Reading Challenge

Aileen attempts to read a book a week. Follow along as she loses her mind. We used the PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge as inspiration, then went off on our own, as you’ll find we do a lot around here. Join in by reading the books Aileen reads, or by choosing your own.

We Should All Be Feminists Reading Challenge

We Should All Be Feminists

Here I am again, with someone I greatly admire yet feel unequal to encapsulating in words. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaks not only for herself but for all of us. We Should All Be Feminists is short, to the point and worth reading more than once. Adichie talks about feminism but also about what it means to be uniquely herself and a feminist. Read more

What Happened reading challenge

What Happened

I ordered two copies of What Happened, one for me and one for my older son. My older son worked tirelessly on Hillary’s campaign, specifically at the Hillary for America – East LA Office. He helped set the office up and helped run it for months leading up to the election. I, like many Americans, thought Hillary was going to win. And then I heard that Comey was reopening the FBI investigation into the emails. I was instantly terrified that all was lost. I remember calling older son in a blind panic, babbling about how we had just lost the election.

“Calm down, mom. Everything’s fine,” older son said. “Come work the week before the election, it’s GOTV and we’ll need all the help we can get.” I agreed to do it and I didn’t even know what GOTV was. It means Get Out the Vote and it’s a stepped up effort before an election to get voters to the polls. I spent hours, possibly days, calling people in Pennsylvania and Ohio and I can’t even remember where else. Busy signals. Hang ups. One man yelled at me that Hillary was a murderer. I greeted volunteers, showed them how to use something called a dialer which I still don’t fully understand. The office was packed, there were people in every corner of every room. The restaurant across the street sent over a steady stream of fresh, delicious burritos. There was a group of older women who laughed and dialed and spoke in Spanish and/or English to people across the country. They came every day and talked the best trash about Trump I have ever heard anywhere.

And the night of the loss, when I realized my fear had come true, I called my son and said, “Where are you? Tell me where you are, I’m coming to get you.” Normally I wouldn’t have called my adult son and talked to him as if he was 15 but he had only just turned 21, both his grandmothers had recently died (within two weeks of each other) and his country had just elected Donald Trump. If anyone needed their mom to come get them, it was my son. I hoped he would say he was anywhere but at the office I had worked at for the past week. But that is exactly where he was and so I went to get him. The office was nearly empty. I remember seeing ridiculous donkey shaped balloons and unopened champagne bottles and my son silently standing next to one of the volunteers he had been working with for months. It was so quiet. The TVs were all on with the sound turned off. People walked here and there but didn’t seem to be accomplishing anything.

We drove home in silence. We sat together on the couch in the dark for awhile. He eventually fell asleep, just keeled over and passed out from exhaustion. I covered him up, and then I went to bed and sobbed. That night I sorrowed not for my country and not for the vulnerable populations that I feared would be persecuted. I sorrowed for no one but my son who slept on my couch even though he had his own apartment a few miles away. My sorrow was small and selfish, it went no further than a mother’s heart breaking for her child. He’d tried so hard, he’d wanted this woman he admired so much to succeed and instead…

Well, no need to go there. We all know what happened instead.

It took me almost a year to get up the nerve to read the first few pages of What Happened. If it wasn’t for this reading challenge, I don’t know that I ever would have read it, let alone finished it. I skipped the chapter dedicated to election night. I don’t know that I will ever be able to read it. I can’t look at pictures of the East LA election office without crying. All that hope. All those people. The ladies who laughed and dialed and talked the best Trump trash I’ve ever heard. All of it. I want to remember it fondly but I just can’t. Not yet. Maybe not ever. Who knows? I don’t. Read What Happened, it doesn’t purport to have all the answers but Secretary Clinton does make a genuine effort to reconstruct the election from her perspective. Let me know what you think.

And here is a picture of Chelsea Clinton getting up to give my older son a hug. They met at a book signing and something he said prompted her to ask if she could give him a hug. I imagine if someone showed up in front of me and earnestly talked about how much they admired my mom, I would want to give them a hug, too. And here’s Kate McKinnon singing Hallelujah because it’s still sad and beautiful and I can’t believe she got through it without breaking down.

*Note from Felicia – I purchased an audio version of What Happened.  I wanted to hear the story in Hillary’s voice and I found it to be extremely powerful. I cried, a lot.  

Intuitive Eating Reading Challenge

Intuitive Eating

“Legalizing food is the critical step in changing your relationship with food. It frees you to respond to inner eating signals that have been smothered by negative thoughts and guilt feelings about eating.”

My therapist gave me this book when I was talking to her about my challenges around parenting and food.  I’ve read a lot of books about healthy eating in my day, but this book is completely different. This book is not about how you should modify your food intake to change your weight or your health, it’s about your relationship with food.  Our culture has inserted itself between humans and their food and it’s mostly been done for profit. Read more

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice

The Annotated Pride and Prejudice

When I was still following a reading challenge list, the prompt that led to The Annotated Pride and Prejudice was, “A book made into a movie you’ve already seen.” I have to admit that I have seen many, many version of Pride and Prejudice. Movies, as well as a couple of incredibly entertaining mini-series. I have never attempted to read the novel. Why? Well, I’m lazy and also, Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC mini-series is pretty much the best romantic hero ever. I never felt the need to improve on my acquaintance with Jane Austen’s most famous male character. But the second I read that prompt I knew the time had come to be an adult and read the source material for a story I had watched many, many, many versions of. Read more

The Steal

The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting

I wanted to be more engaged with The Steal: A Cultural History of Shoplifting than I was. The problem was not with the author but rather with the lack of concrete information publicly available about America’s shoplifting epidemic. Retailers who pay for the research aren’t inclined to share the findings with their customers.

Available research (scant as it is) regarding shoplifting in America has two clear conclusions. Roughly 10% of Americans shoplift and there is no such thing as a typical shoplifter. Young men of color are arrested more often than any other demographic but when Americans self-reported their shoplifting habits all races and genders are represented. Read more

Together We Rise

Together We Rise

Together We Rise includes as many voices and points of view regarding the Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017 as possible.  It will take years, decades even, to understand what the March meant. But in the here and now, it meant something different to every person who participated.

“Where were you on January 21, 2017?”

You didn’t have to be physically present to march. Many people, for many reasons, were not able to take to the streets. But that does not mean they did not march. For those who couldn’t attend, others either marched in their name or carried signs with their names or images on them.

To anyone who still says that women can’t get along, that women don’t stand up for each other, that women don’t care about each other, well, I would recommend a trip through Together We Rise. 

Like many white Americans, we were shocked and dismayed by the entire 2016 Presidential election cycle.  We were appalled by the hateful and misogynistic rhetoric coming from certain quarters of the right. But, like so many with privilege, we were sure that our own version of good would prevail.  We were not only painfully naive, we were super wrong.

As soon as we heard about the Women’s March, we made plans to participate.   The thought of the upcoming March kept us going through those dark months from November to January.  The thought of the March made the looming inauguration bearable for us. The 2016 election changed what it meant to be an American. For some it was a validation of their ideals, but for many, many, many others it was a realization that we weren’t as far from our problematic past as we had believed. And that may have been what drove so many people into the streets.


The Second Shift

The Second Shift

An in-depth examination of what happens in heterosexual, dual-income marriages with kids under six, The Second Shift is a fascinating read that should be approached with thoughtful caution. If your family falls into the category described above, you might think twice about planning to read it while waiting to pick up the kids or while in an endless line.  You may not recognize your own experience in these studies of families trying to work and raise kids while keeping their marriages intact, but if you do, it could be an emotionally difficult experience.  We found it to be enlightening and at times infuriating, so we advise reading with care.  If you have a book club, this might be a good title to work through with a group of friends.  That’s how we chose to do it and it inspired a bevy of impassioned phone calls and text messages.

“When millions of couples are having similar conversations over who does what at home, it can help to understand just what’s going on outside marriage that’s affecting what goes on inside it.”

Read more

The Jemima Code

The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks

“When we break the Jemima Code, America’s most maligned kitchen servant, Aunt Jemima is transformed into an inspirational and powerful symbol of culinary wisdom and authority — a role model.”   

-Toni Tipton-Martin

This isn’t a book of recipes, it is a book about books of recipes. It is about the people and the stories behind the books.  And it is a book that leads to more books.  And an outstanding blog. Read more



If you read the blog on Wednesday, you already know that we here at Persistiny love Tina Fey. You will also know that my favorite line from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is, “Last one to the bunker is the mother of whores!” That doesn’t have anything to do with the book Bossypants, I just wanted to keep to my habit of saying that sentence at least once a day.

Should you read Bossypants? Absolutely. Will it improve your life if you do? Probably not. Read more

Reading Challenge

Reading Challenge

After three years as an English major, I thought I was done with reading lists. But a weird thing happened a few years after I graduated. I started to miss prescribed reading. I’m not reading a seemingly endless string of loosely connected stories told by 7 noblewomen and 3 noblemen in an Italian garden as they wait out the plague (The Decameron, I’m looking at you). And I am done with Shakespeare (except maybe Richard III, what a delicious villain).
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