Bookworm: Women’s stories of surviving, thriving

‘Star Trek’ fan? Missing ‘Phasers on Stun’ would be highly illogical.

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Correspondent

“My Moment: 106 Women on Fighting for Themselves”

  • Stories collected by Kristin Chenoweth, Kathy Najimy, Linda Perry, Chely Wright and Lauren Blitzer
  • c. 2022, Gallery Books
  • $27.99, 336 pages

No. It’s simple, really: just one syllable, dragged out or said sharply, emphatically, and finally. No. You’ve heard it all your life, yelled it a time or two. “No” is easy to say, especially when, as in the new book “My Moment,” stories collected by Kristin Chenoweth, Kathy Najimy, Linda Perry, Chely Wright and Lauren Blitzer, you’re done.

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Watching Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify in the Senate Chambers some time ago, Chenoweth, Najimy, Perry, Wright, and Blitzer became outraged. Over the years, they’d heard other women’s stories of bullying, abuse, injustice, and more; the five of them are friends, and they had stories to tell, too. They decided to ask women from all over the world one question: “What was the moment in your life when you realized you were ready to fight for yourself?”

“My Moment: 106 Women on Fighting for Themselves,” stories collected by Kristin Chenoweth, Kathy Najimy, Linda Perry, Chely Wright and Lauren Blitzer.

The answers are in this book. High school student Miya Lao was bullied for her diminutive height, until she realized that she didn’t need to give bullies any attention because “they weren’t my friends.” Performer Adrienne Warren was told by boys that she didn’t belong on the ball court when she “decided to be a warrior for myself ... ” Actress Kelly O’Hara accomplished an athletic feat and nobody believed her. She proved them wrong.

There are stories of racism here: activist Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman was taunted by racist jokes until she confronted the kid who told them. And there are stories of women who struggled before coming out, dealing with doubters, haters, and homophobes.

Comedian Melissa Peterman was a victim of body-shaming. Actress Marlo Thomas’ own father stopped believing in her. Actress Debra Messing was sexually harassed by a director; and TV host S.E. Cupp, by a magazine publisher. Comedian Carol Burnett was told that her idea for a show was “a man’s game.” Lawyer Tina Tchen’s ideas were stolen by a male co-worker. Singer-songwriter Alice Peacock hoped to change her family’s legacy. And musician Chrissie Hynde says she started standing up for herself, “The moment I was born.”

You know the feeling: frustration, like your arms are tied to your sides and the tears are coming, although you’ve promised yourself that you weren’t going to cry and then something inside you flips. Those are the kinds of stories you’ll read in “My Moment” and instantly, they’ll all seem familiar, as if you’ve known them all your life.

That’s discouraging. And yet, what you’ll read here is empowering, too, because the balance of content – from coming-out stories to bullying to harassment at work – will show readers that no matter what they’ve experienced, it’s not new or shameful. Yes, some stories may seem more relatable than others; some have no catalyst other than an unwillingness to accept anymore guff. In any case, readers will find breaking points, strength, and guts inside this book as well as a yell-out-loud lack of uniqueness, and that may lend courage to those who need words of support and power.

A little of that is always good, making “My Moment” a modern woman’s must-have, no problem.

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“Phasers on Stun: How the Making (and Remaking) of Star Trek Changed the World”

  • By Ryan Britt
  • c. 2022, Plume
  • $28, 400 pages

Every day, you like to go where no one has gone before. To the supermarket, to your bedroom down the hall, to your desk or workstation, even if you were just there, you like to make your journey a little bit different. Change is good, and in the new book “Phasers on Stun” by Ryan Britt, you’ll see how one iconic television show altered our entertainment.

"Phasers on Stun: How the Making (and Remaking) of Star Trek Changed the World" by Ryan Britt.

Gene Roddenberry was already experienced in TV writing. He had been working on a crime-drama series that he called “very bad shows” but that was fine. The crime drama wasn’t really his focus. No, his heart was on a science fiction series he thought could “reinvent what an episodic TV show could be.” A bit of stability in his work was icing on the cake.

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His first episode of this new show was loaded with issues, however. Majel Barrett, who would eventually become his wife, was his mistress then, says Britt, and casting her in what was a very major role was a mistake – not because of Barrett but because the character itself was all wrong and had to be almost completely revised.

The network, NBC, gave him a choice-no-choice on that.

What followed, beginning with the show’s next (second) episode, launched an almost-fifty-year phenomenon that included multiple movies, multiple spin-offs, a cartoon series, an anthology series, and a conference held annually. To accomplish that, Roddenberry did what no man had done before: he invited science fiction writers to submit their ideas; some were hired to write screenplays for their stories. Then he insisted on adding a Black female in a recurring role, as well as a man of Asian descent and the son of Russian immigrants.

Roddenberry’s work left a lingering impact on NASA. It had a small part in saving whales and in making fan conventions the huge events they are today.

And yet, twenty years after Star Trek appeared on television, its creator was ready to walk away from it all for good...

Judging solely by its subtitle “Phasers on Stun” is a bit of a disappointment. Author Ryan Britt names a few national impacts left by the show and a handful of much-needed changes to the way series TV was produced, but... the world? Eh, not so much.

But Trekkers won’t care one bit. Nor will Trekkies, the difference of which is high among the subjects Britt writes about, in a book that’s like combat to a Klingon. His knowledge and his insider’s sense springs from a lifelong obsession with the show and a career spent writing about it. Not only does that lead Britt to transport readers with his acumen, but he does so with tidbits of interesting information that are as abundant as Tribbles on a bridge.

This is good for fans of all levels – even if, dang it, you’re a doctor, not a, well, whatever. If you love the shows, movies, and the entire cast, “Phasers on Stun” is the next book you want to read. Missing it would be highly illogical.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books. Read past columns at marconews.com.