Wild by Cheryl Strayed

*Trigger Warnings for the book/movie: sex, drug use, vomiting, body gore

Wild is a memoir written by Cheryl Strayed of her several month trek on the Pacific Crest Trail in 1995. She took to the trail a few years after her mother’s death nearly broke her and she was dealing with a crumbling family, drugs, and an ending marriage.

I originally saw the movie before reading the book and while the movie was done well enough, it would have definitely helped to read the book first. The movie starts with Cheryl starting on the trail and has flashbacks to why she’s walking from California to the Oregon/Washington border throughout. As someone who had very little knowledge of the story, I was a bit confused for the first part of the movie trying to figure out what had happened before the trail.

The book is definitely well written but ultimately, it wasn’t mind blowing or revolutionary. Her several month trek (and subsequent memoir) happen in a relatively predictable way so there weren’t many surprises or particularly gripping parts. It’s not that the book was poorly written or that the trek was a terrible journey – it was just predictable. Woman loses mother, goes through several rough years of sex and drug use, goes on several month hike, finds herself again.

Ultimately, the book was really well written – Strayed is definitely a writer with a strong voice. It’s definitely a book I’m glad I read but probably will not pick up again. While the journey is predictable to a certain extent, I would recommend reading it if you are into hiking and backpacking.

Dear White People: A Movie Review

A few days ago, I went to go see Justin Simien’s movie “Dear White People”, which highlights racism, privilege, microaggressions, and diversity within higher education. The movie follows around Sam White, a college student at an Ivy league school who has a radio show (and several YouTube videos) titled “Dear White People”. The movie follows her around while along with a few other students, she uses several different mediums to highlight the racial inequality and microaggressions that people of color (particularly black folks) face on a regular basis.

The movie spends a lot of time calling out the racism that still exists within “post racial” United States, including by showing that there still plenty of white people (particularly college students) who think that not only is blackface okay but have entire parties with that theme. On her radio show, Sam uses satire and humor to highlight the things that white people should and should not do to be racist. (Such as: “Dear white people, the bare minimum of black friends to appear not racist has been raised to two.”)

Not only does this movie bring up issues of racism and microaggressions but I also saw underlying themes of the politics of interracial relationships and how resistance should be a community effort, not one driven by one person. (Mild spoiler alert ahead**) Much of the activism and resistance that occurs in the beginning of the movie is initiated and driven by Sam, only to fall through when she has some family issues. That aspect of the movie reminded me of the work that is happening in places like St. Louis/Ferguson, MO and New York City, where the protests and resistance against police brutality are not (and should not be) leader driven but should be community driven.

I saw this movie with my mom and family friend, who are both (unsurprisingly) white like myself. I honestly was a little worried because my mom doesn’t quite understand the current state of racism and often removes herself from any responsibility. But both my mom and family friend seemed to like the movie and were surprised at the fact that blackface unfortunately still happens. I was really happy to see that this movie had stirred even just a little thought for the two of them.

The New York Times has a critique on the movie that articulates my experience with the movie much better than I could ever do. But in the end, I would definitely recommend watching this movie (particularly if you are a white person like me). I know I’ll be seeing it again.