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Tuesday December 31, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Tuesday December 31, 2013 MYT 7:45:45 AM
By SULOSHINI JAHANATH
A BOOK with the title Be Awesome is supposed to make you feel just a little bit awesome, even from just having picked it up and read the cover.
Sadly, Hadley Freeman’s Be Awesome left me feeling confused and bemused instead, and nowhere near awesome.
In her introduction, Freeman talks about why people need to feel awesome, weaving in some social issues like feminism, fashion (or lack thereof) and a little on her background. What’s meant as an introduction to a guide on becoming awesome instead sounds much more like the inner monologue of somebody nearing a psychotic break. Freeman rambles on without seeming to have a clear message.
“I pretend to be a newspaper columnist and fashion writer,” she says, but “... 70 percent of my fashion articles have been written when I’ve been wearing, at best, vaguely coordinated pyjamas, T-shirt, leggings and Ugg boots ...”; maybe in a mistaken attempt to appeal to most of us ordinary, unglamorous women.
Instead, it has the opposite effect. Freeman comes off as trying too hard: trying too hard to relate, to be funny, and to inspire. What I was left with was a feeling of growing disappointment, and a lot less awesomeness than I started off with. And this is just the introduction.
To be fair, there were a few relevant points made in her introduction on feminism, and how its relevance is still questioned today, and she brings up the very valid argument that if racism is still relevant, why can’t feminism be?
However, there were certain points in the rest of the book that by turns made me cringe and raised my temper. In fact, there were times when both happened within two pages.
For example, Freeman’s “Top Ten Commandments for being a vegetarian”. For someone who is a lifelong vegetarian, Freeman doesn’t seem to think too highly of the rest of her ilk. Her second-most important commandment is for vegetarians not to talk about their poo. Because obviously that’s what they all do – talk about their poo non-stop.
Another gem: Don’t make a fuss if there are no vegetarian options. Even if you’re invited to a dinner party, DON’T tell your host that you’re vegetarian, unless they ask you. The reason? Well, they’re already cooking for all these people, so don’t give them the extra trouble.
While it’s admirable that Freeman doesn’t want to make more trouble, it makes no sense why she thinks this is a good idea. Wouldn’t your host prefer to know your dietary restrictions? If you were lactose intolerant and every dish had cheese or cream, then, oh boy, you’re in trouble! These ideas made it difficult for me to enjoy the good parts of her book, which can sometimes be found in the same section as the not-so-good.
Her 10-point guide to being a modern-day feminist is actually quite good. The same goes with some of her views on feminism. However, these points are either always very subjective, or barely researched, which is a shame because these are what gives the book that special “oomph”.
Instead, she (again) meanders off into telling the reader what to do.
This tends to be a trend in her writing, with the good parts being completely overshadowed by Freeman’s bossy attitude.
And that is a problem, because, while this is a non-fiction book and Freeman is perfectly within her rights to air her opinions, it feels like she’s trying to force them down your throat instead of suggesting them.
Be Awesome has some pearls of wisdom, if you look very hard. Unfortunately, it isn’t anywhere near awesome.
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book reviews, Be Awesome: Modern Life For Modern Ladies, Hadley Freeman
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