Travel Read: Luvvie Ajayi’s “I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual”

My ideal travel read is

  1. something that can be read in small, bite-sized chunks (for those dead minutes when you’re waiting for someone, or eating alone, or killing time while waiting to board and you’ve already spent all your money so can’t/shouldn’t hit duty-free)
  2. something funny (foreign airports are lonely, lovely, melancholy, and travel is stressful enough without adding a high-minded, high-concept, deeply textured book into the mix)
  3. something good (there is nothing worse than being stuck on a non-moving airplane in a tarmac queue and realizing that the book you chose is bad. Just – bad. Whether it’s flat characters, or ridiculous plot, or cheesy dialogue – no. The inflight magazines can only last you so long, even if you meticulously comb through every review and every synopsis of every movie and every album ever)

Enter: Luvvie Ajayi’s I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual. I like collections of essays for travel (for all the above reasons), and I was looking to download something feminist-y, sharp, snappy. I browsed Amazon, and I hadn’t heard of Ajayi before, but the reviews were excellent, so one-click later, I was ready to fly.

This book is a collection of essays on contemporary behaviour and the ways we should be doing better. It made me giggle a possibly inappropriate amount on the flight – I loved the Nigerian inflections, the Internet savvy vernacular, the unapologetic, compassionate faith.

The thing with books like these is – I think you have to be in agreement ideologically already with at least 60% of what the author thinks, so that you’re willing to have that last 40% challenged. I liked this collection because it was full of what I consider to be good sense, articulated in a way that is fresh and new to me, with some revelatory ways of thinking that I was able to accept because I trusted the writer.So your mileage may vary (it shouldn’t, but it may. Hrhr).

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Some highlights

(On diverse names) “Feeling like you have to go by an alias so the world doesn’t butcher your beautiful real name sucks…We tell them their culture is a nuisance to our Western tongues and we force people to either abandon their real monikers or be faced with people who are annoyed at having to make an effort. It’s disrespectful.”

(On the need for intersectional feminism) “Too often feminists are fighting for women to live in a way that mirrors their own lives. As in, if you’re in middle America in middle management, you want other women to have your life. You’re not Muslim? You fight for women to not have to cover their heads as they worship. The assumption that women in hijabs are less enlightened or empowered than those rocking daisy dukes is arrogant at best. Feminism should fight for all women to have the right to live as they choose, not for all women to live the same exact lives like we’re all in some sort of Sims game.”

(On toddlers) “Toddlers are couthless. LORD. They are so couth-deficient.”

(On fame and work) “People want to be known as the smartest, the funniest, the richest, and the most interesting. So what are we doing? Instead of actually working to become all of these things, folks would rather take the shortcut of stealing from those who might already be these superlatives.”

(On confidence) “Confidence will take you far, because thinking you’re an awesome person allows you to dream bigger, want more, and expect great things from yourself.”

(On spectating online drama) “If only I used my powers of investigation and deductive reasoning for good, instead of in petty situations that have nothing to do with me.”

(On faith) “However, being a person of faith has not stopped me from being critical of religion. I am in it and I am of it, but I side-eye it from time to time. Why? Because religion has been one of the most powerful and often detrimental institutions in our world, and its abuse has been responsible for much of the hurt we experience. This is why I must judge us, for using religion as a tool of mass control, discrimination, oppression, and hate-mongering for so long.”

(On not being ride-or-die) “We are too grown for me to be constantly tied to your bad behaviour.”

(On being thankful for what you have) “I know for a fact that I would be awful if I was built like Serena Williams or Jennifer Lopez. I mean seriously. Allow me to lovingly objectify those two ladies when I say “GOOD GAHTDAMB!” Those women are so beautiful; their bodies are the brick-house cherries on the sundae of life. Whew. If I had a body remotely close to what they have, I would be a terror. My ass would cause me to do really inappropriate and rude things. I’d be so ridiculous that people would be able to pick my labia out of a lineup. I’d wear zero clothes any-and everywhere, every day. I’d show up to church rocking a denim thong and a cropped T-shirt and have the nerve to sit right next to the head usher and dare her to say anything to me. And if anyone did say something to me, I’d tell them, “Jesus blessed me in many ways, and I am just showing off his works. HALLELUJAH.”

People would be disgusted and appalled and I wouldn’t care. All insults would just bounce off my ample backside. To whom much is given, much is required, and I’d require that my much would be given nary an inch of fabric.” (She goes on like this for a hilarious while.)

(On non-sequiturs) “What did my weight have to do with the price of beans in Uganda?”

(Just awesome language) “Touché. Tou all the chés.” and “Real Gs gotta move in silence like gnomes.”

Like gnomes.

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