Meagan Kimberly reviews Advice I Ignored: Stories and Wisdom From a Formerly Depressed Teenager by Ruby Walker

Ruby Walker’s Advice I Ignored offers exactly that: good advice that so often gets ignored. It didn’t happen only to her. She recognizes it happens to all of us. I’m personally not much of a self-help book type of reader, so I entered this one with some hesitance. But I found I rather enjoyed Walker’s brand of sarcasm, wit, and heartwarming compassion.

There’s nothing revelatory about the advice Walker gives. It’s all practical. It’s all practicable. And it’s all been said before. What makes her approach different is how she makes it relatable and teaches you how to practice it. That latter part is often the missing piece of the formula when well-intentioned people dole out good advice.

She structures the book like this: advice, personal anecdote, tips to get started. The pattern never breaks throughout the chapters. This consistency is part of Walker’s strategy in offering her wisdom. No matter what the advice, a key component is to keep practicing it. Practice is repetition. Structuring her book like this makes it a brilliant example of how to take the advice and run with it.

Walker’s attention to detail stands out when she describes her relationship with her body and her body’s relationship to nature around her. She speaks a great deal about the physical difficulties that depression causes, and how she eventually gets herself out of those slumps. It doesn’t come without its strife, but she ensures the reader they are not alone, and that it’s possible to come out the other side.

Certain lines illustrate with spectacular accuracy the way the mind works, like this on about trying to listen to music while running:

“My mind just felt crowded when I tried playing some aloud.”

This description of the inability to focus on the sounds coming from one’s headphones or earbuds while engaging in exercise speaks to a greater issue: the inability to be alone with one’s thoughts. She addresses this issue in different ways throughout the book, and of course some solid advice on how to deal with it.

Walker delves into the danger of self-deprecating humor. She recognizes this “fatalistic streak” brand of humor is synonymous with certain generations. There’s a fine line between self-deprecating jokes and bullying one’s self. Walker takes the reader through that gray area, as some people often blur the two.

Throughout Advice I Ignored, Walker includes sketches and drawings to coincide with the topic. Sometimes they add a sense of levity and shine a light on her sardonic humor. Other times they illustrate what words alone cannot convey for the heaviest emotions. No matter what, they add another dimension to her voice that compliments the written content.

While as a whole the advice and wisdom in the book are nothing new, at certain points, Walker hits a note so right that it feels like a revelation, like when she talks about how people change:

“Lasting recovery means changing a little bit every moment you’re alive.”

This statement speaks to how change doesn’t happen like in the movies. There isn’t necessarily a dramatic, defining moment that becomes a turning point. Rather, it’s a winding path of quieter moments that turn into gradual change.

Some moments Walker could take the easy way out and write about mental health from a “general” point of view. But she doesn’t. She acknowledges a great deal of what influences mental health stems from systemic issues in society that cause harm to marginalized communities. Walker writes to her experiences as a lesbian woman, but she knows she doesn’t speak for all individuals that come from oppressed communities.

So many different aspects of the book spark a great deal of thought. The biggest message to take away is that change is possible, and it happens one step at a time. Most importantly, showing compassion and patience with yourself is key when you don’t get it right the first time.

Guest Lesbrarian: allis

Same Sex In The City (So Your Prince Charming Is Really A Cinderella) by Lauren Levin and Lauren Blizter

The book is divided in theme chapters and inside those chapters it is divided in two parts. First there is a few comments on the title name. For example in “Coming out” the authors give general ideas and advice about what it’s all about. Then there are the personal stories of the authors and what seems to be friends of the authors.

The first parts of the chapters are in my opinion useless. It felt like they were stating the obvious or telling stereotypes at best and at times trying too hard to be funny. Luckily those parts are really short and can be overlooked. It won’t change anything about the reading of the second parts and you won’t miss anything interesting.

The second parts of the chapters are much more interesting because they are personal stories. They are not especially well written or anything but it is nice to read about the experiences of other people and to be able to relate to them. Plus all the authors have a happy positive attitude about their lives. Even when you read about the sad, difficult times it doesn’t seem that bad because the authors have overcome those times and give you a happy view of their lives now. I really enjoyed that point about the book, because in a way it encourages the readers to look at their lives with a positive attitude too and it shows them that problems can be overcome and that in spite of difficulties it is possible to live happily.

My only negative comments on those parts is the lack of diversity. All the girls that wrote the texts seemed to be really wealthy, Jewish (if not all, a lot of them) and from New York. They all seemed to be coming from a similar background which made for some repetitiveness at times. I think it would have been better for the book to gather experiences from a more diverse group of people, showing that there is not just one way of living and experiencing things and that anyone can be happy. It would have balanced the book better and open it to a wider audience.

In short it is a well-intentioned book but lacking in diversity to feel more complete. It is a quick, enjoyable read. I wouldn’t recommend buying it, but if your local library have it I would recommend to check it for the personal happy stories. It’s always nice to read about happy stories when you’re feeling down.

I have this book! It’ll be interesting to compare notes once I read it. Thanks so much for this guest review, allis! Check out allis’s livejournal here.