Play Chess, Not Checkers: Advice From a Boss Bitch

It seems like the word “entrepreneur” can be found everywhere.  Entrepreneur is a  buzz word that’s usually prefaced by a hashtag or splashed onto an IG post in a trendy font.  The fascination is understandable – there is a certain glamour associated with the term.  Who doesn’t want to be known for taking a risk and coming out on top?  How many of us fantasize about owning our own business, managing our own schedules, and nourishing our own ideas?  At the end of the day, we all want autonomy.  For myself, that autonomy is found through blogging.  I freely admit that I have my own entrepreneurial ambitions and I am continually seeking guidance from fellow boss babes and bitches.

Since I am new to the whole idea of owning and growing a business, I was excited to discover a how-to guidebook, Boss Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan to Take Charge of Your Career, written by fellow millennial Nicole Lapin.  Lapin’s bio is impressive: a NYT bestselling author, news anchor, consultant, and nationally syndicated personality.  And did I mention that she is only one month older than me (33 years old)?  Yikes.

Boss BitchThe book is a mixture of practical advice and motivational pep talks.  Whether self-employed or an employee, Lapin encourages women to shun traditionally rewarded role of passivity.  The main message of the book (which is encapsulated in the bright yellow dust jacket): shine bright,  aim high, and create an empowering professional life. 

Boss Bitch is a really great primer for women who are just starting off on their own or looking to create a side hustle.  I wouldn’t recommend it to those who are seasoned professionals, or those turned off by the repeated use of the word “bitch”. It’s in the book.  A lot. 

One of my favorite quotes pertains to leadership:

 

A leader plays chess and not checkers.  Even though I’m terrible at chess, I know that not all pieces are the same; each one has it owns special moves and role as part of the strategy of the whole game.  But in checkers, all the pieces are the same and interchangeable.  A manager might look at her employees that way, as proverbial cogs in the work machine.  No one likes to feel like that.  Leaders, on the other hand, understand that each player and eace move is unique, and play the game accordingly.

Great advice for all boss bitches, current and aspiring. 

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

Fiction or Foreshadowing: Tell Me How This Ends Well

Common bookworm struggles include discovering new reads and having a large enough budget to accommodate said book discoveries.  When I stumbled upon Penguin Random House’s program, Blogging for Books, I was thrilled.  Free books in exchange for book reviews (which I happen to love writing)….a definite no brainer! 

9780451496881Within the literary fiction genre, David Samuel Levinson’s Tell Me How This End Well grabbed my interest as a work of Jewish American literature. The colorful dust jacket and cartoonish font belies the narrative found inside Levinson’s story, which is packed with complex characters and literary themes.  Some themes which grabbed my attention include:

From Bondage to Freedom

Passover, the Jewish holiday which recalls the Israelites escape from Egyptian bondage, serves as the symbolic backdrop for the novel’s main plot development.  The Jacobson family has endured the emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse of its patriarch, Julian Jacobson.  Julian has all of the traits of a psychopath and the family has suffered long enough under Julian’s watch.  As the family reluctantly gathers for the family Seder, a plan unfolds with the intention of killing Julian. 

The plot is revealed through the narration of each of the Jacobson children, Jacob, Edith, and Mo, followed by their mother, Roz.  The individual attention given to each family member’s perspective is one of my favorite parts of the novel.  Readers are able to see Julian through the eyes of each person, and just like in real life, each Jacobson has internalized Julian’s actions differently. The plot to kill Julian is messy and often takes unexpected turns.  The family initially is not working together, which leaves the reader to ponder, “Which family member will lead the Jacobson family out of their own personal Egypt?”

Second Generation Relationships

An added dimension to Levinson’s novel is the tense relationships that exist between second (and even third) generation Jews and Germans, post-Holocaust.  Readers are first introduced to Jacob Jacobson, a queer screenplay writer living in Germany with his lover, Dietrich.  Levinson spends a lot of time describing the tensions between Dietrich and Jacob, which culminate in a bizarre beach scene where Jacob and Diet are arrested by the police for public indecency.  “What wasn’t right was so wrong, so utterly, horribly, disgustingly wrong, that it was nearly indescribable, nearly but not quite, for there was Jacob in the schmatte with the yellow Star of David embroidered into the pocket and there was Dietrich in the SS uniform, shiny black leather boots and all.”

It would take a lot of psychoanalysis and white space to break down the complexity of this scene.  My interpretation is that Jacob and Diet’s relationship ties into larger themes of power struggles, personal empowerment, and what it means to be a Jew in the 21st century.

Isolationism vs Interventionism

In the futuristic landscape of 2022, American Jews are the subject of regular anti-Semitic attacks.  Israel has been disbanded and Israeli refugees find themselves unwelcome guests.  Even though this may be a work of fiction, Levinson’s portrayal of an isolationist United States is not too far off from our current political climate.  The questions which Levinson’s novel pokes at, and which every Jewish person has found themselves asking include, “What happens when things go south again?  What safe haven will exist for Jews?”  In fact, the title of the book, Tell Me How This Ends Well, can be an invitation to discuss not only the personal ending to Julian Jacobson’s reign of terror, but the larger ending (or beginning?) of the Jewish plight. 

As the novel comes to a close, readers discover that Jacob is welcomed in Berlin.  Germany has become an unexpected ally to the Jews.  The U.S. Jacobson family members continue to struggle with anti-Semitism.  Jacob tries to convince them to join him in Germany, “…which made it a capital offense to harm in any way or kill a person of Jewish descent”.  Fast forward to 2024 and the last page of the novel, where Roz Jacobson has passed away and Germany has ratified the law, removing Jews from “The Approved List of Protected Species”.  In an uncertain and unsafe landscape without their matriarch, the Jacobson children continue onwards.

Tell Me How This Ends Well is a challenging and thought provoking novel.  The characters are memorable.  There are so many competing themes in the narrative and I felt the pull of all of theme, which served as a distraction.  With that being said, this would be a great book selection for a JCC book club or Jewish American literature class, as there are many angles to discuss.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

All Things Muppets

Anyone who knows me knows that I love all things Muppets, especially Kermit the Frog.  Of course when I saw Brian Jay Jones’ Jim Henson: The Biography, I had to take the leap (a little frog humor) and start reading.  Admittedly, biographies are not my favorite genre.  I have a few reasons why.  I find some biographies to be too detailed.  Sometimes a wikipedia page is all I really need to know about a person.  Despite how fascinating a person’s life may have been, some authors make their lives stale on the pages.  Finally, I am very emotional and I become invested in the person.  Jim Henson’s life definitely made me emotional.

I breezed through this 500 page book and throughout my reading, I experienced the whole spectrum of emotion.  I loved learning about Jim Henson and seeing him depicted not just as Muppet creator, but flawed human being.  Reading this book was a lot like reading the bios of some of my favorite Muppet characters.  I giggled, pondered, and finally cried at how tragic and preventable Jim Henson’s death was.  As Jones wrote on multiple occasions, Jim was Kermit, and Kermit was Jim.  They both were leaders of a wacky group, and they both were calm in the chaos.  Jim and Kermit are idealists.  Jim was a creator (not puppeteer!) who had visions light years ahead of other people.  I really, really recommend reading the book!

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

” ‘Something that [Jim] had been observing a lot in life is that we all live within our world, but there are other worlds going on at the same time,’ said Jane Henson.  ‘We really don’t know how the ants feel…but we know our world and we kind of think that that’s it…So he felt that he would like to do a show [Fraggle Rock] where there were three worlds and the struggle was to know how to keep each world strong, but also cooperate within the worlds…He liked that, using different worlds.’ ”

” ‘In broad strokes,’ explained Jim, ‘the message I try to bring across is the positives of life and positive attitude toward the goodness of mankind.’ ”

“As part of my prayers, I thank whoever is helping me – I’m sure somebody or something is – I express gratitude for all my blessings and I try to forgive the people that I’m feeling negative toward.  I try hard not to judge anyone, and I try to bless everyone who is part of my life, particularly anyone with whom I am having any problems.”

“Jerry Juhl warmly recalled how ‘Jim taught us many things: to save the planet, be kind to each other, praise God, and be silly.  That’s how I’ll remember him – as a man who was balanced effortlessly and gracefully between the sacred and the silly.’ ”

And finally:

“Jim Henson’s physical body was gone, and yet that powerful presence – that undefinable something that compelled men to seek his appreciation and approval, and that women somehow found irresistable-would always remain.  Anyone who had ever smiled as Ernie tried to play a rhyming game with Bert, or laughed as Kermit had chased Fozzie off the stage, arms flailing, had felt it.  Anyone who had ever wished they could explore a Fraggle hole, save the world with a crystal shard, or dance with a charismatic goblin king had been touched by it.”

J and K

 

 

Yay for YA!

Stephen King tells his budding authors in On Writing to read everything.  Although I have always had a well-balanced reading selection, I have really taken that advice to heart.  I do try to read a bit of everything.  I read non-fiction books which include memoirs, biographies, history and social/cultural exploits.  I read almost all genres of fiction except for erotica and sci-fi.  I am not opposed to reading these genres, but typically just don’t find books that tickle my fancy within them.  I also don’t plan on writing a steamy sex thriller or creating another world filled with fantastic creatures.  I do try to keep an open mind and read.  Some of my most favorite books come from the young adult shelves.

Young adult books were not as substantial when I was a teenager as they are now.  I feel like I went from Goosebumps and Judy Blume in elementary school to assigned school reading in middle and high school.  Arguably, the category was non-existant.  That did not stop me from reading though.  I really enjoyed my school reading which included books such as Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Great Gatsby, To Kill A Mockingbird, and The Scarlet Letter.  I still have my Dover Thrift editions in my garage, marked up with my “insights”.  I also did a lot of independent reading too.  I read NYT bestsellers,  and whatever was lurking in my mom’s extensive collection.  Yet, I cannot recall reading a book which I related to as a young adult.

My first true experience was Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone.  I had all four of my wisdom teeth removed, my cheeks were puffed up like  a chimpmunk’s, and I had no intentions of leaving the house anytime soon.  I picked up this book in preparation for the “long winter”.  I devoured every page.  Maybe it was the percocet, but it was the most fun I had experienced with a book.  I was hooked.  Calling the Harry Potter series young adult is even a bit of a stretch, but as the series progresses a case can be made for it.  This was my transformative experience with young adult literature.

Since then, my friend introduced me to John Green, who writes with such authenticity that I feel like I am fifteen again when I pick up his books.  I recently found another book, Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo.  The teaser begins with: ” From the moment she sets eyes on Chris, she’s a goner.  Lost.  Sunk.  Head over heels infatuated with him.  It’s problematic, since Chris, 21, is a sophisticated university student, while Amelia, 15, is 15.”  Without question, I grabbed it.  I was 15 when I met Mark, and although he wasn’t at university, he was six years my senior.  Only when you are in that type of relationship can you understand the complications that come along with age difference. (Even though if I were 22 and he were 28 no one would care.)

I love seeing the relationship unfold, but what really blew my mind was this:

Amelia is speaking with Chris about her family life:

“My mum has this really busy, really full-on job that she does Monday to Friday, plus she’s got Jess to look after, plus my dad, plus all the housework and…she’s really unhappy.  The air in my home…is heavy with my mum’s unhappiness.  And her exhaustion.  And her sheer dissatisfaction with her life.  And I hate it.  I can be up in my room when she’s in the kitchen below and I feel her despair seeping up through the floorboards and into my room and throughout the whole house.  You can hear her banging pots and pans, or cursing the vacuum cleaner…”

After this revelation, Amelia tells Chris that feminism is to blame for her mother’s current plight.  She explains:

” ‘…And thanks to second-wave feminism, my mum spends all day getting shoulder-charged by a bunch of delinquent teenagers, picks up Jess from preschool, goes to the supermarket, comes home, cleans up the day’s mess, gets the dinner on, gets Jess in the bath, folds the laundry, gets Jess out of the bath, serves the dinner, clears up after dinner, puts Jess to bed and collapses, waking up to do it all again the next day.’

I pause for breath.  Chris looks thoughtful.

‘Well.  I guess you have a point,’ he says.  ‘It can seem like women like your mum got sold down the river by feminism, or at least caught in its wake.  But really, don’t you think they are getting screwed by patriarchy, not feminism?’ “

Wow. Reading this blew. my. mind.  I am so happy that this narrative is cropping up in young adult fiction.  I love the back and forth between the characters.  Young people do have these conversations!  Not all 15 year old girls are on a quest for “stuff” and some 21 year olds actually have conversations about society, inequality and that nasty f word.  And maybe some teenager out there is reading this just for the love theme and wonders what feminism is, or what the hell second wave feminism was.  Reading this made me so happy, and a bit jealous too.  I wish this had existed when I was 15.

So, yay for young adult!  I think this is a recognition that teenagers do have complicated family structures, deep curiosities, and gosh darn it, they wonder about sex too!