as “a totally entertaining and original writer.” Considering West once had to view a cross-dressing male cartoon bear as her only positive fat “female” role model, it’s about time to listen to her voice, shrill or not.
What books make you speak up? Tag us in your next powerful read @BritandCo.
(Featured image via Andi Dorfman)
It can be intimidating to step out on your own and build a business from the ground up. As part of our collaboration with Office Depot, we're talking with Selfmade alum and solopreneur Colette Lawrence, the faith-based motivator and relationship builder behind The M.E.E. Movement, about ways in which women in business can find success.
B + C: How did you know M.E.E. Movement was your business to start?
The M.E.E Movement represents motivation, empowerment, and encouragement for women. It is what represents me. I did not know at first that it was my business to start, but then the thought of monetizing what I loved came to me. It scared me, however. I registered the business in July 2020 and have been slowly building my wings since.
B + C: What's one strategy that's helped you start your business?
Thinking through and researching what the requirements are to start my business, and then asking questions of people who are in the business. Not all advice worked; however, it helped me to figure out what I needed to do and not to do.
B + C: Did you always know life coaching would be your entrepreneurial path?
(Smiles) No, I did not. I 'stumbled" on it. I knew that people were always coming to me for advice and I found that I loved having conversations with them, especially with women, young and old.
B + C: What was your most valuable takeaway from Selfmade?
My most valuable takeaway was the first day of training: Get out of your own way. There were a lot of great moments and important takeaways from every presenter. However, getting out of my own way, pushing past doubts, was for me my most valuable takeaway. Doing something that I had never done before took courage. If I do not focus on what is happening with me mentally then I cannot deliver to my clients successfully.
B + C: What's one piece of advice you would give to female entrepreneurs on the brink of starting?
Get out of your head. You have something to offer. You have what you need to succeed so go ahead and do it.
B + C: How do you stay motivated?
I stay motivated by listening to music and listening to motivational speakers, and sometimes someone will just reach out and talk about the impact that I made in their life. That adds the extra juice or sauce I need to pummel through the day.
B + C: What's your best organizational tip?
Keep a diary and journal. It's the best way for me to keep organized and it also provides a source motivation as I record not only my "losses" but my wins as well.
B + C: Who inspires you in the entrepreneurial space?
Shirley Toliver – She motivates and empowers and makes me always want to show up.
B + C: What has receiving the Office Depot scholarship to Selfmade done to help you start or grow your business?
The scholarship was a blessing in that all the areas that were covered offered valuable information that I needed, from social media to HR. As a new business owner, I needed to know this to increase my own personal awareness in what it takes to run a successful business. The candidness of the presenters made it easy to see myself in their shoes and helped me to realize that I can also get there.
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Head to Office Depot's Selfmade page to check out even more amazing business resources (and discounts!) to help you accomplish more on your entrepreneurial journey. These offers are available for a limited time only, so be sure to take advantage of all this goodness while supplies last. Want to join the next Selfmade cohort this summer? Check out all of the scholarship details right here.