God Collar by Marcus Brigstocke

The God Collar

This is Marcus Brigstocke talking about his own search for God. Brigstocke is a stand-up comedian and talks quite a bit about not believing in god. In this book he talks about how even though he doesn’t believe in God he would like to, he feels like he needs god because life is heinous sometimes and it seems like people who believe in god have a better time of it. He talks about different religions, his own meetings with religion, his thoughts on how religion makes things better and makes things worse. It’s also focused around him losing his friend James to James’ shitty heart. He talks about being an addict and god being a big part of AA and NA and people getting clean. So for a while religion was a big part of his life.

 

Thoughts

I thought this was interesting. I listened to the audiobook version, which was read by Brigstocke himself, which I really liked, because I like his voice and I like when comedians read their own books. I thought he had a lot of interesting ideas, and I think he has good points.

 

I also realize he is preaching to the choir to me, cause I am not religious and I have what I think is a healthy scepticism to religion. I wasn’t raised religiously. I’m from Norway, most of us aren’t religious, but a lot of people in Norway go through religious rituals for traditional reasons, so baptism, confirmation and church weddings. I wasn’t baptized, I am not a member of the Norwegian church. I don’t think my mom and dad ever told me “there is no god” in those terms, but I also don’t remember ever believing in god. I find religion fascinating, because I find stories fascinating, and I like reading about how people interact, and how people, no matter where, always find something to believe in.

 

I do also understand Brigstocke’s desire to believe in something, because sometimes I do wish I had a god to believe in, but I just can’t. It feels like something is missing in me sometimes. I don’t need something to believe in, I’m completely comfortable with us being alone in the universe and the thought that when I die I’ll just die and that’s it. And if I’m proved wrong then that’ll be surprising, but fine. It just seems like some aspects of religion are lovely, the community, and the faith and the desire to do charity and so on.

 

Something Brigstocke talks a lot about is the fact that it seems like the Abrahamic religions in particular hate women. And they might say they don’t, but they do. I don’t think every individual Jewish person, Christian, or Muslim, hates women, but the religions do not like women, if they did they wouldn’t make up so many rules to keep women down and abuse them so spectacularly. He also talks about how religions seem to give power to people who use their position to abuse people less powerful than them, like the catholic priests’ widespread abuse of altar boys.

 

I feel like the book was a bit messy and not as structured as I would have liked. I also don’t feel like there was a lot of criticism of mainstream atheism. A lot of the “big” atheists in the mainstream often seem to treat people with religious leanings with contempt and have no interest in even talking to them and discussing with them. And while that is obviously also true for religious people that is no reason for atheists to behave the same way.

 

Finally

I liked this. I thought it was fun and interesting. I like Brigstocke and his voice, both his literary voice and his actual voice. I like books about religion. And while I thought it was a bit messy, I still liked it.

 

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Review Mine Brødre (My brothers) by Adel Khan Farooq

Plot

Mine Brødre is a new Norwegian Young Adult novel by a second generation immigrant to Norway. It’s about a second grade Pakistani immigrant who lives with his family in Oslo. He’s Norwegian in that he was born in Norway, has a Norwegian passport, speaks Norwegian, speaks pretty much no Arabic, and can’t write in Urdu. He does normal Norwegian-teen things, he plays soccer, smokes, drinks, hangs out with his friends and you know. He has a massive crush on a Somali girl in his class called Faiza, who is a dedicated, modern Muslim girl, and who loves talking to him about her faith. The protagonist is a casual Muslim, he doesn’t pray, he can’t read much Arabic, and he doesn’t see the point, but likes reading the Qur’an in Norwegian with Faiza. The book is set right before and after the Paris terrorist attack at the Eagles of Death Metal concert. The protagonist is continually disappointed, and is sliding towards depression when Faiza moves. He then finds a Muslim brotherhood in Oslo where he finally feels accepted, and where he finally finds people who take him seriously.

Thoughts

I thought it was very interesting to read about such a casual Muslim boy who sees what IS are doing, who sees the terrorist attacks in Paris and is horrified by both, being slowly turned into someone who considers going to Syria to fight. I feel like it was an interesting concept, I’m not sure it was executed as well as it could have been. I also realize I’m not in any way a Muslim teen from the East side of Oslo, but he seemed to flip really quickly. He seemed so naïve.

I did however really like seeing how young men get recruited to these brotherhoods, and it does seem very honest and real. The charismatic leader of the Oslo brotherhood seems charming and he seems like a guy who could easily trick boys to go off to Syria. He uses charm and all the good parts of Islam to bring people into the brotherhood, and then slowly turns them.

I thought it was clever to make a sort of light and dark part of the protagonist’s life through Faiza and the brotherhood. It’s a bit heavy-handed at times, but I thought it worked pretty well.

I thought the ending was a bit of an easy out, but I also thought the author managed to work up quite a bit of tension and I was terrified that the protagonist would do something incredibly stupid. I also think that the ending I think it needs would have been a bit boring, so I think I prefer this one which is a bit sweeter.

Finally

I think this was a fairly good book. I think it’s a really important subject and I think it’s a fascinating subject. I have another book on the same subject, but it’s a non-fiction book, I think I’ll still push it up the reading list though and read it sooner.

My favourite TV shows of 2016

This is an overview of my favourites among the TV shows I watched this year. They didn’t necessarily come out in 2016, but I’m a binge watcher. This is not necessarily in order. I will also indicate if the show is on Netflix or HBO or where you can see if I can remember.

  1. You’re the Worst

This is a romantic comedy for people who don’t like romantic comedies. It’s about horrible people and it’s just the best thing. It’s about Jimmy, a British author who has written one book and is struggling to write the next one. He is rude and “tells it like it is,” basically insulting everyone. He meets Gretchen, who is a publicist for a rap trio who is a walking ball of chaos. They hook up, planning to never see each other again, and then they just… keep hanging out. It’s beautiful and sweet, and hilarious. The secondary characters are hilarious. Jimmy’s roommate is Edgar, a veteran with severe PTSD. He is incredibly portrayed. The jokes are never making him the butt of the joke. In season 2 they deal with Gretchen’s clinical depression and Jimmy’s inability to cope with his girlfriend being severely depressed and it’s absolutely incredible. Season 1 and 2 are on Netflix.

  1. The People vs O.J. Simpson

The People vs. O.J. Simpson is a drama show about the O.J. Simpson trial from the 90s after O.J. (allegedly) killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. The show is incredible, the acing is wonderful; Sarah Poulson is magic on two legs. Cuba Gooding Jr. does an incredible job. Sterling K. Brown is just… so good. It’s great. There is obviously also silliness. O.J. Simpson’s best friend was Rob Kardashian, and the Kardashian kids are in the show a lot more than they would probably be if it hadn’t been for Keeping up with the Kardashians. David Schwimmer did a good job of being Kardashian, even if he got a slightly silly job. It was fascinating to see how the case was handled, and I don’t see how he could ever be acquitted. It was so fascinating. Because I was obviously alive when the case happened, but I was too young to know much about it. So this was a good primer.

  1. Stranger Things

Obviously I was going to mention Stranger Things. It’s like the show of the year. I loved it so much. I love things from the 80s more than I can explain. I love eighties movies and shows, so much. And this was so in my wheelhouse. If you have somehow missed it Stranger Things is about a young boy named Will Byers who disappears one night, and then his friends try to find him. They meet a girl called Eleven, who is telekinetic, and who is the most badass character on the planet. The story is amazing, the feel of it is incredible, the actors; oh my God, the child actors are amazing. The adult actors are astounding, look at you Winona Ryder. It’s so good. It’s only 8 episodes, and I need more. This is a Netflix original.

  1. Rectify

Rectify is the slowest TV show I watched this year. It’s just, so slow. Basically I watched Making a Murderer and needed instantly to watch more shows that talked about the same thing. Rectify is a drama about a man named Daniel Holden who has been on Death Row for about 20 years for raping and murdering his girlfriend. He is then let out on a technicality and the police try to find new evidence and Daniel tries to go back to normal life. It’s so beautiful. It’s a Southern Gothic and I love that aesthetic. I loved the way Daniel tried to cope with returning to his old house where his family has obviously moved on, except have they? The first season is 6 episodes long I think and it only shows one week of Daniel’s life. It’s that slow. It’s astounding. Season 1 to 3 is on Netflix.

  1. Game of Thrones season 6

I was really annoyed with season five of Game of Thrones and all the weird creepy shit that went on. The sixth season was incredible. It had low points obviously, but the high points were amazing. I think the writers are both well served by, and hurt by not having source material. They could do what they wanted, but some episodes were really hurt by that too. The episode where we find out why Hodor is named Hodor was incredible. The battle in episode nine was great. The writers also clearly moving shit along and people are meeting and doing stuff and it’s dynamic and exciting and I want season 7 right now. This is an HBO show and is on HBO Nordic.

  1. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

So I love Hitchhiker’s guide, I haven’t yet read Dirk Gently, but I have it. I was so excited and worried about this show, because I really hate the Hitchhiker’s adaptation from about 10 years ago. I don’t know how this stacks up as an adaptation, but it was hilarious. Dirk Gently is basically a manic pixie detective who runs around doing his thing. Elijah Wood is so grumpy and I love him. Farah Black has basically too settings; fucking badass and nervous wreck. There’s a fucking Corgi, who is amazing. It was weird, and I can see why people don’t like it, but it was hilarious and twee and English. And I loved it. This is a Netflix original.

  1. The Fall

The Fall is a serial murderer TV show set in Belfast and it focuses on Stella Gibson, played by the beautiful and wonderful Gillian Anderson. She is a DCI who goes from London to Belfast to do a review of how Belfast police is running an investigation of a murder, and while she’s there the murderer kills someone else. It’s one of those where you know who the murderer is the whole time, it’s not a who-done-it. It’s astoundingly creepy. The way they cut scenes of murder and sex, or murder and caring for your kid, together is so fucking creepy. I realize it’s the point, but I’m unnerved all the time. Jamie Dornan is amazingly awfully creepy. Season 1 to 3 is on Netflix.

  1. Insecure

Insecure is an HBO-show by Issa Ray, and it’s so good. It is based on Issa Rae’s web series Awkward Black Girl and is about Issa who works for a charity called We Got Y’all which works with minority middle school kids, and is in a long term relationship with Lawrence. Her best friend Molly works as a corporate lawyer. She has the career she wants, but has trouble in her dating life. It explores social and racial issues that relate to the black experience today. I love Issa, she’s insecure and awkward, and weird, and she’s strong and fierce. She’s also messy and self-destructive. Molly is strong and composed and incredible, and she complicated and a mess and all over the place. I love the side character, Frieda, who works with Issa at We Got Y’all, I identified strongly with her desire to be empathetic and inclusive, and not racist, and ends up saying just really weird, confused things. I loved this, I feel like I’m also in the demographic, of a young woman in her late twenties who isn’t entirely sure if she has the life she wants, it’s so good. And I’m excited for season 2. This is an HBO original.

  1. Making a Murderer

This came out in 2015, but I watched it in 2016. This is a documentary TV series about a man named Steven Avery who was wrongfully accused and jailed for raping a woman. He was released 18 years later when the right man was caught, and then he was arrested again for the murder of a young woman. The documentary looks at what the police did, what the prosecution did and what the defence did. How the police and prosecution coerced Avery’s nephew, a child, into giving testimony without his parents present, and how his lawyer colluded with the prosecution. It was so fascinating. I don’t know if Avery killed Teresa Halbach or not, but I do think police have a duty to do their job correctly, and you can’t use the excuse that the suspect probably did it to do whatever you want. I’ve listened to two different podcasts about this TV show. It’s incredible. This is a Netflix original.

  1. Lethal Weapon

I feel like the last two choices are typical guilty pleasure shows, but I have no guilt, they’re both awesome. Lethal Weapon is a movie series from the 80s with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. This TV show stars Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford and it’s absolutely delightful. It’s a buddy cop show about a middle aged family man who is teamed up with a self-destructive crazy man who lost his wife in a tragic accident and has taken up alcoholism and suicidal thoughts as a hobby. The actors are great, the show is pretty much exactly what you think it’ll be, which is great. I watched this on Viaplay, which is a Norwegian streaming service.

  1. Wynonna Earp

So this is a great show. I watched it over a weekend. It’s about Wynonna Earp, the great-great-grand daughter of Wyatt Earp. The premise is that she has to break the Earp curse, by sending the souls of the 77 outlaws Wyatt Earp, called revenants, killed, back to hell. Yeah, it’s great. She lives with her little sister Waverly, and is haunted by the loss of her father and oldest sister Willa. She gangs up with a US Marshal who is working for some creepy ass government agency, and the immortal Doc Holliday (friend of Wyatt Earp’s). It’s about as stupid as it sounds, but it’s also incredible. Wynonna is messy, and weird and confused and broken, but she’s a feminist badass who takes none of the shit. Waverly is strong and sweet and a research mage. The show turns the whole Bury Your Gays trope on its head, because this show has a lesbian who wears Kevlar, guys. It gave me Buffy-early-Supernatural-vibes and it’s my favourite thing. I loved it so much. Season 1 is on Netflix.

Ten favourite books of 2016

It’s close to the end of the year. I thought I’d do a wrap up of my favourites. I know there’s a week+ more left in the year, but I think this list will stand anyway. So here we go.

long-way-to-a-small-angryThe Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

This was incredible and it made me remember why I love Science Fiction. It’s pretty soft sci-fi, and it’s lovely. It is about the crew of a space ship that punches tunnels through space. The tunnels are made in a sort of parallel to space so people can travel faster from one end of space to the other. They get a job to make a new tunnel and the book tells the story of them travelling to the place where they’re starting the tunnel, and basically tells the story of the sort of weird and oddly put together crew, and their troubles and struggles. It’s so beautiful. It’s chock full of diversity of gender and sexuality. There’s an angle in it that I really love, which is the idea that humans discover that the universe is full of other species and aliens and humans are babies and at the bottom of the hierarchy and they have to submit and trust others. I really like that. I loved the characters and the way it looked at love and relationships, and I have never cried so much over an android in my life.

 

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

vegetarianThe Vegetarian is a South Korean novel about a woman who suddenly decides she will stop eating meat for no good reason. Her husband finds it really frustrating because he has to eat what she makes, and he doesn’t want to be vegetarian. She seems to be going towards a nervous break of some kind and no one can stop her. The book is told from the perspective of her husband, her brother-in-law and her sister so we never get the main character’s perspective on her vegetarianism and her mental breakdown. I really loved it, it’s so beautiful. It’s really weird, and really uncomfortable. The characters are all awful, the husband is horrible, her family is cruel and don’t understand, and it’s so weird. And I really want to read Human Acts as well.

 

Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin

This is a Bruce Springsteen biography. It’s really big and comprehensive. It came out a couple of yebrucears ago and it obviously goes from he was born and until today. I really love Bruce Springsteen, when I found out he was coming to Oslo to do a gig I made a weird noise. I have never made it before or again. I love him so much. Anyway. This was really great. I loved it. I think it’s probably a good place to start if you want to read about Springsteen. I should say I haven’t read other books about him, but this was simple to read and it was comprehensive and it was lovely. It’s not gossipy, but it does bring up things that Bruce did that weren’t great. He has a tendency to change on a dime and not think about how it will affect others, but just breaks up the E Street Band out of nowhere, leaving his band in the lurch. It always talks about him going from this man who just wanted it to be about the music, and then going; fuck it, I’m going to be political, because it cannot go on like this. He’s great.

 

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

song-of-solomonThis is my second Morrison book and it’s about Milkman Dead. He was born right after a neighbourhood man throws himself off a roof because he wants to fly. It’s a slightly different and odd coming-of-age story. It’s about a boy who doesn’t fit in with his father, and who is sort of turned against his mother by his father. He keeps complaining that he doesn’t have the life he wants, but for the most part he does nothing to change his life. Because he’s comfortable and has no impetus to actually change. He is judgy towards his sisters when they don’t lead the lives he wants. And finally he just sort of tries to change his life. And it’s weird and not particularly well thought out and oddly funny. And it’s a stunning comment on race in the States around the time of Jim Crow and a really horrifying way a group of black men try to fight back against institutionalised racism. It’s so good.

 

Signs preceding the end of the world by Yuri Herrera

This 34110-signs2bpreceding2bthe2bend2bof2bthe2bworldis a very small book about a young woman who walks across the Mexico-US border to find her brother who emigrated to the States and who they haven’t heard from in years. She meets a motley crew of people who help her over. She’s in danger because she has basically smuggled something over so she can go over the border, pretty much to pay her way. It’s written in this very spare and sparse style and in a sort of stream-of-consciousness way. It reminded me a lot of Cormac McCarthy, Herrera doesn’t really use punctuation or quotes so it might not be for everyone. It really didn’t bother me, I don’t mind that. I actually thought it helped the story and the language. It was beautiful.

 

The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas

the-ice-palaceThis is a Norwegian novel about two girls, Unn and Siss who live in a small Norwegian village. Siss has lived there her whole life, and Unn moves there at the beginning, and they become friends over night, in the way that you do when you’re like ten years old. Then Unn disappears and Siss falls apart. It’s so beautiful. There’s something fairy tale-esque about it. It’s also very Norwegian, which is not something I can explain, it’s just something that I associate with Norwegian literature. It’s steeped in ice and cold and it’s so beautiful and I want to read more from him. I obviously read it in Norwegian and it’s sort of in Vesaas’ dialect. I don’t know how they’ve translated it, but I’ve heard it’s great.

 

Shrill: Notes from a loud woman by Lindy West

Shrill ishrills Lindy West’s memoir. She is a journalist/writer/comedian and she is awesome. This is about her growing up being shy and awkward, and then becoming loud and feminist and unapologetic, and it’s great. I had heard about Lindy West through a This American Life podcast where she confronts a troll who has created a twitter account that says it’s her recently deceased father. And it’s an amazing podcast. She says he’s the only troll who has ever apologized to her and realized that what he did was heinous. It’s incredible. She also tells this story in the book. She also talks a lot about being a fat woman, which is something I really appreciated, since I am also a fat woman, and I grew up being pudgy and shy and awkward. And I really loved that. She talks a lot about things that sort of is just part of your life as a fat person and it was really cool. I’ve since listened to a lot of podcasts with Lindy, because I love her now. I listened to this on audiobook and I think that was a good choice. Lindy read it herself and it means you get her tone and she knows how she meant things so her snark and sarcasm comes through really well. It was just incredible.

 

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

geek-feministThis was a collection of essays by science fiction writer Kameron Hurley. It’s basically a collection of essays she’s published online, in newspapers and everywhere else. I’ve never read them before so to me that was great. They’re about feminism and geek culture, and trolling. And it’s also about herself and her life and her own chronic illness and how it impacts her to have diabetes. It’s also about her own sci-fi writing and how she had to confront her own privilege and her own preconception and how she has worked actively to change how and what she writes. Which I thought was great. It’s always hard to admit you’ve fucked up, especially when you’ve tried really hard to be inclusive and do good. It’s also about the slog of writing, it’s not always easy, it’s not always something you can live on. It’s really cool.

 

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

just-mercyBryan Stevenson is a civil rights lawyer who works with people on Death Row, trying to get them off. And particularly people who have been wrongfully convicted. The book and story is focused on the case of Walter McMillan, a man who was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to die. Stevenson spends years untangling the mess of a case that Walter had. The book also goes into other cases Stevenson has worked. He focuses on helping the poor, children, women, minorities, people who have trouble getting help anywhere else. At the same time it’s a coming-of-age story for Stevenson who goes from being a young idealistic newly educated lawyer to becoming an experienced, still idealistic lawyer who fights for equal rights, and who argues for compassion. It made me so angry to read about the cases he has litigated, it made me so angry to hear how people are treated in the American justice system, like a small 14-year-old boy who is placed in general population in an adult prison when he should probably be placed in a low security juvenile detention centre. It’s so heart breaking, and Stevenson is so inspiring, and he’s a fabulous writer.

 

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

citizenThis is a prose poetry book. It’s a comment on race in the US. It’s also a lot about Serena Williams and her brilliance, and the racism that Williams faces all the time. I don’t think I can explain how much I love Serena Williams, which is slightly weird, but you know. So I really loved reading about her, because it’s really interesting to watch Williams play tennis, because it’s such a white, upper-class sport, and she spends a lot of her time policing how she behaves so she won’t be called out on completely normal behaviour. She is often called too exuberant, or too angry just for being her, and it’s really unfair. The poems looks at racism in everyday life, on TV, online, on the tennis court, on the soccer pitch, and it’s wonderful and powerful.

 

2017 bookish goals

So I haven’t done this in… forever. I’ve been feeling weird, so I haven’t blogged, because why do something I like when I feel weird? Anyway, I really want to be a bit better about blogging, so I’ll try that. I thought this would be a kind of nice way to get back into it. These will be my reading goals for 2017.

  1. I will try to read 75 books in 2017. I have currently read 132 books in 2016, which is incredible, but it feels like I’ve read really small books, and short books, and I feel like I don’t take in a lot of what I’m reading. I feel this massive pressure to read a lot, just quantity all the time. And I really don’t like that feeling. So I’m going to try to slow down, and give myself breathing room to read bigger, slower books. I think I’ll still exceed this goal because I’ll still read graphic novels and listen to audiobooks. I listen to audiobooks at like, 1.5-1.75 speed because I’m now used to it, so they’ll go by faster anyway, but I want to give myself space and breathing room.
  2. I will try to do the Read Harder challenge for 2017. I kind of forgot I was doing it in 2016 so I have like eight challenges remaining. And I won’t be able to do that before the end of the year. So I’m going to try again next year and do better.
  3. I will try yet again to #readmyowndamnbooks. I didn’t do a great job this year, I’m going to reach my Mount TBR goal of 36, and I’ll set it to the same number next year. I’ve also made a rule for myself that if I buy a book I have to read it within 6 months or I have to get rid of it, to give myself a stronger impulse to finish books that I buy.
  4. I want to focus more on a hobby next year and I want to try to make that hobby blogging, so more blogging. I don’t know what that means yet, but I’ll figure it out.
  5. I want to read 12 Norwegian books at least. I managed that this year, which is exciting. I also did a month where I read mainly Norwegian books, which definitely helped, so I’ll do that again
  6. I want to read at least six books that are over 500 pages.

I think that’s enough to be getting on with. I also obviously want to try to read diversely, different genders, nationalities and all that. I did better this year than last year, so I will try to do even better next year.

In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

So I discovered Storytel, a Norwegian audiobook service. I had heard of it before, but not really known how amazing it was. You pay a fee every month and you can listen to all the audiobooks you want. (I’m not sponsored or anything, just incredibly excited.) And I have gone a bit crazy and I’m listening to all the things. I’m excited at the chance of listening and frustrated that I can only listen to one at the same time. Yes, that is insane. The first book I listened to was In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park, and I have thoughts. So let’s go.

The book

In Order to Live is a memoir by a young woman who was born in North in-order-to-liveKorea. She grew up in a fairly well-to-do family by North Korean standards. Her father was a smuggler and it means they had an okay life. Then her father was caught and put in prison and the Park family fell into poverty. When Yeonmi was 13 her sister Unmi ran away, defecting, and when Yeonmi and her mother are told this and that they can be helped out of the country as well they defect and go to China. They go to look for Unmi, and hope that their father can join them. Yeonmi talks about her experience being trafficked in China, and working with her trafficker to survive. Eventually they are helped across the border to Mongolia and then taken to South Korea, where Yeonmi keeps searching for, and reaching out to, her sister.

Thoughts

This was so incredible. I really liked it, although liked it sounds like a weird thing to say. It wasn’t like it was enjoyable, it was incredibly sad and painful, but it was an important read. I listened to the audiobook and it wasn’t read by Yeonmi Park, but the narrator was Korean, which I thought was good. She does have a Korean accent, and sometimes I sort of misheard some of the words, because I listen to audiobooks at a higher speed, but it wasn’t really a problem. I always understood from context anyway. And I liked that it was a Korean reader, it made it feel more authentic, I think a non-Korean reader would have felt inauthentic and jarring. 

I don’t think I ever learned anything about North Korea in school, except for the Korean war, so I didn’t know too much about it. Obviously I have learned more about Korea through just culture and everything, but it’s so closed off that I still know very little. I really want to learn more, so I’ve added more books about North Korea to my TBR. I think this book was a good place to start, because she does give a sort of short overview of the history of North Korea, but you don’t get overwhelmed by facts. She also personalizes it just by being someone who lived there and went through it. When she arrives in South Korea and goes to school there she learns that North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world, and that her leaders are corrupt and ruthless and cruel. She is completely surprised, because even if she knew she was poor and that there were prisoner camps she’s been told her whole life that North Korea is the best country in the world and that to talk against the leader is akin to blasphemy and impossible. Her whole school life in North Korea she was told that all Americans were dirty pigs and that South Koreans were the scourge of the earth, and when she gets out she has to come to terms with the fact that this just isn’t real. 

It’s heartbreaking in so many ways. A lot of women who get out of North Korea are immediately sold into sexual slavery, a lot are sold to “husbands” and a lot become prostitutes. Yeonmi managed to for the most part avoid that by helping her trafficker get other women through the process. She also was quite young and used that as a way to avoid the most terrible abuse, which is not to say she had an easy time. She was separated from her mother almost instantly, and had to live with a man who abused her and had to see a lot of horror close up at a very young age.

Like I said I think it’s an important book. I feel like North Korea is often treated as a joke, it’s so closed off and hidden, and people are so brainwashed. In reality it’s a human rights crisis of epic proportions. It’s not funny, but it’s often treated that way, or we just don’t talk about it. North Korean defectors who make it to China live in secret, in fear of being sent back, and have to go through excruciating processes to make it to South Korea, where people will actually help them and teach them how to function in modern society. They need help, and while I don’t know how, I want to learn more about how we can help them. It does seem like the famine in the 90s and the corruption of the government and police has somehow led to change. Young North Koreans watch American and South Korean movies smuggled in on illegal DVDs, watched on smuggled illegal DVD-players, and they know they don’t live in the greatest place on earth.

Finally

Anyway, I thought this was incredible. I really liked it, sort of. I want to read more about North Korea and learn more about how the country is these days, and how to help, if we can.

Book wrap-up, book-wrap up, when will it end?

I’m so close to caught up with the wrap-ups, and here we are again. These are five of the last books I read.

Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin

This is a Bruce Springsteen biography, it’s from last year, and it’s great. It’s really brucecomprehensive and it’s big. It’s also fascinating. I love Bruce Springsteen, like, a lot. I went to a concert with him this summer and when I found out he was coming to Oslo I made a weird noise that was not a word. I love his music, and I will always any TV-show, or concert with him… ever. I had however never read a book about him. And Whitney at All the Shelves also loves Bruce Springsteen, and she said this was her favorite biography of him, so I went for it. And it’s incredible. It’s so long and full of his whole history (duh), and it covers his firsts bands, him finally forming the E Street Band, breaking up with the E Street Band, and reforming. And all the interviews he’s done indicates that people love Bruce, and that he was always this force of nature when he performs, and he is electric. He writes about Bruce’s closed off personality, and his poetry and his politics, and how he took the tragedy of 9/11 and tried to do everything he could to make people feel less awful. It’s clear that Carlin loves Bruce Springsteen, and wants to tell his story in the best possible way. It was so good. I now want to read more about Bruce Springsteen, because why not? He recently released his autobiography, so I’m going to need to read that. I love Bruce Springsteen, so much. So much.

 

The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

This is a non-fiction book about science, more specifically about genetics, from Aristotle naming the atom, to Mendel’s pea plant experiments, to DNA, to GMO, to cloning, to the idea that maybe we can eradicate diseases by researching genetics. the-geneMukherjee is a cancer physician and researcher, and he originally hails from India, but lives in America. He uses his own family as a sort of through line in the book. His father’s brothers in India struggled with mental illness, one being schizophrenic, one being bipolar, and both of them going to pieces when they get wrongly diagnosed, and because they live in abject poverty. Mukherjee finds out that it’s quite common to have this pairing, a father having two sons where one is schizophrenic and one is bipolar, and it travels down the generations. He wonders if he carries it inside him, and should he inform his wife in case they have sons? It was a fascinating history. I haven’t had any biology since I went to high school, which is apparently 10 years ago. I’m fine. It was still fairly easy to understand and it was comprehensive. Obviously it’s not completely comprehensive, cause it’s 500 pages, and you can’t cover Aristotle to 2016 in 500 pages, but if covered the basics and the big lines, and it was great. I really want to read his other book which is about cancer.

 

In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park

Yeonmi Park was born in North Korea to a relatively wealthy family. Her father in-order-to-liveoperates on the black market and compared to the average North Korean he has a fair amount of money. When North Korea’s delightful leader cracks down on the black markets he is arrested and his family succumbs to poverty. His wife and daughter’s live on the least possible food, and try their best to get him back. When Yeonmi is 13 her older sister defects and disappears. Yeonmi and her mother goes looking for her and then defect as well. They’re lied to and then trafficked and Yeonmi’s mother is sold to a farmer. Yeonmi is able to avoid being sold for a while by helping her trafficker selling more women. Eventually Yeonmi and her mother get away and get a job, and then manage to defect to South Korea. It was incredibly hard to read and I cried a couple of times. Yeonmi is brave and strong and tough. She is so honest about her captivity and her trafficking. It was fascinating to read about Yeonmi learning about North Korea from the outside. She has been brainwashed to think North Korea is the best country on the planet, and suddenly she learns they’re the poorest and that Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il have been tricking them and abusing their people. She is from an atheist country, because in North Korea the leaders are God, so she struggles to talk against them for a long time. She’s currently regarded as a traitor and enemy by Kim Jong-un. It was so good, and heart breaking, and I want to read more about North Korea.

 

Presidentene by Hans Olav Lahlum (The Presidents)

Hans Olav Lahlum is a Norwegian crime novelist. This book however is a non-fiction book about every single president of the United States. I listened to an abridged presidenteneversion of if, where he gives a history of the 13 sort of most important presidents, or most profiled presidents I guess, and then gives like a quick two-sentence profile of the rest. It was written in 2008, so the last president mentioned is George W. Bush. It was really interesting, and there are definitely things about the US presidents that I didn’t know, because I’m not American, so our school curriculum doesn’t focus too much on them. So what I know about them I have from popular culture to be honest, therefore it was really interesting to hear about these presidents and their lives. I think I want to read some presidential biographies, and this made me want to pick one up quicker. I do have a gripe with the audio book. It’s read by the author and he consistently reads English, and French, German, Russian, names and place names with a Norwegian accent. Sometimes I it didn’t bother me, sometimes it was incredibly jarring (Gerald with a hard G? I’m not sure it’s even Norwegian). Other than that it was a fine audiobook performance.

 

M Train by Patti Smith

M Train is Patti Smith’s second memoir. It’s basically little stories and essays about m-trainher life. Some of them are about her life right now, some are about her early life with her late husband and with her family. It was really beautiful. They mostly focus on places she goes to. A lot of them starts with her going to her favorite café just down the street from where she lives and how that is often the start of her day. It is just a sort of rambling group of stories and essays. She goes on quite a lot of trips and has friends all around the world. She has travelled a lot of these places with her husband, Fred Smith, who passed away in 1994. She keeps remembering them going to these places together, and it’s very beautiful. She has all these memories of him that she can evoke by going somewhere. I really liked it and I want to read Just Kids as well.