Non-Fiction Reading Round-up 4

Below are the non-fiction books I’ve read recently – all bite-sized. I recommend them if you’re looking for instant intellectual gratification.

The X-Files (TV Milestone Series)
– Theresa L. Geller

cover of The X-Files, by Theresa L Geller. A flying saucer flies over and illuminates a dark forest.

In this fresh analysis of the series, Geller demonstrates that both mytharc and monster-of-the-week episodes aimed to denounce the othering of various communities in American society. Her interpretation makes sense and is welcome; I always thought there was a dissonance between Chris Carter’s progressive stance and his show’s questionable representations. I’m thankful to be able to see a message of compassion in my favourite TV series. All the same, I find Geller to be a bit forgiving at times, precisely because she doesn’t question the necessity of said stereotypical representations. The idea, I guess, is that to debunk certain discriminatory narratives, you need to evoke them first –eg, if there is a little eerie music playing when a non-white character appears on screen, that’s because we want to arouse those latent racist feelings in the audience, only to denounce them as the source of the problem later. That’s all well and good, only this message is still embedded in a white framework, and, as such, doesn’t challenge the white point of view in the end. We shouldn’t be so quick in congratulating white men when they display a bit of sympathy.

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

the cover of dear Ijeawele, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. An illustration representing black children playing under the care of two adults. The background is a collage of real photos of people in various poses.

This small book is a modified version of a letter Adichie sent to a friend who requested advice on how to raise her daughter a feminist. In light of Adichie’s unfortunate recent comments on trans womanhood, I couldn’t help but feel that the piece was quite exclusionary. The author does acknowledge her heterosexual point of view, but she doesn’t address her blending of sex and gender, or her support of the gender binary. If you stay within this dominant structure, the book is powerful and important, with a very strong narrative voice and lovely prose; as soon as you peek outside however, it is lacking. It’s a shame that someone who warns against “Feminism Lite” (ie, conditional feminism) should practive Trans Allyship Lite herself.

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century – Timothy Snyder

cover of On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder. The background is white, with a flock of black birds in movement against it. The flock is close together at the top of the image, but gets sparser at the bottom.

An American historian draws twenty lessons on how to spot and combat tyranny from recent history. I’ll be honest with you here: I feel gullible for buying this book. Do you ever feel slightly dirty for consuming a product even though you know you’re exactly its target audience? That’s how I feel listening to Fallout Boy, and that’s how I felt reading this book. I’m already convinced that tyranny is on the rise in my part of the world, and I’m already galvanized to do something about it, so buying material that’s going to feed me the words and examples to use in arguments is quite an indulgence. I appreciated the vocabulary and the historical reminders, but they weren’t original enough to justify the £8.99. I can’t help but think this content would have worked better as a magazine article, especially since its constant references to the Trump presidential campaign give it an unforgiving timestamp. So yes. If you’re a liberal looking for a circle jerk, this book is for you. If you’re looking for an intellectual challenge however, look elsewhere.

You can read my previous non-fiction round-ups below:

Round-up 3: Trans, Black Skin, White Masks and The Argonauts

Round-up 2: Sister Outsider, Unspeakable Things and Between the World and Me

Round-up 1: Bad Feminist, Discourse on Colonialism and Redefining Realness

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