9 hrs. 11 min. | St. Martin’s Press | Macmillian | Release Date: 4/4/2017
Jenny Nordbak’s podcast, The Wicked Wallflowers Club, has been one of my favorite podcasts this year. Their author interviews are always a fun mix of craft talk, raunch, and bookish squee. After hearing Nordbak share a few snippets of her time as a dominatrix on the podcast I decided to check out her book to get the full story.
This memoir follows the two years in Nordbak’s early twenties where she secretly trained and worked as a dominatrix at a BDSM dungeon in Los Angeles. Nordbak weaves together the events of her “vanilla” life with anecdotes about her sessions with clients as she becomes Mistress Scarlett. I found the peek into the BDSM scene fascinating and enjoyed getting to know the irreverent found family Nordbak creates for herself.
6 hrs and 9 min | Simon & Schuster | Memoir/Essay Collection | 07/24/2018
This memoir caught my eye because well . . . how can you bypass a book with a subtitle like that? I wasn’t familiar with Arceneaux before, but he is a prolific pop culture writer who often writes about the intersection of being Black and gay.
I’ve been kind of meh on memoirs by millennials lately*, particularly the ones around identity, because they feel like they are written specifically for the gaze of White liberal progressives. But Arceneaux’s stories are messier and have a personal authenticity that I enjoyed.
My favorite essays were the ones he wrote about his relationship to Catholicism and the importance of R&B music in his life. At first, it seemed like Beyoncé’s name was put in the title just to get clicks but once you get to his essay about Beyoncé it fell into place.
Arceneaux reads the audiobook, and it didn’t 100% work for me. While it was great to hear his particular southern accent, his affect was flat and stilted at times.
I also just admire Arceneaux’s hustle to become the media personality he’s become. While he doesn’t address it directly, there is an ongoing thread in the background of his essays about the years of hard work he put into building his career.
Arceneaux offers something new to the gay/pop culture essayist genre and I’m sure there will be many more books from him in the future.
*This review of Morgan Jenkins’ This Will Be My Undoinghits on a few the issues I have with some of these millennial memoirs about identity
7 hours and 27 minutes | Simon & Schuster Audio | Memoir | 10/11/2016
I’ve been a fan of Taraji P. Henson since she played Raina Washington on Lifetime’s The Division when I was younger, it was one of the first “adult” shows I watched. The show was ahead of its time and I sometimes think about how Henson was playing a Black female police officer with lesbian moms in the early 2000’s. I can only imagine if they put that on TV nowadays it might be called “too diverse.”
Anyway, this memoir begins with Henson’s childhood in Southeast DC during the crack epidemic and the years of hustle and hard work that lead to her Hollywood success in her mid-thirties. Henson is a trained actress who worked with some of the best at Howard University and there is a lot of craft talk in this book. Henson really digs into the minds of the character she plays. The title of the book comes from her concern of always being typecast as the around the way girl from the hood and her hesitation to take the role of Cookie Lyon–the role that has brought her the most notoriety.
This book shares a lot of DNA with the two other memoirs of black women in Hollywood I’ve read, Last Black Unicorn and We’re Going to Need More Wine. They all touch on the importance of having a support system and other black women helping them navigate the Hollywood scene.
I especially liked what Hensen had to say about the stigma of a single black motherhood and how these mothers aren’t afforded the same considerations and respect as married mothers.
Around The Way Girl is an inspiring and insightful look into the making of an actress and some of Henson’s most memorable moments.
Penguin Audio | 7 hours and 4 minutes | Memoir | 10/27/2015
I find Carrie Brownstein really interesting. She’s one of those people who has managed to have two very distinct yet very successful careers in the public eye. Depending who you are you may know her from the rock band Sleater-Kinney or, if you’re like me, from the award-winning show Portlandia.
This memoir is focused exclusively on her relationship to music and Sleater-Kinney. I picked up this book because it was like a window to the eclectic and chaotic world of 90’s punk rock band life during the riot grrrl movement–a world I knew nothing about.
HarperAudio | Memoir | 10/07/2014
Alan Cumming examines the violent and abusive childhood that nearly sent his adult life off course while on a journey to uncover a family secret on the reality TV show Who Do You Think You Are? Just when Cumming thinks he has a handle on all his family secrets, his estranged father calls and drops a big one.
This silver fox actor is known for playing eccentric characters. I know Cumming best from his role as Eli Gold on The Good Wife (He was also in X2). At the time I had no idea he was Scottish but by the time I finished this audiobook the thought of him with an American accent seemed strange.