Monday, July 21, 2014

How to Build a Girl Week 2: “They’re making new kinds of girls in America.” YEAH they are.


This week’s reading brought us additional disheartening information about life in the Morrigan house, but also FEMINISM.

Johanna told us about her parents’ issues, but now we’re beginning to see the bare facts for ourselves, without the benefit of a green Instagram filter (joke stolen from Rayna).

Mrs. Morrigan isn’t too deeply ensconced in her postpartum stupor to interject a remark or three on Johanna’s weight, comparing her, in her all-black wardrobe, to a big fat crow and quipping that she doesn’t need drugs because she has a whole plate of sausage rolls. In front of company she says these things. To a 14-year-old girl with body-image issues.

Got the whole negative self-talk thing covered, thanks.

And those of us who delighted in Johanna’s dad last week had a particularly hard go of it this week. He is, in fact, deserving of the benefits he receives. It doesn’t even seem like he’s gaming the system now that we can see how severe his injuries were. And the fall that broke his body changed his personality as well. It made him bitter over unachieved goals and mean on the days when the pain is the worst. And while I can pity him for the unexpected turn his life took, I mostly pity his kids, who have to navigate around the landmine plunked down in front of their TV.

But Dadda is there. And although his advice has been harsh, it’s gotten Johanna off her arse and into action at two critical moments in her life already. This last time, the message came loud and clear from a place of anger and frustration (probably because he was thinking of himself and his unobtained dreams…and worrying that she’d repeat his mistakes), but he’s right. If you want to be a writer, then stop talking and start writing. If you want to reinvent yourself, then get to it already.

Fake it till yow make it, kidder.

Now that Johanna is entering the boys’ club of music journalism, she’s becoming more aware of gender dynamics in the outside world. Despite growing up with Krissi (“He is on the bed knitting himself a bobble hat whilst listening to an Agatha Christie audiotape from the library. A big, pale boy hunched over a tiny pair of needles. Krissi becomes very angry when you tell him that knitting is for girls.”), she knows there are certain places where women don’t feel welcome (also some places where a bold chapeau isn’t appreciated, but that’s not till later). Her first visit to the record store confirms that notion.

No worries, though. Mouthy American lady-rockers to the rescue.
All my life, I’ve thought that if I couldn’t say anything boys found interesting, I might as well shut up. But now I realize there was that whole other, invisible half of the world—girls—that I could speak to instead. A whole other half equally silent and frustrated, just waiting to be given the smallest starting signal—the tiniest starter culture—and they would explode into words, and song, and action, and relieved, euphoric cries of “Me too! I feel this too!”
ME TOO. I FEEL THIS TOO.

And it may be due to this revelation—courtesy of Courtney Love and Bikini Kill and Riot Grrrl—that Johanna is able to hold her own during her first meeting with the men of Disc & Music Echo in their office that is “essentially built out of trousers, confidence, and testicles.”

Things are leaving off fairly well for Dolly Wilde this week. Let’s all enjoy it while it lasts.

This continues to be a readalong hosted by Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads!) and made possible by the lovely people at HarperCollins. Are you convinced you need this book? Of course you are. Preorder from Odyssey Books or your favorite indie bookseller.

30 comments:

  1. Emily@Asthe Crowe FliesJuly 21, 2014 at 6:10 AM

    You WIN this week with the Kraken gif. I haven't even seen everybody's post, but I know that you win.


    I LOSE because I dashed off my post in a hurry and didn't get to two different lines that I had underlined, but it's okay because you conclude with them: the lady rockers from America and the office built out of trousers, confidence and testicles.


    Please continue reading my mind and posting the stuff that I would have posted if I'd had time and if I were as smart as you are.

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  2. Emily, I have already told KAYLEIGH she's won for her Sweeney Todd gif. We need to have a conference.

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  3. Dude, I totally forgot about the thing with her dad and talking about my mom, who totally suffers from chronic pain and has for like 25 years and it's A Thing that the household kind of revolves around 'cause it sucks. And yeah, the person's gonna have spikes of temper, but then YOU'RE hit with a headache and like "Whoa I can't imagine being pleasant to people if this were my life" and it allllll gets put into perspective.


    Ahem. Anyway. Feminism and so forth.

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  4. As a knitter, I loved Krissi knitting. He's as dynamic as Dolly Wilde.

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  5. Yay! I'm so glad you took up the feminism angle here.


    Also, good points on the fact that Mom was just flat out mean in front of the relatives, I guess I kind of just glossed over that part.

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  6. Emily@Asthe Crowe FliesJuly 21, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    Hmmm...that means that Kayleigh's had a musical reference, which supports the text itself. But Megs' is clearly the funniest one this week, and I stand behind it.

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  7. I love Krissi with so much love. Johanna's a blind wench to not realise what's going on there, but there is SUCH a good bro-sis relationship happening aside from that miniscule (*cough*) oversight that I don't mind really.



    Also that D&ME description was one of my favourites. It just conjured up such an immediate picture of that office, and I'm not sure I'd have Dolly's swagger walking in and making herself known. WHAT a sausagefest.

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  8. I still think her dad is faking the extent of his injuries, because that's what everybody has said in the book. He WAS injured, but now he can clearly work on cars and do other side work - he's able to work, but instead is saying that he cannot and claims benefits for that. That's scamming the system. And he's reached new lows with me this week when he immediately saw Johanna's job as his ticket to his dream musician career (another classic move my dad would pull). Blerg.


    That being said, I do enjoy his blunt advice to her. Don't be a prat, stop talking about being a writer and just do it, etc. That does help her out a lot.


    Oh, and her mom's mean remarks... ouch. Johanna's really a GOOD kid, and her mom is kind of treating her like crap, which sucks. I like that she tried to get her to stay in school though. At least she tried.

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  9. I will not face Kayleigh in the GIF Thunderdome. GIFS ARE A PEACEFUL PASTIME.

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  10. Having someone else say the thing you were thinking but didn't have time to say is the sole purpose of readalonging. I'm sure you'll get me back next week.

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  11. I didn't know that about your mom!


    It's hard enough to be pleasant when you're tired and/or hungry. Chronic pain that no one understands and that people might secretly think you're exaggerating...I can't even imagine.

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  12. As a person who started knitting a scarf once a few years ago, I love Krissi knitting, too!

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  13. Mom's meanness is a lot more subtle than Dad's...but I think it might be even more damaging in that way.

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  14. WHAT IS HAPPENING THERE? Do we think Krissi is gay? I mean...that would be fine, but I thought he was just doing his knitting and musical theater thing like a boss.

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  15. I don't have much personal experience with this, but it seems to me that a lot of times people who live off benefits have SOME good days, enough to wash the car or go to the store, but not enough to hold down a regular job. Because if you can't show up to your full-time job for even a week out of every month, you're gonna get fired. That's...sort of the point of public welfare. When it's used properly of course.

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  16. Aw, thanks for the shout-out!

    And YAY we quoted the same thing about Krissie. He seems lovely and I kind of want him to get his own plot line soon.

    Johanna's parents are just the WORST. Her mom is a shitty person who makes fun of her weight in front of other people, and her dad is a shitty person who lets his daughter drop out of school on the slight chance her new job will bring him fame and glory.

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  17. I feel like chronic pain might be one of the worst disabilities to have, in terms of how society operates. Because people are (not always, but often) shitty about judging others, and an "invisible" disability makes it so much easier for someone to judge without really knowing.

    I want to go back a few chapters and smack Violet across the face with her shitty biscuit tin.

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  18. DUDE THAT'S TOTALLY ON MY COVER FLAP BLURB THINGY. On the list of 'shenanigans Johanna gets up to in this novel' is '... fail to realise my brother is gay!' By the end it's really more of an EPIC YET HILARIOUS FAIL on her part, but we'll leave it at that for now. :)

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  19. HAHAHAHA. It's on mine, too. I'm just as oblivious as Johanna. I LOVE YOU, KRISSI, JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.

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  20. I still...kind of like her parents. THEY ARE NOT GOOD PARENTS. But I appreciate that they're fully fleshed-out human people with failings and redeeming qualities and gray areas.

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  21. I love Krissie and his knitting and Agatha Christie audiobooks. What an awesome dude.


    I have seriously mixed feelings about Johanna's Dad. Her Mum is for sure an actual ass. Hell no to making a girl feel that small (or, big, I guess in this situation). But her Dad, I'm just not sure.

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  22. It does seem like Mum is much more wrapped up in her personal struggle than Dad is. He peeks his head out every now and then to express care and concern, but I can see that Johanna's mom loves her, too. Parent/child relationships are COMPLICATED.

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  23. Whenever I visit other read-along participant's posts, I always find things I wished I'd talked about. Good thing there's always next week :) I love your highlighting of Johanna's exciting realization that girls are her audience too. I think far too many teen girls get caught up in presenting themselves for boys and I can't help feeling that the world would be a better place if they/we cared more about the opinions of other girls instead.

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  24. RIOT GRRRRRRRRRRL! I feel like I underestimate the impact they must have had on a certain kind of teenage girl in the 90s. Too awesome for words.


    I have total feels about Dadda and his disabilities since I have a papa who has been on sick leave (not injury) for like 5 and a half years now, and it's such a similar thing, including the bad stuff. The landmine plunked in front of the tv? I know that too too well.


    But anyway! Enough of my issues. MORE READING NOW.

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  25. SO MUCH YES TO THIS. And the whole acting up to it at city hall isn't so much his faking it as having to make sure they KNOW you're not well, because they're going to do everything they can to try not to pay you.

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  26. Caitlin is making us think about our LIVES, and that is probably good for us and will also deepen our friendships. *hugs you*

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  27. If we all said everything we wanted to say, our posts would be 9 yards long. It's better that we share the burden among us.

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  28. Especially since most of the time the people judging if you're still unwell enough for support AREN'T DOCTORS and usually, even if they are well meaning, don't understand that a back injury can be fine for 32 weeks and then shift back to inescapable pain for 4 weeks, then fine for 2 hours, pain for 2 days etc.

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  29. Agree that the Mom's brand of meanness will mess a kid up longer than the Dad's blustery, loud meanness.

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  30. We're all winners, here. *holds hands* *sings Kumbaya* *gets punched in the face*

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