Olivia Anderson

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Let your freak flag fly. There is pride in being a weirdo, in not fitting in with the rest of the pack—along with isolation, loneliness and myriad other emotions, both good and bad. In Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Inside World, Olga Khazan explores what it means to be weird and how being different can be both a hindrance and a superpower. Though we are often taught to celebrate what makes us unique, “being the only one of your kind is doable, but wearying.”

The book is filled with stories of various “weirdos,” from doctors with dwarfism to politically conservative psychologists, among others. It’s difficult to imagine that there are any people who don’t feel weird at some point during their lives, but Weird delves into the complications of consistently being an outsider. Khazan goes to great lengths to look at multiple types of outsider stories, since so many people feel different for such a wide variety of reasons, and they all respond to it in their own ways.

This book isn’t just a lighthearted, anecdotal tale of how it’s OK to be an outsider. Instead, Khazan outlines the fascinating, often heartbreaking reality of how difficult it can be for people who don’t fit in—for example, the loneliness of leaving behind your Amish community to break into the modern world, or the cruelty of a painful medical condition that threatens both your life and your son’s. She interweaves these stories with tales of her own isolated childhood in Texas, where her Russian heritage often made her feel unable to click with the people around her.

There is no clear answer for how to be successfully weird. The people Khazan interviews all take wildly different paths—a conservative who moves from California to Texas to finally fit in, or one missionary’s attempt to stay with a church he has growing concerns about. Some people choose to embrace communities of like-mindedness, and some choose to remain different, and all these pathways come with new complications and considerations.

There is nothing simple about being an outsider. Khazan celebrates the power of the weird banning together, such as when people who are unique offer a boost of creativity or the minority voice challenges the status quo. But she celebrates these benefits without glazing over the hardships of being an outsider—the ways loneliness and isolation can have serious mental health effects, or the gritty hardships of finding partners, work, friends or places where you can be yourself. The people Khazan interviews are fascinating, and she does a magnificent job of bringing their stories to light with both gentleness and honesty while reminding the reader that no one is ever alone in feeling weird.

Let your freak flag fly. There is pride in being a weirdo, in not fitting in with the rest of the pack—along with isolation, loneliness and a mirage of other emotions, both good and bad. In Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Inside World, Olga Khazan explores what it means to be weird and how being different can be both a hindrance and a superpower. Though we are often taught to celebrate what makes us unique, “being the only one of your kind is doable, but wearying.”

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Social media activism is easy: One click, and you feel like you’ve done your part. In fact, social media has made it so easy to complain about the world that we often forget to do anything about saving it—except for Adrienne Martini, of course.

In her humorous and thoughtful political memoir, Somebody’s Gotta Do It, journalist Martini channels her outrage over the 2016 national election into energy for her local government. She has nowhere to put all of her rage. She goes to the Women’s March, knits pussyhats, calls her representatives, but she knows she has to “do more than write postcards and stew.” And her friend has a suggestion: Run for local office.

Martini is soon running to be a county board member in upstate New York, and she walks readers through every step of running for council. How do you get your name on a ballot? How many signatures do you need? What happens after you win? She writes about the awkwardness of asking for signatures and how every vote truly matters. (Her county board ends up swinging Democrat because one new member beat the incumbent by only five votes.)

When I first picked up this book, I envisioned Leslie Knope of “Parks and Recreation”­—bighearted but not necessarily hugely effective because, well, it’s just local government. But there’s no “just” about it. Martini’s seat on the rural, red Otsego County Board gives her the power to take part in deciding where the county’s $105 million budget goes. That money is utilized to do incredible things, including providing vaccines, funding food banks and upgrading cell phones for social service workers.

Martini’s approach is simultaneously lighthearted and enlightening, brimming with practical advice on how (and why), if you want to enact real change, your local government is the place to start. It’s a fast-paced, easy read that serves as a reminder that the world isn’t hopeless. At one point, Martini meets with former Oneonta mayor Kim Muller after a heartbreaking time with the Department of Social Services, a branch of government whose focus is programs for children and adults living in poverty. Muller gives the most compelling advice of all: “Change one life. Don’t always go for the whole forest. Try to take little bits of it—and you make a difference.”

Martini is making a difference for the residents of Otsego County. If you feel any discontent with your government, either national or local, Somebody’s Gotta Do It serves as a reminder that your rage can be the basis for making real change.

Social media activism is easy: One click, and you feel like you’ve done your part. In fact, social media has made it so easy to complain about the world that we often forget to do anything about saving it—except for Adrienne Martini, of course. In her humorous and thoughtful political memoir, Somebody’s Gotta Do It, journalist Martini channels […]

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