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Happy International Women's Day!

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

Celebrate International Women’s Day by joining us in our John Dutton theatre for a discussion of how women are creating strong and vibrant communities.

This year, in solidarity with feminists throughout the world (men included!), I give to you a list of some of my recent favourites: writing about women and women’s sexuality.

Self Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again, by Norah Vincent. An interesting examination of the pressures confronting men, from a lesbian point of view. Crass, funny, and insightful, even though the project of chronicling a year as a man was based on deception.

My Secret Garden: Women’s Sexual Fantasies, by Nancy Friday. This book had enormous impact when it was first published, and it’s still popular today. Read it for titillation, of course, but also to realize that you’re perfectly normal and that your fantasies are, too.

The Sexual Life of Catherine M, by Catherine Millet. I included this book here not because of the graphic sexual descriptions it contains, but because it’s a reflection of one woman’s choices. It’s not just sex but choice that’s important to feminism. The choice to marry or not, have children or not, have multiple (and concurrent!) sexual partners or not, and so on. Millet lives life on her own terms.

Our Bodies, Ourselves, by Boston Women's Health Book Collective. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this classic. It's been informing women about their bodies for over 4 decades!

Your local library has all sorts of resources about women’s sexuality: relationships, sexual health, gay/lesbian/trans/queer issues, sexual education and pregnancy, and lots more! Learn to create more safety, intimacy and pleasure in your sexual routines. Learn about who’s doing what to whom, and how.

The Calgary Public Library has resources for everything you’re into!

Going Solo, by Eric Klinenberg

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

I like living alone. I can do whatever I want, without feeling judged; I can exercise my supreme authority to do everything later; the choice of music is always mine, and there’s never someone else using the bathroom when I’m in the mood for a soak. Yes, I want to watch the same DVDs over and over again, and I don’t want to have to justify it! In this vast universe, there are 613 square feet over which I’m the dictator. And it’s fabulous.

So of course when I was browsing our new books, Going Solo appealed to me. Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg is an investigation into why so many adults are choosing to live alone, in cities all over the world. This phenomenon represents a huge shift from just decades ago, when most adults lived with at least one other person. Are singletons isolated weirdoes to be pitied? Klinenberg argues that they may actually be happier and even more engaged in community life than their married counterparts.

I’m only on page 44, but it’s really interesting so far. Perhaps I’ll read some more of it when I get home from work tonight. Or, I’ll opt instead to change into my PJs and dance to 90s pop music, or cook a nice risotto at midnight, or go through everything in my closet and try to create new outfits, until I get bored of that and start listening to podcasts. Or painting my nails. It’s my place and I live alone – we’ll see what this dictator is in the mood for...

Stay or Leave? by Beverly Stone

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

Self-help books abound on the shelves of your local library. Some will tell you that it’s not your fault; others will encourage you to confront the bully in your life; and nearly every single one of them will implore you to brainstorm, make a plan and stick to it.

This isn’t one of those books.

Rather, Stay or Leave: Six Steps to Resolving Your Relationship Indecision by Beverley Stone is a self-help book for those who need a kick in the proverbial pants – and we all do, sometimes.

A psychologist with over 25 years of experience, Stone is adamant about helping you wake up and realize that your life is slipping away, (even as you read this blog post!) and that you must make difficult choices. She doesn’t stroke your ego and tell you that you’re smart and strong and beautiful enough to make them. None of that mushy stuff, here. Instead, she says: Choosing is hard. And so is stress. But not choosing is hard and stressful, too, so which would you rather? What I found particularly motivating is the idea of regret. It’s the things we don’t do that cause the deepest regrets. She’s also got tremendous insights about catastrophizing. Are you worried that announcing your intentions to get a divorce would “kill” your parents or children, or that you’d “die” if you were to leave your current (woefully inadequate) living situation, or routine? Shake off those visions of doom and realize that you’re not the centre of the world; your parents, friends, children and others will survive the change – and maybe even benefit because of it. No, you’re not the centre of the world, but you are a world unto yourself – and nobody else can open the doors that were meant for you and you alone. It’s time to make the commitment and act, before you realize that yours has been a life well wasted.

So what will it be? Are you going to quit your job and follow your dream of becoming a playwright? Or finally admit that your lover/husband/wife is a drag, and cut him or her loose? We’ve got books that come in handy at any of life’s difficult junctures. Check out your local library branch today!

A Zoltan by Any Other Name

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A colleague of mine is pregnant and was recently flipping through a baby name book. There were classic names like Victoria and Katherine; Biblical names like Joshua and Daniel; no nick-name names like Claire and Emily, and tons of other categories. From Aida to Zoltan, nearly every conceivable name was listed.

I happen to believe that names are hugely important in determining an individual’s success. Can you really argue that a Misty will be taken as seriously as an Elizabeth? Who’s likely to be the CEO: a Robert or a Timmy? Names suggest age, capability, and even social status.

For an interesting exploration of “white names” versus “black names”, check out the chapter about names in Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.

If you don’t want your son to go through school being one of the four Liams in his class, then check out this link for information about Alberta’s most popular baby names.

Finally, browse section 929.44 in your local library branch. We've got lots of baby name books! If you’re not expecting yet, then use them to choose a name for a character in your next novel, or maybe even the cat or dog you just adopted. Think beyond Fifi and Rex!

A Hero Lies in You (not a Mariah Carey post!)

by Katherine - 1 Comment(s)

I’m reading a great new book these days – well, actually, it’s a tremendously popular 1998 title, The Hero Within, by Carol S. Pearson. When my train arrives at the Central Library these mornings, I feel like a therapist has just told me: “We’ll have to continue this another time...” and I want to plead: “Please – just 5 more minutes!”

The Hero Within is an exploration of archetypes and their role in our psychological development and health. We all live out patterns of thinking and doing that reveal our psychological similarities. We cope with problems, challenges or obstacles, and we do so by telling ourselves stories about ourselves and the world. Stories like “I just can’t win. It’s so unfair!” or “...no one really understands me, anyway” or “...no one appreciates the work that I do, and the sacrifices that I constantly make”. Or stories like “I have to take this journey, even though I’m not sure where I’m going”. At any given moment, we may be operating within the narrative of the orphan, innocent, magician, wanderer, warrior or altruist.

Heroes aren’t perfect people. They often come from dysfunctional or impoverished backgrounds, and are flawed individuals. But we admire them because they don’t give up. Heroes aren’t great because they’re fearless. They’re great because they act in spite of their fear. Heroes learn to recognize what is important and what is not; they learn to cope with loss, and to summon the strength to fight for what is just. Heroes don’t care about what others think.

Even though it sounds corny, it’s true: each of us is on her own journey. Read The Hero Within and be encouraged to show courage, adopt a new life pattern (and lose the old ones!), make a difficult choice, and grow.

For general psychology and self help, browse section 158 of your local library.

Are you there Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea, By Chelsea Handler

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

On a friend’s recommendation, I’ve started reading this hilarious collection of episodes from the life of comedienne Chelsea Handler. Honestly, I hadn’t heard of her until I had to fly from Las Vegas to Calgary and found there was absolutely nothing to do except watch the E! Network. After that brief introduction, I decided I would check out some of her writing.

I have to say that Ms. Handler will never be able to take Tina Fey’s place in my heart (in my funny bone?). She’s just isn’t quite as razor sharp. But even so, this collection had me chuckling. Handler is quirky, self-effacing, and more than just a little bit rude, and no one is immune from her comic lens – including her family, friends, and ex-boyfriends.

What I most admire in Handler is her frank discussion of sex. She is very forthright about her sex life, and I like the fact that she doesn’t feel she has to apologize for being sexual – whether that’s with one partner or more. Handler is a woman who’s not afraid to eat bad food, drink too much, sleep with several partners, and throw a punch, if need be.

Check out Chelsea Handler’s writing today!

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