Thinking women's money blog. Here on Femme Frugality you’ll find articles about specific things I’ve done to handle my finances as they pertain to each area of my life. You’ll also find commentary on current events in the financial world.
A few months ago we talked about how PTSD can make investors more risk-averse. This was especially worrying for females with PTSD, as women already tend to set their investment goals lower than men while also living longer. Missing out on the gains of riskier investments early on, compounded with already insufficient goals, means you’re a lot less likely to be ready for retirement.
Then, a little over a month ago, I wrote an article that examined why people take on huge loads of debt–even when logic would dictate that doing so would be bad for them. It turns out, one of the factors is your optimism levels.
We all have different levels of optimism, and the more we have of it, the more likely we are to envision good things happening in our future. Which can be good when you’re investing, but not so great when you’re taking on debt. Because the future of your money situation is unpredictable, and you might not be able to repay as readily as you’re anticipating.
That got me thinking about other ways optimism may negatively impact our finances.
Yes, I realize that is an incredibly pessimistic line of thought. But I’m going to relabel it “pragmatic,” because it turns out, too much optimism can be bad for your money in several ways.
Optimism bias is when we overestimate the likelihood of positive events.
This is incredibly dangerous when applied to something like gambling, where the odds are quite blatantly not in your favor. Even if you’re familiar with the probabilities of winning mathematically, you optimism bias can make you feel like you’re special, and that if you just play long enough, you’ll be that one person who beats the system.
Yes, we did just say that being risk averse is a bad thing in investing. However, being overly optimistic can be a bad thing, as well.
There’s a lot of ego in entrepreneurship. There has to be. You’re constantly selling yourself and/or your product, and you need people the believe in your value. If you don’t believe in your own value, you’re not going to get clients or investors to hop on board.
Have debt? Have a gambling problem? Have zero savings?
Being overly optimistic makes it easier to bury your head in the sand. It makes it easier to pretend like there aren’t any problems.
But we all know what happens when you refuse to acknowledge a problem.
It gets worse.
You debt piles up. You drain the bank account to feed your gambling addiction. When an emergency does happen, you don’t have any funds to cover it.
Burying your head in the sand is a comforting sort of optimism, but it’s not going to help you get ahead or fix the problems in front of you.
Optimism Bias is Still a Good Thing
Almost every study I’ve read on this topic says that despite its drawbacks, optimism bias is still a good thing. Without it, our species may not have made it as far as we have.
Our ability to predict our own death is depressing, but with optimism bias, we’re able to find ways to prevent that death and fight off depression. We’re also willing to take risks that result in progress–either on a personal level or for the entire species.
People who are optimistic in general tend to earn a higher paycheck, and are more willing to take on those riskier investments earlier in their career.
Optimism bias is a good thing for our species in general.
While this same overly-optimistic trait isn’t good for our personal finances, that doesn’t mean optimism is bad. It just means we need to temper our financial optimism with some realism.
We need to look our debt and other money problems square in the face.
While it’s good to believe the future will hold good things for our career, we need to save just in case things don’t work out the way we’re hoping.
While it’s healthy to take risks, we need to draw a line in the sand. One that establishes when the odds are too great to overcome–even for our own optimism.
So go on. Be happy. Believe in a better future. Believe that you can manifest all the money in the world. But don’t believe in it so hard that you allow yourself to think it’s a sure thing. You still have to hedge against risks, even if you think you can overcome them.
For the past several years, the Carnegie Science Center has been hosting this fun event on the summer solstice. On the solstice, you can pay for your admission—in snow!
How to Pay for Your Science Center Admission with Snow
If you bring in a snowball on June 21, 2018, you get to name your own admission. This is a big deal as kids’ tickets are usually $11.95 and adults get in for $19.95. When you’re taking the whole family, those admission prices can really add up.
NOTE: If anyone in your household has an ACCESS card, whether it’s for Medicaid or SNAP benefits or cash benefits, you can get up to four tickets for just $3 each. This discount is available everyday of the year–not just on June 21st! You can check out other regularly occurring discounts here.
Prepping for Name-Your-Own-Price Day
If you’d like to take the family to the Science Center in June for cheap, here’s what you’ll need to do:
Clear out room in your freezer to store the snowball.
Make a snowball. Don’t make it silly big. Remember you need to store it for at least four months.
Put it in your freezer until June.
Bring it to the Science Center on June 21, 2018. Be sure to prep a cooler so your snowball doesn’t melt on your way in!
Bring at least a tiny bit of money to pay for your admission. I don’t know that this is a requirement, but it is good form.
Have a fun day at the Science Center! You’ll get to use a giant slingshot to propel your snowballs into the Ohio River.
Make the most of today’s weather & prep for Snowball Day! All visitors who make a snowball this winter, save it in their freezer, & bring it to the Science Center on the 1st day of summer, June 21, will be able to choose what they pay for general admission that day. pic.twitter.com/9DbJ7OCbVd
Today’s post, contributed by an outside writer, is brought to you by Lendlease.
Our popular culture has somehow managed to paint retirement villages or communities as undesirable places for only downtrodden seniors. This wrong impression, unfortunately, deters some people from exploring the benefits and opportunities of optimal living that can be attained at a certain stage of life.
If you’re considering to move to retirement villages on the central coast NSW, or anywhere for that matter, but are still unsure if you should pursue the option, then read on. We’ll explore the benefits and opportunities it offers.
No more stressful driving
Driving can become stressful as we age–as our driving abilities decline. Because of this, most residents choose to utilize the free transportation that’s offered by retirement communities. The time for relying on a car is over. If you still want to drive, parking is available for residents.
There are a lot of seniors that are used to living alone and aren’t eating right anymore. In retirement communities, residents don’t need to worry about meal preparation or groceries. As an alternative, they get to obtain a fine dining experience every day. The food is often better, alternative meals are typically offered and special diet needs are accommodated. Most new residents who had been eating poorly before moving in experience improvements in their health and well-being just from the new diet.
Feel normal again
Sometimes, living alone doesn’t allow us to participate in activities and games that we used to enjoy, which were both fun and helped keep our minds sharp. Senior communities offer different prospects to keep seniors happy and engaged. This typically include games like bridge, chess, engaging reading and fascinating lectures and classes on every imaginable topic.
Residents can rest easy because the entire community is secure. Additionally, residents relish the peace of mind from fast emergency response systems that can be found apartments, or even on the resident’s person as a pendant.
This system reduces fears about being trapped or falling–scenarios that are all too common for seniors residing alone, although there are seniors who are living alone and are just doing fine.
Stronger family relationships
Older folks commonly become reliant on their grown children, or sometimes other close family members, for aid of all kinds. Unusual role reversals can pressure relationships and foster harmful feelings of bitterness, both by parents and their children.
Younger family members become free from the role of being full-time caregivers and are able to guarantee that time with their older loved one is high-quality and significant. Older residents are often glad to go back to the role of a family matriarch or patriarch and usually happy that their grown children no longer have to “become the parent of the parent.”
New friends–and family
Many older adults who live alone can become isolated, which is harmful at any age. At retirement communities, there are normally activities that allow you to make friends and share a meal with one another. Conversely, those who are more withdrawn appreciate that their privacy is valued, but are still pleased to have folks around.
Of course, senior communities aren’t for everyone. However, it’s without a doubt that there are many seniors living alone in unsafe or unhealthy situations who would gain tremendous benefits from a retirement community. Check out the Lendlease Communities if you’re looking for retirement villages on the central coast NSW. The famed community offers scenic surrounds, first-class amenities and a friendly community that will ensure seniors a love coming home.
Have you ever read a book that just hits you? And hits you hard?
I just had that experience over the past couple of weeks.
Jen Hemphill, Accredited Financial Counselor and integral member of team Brystalifer, recently released her new book: Her Money Matters. She was kind enough to supply me with a free advance copy so I could let you all know my thoughts on it.
A Different Kind of Personal Finance Book
I’ve read some pretty amazing books on personal finance.
This one is different in the best of ways. It’s for people who know what they should be doing, but struggle to make actual progress. Maybe you keep hitting bumps in the road that force you to drain your emergency fund. Maybe your past money experiences are informing the way you make financial decisions in ways you’re not even conscious of.
Whatever your block is, Jen gives you actionable steps to help you overcome. To help you dream bigger, focus on positivity and get your personal finances functioning in the way want them to.
The biggest lesson that really struck me was that confidence is one of the biggest factors behind motivation. I had never really thought about it in this way before, but it’s so true. When we feel like we’re capable–when we feel like we really can reach our goals–we’re more likely to work at them full force. We’re going to be more excited because we feel like we really can achieve, and that our efforts will not be fruitless.
This can apply to so many areas of your life, but it definitely applies to your money.
A Personal Experience
I’ve been in one of those ruts lately. The kind where you know what to do and fully intend to do it, but one emergency or another keeps popping up and derailing your plans.
Prior to this read, I wouldn’t say that it was shattering my money confidence as much as my hope that things would improve. But now I understand those two things are intertwined.
After reading Jen’s book, I have some of that confidence back. And I have a clear vision of the path I need to pursue it. I want to share the results of just a couple of these confidence-building exercises. And encourage you to do them, too.
A big thing that Jen points out in the book is that you can have all the goals, but if you don’t know why you have those goals, you’re going to have a harder time turning them into reality. You need to identify your “why” for those times when the going gets tough; if you can zoom out to the bigger picture, you can put a small blip in your financial life into perspective–no matter how nasty that blip may feel in the moment.
She goes into great detail, helping you identify and construct your “why.” Here’s mine:
My money matters because I want stability and security for myself and my children, and I want to be an actor in my life rather than a passive vessel.
Healthy finances help me achieve both of those goals.
Building Your Confidence
One of the many things Jen has you do to build your money confidence is to list out your past financial wins. I have this hangup where I feel guilty praising myself, but this read helped me realize I’m going to have to get over that if I want to get out of this weird funk.
So here are my wins:
When I was a teenager, I paid off ten grand in six months.
I’ve been meaning to get around to sending old clothes in to threadUP for waaaaayyyy too long. In the past couple months, I finally made it happen. My closets are much cleaner, and my wallet is a tiny bit thicker.
Writing this list was like pulling teeth at first. I felt gross listing out things I had done well, and had to stop myself from qualifying them with the negative money moves I’ve made in the past.
Full honesty, I feel gross posting it for the world to see, too. But I’m doing it anyways. Because I know I can’t be the only one with this issue. Also, my goal for 2018 is bravery.
As I went on, though, I noticed that it was starting to work. I realized that because I had done all these things before–sometimes with less resources than I have now–I can get things back to where I want them to be if I set my mind to it.
Obviously, it’s a resounding “yes”.
If you’ve read the conventional advice, but your money isn’t where you want it to be, this book is my number one recommendation. Jen gives you a fresh perspective, and puts you to work implementing these new concepts at the end of each of the twenty-three chapters. I gave you an example of just two of them.
Arts & crafts are more developmentally appropriate for children when you let them lead the activity. For holidays, I choose to offer light guidance or set up and then let my little ones go crazy.
In that spirit, we sat down and made some great Valentines for our family members. The best part?
They were 100% free as we used items we already had around the house!
Glitter is the bane of my existence. But my kids love it so freaking much. Therefore, we glittered.
I drew a heart in glue stick on some pink card stock and then let them go crazy with the glitter. After we finished up, I let them go crazy with the glue and glitter. Because sometimes I’m a fun mom.
It’s amazing to me what a big hit stickers are around here. We cut out some card stock to standard Valentine size, and then I let them decorate their cards with heart stickers we’ve had around for a while.
These were the easiest and the ones my kids probably had the most fun with.
The prep for this one was a little more involved.
I used Scotch tape to write out the word “LOVE” with a badly-shaped heart for the “O.” I did it on paper, but in retrospect I’d use cardstock for these, too. The tape pulls up the paper a bit.
Then I inked up their hands and let them decorate.
When you take the tape off, it leaves the letters untouched! We’ve done this before with feet, too, and just let them run all over the paper. That’s super fun, but the floors need immediate scrubbing afterwards.
I used to work in early childhood education. I used to write lesson plans each week on a theme using the creative curriculum model. It was sort of fun, but sort of brain-wracking. I wrote them in the days before Pinterest, and I’d often find myself googling little projects in my off-hours.
Now that I’m not in ECC in that capacity, but do have little ones of my own, I try to work all of the elements of the curriculum into our week, as it’s constructed in a way that hits on a lot of areas of development.
Here’s a lesson plan that incorporates all creative curriculum areas. We were able to do it without spending a penny–we just used things around our house for each project.
Feel free to mix and match according to what you have lying around your home. For example, maybe you don’t have model magic, but you do have Play-Doh. Or maybe you’re like me and hate glitter, but you’re lucky enough to have some gold paint lying around the house.
We made snowboards out of model magic. Before they dried, I twisted up some pipecleaners to make snowboarders and stuck their feet into the boards so they’d dry standing up.
Snowboarding is the favorite event for my kids, but you could easily make skis out of either popsicle sticks or model magic.
We also made gold medals by gluing a ton of gold glitter to a piece of card stock. Wait to dry. Cut out a hole with a hole punch. Use some yarn to make it into a necklace. Done.
I cut out the side of an old diaper box, glued some white paper on it, put some glue on the paper, and let my kids go crazy ripping up cotton balls and placing them on the box to make 3D snow.
We had made our own manipulatives with our snowboarders! The day everything was finally dry we took our little dudes down the diaperbox mountain. And pulled the snow back off the mountain. And made them crash into each other. And then sent them down the naked mountain again.
After our snowboarders made their runs on the diaper box course, we got out the stool we use to wash hands and used it as a podium. Everyone got a gold medal. Not because I think “everyone should be a winner,” but because we’re way too little around here to handle the concept of losing to a sibling and still have fun.
What did we sing on the podium? The Star-Spangled Banner, of course. When that got old we sang France’s national anthem, because that’s the only other one I know all the words to.
GO PLAY IN THE SNOW! Luge with a sled, pretend to cross-country ski, or simply talk about how that white stuff they’re throwing around is the same stuff under the snowboarder’s feet on TV.
I’m not going to lie, we haven’t done this one yet. These Olympic Ring Fruit Pizzas look simple and delicious, though. Or, you could make a Korean dish like kimchi. We’ve got a couple weeks left, so I’m keeping this in mind for our next grocery shopping trip.
This post is brought to you by MyFreeTaxes and The Motherhood. All opinions are 100% honest and 100% my own.
I’ve always been a little bit of a tax nerd. That trend probably started because I didn’t make a whole lot of money, and getting a big refund can feel like a financial windfall.
But also, I don’t actually mind sifting through the numbers. I almost enjoy going through the tax code to learn more about new deductions I can take and credits I can claim. Maybe I was an accountant in another life.
I’m so into it that when my husband and I first met one Spring many years ago, I filed his return for him. It was one of the first times we hung out. He mentioned he had to go in to get them filed–and pay the fee to do so. He had a very simple return. Only one W-2 from his only source of income as a single person.
I told him that was silly, and that I’d help him file it for free.
Me “helping” turned into me doing the return while he sat there and did something completely different, but he was really appreciative.
Stop Paying to File Your Taxes
I’m weird. I know that most people don’t enjoy tax season. Filing can feel complex, and frankly, sometimes it is.
But last year–just like my husband all those years ago–one-third of millennials paid to have their tax returns filed even though they didn’t have to. In fact, 70% of Americans qualify for free tax filing.
That’s unacceptable to me. Lack of awareness is costing people money.
Today I have an awesome solution to this problem: a way to file your taxes for completely free. Even if you’re self-employed. Even if you have to file a bunch of extra forms that look like alphabet soup.
MyFreeTaxes from the United Way
In the past, I’ve written about the VITA program from the United Way. If you make $54,000 or less, you can schedule an in-person appointment to get your taxes filed for zero dollars.
I’ve used them in the past and they’re amazing, but if you want an appointment, be sure to schedule it this very minute as the slots fill up extremely quickly.
This year, though, I learned about another free program from the United Way that serves even more people. You don’t have to schedule any appointments. In fact, you don’t even have to leave your living room.
MyFreeTaxes is an online tax filing platform that allows you to file your taxes for free. Born of a partnership between the United Way and H&R Block, it’s incredibly easy to use both on your PC and on your phone with their mobile-optimized website. In fact, most filers who use the software file in under an hour.
How do I qualify for MyFreeTaxes?
In order to qualify for MyFreeTaxes, you must have an adjusted gross income (AGI) of under $66,000. That means that you can earn more than $66,000, but if deductions take you below that number, you still qualify.
Now you’re in the thick of filing your return, and you’re not 100% sure if you need to file an additional form on top of your 1040.
Luckily, MyFreeTaxes provides free customer support from IRS-certified specialists. Available in both English and Spanish, you can get in touch with one of these specialists via email, a telephone helpline, or the chat box.
Free Even for the Self-Employed
I know the pain of filing taxes as a self-employed person. At the very least, you have to file a Schedule C for profit/loss, and do some complex calculations to figure out your self-employment tax. Then you have to figure out how much of that tax is deductible.
There are some programs out there that will allow you to file for free–as long as you are only filing a basic 1040.
MyFreeTaxes is not one of them. No matter how complex your return, if you meet the income/AGI requirement, you will be able to file all the forms for free–even if you’re self-employed. Even if you have investment income.
File Your State Return for Free
One year I had to file three state returns. I had moved to another state halfway through the year, so I had to file in both. My partner at the time was in the military, so he got to file in his home state–which didn’t tax military income.
It was messy, but eventually we figured it out.
I wish MyFreeTaxes had been around back then, because they allow you to file returns for up to three states for free. This is a really big deal. A lot of the “free” programs will not allow you to file even one state return. You just get the federal 1040. But that’s not the case with MyFreeTaxes.
Where are the asterisks?
There are none. I know it’s hard to believe that anyone offers anything that’s truly free anymore, but MyFreeTaxes comes with no asterisks. It really is one hundred percent free.
It’s also the only tax filing software offered by a nonprofit. United Way fights for the financial stability of every person in every community.
I know this personally as I’ve used some of their programs before. They’re really invested in helping, and as a a nonprofit, they’re not interested in making any money off of you. Because of this, I find myself referring individual readers to them often.
I’m so glad to learn about an additional United Way program as it casts a wider net for free tax filing; you can earn a bit more money, be middle-class and still qualify. Because United Way is so dedicated in to their mission, I’m not surprised that since they launched, they’ve secured over $1 billion in refunds for almost one million tax filers.
Whether you’ll be deducting travel expenses for your sole proprietorships or you’re interested in maximizing credits like the EIC or Child Tax Credit, MyFreeTaxes will help you get it done without charging you a cent.
File Your Return Early to Avoid ID Theft
One more note: it’s important to file your taxes early to avoid tax identity theft. Essentially, the IRS awards the refund to whoever files your return first–you or the criminal. It’s a mess you’ll be lucky to sort out. This is especially true with all the data breaches in the past year.
Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine is so incredibly beautiful. With temperate summers and gorgeous, deciduous-lined beaches that change colors in the fall, it’s a perfect natural get-away for people who love to passively enjoy the beauty of nature or like to tackle it through extreme sports.
Best Times to Travel to Acadia National Park
To keep the trip frugal we’ll start with our cardinal rule:
Travel before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.
Prices on lodging and essentially everything touristy will be seriously reduced. That includes airfare–ticket prices double for those who must travel in the summer.
That being said, it’s absolutely beautiful in the summer and every possible thing you could imagine to do there is open.
If you’re traveling in the off-season, be sure to pack warm clothing. Spring and fall are bearable and beautiful, but undoubtedly colder than what you’d expect.
Getting into the Park
The only sandy beach on Mount Deseret Island.
Acadia is one of the national parks which requires an admission fee. The good news is that for one car it’s only $20 for a week. It’s not bad, but to eliminate the cost completely you can go during one of the National Parks’ free days.
You can also berid of the entrance fee if someone in your car is:
A fourth grader.
A member of the military or a military dependent.
Frugal Fun Inside Acadia National Park
The Precipice in Fall.
Aside from the entrance fee, going to the park a pretty frugal thing to enjoy the outdoors. Pack your own food and do any of the following:
Bike or hike any of the carriage roads. These roads were built by Rockefeller with the restriction that no cars could ever drive on them. You can even ride down them in a horse-drawn carriage at certain times of year. In the winter, some of these trails are open to cross-country skiing.
Visit Cadillac Mountain, where at certain times of the year you’ll be able to see the sun rise before anywhere else in the United States.
Visit the Abbe Museum in the woods or in the town of Bar Harbor to explore Native American history/culture.
Visit Thunder Hole, where the waves crash in on a narrow cove creating a thunderous effect. You may just get drenched. There are tons of tide pools off to the side, but you’re not really supposed to climb over to see them as doing so can be extremely dangerous.
Rock climbers can tackle the Precipice, which will be worth writing home about.
Anyone can climb the Precipice Trail. It’s intense and can be dangerous. It’s not for people who are children, afraid of heights, or have any health problems. But if you get a thrill out of this sort of thing, you’ll enjoy the challenge.
Kayak. The ocean is at your disposal.
Ranger-led programs are also available and may be a great option if you have kids in tow.
Swim in your choice of ponds.
Affordable Things to do Near Acadia National Park
Cavernous rock formations at The Ovens.
There’s lots of other fun things to do and explore on other parts of Mount Desert Island, too Here are some ideas to get you started.
Go geocaching! Free activity that will help you explore other parts of the island that you wouldn’t have ventured to before.
Take a boat tour of the surrounding islands and learn about lobstering.
Go shopping in the quaint town of Bar Harbor. The tchotchke shops have a lot of stuff made in China, but it will be cheap.
The shops where stuff is a little more expensive usually carry products and artwork made by Maine locals–supporting the local economy and artists. The town butts up against the ocean providing a great view lined with an array of restaurants.
National Parks Make For Frugal and Memorable Vacations
Tide pools outside of Thunder Hole.
My list is by no means exhaustive, but is meant to demonstrate that if you enjoy nature, national parks can be a great way for you to vacation on a budget.
Acadia has a nice balance of small town civilization and isolated wilderness so you can have a great time whatever your preferences may be. I’ve been lucky enough to visit several times, and it’s always a new adventure!
Today’s post is brought to you and contributed by Abby Locker.
Experiencing a personal injury can be financially and emotionally devastating. You must recover from physical injuries, while also managing the financial setbacks related to the incident. Here’s some information to get started on your journey of understanding your options if you experience a personal injury.
Victim’s personal insurance: The victim may have insurance to cover certain costs related to a personal injury. If the other driver is determined to be at fault in an auto accident, for example, the victim’s insurance company may reimburse the victim for car damage. Medical insurance can cover medical costs. Most insurance policies, however, have a cap on the amount paid on any claim.
Workers compensation: All states require employers to carry workers compensation insurance, which is designed to pay medical costs and lost wages for workers who are injured on the job. Just as with personal insurance, there may be limits on the dollar amount paid to a victim.
Legal experts: If insurance coverage is not in place, or if the damages exceed payments from insurance policies, you may need to consult with a personal injury attorney who can represent you in a legal action.
Consult with your insurance agent regarding insurance coverage, so that you can determine the amount of damages that will not be covered by insurance.
Fortunately, many people in society are taking steps to limit the risk of personal injuries. In the last few decades, it’s become common to use designated drivers to prevent drunken driving injuries. Mobile phones have made it much easier for drinkers to get another driver to take them home.
In addition, successful businesses now take steps to increase worker safety on job sites to reduce the risk of worker injury.
Finally, technology has made it much easier for consumers to find information on personal injuries and determine how they can recover financially.
Personal injury cases are considered civil actions, rather than criminal actions. A person who sues and wins in a personal injury case is typically entitled to damages. The damages may be compensatory, punitive, or both. State laws regarding personal injury cases can vary widely from state to state. However, these terms apply to most personal injury cases, regardless of the state:
Compensatory damages: As the name implies, these damages are intended to compensate the victim for any financial, physical and emotional damage due to the injury. The idea is to restore the victim to the position that he or she was in before the injury. Special damages refer to monetary losses and general damages compensate the victim for non-monetary losses.
Monetary losses: This type of damage award compensates the victim formedical and rehabilitation costs, and any future medical costs may be included in the damage award calculation. If the victim must live with a disability, that cost may also be included. Wages lost while recovering from the injury are assessed, along with the cost of any damaged property, such as a car repair.
Punitive damages: These damages are assessed to punish the defendant for causing the injury. Punitive damage awards also serve as a deterrent for other people who may engage in the same risky behavior. While these damages are not awarded in every case, the dollar amount can be substantial.
Speak with an attorney so that you understand the types damages that may apply to your injury, and how state law may impact your legal case.
If you experience a personal injury, it may take a team of people to help you recover. In addition to family members and friends, seek out an insurance expert and an attorney who can help you navigate this difficult process.
Welcome to the next installment in my Around the World in 80 Books Challenge! It’s exactly what it sounds like: I’m trying to read 80 books from 80 different countries/cultures around the world, and to add a frugal spin, I’m trying to do it all for under $20.
I haven’t done one of these in a while. I keep getting stuck about halfway through a book, and can’t get myself to commit to finishing–even though that’s my usual practice. While I wasn’t very good at this challenge in 2017, I did read and review some other great books, like Broke Millennial, Make Your Kid a Money Genius and How to Hire a Nanny.
Since it’s been six months, you may not remember that I incurred some late fees on the books from Austria and Mali. My librarians know me pretty well, and they made the generous move of forgiving them for me without me asking. Lucky me!
So we’re still at $6.73, and after today, I will have logged 30 books.
I acquired this memoir-like play from my library last summer. Our family participates in the summer reading program every year, and I got to pick a free book as a reward for that participation.
It took me a while to get to this one. Like I said, I had several books I was halfway through, and wanted to finish them before picking up a new tome.
That was dumb.
Because when I finally picked this one up, I realized Lorraine Hansberry is one of my favorite writers ever. Period. The end.
Hansberry was the playwright behind A Raisin in the Sun. Her success gave her a platform, which she used for activism and encouraging other authors. She was contemporary with MLK, Jr., whom she respected, but also saw as only one part of the solution. Nonviolence was not going to make racial discrimination go away on its own.
Hansberry died in her early 30s as a result of cancer. She had several half-written works which were compiled, along with some of her letters and journal entries, to create this play. It’s phenomenal.
It was alarming how many of her words are still pressingly relevant today. I was struck by certain passages, receiving confirmation of a message I’ve heard time and time again: things are better today than they’ve been before, but the amount of progress we’ve made in our country is small. And we need to do better. Starting yesterday.
I looked for a version of To Be Young, Gifted and Black on YouTube, but only got clips and pieces. Then I got on Twitter and saw #LorraineHansberry trending. I thought maybe Twitter was getting all creepy on me like Google does, but when I checked it out, I saw that PBS had just aired a documentary about Hansberry that night. I missed it, but I’m looking forward to catching up on it. It was apparently pretty powerful.
I’m not surprised.
I started this challenge after seeing it on Savvy Working Gal years ago. One of her first reads was The Underground Girls of Kabul, and I have been wanting to read it ever since. I finally hit it last summer, right before the spell of books I got halfway through. I usually like to tell you about two books at a time, so I’ve held onto the review until now.
Jenny Nordberg is American. She went to Afghanistan for another story, but happened upon something fascinating while she was there: the woman she was covering had three daughters–but one of them dressed up as a boy on a regular basis. This way, the child could escort their sisters to school, go to work and give the family a bit of an elevated status.
Nordberg found out that not only was it not unusual that the family engaged in this practice, but that it was actually a cultural norm throughout Afghanistan. It even has a name: bacha posh.
But people were reluctant to talk about bacha posh. It was accepted as a regular practice, but also a private family decision that you shouldn’t pry into.
Nordberg questioned whether this practice was child abuse. You raise a girl as a boy for so long, and then once they hit puberty they have to switch their gender identity; they may be in real physical danger if they continue to empower themselves by not meeting cultural gender norms at this point.
I…really don’t think it’s child abuse. One of the people she interviewed called her out on it in this way:
Why does it matter if a child dresses like a girl or a boy? Westerners oversexualize their children.
^Truth. In the words of RuPaul, “We’re all born naked and the rest is drag.”
Granted, girls and women are oversexualized in general, leading to their oppression in the society Nordberg studied.