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February Media Companion

Love Warrior | Glennon Doyle Melton

"I was loved. If love could prevent pain, I'd never have suffered."

I was just telling someone how I don't read the synopsis of a book before I buy it. No inside cover flap, no back cover. I'm mostly a word of mouth person. It's worked out really well for me so far. It led me to Love Warrior. I got an email from Goodreads (Are you guys on Goodreads? If not, you really should be.) that had a note from Cheryl Strayed telling me I had to read this new book. Then one of my favorite artists, Emily McDowell, made print with a quote from the book, saying it was a must read. That was enough of an endorsement for me. Plus, the quote was a gut punch. Glenn on Doyle Melton is a warrior. She didn't know it, and it took her a long time to believe it, but she found her way there. She was loved fiercely, her entire life, but it was never enough because she wasn't able to love herself. Her story highlights a lot of the battles that women end up fighting their entire lives, sometimes starting at a tragically young age. No matter our differences, whether we feel like they further separate us or bring us closer together, we can all agree that the world is not trying to make life easier for women. And unfortunately, being loved isn't always enough. That thought has stuck with me since I finished reading this book. I wasn't loved enough for a very long time. Then I stopped looking for love from certain people, people I thought I needed it from, but somehow it still wasn't enough. So I suffered silently. A choice that many people make for far too long. But Glennon's story made me feel less alone in my pain. Sometimes all it takes to start healing is to tell someone you're hurting. Glenn on told a lot of people, and it started an avalanche. Her story is full of strength, compassion, and so much bravery. I hope you'll pick up this book. I've recommended it to everyone I know, and I think it's a story that every woman needs to read. Go find your inner warrior.

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Letters to a Young Poet |  Rainer Maria Rilke

Diving Bell and the Butterfly | Julian Schnabel

I don’t remember when I watched this movie for the first time, but I remember how it made me feel. It was one of the first foreign films that I watched on my own, without having to for school or something like that. I went out to get the book afterwards and read it too. I wanted to feel all of it, and I didn’t want that feeling to go away. It made me think about how we can take communication for granted, and that seems even more real now. (More than when this film came out in 2007.) Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor in chief of French Elle Magazine. One day he suffered a massive stroke and fell into a coma, until he woke up twenty days later. He woke up physically paralyzed with locked-in syndrome. He was mentally aware of his surroundings, but only had the physical ability to move his right eye. Using that eye, only blinking, he wrote the memoir that was the source for this film. He spent every day in the hospital with nurses and doctors, but I could never imagine the loneliness. So often we retreat into ourselves to escape pain or loneliness or any other myriad of emotions, but what do you do when you are physically locked into yourself. When you have no way out. Bauby did what a lot of people do, he told his story.

Some of my most lonely spells come out of feeling like there’s no one listening. I’m not always great at writing things down. I tend to look for someone else to tell me a story, rather than writing down my own. But, writing things down is a way out (or in) for a lot of people. It’s how Bauby got through this trauma. He blinked his eye over 200,000 times, four hours a day, for ten months to tell his story. To keep communicating, and stay connected. Yes, this is an inspirational foreign film, and sometimes that can sound cliché, but I highly recommend it. It remains one of my favorites and I know that I can always watch it when I need inspiration myself. It also doesn’t hurt that the cinematography is gorgeous and the direction is fantastic. A lot of it from the point of view of Bauby’s only working eye. You get to hear his thoughts about what’s happening, even though he can’t speak. You hear his fears, frustrations, and his joy when his life begins to move forward. No matter how lonely you are, someone is always waiting to hear your story. Even if it’s just a pen and paper.

Difficult Women | Roxane Gay 

I would still say I'm relatively new to Roxane Gay. I read Bad Feminist a few years ago. Then bought An Untamed State, but still haven't read it. She'son my radar though. So I'm always ready for her next release. When I heard about Difficult Women, I got really excited at the idea of essays on women I maybe hadn't heard of or wasn't really familiar with. Then I learned that it was a book of fictional short stories, and I got even more excited. I'm a total sucker for short stories, and I finished the collection in two days. I loved it so much. The more I thought about it as I read the stories, the more interesting the title became. All of the women in these stories are considered to be "difficult" by the world around them, usually men, but as a woman reading about them, I didn't see them that way. They seemed remarkably human. I think that also had to do with the sci-fi/surrealist vibe of some of the stories. They also highlighted an overarching sense of loneliness that comes with being a woman. Out in the world, it can feel like we're on our own sometimes, whether we're surrounded by others or not. Walking down the street, at work, at home (with or without roommates/family). My time in Connecticut has been especially lonely, in the weirdest way. Not really good or bad necessarily, but in a very different way than what I'm used to. Sometimes when we're lonely, we create routines to fill the void, the time, the space. What becomes ritual to us, can be (mis)construed as difficult to someone else. What I'm trying to say is that I think "difficult" is subjective. I'm not sure what I thought about that before, but I definitely feel this way about it now. I wanted to highlight some of my favorite stories from the collection. They were all great, but these ones stood out to me.

DIFFICULT WOMEN

This entry was fun because it had more of a list-y feel to it. There were women with different labels (ex. crazy or loose) and examples of how they would act or react in different situations. I could honestly have read an entire book laid out that way.

BREAK ALL THE WAY DOWN

This one hit home for me. I'm always really thrown by stories about mothers who lose children because I had a brother who died when we were both young. It's tragic and it changes everything. But I loved the dynamic between the characters in this story. There's a lot of compassion and hunger for understanding. This woman could definitely be considered "difficult", but she has every right to be.

THE SACRIFICE OF DARKNESS

A man flies an air machine into the sun, plunging the world into darkness. This is a story about family and the choices we make when everyone is watching. This was one of the stories with a sci-fi vibe, and I don't want to give away how things play out, but it was one of my favorites. I loved how she took somewhat conventional themes and retold them using engaging characters and a fresh premise.

REQUIEM FOR A GLASS HEART

This story is about a woman made of glass who's married to a stone thrower. #Awkward. And they live in a glass house. #DoubleAwkward. This story is beautiful and powerful. It makes you sit with uncomfortable feelings and think about what you really mean or what you're really doing when you say you're doing something for the ones you love. 

We Should All Be Feminists | Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This is a super short read. It comes as a fifty-ish page book at the bookstore, or you can get the eBook for under five bucks. But, the written version is based on Chimamanda's TED Talk, and I've linked that above. It's a must watch. Check it out.

Just Kids | Patti Smith

One Sunday about a month ago I decided to take myself out on a date. When I go on a date with myself I like to start with a nice cup of coffee and a croissant to go. Then I head to either a library, used bookstore, vintage clothing store or record shop. This day I had the intention to buy some new (but they are used) books. It's always hit and miss, but I was craving a new book that I could read for 30 min before bed. This day nothing was catching my eye. After a few failed first page reads I was on my way out of the store and came across Patti Smith's Just Kids, a memoir about her fascinated 20s and passionate relationship with former lover Robert Mapplethorpe. Patti goes into detail about her coming of age (which is technically older than typical coming of age stories but I'm realizing more and more that I'm currently coming of age even at the age of almost 26) and the process of finding her artistry. Robert was a prominent influence in her artistic passion and helped her find her voice. Even though she was destined for greatness with or without him, his impact shaped her influences.

I couldn't believe I found myself relating to a human god like Patti Smith. In the beginning of her book she mentions a similar dating herself situation (she is way too cool to use a phrase like "dating myself") where she would go to the local coffee shop, order a cup of coffee and a pastry and begin to work. By working she says that she would just do stuff, like write poetry or write in her journal. Just pretend to be busy even if you're not. I feel like that's the exact cycle I have tried to stick to. It's almost like the second I find myself getting bored, I try to pick up something I haven't worked on in a while. This book also made me aware of how young and in experienced I am and that's ok. I feel like I'm in the beginning stages of shaping the kind of artist I want to become. I hope to be like Patti in the sense that she has never limited herself to one form of art. I was reminded that these are the days that seem like everything but will be looked back as a step.

Jackie | Pablo Larraín

Have you ever wondered what Jackie Kennedy did the day her husband was shot to death? If you have, then "Jackie" is for you. After having tried for weeks to find time after work to go to see the movie, my husband and I finally got to go this past Monday. Even though my company did not enjoy the movie as much as I did, overall we both had a good experience. Sure, the film at times moved rather slowly, however I loved the fact that the story portrayed a woman's tragedy in such detail. More importantly, it did it in a way where the First Lady did not come off as weak in her grief, but rather as in charge of it.

Since I'm not a film critic, I will not give you an in-depth discussion of the film's characters and themes. Rather, what I'm going to do is describe two scenes that I was particularly fascinated by and tell you why. The first scene is one in which Natalie Portman's character is sitting in the kitchen of her Cape Cod home (mansion!?) being interviewed by a journalist who is reporting on her husband's shooting. She is wearing an off-white sweater with a rounded neck, dark pants, and simple ballerina flats. Oh, and she is also smoking obsessively. What was interesting about this scene was not the dialogue between the two individuals, but the way in which her emotional state was expressed; not only through her body language, but also via her clothes. That is, you could perceive the heaviness of her sadness in the way her clothes fit on her body. Portman moves in a way that makes the clothes look heavy on her--you can see how fragile her mind is by how fragile the "large" sweater makes her appear. 

The usage of clothes in the second scene that I chose also intrigued me. In this scene Portman as Jackie has just returned to the White House after the assassination and she is walking the halls of the massive house. She is dressed in the same outfit from earlier that day; a pink jacket with a matching skirt. Both clothing pieces are stained with blood, and she walks through what looks like a small library. As she moves through the room music that sounds like it was taken straight from a scary-movie (ala Funny Games) can be heard in the background. Now, just as in the first scene the clothes that she is wearing here seem to weigh her down. Portman even walks in a way that makes it appear as though her emotions are woven into the fabric; they are overwhelming, too much for anyone to carry, and they are pushing her down towards the floor. The clothes (her emotions) making it hard for her to walk steadily. The more I think about it, the clothes in this scene even works as the background of a sign, with the blood the symbols on it, constantly reminding the audience of the tragedy.

I might be reading way too much into these two scenes... :) Anyway, watch the movie and please let me know what you think! 

You Must Remember This | Karina Longworth

"Ms. Longworth has hit on a peculiar sweet spot, where hipsterdom meets Turner Classic Movies." - New York Times

If you are anything like me, you would appreciate a break from all the political news engulfing our nation. Luckily for you, I have the answer: Karina Longworth's podcast You Must Remember This about "the secret and/or forgotten histories of Hollywood's first century." The podcast comes out weekly and tells creative nonfiction stories about both well-known and lesser-known Hollywood persons; actors (e.g., Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, and Montgomery Clift), actresses (e.g., Lauren Bacall, Marlene Dietrich, and Marilyn Monroe), industry people (e.g., Howard Hughes, Walt Disney, and Louis B. Mayer) and those who just happened to do strange and awful things in LA at the time (such as Charles Manson). 

The podcast is put out in seasons of varied length, but they all cover fascinating happenings and people of the era. Ms. Longworth has released many episodes, 96 to be exact, and of course I have listened to all of them (I know, nerd alert on me). As a result, I want to give you some friendly pointers about where to begin. Personally, I was advised to listen to the season about Charles Manson and his followers first, and so that's where I would like you to start as well. The season is not too long (12 episodes), but be prepared to binge-listen for hours. Not only does she cover Manson's background and path to Hollywood, but also interesting famous people who were connected to him and his "family." When you are done with that season, you have to move to the one about the all and mighty queen--Joan Crawford. Look for the season named "Six Degrees of Joan Crawford" and ready yourself to get obsessed. (After I listened to this batch of episodes I ended up not only reading 3 biographies on Joan, but I also added her most famous movies to my Netflix queue. FYI, Mildred Pierce is fabulous). 

At this point, when you are done with the Manson and Crawford seasons, I think you are ready to enter out into the world of old Hollywood on your own (the most recent season is titled "Dead Blondes," just saying). As you do, if you ever find yourself in need of a fellow You Must Remember This lady friend to talk to about a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g Hollywood related, don't hesitate to reach out.  Also, I know I said at the beginning of this post that we sometimes need to take a break from the world of politics, however, I want to emphasize; we only need to take a short break (an hour a week to be precise)! Once we are done recharging our feminist batteries with that Hollywood glamour, we need to get out and do our activism!

P.S. If you find yourself as smitten by Ms. Longworth's podcast as I am and want to go on a walk through Beverly Hills this summer to look at the old homes of the stars, let me know! We can even stop by the Beverly Hills hotel for drinks by the pool :)

- Emma