Brag Book

turns-out-i-rock-the-houseGreat news! I sent an email to author Deborah Niemann with a link of my review to her book Eco-Thrifty, and she emailed me back. She loved the review; she thought it was great. She even posted a link to the review on her Facebook page.

Thanks so much Deborah, and keep up the great writing I look forward to reading your future books!

What Will It Take to Make A Woman President?-Conversations About Women, Leadership and Power by Marianne Schnall

womanpresbookAs many of my fellow citizens know, men have been running this pop stand we call the United States since 1776. I fully expect we’ll have a lady President in my life time and it won’t be when I’m an old lady dribbling into my Depends.

However, I can’t help but wonder, “Why haven’t we had a female President? Other countries have been led by women, including Great Britain, India, the Philippines, Israel, Switzerland, Ireland, Chile, Germany, Liberia and Pakistan. What is taking the good old USA to get with the program?”

Marianne Schnall, writer and founder of the website, wonders this herself and now she’s asking other noteworthy people on why we haven’t had a woman President and what will it take to make this happen in her book, What Will It Take to Make A Woman President?-Conversations About Women, Leadership and Power.

Schnall’s quest started innocently enough. Shortly after President Obama was elected in 2008, Schnall’s then 10-year-old daughter asked, “Why haven’t we had a woman President?”

This simple inquiry put Schnall on a quest to find out why America has never had a woman President and she found some pretty big guns to ask them this very thought-provoking question.

Not surprisingly, many of the people Schnall interviews are women who have spent time in the political trenches. These people include Republicans like former US senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Olympia Snowe, GOP political strategist Ana Navarro, and the Governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin. On the Democratic side, we have current US Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill, former Speaker of the House and current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Vice Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee Donna Brazile.

Other notables interviewed by Schnall include feminists both young (Jessica Valenti) and not so young (Gloria Steinem). Journalists, broadcasters and writers include Soledad O’Brien, Pat Mitchell, Maya Angelou and Melissa Harris Perry. The world of business and academics is covered by Sheryl Sandberg, and Anita Hill. Celebs like Joy Behar, Kathy Najimy and Melissa Etheridge also give us their two cents worth.

And don’t worry; this book isn’t a total estrogen fest. Schnall also includes the men by interviewing Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom, and former member of the NFL and social activist Don McPherson.

Now just why haven’t we had a women president? Answers vary, but many agree that sexism still plays a major part every time women dip their toes into politics. Don’t agree with me? Well, people have actually questioned whether Hillary Clinton can be a grandmother and President at the same time. Seriously, did anybody ever question George H.W. Bush or Jimmy Carter if they could be grandfathers and President at the same time? ::Crickets chirping::

And let’s not forget that because of sexism women are often judged on their looks and their outfits, or are seen as too emotional who can’t handle the rough and tumble world of politics. Or if they can handle the rough and tumble world of politics they’re branded as cold, bitchy or bossy.

What else could be keeping a woman from becoming president? Until recently, there was a dearth of strong female political role models. Often women are not encouraged to get involved in politics, whether it’s running for office or running a campaign. Women sometimes don’t have access to the huge amount of money that men do (running for office ain’t cheap, kids). And speaking of kids, undoubtedly a majority of childcare falls on women and a lot of them may eschew politics until their children are grown.

Furthermore, our media can be brutal when covering female political candidates. The mainstream media may be considered liberal (it’s not), but it can be downright reactionary or irritatingly condescending. Years ago the New York Times did a piece on women in politics, specifically the chance of having a woman in the Oval Office. This piece was published in the Times’ “Style” section (as opposed to the news or opinion section) and was illustrated with a fancy pink purse emblazoned with the Presidential seal because we all know ladies love pink and purses!

However, at the same time we are dealing with sexism, lack of role models and political leaders, family challenges and the media, women also put up their own personal barriers. Some of us don’t believe we have what it takes to run for office. We still see power, leadership, self-promotion and ambition as unfeminine and unattractive. Hopefully, as more women gain access to higher positions in politics, business, academics, media and entertainment, these antiquated ideas will dissipate. Or as Senator Claire McCaskill puts it, “Women have to be taught that ambition is ladylike.”

We know the reasons why we haven’t had a lady President. Now what can we do about it?

Answers vary, but the interviewees offer several ideas on how to get women to run for office. They include women demanding more access, increasing our confidence and willingness to put ourselves on the line politically, and promoting women as ideal political candidates who can bring a fresh perspective to governing.

And just what are these fresh perspectives women can bring to governing? According to the interviewees women bring new perspectives and are willing to reach across the aisle to build consensus. Women are collaborative and acknowledge the importance of relationships. Now this may sound like stereotypes (I’ve worked with women who exhibited none of these traits), but don’t they sound like things desperately needed in the world of politics?

I enjoyed reading What Will It Take To Make a Woman President, and I appreciated everyone’s thoughts, ideas and opinions. I would have appreciated Schnall interviewing the average woman and man off the streets to get their input, but I also understand the importance of people who have actually been there and done that political-wise.

The year 2016 may seem a long time from now but it is a Presidential election year. And not surprisingly Hillary Clinton’s name is mentioned a lot as a potential candidate. But there are countless other women who can run for President. Is the United States ready for a President with lady parts asks What Will Take To Make a Woman President? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” And it’s only a question of when this will happen and what action steps we can take to make this a reality.

Book Marks: Earth Day Edition

earth day 2014Good Reads offers us an amazing list of great books concerning green issues.

Awesome kid reads on saving the planet.

Huge list of writers who focus on various environmental issues.

Annie Leonard’s “Story of Stuff” definitely made me think. Ms. Leonard also has a book on this very subject. I just found out my library system has this book. I’m going to check it out. Look for a review of Ms. Leonard’s The Story of Stuff shortly.

100 great websites that focus on the environment.





Eco-Thrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life by Deborah Niemann

51iL1kO2zNL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Tuesday, April 22nd is Earth Day. In honor of this day I’m posting this book review on how to save both the planet and some money.

With a financial situation that can only be described as “meh” and a desire to be a green as possible, I’m always looking for tips and ideas on how to save some money while also being earth-friendly. Some of the money saving tips I find are way too stringent, the kind you might find on the TLC show “Extreme Cheapskates.” No thanks. I refuse to dumpster dive for medication. And as for being green, there are times when I think the green movement has become too elitist or “yuppie,” like high-end green fashion brands and home accessories. I just can’t fathom buying a tank top that costs almost a third of my monthly rent.

Well, thanks to Deborah Niemann’s latest book Eco-Thrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life, I can I can pay my rent and maintain my desire to be as green as humanly possible.

I first became aware of Ms. Niemann when I profiled her book Homegrown and Homemade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living and her visit to Milwaukee’s very own Boswell Book Company nearly three years ago. Ms. Niemann lives on a huge homestead and farm in rural Illinois where she and her family live a hugely self-sustaining life raising chickens, goats, llamas, and cows. They also have a large garden and orchard. It is from this homestead Ms. Niemann is able to support and take care of her family while being frugal and maintaining an environmentally-sound lifestyle. So needless to say, she is the perfect person to write a book on the topics of saving money and caring for the planet.

Eco-Thrifty is divided into 10 easy to follow chapters covering everything from making your own personal care products to how to make products to keep your home spic and span. Niemann also covers cheap ways to be green when it comes to clothing, raising children, feeding your family, maintaining your health, and gardening. Eco-Thrifty also tells us how entertaining and transportation can also be green and cheap. And the final chapter informs us to get things for free or almost free. Bonus!

I have to admit I looked forward to reading Eco-Thrifty’s chapter on personal care products. I’ve been making own soap for six years now. Not only am I saving money and not using products with a bunch of scary chemicals I can’t pronounce, I’m also having a lot of fun. Making my own soap is another creative outlet. So I was thrilled to read up on recipes on how to make other products like body butter and exfoliating scrubs.

In the chapter on home care, Deborah lets us know how much you can clean with simple vinegar and baking soda (and a little extra elbow grease). You don’t have to buy a mess of products from Wal-Mart. She also has a recipe on how to make your own laundry detergent with items you can easily find at you local grocery or drug store.

When it comes to food, Niemann inspires us to trust ourselves in the kitchen. We can save money, be green and get in touch with our inner Julia Child. She extolls the virtues of making things from scratch, including wine. She also encourages us to grow our own food, letting us know that even an urban dweller like myself can grow an herb garden on my window sill (and I’m planning on doing this shortly).

Other green and thrifty ideas include buying things used, holding clothing swap parties, investing in a good pair of gym shoes to go walking around your neighborhood instead of joining a pricey gym and re-purposing and re-using things you might throw out. Many of her ideas you might be using already!

Most of Ms. Niemann’s ideas and tips are easy to do and practical. Niemann’s writing style is down-to-earth and encouraging. And she knows that not all of her ideas will work for everyone and some may have to be amended to one’s particular lifestyle. Sure, she got a bit preachy about not having a television, but perhaps I was feeling some residual Catholic guilt over watching reruns of “Bridezillas” instead of doing something a bit more worthy of my time.

Ultimately, Eco-Thrifty is a must-read primer for anyone who wants to be green and save some green.

Book Marks

lets read book markCongratulations to all of the Pulitzer Prize winners!

Here is a list of the most challenged books so far of the 21st century. In other words, these are some books you might want to read if you haven’t already.

Did you know that we are in the middle of National Library Week? Well, now you know! And did you love your school library as much as I did growing up? This is why school libraries are so vital to our children’s education. And if you think libraries aren’t important (shame on you if you do), here are five good reasons why you should take your kids to the library.

Are you asking yourself why the douchebags from “Duck Dynasty” have several books out and truly talented writers get ignored? Legitimate author Nic Tatano claims it’s because of the “Valley of the Stupid.”

Hey, ladies. Are books that tell you to “lean-in,” learn the “confidence code” and how to “thrive” rubbing you the wrong way for some reason? Well, there maybe be a reason for that. Thanks Amanda Hess, for putting what I’ve been thinking in such an eloquent post.




Readin’, Writin’, and Rantin’: American Blogger-The Film

American-Blogger-Movie-Poster-e1397014900608You know, blogging has become so huge that I’m surprised nobody has made a documentary about it. Spend some time on the blogosphere and you’ll find men and women of all ages, races, ethnicities, and other assorted demographics, blogging about politics, current events, pop culture, family, technology, crafting, faith, entrepreneurship, fashion and activism. I’d really like to see someone make a documentary about the amazing diversity of the blogosphere.

Oh, wait someone has. However, after taking a gander at the above posted clip I just don’t think filmmaker Chris Wiegand is up to the task.

Chris Wiegand is a Dallas-based filmmaker and photographer. Together with his wife, Casey Leigh, they own an art studio called A Little Artsy. Casey Leigh blogs at a blog called The Wiegands where she mostly writes about her family and other assorted topics. In other words, she’s a mommy blogger. Nothing against mommy bloggers; they’re just not my blogging cup of tea. I’m sure a lot of people don’t give a shit about me blogging about books.

But I digress…

Chris decided there was something to this whole blogging business and decided to pack up his Airstream Trailer (Airstream Trailer, of course), and travel this great country of ours to interview various bloggers about their craft. But instead of interviewing a slew of diverse, interesting bloggers from a wide variety of backgrounds, Chris interviews a bunch of mostly young, white, good-looking, slender and apparently middle class women who blog about family, crafting, fashion, travel, etc. (okay, there does appear to be one minority). In other words, Chris interviews Casey Leigh’s blogging buddies and on-line besties.

Okay, American Blogger doesn’t exactly dig very deep into the diversity of the blogosphere. And for the most part that’s fine. What really makes me rant about American Blogger is how it takes itself…

…so damn fucking serious!

First there is the documentary’s movie poster featuring a silhouette of a woman looking downcast. Hmm, could she be navel-gazing? And what is up with Chris waving an American flag amongst a city skyline? I almost expected a bald eagle to be a part of the movie poster.

And then there is the “voice of God” narration.

“Beautifully filmed and artistically crafted, this documentary will remind you of the value of your voice and the power of sharing your story.”

Yes, blogging about, like you know, fashion, and like you know, travel, makes documenting the Arab Spring look like an indulgent day at the spa. These bloggers have the possibility to change the world. OMG! Change the world!!!!

And then one blogger claims, “If we’re keeping it private, why are experiencing it?”

Oh, I don’t know, Sweetums. Maybe you should experience it to just experience it. Egad, what a load of self-serving crap.

And that’s what kills me. The utter lack of self-awareness combined with a huge amount of self-absorption.

There is nothing wrong with Chris going around the country to interview his wife’s fellow mommy bloggers. There is nothing wrong with blogging about whatever you want to blog about. What really makes me roll my baby blues is when you act like you’re doing us a huge favor.

Yes, I’m a blogger. And I must admit it’s a nice boost to my self-esteem that my blog is gaining followers. I appreciate getting likes and comments on my posts. But at most, my blog is nothing more than an exercise in ego-stroking and a fun way to express my interest in one of my favorite past times-reading.

And yes, it’s pretty cool when someone wants to interview you about your blogging.

In other words-I have a confession to make.

A while back I used to write “American Idol” re-caps (shut up, don’t judge me). I posted my re-caps on our local Fox affiliate’s news website. A producer liked my re-caps and asked me if I’d be interested in being interviewed about my re-caps and American Idol. After some hemming and hawing I decided to be interviewed. I made sure I cleaned up Chez Bookish Jen and I replaced my usual re-capping uniform of yoga pants, t-shirt and messy ponytail with a cute outfit and brushed hair. The interview went quite well (all those years in high school forensics finally paid off), and my family and friends enjoyed seeing me on the news.

And then…nothing. My life didn’t monumentally change. And never once did I think I did something of great significance or I was altering the world. Shit. I don’t even watch American Idol anymore.

Once again, I digress.

Not surprisingly, the Internet has taken notice of American Blogger. And websites like Gawker, Jezebel, IndieWire, Babble and Get Off My Internets are all having their say on Chris Wiegand’s magnum opus. Sure, a lot of the comments are quite snarky, but quite a few offer some good constructive criticism.

And of course, someone made a parody of American Blogger. Am I horrible person because this made me laugh and laugh? I love this parody so much I want to take it behind the bleachers and get it pregnant. Thank you Neil Kramer!


Lady Wiegand is aware of the backlash and gives us her sage opinion. I hope you can get through her pretentious, vapid and “woe-is-me” word salad. You may need a stiff drink.

Now, as I mentioned. I’d be very open to watching a documentary on blogging. I don’t care if it’s a legitimate film or a “mockumentary.” Ken Burns and Christopher Guest? Call your agents!


Writer’s Block

2013-artwork-non-fiction-writers-block-sketchWell, if there is one thing I know for sure it’s this: Predict the unpredictable and expect the unexpected. I thought I was going to work a ton of overtime this week but thanks to a delay from another department that has been put on hold. Now you know why I was able to get two book reviews up this week. I actually had the time. I also have a review primed to be posted around Earth Day, so look for it.

I also want to announce I’m going to expand the scope of this blog. I’m starting two new series. I am calling one series “Readin’, Writin’ and Rantin’” where I will focus on various aspects of books, authors, blogging and other assorted word-related things that piss me off or at least are begging for me to snark about. Right now some ideas are percolating in my head.

My other series will be called “Reading to Reels” where I will review movies that are based on books. Most of these movies will be based on books I already read (and will probably review here). I have one movie in mind and will probably watch it after overtime is done.

Well, that’s about it for my update. I hope you are looking forward to “Readin’, Writin’ and Rantin’” and “Reading to Reels.”