By Philip Wallace, Marketing Systems & Content Analyst
When we change our calendars from one year to another, there is a familiar ritual of undertaking self-improvement. I certainly don’t want to knock that idea, as I am a firm believer in aspiring to better myself in all the facets of life. Yet, I tend to find a particular sort of affirmation in hearing from voices who don’t necessarily have it all together and don’t mind letting their eccentricities shine a bit.
Over the last couple of years, I have discovered several folks in the realm of social media whose content clicks with me. And, thankfully for those of us in the book industry, these creative individuals have also chosen to share their stories on the printed page and become published authors. I‘d like to usher in 2017 by spreading the love about them. Word of warning: there are varying degrees of irreverence here; the focus is on real life, which may not always be pretty, but sometimes we can smile and laugh anyway.
Jenny Lawson, AKA The Bloggess
My first exposure to Lawson was a large cardboard stand that graced the aisles of the book product department of Ingram for several months (that now resides in the collection development/inventory resources area). The impossible-to-ignore promotional resource was created in support of the original hardcover release of Lawson’s second book, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things.* (The title makes its way to paperback* in February.) The attention grabber involves a dead raccoon, as Lawson is both the proud daughter of a Texas taxidermist and an enthusiastic supporter of animal welfare causes. If that combination piques your curiosity, then you need to learn more about her.
Furiously Happy explores Lawson’s longtime struggles with mental illness and a host of other chronic health issues. Yet, the twist is that she doesn’t seem to “overcome” in some generic movie-of-the-week sort of way, but rather makes her journey a raucous adventure where the crazy little things carry extra meaning because of how overwhelming the entire experience of living can be. Lawson’s earlier title, Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir),* provides the autobiographical background on her unconventional formative years. (Also, I have just learned that she has a new book slated for release in March entitled You Are Here: An Owner's Manual for Dangerous Minds.)*
I first discovered Fedden’s wildly entertaining blog through social media shares on the pages of my friends. One of the recurring themes of Gen Xer Fedden’s posts that seems to strike an especially palpable chord is the contrast between parenting in the ‘70s and ‘80s with today. Whether it’s with regard to holiday rituals, snow days or other forces of nature, Fedden seeks to present a healthy dose of perspective between the seemingly laissez-faire parenting approaches of the past with the “having it all” perfectionism of contemporary times. Even if some comparisons are presented for a tongue-in-cheek effect, I think the ultimate message shines through: folks need to take some deep breaths and cut themselves some slack about all the details.
In her recent autobiography – whose title harkens back to a lovely little Talking Heads ditty – This Is Not My Beautiful Life,* Fedden retraces an odd juxtaposition between her seemingly perfect marriage entering a crisis right as she was establishing her professional and academic credentials as a writer. When federal agents storm their South Florida home, Fedden learns that her mother and stepfather had been implicated in a major white-collar crime case.
Many critics have understandably made comparisons to the television sitcom Arrested Development, but the story goes deeper than that shock-value thread to explore the stuff of life. In particular, we get a glimpse into how Fedden’s own mother – after becoming a parent way too young – had rejected the small-town working-class values of her Delaware family and created a new over-the-top life for herself in the Sunshine State. Yes, the excesses of big hair and big dreams are on full display, but the heart of the matter still centers on making peace with the ties that bind.
I have to admit that Oakley is part of a much younger scene and life experience than am I. Also, he is not exactly a blogger in the strictest sense, but rather has made a name for himself with a ground-breaking YouTube channel. Oakley tackles matters of special interest to young people struggling with self-acceptance. He has even scored interviews with notable figures such as First Lady Michelle Obama. In his book Binge,* Oakley explores topics related both this his coming-of-age odyssey and the rollercoaster ride of celebrity. I admire his spunk and style, though we are clearly members of two different generations.
Okay, comics are not really my thing, so I am including this one based on second-hand industry knowledge. Yet, from my understanding of the phenomenon of bloggers becoming authors, I need to provide an acknowledgement. Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half blog created a sensation several years ago by offering a cathartic take on the comic genre. In 2013, Brosh ceased making new posts, but not before releasing a Hyperbole and a Half* book. I have to admire folks who put themselves out there with something that doesn’t quite fit the standard mold.
Happy Reading!*Links go to ipage®, Ingram's online ordering system. You must have an account to access. Don't have an account? Contact us.