Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

RWS2I remember reading this book sometime in high school and it being one of my favorites, and I recently reread it after discovering that a movie had been made based on the memoir. Running With Scissors – both the book by Augusten Burroughs and the movie starring Joseph Cross, Alec Baldwin, Gweneth Paltrow, Evan Rachel Wood and more – is a story worth paying attention to. The book highlights true events from Augusten ‘s childhood, where he was basically given away to his shrink, Dr. Finch, by his mentally unstable mother.

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The ridiculousness of the Finch family is what draws you in: from the Masterbatorium (it’s exactly what you think it is), to eating dog food as a casual snack, to the breastloons (balloons, one on each boob). These characters are incredibly fascinating and over the top. The house is always an absolute mess, there are no rules, and almost every relationship is inappropriate in some way. He writes so open and raw and I hang onto every word in every story. I love his level of extra and dramatics, the need for everything to be over the top and extravagant. I flew through the book even faster than I did the first time.

RWS 4Just watching the trailer for the movie had me already laughing. It seemed, at first glance, to ring very true to the book. When the Dr. was seen running down the hall to knock on everyone’s doors to wake them up, I knew immediately that was in regard to the toilet bowl readings. The RWS 5book is truly one of my favorites, so I was overly eager to see this eccentric cast come to life. The movie stays super true to the book throughout the entire movie, down to a lot of the dialogue between characters. It even shows Augusten dressing the dog up with tin foil – though young Augusten wasn’t the greatest child actor in the world.

RWS 6There was a scene in the book where the mom describes her openness in life by describing a friendship she had with a black girl growing up. In telling this story, she uses the N word to portray the way the world was at the time. I was wondering if this scene would be portrayed in the movie, and since it’s rated R, it sure was included. However, most of the sex scenes were taken out. Augusten describes his first sexual experience with 30+ year old Neil Bookman, and the visuals of walking in on his mother with the minister’s wife. These were largely skipped over on screen.

RWS 7Neil Bookman’s character was kinda exaggerated, I don’t recall him being quite unhinged in the way they created him in the movie. Though he was just as unstable as the rest of them, they really made him wig out on screen – including a dramatic scene where he brings a knife to Finch’s throat, who is lying in bed. That’s all Hollywood I guess. Aside from that, most of the movie was very accurate to the story and highly entertaining as well. 

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The book can be found wherever books are sold, and I highly recommend both the book and the movie. I was unable to find somewhere to watch the movie for free online, though it can be rented from Amazon Prime Video or YouTube for about $5, which is also what it cost me to just go ahead and buy the DVD.

Thanks for reading!

Diva Rules By Michelle Visage

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I bought this book during Drag Con, where I actually got to meet Michelle! She even signed the book for me, which honestly made it a little more exciting to read. Diva Rules is partly about her life, but also largely a self help book for the misfits and freaks who consider themselves fabulous enough to be a diva. Definitely read this if you are ready to start feeling your oats.

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It’s inspiring to hear the story of a girl from New Jersey with big hair and big dreams, who actually managed to make it big. I especially enjoyed the praise through the words of RuPaul, her best Judy. I always think it’s endearing to hear someone speak fondly of someone they love and admire, and Ru clearly adores Michelle. From both of their perspectives, they had a clear connection from the moment they locked eyes, hunty. From there the chemistry just sparked, igniting a lifelong friendship and legacy. 

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One of my childhood friends was adopted, and it’s made a lasting impact on me. I have plans to get involved in either fostering or adopting in my future, and I’m also partial to those who have some experience on the subject. Michelle was adopted, as was her brother David, by two parents whom she praises immensely. She absolutely adores her parents and appreciates the life they gave her; Michelle’s only disappointment was that she was unable to inherit her mom’s big tits. 

I’m incredibly, overly jealous of the time that Michelle got to spend in New York during the up and comings of VOGUE (!!!), and the legendary children and houses featured in 03acd17c0c4d1e0ab48aaf731026608aParis Is Burning (available on Netflix). I mean, she knew Angie Extravaganza (!!!!!!!!) and was winning trophies for voguing before Madonna even know what it was. I mean, that is ICONIC. If she had written about having a kiki with Venus Extravaganza… omg, the fan girl in me might have actually gone crazy. It was during this time that Michelle got her namesake, Visage. She was entering in categories in the balls with her house, and one of the categories was “face”. Her first nickname was “Cara” – roll the “R” – the Spanish word for “face.” But when bedazzled onto her jackets and hats, people were mistaking it for the name Cara. So instead she went with the French word for “face” – visage. Bam! *Said like Alexis Mateo*

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Michelle is inspiring because she works hard, empowers others, believes in herself, and never gives up. She is loving, kind, full of wisdom and also not afraid to clock you for the wrong hemline. Her end goal is always to make those who shine, shine their brightest, including herself. Follow her Diva rules to do just that.

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I really enjoyed this book, and it’s a quick read for anyone who aspires to live up to their full diva potential (available wherever books are sold, or at her booth at DragCons). I also recommend watching Michelle as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, of course. She is also a current contestant on the British version of Dancing With The Stars (Called Strictly Come Dancing) and was on the British Celebrity Big Brother as well. You may also recognize Michelle from her many many years on the radio, or for her role in the girl groups Seduction and S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M. The bitch works hard, okurr!

Tens across the board! Thanks for reading.

Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing and Hope by Karamo Brown

IMG-6654Being a die-hard fan of both Dancing With The Stars and Queer Eye, I was so excited to hear that Karamo Brown would be a contestant on this upcoming season. You may know him as “Crazy Karamo” from MTV’s The Real World, “culture expert” in the Fab Five of Netflix’s Queer Eye, and now Jenna Johnson’s partner on DWTS. Because I’m somebody who takes a deep dive into everything that I love, I ordered Karamo’s book, and I actually read the entire thing in one sitting. 

karamoWithin the first 10 pages, I could feel Karamo’s charisma, positivity, and enlightenment radiating through the words. The way he writes is so light and refreshing, and his life has proven to be wildly interesting. He is concise, clear, and incredibly wise and reflective. It was empowering to read such amazing things from a member of the LGBTQ community and from someone whom I value and admire so much. 

Screen-Shot-2019-04-02-at-9.47.26-AMI’m inspired by Karamo’s ability to openly admit and own up to his mistakes. I’m wildly impressed by him, and I hope to be able to work on taking accountability for my own actions as a result. Karamo admittedly has a number of things to apologize for, but he does just that with eloquence and grace. I also loved Karamo’s thoughts on the term “letting people in” rather than “coming out” in the LGBTQ+ community. His ideas were something I related to IMMENSELY and appreciated completely:IMG-6655

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I basically cried while reading about his relationship with his fiancé, Ian. Not just because of how adorably in love they are, but also the dynamics and interactions between him and Karamo’s sons. Karamo proposed on Ian’s birthday, just after his son’s Jason and Chris announced that their gift was that they want to call him “Pops”. Family was a clear, present, and fascinating topic for Karamo throughout the book, and Ian completed this part of him. Their relationship is truly beautiful. 

queer-eye-public-domainThere was a lot of push back at first for Karamo on Queer Eye, because he wanted to be the “culture expert” that’s really more of a life coach. The previous culture expert from the original show focused more on arts, museums, plays, etc. in terms of “culture”, but Karamo had a clear goal and intention for what he wanted this role to be. It breaks my heart to hear the negative feedback he first got, as a result of the network not being unified on the vision for his expertise on the show. As a viewer and fan of the series, I feel as though I understood Karamo from the beginning. Even in the very first episode, from which he claims his interactions were largely cut, I could see that Karamo’s impact was present and important. I see you, Karamo! Work, girl!

dwts-karamo-brownI absolutely loved Karamo’s book. It was quick, full of wisdom, and provided me with a new insight into who he is. You can binge watch Queer Eye on Netflix over and over again anytime – and I highly recommend you do so. Of course I also HIGHLY highly recommend Karamo’s book, which can be found wherever books are sold. Also – please vote for him on Dancing With The Stars this season! (Mondays at 8:00 PM on ABC.)

Thanks for reading!

Out Of Orange by Cleary Wolters

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If you watched the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, then you are familiar with Alex Vause. If you’ve read Piper Kerman’s book with the same title, then you are familiar with Nora Jansen. The real woman is named Cleary Wolters. After finishing the final season of the series, as well as the real Piper’s book, I decided to round out my obsession by reading Out Of Orange – the memoir of the “real woman behind the glasses.”

Hearing about when she first saw the Netflix commercial – damn. I felt my own heart sink along with her reaction of first hearing the now iconic clicking of the gate. Cleary had no idea that this production was happening. She was still on parole for her crime, unable to legally communicate with Piper, and didn’t know how this would affect her status.

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She then goes back to the beginning of her story and her crimes to show us the full sequence of events. The Netflix show completely leaves out Cleary’s sister, who is an integral part of the story. She is dating the boss, or “God”, as some called him – the one running the drug smuggling operations. That’s how Cleary/Nora/Alex got involved in the first place. The book focuses more on the crime and the details of the drug ring than anything else. The story is long and elaborate, and while I did find a lot of it interesting, I found that it could definitely have been more concise. Regardless, I’m glad that Cleary got a chance to tell her side of the story and set her own narrative.

In the 7th and final season of OITNB, one of the COs shoves a condom full of heroin down Alex’s throat to hide it. Funnily enough, that’s how many of Cleary’s co-workers transported drugs. She details her first trip, where her colleague puts the heroin into the pinky of a rubber glove, ties it and cuts it off, dips it into some yogurt, and swallows it whole. He does this over and over again until he’s consumed it all, each capsule containing enough heroin to kill him immediately if accidentally released inside him before he has a chance to go through digestion. Cleary, however, has the heroin she is moving sewn into a man’s suit. They later adapt to a method where it is sewn directly into the lining of the suitcases. (This was the 90’s, so prior to drug sniffing dogs.)

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Piper is a not as big of a character in most the book as one may think, starting out just as the role of “cat godmother and babysitter” for a while in a platonic way. It did, of course, evolve into something more, but she is still a secondary, maybe even tertiary, character in the drug operations. I think it proves how someone small in your life can have such a big influence. Piper can blame Cleary for getting her mixed into the business that led to her year in prison, but it brought her wild success. And in return, Piper also put Cleary on the map; I would not have read her book or even known her name had it not been for Piper Kerman and Netflix.

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Overall, I’m not sure that Cleary Wolters is one of my favorite authors. The further I got into the book, the more I disliked the way Cleary writes. It’s scattered and sometimes repetitive in a strange way. For example, she’ll describe swallowing a vicodin down with a scoop of her miso soup, followed by the fact that she ordered sushi and miso soup. I almost wondered if she wrote a draft, and then an editor told her to go back and add more detail, and she just did that in random areas. Not to mention, I feel as though the cover and title did not accurately reflect the contents of the book. It’s not until page 234 that she finally sees prison time, and the book is somewhere around 300 or so pages. The story is almost the prologue to Pipers, and I just think that could have been portrayed more. Not to judge a book by its cover or anything. And like I said before, I very much enjoyed hearing her side of the story.

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Honestly, maybe if I was more of a cat person, I would have enjoyed this book a little bit more.

Thanks for reading.

Orange Is The New Black by Piper Kerman

orange ishte newYou probably know the Netflix show Orange is the New Black, and you may or may not know that the plot is based on a true story. I wanted the details, which is what led me to Piper Kerman’s memoir, detailing her year in a women’s prison. 

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The first season is the truest to the book, of course with its differences as well, but the nature of how, when, and why Piper went to prison are all true. The beginning of the book tells the story of her crime, when she was in her twenties, and is almost identical to the scene in the show. The blonde wig disguise, the skipping of customs, and the love affair was all true. Even certain lines were the same, such as Piper’s grandmother asking what she did with all the money – to which Piper replied, “Well Grandma, I wasn’t really in it for the money…”

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Much of her arrival to prison paralleled her real experience as well, such as getting the gift of a toothbrush from other white women and having her bed made for her so that they’d pass inspection. A lot of characters also parallel the show. The driver with a New York accent and bright red lipstick is certainly comparable to Lorna Morello, there’s a track star just like Janae, and Spanish mami’s that reminded me of Gloria and Maria. All names were changed for the show of course, and not all crimes in the show match up with those who committed them in real life.

alex cThe biggest difference between the book and the TV show, is that the real Alex Vause was not in the same prison as Piper. In the book, Piper calls the Alex character by the name of Nora Janson, but the real woman is named Cleary Wolters. The two of them did not end up together, and Piper is actually still happily married to Larry. Piper and Alex did cross paths when they ran into each other while being held in Chicago, where they were both called to testify against another man involved in their crime ring. There was a lot of tension during that time, and no romantic interactions. There was, however, a woman there who relentlessly tried to obtain Piper’s birth time and place for her chart.

piper and larryChicago also played a major factor of what was different in the book versus the TV show, as Piper’s release date actually came in real life while she was being held in Chicago for the trial. She was released from there, and had to fly home with Larry to New York. The final season of OTINB will show Piper’s release from prison, and I hope that they throw Piper Chapman the going-away party that Piper Kerman was robbed of.

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If you are an avid fan of the show, the book is a great read. There’s many quick tidbits or opinions that became major story lines in the show, which is really fascinating to see how they used the book as a resource. It’s like they have their regular story line, and they frequently go back to the book whenever they needed inspiration.

Here are some more similarities and differences that I found interesting or noteworthy:

  • Piper’s grandmother really did get sick and pass away while Piper was in prison. Piper did apply for furlough, but it was, of course, never granted.
  • There really was a girl nicknamed Pennsatucky, and she really did get new teeth! However, she had no extreme religious story line, and she and Piper were actually good friends throughout their stay.
  • Danbury becomes Litchfield. Yoga Janet becomes Yoga Jones. And Pop – who runs the kitchen, has a very long sentence, and often gets special treatment – becomes Red.
  • Martha Stewart was sentenced to prison during this time, who would be comparable to the Judy character in the show. However, she did not serve time in the same camp as Piper. Though Danbury was the location requested by Martha so that she could be close to her grandmother, the camp was conveniently and temporarily closed at that time to ensure that Martha would not be taking one of the beds there, which could lead them to media scrutiny.
  • Larry really did write a segment for a newspaper’s ‘modern love’ column. However, it had little to do with Piper’s time in prison. It was actually pretty short and very sweet, and about how much he loved Piper. Piper and Larry’s relationship is still a success to this day, and they reside together in Brooklyn.

piper kPiper was also very reflective as she got to the end of the book, and was able to understand the bigger picture of her crimes. When she was a young girl moving this suitcase of money, she was not thinking of how drugs affect the rest of the country. She reflected on women who were put in terrible situations, and were involved in drug crimes simply because they had no other options. Piper also acknowledged her privilege and how she was given opportunities after leaving prison that other women would not be so lucky to have. She talked about how the U.S. correctional system does not do much “correcting”, and does not set up prisoners to have successful lives when they are released. Piper has gotten involved in prison reform and women’s rights since her release, and I hope that her efforts can better the lives of future women who are incarcerated.

If you are interested in Piper’s cause, you can visit www.piperkerman.com/justice-reform or facebook.com/orangeisthenewblack.

The seventh and final season of Orange Is The New Black will be released on Netflix on Friday, June 26th, 2019.

Thanks for reading!

A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

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I hadn’t read A Wrinkle In Time since I was a kid, so when Disney made the movie, I wanted to make sure I reread the book before seeing the film. I couldn’t recall most of the story from memory, and the only thing I could remember was the actual concept of a “wrinkle” in time. I can vividly remember my aunt explaining this idea to me when I was young, using a string to show the visual that was drawn out in the book.

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I am somewhat amazed by the vocabulary, especially in the beginning, given that the target age group is 10-14. The story starts off slow and is very vague and confusing, but maybe a younger audience is more okay with unanswered questions and unexplained details. This could also be a result the year we live in, where we lack patience and are used to instant answers. Since the book was published in the 60’s, where fiction often followed the natural literary story arc, it takes a long time to build up the plot.

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There’s a lot of room to create the visuals using your imagination as a result of this vagueness. I’m happy for this reason that I reread the book prior to seeing the film, so that I could compare my thoughts to the images in the movie. I could actually distinctly remember from when I was younger, reading when they went to the two dimensional planet. It was almost something I could conceptualize, but a lot of the talk of a “fifth dimension” was hard to visualize in my head.

The traveling to different planets was some of my favorite parts of the book. Camazotz is one of these planets, where everyone behaves perfectly and accordingly – or else. These different worlds, places and dimensions opened up my mind and imagination when I was younger, and was fun to revisit as an adult. Certain parts of the book got a bit wrinkle1goofy, which reminded me that this was written for the 10-14 age group. Even the names of Mrs. Who, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Whatsit are goofy in and of themselves. Also, if they are in fact misses, where are the misters?

Prior to seeing the movie, I knew the cast included Reese Witherspoon and Oprah, so as I was reading I just assumed they were a part of the ‘Who, Which, Whasit’ crew. a-wrinkle-in-time-gets-four-brand-new-postersI was correct about my casting predictions – Reese played Mrs. Whatsit, to my pleasant surprise Mindy Kaling played Mrs. Who, and Oprah of course played the wise and knowledgeable Mrs. Which. The movie actually starts out with a scene that includes the dad (oh why hellooooo Chris Pine!), but in the book the dad has already gone and been missing when we start the story. Another small difference was that Charles Wallace was adopted in the movie, but that was not a plot line in the book. However, that could have been just a way to explain the casting choices. 

There are some more minor differences from the book to the movie, but nothing too major. They sort of combine “the black thing” into just Camaztoz and IT, throwing all the evil into one world and one thing rather than several dark planets and forces that are listed and visited in the book. The Happy Medium is also female in the original story,  but in the movie not only is this character male, but it also turns out he might be ‘Mr. Whatsit’, or at least an interest of the Mrs. (She doesn’t like labels.) urielI was honestly happy to see a version of the story where Meg was not so hard on her father, rather than in the book where she is continuously disappointed by his choices once he’s found. It was a minor change, but one that I appreciated. The adventure in the book ends abruptly, but we get a little more of a wrap up and conclusion in the films. The visuals were amazing and beautiful, of course, creating a sense of wonder in true Disney fashion.

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I will say that given the time period, it’s awesome to see a notable piece of literature that has a female protagonist, and has stood the test of time. Meg is not just there to look pretty and obey – she is unique and defiant and sure of herself in a way that is relatable. I think she is a wonderful character and role model for young kids, and hopefully the movie as a whole allows kids from different backgrounds to see themselves in one of the children in the movie.

MV5BMjMxNjQ5MTI3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjQ2MTAyNDM@._V1_Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time is currently available on Netflix, and can also be watched in a variety of other places as well. The book by Madeleine L’Engle is available wherever books are sold, as well as many others by the author, as this adventure goes on. This is a great story for both kids and adults, and is sure to reawaken anyone’s sense of wonder and imagination.

Thanks for reading!

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

judy blume2I read last November in Entertainment Weekly that Judy Blume has finally sold the film rights to her famous book, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret. Since I’m in full swing of my reading kick, I got ahead of the game prior to hearing anything about the film being in motion. To be honest, I can’t remember if I read this book when I was younger or not. I definitely read other Judy Blume books growing up, as she’s wildly popular for the age group. Disregarding the title, my knowledge of Judy Blume had me believing that this would be a story of a young girl starting to grow into a teenager. While that is definitely still a theme of the novel, religion is also the major discussion.

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Margaret doesn’t have a religion, as it has created outstanding problems for her family. Her father was Jewish and her mother was Christian, and both of their families had strong opinions on the matter. As a result, Margaret is told that she could decide for herself when she got older. And yet, she finds herself talking to God in the way that a young girl might write in her diary. As a part of an independent school project, she starts to explore different faiths by attending different places of worship with friends. We watch Margaret try to navigate this difficult subject on her own, while also being pulled in a variety of directions from her family.

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Naturally, Margaret and her friends also navigate growing up items for girls such as their first periods, stuffing their bras, and kissing boys at their class supper parties. Most of what Margaret is trying to learn here leads her back to her discussions with God. She prays for her breasts to grow; she prays to not be the last of her friends to menstruate. She communicates with God regularly, but says she cannot find him in religion. She only feels him when she is alone.

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The relationships between Margaret and her family prove to be the most interesting. She is close with her Grandma, who treats her a lot like an adult. There’s also a lot of tension created as a result of religion. This is heightened when Margaret’s other grandparents come to visit, ruining her spring break with her Grandma. These grandparents have not spoken with Margaret or her parents for over 14 years, as a result of a disagreement on religion. Naturally, during their visit, a fight breaks out on the subject.

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It’s honestly satisfying to see a child be right and adults be wrong about something so serious and profound as religion. In Margaret’s self discovery for faith, she is exploring options and seeing where she feels God. She is reaching out in times of need, questioning things happening around her, and wishing to be the best version of herself. To me, that’s exactly what faith should be about. And yet, the adults focus on arbitrary traditions and rules in a way that affects everyone’s relationship to each other. The grandparents push Christianity, the Grandma pushes Judaism, and Margaret’s parents end up pushing NO religion as a result – proving that no one actually wants to let Margaret figure it out on her own.

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I found this topic wildly fascinating, specifically through the innocent eyes of a young girl. You can find Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret anywhere fine books are sold. The cover has been updated many times over the years, and the most recent includes the modern looking text format. Just as an aside, you can also find Are You There Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea, wherever books are sold as well, if you are a Chelsea Handler fan.

Thanks for reading!