Tag Archives: growing up

Review: Opening My Eyes Underwater by Ashley Woodfolk

Opening My Eyes Underwater: Essays on Hope, Humanity, and Our Hero Michelle Obama by Ashley Woodfolk cover shows cartoon layers of water in pink, orange, yellow, purple, dark blue, light blue, and dark green.

Opening My Eyes Underwater: Essays on Hope, Humanity, and Our Hero Michelle Obama
Ashley Woodfolk
Feiwel & Friends
Published September 27, 2022

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Opening My Eyes Underwater

Inspired by the life and quotations of former first lady Michelle Obama, OPENING MY EYES UNDERWATER is a collection of essays penned by bestselling author Ashley Woodfolk.

In essays about bullying, heartbreak, racism, and confidence, Woodfolk taps into her past to share those stories that made her who she is today. She seamlessly weaves in parallel experiences that both she and Mrs. Obama have faced in their separate childhoods as well as their adult lives. Open, searing, and honest, these are stories that will help readers feel seen. Readers who are growing and learning as they move forward through life’s triumphs and pitfalls will undoubtedly gravitate to and find comfort within its pages.

My Review

Ashley Woodfolk is an author whose books I’ve been wanting to read. When I came across this book, the concept of it really hooked me. Essays on hope? Michelle Obama, you say? Yes, please. I’m in.

I always forget that reading a collection of shorter pieces, whether essays or short stories, is something I really enjoy. It’s nice to be able to read a chunk of something and pause in the reading to think about that piece as a whole. It’s so different than consuming an entire novel or nonfiction book and then reflecting on the entire thing.

These essays are loosely connected– several talk about the author’s experiences with panic attacks and anxiety, especially about school and college. At the start of each essay is a page with a quote from Michelle Obama. The quotes are well-chosen and inspirational just on their own. In the essay that follows, the author explores some of her own life experiences and reflects on experiences Michelle Obama has described about her own life, expanding on the ideas from the quote.

The essays are thoughtful and encouraging, but also pretty real. Ashley Woodfolk wrote the book during the days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and she isn’t shy about how hard that process or those experiences were. But she also calls us toward hope again and again. She reminds readers of their value as human beings and members of the same world in which people like Michelle Obama live and thrive.

I really enjoyed the book and found it to be a really easy read. I think readers looking for some encouraging words, especially as they transition from high school to college, will find a lot of inspiration for life in these pages.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Michelle Obama is a Black woman and the former First Lady of the US. The book includes some biographical information about her as well as quotes from speeches she’s given and things posted to her social media accounts. Ashley Woodfolk is also a Black woman and identifies as Queer.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
References to romantic relationships that the author was in. At one point she describes a boyfriend who continually pushed past her boundaries. She reflects back on that now as an unhealthy and unsafe relationship.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
The author describes what it’s like when she has a panic attack. She also references George Floyd’s murder by police. She discusses a job at a clothing store at which many of the employees stole merchandise. Though she herself did not steal, she uses this as an example of having personal values and sticking to them even when others aren’t doing what you have committed to do for yourself.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of OPENING MY EYES UNDERWATER in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

Review: Ginger Kid by Steve Hofstetter

Ginger Kid: Mostly True Tales of a Former Nerd
Steve Hofstetter
Amulet Books
Published on March 20, 2018

AmazonBarnes & Noble | Goodreads

About Ginger Kid
In Ginger Kid, popular comedian Steve Hofstetter grapples with life after seventh grade . . . when his world fell apart. Formatted as a series of personal essays, Steve walks his readers through awkward early dating, family turbulence, and the revenge of the bullied nerds. This YA nonfiction is sure to be the beloved next volume for the first generation of Wimpy Kid fans who are all grown up and ready for a new misfit hero.

My Review
A fun, easy, read that’s deceitfully informative. Each essay delivers laughs and lessons together, from things Hofstetter learned about girls and relationships to his development as a comedian. I liked the gently self-deprecating, funny way the stories are related. The short sections are perfect for readers with short gaps of time for reading—perfect for me right now!

I liked that even though the stories often have a moral lesson to them, it felt very personal rather than instructive. The scenes about improv made me want to play the games he described or join a local improv group—they sounded like so much fun!

Ginger Kid is a great read not just for misfits but for anyone who has ever felt awkward in a crowd or wrestled with self-discovery. If you’re looking for a lighthearted read, add this one to your list for sure!

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Cultural Elements
Steve is from a Jewish family. He describes (very positive) experiences he had as part of a youth group for Jewish kids.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Roughly a dozen instances of mild profanity.

Romance/Sexual Content
Some descriptions of kissing girls. He alludes to more, describing one girlfriend as a “sexual person,” though he doesn’t specify further.

Spiritual Content
See cultural elements.

Violent Content
A bully threatens to hit Steve.

Drug Content
Some mentions of drinking alcohol.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.