Reading wrap-up #39

Although this wrap-up only has two books, the reviews are some of the longest I’ve ever written.

I went into both of these books, especially the latter, knowing they had their issues and wanted to consider them for myself. Also known as: a good, ole fashioned hate-read. This post may make me look like a hateful bitch but I read these books because I genuinely find them entertaining. It’s like watching The Room, the content is garbage but you have to laugh. I also wanted to confirm the points other reviews have made and thinking deeply of the flaws this book has also provides a sort of insight for myself and how I would write things differently.

As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:

  • (★★★★★): Loved it
  • (★★★★): Really liked it
  • (★★★): Liked it enough
  • (★★): Didn’t care for it

Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. Finally, you can always check out my book review index page if you’re looking for my extremely important opinion on any book in particular.

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir: Newman ...Rating: ★★

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir, travel

GoodReads rating: 3.86 / 5 (12,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Summary: Kristin Newman spent much of her twenties and thirties buying dresses to wear to her friends’ weddings and baby showers. Not ready to settle down and in need of an escape from her fast-paced job as a sitcom writer, Kristin instead traveled the world, often alone, for several weeks each year. In addition to falling madly in love with the planet, Kristin fell for many attractive locals, men who could provide the emotional connection she wanted without costing her the freedom she desperately needed.

Thoughts: As a young, single woman who also loves to solo travel and (safely and consensually) shag attractive strangers, the idea of this book sounded most appealing… but the execution was awful.

Based on the title alone, I knew this was going to be a cringe-fest. At the moment, I’m not keen on having kids (if I do, I’ll probably adopt) but I’m not saying never and I love other peoples’ kids. “Breeding” sounds so cynical and dehumanizing and even if having kids isn’t my thing, I’m going to be nothing but supportive to those that do have or want them.

While I fully appreciate how hard it is to be a female comic writer, I didn’t laugh at this book once and the travel aspect of this book was all but missing. There was little about where she went and what she did but rather who she did, which is fine (I love a good hoe story) but it shouldn’t be marketed as a “travel” memoir (fret not, I got my travel dose unexpectedly from Last Chance to See). The author came across as fundamentally unlikable by way of being selfish (“mourned” the loss of her friend when she got married), melodramatic (spoke of being in love regardless of a language barrier) and tone deaf (using 9/11 to rationalize cheating, jokes to cover up her ignorance of the Israel-Palestine conflict and calling local beliefs “weird” rather than embracing them). The one ray of light was some of the travel stories I recognized in my own life. For example, we had an almost identical experience with RyanAir, as our planes were rerouted to Frankfurt and we had to get on a bus to our final destination in the wee hours of the morning. But again, the travel came second to loosely-structured personal storytelling when I would have preferred a heavier emphasis on the literal journey.

As I said, I love a good hoe story, but hers didn’t make me feel anything. I wasn’t excited for her, envious, weirdly turned on… nothing. It was the same story of going on travel and having a fling, developing feelings that inevitably led her to heartbreak, when she gets home she finds another boyfriend, breaks up with him, books a flight, repeat. I could tell you what was going to happen romantically with each trip. I got bored. I’m sure these stories were funny when she called her mates to tell them, but I don’t feel like I got to know the author well enough to get the reaction she wanted.

And even through all this, there is very little self-reflection (literally the one point of a memoir) or growth so the end of her getting married to man with two children came completely out of left field. Like a few other women memoirs I’ve read, this follows the formula of humble-bragging, internalized misogyny (“I’m not like other girls”) and promising to be unapologetic about her sex life but having a “Sorry, Mom” disclaimer in there to cover her ass. Pretty much everything worth saying has been said my Marcia’s GoodReads review: “OH MY GOD GET OVER YOURSELF.”

Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and ...Rating: ★★

Genre: Non-fiction, self-help

GoodReads rating: 3.93 / 5 (50,000 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Summary: Self-proclaimed media mogul Rachel Hollis outlines what it takes to make and achieve your goals  unapologetically.

Thoughts: You already know what it is. Time to take another dump on my name-twin.

I hate-read her first book Girl, Wash Your Face earlier this year and it was everything I thought it would be: pure, unadulterated garbage. I gave an in-depth review in my review post here. Since reading her first book, I’ve binged even more on anti-MLM (multi-level marketing) content with which she is so heavily associated with and realized there’s a bit more to unpack with our gal pal Rachel Hollis, so I decided to see it for myself. Strap in, folks.

Now, I’m going to start with the few things I like about this book. First, I really liked the planning and organizing chapter. If all of her book was this concise and useful, her place on the bestseller list would be deserved. If there’s one thing Rachel knows how to do, it’s how to make a goal and work towards it (perhaps to a fault, but we’ll get to that later).

Also, I do like the title. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten is start saying “thank you” instead of “sorry.” For example, instead of “sorry I’m late,” say “thanks for waiting.” This video talks a bit more about it. I was hoping for some more tips along these lines, but to no avail.

A lot of the problems from her first book spill over into this one (which is just, let’s face it, pretty much the same book with a slightly different structure anyway), such as…

  • This book is filled with contradictions, perhaps even more so than the first one. Such as calling herself a “professional advice-giver” in one chapter, then disclaiming that she’s “not an expert” in the next. In another case, she says how gendered titles like “boss babe” and “girl boss” make her “blood boil,” but later has a chapter called “lead-her-ship.” How can she not see this?
  • She humble-brags (false modesty) a lot in this book, as well. She’s accomplished a lot and has plenty to be proud of but it seems like she’s constantly seeking validation from her readers that what she’s done is impressive.
  • She has done a better job citing sources as she’s been dragged through the mud for her plagiarizing, but it’s still not up to par. In one passage, she gave a ballpark statistic (with no source) and said “I swear, you can look it up.” No, bitch, why don’t you?
  • Unsurprisingly, this book is just filled with “fluff” and toxic positivity. Meaning, there are a lot of words that don’t say much (things along the line of, “Become the woman you’re meant to be, mean to be the woman you are” etc.) or just generic gooey crap (“We can change the world”). She says little about processing emotions and trauma and all but says “just be happy.” Her books are only skin-deep when memoirs (especially those that are also supposed to double as self-help) should be more forthcoming.
  • This book also oversimplifies issues like weight loss/body image (again) and understanding others by saying something like, “you were never more yourself than the day you were born”. I’m myself all day, every day, last year, next week… always. Who I am is changing, learning and growing and that’s okay and even good (shit, maybe I should write a self-help book). Her talk of body image also crosses into body-shaming, describing her post-breastfeeding boobs as disgusting, probably not realizing a lot of her readers have bigger breasts (Savy gets personal talking about how this made them feel).

However, there are a few unique cringe-y points from this book:

  • First of all, starting chapters with a dictionary definition? Really? Any self-respecting writer knows that’s a one-way ticket to not being taken seriously.
  • She mentions multi-level marketing companies not once, not twice, but three times in this book in a positive light, calling them an “incredible place to build a community and make a side income.” Yikes. I could take for ages about the evils MLMs but to the point: the community is toxic and 99%+ of people don’t make a living wage, breakeven or lose huge sums of money.
  • She uses guilt and shame interchangeably, which to me is not the same. Guilt can be healthy if it’s acted upon while shame is something more chronic and hurtful. Check out this infographic for more of what I’m talking about. This point is particularly harmful because she encourages the reader to never have guilt about anything, ever when guilt could actually be the helpful voice in your head telling you that you need to right a wrong.

Rachel thinks she’s the most oppressed person on the planet. Sure, we’ve all been through shit, but the shit she talks about is completely unrelatable. Her biggest problems are that she’s judged for being a working mother, her first non-fiction book didn’t make the best seller list immediately (mind you, it did after a few weeks in the end), the most scandalous thing about her is that she doesn’t want to volunteer at her kids’ school, her go-to example of bravery is asking for first-class plane seats for business trips… you get the idea. I respect that she came from a low-income family and had family issues, but the only “issues” she highlights are the one she has at her very particular, privileged position.

On that note, her lifestyle doesn’t seem realistic or sustainable to me. She brags about working 60+ hour work weeks, writing in places like a packed flight and her kids’ sports practice and giving up time relaxing with her new husband to “hustle.” Don’t get me wrong, her business has grown massively, but what about her personal life? I’m trying to unlearn that every single moment of the day has to be filled with productivity and it’s okay to let go and this book could set more gullible people back.

She says several times that she’s your friend (in another chapter, she’s also on about how the reader “doesn’t know [her]”, which brings us back to the contradictions). No, Rachel. A friend is someone who will tell me if I’m bleeding through my shorts and pick me up from the airport, not a multi-millionaire whom I will never meet. In memoirs, the key to connecting to the reader isn’t force-feeding relatability and the constant reminder that she’s just like you, it’s about showing. Hell, reading a Elton John’s memoir, a gay, British, rock star MAN, I related to him more than Rachel, a fellow straight, white woman blogger (kind of) in Los Angeles, whose lifestyle, problems and career goals I’m more likely to recognize.

The (kind of) funny thing is, a few months ago, she announced her divorce. You know, to the husband with which she has an “exceptional” marriage? Usually, I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass and don’t think divorce is necessarily a bad thing or synonymous to a “failed marriage,” but she made her life (including marriage) advice her business and when it seems to end abruptly, people who have “bought” her products (books, podcasts, blog posts, conferences) feel cheated. In this book, she says she tries to be transparent about everything she’s going through and yet, this divorce that was apparently in the making for three years (outdating both “self-help” books) came out of the blue. This makes my blood boil on behalf of her fans. But hey, at least she’s writing another book about it now. I respect the hustle.

Also, Rach, literally everyone knows the song “Lose Yourself,” a Billbaord no. 1 for months. You’re not special for listening to rap. I’ll give you the same advice I gave Newman in my last review: get over yourself.

Have you read either of these?

Photo by Radu Marcusu.

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2 Comments

  1. Christopher Merck
    August 10, 2020 / 1:57 pm

    I have never understood the hype around Rachel Hollis (and am generally skeptical of ‘self-help’ books).

  2. August 11, 2020 / 1:32 am

    I’ve never even heard of this woman and I already have a fervent dislike of her!

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