Nonfiction Reviews: Broken, Untamed, and I’m Still Here

I’ve read five nonfiction books so far this year, but I’m specifically wanting to talk about three of them today. Broken by Jenny Lawson is an essay collection that is at times so hilarious I had to pause the audiobook because I couldn’t hear it over the sound of my laughter and at times so poignant and sad that I wanted to give Jenny Lawson a hug (but not really because we’re both too anxious for that interaction). I should mention that I had Broken as an e-ARC, but actually read it on Libro.fm after using a credit. Untamed by Glennon Doyle is a book I started in December and finished in January and still haven’t fully decided my thoughts about it. Part memoir and part self-help, Untamed is a unique book in my nonfiction reading and I both loved it and wanted more from it. And then we have I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown, a memoir largely about being Black in the workplace, but also covering school and life.

I’m going to attempt to be concise again, but we all know how that goes! So let’s jump in.

Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson

The audiobook for this memoir was excellent. The way all of the emotions shine through! Jenny Lawson’s stories are wild and ridiculous and hilarious and sometimes so heart wrenching. As with any essay collection, some of the essays worked better for me than others, but, as with all essay collections, I actually have no idea how to review it. So… Here goes, I guess.

Jenny Lawson has a lot of illnesses that have all sorts of impacts on her life. She also has tremendous social anxiety, generalized anxiety, OCD, and depression. She’s married and has a daughter. There are stories in here related to basically all of those things and wow, the horror of thinking through the fact that the medicine that is saving you in many ways is also killing you was… intense. She has chronic pain and briefly touches on going to the hospital and having people call her a drug seeker, which is a really negative thing I know many people with chronic pain have dealt with.

Her stories about her arguments with her husband delighted me though because they have some of the most hilarious arguments. I thought MY brain and mouth connection meant that I have a stream of consciousness thing that happens sometimes, when I’m over tired, but it turns out I had no idea. She is so funny and open about the things that come through her head and I was so delighted to find out that this is normal. (In at least that other people do it too.)

There were multiple chapters where I would have to pause the audiobook because I was laughing too hard to hear it. But, there were also chapters that were heavier and made me tear up. Her grandmother had dementia and the entire chapter was so poignant and I just really loved hearing from her perspective. So, definitely a great essay collection that I would absolutely recommend. I’m really looking forward to reading Lawson’s older collections now.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

There was a lot I loved about this book. For one thing, I read it right after Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski and that was a great choice. For another, I do still think about it fairly often considering I finished reading it in January. There was a lot in here to really learn from and to carry with me and instead of having just one quote on my February page in my bullet journal, I instead have three quotes from Untamed.

However, sometimes things felt overly simplified and I wished that Doyle wasn’t quite so fond of metaphors because she would say things like, “let go of your personal beliefs that no longer serve you!” And then she would say she struggles sometimes to do that and reminds herself that she has replaced “laziness makes you worthless” with “hard work and play are both good” or something. But like, how exactly do you reprogram your brain to do this? She relies on metaphor to explain and I just wish there had been something slightly more concrete because my brain clearly does not process metaphor the same way hers does. But, all that to say, I did really enjoy reading her story and hearing her advice. I’m thrilled for her that she’s living a life more authentic to who she actually is now and I really appreciated how candid she was. I don’t know that it’s quite as life-changing as some of the hype has made it seem over the years, but I would still recommend it!

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown

So, a theme I didn’t touch on with Untamed, but that was all the more intensified when I followed it up with I’m Still Here in February, is this idea of how the Christian church continually fails its members who are not white, cis, and straight. Austin Channing Brown works for the church or for multiple churches throughout her career thus far, and, while microaggressions are going to be common in most, if not all, majority white spaces, it’s a special sort of insult to watch Christians engage in these actions.

Brown’s sole focus is not on working and the church, but those parts of her story resonated so strongly with me, in large part because I grew up in such a conservative church and the further away I’ve gotten from that experience, the more disillusioned I’ve felt. The closing chapter in this memoir on hope was rather devastating, though it makes a lot of sense. It’s so frustrating to be a Christian and watch as “the church” fails over and over again to love like Jesus did. And to watch America continue to fail to live up to the ideals of the words in the Declaration of Independence or in the Preamble to the Constitution. Also, when Brown talked about anger and how Jesus got angry and flipped some tables in the tax collection thing? YES. Like, why do we act like the mere having of anger is a sin?

Anyway, all that to say, this memoir packs such a huge punch in a very tiny package and if you’ve not read it yet, I would absolutely recommend.

Have you read any of these? Let me know!

xx

5 responses to “Nonfiction Reviews: Broken, Untamed, and I’m Still Here”

  1. […] I requested an ARC of Broken almost on a whim really and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because I now love Jenny Lawson. I need to read more of her memoir/essay collections because her brand of humor and wryness worked for me on every level. This woman had me laughing out loud so hard I had to pause the audiobook and crying so much, I had to take an extra few minutes in my car before going into work to pull myself together. I loved Broken and you can read more of my thoughts in an ARC review here. […]

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