Review: Google It: A History of Google by Anna Crowley Redding

I’ve previously mentioned that I’ve been struggling to get myself to read for months. It’s a strange thing, given how much I’ve loved reading all my life. I recently did manage to finish another YA nonfiction book, which was really engaging and it’s only the reading weirdness I’ve got going that made me take so long to finish it. 

This well-researched book but Crowley Redding covers the entire history of Google, from the early relationship of its founders through about 2017 (the book was published in 2018). So it is definitely already a little out of date, but it’s a thorough examination up to that point. 

Crowley Redding covers several main stages of the company’s existence in three parts: Frenemies + Homework + Lego = Google?, Google It!, and Impossible Goal + Attempt (+/- Success) = Moonshot. Because this is a YA book, the first thing the author sets up is the foundational idea that Google was new—that there was a world in which there was no quick way to easily found out answers to questions, obscure or not (my mom told me this hilarious story about a time she and her friends were drunk one night and debating some fact, and one of her friends called a library in Hawaii because they were still open, and got his answer). She covers the earliest days, with the cute little story about Sergey and Larry really disliking each other on first meeting at Stanford, but eventually working together on a grad school class project that became Google. She covers the basic idea behind Google—that a web page’s value is defined more in terms of how many pages link to it, which eventually led to the famous algorithm called PageRank that allowed them to score individual web pages. They originally called their project BackRub, which is obviously a terrible name. They liked the idea of the word googol but weren’t particularly good spellers, so we now have Google. Soon, they had their first investment check and actually turned it into a business, at first operating out of a friend’s garage before finally getting more money and moving into an actual office building in the late 1990’s. I had to laugh when the author mentioned Y2K—it was such a big deal, and I had an internship in the summer of 1998 that asked me to write a Y2K countdown clock for their internal website, which I did in Java. It must have run on their site for the next year and a half. Anyway, everyone knows that Google started as a search engine, but the first time it branched out from basic search was inspired by the 9/11 attacks, when people were searching for information, but Google wasn’t designed for up-to-the-minute news. Google News was soon born. Then came advertising on the search page and Google Shopping. And soon afterward, they brought in an actual CEO. 

The second part of the book is more about Google as a company in the modern era, after it had a huge headquarters and tens of thousands of employees. Google Books came to be, and then Gmail. Then they went public. Soon there was Google Earth and Maps. And YouTube. Then Niantic emerged (I had no idea they were behind Pokemon GO!, but they were). Crowley Redding addresses the formation of their now-parent company, Alphabet. And somewhere in all this, she has a short discussion of the China thing. To me, this is a clear sign that Google isn’t as innocent as they claim to be, but perhaps that’s just me. 

The last part of the book really tries to look forward, focusing the various “moonshot” ventures Google (or Alphabet) is trying. These are basically the really extreme ideas of things that are probably hard to do, and are likely to lead to failure, but seem worth trying, anyway. They are getting into AI and other research for a variety of projects, including self-driving cars, machine translation, drones, wearable tech, Google Home, rural Internet service via balloons, space travel, and slowing aging. 

So the book covers a lot of ground, even if the last four years or so aren’t addressed. I’m sure there are more academic explorations out there, but this would be a good place for anyone to start learning about Google’s history. Crowley Redding does a pretty good job of not being too admiring, and presenting different sides (at least to the point of knowing it exists if you want to find out more). 

Review: Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman

Vincent and Theo book coverI’ve recently become aware that there is actually a decent amount of YA nonfiction out there, as I’m working on one myself, although mine is more technical than narrative. One of the authors I found is Deborah Heiligman, who wrote Charles and Emma about Charles Darwin and his wife, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. I bought that book, but the first one I decided to read was her one about Vincent van Gogh. 

Vincent and Theo is a great exploration of Vincent’s rise as an artist, and all his stumbling along the way, as well his relationship with his steadfast brother Theo, who literally and figuratively supported Vincent pretty much all his adult life. This is basically a birth-death portrait of both of them, and it starts off describing their rather commonplace, middle-class childhood in The Netherlands. Their father was a pastor and they had several sisters and everything seemed pretty normal and positive in those days. Vincent and Theo were close despite a four-year age gap, even pledging to always be there for each other in their late teens. Their uncle worked in the art industry as an art dealer, and it was expected that both Vincent and Theo would go into that field. Vincent had no intentions of becoming an artist in the early days. 

So Vincent did come of age and start working as an art dealer. But it didn’t take long before some of his more difficult personality traits emerged and although they tried moving him to London, it really didn’t work out. This period was really the point at which his mental health challenges started to emerge. Vincent floundered around for a while and became intensely religious for a period of time, trying to make a career out of evangelism. But this ultimately didn’t work out, either, and he floundered some more before finally deciding to become a draftsman. He threw himself into this with unrivaled intensity, drawing and painting in watercolor (which he actually still called drawing) to train himself to render things accurately. Eventually he started working in oils, and became a full-fledged painter. Theo literally supported him through all of this, sending him money for rent, food, and art supplies, sometimes sending paint directly. 

Although he had no responsibilities except to his own development as an artist, Vincent didn’t do that well. He tended to not eat or generally take very good care of himself, something he did his entire adulthood. He got romantically involved with a prostitute who had first one child and then another (not Vincent’s) and they moved in with Vincent. Poor Theo was then responsible for two adults and two children, and the woman’s mother was somehow involved in all of this. It just sounded messy to me. During all this, Theo is encouraging Vincent but still saying he’s not skilled enough, so he’s developing, developing, developing. Eventually Vincent and the woman split up, Vincent moved around a bit, and then he finally started having the beginnings of success. He became part of the European art scene after Theo managed to sell some of his pieces. From this point on, Vincent was a real artist, but he also truly struggled with his mental health and he still wasn't pulling in much actual money. He and the artist Gaugin lived together and encouraged and challenged each other, drinking together a lot, as well. 

Although the author never says it, it sounds to me like he had classic bipolar disorder, the variant with full psychosis (bipolar I). And his habits of not eating and not taking care of himself—and also drinking excessively—are some of the worst possible things bipolar sufferers can do. I’m not sure why, but the drinking in particular makes it immensely harder to regulate feelings, which is the downfall of a sufferer. Things can spiral up or down, neither of which is a good thing. And of course this one in the days before Lithium. Untreated bipolar disorder is a nightmare. 

Everyone knows of the incident with Vincent cutting off his own ear. We sometimes trivialize that—it even seems kind of funny. Heiligman doesn’t go into detail about it, either, but think about it—he took a razor and cut through the skin and then all that cartilage. And anyone who’s ever cut their ear accidentally knows how painful just some dinky little cut is. This would have taken Vincent real time. It just makes me ill thinking about it. He also delivered the ear to a prostitute at one of the brothels he frequented, something he later felt really guilty about. He did eventually recover from this incident, but after trying to keep painting and having some more ups and downs, his struggles continued and eventually he shot himself somewhere in his torso from what I gather. He survived initially but was still mortally wounded, but it allowed Theo to reach him and spend time with him before he died. 

I’ve talked mostly about Vincent here, because although the book itself spends as much time on Theo and his own tribulations (he didn’t have an easy time of things, either, although he doesn’t seem to have had any significant mental health challenges), the whole reason for the book is because of how important Vincent became in the art world. And that never would have come to be without Theo’s support. Interestingly, their mother had some of Vincent’s paintings but didn’t keep them safe, and they didn’t survive. Nobody in his family saw his successes except Theo, forever viewing him in terms of his earlier failures. Theo, on the other hand, was 100% committed to sharing Vincent’s work with the world. Sadly, he barely outlived Vincent. Both Vincent and Theo contracted STIs from all their cavorting at the local brothels. Theo’s syphilis killed him, cruelly sending him into madness beforehand. But his wife, Jo, took over being Vincent’s advocate, and it is because of her dedication—a direct result of Theo’s dedication—that so much of Vincent’s work has survived. Theo and Jo’s son, who they named Vincent and who was still a baby when his uncle and father died, didn’t go into art, but he did help found the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. 

Normally I don’t talk as much about an entire book when I review it, but I just found this story fascinating and full of things I didn’t know. But one of the things that makes the book stand out is how personal it feels. Obviously Heiligman doesn’t know with certainty how each of the brothers truly felt, but they sent heartfelt letters back and forth sometimes almost daily, and she worked off of those. Some purists may prefer to just read the translated letters directly, but I liked (and trusted) Heiligman’s interpretation. If you are wanting to understand more about who Vincent and the most important person in his life really were, and what they were like, this is a great book for that. It may technically be YA, but it will appeal to anyone interested in the brothers’ story. 

2020 Books in Review

Here’s my annual review of my year’s reviews, where I look at my favorite five books of the year. 

The first favorite book I’ll mention is Sadie by Courtney Summers, which I reviewed in February. This is a very dark book with an ending I didn’t really see coming. It’s also got an interesting format: two different timelines with two different points of view. 

We Are Okay is another book by Nina LaCour. I pretty much love whatever she does, but this slim book about friendship took me on quite the emotional ride. Here’s my July review. 

Although I am a fan of Pride and Prejudice, I’m not always a fan of fresh takes on it. But I reviewed Pride by Ibi Zoboi in September and really enjoyed it. It’s a really fresh take, featuring two Black teens in modern-day Brooklyn. 

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater is a nonfiction book I reviewed in October. This one is also about a Black teen, as well as a nonbinary teen and the unfortunate interaction they have (and then the aftermath). It provides some interesting perspective on justice. It’s really good and has stayed with me. 

The last book I’ll mention I reviewed in November: Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron. This one is a reboot of Cinderella (obviously), but it is one of the most original books I’ve read in a while and I really enjoyed it. It’s about a Black lesbian girl living in this oppressive post-Cinderella world. It deals with some deep subjects but manages to stay entertaining. 

There you have it: my top five for 2020, dumpster fire year. At least there were books.

Review: The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

The 57 Bus book coverThis time I’m reviewing a nonfiction book, something I don’t do very often. But I devoured this one. It tells the story of an attack on an agender teen by a Black teen on a bus in Oakland, California, and the aftermath. But it delves into the lives of both teens as well as the justice system and provides a really objective view of all the issues surrounding the attack.

The book starts with Sasha, the agender teen (this is the term they use for the majority of the book, rather than nonbinary), talking about their background, friends, school, and so on. Sasha was eighteen and a senior in a progressive private school. I really got a sense for who this person was from the section.

Then the book covers Richard, the Black sixteen-year-old. He’d had a tough time, losing friends to murder and getting robbed at gunpoint by someone he thought was a friend. He’d spent some time in a group home after getting in trouble for fighting (this whole thing seemed pretty sketchy to me—I’m pretty sure a white kid in that situation wouldn’t have ended up in a group home). But he was back at school and apparently trying to do well enough to graduate, something that would have made him stand out a little with his peers.

The next section of the book deals with the attack itself. Sasha was asleep on the bus when Richard started messing with a lighter, flicking it on just under the hem of Sasha’s skirt. He was goofing around, not appreciating what would really happen. He thought it would light and fizzle out, but instead the whole thing caught on fire (as anyone with a fully-developed brain would probably realize, or at least realize as a possibility). A stranger on the bus helped put the fire out but Sasha’s legs had serious burns, including spots that were third-degree (which means it burned all the way through the skin and into the fat, in case you didn’t know what that was). We learn a little about the ordeal Sasha had to go through to recover, but the book doesn’t dwell on it.

The next section covers what happened to Richard, basically. Because originally they charged him as an adult with a hate crime, but many people wanted him charged as a minor—including Sasha and their parents. The book explores the problem of charging kids as adults—because how do you know when a teen has done something stupid that they regret and that will keep them from ever doing something like it again, and when they are fundamentally bad? We know enough about brain science that we know the former is a real possibility.

This is a really interesting book that explores two completely separate issues: gender nonconformity and an imperfect justice system (especially as it relates to race). It’s incredibly well-written, keeping you turning the pages to see what happens next, just like a novel would. I highly recommend it to anyone.

Review: SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson

SHOUT book coverIf you know anything about this book, you know it’s important. Anderson has already written one important novel about sexual assault—Speak—but this is her far more personal memoir, written both to explain how she came to write Speak and simply tell her story. In SHOUT, she writes in verse, which made me wonder how I could possibly read it. Although I know this is weird, any time I see poetry, I get all anxious and can’t pay any attention to what I’m reading. So I had concerns. But then I found out there was an audiobook version—read by Anderson herself—so I checked that out and started listening. It didn’t sound like poetry; instead, it sounded just like someone telling a story, which made it completely accessible to me.

The first part of the book is really about her growing up. She didn’t have an easy childhood, but it wasn’t all about the rape she experienced just before starting ninth grade. She also had struggles with her parents, who had struggles themselves. She spent her senior year on an exchange program in Denmark, so much of the section is about that. She finishes off with her years just after finishing college. The second part is where the story really comes alive. Here, Anderson talks more about misogyny and sexual assault and the impact they have on everyone. She also addresses ideas for what we can do about it. She talks about the many speeches she’s given at schools around the country and how she isn’t always received with appreciation by faculty and administrators. Because, after all, “those of kinds of things don’t happen here.” Nevermind that “here” is by definition part of everywhere, which is exactly where it happens.

I highly recommend this book for everyone. It could be life-changing.

Review: TED Talks

TED Talks book coverThis is going to be an unusual review for this blog. Obviously I usually review YA fiction. But today, since I didn’t finish another book this week, I’m reviewing an adult fiction book that I think might still be of relevance to my readers. A lot of people have to get up on a stage—at work, in school, in church, wherever. This book could make you more comfortable doing so, and help you make a bigger impact.

To make my boss happy (plus for some personal improvement), I joined Toastmasters at work. For those who don’t know, Toastmasters is an organization that is supposed to help you become a better public speaker and leader. You basically choose a pathway and make several assigned speeches on the way to reaching a leadership and speaking improvement goal. I gave my first speech in late February (on becoming a writer 🙂 ) and then before I could give my second speech, COVID-19 happened. So I thought I’d keep up with the learning and picked up the book TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson (“Head of TED”). If you don’t know about TED, you should: it’s an organization that runs conferences where people of all stripes give short talks. Check out to see some cool talks on almost everything imaginable.

Anyway, on to the book. Although Anderson frequently refers to TED-specific talks, he tries to generalize to other speaking venues, as well. He talks about the importance of a speech’s content being the best part of your speech, rather than obsessing about speech physical logistics, like where to stand and what to wear. It does address those things, because they do matter, but it has a major theme throughout: be yourself and be as comfortable as you can while up on stage. Much of the book (about 40%) is about making the talk itself solid and spectacular. Content matters. He talks about building ideas up and having a through line, avoiding common traps, connecting to people, narrating, explaining, persuading, and making revelations.

The next 45% talks about logistics, including whether or not to write a script and even possibly memorize it, or to try to wing it (hint: probably you shouldn’t wing it). He also addresses visuals, practicing, thinking about the impression you’re trying to make, mentally preparing, setting up, and having a real presence. The theme of being yourself and being comfortable is important in this section, too. Basically, you shouldn’t try to do something that will make you extra uncomfortable, since you’re (probably) already stretching out of your comfort zone to give a speech in the first place. Finally, he wraps up with some generalized thoughts on talks, and the importance he believes they have to our global, interconnected society.

So, I’d recommend this book over a lot of the other speech books out there because of the balance between content and logistics and the emphasis on comfort (many other books focus on logistics). If you think it might be helpful to get some tips on talking in front of people check this one out.

Review: Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung

A Quiet Girl in a Noisy World book coverI’ve just discovered a new gem in this author/artist. There were moments I was reading this when I thought Tung must have been channeling my thoughts word-for-word. Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story is a memoir chronicling Tung’s life from late grad school at the University of Birmingham in England through her first real job. She reflects some on her childhood and basically shows how she came to realize that being shy and very introverted is okay, not something to be ashamed of. Her art style is subdued in black, white, and gray watercolors and I really liked it.

One of the many areas where I especially felt like she and I were on the same wavelength was with books, which she loves (as do I). She goes nowhere without one, even if she knows she won’t be able to read it, because it gives her a sense of comfort and the feeling of a friend by her side. She says:

When I see a book I’ve read and liked on someone else’s bookshelf…

I secretly know we are going to be good friends.

She talks about how emotionally attached she gets to the characters in the books she reads, and how it feels like a relationship has ended when she finishes them. She watches emotional movies so she can have an excuse to cry without judgment.

I also could really relate to the way she seeks meaning in everything and feels the need to constantly be productive in some way. She says:

I always doubt that I’m living up to my full potential.

I should learn a new language every year. Or a new skill. Maybe I can take some classes.

I feel like I should constantly be doing something to improve myself, learning new things, and growing as a person.

When will I know it’s okay to stop?

Perhaps never…

When she is starting to realize she finds her job meaningless, she asks:

I did everything right at work today.

Why do I still feel so empty?

I also expect to find meaning in the things I do, and when work isn’t fulfilling, it’s so draining.

I loved how she conveyed what it’s like to meet new people.

Meeting new people

I’m so uncomfortable that this is pretty much how it is for me, too. Her general discomfort in social situations causes her a lot of stress until she finally accepts herself. She says:

I’m socially awkward and weird.

I’ve always felt like there is something wrong with me. I’ve been like this my whole life.

Sometimes her description of social interactions are so relatable. Here's the aftermath of one:

Aftermath of an awkward conversation

Some of it is kind of funny:

A conversation with a neighbor


Dissertation vs. socializing

Another one that made me laugh was her having to make a phone call for work in front of people:

Using the phone in front of people

I hate calling people I don’t know well, and with people watching... Well. But in all three of these cases, it might make you laugh, but it’s kind of a sad funny.

She doesn’t feel great about herself because of the pressure society puts on introverts to be extraverted. And especially as it relates to shyness—shyness is sort of forgiven in children, but once you’re an adult you’re supposed to have outgrown it and “come out of your shell.” Although she tries to be friendly, how she really feels is:

A mixture of frustration, insanity, and dying on the inside.

She famously overthinks everything, something I can totally relate to. She’s even got a sort of flowchart that shows the thought process she goes through when deciding to go to a social event or not:

Socializing flowchart

I loved how she talks about ”energy level” and how it reflects her ability to deal with social situations and her general emotional state. It’s true for me too that when I’m low on that type of energy, everything is hard to deal with:

Low energy and intensityThe good news is that by the end of the book, she has discovered and accepted her introversion, and no longer beats herself up over it.

Overall, this is an excellent portrayal of the shy introvert’s experience (though not all introverts are shy). It’s very sweet and a little funny at times, but always honest and real to Tung’s experiences. Many people will find this highly relatable, and I think it could even be helpful for some people who can’t relate to it (i.e., extraverts) to learn about the way the other half lives. I’m looking forward to reading her other book, Book Love (how can I not like that, right?).

Review: Aspergirls by Rudy Simone

I don’t often review nonfiction. But I thought it was worth it for this book, which could be relevant and helpful to a lot of teen girls (and adult women, for that matter) like me. I’ve never been diagnosed with Asperger’s*, but reading this makes it pretty clear that I’d qualify. In the past when I’ve looked at the symptoms lists, it didn’t ring true—but that’s because (like most everything in the medical community) they focus on how the condition presents in boys and men (you know, the default human). 

Simone’s book is comprised primarily of personal anecdotes from her and other girls/women with Asperger’s and her commentary on the significance of those. She also gives out quite a bit of advice. Near the end, the book started feeling a little pseudo-sciency to me, particularly when she gets into some of the stomach issues and how to deal with them, because she doesn’t do a thorough scientific analysis of it. This isn’t really meant as a criticism of the book as a whole; I just found that I didn’t put as much trust in that part (I am just very cynical when it comes to anyone recommending a certain diet). 

Aspergirls book cover

Since this is nonfiction, I’m going to go through the chapters and comment on each a little instead of giving a more general picture. Each chapter contains Simone’s anecdotes and commentary followed by Advice to Aspergirls and then Advice to Parents. For the purposes of clarity, I’ll use AS for Asperger’s syndrome and NT for neuro-typical, as Simone does. 

1. Imagination, Self-Taught Reading and Savant Skills, and Unusual Interests: Simone talks about how people with AS love information probably because it anchors our thoughts. A lot of AS girls teach themselves specific skills, even reading, and may have unusual abilities in certain areas (though this isn’t that common and it isn’t uncommon for AS girls to have learning disabilities, too). One thing that was particularly interesting to me is that autistic kids have been found to have higher fluid intelligence but not necessarily higher crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence is the ability to see relationships between things that aren’t obviously related. I do this all the time, sometimes confusing people with my connections. Crystallized intelligence is more traditional intelligence—the ability to learn stuff and use it. One really interesting point was that while many AS girls develop obsessive interests just like AS boys do, they tend to be in the domain of more acceptable things (books, art, music, animals, etc.)—all of which are “normal” for many girls. She says we “want to fill our minds with knowledge the way others want to fill their bellies with food” (p. 23). As someone working on her fifth degree with plans for a sixth, I can certainly relate to that. 

2. Why Smart Girls Sometimes Hate School: In a word, bullying. It is true that AS girls don’t have the social skills of NT girls. But even outside of that, most AS girls actually don’t love school despite having a love of knowledge. It’s too structured and doesn’t let us focus on the areas that interest us. Simon says that “Aspergirls do not thrive under scrutiny if it has the slightest bit of hostility in it” (p. 31). I can relate to this very well. I wither when people judge me, which I hate but I’ve never been able to get past this tendency. 

3. Sensory Overload: Simone points out that it’s not really true that AS people feel less, as was previously though, but that instead we feel things much more intensely. This is where sensory overload comes in. As people are often deeply disturbed by things other people don’t even notice. I know that the more people I’m around, the more uncomfortable I get—especially as the noise level increases. I hate sudden loud noises like balloons popping. Though I think I’m lucky because I don’t have too many sensory issues. A lot of AS people can be bothered by many sounds, sights, and even tactile sensations. 

4. Stimming, and What We Do When We’re Happy: I only heard of swimming fairly recently. It’s short for self-stimulatory behavior. This covers things like rocking, clapping, twirling, and hand flapping, all things AS people can do when they’re overwhelmed (and sometimes when they’re happy, too). I’m a chronic pen twirler. Not sure if it’s stimming or if it’s just a thing I do to help me think (I swear I think better with a pen in my hand). 

5. On Blame and Internalizing Guilt: We all know that boys and men rarely question themselves or blame themselves or internalize much of anything (other than “emotions other than anger are bad,” of course). This is one significant way AS girls are different from boys, because we do blame ourselves for our ”weird” behavior that we can’t control and subsequently start feeling guilty about it. But even more importantly, this blame often comes from external sources, when people think AS girls are behaving that way on purpose. 

6. Gender Roles and Identity: This was one of the most interesting chapters to me because Simone says that most AS girls don’t get gender roles and often shirk them. This is partially because we like to wear comfortable clothes (sometimes due to the skin sensitivity some of us have). But this also extends to identity in general, with a lot of AS girls being rather chameleon-like. Some simply don’t have much of a sense of self. I can certainly relate to this as I despise the expectations people have based on gender. It has always driven me crazy that while it’s fine to recognize there are differences between men and women, generalizations don’t apply in every single case.

7. Puberty and Mutism: This chapter touched on puberty, but was mostly about mutism. Mutism is the situation where an AS girl is simply unable to speak and often even think. I’ve been there before. It’s bizarre and frustrating. 

8. Attraction, Dating, Sex, and Relationships: I skimmed this chapter, but one thing I did get out of it was that while a lot of AS girls aren’t remotely interested in romance, others are. Those who are are prone to becoming obsessed with the object of interest and coming across as stalker-y. Another point is that because we don’t experience romance in the same way, many of us marry early or because it’s “time” rather than because there’s a real connection with the partner. Breakups are often worse for AS girls because of the break to a routine. 

9. Friendships and Socializing: It’s true that AS people tend to lack social skills, so common socializing is very difficult. But it also means that it’s hard to maintain friendships in general. 

10. Higher Learning: College is kind of a mixed bag. Some AS women do really well because of the routines, focus required, and opportunities for learning, but most others struggle with sensory overload and managing all the aspects of college life. Simone talks about the importance of trying to get assistance from the school (such as through the Office of Disability Services) if necessary, but also that many of the support services are very lacking and the people are often uninformed. 

11. Employment and Career: Simone says that a lot of AS women struggle in this area because of lack of education or qualifications. Additionally, getting jobs in the first place can be difficult due to the social skills problems. She emphasizes the importance of AS women trying to establish themselves in good jobs, especially since many stay single and can’t rely on someone else to support them.

12. Marriage and Cohabitation: I also skimmed this chapter because it isn’t relevant to me.

13. Having Children: Ditto.

14. Ritual and Routine, Logical and Literal Thinking, Bluntness, Empathy, and Being Misunderstood: Routine and even rituals are a way for AS girls to control the world around them as much as possible. Simone also talks about how literal thinking can sometimes make problems for us. I know for me that when I read, I’m very literal. Symbolism usually goes flying over my head and I cannot enjoy poetry. Bluntness is another area that can be a challenge. Simone points out that AS girls often feel misunderstood because whatever we said bluntly or understood literally was not intended to have the impact it did on the other person. 

15. Diagnosis, Misdiagnosis and Medication: A lot of AS women have never been diagnosed because the medical community is slightly clueless about AS in women, as opposed to men. Many AS women have been diagnosed with various mental illnesses and often prescribed medications based on that, when it completely misses the mark. Many women don’t find out they have it until their child is diagnosed. 

16. Depression Meltdowns, PTSD, and More about Meds: Apparently “meltdowns” are a common occurrence in people with AS. This chapter talks about depression ones. These are extreme depressions that take over an AS person’s life temporarily and can be caused by a variety of things. Simone does address the fact that AS people are prone to depression that can be treated by meds. 

17. Temper Meltdowns: This chapter is basically about the temper tantrums that AS people sometimes have. They can be triggered by almost any sensory overload and can manifest in many different ways. AS women are more prone to crying than men, but the meltdowns can be violent or just excessively phrased or acted out. However they occur, they are usually embarrassing after the fact and women especially are considered crazy, whereas men are more often forgiven. I can relate to this one, too, as (especially when I was younger), I would be triggered by something and be instantaneously overcome with this intense rage. I never was violent toward other people, but I destroyed plenty of my own things and also would say horrible things to people. All very humiliating. 

18. Burning Bridges: When you say horrible things to people, they don’t want to be around you. As mentioned earlier, a lot of AS women have trouble keeping relationships up and this can be extended to not just keeping them up but ruining them. But Simone also talks about how AS women “start over” repeatedly. Cut off all ties with the old life and start afresh. I can also relate to this one—over and over while I was in college I would decide it was time for a change and I would move, change jobs, and either go back to college or drop out of it. 

19. Stomach Issues and Autism: Apparently some people think that autism in general is caused by stomach problems during early formative months. There are also several diets that are supposed to help with autism. I’m a skeptic. 

20. Getting Older on the Spectrum: Simone talks about how most AS women stay single so money can be a challenge. So can loneliness and health problems. But otherwise, most stop caring as much about what people think of their unusual behaviors. But also, in some ways, older women are allowed to be more eccentric. 

21. On Whether Asperger Syndrome is a Disability or a Gift and Advice from Aspergirls to Aspergirls: I didn’t read this one because Simone started off by saying she preferred the term “differently-abled” over “disabled,” which I can’t stand. This seems to me like a term that non-disabled people have come up with to try to make disabled people feel better about themselves. I find this insulting. I mean, you should own it. 

22. Give Your Aspergirl some BALLS: Belief, Acceptance, Love, Like, and Support: I didn’t read this one either. 

23. Thoughts and Advice from Parents of Aspergirls: Or this one. 

There are also a couple of appendices which listed the symptoms of female AS and then the main differences between male and female AS. These are good. 

* Yes, I know it’s not technically a diagnosis anymore, but I think it is a different enough thing from more challenging cases of autism spectrum disorder, so it’s a valuable distinction. And people have a sense for what you’re talking about, even if they don’t get it exactly right. 

Review: The V-Word edited by Amber J. Keyser

The V-Word book coverThe V-Word is a collection of writing about real first-time sexual experiences. It’s not even specifically YA, though it will definitely be of interest to a lot teenagers. Everyone wants to know what it’s like, after all, even if they’re not intending to find out from personal experience any time soon.

The essays run the gamut from good experience to bad, but most capture the awkwardness of the first time. All the experience are women’s, with the writers looking back to high school, college, or even later. Most of the articles address sex with boys/men, but there are several about lesbian experiences. Some of the girls wanted to shed their virginity. Others were more resistant. Some experienced abuse. One waited until she was married. I won’t go into the details of any of them because it’s best to read them as-is.

After the experience essays are some extras: a short essay about how girls should take charge of their sex lives by: knowing their bodies, knowing what turns them on, knowing what they’re up against (in terms of society’s expectations, ever-present porn, and lack of reasonable sex ed), safe sex, knowing how to talk about it, and knowing when they’re ready. Then there’s an interview with a teen media specialist that talks about how most media targeting teens doesn’t address the female sexual experience at all, usually fading to black; labels like slut and prude frame much of the conversation; and several other interesting things. Finally there is a list of resources for both girls and their parents.

I’d recommend this to all teen girls at least, say, fifteen. Or anyone who’s really curious.