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#TuesdayBookBlog FAT THE OTHER F WORD by Dan Radlauer A coming of age story, recommended to lovers of sitcoms and anybody looking for an inspiring story #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you a review on behalf of Rosie’s Book Review Team. This one is a YA novel about a topic that affects many but one I haven’t read many books about. It made me think about the nature of comedy.

Freedom of speech and comedy have always had a complex relationship, as many people insist that any topic can be the subject of comedy while others don’t agree. Who decides what is offensive and what is not? Although as outside observers we might think that some people are easily offended (when we don’t agree with their point of view and their annoyance at something somebody else had said or done), we all (or most of us) have something (or someone) that we would be likely to get upset by if it became the butt of a joke. How do we judge what is appropriate? Books are being banned again and such issues seem to be more relevant than ever.

And without further ado…

Fat: the Other F Word by Dan Radlauer

FAT: the other “F” word: a novel by Dan Radlauer

In “FAT: The Other ‘F’ Word,” Quincy Collins lives in two vastly different worlds. One where he’s a very heavy and awkward freshman at Beverly Hills High School, the other where he’s a Hollywood character actor in commercials and Indie films playing the comic relief or the despicable bully. Guess which world he likes better?

At the start of this Y.A. novel, Quincy gets his big break with a major role as “The Fat Brother” in a hot new Network Sitcom, only to find that wanting and having are two very different things.

First, “size discrimination activists” challenge the integrity of the character he’s portraying. Then his health struggles begin to undermine both his character on the show, and his self-assigned brand as “The Fat Kid Actor.” His dream gig becomes a nightmare, and he starts to question the role he’s playing on TV, as well as in real life.

“FAT: The Other ‘F’ Word” shows a unique person in a unique setting. It explores Hollywood, adolescence, and our culture’s attitudes towards different sized people. Quincy narrates the story with discovery, irony, pain and compassion as he learns that he can’t base his identity on the size of his body.

 https://www.amazon.com/Dan-Radlauer-ebook/dp/B09LQCDBX7/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/FAT-other-word-novel-Radlauer-ebook/dp/B09LQCDBX7/

https://www.amazon.es/gp/product/B09LQCDBX7/

Author and musician Dan Radlauer

About the author:

Dan Radlauer is an award winning composer and producer living and working in Los Angeles. After starting his career writing music for literally thousands of television and radio commercials, he started focusing on TV and Film work around 2001. His years doing “ad music” has given him a musical palette that spans from Head Banging Rock and EDM to full orchestral scores as well as world, Jazz and organic acoustics genres. Dan also is a busy music educator and mentor to aspiring young musicians as well as a consultant to various music educational organizations.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Radlauer

https://radmusic.net/

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (author, check here if you are interested in getting your book reviewed) and thank her and the author for this opportunity.

This is the author’s first novel, and from the information he includes in the author’s note, it seems that he was inspired by some tragic family history to write about the topic, and it is evident that he feels a personal connection to it.

The main details of the plot are well summarised in the book’s description. Quincy Collins is a 14-year-old boy who lives in Los Angeles, in Bel Air (in the least fancy part of Bel-Air, as he explains), and who is an actor, although most of his experience comes from acting in commercials and always playing the overweight kid. He does not mind playing the part; he meets the same heavy boy actors at most auditions, and his best friend, Cole, is one of them. He is very aware of his size, as would be expected from a teenager, and his defense mechanism is humour. He is forever making fat jokes and enjoys the fact that people find him funny and laugh with him, rather than at him behind his back. He gets lucky (he also seems to be a good actor with a particular talent for comedy) and he is cast as one of the main characters in a sitcom. The writer of the show, Paul, is also a large man, and fat jokes are a big part of Quincy’s character in the series, despite the controversy, this creates with the network executives, who are worried about a possible backlash. Things get complicated when Quincy’s health starts to suffer, and he has to make some difficult decisions that affect his size. To make matters worse the protests by pressure groups insisting that making fun of fat people is not funny and calling the jokes in the programme “hate speech” start making Quincy reconsider his attitude towards the series and wonder what is acceptable and what is offensive. Is a fat joke acceptable if a heavy person tells it? Or is it offensive regardless of the size of the comedian telling it?

This is a coming-of-age story that focuses mostly on the issue of weight, health, what is acceptable as a comedy subject, discrimination, and self-identity. The main character, who narrates the story in the first person, is likeable, although his life is not one most fourteen years old youths would easily identify with. Some aspects of it would be like a dream come true for many kids his age (avoiding school and working on TV instead; meeting big stars and having a successful career at such a young age; living in a nice house with caring parents, and a younger sister who also loves him…), while others, like his weight and his health problems, would be a nightmare for anybody. Rather than hard-hitting realism, this YA story chooses a character whose life is in the limelight and whose decisions and actions are scrutinised by all and have a much bigger impact than that of most children his age. If we all know about bullying and the way peer pressure has been magnified by social media and the way our lives are always on display, whether we like it or not, imagine what that would be like for a child actor and one whose main issue is always on display. Quincy cannot ignore what is happening around him, and no matter how hard adults try to protect him, he is faced with some tough decisions.

This is not a novel about really good and terribly bad characters. All of the important characters are likeable once we get to know them a bit, and apart from one or two who are battling their own demons, most of them just seem to be supportive, encouraging and trying to do their jobs as well as they can. We might agree or disagree with some of their opinions or points of view, but they don’t have hidden motives or are devious and manipulative.

The writing flows well; the story is set in chronological order and there are no complicated jumps or convoluted extra storylines. Quincy comes across as a very articulate and fairly smart boy, and we see him become more thoughtful and introspective as the novel progresses, gaining new insights and maturing in front of our eyes. As he acknowledges, he is more used to spending time with adults than with children, and he is empathetic and moves on from only thinking about what he wants to do and what he enjoys, to considering other people’s perspectives. The same goes for his attitude towards food. Although sometimes the process Quincy has to go through to improve his health appears, perhaps, too easy and straightforward, there are moments when his struggling to keep up control is powerfully reflected in the novel and rings painfully true.

Other than the issue of weight, which is at the centre of the novel, I don’t think any other warnings as to the content are warranted. There is no violence, no sex, no bad language, and although some diversity issues are brought up, these are not discussed in detail or gone into in any depth (they are mostly used for comparison). People worried about how offensive the fat jokes might be… Well, that is a bit of a personal matter. We don’t see examples of the actual show, so most of the jokes are those Quincy himself makes, and, in my opinion, they are pretty mild (I struggled with weight when I was a child and a teenager, and I can’t let my guard down even now, so my point of view is not truly neutral), but be warned that some of the content might be hurtful, and it might be advisable to check a sample of the book if you have doubts.

I particularly enjoyed learning more about how a sitcom is filmed, and the whole process of creation, from the rewrites of the script to the wardrobe changes, and the interaction with a live audience. It felt as if I was there, and the author’s personal experience in that world shines through.

In summary, this is a solid YA first novel, with a likeable protagonist who has to face some tough decisions and some hard truths. The ending… is very appropriate and hopeful (although I would have preferred it to end with the end, that is a personal thing), and young people who are interested in acting and/or struggle with any self-image issues (not necessarily to do with weight) are likely to enjoy and feel inspired by the book. And adults will also find plenty to think about within its pages.

Thanks to Rosie and her team for their help and support, thanks to the author for his book, thanks to all of you for reading, liking, commenting, and sharing, and remember to stay safe, and keep smiling!

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview #EQUAL: A STORY OF WOMEN, PAY AND THE BBC by Carrie Gracie (@ViragoBooks) Do not wait. Read it. Now.

Hi all:

Today I bring you a non-fiction title. It’s a fantastic and worrying read at the same time. I kept thinking of people who’d “enjoy” reading it (I’m not sure enjoy is quite the right term, but…). Hi, Debby, this is the book! Teagan, reading this book made me think of you as well. And Pete, I think you’ll be interested in this one as well.

And well, without further ado…

Equal by Carrie Gracie
Equal by Carrie Gracie

Equal: A story of women, pay and the BBC by Carrie Gracie

Equal tells a personal story that changed the public debate’ Guardian

‘[An] absorbing account . . . she laces her tale with mordant humour’ Financial Times

‘A gripping personal story told with warmth and wit, combined with a ‘how to’ guide for anyone who wants to ensure women are paid as true equals’ Julia Gillard, former Australian Prime Minister

Equal pay has been the law for half a century. But women often get paid less than men, even when they’re doing equal work.

Mostly they don’t know because pay is secret. But what if a woman finds out? What should she do? What should her male colleague do? What should the boss do?

Equal is the inside story of how award-winning journalist Carrie Gracie challenged unequal pay at the BBC, alongside a wider investigation into why men and women are still paid unequally. It’s a book that will open your eyes, fix your resolve and give you the tools to act – and act now.

‘The BBC journalist’s important account of her struggle to win equal pay is full of sound advice for women’ Observer

‘Pragmatic and honest’ Mail on Sunday

‘Pulls no punches’ Sunday Times

‘A book that can read like a tortured love letter to an abusive partner . . . and shows that such casual slights and the unthinking bias behind them remain an organisational and societal scandal’ Financial Times

‘She tells the story of her struggle and eventual triumph as a way of encouraging us, of changing our society, of giving us all courage . . . Equal is a very important book’ Sandi Toksvig

Longlisted for the Financial Times Business Book of the Year Award 2019

https://www.amazon.com/Equal-Carrie-Gracie-ebook/dp/B07K7KRGR7/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Equal-Carrie-Gracie-ebook/dp/B07K7KRGR7/

https://www.amazon.es/Equal-Carrie-Gracie-ebook/dp/B07K7KRGR7/

About the author:

Carrie Gracie is a Scottish journalist best-known as having been the China editor for BBC News. She resigned from this post at the beginning of January 2018, citing what she said was pay discrimination over gender for the BBC’s international editors. She returned to her former post in the BBC newsroom.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrie_Gracie

My review:

I am grateful to NetGalley and Virago for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review. What a book!

This is a fantastic read and an important book about a topic that, as the author notes, it feels strange to have to be still talking about in this day and age.

The author, a well-known and award-winning BBC journalist, chronicles her fight to get equal pay for her job as China editor for the corporation. The BBC is publicly funded, and after some pressures, in 2017 they published the salaries of the highest paid of their employees. All of them happened to be white males. Gracie, who was the China editor at the time, was surprised to see that the USA editor was earning almost double her salary, when one of the conditions she had asked for when she accepted the job (she was highly qualified for it, as she had studied Mandarin at university, had lived in China, married a Chinese, and had lived there and worked there on and off for long periods of time) was that her pay would be equal to that of male colleagues doing a similar job, and the comparison agreed was the USA editor. She was not the only female employee to take issue with the list of salaries and while Gracie chronicles her own fight (it was hard and arduous to put it mildly), she also emphasises the importance of the support of her colleagues and the encouragement she received from family, friends, and strangers who also told her their stories.

Although Gracie explains her story and how she felt, she is not a reporter for nothing, and she goes about the task of discussing equal pay for women (although she also acknowledges and talks about other types of discrimination: race, sexual, disabilities…) in a methodical manner, quoting facts and figures all over the world, talking about the law, the developments over time, the different cases that brought about new legislation, and intersperses this with a chronological account of the stages of her grievance with the BBC. Although her references to the law and the grievance process are specific to the UK (and to her organisation), the principles are applicable to many other cases, and the examples she uses are universal, unfortunately. She does recognise that she is privileged (she had access to free legal advice, she was able to resign from her job without being concerned about her financial situation, and she had another position to go back to), and she did not feel she was badly paid, but felt she had been treated unfairly, and she had to take a stand, not only for herself, but also for others.

The process she had to undergo was soul destroying, not only for the types of games and techniques used (she mentions Orwell in a number of occasions, but Kafka’s The Trial and Terry Gillian’s Brazil also come to mind), but also because she loves the BBC, believes what it stands for and felt terribly disappointed by the way they behaved. She tried to see things from their point of view and gave them the benefit of the doubt, but she was stretched almost to breaking point. This is not a fiction book, so there are no real spoilers, but I’ll leave you to read exactly how things settled in the end.

Apart from the interest of the story itself (and it is gripping), Gracie is a compelling writer, and she is evidently passionate about the topic, although that does not make her lose her objectivity. She does talk about her own battle, and she does mention the effect it had on her, how it made her feel, and the way it made her question her beliefs and, at times, even her own sanity, but she does not spend an excessive amount of time on that, and she focuses on providing useful advice and guidance for others. The back matter of the book includes a section of acknowledgements, an epilogue with cases and data that have come to light since the resolution of her complaint, also advice she provides to companies, men, and women, resources (including videos, books, information about a variety of organisations, links to important documents), and detailed notes for all the chapters, with references and links to all documents, studies, and cases she mentions.

Here a tiny sample from the book:

But when it comes to deep-rooted patterns of power and money, history shows time and again that justice for women does not come through patient persuasion. Instead women must find their power and use it. In January 2018, I went over my employer’s head to write directly to the public because I wanted an end to pay discrimination in my workplace and my bosses weren’t listening. The answering echo from women everywhere made me feel the BBC was a mirror of the society it served.

In sum, this is a fascinating book and one that is bound to make many readers’ blood boil. Why are things still like this in this day and age? This is an important book, well-written, full of valuable information and much food for thought, no matter what your gender, your position, or your status may be. Go and read it, and share it with others. The fight is not over.

Oh, I couldn’t help but share two videos Gracie mentions in the book. One that shows that Capuchin monkeys “get” equal pay, and a Norwegian study where kids demonstrate they also understand the concept of equal pay and are happy to apply it of their own accord. Priceless.

Capuchin monkeys reject unequal pay

Finansforbundet on Equal pay: What do these kids understand that your boss doesn’t? Mary just made me aware that the video does not play directly from here, but if you follow the link to YouTube, it does (at least for me!) Sorry about that. I guess the organisation doesn’t want the video shared on other sites.

Thanks to Carrie Gracie and to NetGalley for this book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, and always keep fighting and supporting others’ fight for equality. 

Categories
Book launch Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview and launch LAST WINTER’S SNOW by Hans M. Hirschi (@Hans_Hirschi) A love stronger than anything in the background of recent LGBT Swedish history

Hi all:

As you know, I’m on a mission to try and share the book review I had pending and get up to date, so rather than inundate you with them I’ll share as I read (although of course, I’m still trying to catch up on my reading list but we can keep hoping, can’t we?)

Today I bring you a special review. Not so much because the review itself is special (I always try my best although sometimes I’m more inspired than others) but because today is the launch day of the book. So it’s a great opportunity to get there and be the first to hear about the book.

Here it is:

Last Winter's Snow by Hans M. Hirschi
Last Winter’s Snow by Hans M. Hirschi

Last Winter’s Snow by Hans M Hirschi  

The story of native Sami, Nilas, and how he navigates life, trying to reconcile being gay as well as being Sami. Set over several decades, we follow Nilas and his Swedish partner Casper, as they build a life amid the shallows of bigotry, discrimination, and the onset of the AIDS crisis.

Last Winter’s Snow portrays recent LGBT history from a Swedish perspective, from the days when being gay was considered a ‘mental disorder’ to today’s modern anti-discrimination legislation and full equality. It’s also the story of one couple and the ups and downs of everyday life, as they navigate society’s changing rules and attitudes toward them and their relationship.

Last, not least, it’s a book that celebrates the rich history and culture of the Sami and their country Sápmi, as well as their ongoing struggle to achieve recognition and win back the right to self-determination over lands they’ve lived on for thousands of years.

Last Winter’s Snow is Hans M Hirschi’s first novel set almost entirely in Sweden, but it is the second time (after Fallen Angels of Karnataka) he takes his readers on a journey into the mountainous regions of Scandinavia in one of his acclaimed novels.

Here a video about the book:

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Last-Winters-Snow-Hans-Hirschi-ebook/dp/B06XMQJMD3/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Last-Winters-Snow-Hans-Hirschi-ebook/dp/B06XMQJMD3/

A bit about the author:

Author Hans M. Hirschi

Hans Martin Hirschi (b. 1967) has been writing stories ever since he was a child. Adulthood and the demands of corporate life efficiently put an end to his fictional writing for over twenty years. A global executive in training and channel development, Hans has traveled the world and published a couple of non-fictional titles. The birth of his son and the subsequent parental leave provided him with a much needed breathing hole and the opportunity to once again unleash his creative writing.

Having little influence over his brain’s creative workings, he simply indulges it and goes with the flow. However, the deep passion for a better world, for love and tolerance are a red thread throughout both his creative and non-fictional work.

Hans lives with his husband, son and pets on a small island off the west coast of Sweden.

Contact Hans through Twitter () or Facebook or through his website at www.hirschi.se

Personally, I can say that I often read the author’s posts and he does not mince his words nor is he afraid to talk about controversial issues.
You can also check his YouTube channel, as he regularly does video posts, the author cave that illustrate the life of an author.

Here is his Amazon author page:

https://www.amazon.com/Hans-M-Hirschi/e/B00E0DP0EE/

My review:

I received an ARC copy of this book prior to its publication and I voluntarily decided to review it.

This is not the first novel written by Hans Hirschi I’ve read. I’ve read The Fallen Angels of Karnataka, The Opera House, Willem of the Tafel, Spanish Bay… and, different as they are, have enjoyed them all. Mr Hirschi has the ability to create believable and engaging characters the readers care for, and he places them in backgrounds and situations that put them to the test. Sometimes the situation and the background might be familiar to a lot of readers, whilst on other occasions, we might know little about the place or the world they live in. And, Mr Hirschi’s books always draw attention to discrimination and oppression, making us question our beliefs and attitudes. This book is dedicated ‘to the oppressed minorities of the world’ and all the books I’ve read by this author could bear the same dedication.

I must confess to knowing little about the Sami community and their land, Sápmi, other than the images most of us might have of snow, reindeer and colourful clothing. The book opens with Nilas waking up to find his husband, Casper, dead in bed next to him. (I don’t consider this a spoiler, as it’s how the novel starts, after a brief introduction into Sami’s culture and history, and anybody who checks the beginning of the book will see it). Most of the rest of the book is taking up by his memories of his relationship with Casper, in chronological order, from 1982, when Nilas, a native Sami, goes to study in Stockholm, until the present. At the beginning of the story, he knows he’s gay but within his community, he hasn’t had much chance to experience what that mean in full, although he’s told his parents about it. One of the beauties of the book is that, although initially shocked by the news, his parents, from a tiny and many would think old-fashioned and traditional community, accept it (in fact, he discovers one of his uncles is also gay). At the other end of the spectrum, Casper, a Swedish student he meets in a bar in Stockholm, although living in a bigger community and seemingly a more cosmopolitan society, has not dared to tell his parents he’s gay as they are very religious and intolerant of anything other than what they see as the natural order. Nilas and Casper are made from each other, and the novel chronicles their relationships through episodes that illustrate events they go through, on many occasions linking them to events for the LGBT community in Sweden at large. We live with Nilas and Casper through the alarm of the AIDS epidemic, the uncertainty and the fear that an illness that seemed to target a specific group of the population created at the time. We also follow them through changes in career and moves, through the recognition of registered partnership and eventually gay marriage, through family disappointments, trips, success, heartache, illness and ultimately, death.

The relationship between Niles and Casper serves as a microcosm of the gay experience and history in Sweden (and, although with some differences, in many Western world countries). Theirs is an ideal relationship, their love stronger than anything. Although they are tested by external events, society, family, and work, they are committed to each other, exclusive and faithful from the beginning. (Perhaps this is an idealised relationship where there are some differences of opinion but these are quickly resolved and they are together against the world, especially at the beginning of the relationship). They are discriminated against at work, they have to face the AIDS crisis, family hostility (Casper eventually tells his family and he was right when he thought they wouldn’t accept it), assaults, put downs, incomprehension, insults, frustrations… They also find people who accept them and love them for who they are, mostly, at least at the beginning, people who have gay friends or relatives. And it’s true that studies show that exposure and knowledge are the best ways to fight discrimination and oppression. The lack of knowledge, the fear of anything or anybody different and unknown, the us against them mentality and the labelling as ‘other’ of those who aren’t like us are a sure recipe for intolerant attitudes.

The book is written in the third person, from Nilas’s point of view, and it contains beautiful descriptions of places (Sápmi, Stockholm and Gothenburg, the Maldives, Swedish islands, the house they move into…), reflections on nature, landscape, the importance of tradition, and what makes a place home and a people, our family and our community. We sometimes have to go a long way to discover who we really are and where we belong to. Mr Hirschi manages to balance the showing and telling by combining very personal experiences with more subjective and spiritual reflections.

I enjoyed the setting, the discovery of a place and a people I knew very little about (and judging by the author’s note at the end, I’d love to get to know more) and the way the characters and the story merge seamlessly to provide a personal, political (indeed, the personal is the political) and social chronicle of the recent events in LGBT history in Sweden. I particularly enjoyed the way Casper is adopted by the Sami community and how there is a parallel made between different types of oppression. This is an excellent book that could help younger generations understand recent LGBT history and will also raise consciousness about oppression and intolerance in general. And, we sure need it more than ever.

If you haven’t read any of the author’s books, you have a chance to get The Fallen Angels of Karnataka (you can check my review of the novel, here) free if you sign-up for his newsletter, here.

Thanks so much to the author for offering me the opportunity to read his book, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, and CLICK!

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