The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos ~ Review of one hell of a fully justified rant rampage from Macy Cashmere, The Girl reporting directly from the Cultural Crime Scenes.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day so what could be more appropriate than advocating reading than a book which lays out the ongoing conditions under which many girls and women do not thrive in our world while fighting to survive despite the odds against them? Via chapters presented as entries of significant words and phrases in The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary writer NoNieqa Ramos takes you directly into the inner world of Macy Cashmere–named for the store and the fine wool used in luxury clothing items–who puts the survival skills of the likes of Laura Croft Tomb Raider to shame.  Suffice it to say that Macy has truly mad survival skills and an equally mad will to thrive no matter what the world throws, literally, at her.  Now there’s one thing that’s crucial for you, the reader, to keep in mind: Macy’s world IS our world, your’s and mine, no matter what your level of reality denial may be based on the specific context in which you live, this is the truth. Savage Inequalities is not only the title of Jonathan Kozol’s indictment of educational inequity in America–which still exists. Savage inequalities is one way of describing the nature of the vastly differing statuses between females and males—unequal on multiple levels and viciously savage from the home-front to the war-fronts.  Macy’s dictionary presents an indictment not of the educational system which far too often serves as an overburdened safety net for children, but of American culture which treats girls and women as sexual objects for exploitation and male gratification. If you don’t agree then quite possibly you’re living in a vacuum without a cleaner.  I’m not going to argue the point as the media lays it all out there every day with ongoing reality checks from real life—no need for reality television shows which are pure fantasy yet often reflect this sad state of affairs. Now that that fundamental piece of ugly truth has been laid out (no sexual allusion intended) let’s let Macy take the lead. This is a first person narrative which speaks to readers without pulling any punches. Actually it throws very hard punches. Consider your children very lucky, and very privileged, if they have a home, stable family life, enough food to eat –at home–, access to a quality education, and your undivided attention whenever they need it. Macy Cashmere has none of these essentials.  Macy is a designated “problem child” at school where she speaks her mind very freely–and is willing to pay the consequences for doing so. She knows the in-school behavior drills so well that at times she pushes the office buzzer herself after crossing lines.  If she didn’t have such a strong voice and immense willpower who would pay any attention? School is not perfect, but it does throw life lines to Macy via the likes of Miss Black who sees and hears far more of Macy than she lets on and does what she can to feed and support Macy mentally, emotionally and physically. Oh the power of music, never underestimate it. Jazz pulls Macy’s trigger in all the right ways upon her first hearing of  John Coltrane, A Love Supreme in Miss Black’s class.

Macy’s home world might be described as a mix of David Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets of Baltimore and Dick Wolf’s Law & Order’s SVU–yes, it’s full of sex crimes and violence.  If you think I’m pushing this too far, well, Simon’s book and Wolf’s series kept coming to mind while I followed Macy through her world. So that’s that–the power of references for creating connections. The difference is that it’s all seen and told from the viewpoint of a young teenage girl–not from the perspective of adults.  Adult perspectives trickle in via Macy’s observations but they do NOT drive this narrative in her very personalized dictionary format. The chapter titled “I Have A Dream” has nothing to do with Martin Luther King’s speech except perhaps as its utter antithesis.  Yet, Macy’s world is one created by adults–and not just her parents–and a system devised by adults and perpetuated by adults–and fought by other adults.  Macy is a girl who knows how to effectively put to use whatever comes to hand to deal with important problems like a visit from CPS and the entrapment of her best friend by an oh so caring “uncle”: an all-purpose cleanser, a slave’s machete, a bag of cocaine. Make no mistake, nothing holds Macy back when she sets out to protect those she loves: her brother Zane, her friend George, her best friend Alma–for whom being Gifted & Talented is not enough to ensure escape from poverty, not by a long shot.

As if violence, drugs and wrecked home life aren’t enough challenges for the girls Macy represents there’s the entire SEX package to contend with. What matters to the males of our species? Breasts, bodies, and booty calls—those are what females are for–bottom line, that’s it.  Brains never come into the picture. Heart never comes into the picture. It’s all a sex end game never-ending.  At least that’s what Macy observes from her mother’s efforts to survive and the prostitutes like Velvet working the streets. Yes, Macy has issues with her mother. Issues so big they’re ethically trying.  Ironically, Velvet does more looking out for Macy than her mother seems capable of on a good day with or without her “guests” who provide the necessities of life when Macy’s father goes to prison.  Perhaps it’s because one good turn deserves another thinking–or maybe it’s just plain decency and fair play in Velvet’s books. Just because you’re stuck in the sex for hire business in order to eat doesn’t make you a bad person—far from it. But who would Velvet be with other options? What would Macy’s mother do with positive options? Think about that. Who would you be with no positive options in your life? Why do we do the things we do–and don’t? Macy’s dictionary entry:

Why

Noun: Reasons 1 and 2

Why do I hate? Because it’s so much easier than love. Because hate is reality. Love is a fantasy.

Why do I write? Le me break it down. Teacher Man taught us about something called haves and have-nots.

 

Via the words that really matter and their meanings for this very “disturbed girl”, Nonieqa Ramos deftly gives Macy Cashmere not just a voice but a ROAR impossible to ignore.  Ramos does this so effectively that her writing makes it look easy–the sign of real greatness in every art and skill. It’s not difficult to read the writing and words on the pages–but it gets downright nerve-racking to take in the content the words portray. Macy Cashmere’s dictionary is disturbing—it’s supposed to be. It’s a book meant to shake you up and rattle your brain pan. Macy Cashmere is here to wake people up not lull them into sleep at bedtime. How would you go about saving your best friend from the worst daily grind you can imagine? What are machetes for? I don’t think that qualifies as a spoiler. Hmm, naw, just a hook for Macy’s line of action in this microcosm of the world in which we live.  Have you asked your teenage girl what’s going in her life lately? If not, you need to get on that right now, because the issues faced by Macy Cashmere are everywhere.  If you don’t know what those issues are then you need to read The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary asap because it’s only a matter of degrees.

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4 Comments

  1. tubularsock said,

    March 10, 2018 at 4:55 pm

    Excellent review. Tubularsock may have to go right out and get a machete!

    • March 14, 2018 at 8:33 pm

      Thank you for reading and writing, Tubularsock. Machete, hmm, one of those fancy coffee drinks with sugar overload,right?

  2. March 18, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    This IS a great review. Sounds like a really great book. The sad thing about a book like this is that the people who WILL read it are adding to or expanding an existing base of knowledge, and the people who NEED to read it, generally don’t want to know. Still … it needs to be said/written.

    • March 24, 2018 at 2:52 am

      Hello!!!! It is a great book. At first it was difficult to get “into” Macy’s internal voice but then it just flowed. If you have time read it. Ramos really hit it out of the park.
      Thank you for your kind words.


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