Book Review – Homegoing

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
Genre – Historical/Contemporary Fiction
Excitable Rating – 9/10

Gyasi’s superb debut novel tells first of all the stories of two Ghanaian women in the late 1700’s: Effia Otcher and Esi Asare.  The plot then follows the subsequent six generations of these two women’s families, quite a massive undertaking considering it is a novel of 300 pages.

The novel begins on the Gold Coast, now called Ghana, in Fanteland and Asanteland.  Slavery is already an established trade, warring tribes selling the unfortunates of the losing side to the British or any other nation involved in the slave trade.  The novel deals mainly with these themes of slavery and with the loss of connection to their history which many black African-Americans have been forced into experiencing through the brutalities of slavery.  As a parallel we also see the evolution of Ghana as well, as it is forced through colonial rule into completely unnatural routes in its history such as adopting Christianity and learning English instead of tribal languages; highlighting the disconnect between each new generation and the last.

Effia Otcher is raised under the abusive governance of the woman she believes is her mother, eventually ending up married to a white man in Cape Coast Castle.

Esi Asare is raised lovingly by her parents but is captured by a rival tribe and sold into slavery.

With these very different beginnings we see two families move through lives of subjugation and contrasting lives of privilege.  What I really feel this novel highlights, aside from its very powerful narrative on race and gender relations in America and Sub-Saharan Africa, is the myriad ways in which humankind causes humankind to suffer but also the myriad ways in which powerful loving connections can get you through almost any difficulty you may face.

Despite only maybe an average of around 20 pages per character Gyasi paints such a vivid window into their lives that you can’t help but know all of them as intimately as if you had lived all their life beside them – that is the power of this writing.  It is breath-taking.

‘When Marjorie had asked her father again when he had known he liked Esther, he said he had always known.  He said it was born in him, that he breathed it in with the first breeze of Edweso, that it moved in him like the harmattan.’

Reading this line I had to take a moments pause, as I did on many occasions throughout this novel, to take in the depth of simple profound feeling that exudes from the writing.
Gyasi has a gift.

Excitable Features:

  • Lots of historical and cultural facts, told in a really honest way through beautiful writing
  • Plenty of wonderfully diverse female characters
  • A book about race relations in America actually written by a black woman! (looking at you The Help…)
  • There are so many things I want to talk about but I don’t want to spoil any of the amazing writing!
  • Read if you enjoy authors such as Louise O’Neill or Taiye Selasi

Read this book, read it like your life depends on it!

Thanks for reading
~ The Excitable Feminist

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Film Review – Moana

Moana – Directed by John Musker & Ron Clements
Genre – Children’s/Disney Classic
Excitable Rating – 8/10

(Disney gets its own genre right?!)

First of all, what an awesome addition to the Disney Princess line-up; I love Moana!

The film opens on a pacific island, where we meet completely adorable baby Moana (voiced by Auli’i Cravalho) playing near the sea.  There’s even these cool water snake things, turns out the sea has a personality!  Moana’s father, their people’s chief, is completely against anyone going beyond the reef which encircles the island – something which clashes with Moana’s very soul as she is completely enthralled with the idea of travelling the open ocean. (All told through song)

Enter kooky grandmother, here to tell you to follow your dreams no matter what anyone tells you and that tattoos look badass at any age! (Somewhat told through song)

Moana does eventually leave her island home in search of the demi-god Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson YES THE ROCK!!) the hero who is supposed to return the heart of Te Fiti (ancient spirit who is essentially the creator of all life) and stop evil from spreading across the world.  Standard Disney fair.

It wouldn’t be a Disney film if it all didn’t work out in the end.  What makes this film important and different is that it offers a view of a culture mainly alien for Western audiences, and as we know representation is SO important particularly in media aimed at children.

I loved this film, the music was beautiful, the animation was stunning and the characters were fun with lots of interesting injections of Pacific Islander cultures – many of which I will be looking up more about.

Hopefully Disney can continue to build upon diversity in its films, Moana is certainly a good start.

Exciting Features:

  • PIG SIDEKICK – Little Pua, my only complaint is that this little chappy didn’t get more screen time.
  • HeiHei – crazy chicken sidekick, generally hilarious
  • Hermit Crab – I’D RATHER BE SHINYYY
  • Messages about environmentalism and awareness
  • LOTS OF ENCOURAGING YOUNG GIRLS TO BE BOLD AND FEARLESS YAY!
  • Strong female lead showing a demi-god how its done

 

Thanks for reading
~ The Excitable Feminist

 

Book Review – The Beauty Myth

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf in the Vintage Pocket Feminist Classics Series
Genre – Feminist Theory
Excitable Rating – 10/10

The only question I have is WHY THE HECK DID I NOT READ THIS SOONER??
Not only is this an astounding piece of feminist theory, its rhetoric has a relevance in everyday life that I have never experienced before when reading a feminist text.  Just absolutely brilliant in both the methodical an impassioned way in which Wolf puts all of her arguments across.

Obviously being a classic, I don’t feel I have much to add to the massive analysis and discussion that already exists about this piece of writing so I shall swiftly segue into quotes I felt the need to highlight while I read.  Things that I suspect will stick with me forever.  So instead of exciting features I present…

Exciting Quotes:

‘The double standard for appearance is a constant reminder that men are worth more and need not try as hard.’

‘Female culture’s greatest writers share the search for radiance, a beauty that has meaning.’

‘A girl learns that stories happen to “beautiful” women, whether they are interesting or not.  And interesting or not, stories do not happen to women who are not “beautiful”.’

‘Female sexuality is turned inside out from birth, so “beauty” can take its place, keeping women’s eyes lowered to their own bodies, glancing up only to check their reflections in the eyes of men.’

‘Whenever we dismiss or do not hear a woman on television or in print because our attention has been drawn to her size or makeup or clothing or hairstyle, the beauty myth is working with optimum efficiency.’

As the edition I purchased is only 100 pages rather than the roughly 500 pages of the full text I will definitely be reading the full book when I get the chance.  Until then this book will be getting handed out to anyone and everyone I can persuade to read it.

It is ultimately uplifting in a way that much feminist theory fails to be.  I feel driven towards change both on a personal level and on a social level.  Please, if you can, read it. Read it now.

Thanks for reading!

~ The Excitable feminist

 

Film Review – How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town

How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town – Directed by Jeremy LaLonde
Genre – Comedy
Excitable Rating – 5/10

Before you say anything, I know I have given this a higher rating that Doctor Strange, this is because they are from different genres.  As a comedy this ranks about average, not particularly brilliant, but it has got a good few laughs in there.  As a fantasy/sci-fi film it ranks in the minus figures and is really, in my opinion, incomparable to the likes of Doctor Strange.  But I digress…

Ok premise: Small town Canada.  We open on two teens (hetero) about to embark on their first sexual endeavour, things do not go well.  Events conspire so that the girl, Cassie Cranston (Jewel Staite), ends up streaking through her very conservative small town.  The judgement that follows fuels her decision to leave town and not return for 20 years…

~~ 20 years later ~~

Cassie is now a successful sex columnist in some big city (sorry Canada I do not know you well enough) but must return to her home town of Beaver’s Ridge (excellent small town name said with straight faces for the entirety of the film) due to the passing of her mother.  Her high school sweetheart, Adam (Ennis Esmer), is now married to her former bully, Heather (Lauren Lee Smith) in a rather unhappy and sexually clinical marriage.  Due to Adam’s inability to get Heather pregnant, Heather decides she needs access to some of the good man juice; and what better way than to plan an orgy?
Hilarity (kind-of?) ensues.

Orgy squad consists of Cassie, who instructs; Heather & Adam (married); Bruce and Alice (divorced… well almost); and Chester. Other characters also come in and out as the film progresses.

This film is pretty funny, doesn’t have the most laughs I’ve ever had watching a film.  But still enjoyable for an actually very vanilla RomCom (despite it’s title).  It also deals with small town prejudice pretty well, though the actual sex stuff was more just for laughs and was not particularly sex positive or gender equal.  Definitely a film to watch with some friends, or your parents (it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be), once you’re a few drinks into an evening.

Exciting Features:

  • The classic small town nerd is played by none other than Orphan Black’s Kristian Bruun!
  • Gay sex scene (m/m)!
  • Totally calls out small town racism! And it’s done in a way that the townspeople are clearly the joke for being so ignorant!
  • The character Polly (Tommie-Amber Pirie) is majorly swoon in a hipster/nerd way. I love her. I want to be her. Overall I am confused, but not unhappy.

 

If you do not expect to much from this film it will not disappoint you!

Thanks for reading!

~ The Excitable Feminist