Don’t judge this book by its ti­tle

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - READS - Be Awe­some: Mod­ern Life For Mod­ern Ladies Hadley Free­man Fourth Es­tate, 267 pages, non-fic­tion Re­view by SULOSHINI JAHANATH

star2@thes­tar.com.my 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 with- out 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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