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"Notorious Victoria: The Life of Victoria Woodhull, Uncensored" by Mary Gabriel. Victoria Claflin Woodhull was the first woman to run for president (with Frederick Douglass as her running mate). She was the first woman to address the U.S. Congress and to operate a brokerage firm on Wall Street. She also came from a fairly shady family and was a spiritualist. Her focus wasn't solely on winning the right to vote but largely to lessen the misery of both men and women by making it easier for women to marry for love and to divorce if the marriage was abusive or just highly unhappy. Her unconventional views on romantic love got her maligned as a prostitute and con woman. She was far from perfect but also passionate about social reform and helping the downtrodden. I liked that the author lets the original source material speak for itself and quotes newspaper articles by and about Victoria and Victoria's own speeches at length. Highly recommended.


"Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home" by Sheri Booker. Booker, a sheltered child of a police officer father and a school principal mother, begins working at a funeral home in inner-city Baltimore at age 15, shortly after her beloved Aunt Mary dies, and ends up staying there for nine years. She learns about love and death, how not to cry, and the toll that holding back your tears can take. She talks about the ins and outs of the funeral business, and the rise of black-owned funeral homes. She tells humorous or scary anedotes about things that happened during her nine years at the funeral home. Her writing is NOT PC. There are a couple unkind cracks about fat people, and the way she talks about transgender women seems naive if not borderline offensive. However, this sort of unfiltered way of writing about her experience makes it feel like you're one of her girlfriends and she is gossipping with you over coffee about the weird things she encountered at work, and that's a lot of what makes it entertaining. I liked this a lot and recommend it.

My full comments on both books here.

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