Top 3: Autobiography, anger and activism from Victoria Ellyse

Season's Greetings Classic Simple PostcardHello fellow readers! Before I get into my end-of-year book recommendations, I wanted to thank Shannon for letting me add in my two cents. For those who don’t know me, my name is Victoria and I’m the human behind Victoria Ellyse. Like, By My Pen, my blog is a place where I talk about everything and truly I mean everything. I used to segment it and try to only talk about food, or beauty, or politics but then I realized that life isn’t segmented. I couldn’t really carve out a niche because I wanted to talk about it all, so that’s what I did. I invite you to look out for my next post or follow the blog via Twitter or Instagram for my latest updates.

Now, onto the real reason you’re here. This past year I made a resolution to read more. While I was a prolific reader growing up, somehow in the haze of high school and college, the love for reading got lost. Reading for pleasure felt like a luxury that I couldn’t allow myself. Sitting and being enthralled in a book was time I was wasting; time that should have been spent being “productive.” I spent this past year reclaiming this once-favorite activity for myself — and it felt so good to do. Through a project I started on my blog, Victoria Ellyse Reads, I laid out my goal to try to read 18 books in 2018, hoping that putting the words out into the world would make it feel real. I decided I wanted to give particular attention to reading more books by women and authors of color — those whose voices could possibly speak to my life experiences more, and whose works can be not as visible.  

I won’t make my goal, I’m nowhere near my 18 books in 2018, but I have read more books this year because I wanted to than I have in many, many years. Below are my top 3 books of 2018 and why I loved them so much.

Victoria Ellyse

This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins

Reading Morgan Jerkins’ incredibly raw autobiography is still a highlight of this past year. As she chronicles the experiences of her life and finding her place as a black feminist in and around white America, her vulnerability spills out onto the pages. I found myself not able to put the book down, her words causing me to think of episodes in my own life that helped shape who I am and how I interact in the world. In my opinion, her biography is a must read. Not just for those who identify as black women feminists, but for those who want to know how to be allies and who want to understand the world in all its intersections. Her writing is both funny and real, at times feeling like a friend recounting their own life story. I laughed and I cried at times, but her authenticity throughout the book, from start to finish, and her commitment to telling her story, kept me coming back for more until the very last page.

Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly

Soraya Chemaly’s book took me much longer to get through than I anticipated and not for lack of interest, in fact, it was quite the opposite. Chemaly’s book Rage Becomes Her was, in a word, eye-opening (and is a must read because of how hard it is to read). Relevant to modern day examples and the current political climate, Chemaly’s book offers great insight on how anger and rage are not only valid feelings for women and girls to have, but powerful emotions that will be needed if change is going to come. 

Chemaly does her due diligence, often citing concrete examples as she makes her points about the ways in which society, from an early age, diminishes and discounts the anger of women and girls. I found myself having to step away from the book because, while the feeling of solidarity in knowing that my experiences aren’t solely my own was strong, so too were the feelings of, well, anger at the ways in which this has gone on for so long.

Of the three books I have picked for this list, Chemaly’s is the one that has given me the most to “chew on” as I like to say. It has changed the ways in which I move through the world, even in small manners, and the lens through which interactions of anger are perceived. I am much more now, than I had been previously, listening to my own emotions without dismissing them or self-policing them, acknowledging them for what they are — anger and rage included. I commend Chemaly for taking on a topic so big and breaking it down into sections that are easier to understand, and for so clearly having done the research to back up her points. My only hope is that people who read it take something with them — like I have — as they do. 

Make Trouble by Cecile Richards

As a long-time supporter of Planned Parenthood and how they have provided family planning and medical care access to low-income families for many years, I knew that I wanted to read Cecile Richards autobiography when it was released. Richards, having been the president of both the Planned Parenthood Federation of American and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund from 2006 to 2018, had dealt with many turbulent times for Planned Parenthood. Most notably, the government’s repeated efforts to “defund” the organization over the erroneous idea that government funds were being used to provide abortions. Richards herself went to testify before a Senate committee in a hearing that, for me, just exemplified how little some Senators know about the female body. What surprised me is how much more I learned during Richards’ book. It wasn’t just a recount of her time in that room or even her time at Planned Parenthood, but rather, an honest looking back on her life and how she became the activist she is. 

Richards book gave me a little bit of hope in the very turbulent times we live in, that being an activist for something is worth it, and following that path is valid. I would encourage anyone who considers themselves an activist to give it a read, but, even more, I would suggest that those who don’t consider themselves activists to read it, you may find you’re farther down the path than you think.

Recommendations wanted

So, there you have it, my top-three recommendations of books I read this year. Although I failed (or will soon fail) in my goal to read 18 books this year, I will definitely be keeping the Victoria Ellyse Reads project going. If you’d like to join the conversation or recommend a book stop by my blog and leave a comment! I’m always looking for a new book to pick up and love to hear what books you’re reading and loving.  

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