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Through Thick and Thin, by Gok Wan

by Katherine - 1 Comment(s)

A number of years ago, when I lived at home and had access to television (oh, the things you take for granted!) I used to watch a British show called How to Look Good Naked. A self conscious woman (typically one who was disheveled and encased in horrendous, baggy clothing) would be put through a series of challenges, all designed to convince her that her body was beautiful, attractive and sexy – and that so was she! The show would culminate with the woman strutting down a catwalk in only her underwear – a testament to her newfound confidence and acceptance of her body. I loved it!

The host of the show was a stylist named Gok, who would help the woman select strategic wardrobe pieces – items that tucked, concealed, supported or disguised whichever body parts induced insecurity. Gok loved the clothes, but you knew that he loved the women more. In fact, he played the token “gay best friend” that every woman needs – supportive, hilarious, and committed to the idea that beauty comes in every size.

I’ve just finished reading Gok’s autobiography, Through Thick and Thin, and I really enjoyed it. Frankly, it’s a beach read. There’s nothing in here that’s profound or intellectually rigorous. Rather, it’s a nice light read for people who watched and loved the show, or for people who might be interested in how to break into the styling business.

Gok’s road to stardom wasn’t an easy one. He was obese and then anorexic; he worked several dissatisfying jobs before finding the one he loved, and he both made and lost friends along the way. Indeed, life wasn’t simple for a self-described “fat, gay Chinese kid”, yet Gok’s determination and the love of his family saw him though challenging times. This biography has an ultimately heartwarming tone.

Check it out if you need a nice, light read. Or if you’re interested in a career in fashion and styling. Or if you’re a fat, gay, Chinese kid. And especially if you’re struggling with body issues, and you just want to feel better.

Jealousy, by Catherine Millet

by Katherine - 1 Comment(s)

Even though I work at a library, I don’t always take the time for a leisurely browse. Last Friday afternoon, I did just that. I browsed our collection on love and relationships, and stumbled onto a great new read: Jealousy: the Other Life of Catherine M, by Catherine Millet.

Catherine M is perfectly content living a life of sexual liberation. She’s a Parisian writer and art critic who has both male and female partners, and enjoys several concurrent relationships. But, one day she finds that her primary partner, Jacques, maintains his own relationships with other women. The book is a chronicle of Millet’s reactions and feelings, as she unflinchingly recounts the jealousy she felt, but failed to predict.

It’s honest, raw, and remarkably insightful. It’s well written and articulate. But be warned: Jealousy might make you blush, while reading it on the C-Train. Millet spares no detail! Check it out today!

Fish, by T J Parsell

by Katherine - 1 Comment(s)

Since visiting the Calgary Remand Centre some time ago, as part of a Calgary Public Library outreach initiative, I can’t help but think seriously about people who for whatever reason, end up incarcerated. This is especially the case now that our conservative government has voiced intentions to build more prisons, and write tougher laws. How many of the Canadians who say “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” have ever set foot inside of a prison?

I just finished reading Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man’s Prison, by T J Parsell. Truthfully, it was the literary equivalent of the proverbial car crash, from which you just can’t look away. Although I was aghast at what Parsell was forced to endure, I couldn’t tear my eyes from the book. It’s the story of young Tim, who goes to prison at only 17, and is repeatedly sexually assaulted by other inmates. Not only that, but the inmates flip a coin to determine who will “own” him. Tim finally makes a friend who seems to care about his well being, but then is transferred to another prison, never to see him again. More than merely a horrific tale of violence and abuse, this memoir is a reflection about youth, identity, manhood, and power.

What’s most unsettling, however, is the fact that Tim represents just one of thousands of cases in America, and in Canada, too. In Parsell's words:

Most people who want to be tough on crime don’t care what happens to inmates. But they should care, because 95 percent of all prisoners are eventually released back into society, indelibly marked by the violence they have seen or experienced.

I recommend this memoir for those who work in criminal and social justice, social work, psychology, and gender studies.

Check out the author’s blog, here.

Naked

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

Is there anything more beautiful than a naked man? Perhaps only a naked woman.

Desmond Morris is an Oxford educated writer and filmmaker who has just published a new book, The Naked Man.

Prior to his latest effort, Morris wrote both The Naked Ape and The Naked Woman.

The Naked Man and The Naked Woman are close examinations of the human body – part by part, literally from head to toe. Along the way, readers discover fascinating information pertaining to both biology and culture. In fact, Morris transitions from an anatomical lens to a cultural one so easily, that these titles read as love songs to the human body, rather than text books. If you’ve got an interest in anatomy, art, body modification, gender or biology, check out these interesting, readable books.

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