Woman With A Thousand Hats

By Denise Kawaii
A memoir

One of my new year’s reading resolutions was to read more non-fiction: so when I won this book in a giveaway, I knew it was the perfect place to start. I had been following author Denise Kawaii for some time on Instagram, constantly impressed by the sheer amount and variety of her projects: her newly released memoir promised to dive into how she managed to juggle it all and let me tell you, it’s insanely captivating!

Summary51ef2w0cb3l

This is the story of a farm girl, an insurance agent, a chronic insomniac, a therapy patient, a serial dieter, an entrepreneur, an office manager, a housewife, a financial adviser, an overtaxed mom, and a published author. Spoiler: they’re all the same person.

You’ll want to laugh and cry as you read, but you won’t want to put this memoir down. Woman With a Thousand Hats is a candid glimpse behind the scenes of a do-it-all woman’s everyday life. Not only does Kawaii get honest about the emotional turmoil behind her personal drive to work, but she also tackles bigger social issues like body shaming, chronic illness, family dysfunction and social pressure to be “normal”. 

The perfect read for anyone who has ever felt like they weren’t good enough.

Musings

The memoir is set up in an interesting way, with each chapter following a thread of the author’s life as she explores a new path, or hat in this case. From 911 dispatcher to custom paintball business owner, it seems like her life is a jumble of mismatched lives somehow all jammed into one person. This is probably what makes the book such a compelling read: you simply cannot put it down, one hat flowing into another somehow naturally when it seems absurd in retrospect.

What struck me most was how relatable the author is: for the first time in a long time, maybe even ever, I’ve had insight into a mind like mine. I too juggle mismatched jobs, my life seeming like chaos from the outside but completely natural from my perspective. Reading about how the author describes her energy, her lack of sleep, all was like seeing a reflection of myself. yet another reason I couldn’t put this book down.

Not to mention that the author’s style makes it feel like you’re catching up with an old friend, who’s filling you in on decades of your life, and you just have to keep buying coffees so you can keep chatting. Her voice is honest, true, so even in the most absurd of moments you know she’s being completely transparent with you. Sometimes maybe too much (there are some details I was surprised to see shared with such candor!).

Overall, the memoir feels like a love letter to life itself. The author’s reflection on her life so far obviously therapeutic for her, and it’s almost intimate being on this journey with her. She is living proof that the universe offers possibilities every day, and you just need to be brave enough to take them. Even if sometimes the universe can be cruel: my heart broke for her and her family multiple times, and I was in awe that she would share these personal moments with us.

This memoir is an eye-opener to anyone who believes that life is lived along a straight line. The author offers such insight into exploring the opportunities life throws at you, and shares the wisdom she has gained so far, sometimes with hilarious results.

I finished the book feeling like I knew this author so much better, and with a new resolve to finish my projects. Highly recommended for anyone who is unsure of what path to take in life, and who need reassurance that wearing many hats doesn’t make you weird, it makes you a fashionista.

On a personal note… there was a fantastic section on learning how to say ‘no’ to projects; a discussion with a therapist on what constitutes ‘resting’, and a lot of discussion about energy and burnout. I found this particularly relevant and will be trying to take that advice… if I can handle it!

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But I’m not Depressed!

 

A Memoir of Disintegration
By Lia Rees

It’s not often that I read memoirs, so I didn’t know what to expect with this one. To my surprise, I was blown away by how profound it was: it was a personal and intimate look into the loss of self, which still resonates long after I put the book down. I think you should read it: let me show you why.

Summary33279579

This is what happened when something devastating crashed into an unusual mind.

When I suffered a brain injury at the age of 19, I was not told what I had. The world became a dreamlike haze. I was cut off from my own thoughts and memories.

Instead of receiving medical treatment, I was sent into psychotherapy. So began a ten-year battle to recover my lost self. This memoir is a window into the surreal internal landscape of a brain injury survivor striving to find reality once more.

Positive thinking and pills couldn’t fix me, but a bizarre and cutting-edge field of medicine just might.

Musings

What happens when you suffer a brain injury and begin to feel your mind crumble away – but no one believes you? What sounds like a nightmare is actually the daily life of Lia Rees, the author of this book. Faced with her fantastic mind suddenly turning against her, she struggles to find help in a world where doctors still carry a bias.

The writing style is so gorgeous that it’s hard to believe the author is struggling so much, another example of how her high functioning stops doctors from taking her seriously.She describes mental states in a way that is so incredibly relatable and visual. It was painful to read how her knowledge about her own body and mind were refuted by well meaning specialists. As a reader, you just want the doctor to listen: if any of them took the time to thoroughly listen, we think, they might just be able to help.

But in the meantime, life as a brain injury survivor is an uphill battle, one where the energy you need to make it through the day is not enough to fight. It reminded me of a TED talk I watched recently, where Jennifer Brea describes the obstacles she’s faces in seeking treatment for her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She too had to use her reduced functions to find out what was wrong by herself, when the medical world would not.

This memoir is powerful. While the writing can get a little verbose at times, it was still witty and incredibly poignant. From brain injury to doctor to doctor to failed treatment after failed treatment, her road to recovery is filled with huddles she’s still fighting today.

A memoir that took strength to write and really shows. If you or someone you know has suffered a brain injury and found their daily functions impaired, you might want to grab this book. It is truly an eye opener and a fantastic read.

The Story of My Tits

by Jennifer Hayden

Reviewed by SA

Fans of this blog may notice that this book is a little out of the ordinary. Not only does it deal with a serious issue, it also doesn’t come out for a while, not until the end of September. But I wanted to talk about it now, to push people towards it.

I wanted to read something new: a graphic novel, sure, but also a true story about something incredibly serious. Breast cancer is something that will affect 1 in every 8 women (in the US); and for women in the U.S., breast cancer death rates are higher than those for any other cancer, besides lung cancer. I wanted to read a first hand experience about dealing with this disease, and The Story of My Tits may be one of the most interesting and honest graphic novel I ever picked up.

Summary

Jennifer Hayden has had her ups and downs with her breasts: they weren’t always there for her, in many ways. Growing up flat chested and only blossoming while in college, she has a definite connection with her tits. But the usual family drama unfortunately is undermined by a cruel visitor: cancer. Three women, all diagnosed with cancer, fighting to survive. Not to mention the divorces, the mistresses, relationship issues with boyfriends, husbands and parents.  Jennifer’s relationship with her tits slowly grows, matures, and changes completely, as she realizes just how much of a story they have to tell.

This book is very different from the ones we review on this blog. For starters, it is a memoir. It’s also a graphic novel, and a book about breast cancer. But it’s so unique, it is definitely worth the read, and a bit of contemplation. It’s a book that made me think, and really talked to me on a personal level, woman to woman. It made me grateful for the body I have, and aware that it may not always be there for me. It’s life affirming, empowering.

The story itself seemed a little long at times, as a whole lifetime is captured. Some events seemed somewhat irrelevant to the story as a whole, but it is a life that is being conveyed, so each part must matter to the author. It is how Hayden has chosen to tell her story, so I listened. And so should you.

What struck me was how honest and unashamed she was. The story really got to me because the author didn’t seem to hold back. Every thought, every fear was shared: fears for her family, her mother, her mother in law, herself. She speaks of what helped her through the worst, be it the support around her, or finding her own ‘goddess’ to bring her through the bad. It was like listening to a personal friend tell you everything about her experience with cancer. It really was eye opening.

The artwork really added to the essence of the novel: the author drew her experience for us to comprehend it better, which really helps create that author-reader connection. She’s a surrealist grappling with reality, with the sharp reality of cancer: as of such, her artwork reflects that, sometimes veering into the fantastic. This is how the author interprets her situation, and she takes you on a real journey with her.

In the end, it made me thankful for the tits I have. The odds of me or someone I know developing breast cancer as not in my favor, and this book reminds to me treasure my body, and my friends, and be thankful for the present. I feel like it’s required reading for people with tits: you never know how good you have it until this huge part of you is gone.

It’s sweet, sarcastic, skeptical, and honest. Well worth the read. The Story of My Tits comes out on September 29th.