Tuesday, May 10, 2016

bitches gotta read: we love you, charlie freeman.

look at these stupid kittens mavis brought home from the shelter. i tried to upload a hilarious video of helen fighting the grey one while also lying down on her throne/chair but i don't have patience for figuring out that sort of thing, so please use your imagination. i could watch that shit all day. it's been a minute, guys. i've missed my internet friends. i trust that you are well, still reading books and getting wasted and ignoring your responsibilities and i'm totally with you. in spirit though, because i still haven't turned my book in (WHAT THE FUCK) and i'm working on some other cool stuff for you but mannnnn i got a perfectly lovely email a few weeks ago thanking me for writing the blog yet expressing some sadness that i'm a happy person now and had ended bitchesgottaeat for good and i was like, "omg what am i even doing." because i'm still here, still got a dozen half-written posts just chilling waiting for me to finish them, i'm just tired and busy and lol who cares about these excuses. but soon all these projects will be done (done-ish?) and i can get back to irregularly whining about important stuff like why i switched to unscented deodorant and which lean cuisines taste better when you cook them in the oven. i have been reading a lot, though. so here's the next late as hell installment in our little book club.

the rules
1 we are never going to meet in person. that would require a bra and zippered pants and probably an expensive uber and motherfuck that. you don't have to worry about jamie's gluten allergy or that bridget doesn't like gin. no cleaning the cat box or vacuuming the drapes or hiding the dirty laundry in the oven so your company doesn't realize what a huge slob you are. just you in your house glasses and gravy pants sobbing into your six pack of beer, the way john green intended. getting together with people you don't live next door to is hella stressful. plus, a bunch of old bitches sitting around talking about fictional teenage romance is lame. OR IS IT THO.
2 we are never going to discuss this, ever. i mean seriously. i'm going to derive pleasure from knowing that people i might possibly enjoy spending time with if i ever could bring myself to meet new people and i are falling asleep and drooling on the same book we'll probably never finish. maybe we'll talk about it on twitter or something. but even thinking about organizing that is a daunting task and i'm already exhausted. mariyam suggested making a facebook group, but is that dumb? the internet is so hard sometimes. (ETA: there is a group! it's called bitches gotta read! and it is full of rad people who aren't irritating!)
3 we are never going to shame each other about not reading the fucking book. this is the beauty of never having to meet or talk about it: i ain't gotta come up with "thoughtful questions" and you ain't gotta pretend to remember what happened at the end of chapter seven while a bunch of wine-drunk bitches you don't even like that much wait expectantly for your answer. i'll read them, but that's only in case i run into you at the farmer's market and you decide to pop quiz my ass.


so i picked this book because i read about it on one of those "best books of the spring!" lists and i liked kaitlyn's face so i tweeted her (gross) and then she very graciously wrote me back and thus our tenuous grasp on a digital friendship began. it's not technically YA but it's about young kids and rules are made to be broken. an excerpt from the review of the book in the NEW YORK TIMES, what:

Kaitlyn Greenidge’s terrifically auspicious debut novel, “We Love You, Charlie Freeman,” begins with a deceptively high-concept premise. The four members of the black Freeman family are about to become fish out of water. The year is 1990. They have agreed to move from their home in Dorchester, Mass. — with its predominantly black schools, where the toilet paper is rationed — to a mansion in an all-white part of the Berkshires.

Why? Because Laurel Freeman, the headstrong mother, has agreed to make herself, her husband and their two daughters part of a research project. All they have to do is get used to living with a fifth family member, who happens to be a chimpanzee. (They are well qualified to communicate with the chimp because they are fluent in sign language.) In the book’s first scene, the Freeman daughters, 9-year-old Callie and 14-year-old Charlotte, do a little wailing about this relocation. But Callie draws a greeting card of the newly configured Freeman family that features four humans and one hairy hominid with a tail. “We Love You, Charlie Freeman” takes its title from the wildly optimistic words that go with the picture.

Things get less bubbly in a hurry. The Freemans arrive at their forbidding new home, a large gated pile with a plaque reading “The Toneybee Institute for Ape Research, established 1929.” They quickly realize that all the hostile and creepily solicitous employees of the place are white. (One bald guard has “veins of his scalp glowing through the gloom.”) The kids’ alarm bells go off on the very first night, when their parents go to bed and then turn out to have Charlie sleeping with them. When Charlie swats Callie in the face, her (their?) mother says soothingly: “It’s O.K. You scared him, that’s all.”


And thus the familial and racial nightmares begin for the Freemans, who have never let themselves feel all that black before. Ms. Greenidge has charted an ambitious course for a book that begins so mock-innocently. And she lets the suspicion and outrage mount as the Freemans’ true situation unfolds. This author is also a historian, and she makes the “1929” on Toneybee plaque tell another, equally gripping story that strongly parallels the Freemans’ 1990 experience. A question that hovers over this book is whether the Freemans will learn from past horrors or become so dysfunctional that they merely relive them.

...the absurd detail with which the Freemans are watched can’t help being funny. Callie remarks that her favorite book is The Phantom Tollbooth,” and two researchers nod gravely. Video cameras follow family members relentlessly. Charlie never turns into much of a presence, which is a good thing; Ms. Greenidge isn’t interested in distracting her readers with the personal quirks of a chimp. But he acts like a needy, opinionated animal just often enough to enliven the story. When Charlie takes a bite out of a guest’s sleeve because he likes its smell, she cries, “It’s like he didn’t really care about me at all.”

Sex and comedy combine when Charlotte falls for Adia Breitling, a black student from Courtland who actually cherishes being black. At first Adia, who wears purple feather earrings, purple Dr. Martens and a fade haircut with lightning bolts above her left ear, can’t believe Charlotte’s stick-straight bangs, white sneakers and braids, but she decides to try to help this hopeless specimen. (Beware the word “specimen” in this book. Every black person around a white scientist should.) Adia and her mother seem wonderfully free and open-minded to Charlotte, but there’s one area in which Adia has her own cultural bias. Even when things become physical between the two girls, Adia insists that women need men. “We don’t want to go queer like white girls do.”

The ultimate white girl in this attention-getting novel is its grande dame, the heiress Julia Toneybee-Leroy, who was 18 when the institute was founded. Her portrait hangs prominently there, and the zealous eyes scare Charlotte at first sight. Julia is still alive and well enough to have Thanksgiving dinner with the Freemans, Charlie included, in 1990. And still imperious enough to pre-empt Mrs. Freeman’s attempt to feed the chimp lettuce.

This grand visitation prompts the story of who Julia is and how she got that way. It explains why her portrait features the bones of a beloved chimp with a stick through its skull. And it brings forth a remarkable letter, one of the book’s sardonic highlights, in which Julia purports to apologize to “You, African-Americans” for any grievances that might be held against her. It’s a God-awful apology but a wonderful piece of writing. And it beautifully illustrates the sure-handed way Ms. Greenidge deals with even the most grievous racist stupidity, just as she does when the Freemans are patronizingly told by a white “expert” how black they are. “It’s a descriptor of your family who is participating in this experiment,” says the expert, apparently no grammarian. “Not an identity,” they’re informed.

i know you hoes didn't read all that and fine whatever it's cool. JUST GO GET THIS BOOK. unlike myself, who spent all of her meager royalties on jelly beans and magazines, kaitlyn is trying to buy her mama a house. even though she sent me a copy i downloaded another on my kindle which is obviously gonna make her v rich and successful, duh. i'm already 140 pages in and it is so good and i'm so proud of her. have fun!