Showing posts with label autobiography. Show all posts
Showing posts with label autobiography. Show all posts

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Unexpected Spy by Tracy Walder

Rating: WORTHY!

From an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

This was the unexpected memoir for me because it popped up as an invitation in my email box and I didn't need to be asked twice! The book was very short (about 200 pages) which I normally love, but frankly I could have stood to have read a lot more of this. The author doesn't waste words or pages, and after a very brief mention of her childhood and college, both of which are relevant to things that occur later, we get right into her recruitment at the CIA, the work that she did, and then a switch to the FBI, which I did not expect but which I think I found even more interesting than the CIA, which had been engaging aplenty.

Obviously a lot of this is about the CIA, so the details she gives are naturally censored in parts. This was my only problem with this book - not that things were censored, but that the author had chosen to leave the expurgated portions (which were not that many) in the text, but as a series (in my copy) of tilde marks, rather than write around the topic. For example, I read at one point, "I'd been moved into what was then a deeply classified operation within the CIA, the ~~~~~~~~ Program." I didn't get why she hadn't simply changed it to say something like "I'd been moved into what was then a deeply classified program." At another point I read, "if we ever were to ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~, that action would never be taken without thorough analysis." That could easily have been rendered as something like "any action on something like that would never be taken without thorough analysis." The tildes were most annoying when they ran on for many lines - twelve or nineteen on a couple of occasions. But as I said, it wasn't that often and it wasn't a book-killer for me.

The author was born with what's called 'floppy baby syndrome' or more professionally known as hypotonia, in which the body's muscles are less than sturdy, but she overcame that. I'd never even heard of it until I read this book. Here it stands as an foreshadowing of some things the author had to overcome in her career. This led to some bullying in school, then on to her being a blonde Delta Gamma sorority girl and hardly - to some people's narrow minds - the kind of person who would end up in the CIA! But she did, and started out life eying satellite photographs and analyzing them as an aid to tracking terrorists. It reminded me of a scene from that Harrison Ford Tom Clancy thriller Patriot Games in which they were similarly examining photographs to try and identify people at a camp.

Apparently the CIA has a crazy course in vehicular pursuit, called Crash and Bang, where they get to drive these old beat-up cars and have to try to run the opponent off the road. The course ends with them deliberately crashing into a cement wall just so they know how it feels, which seems a bit extreme to me, but I guess it's better to be prepared. I assume it's a relatively low speed crash, but they were told if they didn't hit hard enough to render the vehicle un-drivable, they'd have to do it again!

I got to read about how it was in the CIA right after 9/11, when people like George Bush, as well as Condoleezza Rice, and Dick Cheney would come in unexpectedly, asking rather desperately if the operatives had managed to find a link between this guy Zarqawi, who they knew was into making chemical weapons, and Saddam Hussein, and each time the CIA would report in the negative. At one point the administration learned that Zarqawi had been to Baghdad for surgery, so they used that as the link, changed the heading on the information this author supplied them, and went on national news claiming a link! That news meant that Zarqawi went underground and they lost track of him for a while. It also meant they had manufactured a 'justification' for invading Iraq. It was disturbing to read things like this, it really was. The book was an eye-opener in many regards.

After some time with the CIA, the author wanted a change of pace and applied to the FBI where she was accepted for training. I'm not sure I'd personally consider that a change of pace, but each to their own! At Quantico though, unlike in the CIA, it seemed like there was an institutional program of resentment and bullying of females, and particularly of one who 'claimed' to have worked in the CIA. The three trainers seemed intent upon employing the same genderist attitude toward her from day one, despite one of the trainers being a woman. Their behavior was appalling.

The book is replete with anecdotes and interesting information not about the details of the work (where permissible!), but about the way the work is done and how hard these people strived to keep a country safe - and how awful it is when they feel like they have failed, either because they did not reach the right conclusions in time or because they did, but those who could act on the information would not listen to the experts who were telling them there was a threat. It made fascinating reading and I commend it whole-heartedly.

Monday, September 2, 2019

An Autobiography by Agatha Christie

Rating: WARTY!

Having listened to a few of Christie's books in audiobook format with varying success recently, I got curious about how she worked, how she felt about her books, where her inspiration came from, how she wrote them, that kind of thing, and I have to say my search for those answers went largely unsatisfied! I found four biographies - after a fashion. One was for children, which I thought wasn't bad for its intended audience, but not suitable for my needs. Another was a graphic novel which told a straight-forward story and which I enjoyed, but again not satisfying my real need. A third was a biography that I thought wasn't worth the reading - not at over five hundred pages!

This book came closest, but even it left me wishing I'd been better rewarded. I do not envy anyone heading into this almost six-hundred page tome, which Christie wrote over many years rather more like a diary than a book in some ways. For my purposes I skimmed it, pausing to actually read only those sections where her books are specifically talked about. That was interesting, particularly how screwed-over she was by her first publisher and how she quickly learned her lessons going forward. Caveat, all ye who wish to publish! This is one reason why I have no time for big publishing™.

I went into this hoping for something different than I imagine many people would, who would presumably read it for a story about her life from the horse's mouth so to speak, with perhaps a minor in book writing, so perhaps I was less satisfied than others might be because of that. I did get some idea of her writing and how she felt, but I felt like I ought to have had more out of it since this was her own words, and she was a writer! Maybe I expected too much.

On a cautionary note, those expecting or hoping for some insight into her missing days way back in 1926, will be disappointed since she doesn't even mention it; not a word. You'd learn more from looking up old newspapers on the subject! But there were parts I enjoyed, and not all of those were about her books, and overall, I commend this as a worthy read because it is from the source and it is unembellished (beyond what a writer might unconsciously do anyway!). It felt honest and from the heart and that I appreciated, but for my purposes, in seeking deeper insight into her writing and motivation, I was less than happy.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Jet Girl by Caroline Johnson with Hof Williams

Rating: WORTHY!

Having recently had an idea for a novel involving a female fighter pilot (and no, it's never going to be the one you think it will be - not from me anyway!), I saw this on Net Galley inviting review requests, and I jumped at the chance to read a first-hand account. Subtitled "My Life in War, Peace, and the Cockpit of the Navy's Most Lethal Aircraft, the F/A-18 Super Hornet," this book was a fascinating story of the life of a Navy Lieutenant from induction to flying combat missions over Iraq, and it was everything I hoped it would be. I'm very grateful to the publisher for my chance to read and review this advance review copy. Or maybe I should say 'ARC' since we're into military jargon territory now, which as the author makes clear, is almost a foreign language!

This book was perfect for me because I've read several books written by military personnel, including a Navy SEAL and others, but always written by men, and I really wanted a female take on it because I knew this would be more informative than the gung-ho macho perspective too many male writers adopt. That does not mean, by any means, that there was no machismo or gung-ho spirit here. Caroline Johnson - callsign 'Dutch' - was a navy fighter pilot after all - planning and executing more than 700 flight missions, but all of that was tempered by a hell of a lot of other perspectives and it made the reading so much more rounded, with depth and sharp insight. I read it in two days which is not quite a record for me, but it is a sterling effort these days for a book that exceeds 280 pages of tightly packed print! I usually prefer my books shorter, but this one seemed short because it was to the point, with short chapters and an easy-reading style.

Talking of which, I often rail at books which waste paper by having wide margins and widely-spaced text. I've never had to rail the other way, but I came close this time because the book was really tightly-packed! It reminded me of my own tree-saving formatting, although mine isn't as tight as this one. I could not get it to look how I wanted it in Adobe Digital Editions, which I've been using lately because Bluefire Reader - my usual go-to reader, had been giving me grief with a lot of the illustrated books I've been reading recently, but this time, I went back to BFR, which gave me control over the font, and so I finally got it into a format that was easy on the eye and ran with it.

When I first began reading this (it has a prologue and and epilogue, both of which I skipped as I do routinely in any book) and followed the author through her military schooling, I confess I started to wonder where the harassment was. I've read much about harassment and hazing of female conscripts, and there seemed to be none here, which made me wonder if something was being left out, but it seems it was not, because this kind of thing, it would appear, did not happen in college, but was reserved for when you would least expect it: when Lt Johnson was assigned to her first combat role with the VFA-213 Blacklions which flew deadly Hornets off aircraft carrier CVN-77 USS George HW Bush, the tenth and final Nimitz-class carrier to be commissioned into the USN, and named after the USA's 41st president who was a naval aviator in World War Two.

Lt Johnson got her first taste of this shameful conduct when she arrived on base and went to a meet-and-greet kind of a get-together, and was assumed, by the Navy wives there, to be the wife of a male aviator. When she revealed that she was herself the new pilot and was single, she was shunned by these other women which was a disgraceful way to treat anyone in national service in good standing - typically first in her class. Later in the book, Lt Johnson tries to excuse these women for their conduct, and that's her choice, but to me their behavior, particularly against another woman, was inexcusable, even if it's understandable from their shaky perspective.

This isn't the only issue she had as a female pilot in a "man's world" and she lists many, many others, but she rose through them all and she did her job in outstanding fashion. In doing her sworn duty she got some kind of release from that when flying missions - combat or practice or something in between. Even though missions were stressful in themselves, they were fun, until after many years and long deployments they were not so much fun, especially when these pilots wanted to do something about the atrocities they could see ISIS committing on the ground and could not engage because the order had not yet come down from the commander-in-chief to go weapons hot.

The stress doesn't let up even when a pilot isn't even flying, because you never know when you will hear of a Navy plane crash as this author did on more than one occasion, and cannot help but wonder if it's someone they knew from college, from training, from flying, who died. In those circumstances, the Navy requires all personal phones to be on lockdown so no one can even call to tell their own family they're ok, not until the family of the deceased has been personally told by a Navy representative.

The actual combat and near-combat missions are not the most interesting thing in this book, interesting as they are. What I enjoyed most was learning of the day-to-day routine, the cramped conditions (it's not just on submarines where people live on top of one another!), the limited access to things we take for granted, the sometimes long days, down to the the numbed butt from sitting in a hard seat for several hours (the seats are hard so that there is no movement of legs in the event of an emergency eject, which takes place so fast that it could break a thigh-bone, were there any give in the seat).

One of the things you'd be unlikely to find in this book had it been written by a guy, was the issue of going to the bathroom while flying! Astronauts have this taken care of, but not so much the pilots. There are special devices designed for women, believe it or not, but the old version doesn't work well and the Navy wouldn't spring for the new version because it was more expensive (these devices are in the range of thousands of dollars, and unlike Red Wing flying boots, it's not something a pilot can just go out and buy on their own dime). One chapter described an amusing, although inexcusable, situation for a pilot to be put in when they've been on a mission for too long, and despite avoiding drinking too much fluid beforehand, they find themselves absolutely having to go.

So this book had it all - the highs and the lows, and the details I'd been most interested in learning about, and it was a fascinating read on almost every page for me. There were almost no issues I had with it, but I'll mention two which I think worth mentioning. The first is the claim made in the opening paragraph of chapter seven that "The United States is the only country in the world to dare to take off and land on aircraft carriers at night...." This is simply untrue. Even as I write this, British pilots are doing this very thing on their new aircraft carrier, the Queen Elizabeth, and this isn't the first time they've ever done this! Nor are they the only other navy which does this. When you think about it, it makes no sense. Why would a navy restrict itself like that and give potentially hostile nations the knowledge that they can get up to something as darkness falls knowing that the nearest aircraft carrier can do nothing about until the sun comes up because they don't fly at night? Nonsense!

The other issue was that there are no pictures in the book. I didn't expect anything that's potentially compromising, or group shots of happy pilots and graduates, but it would have been nice if there had been pictures of the aircraft and the aircraft carrier!) mentioned in the text. There were many airplanes mentioned, and while I have seen some up close and personal, I've enver seen a Hornet. Each of these planes I had to look up to get an idea of what craft was being discussed, which wasn't a huge hardship, but it was a nuisance. Military terminology and acronyms were explained, but we were not even treated to a description of the aircraft, let alone an image.

I feel that would have been an improvement, but even without that, I consider this book to be essential for anyone who is seriously interested in the military. I commend it as a worthy and satisfying read, and I thank Lt Johnson for her service and for being so candid about it in this book.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Only Woman in the Room by Beate Sirota Gordon

Rating: WORTHY!

This was a memoir written by a woman (Beate Sirota as she then was) who, through her extensive knowledge of Japan, having grown up there despite being born in Austria, and because she spoke several languages, including English, German, and Japanese, was part of the American delegation which went to Japan after World War Two, and helped draft the constitution, in her case, specifically a section on women's rights (which was largely gutted by the old white men unfortunately) before the final draft was presented to the Japanese so everyone could pretend the Japanese came up with this instead of the Americans.

The story is short and to the point, which I appreciated, but it contains enough detail to paint a vivid picture. It tells of her growing up on Japan, of her time in the USA during the war, working on translating intercepted Japanese military messages, of bigotry, bias, and racism, and of her return to Japan, not knowing if her parents, who were there during the war, were even still alive. Happily they were (and not even interned!), and the story of her involvement in post war planning and then moving back to the USA where she became heavily involved in trying to encourage cultural exchanges between the USA and Asian countries, was both moving and educational, as well as entertaining.

The author writes well and gives the right details without getting bogged-down in material that contributed nothing to both enjoying and learning from the story. I'm not a big fan of memoirs, but i commend this as a worthy read.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Spit and Passion by Cristy C Road

Rating: WARTY!

This is yet another LGBTQIA coming of age graphic novel and while I'm pretty sure I;m not the audience the author was seeking to impress, I'm sorry to have to report that I was not, in fact, impressed by it.

I've read many of this kind of autobiography, and they've all had a story to tell, but whereas some are outgoing and relatable even for a cis male(!), others are more a personal or even self-centered odyssey which don't seem interested in opening up or being inclusive in any way. These may well play to a segment of the population, and if they do, that's fine, but if they do, I'm not a part of it, not even indirectly, so I can't speak to it. All I can relate is what it said to me and in this case, it said very little of interest, nothing that was new or engaging.

I hate to be negative about a book like this, but I guess you can't love 'em all, especially not if the author doesn't seem interested in being loved as a writer or artist and who, instead of bringing an audience in to share her story with her, seems more interested in what's almost an internal monolog, rattling on without caring if there's an audience tuning in or not which to me, frankly, seems a bit creepy. i mean, whatever trips your ship is fine, but I've never seen the point of writing any story, fiction or no, if all you're going to do is tell the same story that's already been told and add nothing new or particularly interesting, so against my ordinarily natural inclination, and while I wish the author all the best in her endeavors, I can't rate this as a worthy read.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang by Chelsea Handler

Rating: WARTY!

I watched a couple of Chelsea Handler's TV shows and while they were mildly entertaining, they were not enough to make me want to keep on watching. I picked up this book out of curiosity since it was on close-out, but when I read it, I was far less impressed with this than with the TV show. I now have absolutely zero interest in this woman!

The biographical stories were boring and juvenile and presented like she was the only one that anything remotely like this had ever happened to. I had no interest in what she wrote and took quickly to skimming and finding less and less to engage me the further I went into it. In short order, I gave up on it entirely.

Does anyone really want to read about her OCD with masturbation at the age of eight? Do we really find it funny that someone pulled a prank on her that she'd killed a dog? I have zero interest in any of this juvenile stupid behavior and I cannot recommend this, not remotely, not even if you're actually a dog-handler from Chelsea in London.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Boys Keep Swinging: A Memoir by Jake Shears

Rating: WARTY!

This is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

Jake Shears, aka Jason Sellards, is a founding member of Scissor Sisters and while I'm not a huge fan of the band, I do like some of their music, in particular, I Can't Decide (the third track on their second album, Ta-Dah), which I think is brilliant, and deliciously bitchy. I'm rather interested in how people go from an everyday life to a stage performer in a band, so I was initially interested to read this, but I found it to be a real disappointment. I read it to fifty percent, and then skimmed to about 70% and gave up on it after that.

The band part of this memoir doesn't appear until the halfway mark and it's very thin. That part of the story doesn't truly get underway until about 70% and even then it's not as interesting as I'd hoped. The first half is taken up with the author's childhood and his college days. This part was slightly depressing. He went through a lot and had a lot to put up with, but that said, there really was nothing here that scores of other men and women haven't had to face, particularly if they're in the LGBTQIA community, so this didn't bring anything new to the table.

What bothered me about this, apart from the author never really seeming to want for money!) was that he appeared to have learned nothing from these events, or if he did, he sure wasn't interested in sharing his insights and thoughts on the topic. This was one problem with the book - it read less like a diary even, than it did a daily planner, with a litany of events and people trotted out, yet none of it had any depth, resonance, introspection or observation.

I never felt like I really got to know the author. We were kept largely at arm's length (as indeed was his "best friend" Mary, it would seem), and learned of him only through what he obsessed on or what seemed important as measured by how much space and repetition he gave to it. Judged by that latter criterion, casual sex and partying are his greatest loves. This second-hand perspective delivered an impression of shallowness and inconstancy, as though we were reading about the natural history of a gadfly rather than a person's life. As the New York City portion of the story ever unfurled, things only deteriorated. It felt like the story became even more shallow.

He was there to pursue a degree, but even when he got it, he did nothing with it. Admittedly the job market wasn't great, but what was the point fo the college education? From what we're told here, he was far more interested in dressing up, dancing, partying, and picking up guys than ever he was in a career.

His musical forays happened pretty much by accident and in a very desultory way to begin with, like he couldn't be bothered unless it fell into his lap, as it actually did in effect - at least that's the impression he left. I know the author has no control over the blurb their book gets, but this blurb mentions "...a confusing and confining time in high school as his classmates bullied him and teachers showed little sympathy." That kind of thing is entirely inappropriate and all-too-common, but what the blurb doesn't mention is what the author tells us, about how he liked to dress out even though he hadn't yet come out. This must have attracted entirely the wrong kind of attention.

And if you think a person ought to be able to dress how they wish, then I completely agree with you, but we don't live in a perfect world. In the world we do inhabit, one populated with ignorant jackasses and moronic dicks, this freedom brings a price and that price is exactly what the author suffered: bullying and little sympathy. A bit more attention to the wisdom of certain modes of dress and certain behaviors might have saved him a lot of this hassle. But the real problem here is that he doesn't talk about this in any detail, or offer any thoughts or insights here any more than he does on any other such topic. Maybe how he behaved and dressed would have made no difference, but we'll never know because it's one more important discussion we don't get from the author; one more cogent observation we're denied.

The casual sex was rife and disturbing. At first we're told it was oral only, which isn't exactly safe sex, but then we're not told anything about it other than it happens - frequently, and with a variety of one night stands and some dating in between. There is nary a mention of safe sex even though AIDS is mentioned. Even here though, the topic is dealt with so cursorily that it was like the ongoing AIDs problem never really happened or if it did, it impinged very little on his life or on the life of anyone he knew. I didn't expect the author to keep harping on it (or on any other topics for that matter), but I did expect to feel something of the impact of it and how it was dealt with, and how he felt about it all, but again we;re denied that.

There's really no mention of disease concerns or risks from casual sex, and there ought to have been, even if the author never had any such problems himself. As it is, it looks like not only the author, but no one he knew ever had any issues. Maybe that was the case, but it's hard to believe. As it is, the author plays right into homophobic stereotypes of the gay community and that's never a good course to follow, especially from the pen of someone who liked to plow his own furrow, so to speak.

One issue with memoirs for me is: how can someone recall events and conversations with such clarity from years before? I know some people can, and I know some people conflate several events into one for the sake of brevity and moving the story along, and this is fine, but nowhere are we told whether these particular recollections are amalgamations, or if they happened word for word (or close enough), or if they're simply impressions with some dramatic license taken. It would have been nice had a word been said about that. There are some events which feel like they would leave an indelible impression such that recall, even if a bit vague, would be authentic, but most of what we're told here wasn't of that nature, so I have to wonder how reliable some of this is, and I guess I found out. More on this later.

Starting with New York, the name-dropping became so rife in this book that the din from it was a distraction from the actual story, and it seems to serve little purpose except for the author to say, "Hey, look at all these people I know!" It felt so pretentious, and there were so many repeated mentions of going to parties and spending the night with guys he just met that the whole thing quickly began to feel sickeningly self-indulgent, shallow, thoughtless, tedious, and even dangerous.

This shallowness really came to the fore when the events of 9/11 were related. He was in New York City when the planes hit the towers, but none of that seemed to make any impact on him, because all we got was a brief paragraph sandwiched in between a night he spent with three other guys and a complaint that because of the fall of the towers, it was hard to party in the city and parties had to move out to the suburbs! The author didn't specifically say that himself; someone else did, but his lack of any sort of commentary on that attitude appalled me.

The shallowness he displayed over this entire thing was sickening. He was living within a few blocks of the event and saw part of it happen from the roof of his apartment block, and this one short paragraph and a couple of mentions later was it. I didn't expect him to agonize over it and put ashes in his hair and rend his clothes or anything like that, but his mention of it was so fleeting and cursory that it seemed like it was just another party in a long line of parties he attended - or perhaps more accurately another hangover after one such party. It's almost like he said, "Oh well, that's that, let's get dressed for the next fancy dress party!" This really turned me off the author. Another such incident was the New York blackout. That turned out to be just another opportunity to party, pick up a guy he didn't even really like for a one-night-stand, and that was it. Even then we got more about that than we did about 9/11!

I was ready to quit reading this memoir at the halfway point, but I still had read nothing about the band as such, so I pressed on. It was right around this point that it looked like the forming of the band was about to get going, but even then the story about it was awfully thin and sketchy, lacking any depth or insights, and it was still riven with never-ending tales of casual sex and partying. The monotony of it all made me uncomfortably numb, and I started skipping everything that didn't touch directly on the band from then onward. It was this that I was interested in, and I honestly felt cheated out of it by this point.

In the end I simply gave up on it. I honestly did not care about this shallow life I was seeing stretch-out meaninglessly across screen after screen. I cared about the music and the band and the dynamic and the energy, and we got so little of that, and almost nothing about the other band members. In the end it was a Scissor Sister, in the singular, and it was disappointing because it seemed to suggest that the very thing he had been heading towards since page one meant so little to the author that he could barely bring himself to write about it.

It was around this time that I read, "I hadn't had a boyfriend since Dominick" and this was just a screen or two after he'd told us he was dating a guy named Mark. Was Mark a girlfriend then, or is dating someone not the same as having a boyfriend?! What this confirmed for me was how unreliable this book was: something I touched on earlier in this review. One of the many names dropped in the book was Amanda Lepore, and I read her memoir some time ago and found it to be just as shallow as this one was. I'm now really soured on celebrity memoirs! Maybe if Ana Matronic wrote one I might be tempted to read it, but other than that, I'm done with this kind of thing. I wish the Scissor Sisters all the best in their career, but I cannot in good faith recommend a book like this.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

My Mei Mei by Ed Young

Rating: WORTHY!

A mei mei is a little sister and Antonia wants one. Her mama and baba fly to China to adopt one, and then Antonia realizes it's a problem because her mei mei now gets all the attention she's been used to! Worse, she can’t hang out with Antonia because she can neither walk nor talk! She just kind of lies there demanding to be changed and fed! What fun is that?

This is rather a personal story from the author, reminiscing indirectly about his own childhood. Since he's called Young, was his little sibling named Younger?! But don't worry, Antonia over time comes to love and appreciate her sister. I think this is a great story, gorgeously illustrated and well worth reading, even for an adult. I recommend it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Title: The Dragon Business
Author: Caitlin Moran
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: WORTHY!

My blog is nearly all about fiction - writing it, reading it, watching it, but once in a while I blog non-fiction. In this case, I'm assuming that this is mostly non-fiction, but I admit that sometimes I wondered, because this novel/biography has the same issues that I have with first person PoV fiction: how can the narrator possibly recall all these events in such detail?

It's not possible for someone to recall conversations not only word-for-word, but also the nuances attached to those words. At best you can have an impression, which may not even be accurate, of an exchange, and that's what I'm assuming went on here. Even if you keep a detailed diary, it's never that detailed! Even if you wrote the conversation down shortly after it occurred, you can't recall it that precisely. That said, this book was endlessly entertaining, enlightening in some parts, and LoL hilarious at times.

There were some portions which fell flat for me, but very few. It helped that Moran is British so I had many common reference points with her which may be lost on American readers, although some of her writing is surprisingly mid-Atlantic. Maybe the UK has gone over to the American side a lot more than it had when I lived there.

Essentially, this story is highlights (or low-lights if you like) from Caitlin's (real name Catherine, pronounced Catlin - you'll have to read it to figure that out!) youth to the present (present when it was written, of course!), but with the focus tightly on feminine issues. She begins with her period making her see red, followed closely by public hair (well, it was pubic, but it's not now she's written a best-selling book about it...), and from there she rants on about breasts, feminism, bras, panties, obesity, genderism, love, marriage, abortion, role models, and fashion.

I highly recommend this. It beats anything else that I've ever read on feminism, and it has some new and interesting points of view to share.