Book Reviews,  Non-Fiction

Book Review: Fandom Acts of Kindness

Fandom Acts of KindnessFandom Acts of Kindness by Tanya Cook
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fandom Acts of Kindness is a resource guide to fandom-based activism, backlit with bright optimism, warmed by acceptance, and chock-full of sage advice. It makes frequent use of characters we know and love as examples. You’ll be in good company on your journey, with characters from Lord of the Rings, the Marvel universe, The Incredibles, Harry Potter, Supernatural, and more.

I can’t help sharing a bit of advice from my own first fandom: Northern Exposure. In the remote town of Cicely, Alaska, radio station KBHR’s Chris “In The Morning” Stevens earnestly and often flamboyantly tackled causes he believed in, often to the entire town’s consternation. But while I admired his passions, I identified more closely with the quiet, enigmatic Marilyn Whirlwind, a Tlingit of the Raven clan who also lived in Cicely. When Joel Fleischman, a New York doctor fulfilling a contractual obligation, arrived in Cicely and entered his ‘rustic’, run-down clinic, Marilyn was already there, sitting peacefully in the waiting room. When he learned why she was waiting for him, Joel firmly told her that there was no job for her. She ignored him and simply started doing the job she didn’t have. As time passed, her job status became a running joke. But, she still showed up early every morning, had the coffee ready when Joel arrived, and continued doing the work she’d been told wasn’t required. Over time, she became exactly who Joel needed to help him settle into his new life as a small-town Alaskan doctor. Marilyn saw a need, realized she had the skills to fulfill it, and had the patience to stay the course.

We can’t all be Chris Stevens. But many of us can be Marilyn Whirlwind, and this book is mainly for us. It’s not a passive read, though. You’re going to be asked—often—to pause, think, and create your own customized lists dealing with all aspects of activism as you see them, and what you can do to help.

The authors want you to write those lists in the book. There’s even blocks of straight lines printed on the pages. Now, I already love Tanya Cook and Kaela Joseph like family, but I’m going to take issue with those instructions. Civilized people don’t write in books… unless they’re J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst writing S, Ship of Theseus. (If you don’t get that reference, I highly recommend you put your entire life on hold for a week and read that book.)

My advise: Keep a journal or notepad close at hand, or open your preferred digital writing program. Whenever you’re asked to make a list, write the topic in bold letters at the top of the page, and complete your list. Start a new page for each topic prompt. When you’ve completed the last list-making assignment, put all the pages into a folder or however you like to organize paperwork, or save your file somewhere you can easily locate it. As your personal journey progresses, you might find it helpful to take another run through the questions and see how your answers take form a second time around. And your book will remain scribble-free!

Book hygiene nitpickiness aside, the beauty of the lists you’ve created is that they are uniquely yours. Through the guidance of experienced activists, you’ve created a practical plan that’s within your abilities, budget, and most importantly, your comfort zone. You can do it! Like Marilyn Whirlwind knew all along, there IS a job, and it’s yours to take.

My thanks to authors Tanya Cook and Kaela Joseph, BenBella Books, and NetGalley for allowing me to read a digital review copy of this book.

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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