Review: Brazen, by Julia Haart

My Review

Thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for organising this blog tour and to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.

I found this book fascinating and shocking. The author writes with candour about her struggles, life within the closed community of fundamentalist Judaism her parents adopted, and her journey to freedom. She is not afraid to call out the hypocrisy of fundamental religions and their followers, and identifies the mechanisms of control that permeate them. Her anger is clear and makes it’s appearance several times as she discusses the abuses in her former community, as well as the ways people take advantage of those who escape controlling groups. She trusted people who she thought were good people only to discover that they were cheats and liars. Help from good people, who understood that getting everything is writing and having contracts is the only way to go in business, got her into a better position and eventually her hard work and creative flare saved her business and freed her family.

The author correctly identifies that women are often used to reinforce their own oppression in these groups; teaching the ‘laws’ to the next generation after a lifetime of indoctrination and abuse, by means of indoctrination and abuse, because they’ve been told it’ll make them holy. Since they can’t be holy or good just by being a decent human, only men can be that. Social pressure, gossip and ostracism are tools used to control women by other women; once the system is set up and in place for a couple of generation, the men no longer have to actively police it, they merely passively benefit from it and never question the problem. In some fundamentalist communities, young men are also thrown out and the stories of their struggles to adapt to a world they haven’t been prepared for are used as lessons to keep others in line.

I would be interested to know how she brought her children and ex-husband away from fundamentalism, as he’s now a Modern Orthodox Jew and the children are all in higher education. The denial of education to children and forcing adults into pre-defined roles based on genitalia are major problems in all fundamentalist religious groups, unfortunately.

Haart’s devotion to her children shines through and she is at pains to make it clear that every risk she took was to give them better lives away where they wouldn’t be forced into early marriage or denied an education.

It doesn’t matter which particular prophet they follow, when your god is a psychopath and his priests can get away with manipulating the people, you’re going to get abuse. Fear of being called a bigot often prevents authorities from intervening where they can, such as in the unregulated and unregistered schools children of fundamentalist parents are often sent to, and to ‘schools with a religious ethos’ in the UK. Just because the parents are *insert religion or denomination here* doesn’t mean the children should be subjected to ignorant, outdated ideas and denied an education. And the ‘God/Allah/YHWH/Jehovah says so’ excuse is lazy and stupid. No, a bunch of old men wrote a load of myths and rules about how to live safely at different times over a thousand years and in different cultural contexts and now you’re trying to force that crap on children living in totally different cultural contexts, in a world with more knowledge available than ever before. You want to believe the myths, go ahead, but you don’t get to force that on other people. Can you tell I have little time for the god of Abraham, and a lot of time for his victims? My Gran would be so upset if she read this.

Back to the book

I found the writing spirited and easy to read. It is a heartfelt plea against fundamentalism and a demand for freedom. I found the descriptions of her creative process and the difficulties of starting a business gripping, while her life in her former community and her travels are fascinatingly told. The details of lives usually hidden from the wider world are enough to give anyone pause, and her discussion of her mental health struggles as she fought to escape and then to build a business are compassionate to herself and others. I’m still surprised at how much compassion she has for her ex-husband, given his behaviour, and that she still has a belief in a higher power, but everyone is different.

I didn’t particularly enjoy reading about Haart’s post-separation sexual adventures, but that’s just me. Some people might be interested. I found some of the phrasing repetitive. There’s only so many times I can read that returning to Monsey was like returning to jail for her, or that she doesn’t let people take advantage of her now. And it felt like it finished a bit abruptly.

In summary

A worthwhile memoir, and peak into the behind the scenes life of a fashion designer.


About the Author

Julia Haart is the star of the Netflix docuseries My Unorthodox Life.

She is the CEO, co-owner and chief creative officer of Elite World Group, the world’s first talent media agency, which is comprised of 48 global agencies representing the most dynamic and culturally connected talent in the world.

She was previously the creative director of La Perla, the luxury Italian intimates brand, and launched her career as a designer with her namesake shoe collection.

Julia lives in Manhattan.

Instagram: @juliahaart.

Review: Through A Vet’s Eyes, By Dr Sean Wensley

Gaia | £20.00 | 28th April 2022

Dr Sean Wensley is an award-winning vet and lifelong naturalist who has contributed to animal welfare and conservation projects all over the world. His debut book is about how we can choose a better life for animals, from the chickens we eat to the pets we keep.
As our societies become more urbanised, we are further removed from the reality of where and how our food is produced. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the humanisation of our pets is a risk to their welfare; with 60% of UK dogs being overweight or obese, we are effectively killing them with kindness. Through a Vet’s Eyes seeks to redress this imbalance so that we see all animals as thinking, feeling beings not dissimilar to ourselves.

There is high public and political interest in animal welfare, with current attention focused on high-profile topics such as animal sentience, humane and sustainable global agriculture and breeding pets, such as flat-faced dogs, for looks over health. To fully consider and improve the lives of animals, evidence-based information is needed to help us all understand these issues, what they mean from the animals’ perspectives and what we can all do to help.

A polemic with elements of memoir and nature writing, the book takes us through the years in which Sean trained to become a vet and shares his first-hand experience of how animals are treated and used for our benefit. It interrogates the different levels of welfare afforded to them and reveals
how we, as consumers and informed citizens, can reduce our animal welfare footprint through the choices we make every single day.

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Review: The Way of the Tortoise

Blurb 

Drawing on more than a decade’s experience working with former tennis World Number One Sir Andy Murray, The Way of the Tortoise introduces you to the benefits of the slow lane and reveals why it’s the only true path to a high-performance mindset.

Taking inspiration from Aesop’s well-known fable of the Hare and the Tortoise, internationally renowned trainer Matt Little recognizes that there is no fast path to success. By focusing on immediate results, we can gloss over process in the race to get ahead, skipping over the lessons and experiences that we all need to build solid foundations for our future achievements. Matt shows that taking the slow lane can not only help you reach your goals more effectively, it can make your successes more sustainable by increasing your motivation, energy and resilience. Packed full of examples from the highly adaptable worlds of sport and business, as well as Matt’s own remarkable career, The Way of the Tortoise reveals, through practical exercises and techniques, the essential strategies we can all use to achieve extraordinary results.

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Review: What Lies Buried, by Kerry Daynes

Kerry Daynes, leading forensic psychologist, takes us into the murky world of psychological investigation to uncover what lies buried. Each of her clients is classed as a ‘mentally disordered criminal offender’ whose psychological problems have contributed to them breaking the law.

Whether she is dealing with a young murderer who says he has heard voices telling him to kill, a teacher who daubs children in red paint and threatens to abduct them, or an aspiring serial killer who faints at the sight of blood, Kerry’s quest is to delve beyond the classic question asked of forensic psychologists: ‘Are they mad or are they bad?’

In her new book, Kerry provides an unflinching, enlightening and provocative insight into the minds of her clients, shedding light
on the root causes of their behaviour.

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Review: Gender Euphoria, Edited by Laura Kate Dale

10th June 2021 | PB £9.99

● This ground-breaking anthology brings together an eclectic cohort of trans, nonbinary, agender, gender-fluid and intersex contributors to share their experiences of “gender euphoria” – bringing stories of joy, belonging and positivity to the conversation around transition
● Moments of gender euphoria include an agender dominatrix being called
‘Daddy’, an Arab trans man getting his first tattoos, and a trans woman
embracing her inner fighter
● Gender Euphoria reached its funding target in less than a week, and has over 1,000 backers


So often, the stories shared by trans people about their transition centre on gender dysphoria:
a feeling of deep discomfort with their birth-assigned gender, and a powerful catalyst for coming out or transitioning. But for many non-cisgender people, it’s gender euphoria which pushes forward their transition: the joy the first time a parent calls them by their new chosen
name, the first time they have the confidence to cut their hair short, the first time they truly embrace themself.

Gender Euphoria seeks to show the world the sheer variety of ways that being non cisgender can be a beautiful, joyful experience. What each of the book’s essayists have in common are their feelings of elation, pride, confidence, freedom and ecstasy as a direct result of coming out as non-cisgender, and how coming to terms with their gender brought unimaginable joy into their lives.

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Review: Stephen From The Inside Out, by Susie Stead

Publication date: 2 Apr 2021
Category: Biography / Memoir
Paperback price: £9.99
Page count: tbc
ISBN: 978-1-911293-68-2
E-book price: £3.99
ISBN: 978-1-911293-67-5

Stephen struggled for most of his life with severe mental health issues, endured 25 years inside British psychiatric wards and never felt acceptable outside, in the ‘normal’ world. People found him difficult and demanding yet on the inside was a man with wide interests, deep longings and an integrity that would not be compromised, whatever the cost.
This is his story, inside and out; a story of grave injustices, saints and bigots, a faithful dog, a wild woman, a fairy godmother and angels hidden in plain sight.
It is also the story of the author, Susie, who started off by wanting to ‘help’
Stephen ‘get better,’ and instead found herself profoundly challenged by a
friendship she did not expect.
Idiosyncratic, unorthodox, tragic, yet at times hilarious – this book not only tells a compelling and important story but will be vital reading for anyone who cares about mental health in our contemporary world or who might just be open to a different way of seeing: from the inside out

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Review: Self Contained, by Emma John

Cassell
6 May 2021 | £12.99 | Hardback

Raw and hilarious memoir of a life-long single from award-winning author
and journalist, Emma John.

Emma is in her 40s; she is neither married, nor partnered, with child or planning to be. Self-Contained captures what it is to be single in your forties, from sharing a twin room with someone you’ve never met on a group holiday (because the couples have all the doubles with ensuite) to coming to the realisation that maybe your singleness isn’t a temporary arrangement, that maybe you aren’t pre-married at all, and in fact you are self-contained.

It explores the unpartnered life as never before, joyfully celebrating individuality in a world built for two. This is the book to confront the commonly held assumption that life is less full and less-fulfilled if lived singly.

‘I wrote this book because I don’t want to be haunted by the word “spinster” any more!’

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Autism TBR Pile Review: I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder, by Sarah Kurchak

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Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 22nd 2020
by Douglas McIntyre
ISBN:1771622466 (ISBN13: 9781771622462)

Sarah Kurchak is autistic. She hasn’t let that get in the way of pursuing her dream to become a writer, or to find love, but she has let it get in the way of being in the same room with someone chewing food loudly, and of cleaning her bathroom sink. In I Overcame My Autism and All I Got Was This Lousy Anxiety Disorder, Kurchak examines the Byzantine steps she took to become “an autistic success story,” how the process almost ruined her life and how she is now trying to recover.

Growing up undiagnosed in small-town Ontario in the eighties and nineties, Kurchak realized early that she was somehow different from her peers. She discovered an effective strategy to fend off bullying: she consciously altered nearly everything about herself—from her personality to her body language. She forced herself to wear the denim jeans that felt like being enclosed in a sandpaper iron maiden. Every day, she dragged herself through the door with an elevated pulse and a churning stomach, nearly crumbling under the effort of the performance. By the time she was finally diagnosed with autism at twenty-seven, she struggled with depression and anxiety largely caused by the same strategy she had mastered precisely. She came to wonder, were all those years of intensely pretending to be someone else really worth it?

Tackling everything from autism parenting culture to love, sex, alcohol, obsessions and professional pillow fighting, Kurchak’s enlightening memoir challenges stereotypes and preconceptions about autism and considers what might really make the lives of autistic people healthier, happier and more fulfilling. 

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TBR Pile Review: Happy Fat, by Sofie Hagen

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Hardcover, 336 pages
Published May 2nd 2019 by Fourth Estate
ISBN13: 9780008293871

‘I am a fat person and I love my body. I feel lucky to be able to say that – it has taken a lot of work and a lot of time. I want to tell you what I have learned and how I got here.’

In Happy Fat, comedian Sofie Hagen shares how she removed fatphobic influences from her daily life and found self-acceptance in a world where judgement and discrimination are rife.

From shame and sex to airplane seats, love and getting stuck in public toilets, Sofie provides practical tips for readers – drawing wisdom from other Fat Liberation champions along the way.

Part memoir, part social commentary, Happy Fat is a funny, angry and impassioned look at how taking up space in a culture that is desperate to reduce you can be radical, emboldening and life-changing.


My Review

I ordered myself this book last year when it was published. I’ve just had the time to read it, and I read it fairly quickly. The early chapters made me cry because they covered some very distressing topics, and the later chapters have information that I already knew from reading Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon and The F**k It Diet by Caroline Dooner. While those books are focused on the diet industry, this book is more biography and encouragement to self-love. I found the writing moving and amusing by turns. I enjoyed the inserted interviews and the illustrations. It’s a good introduction to the fat liberation movement.

Review: In Black and White, by Alexandra Wilson

Alexandra Wilson was a teenager when her dear family friend Ayo was stabbed on his way home from football. Ayo’s death changed Alexandra. His death compelled her to enter the legal profession to search for answers.
As a junior criminal and family law barrister she finds herself navigating a world and a set of rules designed by a privileged few. A world in which barristers sigh with relief at the retirement of a racist judge: ‘I’ve got a black kid today and he would have had no hope.’

In her debut book In Black and White, Alexandra beautifully re-creates the tense court room scenes, the heart-breaking meetings with teenage clients and the moments of frustration and triumph that make up a young barrister’s life.

Alexandra speaks with raw honesty about her experience as a mixed-race woman from a non-traditional background in a profession that is sorely lacking in diverse representation. A justice system in which a disproportionately large number of black and mixed-race people are charged, convicted and sent to prison.

She shows us how it feels to defend someone who hates the colour of your skin or someone you suspect is guilty, and the heart-breaking youth justice cases she has worked on. We see what it’s like for the teenagers coerced into county line drug deals and the damage that can be caused when we criminalise teenagers.

Her account of what she has witnessed as a young mixed-race barrister is in equal parts shocking, compelling, confounding and powerful. Alexandra’s story is unique in a profession still dominated by a section of society with little first-hand experience of the devastating impact of violent crime.

Endeavour • 13th August 2020
£16.99 • Hardback

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