Pandemic Winter Book Review: The Cobbler

I recently finished The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell From Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever by Steve Madden. I ran across this book on a library shelf. I was familiar with the brand and owned some of the product but I had never thought of Steve Madden as a person. This book is Steve Madden’s life story. For the most part it is an interesting read and I would recommend it.

First off, I enjoyed the conversational tone of the book. The language was very direct and blunt. Madden is from New York and this book was written the way New Yorkers tend to talk. The author did not try to be deep, woke or intellectual. Reading this story was like talking to a person in a bar.

The Cobbler is fairly short but it touches on a few different subjects. I’ll start with what the book is not. The book is not primarily about fashion, design and trends. Those things are discussed but it’s not the focus of the book so if that’s what you’re looking for this book isn’t for you.

This book touches on family ties, addiction, business, a possible personality disorder the stock market, marriage, divorce, parenthood, incarceration and social injustices. There is a lot going on which can probably be said for all of our lives.

Steve Madden’s story starts in Long Island, NY with his mother, father and two brothers. He talks a bit about his family dynamic and childhood. In his teen years he begins his career as a retail sales person in, you guessed it. A shoe store. He expanded his career in the shoe business as a young adult as a designer, manufacturer and sales representative in New York City.

Steve started his shoe company with $1,100 in 1990. The company did relatively well but he knew the company couldn’t grow without additional cash flow. Steve had a childhood friend named Danny that lent him money to to take his company private. It was a part of a scheme to flip stocks.

Danny worked with a man named Jordan who inflated and sold stocks. The deal was that Steve had to sell his stocks after they were inflated. This deal was depicted in the Leonardo DiCaprio movie Wolves of Wall Street. Steve served about two and a half years for stock manipulation, money laundering and securities fraud.

Steve Madden’s incarceration is the most interesting part of the book. If you enjoy programs like Lockup or Locked Up Abroad you may enjoy The Cobbler. Steve describes prison life and some of the characters he might while locked up. Incarceration gave Steve an understanding of inequities in society and how racist and inhumane the American prison system is.

Steve employed several people that he met while he was incarcerated. He knew that he was fortunate to have a business to return to while other inmates had no opportunities. I really appreciate the author did not get sappy and all kumbaya (which is getting on my nerves) while discussing these matters. He was very matter of fact. Steve Madden supports a non profit organization that helps ex prisoners and homeless people.

Steve got engaged in prison which was cute. He married one of his employees that was with him since the early days of his company once he was released. After his incarceration Steve Madden returned to work and his company grew and became a global juggernaut.

This is an interesting book and inspiration can be gained from it in many different ways. It’s a short read and a little slow in parts but it picks up in the middle. There are heartwarming parts of the book as well as some laugh out loud moments. Overall, would recommend it if you have the time.

Hot Girl Summer: “Woman of Virtue”

Summer 2019 is behind us and you know what, I didn’t do a darn thing. I didn’t visit one beach, pool or amusement park this year. My “Hot Girl Summer” consisted of going to work, going to church going to brunch a few times. All of my adventures and drama came from reading. That’s a good and bad thing at the same time. Ice could have been covering the ground and it would not have made much of a difference to me. I’m going to share and review what I read this summer.

Woman of Virtue

woman of virtue

I found this book in Hoopla, my library’s digital book database.  It popped up when I put Proverbs 31 in the search engine.  The book is a Biblical guide to being a virtuous Proverbs 31 woman.  For the most part I enjoyed and I would recommend the book.

I like the perspective of the book because it is an alternate view of modern womanhood.  It challenges the influence of feminism in today’s culture and families.  The author encourages women to be modest, dutiful and virtuous which is a sharp contrast to the common messages that women get from the media.  Women and girls are socialized to be vain, self centered and promiscuous.  So the conventional thinking in this book makes it rebellious and counter culture.  I’ve always thought of myself as a rebel spirit.

There were parts of the book that were a bit outdated for my liking.  For instance, the book discourages women to work outside of the home.  I believe this is the ideal and I respect homemaking as a career choice but I don’t think I could ever trust any man that much.  The book also encourages women to tough it out and stay in your marriage if you find yourself married to a jerk.

Perhaps I interpreted Mrs. Brackley’s words wrong but I don’t think anyone should remain in a relationship where they are being mistreated.  I don’t for one minute believe that the Lord called anyone to be in an abusive marriage.  (I don’t specifically recall the author writing about abusive relationships.)

If a spouse is not keeping up their end of the bargain by not honoring their partner I don’t think it’s the other spouses place to try and make up for that deficit in order maintain a marriage.  Marriage just isn’t that important to me.  That’s a big part of the reason that I think that women shouldn’t stay outside of the workforce for very long unless you’re married to a millionaire that can pay a large settlement in the event of a divorce.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  It is thought provoking and challenges the reader to rethink contemporary culture and women’s roles.  I agreed with most of what the book had to say even if I don’t think it was entirely realistic and practical.

 

 

 

Hot Girl Summer: “Perfect is Boring”

Summer 2019 is behind us and you know what, I didn’t do a darn thing. I didn’t visit one beach, pool or amusement park this year. My “Hot Girl Summer” consisted of going to work, going to church going to brunch a few times. All of my adventures and drama came from reading. That’s a good and bad thing at the same time. Ice could have been covering the ground and it would not have made much of a difference to me. I’m going to share and review what I read this summer.

Perfect is Boring

perfect is boring

I read Perfect is Boring this summer by Tyra Banks and her Mama Carolyn London.  I didn’t really like this book.  I just read it because I’m a Tyra fan.  Carolyn’s contributions are better more interesting than Tyra’s.  If you’ve followed Tyra’s career there is nothing new here.  Tyra gets on the same self righteous, slightly misguided soap boxes in this book as she did on her talk show and as she does on America’s Next Top Model.

This book follows along the same vein as Girl Wash Your Face in that a woman that doesn’t have any real challenges is telling you how to deal with challenges.  In Girl Wash Your Face an attractive woman with a successful career and happy home life is telling you how to deal with insecurities.

For decades Tyra has been telling women to embrace what they perceive to be physical imperfections meanwhile she has made millions because she is aesthetically pleasing.  It’s not her place to speak because she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

Tyra is well meaning but watching her tell women on ANTM to embrace their “flaws” is counter productive.  It’s always bothered me that on all but perhaps the first few seasons of ANTM  there has been a so called plus sized model that is perhaps a size eight.

antm

The latter cycles of ANTM have focused on the fashion model hopefuls and their insecurities.  So here we have women that had what it takes to be on a TV show about modeling being coached to be confident by an international super model.  Tyra thinks she’s being relatable but she’s nauseating.

I really am a fan though and I’ve watched every of ANTM and I watched her talk show daily when it came on.  Tyra is weird and kind of annoying but I love her and I’ve hung on her every word since the mid 90s.  But this book was still disappointing.

I was hoping for a celebrity tell all.  I wanted her to spill the beans on why she broke up with her baby daddy.  What happened between her and Chris Webber?  What went wrong between her and that Indian technology mogul.  I wanted her to admit that she is jealous of Naomi Campbell and absolutely obsessed with her. 

The book did give a bit of the behind the scenes information about America’s Next Top Model.  Tyra talked a bit about the legendary scene where she snapped on the young girl and yelled “- — ——- — —!  — —- — ——- — —!”  Some of you know what I’m talking about but if you don’t:

None of that happened in this book.  She just wrote about self esteem and self respect.  I found it to be pretty dull but if someone got something out of it that’s great.  Tyra’s mom Carolyn briefly told her life story in the book.  I’m familiar with Carolyn because she’s made appearances on ANTM.  Her story is truly inspirational.

tyra's mom

Carolyn was a young naive mother of two children.  She is a hard worker but most of all she is smart with good instincts.  Carolyn’s smarts and artistic talents are what got Tyra to where she is today.  She is a very talented photographer with an eye for fashion and style.  And she was good at strategizing.  Carolyn is a woman that got ahead by being smart and putting well thought out plans into action.  I think she could be an inspiration to a lot of women.

Fun fact.  A few years ago I read about a woman giving her young daughter a period party when she started menstruating.  She probably stole that from Carolyn.  Carolyn did that for Tyra when she began her lady’s time and she wrote about it in Perfect is Boring  Carolyn said that she was very naive about sex even after becoming pregnant and she wanted her daughter to be informed and have a good understanding of her body.

I can’t say that I would recommend this book even if you are in middle school.  I’m sure there are better literary choices you can make.  But if you do decided to read it save time and skim past Tyra’s parts and jump to Carolyn’s passages.  If you’re a die hard Tyra fan you may enjoy this book.  It’s kind of like calling an old friend.

 

Hot Girl Summer: “Girl Wash Your Face”

Summer 2019 is behind us and you know what, I didn’t do a darn thing. I didn’t visit one beach, pool or amusement park this year. My “Hot Girl Summer” consisted of going to work, going to church going to brunch a few times. All of my adventures and drama came from reading. That’s a good and bad thing at the same time. Ice could have been covering the ground and it would not have made much of a difference to me. I’m going to share and review what I read this summer.

girl wash your face

I hate read this book.  I read it expecting not to like it so I could shake my head with disapproval as I read.  Girl Wash Your Face did not disappoint.  I think it’s important to consider the intended audience when consuming entertainment.  I don’t think I’m the intended audience for the work of Rachel Hollis.

Rachel Hollis is a social media influencer and event planner that wrote a book to inspire her fans.  She has 1.5 million followers on Instagram that reach out to Rachel for advice with self esteem and parenting matters.  Her followers sound like they are White housewives from upper middle class backgrounds that drive themselves insane by comparing themselves to images and narratives on social media.

So Mrs. Hollis wrote a book advising suburban soccer moms to feel good about themselves and not to tear themselves apart.  Who told these women not to feel good about themselves in the first place?  She used anecdotes about her life as inspiration.  The problem is her life isn’t very interesting and you can tell she was grasping at straws while putting that book together.

There wasn’t a single idea or story that lead the reader through Girl Wash Your Face.  The book is all over the place and didn’t stay on a linear path.  The choppy path didn’t tie together very well.  It’s as if she was told she had to write a certain amount of words but she didn’t have much to say.

She talked about her courtship with her husband, her start as an event planner in LA and her experiences as a mother.  All of her experiences are fairly common and there isn’t a lot of drama to her life, at least not that she shared.  There wasn’t a universal experience that she shared that really captured my experience to endear her to me.  I would bet money that if you had a middle aged cashier working at Dollar General or serving tables at Denny’s or something to write a similar book it would be %1000 more captivating.

The best portion of the book is about her adopted daughter and the struggles she had trying to adopt.  If she focused on that it would have been a far better book.  I also enjoy when she said that she was from a small, conservative town in California and her family has roots in the Midwest.  Hollis said that her family was like the people in The Grapes of Wrath.  Now those people were interesting.  I would have liked to hear more about those people and the people from her home town and the current culture.

I’m not trying to diminish what a White, affluent housewife goes through.  I’m just not a part of that culture and I don’t relate to it.  Just like I don’t relate to standing in long lines to get into Build a Bear or for Beanie Babies at McDonald’s.  I also don’t understand the fascination with pumpkin spiced beverages and food.  I’m just not a part of that culture.

The most insightful thing I’ve ever experience about White, suburban housewife culture is a short You Tube documentary about the clothing company Lu La Roe.  The women in that documentary are probably the same type of women that follow Rachel Hollis on IG

The documentary was engaging because there was something in those women that I didn’t recognize in women that I grew up around.  When Black women have tortured souls the outward manifestation is different.  There was a sadness about all of the women in this film that I don’t think came from a failed business venture.

The women in this short film were non assuming with soft spirits.  All of them were likeable even if you liked them out of sympathy.  There was a loneliness and quiet desperation about them.  I’m curious as to what made them so vulnerable to the scam.  I understand why a lot of people in the world fall into predatory traps but these women’s material needs were being met, they have a family network and they fit into what global society upholds as it’s standards.  I wish this documentary could become a reality show.  I have questions that need answers.

They weren’t drug addicted, abused as far as we were told but they still have self image problems that lead them to be a part of a leggins selling cult and it’s hard but interesting to understand why.  It’s almost like reading A Doll’s House when I was a student.  I barely remember what this was about but I know it was about a traditional and her quiet suffering.  It was kind of like a 19th century version of Desperate Housewives.

Anyhow, I didn’t enjoy Girl Wash Your Face.  I’m even a bit put off by the title.  I think that Rachel Hollis is a nice woman, a smart woman and is probably well intentioned but once again I’m not a part of Hollis’ target demographic.  Rachel has built a huge fan base as a lifestyle influencer.  I don’t understand what a lifestyle influencer does.  She is an unaccredited mental health and relationship guru that is selling millions of books so she has clearly tapped into something that I don’t understand.  Perhaps some of you will enjoy this book but it’s just not for me.

 

 

This Review is Going to be Pretty Short: Bird Box

I learned of about the movie “Bird Box” because of Twitter.  I was minding my business scrolling through tweets and I read all the buzz about “Bird Box”.  In the following days I saw “Bird Box” memes all over social media.  The movie was a sensation.  I bought into the nonsense.

I don’t use Netflix so the movie is not available to me so I got a copy of the book when I saw it at the library.  I finished reading “Bird Box” by Josh Malerman over the weekend.  The book is pretty short but it took me a long time to get through it because it was boring.

I was waiting for the plot to build and live up to the social media hype but it never delivered.  Perhaps this is one of those anomalies where the movie is better than the book (like “Divergent”).  I’ll never know because I’ll never spend my time watching “Bird Box”.  I don’t even know how to describe this film; suspense, horror, mystery, science fiction, family drama.  I don’t know because nothing happens.  Seriously nothing happens.

The story is flat the entire time.  The book blindly meanders to an anti climatic ending that just added to the confusion.  I rushed through the ending of the book because I was sick of it but I was tempted to reread it because I couldn’t quite figure out what happened.

It seems like the writer was trying to leave things open ended so he can write a sequel.  However the sequel to watching grass grow would be watching paint dry.  I promise you that no matter where you live you will be more entertained by putting a chair in front of a window at your house and looking outside.

The premise is ridiculous.   I don’t understand what Twitter got so excited about.  I only saw three bad reviews of “Bird Box” one of which came from Cardi B.  Cardi was as confused as I was by the story.  I’m glad I wasn’t alone.

Warning:  This clip contains expletives, racial slurs and general vulgarity.  But she’s not wrong.

 

I’m mad a Twitter too for getting me to read that.  This is the third time that the media has sold me on a book and it was garbage.  Actually, probably more than that but I digress: 1. “The Host” by Stephenie Meyer.  (It was an unoriginal snoozefest.)  2.  “50 Shades of Grey” by E.L. James (The protagonist made women look stupid because that relationship should have ended very soon after she met Christian.  And the sex scenes in the book are over hyped.  Harlequin romances are kinkier than “50 Shades of Grey” and I was reading those in middle school) and now this.

I wish I could say I’ll never fall for this type of media hype again but I take book and movie recommendations seriously.  What can I say?  I like to stay on top of the trends.  This won’t be the last time I have egg on my face due to buying into hype.  It’s just how I live.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Ever since I read “1984” and “Brave New World” in high school I’ve been a fan of dystopian novels.  I love recent effort like “The Hunger Games” and I found the movie “Divergent” to be enjoyable even though the novels weren’t very original.  So the buzz around the Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale” caught my interest.

I borrowed the book from the library and I thought it was pretty interesting.  It was a suspenseful story and it inspired a lot of imagination.  The author Margaret Atwood left a lot of loose ends in her book.  She wrote the novel as if we were familiar with the country of Gilead and details did not need to be explained.

I enjoyed the book enough to watch the TV series because I was hoping it would fill in some blanks for me.  In some ways it did.  Since the book leaves a lot to the imagination the writers of the TV series were given a lot of artistic license.  There are several story lines in the show that weren’t in the novel and there were some aspects of the book that were completely left out of the TV show.  But I’m still left with questions about Gilead and the way society is structured.

While reading the book and watching the TV series I wondered what happened to the handmaids once their child bearing years are over.  Are they sent to the colonies?  If so why not stage an uprising?  There isn’t much to loose if you know you will be exiled and sentenced to a work camp or hanged in your mid forties.

In the TV show there were women that worked as domestic workers.  They looked to be in their late 30s or perhaps 40s and were attractive.  It is unclear if that was the next step after being a handmaid.  The book mentioned a social class of women called econowives which may have been the lot in life of these women.  But I thought the econowives were government issued women to low status men.  It was never made clear.

I also didn’t understand who benefited from the social structure of Gilead.  Everyone was miserable and oppressed.  Even the upper class of society suffered under the rules of the theocracy.  Why did they put up with it?  They were all slaves to the system and I saw no beneficiaries.  No one was above corporal punishment or the wall in Gilead.

The social structure that enslaved women of child bearing age didn’t seem to be very fruitful.  Despite all of the child bearing women being in bondage and having intercourse monthly on their fertile days pregnancies were still rare.  The entire exercise seems futile to me because it wasn’t very productive despite the systematic efforts.  It probably would have been better to harvest the eggs of child women and implant them with embryos.

There was no reward for delivering a healthy child.  Once a woman weened the baby that she birthed she just went on to the next post.  Women that delivered babies weren’t even given high status.  You would think that Gilead would offer some sort of motivation such as a respectable husband or her own income and residence at some point.

The book touched on this more than the show did but a lot of men were celibate in Gilead.  Men were issued women by the government based on status.  Low status men were not issued women at all.  It was hard to tell the status levels of the men in the stories.  The driver in the story was low status and the Commander was high.

I don’t know how men ranked in between and at what point they earned a woman.  There is no way all of those grown celibate men wouldn’t cause some sort of social instability.  The social structure of Gilead really wasn’t sustainable.

In the novel Serena Joy Waterford was a lot older than her handmaid Offred.  I got the impression that all of the wives and commanders were older and past prime child bearing years which was their problem.  In the TV show the actresses that play the wives and handmaids are around the same age.  So I don’t really know what was wrong with all the wives?  You would think one of them would have an unplanned pregnancy at some point.  And how did the government of Gilead know they were infertile?

Some of the wives in the movie were quite young and looked to be healthy.  You don’t really know that you can’t have children until you start having unprotected sex.  It was also unclear to me if the wives and husbands had sex with each other or was sexuality taboo outside of “The Ceremony”.  The Waterfords had a very distant and cold relationship.

There was a baby girl born in the story.  Her handmaid mother called her Angela and her adopted mother and father called her Charlotte (or perhaps vice versa).  I’m sympathetic to the handmaid so I will refer to her as Angela.  What did Gilead do with the baby girls that were born and raised in affluent families that had handmaids.  Would these families really turn their daughter over to the government if she was thought to be fertile?  How would they reconcile that with their conscious?

There are just so many questions left.  There are more seasons of the show and Margaret Atwood is working on a sequel to her novel that was published in 1985.  Perhaps my questions will be answered.  But based on the book and the TV program I don’t think Gilead could survive for more than one generation.  There would be a lot of instability and social strife that would cause upheaval.

 

Proposition L

This November voters in the Kansas City area will be asked to decide whether a small tax increase should be implemented in order to improve the Mid Continent Public Library system.  Ordinarily I wouldn’t think twice about a measure such as this one.  I always vote in favor of improvements to schools, mass transit, parks and other city services even if I do not benefit from those services directly.  I think that libraries are important public resources that should be supported and utilized by the public.

However, I worked for MCPL for more than two years.  I was very disappointed by my observations and the way I was treated when I worked for them.  I will say that MCPL is a great library system.  They offer many invaluable resources to their patrons and I loved being a part of that organization.  I wanted to have a career there and I could have happily seen myself working there for many years to come.  But I am an African American woman and there is a strong hillbilly factor in Missouri that can be a barrier to progress.

MCPL is run by a bunch of hillbillies that do not appreciate diversity on any level.  They don’t support it in their collection and they don’t support it in their staffing.  If you need proof stop into any MCPL branch and you will most likely see White women.  That’s all they really want to hire.  I am an avid reader, I have years of customer service experience, I love literature, have three college degrees one of which is a Masters degree.  During my two and a half years as an employee of MCPL I applied to work as a full time employee around forty times.  I think I was interviewed twice.  I was never offered a full time position.  I was never told that I needed to improve in any area in order to become a full time employee.  I don’t think I fit their image of what a librarian should be.

I think that the lack of diversity in the library branch employees is a problem.  Minority communities have lower literacy rates than Whites.  I think that a library system that serves communities with large African American or first generation American population should do more to reach that community and increase literacy in those communities.  The Mid Continent Public Library System is primarily concerned with White soccer moms.  I am not White nor am I a parent so there is not reason for me to support an institution that is not looking out for my interests.

I think that it would be a powerful message to young minority patrons if they see a more diverse staff at the library.  As it is now it would appear to young eyes that literature is solely in the hands of White women and it is not for a young Black or Hispanic boy.  I think that it is the responsibility of librarians to encourage literacy and readership for everyone.  The library system should do more to recruit more male and minority including bi lingual library staff.  There should also be more programming that will encourage reading among young boys and minority children.  They will never do this at MCPL because they are uncreative, racist, Mid western hillbillies with one track minds.

Their collection lacks diversity.  Last May my hero Cam Newton was on the cover of “Ebony” magazine with his mother for Mother’s Day.  I wanted to save myself a few dollars and look at the magazine in the library.  They didn’t have it.  “Ebony” magazine was no longer on their shelves.  “Ebony” is a very old and widely read publication in the Black community.  The that MCPL no longer makes copies available to their patrons in print tells me something about their feelings about diversity and their African American patrons.

When I worked there African American patrons would ask for help finding popular African American Authors.  Quite often the books were not in the libraries collection or there were very limited copies that were not available due to loss or damage.  I had similar experiences when patrons wanted books in Spanish.  Of course the library has some books by African American authors and some books written in Spanish.  But if MCPL really wanted to encourage literacy among groups that fall behind in literacy they would do a lot more.

If MCPL did not think it was important to support African American or Spanish speaking authors and readers I have no reason to think that they will be any different with a bigger budget.  They will just continue to do more of what they’ve been doing.  I’m going to vote no on Proposition L.  If you’re not doing anything for my community I would rather keep my money to myself.  Let the White soccer moms pay the extra taxes.  MCPL lives for them anyway.