The Awakening by Kate Chopin with Heather Tea

Kate Chopin explores feminism by challenging what it means to be a woman. I have heard many criticisms of this novel based, almost solely, on if the reader liked the character of Edna. It seems unforgivable to many that she abandons her children or desires the affections of someone other than her husband.

I saw Edna’s desires as challenging the stereotypes laid out for women. It was refreshing to see a woman want more than just the domestic parts of life. Chopin’s novel is about a woman realizing the desires of her heart and not just the desires given to her by society. Edna is able to awaken to herself, but that awakening is not beautiful, it is painful. I love that Chopin honestly addressed this pain instead of pretending that finding oneself and challenging society would be pleasant.

This novel is about an internal struggle, it is not full of action or events. Be ready to read more with your heart than your head. Try to understand and sympathize with Edna and try not judge. Chopin addresses some of the darker aspects of being female and that requires understanding instead of judgment.

I enjoyed heather tea while reading The Awakening, I loved the contrast of the black tea with the hints of floral. I think it blends well with the condition of Edna’s soul. Enjoy this strong tea while you gently examine Edna.

High Tide in Tucson by Barbara Kingsolver with Ginger Tea

Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite authors because her writing is alive. Her voice jumps off the page making it feel like she is a treasured friend sitting down to talk. When reading Kingsolver, I find myself treasuring my reading time the way I treasure time spent with friends.

High Tide in Tucson, is a collection of essays by Kingsolver that were at times uplifting, occasionally heartbreaking, and always brutally impactful. I kept trying to decide which essay was my favorite, but it became impossible to choose. I cannot even lay out a few favorites because the list quickly grows too long to be useful or meaningful. I will say that these touched me as a mother, an appreciator of written word, a woman, and a human.

If you have ever read anything by Barbara Kingsolver, then you know that you just read anything you find written by her. I don’t need to tell you to read High Tide in Tucson. If, however, you have never read Barbara Kingsolver then, by all means, get started. I sipped a cup of ginger tea because it provides a sense of warm but brutal honesty.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd with Sleepytime Tea

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is honey – sweet, healing, comforting. Sue Monk Kidd tackles a story of a broken and motherless girl, the warmth of female bonding, grief and all of this against the backdrop of the civil rights movement in the south.

I always find myself totally in love and absorbed by books that shed light on the love, healing, and power that can come from the bond between females. Often we are told how women tear each other apart, and too often we do, but there are also restorative bonds among women. Stories that highlight those bonds are important to the way we as women learn to relate to each other. Sue Monk Kidd establishes this bond across races. I think this message is vitally important in a world that is so divided. People need a reminder that the bonds of humanity are not limited by skin color.

This book has so much depth of meaning that I cannot lay it out here in the review. I will say that appreciated the tender nature that Kidd used when addressing the south. She humanized a dark time, as racism brought out the worst in people while showing the beauty and kindness that still exists. The south is a living oxymoron full of hospitality and hatred.

I spent most of this book sipping sleepytime tea overloaded with honey. I was drinking this mostly because I’m fighting off some virus, but it was a sweet and healing combination with The Secret Life of Bees. Honey is the first image that appears to me when I think of this book. Honey is healing and this book talks to me of the healing nature of female bonding. The sweetness and comfort of relationships are like sipping on warm honey tea.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf with English Breakfast Tea

It’s funny, I have read pieces of A Room of One’s Own more than once in college. Only one line ever left me feeling overly moved. Reading it in its entirety is how it should be read. This time I was moved, changed and challenged. If you have read many of my reviews, my feminist lean shouldn’t surprise you, but this book reached out a shook me. I found my feminist heart in complete agreement with much of what Woolf said. I couldn’t help but feel connected with the lineage of women before me.

The line that shakes me every time happens towards the end of the speech. Woolf is speaking to this audience of women and she unites the women in this idea of Shakespeare having a sister who was never able to write. Woolf says, “She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed.” This line is powerfully uniting to me and I see it in my own life and in the lives of others, the difficulty of being all things. The individual, the intellectual, the wife, the mother, the housekeeper, the worker, the thinker, the creator, the boo-boo kisser, the cook, etc., etc. Woolf carefully and skillfully unites us.

I have heard this book described as ‘man-bashing’ or any of the other various terms used to try to discredit feminism. I can’t find that attitude in the writing, I wonder if the reader has brought that to the writing instead of finding it there.  Instead, I see Woolf argue that great writers become “man-womanly” and “woman-manly”, not thinking of their sex as they write, using an androgynous brain.  She makes the argument that writing requires the material ability and space for free thought and contemplation. This book is a feminist “must-read” but I think anyone interested in writing should also take the time to absorb this brief piece.

It was, at least as a feminist reader, strong enough to require strong tea. I chose English Breakfast tea which felt right for a book in England and the caffeine allowed for a little more brain processing power. Room for contemplation is difficult for me to find and I wish I had that space to digest this book a little further.

 

Go Ask Alice with Chamomile Tea

Reading a diary always feels like spying. It leaves you a little too close to the author and you desperately want to help them or be there for them. Go Ask Alice is honest and that honesty is painful. Drug addiction is a terrible issue that our world is caught in. We forget to treat the addicts like people and we forget to be kind, to be loving. It is painfully obvious when reading, Go Ask Alice, that the author and the others like her are desperate for some love and understanding.

In a time when nearly everyone knows someone who has overdosed, this book is difficult to read. When you read the writings while she is high, you find yourself struggling to even find the same person there. Then when she comes down from a high, her words return to her personality. This is a heartbreaking read because you want to reach through the pages and save her. Unfortunately, drug addiction isn’t simple.

While Go Ask Alice breaks your heart about an issue that is happening in your neighborhood, on your street, and maybe in your home, go drink some chamomile. You can relax in the comfort of chamomile tea and struggle with the big issues of drug addiction.

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb with Chai Tea

I Am Malala blew me away with Malala’s courage, her passion and the chance to see the events of the world through her eyes. She spoke of events that were happening to her and her home that I can remember flooding my TV. It was eye-opening to see the differences in the way these same events were presented to us. It reminds me that everyone has their own reality based on their own experience. I think the best part of reading is the ability to have a window into another person’s reality and to add their perspective to your own. I am so grateful that this book exists.

Malala Yousfzai is courageous and passionate in a way that I dream of being. She fears being known as only ‘the girl who was shot by the Taliban’ instead she wants to be known as ‘the girl who stood up for education’.  I think when you read her story, you realize that being shot by the Taliban is just something that happened to her, but her passion for education is what really stands out. This passion is what spoke to me from the book.

The combination of her passion and her perspective were deeply moving for me. I sipped some chai tea with (almond) milk while reading and enjoyed the way the spices were powerful and kind. It felt like the perfect combination for Malala and her passionate story.

Read this book. Please. Especially if you are living in America at this time. Islamophobia is dangerous. Open your heart and your mind – see that people are just people.

 

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler with English Breakfast Tea

The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler was, unfortunately, a challenging read for me. I grew up in a very strict Christian home. Sexuality, even biology,  was never discussed and if mentioned was presented as dirty or bad. I’m a feminist and yet I struggle with the simple vocabulary for my body. It’s disappointing and I am happy that The Vagina Monologues exist so that it can challenge me and others like me.

The book talks about the need to simply say vagina and talk about vaginas so that they are not forgotten. I think that as women we need to reclaim our bodies and I think that The Vagina Monologues is important to this mission.

I do worry about how a focus on the vagina may make feminism not intersectional or may make trans-women feel excluded. There is, however, a fair amount of inclusion for lesbians in the text.

I will warn you that The Vagina Monologues is not for the faint of heart. If you are a woman, who like me, isn’t necessarily the most comfortable with your own anatomy then maybe you need to read it. Drink some strong black tea though, I drank English Breakfast tea. You may even want to consider making your tea ‘Irish’.

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou with Chai Tea

 

Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou is moving, inspirational, overpowering, loving, and forgiving. Angelou is a person that I inspire to become more like, her power to move forward, to love honestly, and forgive wholly are nearly beyond belief.

When I read of her mother in I Know Why the Caged Bird SingsI struggled with how she could forgive so completely. When I read it, however, my own experiences as a mother were only two or three months old. Now I have been a mother for 1.5 years. Although that is still a very short period of time, my perception of motherhood has evolved drastically. I can better understand Vivian Baxter and Maya Angelou.

Angelou’s relationship with her mother is imperfect, messy, and loving. I think their relationship is saved by their love, acceptance, and honesty. I know that I give my son that love from within my soul, from within my marrow, and I strive to give that level of acceptance and honesty. I related deeply to Vivian Baxter when she is quoted saying,

“I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.”

I bring my whole self to my son and I always will. As a mother and a daughter, this book really touched my heart. Drink some chai tea so that your tea can give you the same hug that you receive from the words of Maya Angelou. Sip, enjoy, grow your heart.

 

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe with Tension Tamer Tea

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a powerful novel. It welcomes the reader into an Ibo village in Nigeria. The reader is given a unique insight into the village and is able to relate, empathize, and become emotionally invested in the well-being of the villagers. The great strength of literature is that it allows people to experience worlds outside of their own, and to relate to people who have different customs than their own. Achebe is gifted in the ability to create an organic connection between the reader and the characters.

This book is powerful because just as you have become completely invested in the villagers, their lives are uprooted and devastated. The devastation is slow and stealthy, it creeps in innocently and then tears apart the world. Achebe shows the humanity behind the horror of colonization. He writes,

“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

Allow Things Fall Apart to challenge what history has taught you about colonization. Allow it to open your perspective to the pain that it brought to the world. As you read this book and you allow it to challenge you, sip some tension tamer tea. I actually started drinking tension tamer simply because I was having a difficult day, but I found it to be a nice companion to the novel. The combination of chamomile and ginger root are soothing and pair nicely with

As you read this book and you allow it to challenge you, sip some tension tamer tea. I actually started drinking tension tamer simply because I was having a difficult day, but I found it to be a nice companion to the novel. The combination of chamomile and ginger root are soothing and pair nicely with a novel that will change your perspective — if you let it.

 

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll with Chamomile Tea

There are so many people who are completely in love with Alice and all of her crazy adventures. As a child, I found the movie frightening and therefore never had any desire to read the book. It felt like a hole in my reading and its pretty pink cover called to me from my bookshelf. I finally decided to sit down and read it.

I was pleasantly surprised. It is crazy and so full of whimsy that you need to release your thinking mind and just enjoy the experience. My favorite part is the word humor. There is a lot of play on words that I found clever and intriguing. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll are quick reads that leave you feeling a little confused and hungover.

I enjoyed chamomile tea with lavender honey. The lavender honey gives the chamomile a sense of whimsy that is perfect for traveling with Alice. Let your mind go and enjoy the craziness of Lewis Carroll’s creations.