Tag Archives: non-fiction

Review of Cotton & Indigo from Japan, by Teresa Duryea Wong

I received a copy of Cotton & Indigo from Japan, by Teresa Duryea Wong for review.

Description from Goodreads:
More than 300 colorful photos and behind-the-scenes details reveal the fascinating story of Japan’s cotton and indigo, and their enormous contribution to fiber arts worldwide. Learn how Japan and its top fabric designers, quilters, scientists, and artists combinetradition and high tech to weave the thread, fabrics, and stunningdesigns that are so coveted in today’s fiber art world. Take a tour of Japan’s elite textile printing mills to understand why Japan is considered the world’s finest producer of quilting cotton. Learn where all this cotton comes from, and its close connection to another prized plant, indigo. Dozens of beautiful fabric designs and quilts by Shizuko Kuroha, Keiko Goke, Yoshiko Jinzenji, Yoko Saito, and others are featured, as well as cotton and indigo folk textiles through the ages. This journey gives a deeper understanding of the connection between contemporary textile art and Japan’s cotton, indigo, and traditions.

I initially wrote a review that said, “Very cool book with gorgeous pictures and a lot of interesting history. This is worth picking up if the subject interests you. I appreciate it as both an informative book and simply as a pretty coffee table book.” But last night I got the chance to go through the book with my aunt, who is a big quilter and worked many years in a fabric shop, largely for the love of it. Hearing her ooh-and ahh, lovingly touch some of the photos, and tell me, “This is a great book, really thorough about the terminology and regionality.” confirmed what I already knew. This is a book worth having. It has two Forsythe seals of approval.

Review of Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual, by Jocko Willink

I won a copy of Jocko Willink‘s Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual through Goodreads.


Jocko Willink’s methods for success were born in the SEAL Teams, where he spent most of his adult life, enlisting after high school and rising through the ranks to become the commander of the most highly decorated special operations unit of the war in Iraq. In Discipline Equals Freedom, the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Extreme Ownership describes how he lives that mantra: the mental and physical disciplines he imposes on himself in order to achieve freedom in all aspects of life. Many books offer advice on how to overcome obstacles and reach your goals—but that advice often misses the most critical ingredient: discipline. Without discipline, there will be no real progress. Discipline Equals Freedom covers it all, including strategies and tactics for conquering weakness, procrastination, and fear, and specific physical training presented in workouts for beginner, intermediate, and advanced athletes, and even the best sleep habits and food intake recommended to optimize performance.

Within these pages discover the keys to becoming stronger, smarter, faster, and healthier. There is only one way to achieve true freedom: The Way of Discipline. Read this book and find The Way.


It’s not that I think Willink doesn’t have any good points in this book, it’s just that I really, REALLY can’t relate to how he presents any of them. I’ll go out on a limb and say that this is a book written for men. And I don’t just mean because of its yanged out, gung-ho tone (there are women who go for this sort of thing), but because it talks about the benefit of exercise and such as building muscle mass and increasing testosterone, among other things (not generally things women aim for). I’ll go farther and say it’s written for Willink’s fellow soldiers. There’s a section on guns and another on choosing a martial art. Neither of which seem relevant to a standard get fit self-help book, but are right up the alley of aggressive male types.

The thing that I found so very alienating about this book though was the framing of everything as a battle. After 20 years as a navy seal, I can understand how Willink came to be this way, but I just find the very idea pointlessly exhausting, wrong, and unnecessary. Many of his points could as easily have been said in less adversarial terms and be just as true. But that’s not the sort of book this is. It’s designed for war-minded men who like the idea of crushing their enemy, even if that enemy is self-doubt, or laziness, or lack of motivation. I’m just really not one of those people.

Further evidence (to me) that the book is intended for those who might qualify as meatheads is the way it’s formatted with white text on a black background, with indents and right justifications, and lots and lots of empty space per page. The whole thing reads more like mini-motivational speeches than anything else. As if it’s intended to sit on the coffee table and be opened to a random page for the quick inspirational pick-me-up. I read the whole thing in less than an hour, despite being almost 200 pages long.

All in all, I can’t say if this is good or bad, only that it really isn’t for me. I found the whole thing ridiculous, even if Willink’s point that anything you want to do you just have to do is a good one. Too bad he didn’t actually write a book about how to actually accomplish that.

Review of Erotic Exchanges: The World of Elite Prostitution in Eighteenth-Century Paris, by Nina Kushner

I received an Audible code for a copy of Erotic Exchanges, by Nina Kushner through Audio Book Boom.

Description from Goodreads:
In Erotic Exchanges, Nina Kushner reveals the complex world of elite prostitution in eighteenth-century Paris—the demimonde—by focusing on the professional mistresses who dominated it. These dames entretenues exchanged sex, company, and sometimes even love for being “kept.” Most of these women entered the profession unwillingly, either because they were desperate and could find no other means of support or because they were sold by family members to brothels or to particular men. A small but significant percentage of kept women, however, came from a theater subculture that actively supported elite prostitution. Kushner shows that in its business conventions, its moral codes, and even its sexual practices the demimonde was an integral part of contemporary Parisian culture.

Kushner’s primary sources include thousands of folio pages of dossiers and other documents generated by the Paris police as they tracked the lives and careers of professional mistresses, reporting in meticulous, often lascivious, detail what these women and their clients did.  Rather than reduce the history of sex work to the history of its regulation, Kushner interprets these materials in a way that unlocks these women’s own experiences. Kushner analyzes prostitution as a form of work, examines the contracts that governed relationships among patrons, mistresses, and madams, and explores the roles played by money, gifts, and—on occasion—love in making and breaking the bonds between women and men. This vivid and engaging book explores elite prostitution not only as a form of labor and as a kind of business, but also as a chapter in the history of emotions, marriage, and the family.

I think Kushner did a good job of taking what seems like an exciting subject and making it really academic, but also of taking information from a really dry source and making it readable. See, the vast majority of the data for this book about elite prostitutes in eighteenth-century Paris came from police records. So, as you can imagine, the source is informative about some things, but silent on others and there isn’t a lot Kushner could be expected to do about that. I’m very glad I got the audio-version, I could listen to this a lot more easily than read it.

If you had asked me if a modern American could judge people, decisions and actions of people from eighteenth-century France, I would have said, “Of course not, it’s a whole other culture.” But one of the things Kushner did really well here was create for the reader (listener) a true understanding of just HOW different life in eighteenth-century France was. The understanding of family units was different. The ideas and ideals of love were different. The place and importance of sex was different. Gender expectations were different. Age of majority and adulthood were different. The social hierarchies were different, and on and on and on. There is no way to center and understand the demi monde or dames entretenues (kept women) using modern standards. I learned a lot about the world these women lived in and, in a way, I found this the most interesting part of the book.

I did feel like some important aspects were left out. What of children? Several times having children was mentioned. But how can we understand the life of women, especially women who have sex for a living with questionable preventative measures, without touching on children? What happened when they were pregnant? Who raised the children? Who claimed them?

Similarly, I felt it an oversight that Kushner didn’t address, even briefly, that as the vast majority of her data came from police reports, most of the information was therefore first interpreted and filtered by men. She addresses them being police, but not the gender aspect. If history has told us anything, it’s that men often misinterpret or misrepresent the motivations of women. At one point in this very book Kushner mentions that a police report calls one woman lazy because she hasn’t gotten another job and has instead returned to prostitution, while the circumstances were almost certainly that she couldn’t find another job and therefore did what she needed to do to survive. And even those reports written by madams themselves, were written to be given to a male audience they needed to keep pleased with them. How did this male gatekeeping effect what is and isn’t known today? Perhaps we couldn’t ever really know, but I would have liked a discussion.

All in all, I thought it was a thorough academic handling of an interesting subject and Sally Martin did a fine job narrating it, even with all the French, as far as I could tell.