Erin Gibson, Darrell Hammond and Nora McInerny Purmort have all been through some SHIT — and they’re going to share that with us served alongside some humor.
Feminasty: The Complicated Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy Without Drinking Herself to Death by Erin Gibson
Based on her podcast Throwing Shade (which I’ve never listened to, but I imagine I would like), Feminasty is Erin Gibson’s excellent collection of essay that will make you laugh even if all you want to do is cry and rage at the state of the world right now.
“But no woman, no matter how terrible, despicable, and hypocritical, deserves to be called a whore for what she’s wearing.”
Gibson addresses topics like women’s clothing (and how we’re judged for our clothing choices no matter what we wear), career choices (get judged for those, too!) and all of the MANY other aspects of life which women struggle with every day. It’s angry and funny and also REALLY well-researched. There’s an entire chapter about cosmetics, and how SO many well-known cosmetic companies are owned almost entirely by men. She ends the essay by saying that Kendall Jenner — whatever your thoughts about her may be — actually owns and runs her makeup company. She’s also informative about how poorly medicine treats women — conditions that affect both men and women often affect them differently, and of course anything involving women’s reproduction is often shrouded in mystery or outright lies.
Parts of this book are super gross, which I kind of loved. She also gives hysterical advice, like cackling loudly at any man looking at your breasts until he runs away in fear.
Note: I read the hard copy — I’ve heard the audio book narration is “a bit much”, although I would assume anyone familiar with the podcast is probably familiar with her delivery style and might enjoy that even more than reading it.
(5 stars) It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too) and The Hot Young Widows Club: Lessons on Survival from the Front Lines of Grief by Nora McInerny Purmort
In one year, Nora McInerny Purmort lost a pregnancy, her father and her husband. That’s a lot of loss for an entire lifetime — I can’t imagine going through all that in a few months. In It’s Okay to Laugh, Nora writes about this horrible year, as well as the years that led to her meeting her husband and the short time they spent together before his diagnosis.
“Someday, the universe will throw a wrench in the works and your well-oiled machine of a life will grind to a halt. And then it will keep going. Because after you got bored of crying and worrying, you took a deep breath and pushed it back into motion.”
The book is very funny and very sad, often at the same time. I definitely found myself tearing up when she and Ralph talk about how much his papa loves him. She talks about their son Ralph, and her close family, and the people who made life easier (or worse) during this terrible time. The book is composed of lots of short chapters in no particular chronological order — a couple pages about her first date with Aaron, a couple pages about her childhood, a couple of pages about lfie with her son after her father’s death. It’s like little snapshots into a life, and reminded me a lot of reading a blog (which she apparently does write).
Nora also imparts a lot of advice in It’s Okay to Laugh, which she condensed in a TED Talk that became The Hot Young Widows Club (she also has a podcast called Terrible, Thanks for Asking which deals with similar subjects). The Hot Young Widows Club is mostly advice — both to people dealing with grief, and to people dealing with the people dealing with grief. The main point she makes multiple times is that just because your story isn’t sadder than someone else’s, that doesn’t make it any less tragic for YOU. There’s no grief Olympics where we line up one person’s experience against another’s and see who “won” for being the worst off. There will always be someone worse off than you, and there will always be someone doing better. The important thing is to recognize your grief for what it is, and address it within your own life. For instance, a LOT of what she talks about when it comes to grieving reminded me of my divorce. But then I felt bad, because my divorce from someone who treated me badly isn’t as bad as Nora’s husband who still loved her greatly dying on her. And Nora would say, that doesn’t matter.
“You’re thankful for the kind things people say, you forgive the dumb things, but you’re crushed by the silence.”
Nora gives advice on how to help someone else who’s grieving, and that’s the part of the book that would apply to anyone. She advises showing up, saying something (even if it’s that you don’t know what to say) and finding some small way to help out that won’t overstep a boundary you may not be able to see. One of the stories she tells is of a friend of a friend who went grocery shopping for her after the funeral, left the groceries on the porch and just said, “take what you need”. Don’t ask for a thank you. Don’t make it all about you. Just show up and help.
(5 stars) God, If You’re Not Up There, I’m F*cked by Darrell Hammond
I was, quite frankly, blown away by Darrell Hammond’s autobiography. Initially, I was a little turned off by the slightly ridiculous title, which he admits later in the book caused a lot of problems selling it because Target and Walmart aren’t going to put a book that has both the word fucked and God in the title on their shelves. But it was on some sort of sale at Audible and I have a long history of enjoying memoirs by Saturday Night Live alums, so I gave it a shot. And I got so much more than I was expecting. This book will likely end up on my top five list at the end of the year.
Darrell Hammond is definitely one of those comedians who turned an absolutely wretched childhood into the ability to entertain others, although it took him years to fully understand and confront his demons. Growing up, Hammond thought he would be a baseball star. In fact, quite a bit of this book is devoted to baseball which I found really surprising and interesting. His ability to imitate voices and mannerisms was something he likely inherited from his mother, who enjoyed doing the same. He takes a little while to get around to it, but eventually explained that entertaining his mother by doing comedy duets with her was pretty much the only time he ever received any love or caring from her. It’s not until much later in the book that he really dives into the horrors he experienced at the hand of his mother. It seems appropriate that he doesn’t bring these up until later in the book since he was not able to personally confront them until much later in life. Instead, he spent years self-medicating with drugs and alcohol trying to push down episodes of childhood abuse that would pop into his mind like flashbacks. He also self-harmed frequently over the years. The descriptions of the abuse that he later was able to uncover from his deep memories are sickening, and it was definitely difficult to listen to him describe them. So if you are just looking for a book about a funny guy from Saturday Night Live, this is probably not going to work out for you. But his story is so much more effective knowing what he’s been through and what he’s had to overcome.
“My brilliant psychiatrist Dr. K. had told me that the only way to move on from trauma is forgiveness, giving up the right to hit back harder than you were hit in the first place.”
There’s definitely a lot of humor here. Like I’ve mentioned before, I love reading behind the scenes stuff from actors, and especially those who have worked on Saturday Night Live. Regardless of which generation of cast members you are listening to, there is always so much history and funny stories and facts about guest stars to learn. Hammond spent many seasons portraying Bill Clinton on Saturday Night Live. He also was quite well known for his Sean Connery impression, particularly on the Jeopardy! sketches which I remember loving as a kid. Hammond also goes into the technical details of what he does quite a bit, which I found interesting because I don’t think I’ve ever read a memoir by somebody who does impressions like him before. As he points out, Hammond is an impressionist, not an impersonator. An impersonator only has one character, like someone who performs as Elvis. Hammond does hundreds of voices, which apparently was very difficult for some of the Saturday Night Live writers to incorporate into their scenes (he also does a lot on the audio version, which was fun). Despite multiple hospitalizations for psychotic breaks and alcohol and drug abuse (and an arrest in the Bahamas!), Hammond has perservered. It is heartening to know that Hammond did finally figure out how his childhood affected his mental health, even though it took him several dozen psychiatrists to finally get him an accurate diagnosis. He’s really a very inspirational man.