If You Ask Me by Betty White ★★★½

Read 1/17/20 to 1/19/20

This is the first memoir or book by Betty White that I’ve ever read. I left it with a positive experience overall, but I don’t think I would have if I didn’t have so much love for Betty White. I could say that only Betty White fans will probably like this book, but realistically who isn’t a Betty White? She is an icon for a reason, and that is why I chose to read this book. Unfortunately, I was left wanting. She doesn’t focus on anything specific in her life; it feels as if we’re just getting a stream of consciousness about a few fun facts throughout her life, with a focus on the later years. We get a couple snippets from her early career but not a lot. I suspect that is because her earlier works touch on that part of her life.

In that sense, the book was already at a disadvantage, and then little bit of information we do get isn’t very in depth. I’m a grad student; I know how to fill a page with words, sometimes without much substance. Sadly, that is kind of what it felt like reading this book. It felt like Betty White had a goal in mind which she wanted to write this book, and she was just trying to get the material for them. I think part of it may be that she holds herself back by writing entirely by hand, rather than typing. Writing by hand is far more time consuming task. Now, that’s not to say short books and short essays aren’t beneficial; Ariel Bissett just a video where she gave a fantastic discussion of why she loves short books so much. They require focus and succinctness. What little is there often comes with extreme care.

I wish that was the case here, but I don’t think it is. There just wasn’t much substance. To be clear, I love Betty White even if I didn’t love the book. My experience with the book improved when I switched over to the audiobook. I started this book with the physical copy, but I swapped over because I was short on time and am glad I did. The audiobook added the performance of hearing Betty White talk to the content making it a much better experience overall. For what it’s worth, I doubt I would be able to get this level conversation with her on my own, so I appreciate having it here instead of nothing at all. Nevertheless, I have to review the book with an honest opinion. As a book it doesn’t really stand up against the competition. Sometimes it doesn’t have to, and this might be an example of that. 3.5/5 stars

Rating Break Down
Writing Style (7%): 8/10
Content (15%): 5/10
Structure (15%): 5/10
Summary (1%): 3/10
Engagement (5%): 10/10
Enjoyment (25%): 10/10
Comprehension (20%): 10/10
Pacing (2%): 5/10
Desire to Reread (5%): 0/10
Special (5%): 5/10
Final Rating: 3.72/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ★★★★★

Read 11/21/19 – 11/24/19

The 15 Suggestions

  1. Be a full person.
  2. Do it together.
  3. Teach her that ‘gender roles’ is absolute nonsense.
  4. Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite.
  5. Teach Chizalum to read.
  6. Teach her to question language.
  7. Never speak of marriage as an achievement.
  8. Teach her to reject likeability.
  9. Give Chizalum a sense of identity.
  10. Be deliberate about how you engage with her and her appearance.
  11. Teach her to question our culture’s selective use of biology as ‘reasons’ for social norms.
  12. Talk to her about sex and start early.
  13. Romance will happen so be on board.
  14. In teaching her about oppression, be careful not to turn the oppressed into saints.
  15. Teach her about difference.

This is one of the books I chose to read for Buzzwordathon 5.0, and you can read more about why I choose Dear Ijeawele there! I originally intended to make this a summary of the fifteen suggestions, but I decided not to do that about halfway through. It’s why I didn’t finish the book in one day; I was trying to discuss it as I listened.

Needless to say, I scrapped everything I had written. I did that because I realized it wasn’t necessary. This is a very short book with pages the size of my palm. Some of these suggestions are a page or less long. None of this is a bad thing. In fact, I think it is perhaps the biggest reason for everyone to read it!

I really enjoyed this book. It is a collection of suggestions that Adichie is giving her friend or cousin (I don’t remember which) on how to raise her daughter to be a feminist. Some of it may seem obvious, but Adichie frames each point in a very persuasive and easy to understand way.

You don’t need to be Nigerian to read this. You don’t need to be a mother or even a parent. These suggestions convey why everyone should be a feminist. It reminds us why we do this, and it offered me a clear guide to strive toward. I highly recommend it to everyone.

I will be buying it as Christmas gifts for several people in my family. I can see them scoffing at first, but I think it is short enough and open enough that hey might actually pick it up and learn something. Reading the list above isn’t enough. The context she provides is worth studying. I’ve already reread half of the book and intend to continue it to completion. Needless to say, it gets a solid 5/5 stars.