Book Review: Inferior

Book Review: Inferior by Angela Saini

Disclaimer:  I received this Uncorrected Page Proof as a Goodreads giveaway for the purpose of writing this review.  No other compensation was requested or offered.  Some material may be changed in the final product, due out 5/23/17.


Today there was a news story about a member of the European Parliament arguing against equal pay for women on the grounds that “they are weaker, they are smaller, they are less intelligent.”  Unsurprisingly, this MEP was male.  Equally unsurprising was the tongue-lashing he got from a fellow MEP who happened to be female.  But while it’s unusual for a theoretically respectable politician to say these things in public nowadays, it is a current of thought that stretches back to at least the ancient Greeks.  And often science has been misused to justify such attitudes.

This book is mostly about the science of sex differences (that is, “how are men and women different?”) and how that science has been interpreted over the years to justify sexism and resistance to social change on the subject, but also about contrary evidence and theories that paint a more egalitarian picture.  The author is an award-winning British science journalist who was assigned to write a piece on menopause but found enough material for this book.

The book begins with Charles Darwin claiming that women were less evolved than men for reasons.   Then it covers multiple subjects such as brain imaging and primatology on the way to the riddle of why women don’t just die when they become infertile.  (The last has two major competing hypotheses named “The Grandmother Hypothesis” and “The Patriarch Hypothesis”; all the scientists that have gone on record as supporting the latter are male.)

There’s a reference list for each chapter, and will be an index in the final product.  There may be illustrations in the published version; there were none in the proof copy.

A repeated theme of the book is the suggestion that many sex difference researchers started from “essentialism”, the basic assumption that men and women are different in fundamental ways, and then did their research in such a way as to disproportionately focus on the ways the sexes are different, rather than similar, and sometimes even finding differences that don’t appear to actually exist.  It’s also notable that several male researchers come across as dismissive of research done by scientists (particularly women) whose results contradict their own theories.  One, for example, admits that he’s never studied bonobos himself, but clearly  the research results found by a woman must be wrong since it’s different from what he learned by studying chimpanzees.

The writing is clear and concise, and should be readable by bright high school students on up (although some parents may find parts of the subject matter, such as the existence of intersex people, uncomfortable.)  Recommended to those interested in science, feminism and the intersection of the two.

Book Review: The Opposite of Everyone

Book Review: The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

Paula Vauss was born with blue skin, so her mother Karen (“Kai”) named her Kali Jai after the Hindu goddess of destruction and fresh starts.  Estranged from her mother for many years, Paula has become a divorce lawyer, far better at the destruction part than the fresh starts.  But now comes a message that Kai is dying.  And then, out of the blue, Paula learns that her mother had another child, a secret legacy.  The problem is that no one knows where that child is now.

The Opposite of Everyone

Paula has allies.  Her private detective ex-lover Birdwine, struggling with alcoholism and his own broken past, and her brother Julian (born “Ganesha”), a second surprise sibling.  But the trail’s gone cold, and meanwhile Paula must deal with a divorce case turned deadly.With the new information she has, Kali Jai Vauss must re-examine her memories to recover what actually happened to her family.

This is my first Joshilyn Jackson book, but apparently she’s had several bestsellers.  My sister really likes her stuff.  I am told that Ms. Jackson is considered a “Southern” writer, and certainly the book takes place in the southern United States, primarily around Atlanta, Georgia.

Paula is mixed-race (mixed with what she doesn’t know, as there was no father in the picture), and this comes up several times in the course of the story.  The effects are mostly negative in her youth, but she’s learned how to turn her looks to advantage in the present day.  Her unique upbringing and the estrangement from her mother have left Paula broken in many ways, despite being a high-functioning individual–part of her journey in the book is understanding why things happened as they did, and finally growing beyond that.

There’s a lot of talk about sex, Paula having been promiscuous in the past, but none on-stage.  The past comes up to haunt Paula in other ways that are more effective.

The ending is very final; no sequel or trilogy here; and the acknowledgements make it clear that Ms. Jackson has no plans for a Kali Jai Vauss series.

While quite good, this book wasn’t my cup of tea.  Recommended for fans of Joshilyn Jackson and her general type of novel.

Disclaimer:  I received this Advance Reader’s Edition free from the publisher for the purpose of reading and reviewing.  No other compensation was involved.  There may be changes in the final product.

Comic Book Review: Curse of the Were-Woman

Comic Book Review: Curse of the Were-Woman Written by Jason M. Burns, Art by Christopher Provencher

Patrick Dalton likes to think of himself as an “alpha male.”   He’s on the fast track to a partnership at his advertising agency, in excellent health, handsome, and gets laid practically every night.     This last makes Patrick the envy of his best friend Andy, who married the first woman that would take him, but likes to hear about conquests.

Curse of the Were-Woman

One of Patrick’s most important rules is that he never has sex with the same woman twice, and certainly not in a row.  He thinks this is best for both them and him, as he doesn’t want them to get attached and cramp his style.   He’s about to pull a disappearing act on his latest conquest, Tessa, when she wakes up and throws a fit.  He thinks he’s gotten away, but Patrick doesn’t know that Tessa is an actual magical witch.

Now Patrick becomes Patricia at nightfall every night, being restored at dawn, and he will remain a were-woman until he learns to truly understand and respect women.  Even with a little help from his new next door neighbor Amber, that might take longer than Patrick is comfortable with.

As you might guess, Patrick is a horrible person at the start of the story; one of those smug people who attributes bad reactions to his self-centered actions as jealousy or “wimmen be crazy.”   He scores often with his smooth veneer and surface manipulation, but he hasn’t figured out there are more important things than getting your rocks off.

And indeed, while Patrick/Patricia goes through some humiliating and painful experiences (getting a period on the second night!), the real point of the exercise is teaching him how to have an actual relationship with a woman.   And along the way, he learns to have more respect even for women he’s not attracted to.

As one might expect, there’s quite a bit of sexism on display here, mostly from Patrick, but his boss is exactly the sort of person you’d expect to promote a guy like Patrick, and Andy has learned nothing from his marriage.  (Andy’s wife is the stereotype of the woman who “let herself go” after the wedding, as well as a ball-buster.)

There’s vulgarity and sexual situations, so definitely not for children, but no on-screen sex,  and nudity confined to some cleavage and a quick glimpse of Patricia’s backside.

Those familiar with the gender-bender subgenre will find little new here, and the art is only so-so, but it’s nice to have an entire graphic novel in this category.

Overall, this romantic comedy is okay, but not a must-have.

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