Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt

becoming-nicoleI didn’t used to be a kind of person who would normally read Non-Fiction.
Generally speaking, Non-Fiction books don’t move me emotionally as much as Fiction does and I like immersing myself completely in fictional worlds.

That being said though, this book, THIS BOOK. I have never, ever, been emotionally swept up and stirred by a Non-Fiction book. This book broke me, shattered me, and made me embarrassed and ashamed of myself at times – it was really disturbing (in a positive way, not a bad way) and enlightening. I am so, so glad that I picked up this book.

As you may already know, this is about a family one of their sons turned out to be a transgender.
At such a tender age of two, one of the twin boys, Wyatt started voicing his gender dysphoria toward his anatomy -in this context, his birth genitalia – and his parents, Kelly and Wayne set on a journey to get his voice heard and make a better world for Wyatt who later transforms into Nicole.

I think I can put it down to the book being written in third person as the reason why I enjoyed this book so much. I didn’t feel like reading a non-fiction at all and I think the narration is what filled the gap between Fiction and Non-Fiction that I would normally feel and made me emotionally attached the entire time.

The narration, the writing is so powerful and engaging; I even went so far as to stick post-its here and there whenever the book moved me, which I don’t normally do. It’s quite a rarity considering I was reading a Non-Fiction.

I was so frustrated and disgusted by the absurdity and obstinacy of people and the school system that stood against Nicole denying her basic human rights of just using the school bathroom which is congruent with her sexual identity.

She didn’t do anything wrong, she just wanted to be recognized and treated as a normal girl like everyone else. But just because of the fact she was born with a boy’s anatomy, despite the fact she identifies herself as a girl and acts just like a girl, she was silenced and denied access to the girl’s bathroom and urged to use the staff bathroom at school.

I just can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for Nicole not to be able to identify herself with her anatomy; her frustration gradually takes an emotionally toll on her, eating her away and making her pull out her eyelashes.
I just couldn’t help but put the book down and take a calming breath to let everything sink in. It was so poignant and disturbing, her emotional distress was acutely felt.

Would I have acted any differently had any of my friends in elementary school or junior high school actually been a trans?

Am I actually as sympathetic and accepting as much as I hope I am??

Throughout the book, I kept myself asking these questions.
Although I was so frustrated by all the treatments towards Nicole given by anti-gay or anti-transgender advocates, am I any different??

It was really thought-provoking and gave me a lot of food for thought.
Not only does this book tell you about the epic journey that Nicole and her family went through, it also teaches you an awful lot about sex, sex identity from biological and scienfic point of view. I am not big on scietific stuff at all, but the author did an amazing job in breaking them down into manageable bits to chew on.
It is very informative and so enlightening.

The book closes with a beautiful epilogue; it made the entire book for me.
The parents, particularly Nicole’s mother, Kelly, is wonderful. She has always stood up for her and protected her. Although it took some time for her father Wayne to do the same, it is totally understandable if you read what big expectations he had had when he knew he would have twin boys. What they achieved was pretty significant; they fought hard and literally set the precedence, blazing the trail not only for Nicole but for so many others who had to hide in the closet.

I am so glad that I picked up this book. This book was really eye-opening for me and made me more open to a perspective which is different from mine.

I’m sorry for my review on this book being a bit more spoilery than usual, but I just can’t help gushing about how strongly this book moved me.
More than anything, I strongly believe my review wouldn’t change your impression on this book in any way; None of the spoilers would make this book any less interesting.

I really, highly recommend everyone reads this book. I think it’s very important to read this given the time we’re currently living in, and I believe this book will resonate with you and teach you something that you didn’t even know.

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh


As I previously mentioned, I listened to its audiobook TWICE.
Hugely inspired, I think I’ll attempt to write my personal review on this book.

First and foremost, I highly recommend reading this book to everyone.
You don’t have to be an entrepreneur or a start-up hoping to succeed in business to enjoy this book. In fact, I am just a clerical worker for a mid-size construction company, but this book really motivated me to broaden my horizons and keep growing in my current environment.

Zappos is now the powerhorse in the e-commerce footwear industry in the U.S. and is widely known for its one-of-a kind customer-oriented corporate culture.
This book digs deep into the company policy, explaining where the belief came from and even sharing the company’s core values sandwiching the mistakes they have made in between.

Zappos was not as successful as it is now right from the beginning.
They did get off to a running start but then had some rough times when the CEO Tony Hsieh had to scramble back and forth to raise enough funds to keep the company afloat. He even poured his own money into Zappos every now and then, selling all the private property he owned sometimes at much lower prices knowing he would be inflicted a huge loss.

Yet, he had a strong faith “Zappos is definitely worth it,” or “Zappos can go much further if we manage to survive this crisis.” (Note: this is not accurate excerpt from the book.)
He didn’t hesitate to make sacrifice; he finally found something he could be passionate about, what he had been looking for.

Getting a glimpse of Zappo’s company policy was quite inspiring and interesting. This book actually inspired me in a way nothing has ever done to me; my attitude and mindset toward work have definitely changed since I listened to this book.

I’m afraid that I don’t get to apply everything that I learned from this book to my work environment, yet I feel I’m far more motivated than before. It reminded me of the importance of being open-minded to any suggestions as well as criticism and keeping challenging myself to grow as a person.

Reading this book, a thought crossed my mind now and again; I recalled our CEO constantly muttering that his employees had lost the sense of unity and were doing things whatever way they wanted, not following the direction they had been given.

When I reached the part where the author talked about the culture fit (I forgot the exact wording…) it was the ‘a-ha’ moment for me; I realized what our CEO was talking about.

In every aspect, this book is a great read. Even if you don’t usually read memoirs or business related books, I highly recommend reading this book (or listening to it).
I’m sure you’ll be as inspired as I am.


How Starbucks Saved My Life by Michael Gates Gill

how-starbucksThis is actually the third time I’ve come back to this book.
I got this book sometime around 2012 or 2013, shortly after I started reading English novels. Even with my relatively limited vocabulary, I remember finishing this book without a major struggle.

This time, I listened to this book; I got the audiobook version from audible.
Surprisingly, the words the author weaved sank in me much better and stronger than they did with physical books – power of narration, I thought.

Rambling aside, I think I can safely say that this is a story of redemption of a 64-year old Caucasian man who has fallen from the corporate ladder and lost both his social status and family; a story of his struggles and new revelations.

I can’t say much about the corporate culture in Starbucks as I don’t know anything about it (there aren’t ANY Starbucks where I live) and things can be quite different in Japan (given how different predisposition Japanese people can have from that of Western people), but I find the book quite interesting, telling us a lot of ins and outs of Starbucks – the tempestuous rush before closing and opening shop, the intricate ordering system, and most importantly, the culture of referring to customers as ‘guests’ rather than ‘customers.’
I think that speaks volumes how highly Starbucks think of us, how they respect us. It was quite a revelation to me.

Through the constant streak of challenges that Mike faces working at Starbucks, he also learns what he had missed out in his previous corporate life being a person of privilege. Once he started his job at Starbucks, he throws off his preconceived ideas and starts seeing things from a different light and becomes more appreciative towards things around him.
I really enjoyed seeing his transition, it teaches us you can change your attitude irrespective of how old you are.

Another thing this book teaches me; well, have you ever felt discouraged by receiving a simple ‘good’ rather than ‘wow, well done!’ when you were proud of yourself for achieving tasks or something you didn’t imagine you could actually do it? I have, many times.
This book teaches that you don’t have to let it get you down in such situations; the short, simple acknowledgement that ‘good’ delivers is actually a vote of confidence from your boss or comrades. They knew it all along that you could do it. They trusted you. That is why your achievement doesn’t come as a surprise to them.
When the author’s words made me realize this, I saw the light and made a mental note that I should stop letting it get to me from now on.

I did think they might be too many recollections of his childhood, the house he lived growing up and some other things which could hamper the natural flow of the story, but I try to think the author knowingly put those descriptions to express how he can get sidetracked and swept back in the past.

I’m afraid I would go on and on if you let me, I will wrap up this lengthy post here.
This is a very inspirational, well-written book. It is jam-packed with many lessons that you can take away and is definitely worth a read (or listen.)