Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Memoir Mini-Reviews: You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) and Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome

Hello, Reader Friends!  We've reached the time of the year when I realize that holy moly it's almost over.  I've got a month and a half or so left of actual review time before I start my December Best of Extravaganza.  This means I have approximately sixty billion backlogged reviews to get through before then.  Time to break out my planner, buckle down, and start serving up some regular doses of mini-reviews.

From Goodreads:
The Internet isn’t all cat videos. There’s also Felicia Day—violinist, filmmaker, Internet entrepreneur, compulsive gamer, hoagie specialist, and former lonely homeschooled girl who overcame her isolated childhood to become the ruler of a new world…or at least semi-influential in the world of Internet Geeks and Goodreads book clubs...
Felicia’s short-ish life and her rags-to-riches rise to Internet fame launched her career as one of the most influential creators in new media. Now, Felicia’s strange world is filled with thoughts on creativity, video games, and a dash of mild feminist activism—just like her memoir.
Hilarious and inspirational, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) is proof that everyone should embrace what makes them different and be brave enough to share it with the world, because anything is possible now—even for a digital misfit. 
Prior to reading this, I was familiar with Felicia Day as a geek hero and presence in general internet and nerd culture, but hadn't seen her show (The Guild) or followed her career.  I do love me some good internet talk though, especially internet-relating-to-women-and-feminism talk, so I knew I'd need to read this one.  She's as funny and quirky as I hoped she would be (in a very down-to-earth, someone you might really know way, not a manic pixie dream girl way) and I was able to identify with a lot of what she wrote about her life (yay homeschool!).

She's honest about her struggles with anxiety and social pressure, which I appreciate, but she maintains a strength and individuality that doesn't descend into self-pity.  I found her to be completely inspiring and likable, and enjoyed her writing enough that I binged The Guild over the weekend (also recommended).  This is a must read for any woman who enjoys geekdom and the internet and pop culture in general and for men who want to better understand issues women face online and in the world...and for anyone who just wants to read a laugh out loud celebrity memoir.

From Goodreads:
Reba Riley's twenty-ninth birthday was not a good time to undertake a spiritual quest, but when chronic illness prompted her to focus on one thing she could fix - her whopping case of Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome - she undertook a challenge: Visit thirty religions before her thirtieth birthday. This was transformation by spiritual shock therapy. Reba would find peace and healing ... if the search didn't kill her first. 

During her spiritual sojourn without leaving home, Reba: Danced the disco in a Buddhist temple; Went to church in virtual reality, a movie theater, a drive-in bar, and a basement; Was interrogated about her sex life by Amish grandmothers; Got audited by Scientologists, mobbed by NPR junkies, and killed (almost); Fasted for thirty days without food - or wine, dammit!; Washed her lady parts in a mosque bathroom; Learned to meditate with an Urban Monk, sucked mud in a sweat lodge with a Suburban Shaman, and snuck into Yom Kippur with a fake grandpa; Discovered she didn't have to choose religion to choose God ... or good. For everyone who has ever needed healing of body or soul, this poignant, funny memoir reminds us all that transformation is possible, brokenness can be beautiful, and sometimes we have to get lost to get found.
Having grown up in a fairly conservative evangelical family with missionary parents, it's kind of remarkable that I made it to adulthood before I had my first real church-related traumas.  Churches are full of people and unfortunately people aren't perfect.  If you've spent your entire life in a church and never been hurt by church people, I'd be shocked.  People mess up and hurt other people, but it's especially hard to deal with in a setting where the expectations are based around Christ...so perfection.

I never lost my faith the way the author of this book did, but I did lose my faith in the church body and in a lot of the rules that governed my world and went along with my faith.  Having only returned to church (and a very different kind of church from my Baptist roots) in the last two years, I knew I wanted to read this the moment I read the title.  

Riley knows she needs help and wants to heal from her church traumas, but doesn't know where to start, so she takes on a year long project of sampling thirty religious traditions.  Her ending does involve healing and a return to faith, although in a very different form from that in which she was raised.  I could identify with so much of this book and enjoyed it on a spiritual level and on an entertainment level.  Not only did I learn from it, I also laughed frequently.  Riley is hilarious and her take on religion and faith is irreverant at times, but ultimately respectful as well.  I highly recommend it to anyone struggling with issues of faith or hurt stemming from organized religion.

A major thank you to my local public library for providing me with these titles - if either appeal I suggest you check your own library for availability!  Nothing better than free books, my friends!

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