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Her Fine Eyes

Caustic reviews of YA books I adore. 

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Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc
David Elliott
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Julia Serano

DNF. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Quiet. The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking - Susan  Cain

DNF: I can't do it. I can't finish this book.


I'd heard a lot of good things about Quiet from people in the publishing industry. In fact, many authors and editors consider themselves to be introverted, so perhaps that's why this book sang to them.


I made it a little over 50% through.


The science is flimsy, and the terms "introvert" and "extrovert" are actually never defined in any rigorous way (Cain gropes a lot, and she implies a lot). I had to call it quits after the Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt chapter, which was so annoying in claiming that introverts have more empathy for suffering, on the basis of a flawed fMRI study that involved showing people photos of crying faces and car accidents. I consider myself something of an introvert and I was offended on behalf of all extroverts! I half expected her to say democrats are introverts and republicans are extroverts. Later, Cain drops the classic justification lines: "I'm married to an extrovert, so I'm not being prejudiced. I have lots of extroverted friends." 


I found a couple of things engaging. The book made me think about how workplaces and schools are mostly geared toward gregarious people, and how parents link that trait with future success for their kids; I liked reading about the different ways in which all these traits manifest themselves--for instance, the way it's possible to be talented in social situations and a good public speaker but to find those situations exhausting, and to not want to seek them out. In fact, I was more interested in the wide array of traits that people can have, and how they interact with each other to form that person's unique social makeup, whereas Cain seemed determined to label people as one thing or another.


The book was more like an astrology reading than scientific: you could search for traits that sang to you, that made you feel certain that yes, you're an introvert, and this explains so much of what you've experienced socially and professionally in your life, ignoring the parts that don't fit. But psychology is complex, and so many personality traits make up being "introverted" or "extroverted" that the analysis ultimately felt wishy-washy to me. More, I felt that the entire book was her navel-gazing foray into "Why am I the way I am?" and that she chose anecdotes and studies that fed her own view of herself and her skills, rather than allowing ambiguity or even data that disagreed with her self-image. I just couldn't stand the thesis anymore--the shoehorning of psychology into these two labels. 


Not nuanced, not thorough...not finishing.