Book review: Out of Breath, by Blair Richmond »
I love books! Lucky me, Ashland Creek Press recently sent me Out of Breath, which is a novel by “Blair Richmond” about runners, vegans, and vampires living in the Pacific Northwest.
This is the second first-of-a-series novel about vegans and vampires that we’ve come across; recall Merlene Alicia Vassal’s The Vampire and the Vegan, which Jenny reviewed back in May. I think Out of Breath is the superior work; there’s no grody “love-making” and the characters are all clearly drawn.
I love a teen novel almost as much as I love a teen television dramedy, which is to say, passionately, but Out of Breath had difficulty balancing its message with its plot, so I feel like a lot of the hilarity was unintentional. Maybe I’m not the ideal audience, who I think is actually a teen-novel reader who is vegetarian and/or hasn’t considered a vegan lifestyle before. The “why veganism is really the only choice” arguments are compelling, but not very deftly incorporated into the plot. The action would be zipping along—I read the 263 pages in about an hour—and then our hero, Kat, would drop a big old paragraph of “Meat Is Murder” on us, like, way to ruin the mood, lady.
The plot is rather formulaic, but although Richmond telegraphs the twist before it comes, you won’t guess its scope until the author drops it on you, and it’s pretty good. I laughed with disbelief and appreciation for the shocking ridiculousness of it. Don’t take that the wrong away: It’s AMAZING; it’s silly and it’s weightless and soap operatic and wonderful. I mean: It’s set in a town called Lithia, and everyone’s supposed to be happy because THERE’S NATURALLY OCCURRING LITHIUM IN THE WATER. So much wtfuckery! You will probably love it.
Despite its heavy-handed deployment, the vegan message is refreshing to read. Better “Don’t eat animal products” than “alcohol/drugs/premarital sex KILLS,” by a million; at least the information is truthful and useful, and might positively influence the young readers of Out of Breath. Presumably. I wouldn’t argue that any one YA novel would have measurable impact on even the most impressionable readers, but as part of a series of pro-vegan novels, it could make a positive difference. I realize this is the same sort of thing that evangelists of all beliefs say about their niche literature, but unlike the Left Behind people, vegans are actually right, and I know that begs the question but shut up it’s true and you know it.
If you want to read the book—and believe me, you do—the Kindle version of Out of Breath is on sale for $2.99 throughout the month of October. That is cheap! Ashland Press will also hold an online book-release party on Oct. 31, which will involve an author Q&A, giveaways, and tips and tricks for vegan trick-or-treating. Because “Blair Richmond” is a pseudonym, the author won’t make any physical appearances to promote the book, so this internet party will be your sole chance to interact with this person. I recommend you drop the three bucks, read Out of Breath, and visit the Halloween party to ask the questions you will doubtless have about it afterward. Actually, read it while eating some vegan Halloween candy. It’s like a vegan marshmallow in literary form, anyway: you love it while you’ve got it, though the enjoyment is fleeting, but it’s better for you (and the animals!) than the standard fare.
Thanks so much to Ashland Press for sending me a review copy of Out of Breath. I really enjoyed it!
Guest book review: Veganist by Kathy Freston! »
Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World came out last year and spurred several notable Kathy Freston appearances on major talk shows, including Oprah, Martha, and Ellen (my fave, duh. I LOVE YOU ELLEN!!). Surprisingly, it didn’t make the VegNews list of 2010’s most influential non-cookbook books and frankly, that’s a mistake. However, its message is not abolitionist, so I can see why it might be omitted. The book simply encourages you to make gradual changes and provides convincing evidence and testimonials.
I understand why some vegans have a problem with the non-abolitionist approach. I get this way occasionally, too. Even though Meatless Monday is great—and I’m grateful for friends who’ve said my influence has caused them eat more vegan food—it’s still annoying sometimes. I want to shout at everyone, “DON’T YOU JUST WANT TO STOP EATING THINGS THAT USED TO BE ALIVE?” This book does not shout that.
Veganist is super-interesting. It outlines 10 promises that Freston assures will come true if you make an effort to adopt a vegan diet. A good chunk of it focuses on the health benefits of a vegan diet, the evidence for which is overwhelming. She interviews several specialists on heart disease and diabetes and knocks your socks off by showing you how far-reaching the effects of eliminating cholesterol and animal fat can be. She also has a few weight-loss testimonials. I can’t totally agree with that one however—I haven’t lost a pound since going vegan. I am still sexy though. And single. Ahem, gentlemen.
The most powerful chapters for me were the ones on animal suffering and spirituality, especially the story of two generations of cows who live and work on a dairy farm. This is a heart-wrenching and in-depth tale that reveals the horror of the milk and cheese industry, told convincingly by Freston. It’s nice to see her focus so clearly on the foodstuffs most folks have the hardest time giving up. Talking about a slaughterhouse or a broiler farm would be almost easier and more acceptable, but she takes the difficult path and does so brilliantly.
The spirituality chapter is wonderful. It shows many angles of all religions and encourages you to question what your god would really think of you eating animals and participating in a world of violence. It is a fascinating argument, backed up with evidence from spiritual texts and testimonials from different spiritual advisors, and it got me thinking in a way I hadn’t before.
I was apprehensive about reading this book. My opinion of Kathy Freston has always been tainted. She has written a bunch of self-help-type “finding love” books, she used honey on her Martha Stewart appearance, and her whole involvement in that “vegan-ish” Oprah episode was annoying—I felt like the whole thing was basically just Michael Pollan jerking off.
However, she handled Martha Steward’s difficult questions with grace, she put her hand on Michael Pollan’s arm when he said there was nothing wrong with eating animals and gently disagreed, and my distaste for self-help/love books is mostly just because I am single (and sexy!).
Ultimately, I think Veganist is excellent. It’s an easy read, but her arguments are indisputable. Though I don’t know how many people it will actually convince to go vegan, it’s an excellent source of inspiration and information, especially regarding health issues. It provides great insight into the vegan lifestyle: There are shopping lists and meal suggestions in the afterward, which any parent or sibling of a vegan would find informative and useful. It would make a fantastic gift for a non-vegan family member, too.
If you are already vegan and looking for a solid read, pick it up. If you’re feeling particularly abolitionist, you might not like it. Nevertheless, it’s very good and I think Freston’s exposure, along with the great information she provides, will create a huge ripple effect. Even though it may not make people go vegan, it will open a lot of eyes, minds, and hearts to the long list of benefits this lifestyle provides.
Good job, Kathy Freston. Now, let’s get me a boyfriend!
Laura Yasinitsky is a writer, comic, waitress, and animal-lover based in New York City. She has appeared on Comedy Central’s Open-Mic Fight and writes for US Weekly’s Fashion Police. You can follow her silliness on Twitter @LaraYaz and read about her animal-friendly adventures here.
Good news, everyone: beloved author, activist, podcaster, compassionate cook, and amazing person Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has a new book! It’s called The 30-Day Vegan Challenge: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Cleaner, Getting Leaner, and Living Compassionately, and it will be published on Tuesday, Aug. 23! This is a preview video in which CP-G discusses her veganism, and look how excited she is. So excited!
Probably this book will be an excellent present to everyone you know with a fall birthday and/or who celebrates a winter holiday. We won’t know for sure until after reading it, though, which we will do very soon.
If you want to read it sooner, check out the book release party at Millennium! It’s this Sunday, Aug. 21, from 1 to 4 p.m. There will be giveaways, a question-and-answer session with Colleen, a raffle, hors d’œuvres, and so much more fun, who even knows. A crostini bar and multiple appetizers! Tickets cost $25 and you can buy them online. For more information, visit the Facebook page.
Tonight: NYC vegan and animal rights book swap! »
New York, you should get yourselves to Sustainable NYC tonight for the vegan and animal-rights book swap! The more of you go, the more awesome it’ll be. Unless you all only bring, like, the third copy of Vegan with a Vengeance that you got for Christmas/Hanukkah/whatever gift-giving winter holiday you celebrate. Don’t be stingy, share your fancy vegan reading!
Remember, they’re also having a raffle in support of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, with prizes like a gift certificate to Sustainable NYC, an Our Hen House tote bag, and a gift certificate to the indie bookshop Book Thug Nation! All books remaining after the swap will be donated to the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. Also, you can buy vegan ice cream from Lula’s Sweet Apothecary in the cafe, and get a 10 percent discount on all items in the shop during the event!
[“Woman Reading by a Paper-Bell Shade” by Henry Robert Morland, via Yale Digital Commons]
Guest post: Come to the NYC vegan and animal rights book swap next Thursday! »
I have too many books, but they are awesome and I want to share them with you. In turn, I would like to read yours. After attending a queer book swap in NYC a few months ago and scoring some solid finds, I was inspired to do the same with my animal rights book collection.
My friend Olivia Lane and I have teamed up to host the first vegan and animal rights book swap at Sustainable NYC this week and you should come because I have a crush on all of you in an I-want-to-read-your-books sort of way. And it’s a fundraiser for Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.
The spiel from Olivia:
Calling all veggies and friends of animals with dusty, crowded bookshelves! Please join us for an evening swap of inspiring vegan cookbooks, theory books, how-to dvds, and all other media related to vegetarianism and animal rights. This event is open to all whether you are a hardcore vegan with a dozen books (and tattoos) or a veg-curious passerby.
Bring up to 10 vegan or animal-rights books, magazines, or DVDs and swap for as many items as you bring! Or just bring your items and mingle!
There will be a raffle in support of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. Prizes include a gift certificate to Sustainable NYC, an Our Hen House tote bag, and a gift certificate to the indie bookshop Book Thug Nation! All books remaining after the swap will be donated to the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe.
As if scoring free books, helping rescued animals, and supporting New Yorkers living with AIDS isn’t enough, we’ll have lots of delicious flavors of Lula’s Sweet Apothecary vegan ice cream for sale in the cafe and a 10 percent discount on all items in the shop during the event!
The book swap will be held at Sustainable NYC, at 139 Avenue A at E. 9th Street, on Thursday, Aug. 11 from 6 to 9 p.m. For more info or to contribute a prize to the raffle, contact Olivia.
Jamie Hagen makes money by walking dogs in Manhattan while her blog posts and political science M.A. lounge around reaping the rewards. Some places she currently blogs include the Line Campaign, Autostraddle and Persephone magazine. Twitter tags frequently used by Jamie include include #feminist #vegan and #lesbian.
Top 10 links of the week: an extravagant dance through veganism! »
[Hilarious picture my grandpa sent me, from his friend: “People living in Colorado Springs wondered why their rainwater barrel was almost empty every day. They set up a couple of cameras and look what they caught on film”]
I meant to post this a while ago: an interview with the lovely Leanne from Vaute Couture!
FitSugar has a list of five books to help you go vegan. Did your favorite make the list?
I stumbled upon this site, Keep it Wild, that has a great article about what to do instead of going to the zoo. Let’s go do this stuff!
Time's take on this bullshit about banning undercover filming at factory farms.
Did you “like” my Megans United to Save Megan the Lab Chimp page yet? You don’t have to be a Megan. Let’s start a revolution!
Did you see this shit about arsenic in chicken? What. The fuck.
My discussion topic of the week: Did you see this piece in HuffPo about why veganism makes non-vegans so angry? Why do you think they get so angry? I think they are bitter because we are morally superior! In my humble opinion.
This Dish is Veg responded to the HuffPo piece by defending the omnis. What do you think?
WTF. This resort in Singapore captured a bunch of dolphins to entertain guests. It’s super sad. Two have already died. Sign this petition! Because that’s bullshit.
Care2 has an article on butterfly first aid! Did you ever imagine such a thing?!
Book review: The Vampire and the Vegan, Book l: Food »
Jeez, it’s like I’m in grade school all over again with my book report, but without all the blacking out and forgetting to breathe due to a very real fear of public speaking. Fuck, just talking in general is sometimes too much for me to handle. Fortunately for me, my social anxiety meds come over the counter in the somewhat inexpensive form of
PBR vitamins and exercise.
All right, let’s do this so I can get back to
watching Twilight VERY IMPORTANT other things I have to do! The Vampire and the Vegan is by first-time novelist Merlene Alicia Vassall. Her writing style is fast-paced and easy to read, yet she is a writer that spoon-feeds! I always get the impression authors who do this have no faith in their readers to remember any details, so they must keep repeating themselves over and over and over again. I dislike it immensely. I WANT STRONG CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! I WANT MYSTERY!
The Vampire and the Vegan takes place in Washington, D.C., through the eyes of a vampire named Pearl. I wish I could give you some background into her character, but there isn’t much. It seems her (undead?) life revolves around her dinners, which consist of men hoping to get lucky with her. Pearl chooses her victims based on their “necromantic energy,” which lingers in their bodies from the animals that they eat—the more horrifying and hideous the death/slaughter of the meat consumed, the more appealing the energy is to her. Pearl can actually visualize, while feeding on these men, the deaths of the animals they have eaten in their lifetime. This is where Vassell shines as a writer, illustrating in very descriptive terms the inhumane and terrifying ways that factory-farmed animals (even a lobster in a tank) are treated and killed. When it comes to veganism, Vassell can intellectualize it! Unfortunately, that makes parts of this book read more like a “Why Vegan?” pamphlet than a novel.
When Pearl meets her neighbor Salaam, he invites her up to his apartment to share his Thai take-out, which happens to be…VEGAN! She begrudgingly joins him, all the time wondering why she doesn’t want to make him dinner, but—OH! his body isn’t saturated with the “necromantic energy” she so craves. Tofu just doesn’t do it for her—I get it Pearl, I’m a seitan girl myself.
Soon enough, Pearl and Salaam become friends, as Pearl lives a very lonely, isolated life. Salaam begins to teach her everything there is to know about being vegan! She feels so guilty as she keeps consuming human animals!
This book got pretty good reviews on Amazon, and from watching this video featuring Vassar, I have to admit I like her. I just don’t think horror/fiction is the right genre for her. The book is not scary, not funny, the sexy times are neither hot nor sexy (maybe because the term “making love” totally freaks me out), the characters are pretty one-dimensional and there is NO VAMPIRE LORE, traditional or made-up (Stephanie Meyer, I’m talking about you and your “vegetarian” vampires). Vassar’s background is in grant-writing, and I feel it shows in her writing style. She’s excellent at addressing the hows and whys surrounding veganism—describing the slaughters, espousing nutritional information and explaining how to live the lifestyle. Unfortunately, she falls short at transforming and flowing that knowledge into a work of fiction.
Even though I didn’t particularly like this book, I still want to applaud Vassel for finding a new and creative way of addressing and promoting veganism. According to most of the reviews on Amazon, her readers want to stop consuming as much meat, even abstain altogether. That, my friends, is a job well done! Admittedly, when I’m drunk on
PBR the wonders of vitamins and exercise, I do things like judge a book by its title. In this case I was hoping for a work of camp-filled horror or lust, ideally BOTH. I’m not going to lie to you, I’ve seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, more than once (culty, not campy—yo, I know my horror genres). Don’t take my word for it, I’ve got an R. Patz calendar hanging by my bed. (My bed covered in Twilight sheets from Hot Topic! JK, I have no idea if Hot Topic carries Twilight sheets. I’m also not almost 30 and sleep in a twin bed. Covered in Edward Cullen sheets.)
Vegansaurus got a hold of this book for free. I don’t know how, Laura sent it to me. If you are a single, hot male I will give you my addy as well. J/K, I’m holding out for Robert Pattinson.
Demetri Martin schools us on vegan vocab! »
You guys! Demetri Martin defines “Strict Vegetarian” for us: “That’s someone who eats only fruits and vegetables that have been disciplined in some way—like, for example, corn that was grown in a perfect row, or grapes that were stomped by someone in uniform.”
Finally! We know what a strict vegetarian is! I’m sure it counts for “strict vegan” too. If you don’t know who Demetri Martin is, you are probably over 25. Well, Old Person, he’s a hilarious comedian! And we’re kind of lovers because I saw him at a comedy show once and I told him he was funny and he said “thanks” and I ran away. What I’m trying to say is yes, I’m pregnant with his baby (at least I think it’s his baby. Fingers crossed!). As the mother of (maybe) his child, you can imagine I was a little hurt he didn’t give me first dibs on this exclusive but I guess this will do: Esquire has posted an excerpt from Martin’s book, This Is a Book.
What’s more, the excerpt is for some reason all about vegans and raw food and whatnot! This is my favorite diet phase he enters: “Then I decided to eat only raw foods that had the letters from the word ‘vegan’ in their name (like ‘agave’). I was, at that point, what they call a ‘Literal Vegan’ (a vegan whose diet is based on wordplay).”
See, he’s funny. I like that for his book, he probably just sat down and shat onto a page and then Random House was all, “HERE’S A MILLION-DOLLAR ADVANCE AND SEVEN GIRLS IN TOMS SHOES.” Ugh, our lives are so very different! And by different, I mean his life is considerably better! Large-nosed-white-men-who-tell-jokes-in-the-style-of-Mitch-Hedberg-but-who-aren’t-quite-as-funny-as-Mitch-Hedberg-RIP, I salute you. You have really “gotten one over” on America. Good job, dudes!
Allyn Lee, author of A New Job for Pearl, sent me a copy of the book! You remember how great I said it was? It’s still great! And there are still 100 copies to sell before they can sponsor a rescue dog at the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation!
Hang on, Meave, you may be saying, what is the author doing sending you a book for free, when giving copies away doesn’t get them any closer to their sponsorship goal? The answer is that the copy I got is actually a reprint by the ASPCA, independent of Ms. Lee and the kids’ fundraising! All sending it to me did was remind me that this is a great cause to which we all might want to contribute.
Your Vegansaurus: always ready with another charitable way for you to spend your disposable income!
LA Times book review: Oogy! »
In the Los Angeles Times yesterday I came across a review of this adorable book, Oogy: The Dog Only a Family Could Love. The book is about a bait dog found outside Philly that was adopted by a loving family. Oogy the dog was found almost dead, with all kinds of injuries and without an ear. The animal hospital that found him was seriously considering putting him to sleep but this beat-up dog was so sweet, they couldn’t. They say, despite his injuries and the horrible way he’d been treated, he was giving out licks to everyone and wagging his tail all over the place. Jeez Louise, are dogs not THE BEST?
And guess what: Oogy is going to be a therapy dog!
Oogy’s triumph — not so much the lap-of-luxury life that he now enjoys, but his ability to overcome cruelty — has led Levin to begin training Oogy to become a therapy dog, particularly for those who are wounded and disfigured. “I believe that Oogy will be able to help those in need to understand that scarring, disfigurement, and trauma, whether physical or emotional, do not have to define who they are…. That no matter what has been inflicted upon them, love and dignity are attainable,” Levin writes.
The reviewer seems to only half like the book. She says it needs more doggie antics, and that “Oogy has loads of personality and charm to spare,” which they could feature a little more. I definitely like antics! But the book sounds really sweet anyway—not that I’m going to read it. Well, I’ll consider reading it but in the end, I probably won’t. See, I’m allergic to reading. It’s a terrible affliction but I’ve learned to deal. You guys, however, can totally read it and tell me what happens!