Works by Emily Chang ’98 Stull, Sara Ackerman ’84, Jim Mayfield ’92 and Melissa Woo ’94.
Brotopia, Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley
By Emily Chang ’98 Stull
Reviewed by Malia Boyd ’87
It took me much longer than it should have to finish Emily Chang ’98 Stull’s new book, “Brotopia, Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley,” because often I got so outraged I had to put it down to take deep breaths. As Chang methodically builds the case that tech, one of the nation’s most innovative, lucrative industries, was actually designed to exclude women (and most minorities), outrage is hard to avoid.
Chang is the anchor and executive producer of Bloomberg Technology, a daily TV show that has provided her excellent access to Tech leaders – Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Peter Thiel and many, many more – for this book.
First, Chang’s tome shows us how “Bro Culture” became the industry standard. From a personality test used by Tech recruiters for decades that searched for “antisocial nerds,” to the 90-hour-week set by mono-focused pioneers like Steve Jobs, to the work hard/play hard atmosphere that arose around offices full of college dudes given access to mountains of cash and kegs, the sector sets up privileged, young white men to thrive while simultaneously creating a climate that makes it nearly impossible for anyone else to do so.
When an industry is so dominated by one gender, problems are manifold. Some are small and insidious, like a much-hyped Apple health app that allowed users to track blood alcohol levels, but not menstruation – a basic health need for 50 percent of the population. Others are mind-blowingly huge and alarming. For example, in the best-selling video game Grand Theft Auto, players can sleep with a prostitute, then murder her. Worse, the CEO of the company that created the game stands by it: “It is art. And I embrace that art …”
But the products are not the only problem. Disturbing mindsets and attitudes are pervasive. What if a woman has a great idea and wants to get it financed? She certainly better not ask billionaire venture capitalist Chris Sacca, who used hot tub parties to bond over brewskies and decide who to fund. Says one female CEO: “Was he discriminating against me? No. But at the same time … how many women want to get in a bikini and drink beers while pitching a business?” Myriad other workplace-based stories are simply too explicit to share in this family
While the avalanche of evidence Chang heaps on us can feel crushing, she does not leave us without a roadmap for change. But she notes that the path to inclusiveness will be long and hard.
Of course, the book’s timing is extraordinary. As the #MeToo movement crests, Chang uses the case studies and the words of the men who built the industry to show what happens when huge swaths of the population are left out at every level from creation through maturity. Her book asks the tragic, essential question our nation is reckoning with as well: What would the tech industry (or politics or film or publishing) be like if women had been a more representative part of it from the beginning? Cynics will say the sector seems to be doing quite well. But it’s Chang’s assertion in the final pages – backed by the requisite research – that through inclusion, Tech could have been even bigger and better. And her mission, along with the many women she quotes in the book, is to make sure we begin to make that bigger and better future a reality.
Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers
By Sara Ackerman ’84
Reviewed by Phoebe Neel
Much like its title, “Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers” tells a story of dissonance: carving out lives of love in an era of fear and tragedy. Set on Hawai‘i Island during World War II, the Pearl Harbor attack has shattered idyllic life in the small town of Honoka‘a. Rising anti-Japanese sentiments have pitted residents against each other and suspicion is everywhere. Mother and daughter duo Violet and Ella are coping with their own personal tragedy – the mysterious disappearance of Violet’s husband and Ella’s father, Herman – and they trade off narration. Ella is tortured by her secret knowledge of the disappearance, which she must keep from her mother at all costs. Around them, Violet’s closest friends cope with their own hardships: a faraway lover at war, for one; indefinite detainment of her Japanese husband on trumped-up charges of treason, for another. Despite their troubles close at hand, the women band together to be strong and preserve hope for their children – and themselves.
Violet and her friends cook up a scheme to sell homemade pies at a nearby military for much-needed extra cash. Simultaneously, friendships blossom among the women, their children and a crew of several upstanding, attractive soldiers (and their mascot lion cub, Roscoe!). With a flurry of dinner parties, beach dates and adventures, the whole gang begins to rediscover something they thought had been lost forever: joy. A handsome, golden-boy sergeant makes no secret of his feelings for Violet, who’s torn between loyalty to her husband and her fears of the future, and despite her best intentions, finds herself undeniably falling for him.
Layered atop pain, suffering and secrecy, Ackerman has spun a tale as sweet as any of the ladies’ chocolate honeycomb pies. Like a Hawaiian sunset, the book has a golden sheen of nostalgia, longing and simple pleasure. Small-town characters bring vivid color to the story and the historical details shine. Amidst the complexity of their lives, the women learn from the soldiers the value of simplicity. As they cycle through healing and hurting, loving and losing, they find that every moment of happiness is a gift.
To that end, Ackerman highlights the women as a shining beacon of resiliency. For the soldiers, they provide a much-needed combination of home and escape. They serve home-cooked meals, wear their flirtiest finery and sunniest smiles, and with their children in earshot, keep all conversation light. While privately they may struggle, it’s clear the women are also pillars of strength.
Ackerman paints a doubtful picture of some men in the town, who’ve turned to drink and become bitter in their war-torn despair. Meanwhile, the women use every scrap of the resources available to them to relentlessly pursue justice for their loved ones. “Island of the Sweet Pies and Soldiers” is a poignant love story between a man and a woman, yes. But equally powerfully, it’s a love story about the power of sisterhood.
Additional Titles by Punahou Authors
Goodnight, Goodnight, Lahaina Town
By Jim Mayfield ’92
A charming bedtime story set in the quaint beachside town of Lahaina, Maui. Say “goodnight” after a very busy day at Baby Beach, Front Street, and the Banyan Tree around town. Simple rhymes, hidden creatures and a “find the object” page celebrate the sights and sounds of a special place in Hawai‘i.
Lionheart Says “I Love You”
By Melissa Woo ’94
Little Lionheart wants to tell everyone that he loves them ... but how? When he decides to get some advice from his fiercely clever friends, things get a little wild! With his heart-shaped mane, this adorable king of the jungle will charm small readers.
Published by Hallmark Gift Books exclusively for Valentine’s Day 2018. Limited availability.