Reckless Daughter: A Review

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Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe

4 out of 5 stars

I don’t like Joni Mitchell. Let’s get that out of the way.

Joni Mitchell would absolutely despise me and, in turn, I’m certain I could not stand being in the same room with her for any longer than it would take her to put down her guitar. The thought of thanking her for creating music that saved my life makes me cringe; her ego has enough girth already and has left many casualties along the way.

Yaffe (who admits immediately that he is cowed and intimidated by Joni Mitchell, making this an extended attempt not to offend Her Majesty) talks about Joni’s troublesome, lonely childhood suffering during the polio epidemic that hit more than half a million kids in the 40s and 50s. Her life changed shaped in the wake of it and so she turned to art and music. I relate, at least to the suffering: eight years ago, I got sick. It wasn’t polio and I wasn’t shipped off to a secluded hospital but it was an isolating experience that follows me still. I was betrayed by my body and forced to put my dreams on hold right at the brink of realising them. Life seemed suddenly fickle so I turned to music to survive.

While laying in my mother’s spare bedroom on a mattress on the floor, penned in by cardboard boxes, I tapped into the neighbour’s wifi and listened to Court and Spark. I don’t know why that was the album I chose. I knew Joni Mitchell’s music but I hadn’t fallen for it. Semi-bedbound with my hands and feet tingling painfully, I listened again and again to the album, then swallowed up all her others.

My mother, a tall and anxious woman, walked in while I was listening to Both Sides Now. At the time I was unable to lift my head without blinding pain so I sang along flat on my back, content in that moment if not in others.

“You should turn off that sad music,” she said. “Listen to something happier.”

It was true that I’d spent most of the day before crying. I dreamt of the pills I took turning into little black spiders that skittered over my skin, biting me relentlessly. I was supposed to be moving to Canada the next week but had put it off indefinitely. Yet I couldn’t understand why she thought the music I’d chosen was sad. It was the only thing in my life at that time that didn’t feel the shallow simplicity of ‘sad’.

Perhaps my mother missed the lines where Joni tells us that ‘something’s lost and something’s gained from living every day’. Yes, I had lost a lot at a formative time in my life; Mitchell helped me understand that the loss, that sadness, was only a part of the picture and I would be selling myself short to dwell in it without grasping for the hope of change that comes with it.

This book (for all its unabashed swooning over Mitchell’s genius) recognises this complexity and excels at portraying it in an interesting, beautiful way. I remain utterly convinced that Joni Mitchell is not someone I’d like to meet; she’s stuck up, grumpy, and prone to an impressive grudge when her ego is dented (which is often). Yet I love her imperfections because from them we gained some of the most beautiful, rich music of the last century.

Despite his fear of Joni Mitchell and his tendency to gloss over the blatant racism in her past, Yaffe’s writing is beautiful and never dull. He brought life to even the dullest of her works and wrapped it up in enough euphemism that his portrayal of Joni Mitchell as the arrogant genius almost comes across as sweet. Whether or not you like Joni Mitchell (or her music), this book shows another side to a turbulent pile of musical decades through which this similarly turbulent artist ran like a thread.

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POCathon Recommendations

Dana in Colour, one of my favourite booktubers, is hosting a POC readathon from August 12th to August 19th. There are four challenges:

  1. Read each of the other challenges by 3 authors of different races/ethnicities
  2. A classic or work in translation by an author of colour
  3. Sci-fi or fantasy by an author of colour
  4. Poetry by an author of colour

A few years ago I realised how white my reading history was. The risk of a society like ours that is so entrenched in insiduous white supremecy is that facts like those can seem benign when they are in fact harmful. Having a homogenised reading history can be seen as ‘the norm’ and if you dig into why that is, you’ll understand a little more about how white supremecy works.

With that in mind (and before I even understood what I just said) I started actively seeking out writers of colour and queer writers etc. Taking away those imaginary borders around us/them in writing has opened me to some beautiful books and wonderful friends. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said in her TED talk, there is a danger in a single story.

All that is to say I am participating in this readathon! I hope you will too.

Continue reading “POCathon Recommendations”

#24in48 Readathon 2018

Welp, it’s that time of year again where we spend twenty-four hours out of the forty-eight of a weekend to read as much as we possibly can.

I don’t actually know how this is as fun as it is but I love it.

Tomorrow I’m heading to Toronto to meet with some bookish friends, so I will have to push hard to hit the goal. That said, I am read for it and excited about it.

If you’d like you can read my summary of last time. This time, see below for my physical books I hope to read over the weekend. Of course, since I have to leave the house I have a couple of audiobooks at the ready too; I’ll add those to my wrap-up when it comes!

Remember, you can follow my progress on Instagram too.

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  1. Malcolm X: The Autiobiography as told to Alex Haley
  2. Wrestling with the Devil by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o
  3. Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi
  4. Sea of Strangers by Erica Cameron
  5. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  6. Radical Acceptance by Andrea Miller
  7. President Bitch (Bitch #2)

Reciprocity in action: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

I have a new favourite book.

The idea of ‘favourites’ of any media is, as you are aware, complex. It depends on where you are, your emotions at the time of reading, and often who is asking your opinion. However, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer will be the title I pull out when someone asks me my favourite book from now on.

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[Goodreads]

Continue reading “Reciprocity in action: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer”

You can blame these childhood books

Hello! Welcome to #BookishBloggersUnite, a group of book nerd friends sharing our passions. This week we’re talking about books that influenced us as children.

When I started school I read every book in the school library before my first year was up. That should give you an idea of two things: first, that I treat my interests like a personal challenge and second, that books had a huge impact on my life from the start.

Continue reading “You can blame these childhood books”

The 10 most popular books on my TBR

Booktube is a great source of inspiration. One day I might start my own YouTube channel but as it stands I live in a basement apartment with roughly 18 minutes of natural light a day so it hasn’t yet been viable.

I mention this because I got the idea for this post from this video by abookolive. In it she looks at her Goodreads To Be Read (TBR) list and goes through to find the most popular books on there by amount of reviews. It was an interesting video and made me curious about my own since I have recently pruned my TBR for the first time in… well, ever.

Here goes.

1. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Number of ratings: 946,962

Average rating: 4.28

Honestly, I’m not completely sold on this book even though it’s on my TBR and everyone loves it. The setting is not for me but I have heard the characters are compelling so maybe it is time to whip out this beast of a book and go with it.

And no I haven’t seen the movie either.

Continue reading “The 10 most popular books on my TBR”

Recent favourite reads – May 2018

Turns out that I read a lot. That’s always been true but thanks to Book Riot Insiders I am turbo-charged. In April I hit my yearly goal of 52 books; as of writing I am at 56. I’m now aiming for 100 books in 2018 though I’m not too worried about hitting it.

Since I’ve read way too many books it makes sense to share some recent favourites. In no particular order here they are:

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo32620332.jpg by Taylor Jenkins Reid

You know when you pick up a book and it’s exactly what you need at that moment? That was this book. It’s a light read but full of intense, vivid characters and a satisfying conclusion. At heart it’s a deep look into the lives of two women a generation apart and how so much (and yet very little) has changed.

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

AUUGH. INCOHERENT RAMBLINGS IS ALL I CAN MANAGE FOR THIS GLORIOUS BOOK. Genetic engineering. A romance between a dolphin and a crab. Drugs. Good and evil. Gods and their morality. Robots. AI uprisings. WHAT. HOW IS THIS ALL IN ONE BOOK. HOW IS THAT BOOK STILL AWESOME.

White Tears by Hari Kunzu

It is difficult to tell you why I enjoyed this book because to do so gives away too much and will take away from your enjoyment. Let’s just say that this book isn’t what you expect it to be and that it is written in an absorbing, beautiful, stark style that hits you right where it hurts.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Here’s one of those buzz-worthy books of recent times. Turns out it’s worth the hype. Circe is a daughter of Helios, the sun god, but she doesn’t discover her own powers for a long time. By that point she is already shunned by her family and though she ends up in exile, she becomes a central part of many stories in Greek mythology. In this book we don’t follow those stories; Circe is at the centre for once. She is not an easy character to love but Madeline Miller has a way with building up obnoxious yet endearing people.

 

What books have you been enjoying lately?