Broad, Casted: Gender, Media, Politics, and Taking on the Establishment

Leave a comment

Like I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, I grew up outside of Rochester, New York, in a small town of about 6,000 people. My parents would always watch the news as a way to know what was going on, and I soon realized that I liked watching it too. I was fascinated by how the newscasters got to go out and talk to all sorts of people everyday. Rachel Barnhart was one of the many newscasters that we watched. Broad, Casted: Gender, Media, Politics and Taking on the Establishment is her memoir that documents her run for the New York State Assembly against Republican Harry Bronson during the summer of 2016.

In the first several chapters of the book, Rachel writes about growing up in Rochester, attending public school and deciding to major in college in journalism. Reading about her early life reminded me a lot of my own, attending public high school and being a cashier at the local grocery store as a teenager. I also majored in journalism in high school, though I decided not to become a reporter, and instead headed to D.C. to work in communications.

I enjoyed reading about the campaign trail experiences, because it reminded me of when my dad ran for town supervisor back in 2009 when I was in high school. Rachel talks about the neighborhoods she visited, the people she met and the responses she got. My dad would come home each night with stories about his experiences going door-to-door and talking to all kinds of people. He didn’t win, but those four months gave us an interesting perspective into local politics.

Tying into that, another great part was learning about how local political races work. There’s the announcement, but then comes the marathon of fundraising, getting petitions, advertising, making campaign stops and more. I’ve only come to learn more about the different types of races and just how many there are: State Senate, State Assembly, Mayoral, Gubernatorial, Congressional, and of course, Presidential.

Living in the nation’s capital, the majority of our 2016 was consumed by the highly unusual presidential race, and the suspense of not knowing who would move into the White House next. I found it refreshing to read about a much more local race and learning more about the legislative districts that encompass the Rochester area.

One of the more serious issues Rachel talks about throughout the book is the criticism she received in person, online, and through the campaign mailers, and how it was linked to sexism. This was a common theme seen throughout 2016 in not just that race, but in the presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The election generated millions of reactions around the country and world, causing tension between friends and even complete strangers.

I definitely recommend this memoir for people who are interested in reading about journalism and politics.

Advertisements

Five Year Anniversary

Leave a comment

Five years ago this summer, I was halfway through my college career, majoring in journalism. I had been taking the typical classes- writing and reporting, editing, and composition and critical thinking. I still had two more years of college to look forward to and more classes to take.

One of the requirements of my journalism degree was 400 hours of internship. The previous summer, I had held an internship with my hometown newspaper, covering local stories and learning the publishing process. Summer 2012 however consisted of me only working my job as a cashier, wanting to earn money for my study abroad semester that fall. I was still covering some town meetings for the newspaper, but I still felt restless and wanted to be doing something to keep my writing skills sharp. This was something I mentioned to my brother while he was up visiting from D.C.

“If you’re a journalism major, you should probably have a blog.” he suggested.

“But what about?” I asked. “People with blogs seem to have a focus, but all I’m really doing is college right now, and there are already a million ones about being in college.”

“What’s something that you like that you could write about?” he said.

I thought about it for a little bit, glancing over at the book I had been reading. Books. Reading.

“Maybe I could write about books.” I mused.

“That’s something,” he said.

And thus Books By Betsy was created. I came onto WordPress and made my account, choosing the notebook theme because I liked the look. Since then, I have reviewed over 100 books, although I’m pretty sure I’ve read more than that in the past 5 years. A few years ago I started to promote my blog through my Twitter account, tagging the authors, and even get a shout out from them once in awhile. As an aspiring author myself, it’s great being able to read different kinds of books and sharing my thoughts about the story.

A few months after I launched this blog, I began to document my experiences of studying abroad in a foreign country that fall. I called that blog Experiencing England, As you can tell, I like alliteration in my titles, but I also chose that title because I didn’t find it used anywhere else.

Thank you to those who have read my blog. If you have any books you want me to review or any other comments or suggestions, please leave them below. Keep reading!

 

 

Freedom: My Book of Firsts

Leave a comment

Five years after Jaycee Dugard released A Stolen Life, a memoir about her 18 years of captivity, her second book came out. This one, titled Freedom: My Book of Firsts, talks about her experiences since her recovery, reintegrating herself back into society.

Jaycee documents her experiences of  “firsts,” her first time flying, traveling to a foreign country, being at her sister’s wedding, among others. Her accounts also describe her family life, getting to see her mother again, reconnecting with her younger sister, and continuing to raise her daughters. She also talks about founding the JAYC Foundation, an organization focused on helping families that have become victims of trauma. The foundation also provides educational programs to elementary school children.

One of the more interesting aspects of her accounts is experiencing all these things for the first time at an older age. I realized that we have all traveled, met people, gone to school, learned to drive and done more. We never really give our everyday activities a second though. But I had never really considered about how it would be if I hadn’t learned all of that until I was older. To be completely cut off from society for so many years takes bravery and strength to overcome.

A Stolen Life

Leave a comment

Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped in June 1991 when she was 11 years old. For more than 18 years, no one knew what happened to her, until 2009, when she was discovered living in the backyard of a convicted sex offender. By then, she was almost 30.

Two years after her reappearance, she released A Stolen Life, a memoir about her experience in captivity. At the time of its release, I was 18 and tried reading it, but found the content a little too graphic for me.  I was an avid fan of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, but realized that this account was very real and in no way fictional. Now, more than 5 years later, I decided to give it another go.

The book is written in the format of a journal, with each chapter documenting an experience. After each one, Dugard reflects on the section from her adult perspective. The interesting part about her writing style is the simplicity of it, containing many short sentences. This is due to the fact that she only had a fifth grade education, as she never completed school. However, she wrote it entirely herself with no co-writer, and didn’t hesitate to describe the details of what happened to her on a daily basis. She talks about giving birth to her two daughters as a teenager in captivity and raising them, and trying to maintain a positive attitude.

Although I in no way will ever be able to fully understand what she endured, I was continually awed by Jaycee Dugard’s incredible resilience and willingness to write about the details. As I read the book, on the subway to work, during lunch and on the bus, I found myself drawn into the story by her words and honesty.

I definitely recommend this memoir, as it tells an unbelievable story of someone who spent a lifetime as a captive, but found the strength to carry on. I hope to read the follow up, Freedom: My Book of Firsts, next.

When We Collided

Leave a comment

 

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, more than 43 million adults in the United States are affected by mental illness every year.  With mental health being a common issue, it’s all the more important to highlight it through forms of media, including novels.

Emery Lord’s When We Collided takes place in the summertime in Verona Cove, California. Vivian “Vivi” Alexander and her mother have moved to the town for the season. Vivi, an outgoing and somewhat random teenage girl, takes an immediate interest in the town and its residents, landing a job at the local pottery store. It’s there she meets lifelong resident Jonah Daniels, a teenager who’s been struggling to keep his family together after the death of his father and his mother’s subsequent withdrawal from the real world. Vivi charms Jonah’s youngest sister and eventually becomes a friend to his four other siblings. Jonah, in turn, is drawn to Vivi because of her unfazed attitude toward his family life and her fearless demeanor. However, there’s a reason why Vivi is the way she is, a secret she doesn’t want in the open.

Honestly, I found Jonah’s character more realistic than Vivi. Her speech patterns and thought process were difficult to read because they felt all over the place. I understand that it’s the way her character was supposed to be, but it was just not my style. Jonah, on the other hand, was easier to understand, running his father’s restaurant in the shadow of his death and experiencing the incredible amount of stress that goes with providing for a family. I found that I related to Jonah better.

I did find the plot fairly predictable and didn’t really care for the love story aspect, but appreciate Lord incorporating mental illness as a major plot device. Her novel is an example of something that needs to continue to be out there.

 

Wishful Drinking

Leave a comment

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Star Wars prequels came out and introduced the franchise to an entirely new generation of viewers. Granted, the prequels cannot really compare to the originals, but those movies were the ones my brother first got on video and watched constantly, which meant I saw them constantly too. We obviously watched the originals, and I remember thinking how cool it was to see the difference between the old scale models used in the originals versus the modern computer animation. And of course, I’ve seen the Force Awakens.

In honor of the legendary Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia, I decided to read her memoir Wishful Drinking, based off of a one-woman show she’s presented around the country.

Fisher writes about growing up in the spotlight, being the daughter of 50’s icon Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher. The book is split into multiple chapters that detail certain events in Carrie Fisher’s life, including her experience with drug addiction and alcoholism. She also talks about her parent’s divorces, and the multiple remarriages they both had over the course of several years.

I really liked Fisher’s writing tone, she was honest about a lot of her experiences through a dry sense of humor, even using some suggestive words. I admire her for her openness and willingness to make fun of herself and her family, even so much as to make a web illustrating the interconnections of her family’s divorces and remarriages.

This book is on the short side, only 178 pages, but is a great, quick read for those who appreciate a good sense of humor and memoirs.

Where Am I Now?

Leave a comment

Matilda was one of my favorite movies when I was growing up. I remember asking my babysitter to bring it over every time she came to watch us, until my parents finally got the VHS for me for Christmas.

Where Am I Now? is a nonfiction book written by “that girl from Matilda,” known better as Mara Wilson. Now 29 years old, Mara recalls several memories from her days as a child actor and working with several famous figures, such as Robin Williams, Sally Field and Danny DeVito. The memoir also documents her family life, living in Burbank, California with her three older brothers and younger sister.

I love Mara’s writing style, particularly her references to certain characters and literary works. One such line “Just because Madeline has appendicitis, doesn’t mean that you will too.” (p. 117). I immediately knew what she was talking about, the Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans, one of my many childhood obsessions.

On a more serious note, she talks about her struggles with anxiety and OCD. I found this part of the book the most relatable, because I too have experienced the same sort of issues during my life. Her writing in these sections is raw and real, and I loved every word of it. I loved how honest she is in that despite having been an actor, she still experiences the setbacks that we all do: dealing with the death of a loved one, trying to find a job as a college graduate and more.

I also really admire how she made the decision at 13 to stop auditioning and focus on her education, attending high school and eventually graduating from New York University. She now lives in NYC and works at a nonprofit, but still keeps a blog and is active on Twitter. She also performs storytelling occasionally on podcasts and venues. She is a role model of someone who took control of their life and is doing what she wants to do. I look forward to reading more of her work.

 

Older Entries