Review: What Fresh Hell Is This? – Heather Corinna

Review: What Fresh Hell Is This? – Heather CorinnaWhat Fresh Hell Is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You
by Heather Corinna
Publisher: Hachette Go
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: NetGalley

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

An informative, blisteringly funny, somewhat cranky and always spot-on guide to perimenopause and menopause by the award-winning sex ed/health educator and author of S.E.X.

If you don't know award-winning sex educator and all-around badass Heather Corinna, let them introduce themselves and their new book:
"I'm going to do what I've done for millions of people of all ages with sex and relationships: to simplify and share solid, explicit information, to provide support and be sensitive, and to help make everyone feel less alone and get us all through hard, thorny, touchy stuff so we can make it to the other side. I'm going to do this in a similar way I've done it for sex and relationships in my work over the last couple decades for young people and adults alike: by talking out loud, shamelessly and frankly, about what others are afraid or ashamed to, much in the way your favorite loudmouth aunt might have if she made this kind of stuff her life's work and if your family also didn't always apparently forget to invite her to everything."

Corinna has been on the cutting edge of health for more than twenty years, always talking about what people are most afraid, ashamed, or embarrassed of. What Fresh Hell Is This? is no different. It's a companion for everyone who's reached this "what to expect when you're not expected to expect anything" time of life. It's a health-forward, feminist, no b.s. (and damn funny) perimenopause guide for the generation that time forgot (aka GenXers), offering straightforward descriptions of our bodies, minds, lives and what's going on with them during this time of hormonal chaos. Heather Corinna tells you what to expect and what to do, all while busting some myths and offering real self-care tips so you can get through this. With practical, clear information that also includes affected populations who have long been left out of the discussion, like those with disabilities, queer, transgender, nonbinary and other gender-diverse people, the working class and other marginalized folks, What Fresh Hell Is This? an accessible and inclusive guide for anyone who is experiencing the hot fire of perimenopause.

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Content warnings: View Spoiler »

After an online friend raved about this book, I felt like I had to pick it up. I’m approaching my forties, the time when, according to this book, many people start entering perimenopause. I knew going in that I was incredibly uninformed about it, and turns out, everything I knew was pretty much completely wrong.

“I’m not here to fix you. I’m just here to try and help you get through this hot mess.”

Apparently, I’m not the only one. The author starts with some of their own history, an example of how lack of knowledge about menopause – even among doctors – can lead to costly and frustrating issues. Throughout the book, the author is thoughtful and honest about their own struggles, and I really appreciated that. The next section goes over the history of (mis)treatment of menopause, with gems such as doctors stating that outliving your ovaries means you’ve outlived your use as a human being. It’s a bit hard to read, but it’s a good background to see where some of the cultural and medical misunderstandings that still persist today come from. While obviously no person’s menopause will be the same, there’s some common areas to focus on, what the author calls “Ya Basics” – things that honestly everyone should be doing, from hydration to movement to sleep to stress reduction. It’s basically self-care, but something that I, at least, recognize that I struggle with even now. After that, there’s sections devoted to possible issues – hot flashes, mental health issues, cognitive issues, digestive issues, urinary and genital issues…. – you get the point, menopause is a lot of issues – and suggestions for what may help.

“It is not uncommon for some people in menopause to take a look at their whole lives or some big part of them and come to the conclusion that what it really needs is some gasoline and a match. There may come a time in this when our fucks all come home to roost, we size them up, and say, “Oh yeah? Let’s dance.”

When listing it all out like that, this book can get rather terrifying at times so it’s good that it’s also hilariously funny. From silly things like a Rick Astley reference to one-liners, to a multi-page ode to a cooling pillow (one of the tips for getting better sleep, since apparently night sweats start with your head) there’s a lot of good humor. And while the author doesn’t sugarcoat that perimenopause can be rough going, they also provide lots of suggestions, and even a chapter at the end of the “benefits” of menopause. It was a lot like sitting down for a very frank chat with a good friend, honest and informative but also caring.

“Self-acceptance and self-love don’t require that we have no hard feelings or nothing we don’t like; they mostly just ask that however we feel about our bodies and ourselves, we’re not a dick about it.”

One of the things I really appreciated is that this book is inclusive, especially in terms of gender and disabilities. The author uses the term “people with utero-ovarian systems” as a shorthand, and the book specifically includes info for people who start taking testosterone for gender transitioning or affirm reasons. Look, this crap is scary and can be even more so for those outside gender “norms” or who already have some form of disability or marginalization. I’m cis, so I can’t speak to the sections for trans men and women, but tt was nice to specifically see sections that mentioned my specific disability and how it might affect whatever symptoms I experience. It’s also extremely body positive, for example, acknowledging that tracking foods (one recommendation for people having digestive issues) might not be a healthy option for everyone.

Overall, I found this incredibly informative and helpful, and I’ll definitely be buying a copy to refer back to when I inevitably need it.

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