Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pre-vacation reading

I actually read these two books before my vacation, and before reading the four books I recently wrote about here.  By all rights, I guess I should have reviewed these two first. (Not to mention that a lot of what I had intended to write is fast fading from my memory. :p)  But hey, it's my blog and I'll do what I want. ; ) 

Total number of books read YTD, including these:  18 -- almost double my total for all of 2012. Not bad!!

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I finally got around to reading Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" -- I figured I'd better make it a priority, since I actually wrote about the book (here and here) before reading it. ; )

I liked this book  (with a few caveats).  And I found myself liking Sandberg, too.  I do wonder if a lot of the people who have been criticizing the book, and Sandberg, have actually read the thing.

I liked that Sandberg is not afraid to call herself a feminist, that she considers Gloria Steinem a role model and mentor. I like that the book has been meticulously researched, with an extensive notes section. I like that she told relevant, personal stories that any working woman (mother or not) could relate to. And I very much liked her emphasis on the fact that, while women should be leaning in more in the workplace, men also need to do more leaning in on the home front.

At the same time, I do think some of the criticisms of the book are justified.  While Sandberg is careful to emphasize that she recognizes how privileged she is, the fact remains that she IS privileged, and the vast majority of working women do not enjoy the same advantages that she and some of her peers do -- money, power, a supportive husband,  a Harvard MBA & a mentor like Larry Summers behind us. There's a lot in the book about what women can do -- and her advice is worthwhile -- but I would have liked to have heard more about what men and the corporations they are still largely in charge of running can do to make the workplace better for all their employees. The onus for adtion and change shouldn't entirely be on women.

Sandberg does touch on the topic of work-life balance... but I wish she had spent a little less time talking about working mothers & given a little more recognition to the fact that her all of us, men & women, parents or not, could use a little more work-life balance. 

Granted -- I was surprised & pleased to read (on page 132):  "It's not only working parents who are looking for more hours in the day;  people without children are also overworked, maybe to an even greater extent."

However, she then goes on to relate a story about a single woman on a panel discussion she attended  who argued that her need to leave work to go to a party was just as legitimate as parents' need to attend their kids' soccer game, "because going to a party is the only way I might actually meet someone and start a family so I can have a soccer game to go to one day!"  Some of us may never have that soccer game to attend -- but we may have other priorities and responsibilities and interests outside of work that are just as important to us -- and I believe that our need for work-life balance is every bit as "legitimate" as parents or would-be parents.

Despite its limitations, this is a valuable book worth reading, thinking and talking about. 

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I picked up Marie Osmond's latest book, The Key is Love, because (1) I'm a longtime Osmonds fan;  (2) I've read her other books so I figured I might as well read this one too ; ) & (3) I was curious to hear what she had to say about recent events in her life, including her son Michael's suicide, and her decision to remarry her first husband (!), 25 years after they were divorced (& wearing the same dress she wore at their first wedding, some 30 years earlier).

Ostensibly, Osmond wrote this book as a tribute to her mother, Olive Osmond, but it also updates fans on recent events in her life.

As you might expect from a devout Mormon girl, Osmond delivers platitude after platitude about the glories of motherhood -- and, as a childless-not-by-choice woman, I found it a little hard to swallow at times.

But there are some surprises along the way. Some of what Osmond writes is platitude, true, but there actually is a lot of good old-fashioned wisdom in her mother's words & advice.  And although Osmond extols old-fashioned ways & values, make no mistake, she's a thoroughly modern working mother. 

While Osmond believes there is no higher calling than motherhood -- and she's got 8 (!!) children to prove it -- she's also a working mother (whose office just happens to be a stage in Las Vegas), the primary family breadwinner for most of her adult life and, at times, a single mother.  In her own way, she's been leaning in for the past 50 years, since she started singing with her famous brothers as a toddler.

And the show must go on (eventually) -- even when your beloved son commits suicide. As a bereaved parent, albeit of a slightly different variety, my heart went out to Marie as I read this section of the book. This woman understands grief & loss.  She is also frank about her own problems with getting & staying pregnant, and her struggles with postpartum depression.. At least half of her eight children are adopted, and she writes about how many of those children came to her.

There are certain details Osmond declines to reveal, citing her children's privacy.  She writes about the failure of her second marriage, and while she doesn't tell us exactly what went wrong, she does say that her children, and her one daughter in particular, were well aware of what was going on and urged her to leave. She also mentions that her son chose to sever ties with his father completely, and both he and her daughter changed their last names. Hmmmm.    

If you're not as Osmonds fan, you probably won't be compelled to pick up this book... but if you were to do so, I think you night enjoy it more than you might think. ;) 

1 comment:

  1. Oooh, thanks for these reviews. I loved hearing about Lean In, as I haven't read the book, and I'm still not sure I want to. Will it just make me feel like a gigantic loser?

    The Marie Osmond book also sounds interesting. Being of a similar age, I also was an Osmonds fan when I was a tween (though I also swooned over David Cassidy!) ... and I well remember the Donny and Marie Show! When your TV has only one channel, then that's what you watch!

    I didn't know some of her children were adopted, but I was aware that she'd suffered depression, even before her son's suicide, and figure it would be an interesting read for that reason. (Must see if it comes in an ebook ...)

    Thanks again Loribeth!