Amanda Reads: Difficult Women

Hello, internet people! This week, I’m writing about Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women. Let me just start off by saying, this one was, well, difficult (do you see what I did there?).

I always struggle with short story collections–for some reason, knowing I’ll only be spending a short time with a character before moving to someone new makes it hard for me to get attached. For all that, the stories in Difficult Women managed to thoroughly break my soul.

Difficult WomenI originally started reading an eGalley (which I received in exchange for my honest review), but I couldn’t finish it during the semester–it was too heavy to be read in between grad school assignments.

As soon as the semester wrapped up, I returned to the book to finish it. Each story carries a great deal of darkness, showing the variety of ways in which one can have a difficult life. Some of the stories have elements of magic realism, such as “Glass Houses” in which a man marries a glass wife.

Not every story ends with complete hopelessness, but none of the stories are what I’d call happy. Roxane Gay tackles all kinds of difficult issues, like the death of a child, sexual abuse, infidelity, the loss of love, and more. It is a heartbreakingly difficult read, but of course it is also beautifully, masterfully written in such a way that, in the immortal words of Ron Weasley, “you’re gonna suffer, but you’re gonna be happy about it.”

So I do recommend this book, especially to women or to men who want to know what it’s like to be a woman in this difficult world. I don’t, however, recommend it if you’re looking for something to bring on the cheer as we enter the summer months. This book will break you. But it will do it with grace, with wisdom, and of course, with good writing.

Amanda Reads: How to Be a Heroine

Long time no see, internet people! I’m coming out of hibernation today because I’ve just finished my second semester of graduate school, which means… free time! I’ve managed to squeeze in a little fun reading here and there in between my coursework and work work, but not quite enough time to write blog posts about books. But now… you better believe I’m back at it!

How to be a HeroineI’ve just had the immense pleasure of reading Stephanie Ellis’s How to be a Heroine. I’ve had this book, which I found at a used bookstore, on my shelves for quite some time. The purple cover and title are what called me to this book, but between the pages I found so much more to keep me reading.

I’ve been rather book slumpish lately with occasional peaks where one book will grab me, and How to Be a Heroine was that book. I found myself daydreaming about reading this book whenever I was supposed to be doing non reading things. I just devoured it.

How to Be a Heroine is part life-in-books, part memoir and part literary criticism–checking off all kinds of boxes for me. Ellis talks about the journey of re-reading formative books, re-evaluating what the heroines meant for her when she was younger and what she finds in them now.

At times, she realizes her heroines weren’t quite the models she needed and other times, the heroines still stand up today. Regardless, it’s a fascinating reflection on what it means to grow up with books. For readers, the books we read aren’t just hobbies–what we find in the pages impacts and changes us in real ways.

Though I hadn’t read every book discussed in How to be a Heroine, there was still so much to connect to in what it means to be a woman and the process of growing up and coming into your own as a person.

For the bookish woman who remembers being a bookish girl looking for examples on how to live her best life, I highly recommend this book. I’m already looking forward to re-reading it in year or so.