Title: I Carried a Watermelon – Dirty Dancing and Me

Author: Katy Brand

Pages: 249 Pages

Publisher: HQ

The Blurb

I Carried a Watermelon is a love story to Dirty Dancing. A warm, witty and accessible look at how Katy Brand’s life-long obsession with the film has influenced her own attitudes to sex, love, romance, rights and responsibilities.

It explores the legacy of the film, from pushing women’s stories to the forefront of commercial cinema, to its ‘Gold Standard’ depiction of abortion according to leading pro-choice campaigners, and its fresh and powerful take on the classic ‘coming of age’ story told from a naïve but idealistic 17-year-old girl’s point of view.

Part memoir based on a personal obsession, part homage to a monster hit and a work of genius, Katy will explore her own memories and experiences, and talk to other fans of the film, to examine its legacy as a piece of filmmaking with a social agenda that many miss on first viewing. One of the most celebrated and viewed films ever made is about to have the time of its life.

The Review

It was the coronavirus isolation of 2020 and everyone was stuck inside and it didn’t occur to me to mind….okay that’s a lie. I was bored (but safe and lucky). So I decided to read I Carried a Watermelon. The reason was two-fold: 1) I like Katy Brand, I think she is funny and 2) I love Dirty Dancing. I don’t just love Dirty Dancing, I LOVE Dirty Dancing. It is a love that a few people have. An obsessive love, a love in which no one can speak badly about Dirty Dancing because I will fall out with them. I got the sense (cleverly through the title of the book and the picture on the cover of Katy Brand brandishing a watermelon) that Katy Brand liked it too.

I Carried a Watermelon is a fantastic memoir – it is funny, light hearted, silly in places but overall it connects with the reader through this shared love of the classic 80s film Dirty Dancing. Brand walks you through her childhood when we relied of video cassettes with the threat of them being worn out or in Brand’s case hidden by her father, the depression – when the remake was made (I wasn’t as brave as Brand – I saw it in snippets, I couldn’t watch the whole thing). But through it all she has this really positive attitude and pro-women-gung-ho-ness about her.

I loved it. I genuinely couldn’t put it down and I am so very jealous that she got to go to the real life Kellerman’s resort.

One thing is for sure, I will not be putting Katy Brand’s I Carried a Watermelon in the corner – that was a bit tenuous but you know what I mean.

I Carried a Watermelon by Katy Brand is available now.

For more information regarding Katy Brand (@KatyFBrand) please visit www.katybrandofficial.com.

For more information regarding HQ (@HQstories) please visit www.hqstories.co.uk.

Title: The Reading Cure – How Books Restored My Appetite

Author: Laura Freeman

Pages: 272 Pages

Publisher: W & N

The Blurb

At the age of fourteen, Laura Freeman was diagnosed with anorexia. But even when recovery seemed impossible, the one appetite she never lost was her love of reading. Slowly, book by book, Laura re-discovered how to enjoy food – and life – through literature.

(AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

I am fully aware of the restorative power of good books. I once spent nearly six months bed bound and reading my way through my bookshelf. At the time of reading The Reading Cure I am on a 12 week Coronavirus lockdown and I am consuming books at a rapid pace. So whenever I see books that extol the healing power of reading I will always be drawn to them.

What I found with The Reading Cure is a memoir that his heartbreakingly beautiful and a writer – Laura Freeman – who talks about books with such passion that I count help but feel compelled to read more about her.  If I am honest, I didn’t know who Laura Freeman was before reading her book but what I found was a vulnerable girl who was fighting a daily battle but also a girl that was winning. It may not seem that she has massive scream from the roof top victories but the victories that she had were very uplifting to read about.

After reading The Reading Cure I know I will be paying a lot more attention to the food featured in books.

The Reading Cure – How Books Restored My Appetite by Laura Freeman is available now.

For more information regarding W & N Books (@wnbooks) please visit www.weidenfeldandnicolson.co.uk.

Title: Unfollow – A Journey from Hatred to Hope, Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church

Author: Megan Phelps-Roper

Pages: 304 Pages

Publisher: Quercus Books

The Blurb

It was an upbringing in many ways normal. A loving home, shared with squabbling siblings, overseen by devoted parents. Yet in other ways it was the precise opposite: a revolving door of TV camera crews and documentary makers, a world of extreme discipline, of siblings vanishing in the night.

Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church – the fire-and-brimstone religious sect at once aggressively homophobic and anti-Semitic, rejoiceful for AIDS and natural disasters, and notorious for its picketing the funerals of American soldiers. From her first public protest, aged five, to her instrumental role in spreading the church’s invective via social media, her formative years brought their difficulties. But being reviled was not one of them. She was preaching God’s truth. She was, in her words, ‘all in’.

In November 2012, at the age of twenty-six, she left the church, her family, and her life behind.

Unfollow is a story about the rarest thing of all: a person changing their mind. It is a fascinating insight into a closed world of extreme belief, a biography of a complex family, and a hope-inspiring memoir of a young woman finding the courage to find compassion for others, as well as herself.

The Review

I didn’t know much about Megan Phelps-Roper before I picked up Unfollow to read. I hadn’t seen the Louis Theroux documentary and I hadn’t watched the television series so I really was going into this memoir blind. My only clue was that sometimes the ideologies of a church – any church – can often be at odds with the modern world. Wow, that was putting it mildly.

Megan Phelps-Roper grew up within the Baptist community where every member of her family played some role within the religious group. She was fed the ideology on a daily basis and believed everything that was told to her. She believed that people of the LGBT community deserved to die and that soldiers who died in service were killed because of God’s divine retribution and the parents of the soldier must have sinned for this to have happened.

It all seems completely mad. However, I spent the majority of the memoir feeling sorry for Megan Phelps-Roper. She is a product of what she has been taught. Just like the old adage that people aren’t born racist. People aren’t born with these views. It is learned behaviour. What you find with Phelps-Roper is that she is genuinely sorry for thinking the way she did but is still so torn with loving her family who for all intents and purposes gave her a stable and loving upbringing yet she fundamentally disagrees with their point of view.

Unfollow is a fascinating read to see how people can change and how being indoctrinated into one way of life does not mean that it is your permanent destination. You have the ability to change and see the world from a different angle.

Unfollow – A Journey from Hatred to Hope, Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper is available now.

For more information regarding Megan Phelps Roper (@meganphelps) please visit www.meganphelpsroper.com.

For more information regarding Quercus Books (@QuercusBooks) please visit their Twitter page.

Title: This Will Only Hurt a Little

Author: Busy Philipps

Pages: 321 Pages

Publisher: Touchstone

The Blurb

There’s no stopping Busy Philipps. From the time she was two and “aced out in her nudes” to explore the neighborhood (as her mom famously described her toddler jailbreak), Busy has always been headstrong, defiant, and determined not to miss out on all the fun. These qualities led her to leave Scottsdale, Arizona, at the age of nineteen to pursue her passion for acting in Hollywood. But much like her painful and painfully funny teenage years, chasing her dreams wasn’t always easy and sometimes hurt more than a little.

In this stunningly candid memoir, Busy opens up about chafing against a sexist system rife with on-set bullying and body shaming, being there when friends face shattering loss, enduring devastating personal and professional betrayals from those she loved best, and struggling with postpartum anxiety and the challenges of motherhood.

But Busy also brings to the page her sly sense of humor and the unshakeable sense that disappointment shouldn’t stand in her way—even when she’s knocked down both figuratively and literally (from a knee injury at her seventh-grade dance to a violent encounter on the set of Freaks and Geeks). The rough patches in her life are tempered by times of hilarity and joy: leveraging a flawless impression of Cher from Clueless into her first paid acting gig, helping reinvent a genre with cult classic Freaks and Geeks, becoming fast friends with Dawson’s Creek castmate Michelle Williams, staging her own surprise wedding, conquering natural childbirth with the help of a Mad Men–themed hallucination, and more.

Busy is the rare entertainer whose impressive arsenal of talents as an actress is equally matched by her storytelling ability, sense of humor, and sharp observations about life, love, and motherhood. Her conversational writing reminds us what we love about her on screens large and small. From film to television to Instagram and now to the page, Busy delightfully showcases her wry humor and her willingness to bare it all.

“I’ve been waiting my whole life to write this book. I’m just so grateful someone asked. Otherwise, what was the point of any of it??”

The Review

I have always liked Busy Philipps. I first came across her as Audrey on Dawson’s Creek and I thought she was fab and sassy from then on. Whilst I have dipped in and out of her career I have always admired how she presented herself in interviews or on her social media accounts.

I really loved her autobiography This Will Only Hurt a Little. Her warts and all account of how she made her way through the miasmic fug of Hollywood and all the ugliness that comes along with it: whether that be the negative body image issues she has had to endure before getting or being rejected for roles or the absolute criminal behaviour over artistic license. Busy Philipps really has seen it all.

Philipps’ candour is impressive. She doesn’t paint herself as completely innocent in all things, in fact it is her ability to show her less pleasant side that actually makes This Will Only Hurt a Little seem more balanced and therefore more believable.

What is also impressive is that she does not hold back when talking about her colleagues. For those who want to know the uglier side of some of her co-stars then I can guarantee Busy Philipps does not hold back.

Read this. Read it now.

This Will Only Hurt a Little by Busy Philipps is available now.

For more information regarding Busy Philipps (@BusyPhilipps) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Touchstone (@TouchstoneBooks) please visit www.touchstonebooks.com.

Title: Recollections of My Non-Existence

Author: Rebecca Solnit

Pages: 256 Pages

Publisher: Granta Publications

The Blurb

In 1981, Rebecca Solnit rented a studio apartment in San Francisco that would be her home for the next twenty-five years. There, she began to come to terms with the epidemic of violence against women around her, the street harassment that unsettled her, and the authority figures that routinely disbelieved her. That violence weighed on her as she faced the task of having a voice in a society that preferred women to shut up or go away.

Set in the era of punk, of growing gay pride, of counter culture and West Coast activism, during the latter years of second wave feminism, Recollections of My Non-Existence is the foundational story of an emerging artist struggling against patriarchal violence and scorn. Recalling the experience of living with fear, which Solnit contends is the normal state of women, she considers how oppression impacts on creativity and recounts the struggle to find a voice and have it be heard.

Place and the growing culture of activism liberated her, as did the magical world of literature and books. And over time, the clamour of voices against violence to women coalesced in the current feminist upheaval, a movement in which Solnit was a widely audible participant. Here is an electric account of the pauses and gains of feminism in the past forty years; and an extraordinary portrait of an artist, by a seminal American writer.

The Review

Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit is a palate cleanser of a book. It is a series of essays that create a memoir. The collection, whilst being specific to Rebecca Solnit’s life equally acts as a record of social change dealing with issues such as sexual assault, gentrification, race, and feminism.

Some essays are more enjoyable than others but it is an interesting collection.

Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit is available now.