Elevate Difference

Reviews by Nicolette Westfall

Nicolette Westfall

Nicolette Westfall is an interdisciplinary artist slash environmental activist from Southwestern Ontario, Canada. Her writing and photography have been published in a few places, including Neon Magazine, The Binnacle, and Pushing out the Boat.

Our Earth: How Kids are Saving the Planet

Warm colours cover this book of global children’s experiences of how they are changing the world. Janet Wilson’s Our Earth is a brightly illustrated compact collection worth reading. The core message is simple: all people need to come together to heal the Earth.

Many Faces of PTSD: Does Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Have a Grip On Your Life?

This small, compact book is a treasure. I don’t mean that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is great; on the contrary, it’s a long-term battle once you’ve been diagnosed with it. The book itself, though, is a good read, considering the subject matter, and Many Faces of PTSD is much bigger than its 124-page size.

Becoming Imperial Citizens: Indians in the Late-Victorian Empire

It’s important to state here that Becoming Imperial Citizens is a work of research best suited for academic audiences. The upper-level vocabulary, combined with analysis, makes for quite a heavy reading. Sukanya Banerjee’s work looks at the British Empire and citizenship with reference to Indians during, as the title notes, the late Victorian period.

King Kong Theory: A Manifesto For Women Who Can’t Or Won’t Obey The Rules

King Kong Theory is most easily my favourite read so far this year; it packs a punch and voices everything I feel about our oppressive patriarchal society. This work is completely free of any hesitation to say what is really going on in the Western world today. Virginie Despentes blew me away with her fresh and honest analysis of what women (and men) struggle within their half-baked, destructive gender roles.

Transcendent in America: Hindu-Inspired Meditation Movements as New Religion

Although I don’t do it every day, yoga and meditation help me manage physical and mental injuries that I received from previous trauma. It certainly calms my chaotic mind and keeps pain at bay. I have bonded with other practitioners, but I’ve never gone on a retreat or invested time in training beyond basic poses or ten minute meditations. My expectations of what Lola Williamson’s book about meditation movements in the U.S.

Molly Fox's Birthday

The fact that Deirdre Madden's tale takes place all in one day, as a calm reflection of the narrator’s relationships, does not take away from the fantastic insights to human nature that the author reveals.

Dr. Mary Walker: An American Radical, 1832-1919

Dr. Mary Walker: An American Radical, 1832-1919 is a plethora of facts, evidence, and tightly woven themes that are well-researched by Harris, yet the book isn’t boring or dry. I found it inspirational and enraging at the same time. Women of the past made it easier for women today by tirelessly battling for women’s rights (and for men who were not white property owners). Walker was a dutiful and energetic soldier.

Fabriclive 49

I recently heard a clip from Fabriclive 49 and wanted to review it. Although I’m not too familiar with techno music (aside from the occasional club visit), I do like it, so off I went. Buraka Som Sistema’s album has a total of twenty-eight short club pieces that are very hard to separate. These songs overlap, interconnect, and pulse. There’s a definite dance vibe to the collection. At the same time, they are rather mellow and spacey in nature.

Woman's Prison

Although Woman’s Prison is not a documentary, writer/director Katie Madonna Lee presents a realistic story of poverty and the struggles women, children, and to some degree, men face who experience it. From birth, Julie Ann Mabry is a quiet, shy person, who just wants to be safe with her mother (played by Lee). Sadly, her father takes away that option by murdering her mother, and she is left quietly battling predators, including her uncle. When Julie encounters heart-wrenching situations, she does not lose hope.

The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn

Having been drawn to the history of midwifery and peasants/working classes, I’ve always shied away from studying aristocrats. When I first picked up The Lady in the Tower, I was a bit apprehensive. Over 350 pages in length (not including the bibliography, source notes, or illustrations), it appeared to be a daunting reading task.

Year of the Elephant: A Moroccan Woman’s Journey Toward Independence

A collection of one novella and a handful of short stories, Year in the Elephant is a translation from Arabic that does a great job of painting life in Morocco prior to and after independence from the French colonial power.

Mississippi Damned

Mississippi Damned opens with a display of rural setting, piano music, and kids playing. Based on a true story, the film is shown through the eyes of Kari Peterson, a young black girl, who lives in a poor, violent, neglectful family. Even though she is a little girl, nothing is hidden from her view-the adults are too busy drinking, gambling, and beating people to notice her during the intense moments.

The Madwoman of Bethlehem

Before I started to read The Madwoman of Bethlehem, a story about a woman’s struggle against her patriarchal culture, I wondered whether it would be depressing. It wasn’t.

China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing’s Expansion in Africa

In China Safari: On the Trail of Beijing's Expansion in Africa, Serge Michel and Michel Beuret invest a lot of time and energy in examining China’s presence in African countries. They travel to various places to interview different people in order to find out what affects Chinese business has across the continent.

The Real HipHop: Battling for Knowledge, Power, and Respect in the LA Underground

As a Euro-Native girl growing up neglected in a Canadian redneck home in the late '80s and early '90s, I copied my anti-establishment parents by hanging with drug dealers, thieves, and bikers. The only element of life I drew inspiration from was the arts: drawing, making and listening music, and martial arts.

Where Underpants Come From: From Checkout to Cotton Field: Travels Through the New China and Into the New Global Economy

It’s absolutely astonishing to realize how much junk people in North America consume only to throw away. Most of it is from China. When I started to read Where Underpants Come From, I picked up various objects in my office—from the mechanical pencil I write with to my iPod—and I discovered that yes, everything had been made in China.

Whatever It Takes

At first, Whatever It Takes looks like the opening of a murder-mystery TV show, as a man gets ready for work. But it isn’t—it’s really Edward Tom, a new principal getting ready for the first day of school at a school in the South Bronx, New York. Named for the Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics, the high school is part of the state’s new education reforms: smaller schools to assist high risk students. The principal and teachers alike pay attention to all 108 kids, hoping to encourage them to succeed. The film covers the 2005-2006 academic year.

Dark Hunger

Although this “paranormal romance” is the first of Rita Herron’s books that I’ve read, it’s the second in the Demonborn series. I expected something that was fresh, original, and erotic—boy, was I disappointed. The story line was, however, easy to follow. There were too many elements of this story that turned me off. The lack of research that went into this story is appalling.

Sita Sings the Blues

As an independent woman struggling to experience life for myself instead of through a man, I’m always looking for inspiration from other women who develop identities beyond being appendages or servants to men. As I was already familiar with the story of Sita, a Hindu goddess, I was curious to see how Nina Paley would present the story in her animated film. Simply going by the graphics, the movie is a fantastic exploration of the parallels between the ancient mythological world and modern day.


Upon receiving my copy of Vanishing, Candida Lawrence’s writing was relatively new to me. The fourth offering in a series of standalone memoirs, Lawrence’s stories cover various stages in her life, from childhood father-daughter power struggles to marriage and child-rearing to aging. Her writing covers a vast array of life experiences and the resulting emotions.  Lawrence vividly describes experiences that have happened to many other women.

Forbidden Sun Dance

My body belongs to me. I make the choice of whether or not I use contraception, dance like a silly garden gnome, use drugs like booze, and paint my toenails green or pink or leave them natural.

Ready? Ok!

The blurb on the back of the sleeve for Ready? Ok! called it a "family comedy," so naturally I expected to watch something funny. Aside from a scene where Josh’s mother loses control over him and Alex, her brother, during a live television taping, there really wasn’t too much to laugh about. Maybe it was the array of serious issues that the movie covered that cast a blanket of sadness over it. Josh is the perky wannabe cheerleader son of jaded single parent Andrea.

Water Steps

Surprisingly, this story echoed my own fear of water, which I’ve harbored ever since I can remember. I have been plagued with nightmares about water in all forms. The main character, Kyna, has suffered from an almost-paralyzing dread of water since she was three. She was the sole survivor of a storm at sea that her family was involved in.  Adopted by the couple that rescued her, she slowly learns not only how to cope with water, but bits and pieces of her adopted family’s history.

Going Gray: How to Embrace Your Authentic Self With Grace and Style

With predominant silver streaks cropping up in the underside of my dark hair, I have to admit that I was excited to see what this book was all about. I wasn’t disappointed. Kreamer put a lot of effort and research into the work. Bravely, she takes the plunge into letting her natural hair color grow out from the dyed. It takes courage, determination, and much soul reflection along the way. As she grays, she investigates many avenues that relate to the cosmetic industry, including hair coloring, plastic surgery, and advertising.

Your Roots Are Showing

I really tried to like this book because it has many good points. The plot centers on a painfully honest email that Lizzie, the main character, sends by mistake to her husband revealing the drudgery that her life as a house-bound mother and wife has become. The couple separates and Lizzie is forced to face herself while taking care of the kids, of course. Since getting married, her weight, looks, and physical habits have gone down the drain.

A New Type of Womanhood: Discursive Politics and Social Change in Antebellum America

Kraus has done an amazing job of researching and organizing this work, which compiles so much information about American antebellum women’s rights. As I read it, I was continuously blown away by the tightness of the presentation.

Green Apple Soap

Green Apple Soap comes in a plain package with information about the product and the maker, Karina. There are no logos, and you won’t find any fillers or chemicals in the soap either. The little, translucent green soap bar has a very pleasant smell to it. When it’s wet, it smells a bit stronger than dry (or so I’ve noticed), and as an interesting aside, when the light shines through the wet bar, it’s nice to look at.