At the time of her article, Kavin Williams, founder of at-home hairdressing company, Style by Jenn, was running her business out of her Palo Alto garage. Now, she can be found giving a TED Talk and interviewed by people like Oprah Winfrey. At the same time, her company, which was one of only 14 companies selected to participate in the inaugural Silicon Valley General Assembly last year, has successfully secured $14 million in funding. Williams left her blog post alone for a year. She shared it with a handful of friends after the harsh rain descended on San Francisco on the day of an Uber snow storm. After publishing it, things snowballed.
Read Her Story is part memoir and part how-to guide. She chronicles her personal struggles and triumphs, reliving the night her father was taken from her and revealing the time she paid a would-be auto thief $10 to steal her phone. Yet it’s not all business as usual. Williams reflects on learning to love herself despite having acne and getting her period. “This was a novel way of looking at our body – a way to make the body part uncomfortable, more people-pleasing, and easier to include in our lives,” she writes.
She sometimes paints a portrait of herself as the quintessential corporate centrist, dovetailing her own troubles into arguments against more rigid forms of feminism. Though deeply sympathetic to Williams’ real-life pain, she feels comfortable drawing comparisons between Williams’ style of customer service and the go-with-the-flow philosophy of one of Silicon Valley’s most admired companies, Uber. The pair’s differing goals: Uber helped women who had endured violence get rides in places where they feared for their safety, while Williams, a millennial single mother, took a stand against the sexist activities of older colleagues in an office environment.
Indeed, Uber surely could take a lesson from the at-home haircare business that would catapult Williams to the very top of the tech industry. (Williams used the company’s name to transform her blog into a real-world company last year.) If anyone has the education and social media savvy to make it in this sector, it’s Williams. (“If you’re around me, you know I’m all about cultivating personal connections,” she writes.) It just may be that Uber has already infiltrated her world anyway.
Read Her Story by JENNKARSEN goes on sale Feb. 19, from Riverhead Books.
The 20 best reads of the week:
1. Modjoak: A Devoted Sikh Exposes the Satanic Populations of Silicon Valley — A Sikh reporter runs afoul of Silicon Valley’s hateful crowd.
2. Métal-Plutôt: Culture, Beauty, and the Origins of Modern Paris — French novelist Nadège Morin details the history of the boomlet of cultural exchange between France and Africa.
3. America’s Last Army: The Inside Story of the American Land Corps (And the 200-Year Rebellion Against Paganism) — Charles Monteith details the Iroquois Confederacy’s fight against Catholicism’s holiest relic, the United States Army.
4. Book of Ages: The People Who Taught Disruptive Society How to Breathe — Author Sheila Heti uses literary form to examine the lives of disruptive pioneers like Alexander Graham Bell and modern political figures like Paul Revere.
5. The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand the Real Thing — Author Norman Cousins looks at how “a pantheistic vision of the universe” can make the everyday stress of modern life easier to live with.
6. Junk Food Junkies: How the Food Industry Manipulates Our Kids to overeat — Author Lisa Schlein argues that the obesity epidemic is a product of bad advertising to children and a food industry that trades on the materialistic fears of people who see obesity as a disease.
7. Diamond Endnotes: If You Wanna Read (or Watch) Anything Anymore, Use This Way — The early history of word-association.
8. Left and Right: The Seven Ages of Modern Liberals and Conservatives — Author Paul Berman maps the philosophical shifts in the attitude toward government between liberal and conservative thinkers.
9. Biography of an American Revolution: Reverend Charles Creighton, 1725-1835 — An eccentric preacher from Massachusetts, Creighton worked to rebuild the country’s links to the colonies.
10. Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead — Author Sheryl Sandberg honors women working in the White House and elaborates on the implications of having women in charge.
11. How to Be in Love: One Girl