Sweet, merciful Jesus, what a dumpster fire: A real-time review of Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman


-This was a total impulse pick-up. I saw the title on my new audiobook app and downloaded it. I have a soft spot for travel memoirs. Even when they’re not great, I can usually get something out of it. This woman says she’s lived in a lot of places I want to go to. I’m sold.

-When Rita Golden Gelman was 48, she found herself on the verge of divorce. Unhappy in her life, unsure of how she got to where she was, and feeling drained from decades of the compromises that make up a marriage, she decides to go to Mexico for a few months. She’d always wanted to live in other places, but her husband didn’t. Now she gets to decide what kind of life she wants to lead.

-This is a little too Eat, Pray, Love for my taste, but I’m still cautiously on board. I vacillate between seriously and not-so-seriously planning my own travels, and all I need from this book are stories from places I’ve never been to inject into my own daydreams. I’m sure she can do that.

-She’s going to live with locals in a rural Zapotec village. I’m excited.

-Oh no.

-Sigh. Okay everyone, buckle up because Rita just heard her host beating his wife. Rita can’t interfere. She can’t inflict her “culture’s morals” onto others. Being beaten is this woman’s “destiny”. I DIDN’T KNOW THAT NO ONE BEAT THEIR WIVES IN AMERICA. Sucks to be you, Margarita.

-Now she’s in Guatemala. She prefers to be with the native Guatemalans rather than the American expats or the Spanish. She loves them because of their “spirit”, or some other vague reason. I get the impression she just likes to be seen with brown people. Look at all these nonwhites I interact with, I have transcended race.


-For someone who’s rich enough to fly back to America whenever she feels like it, she sure has a problem with other rich people.

-Now she’s in Israel. She stays up late with her host doing puzzles, “trying each individual piece until we finally get the one that fits.” WE KNOW HOW PUZZLES WORK RITA, IT’S A PRETTY SIMPLE CONCEPT.

-Well, her whole “I’m not judging other cultures” thing flies out the window as soon as someone’s being sexist towards her. Girl, you asked to go to the Orthodox section of Israel. What did you think was going to happen?? Sure, Margarita getting the snot beaten out of her was just an unfortunate part of her culture, but how DARE these Israelis tell her she’s not allowed to sing with the men?

-I decided to take a break from drinking a few months ago. Now I wish I hadn’t. giant wine

-I’m more interested in knowing more about literally anyone Rita interacts with. But she keeps going back to herself.

-I figured out this author reminds me of someone I know. I can’t unlearn that revelation and now I’m even more annoyed. There’s no going back. I have to lean in to my totally unnecessary rage.

-To hitch a ride on a luxury boat in the Galapagos, she promises the captain she will entertain her fellow passengers with her tales of living in Mexico, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. I would jump off the boat.

-I’m beginning to think Rita never actually traveled anywhere. Because for the majority of the book she refers to her experiences in absurdly vague terms. Everyone’s always “laughing, dancing, sharing”…and she’s interested in the “culture, and art of the native people.”

-I’ve cracked the code of the book. Just repeat this a dozen times: I was nervous about going to this place without plans. But I never make plans so it’ll all work out. I will meet someone serendipitously and he will direct me to a family I can stay with. I will stay there for free and immerse myself in their culture. I will be one with the women here. I will give out my children’s books. We cook, laugh, dance and share. I am FINALLY free from the strings of my old life.

-Some orangutan expert just snubbed her.

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-She managed to get the expert to let her live in the orangutan camp and then spends a few pages bitching about how this woman won’t drop everything to be her best friend. The woman also charges her for food and lodgings for the two weeks she stays at the camp. The horror.

-Now we’re in Bali. She ends up living here for years, but refuses to learn Balinese because it “reinforces the caste system.” NOW WHO’S PROJECTING HER JUDGMENTS ONTO A LOCAL CULTURE, RITA?!

-Also, for someone who has an issue with the caste system and the treatment of women on the island, she doesn’t have a problem staying with a literal prince for two years.

-She wants to write a children’s book about the prince’s family but when he gets sick she decides it’s because his brother (who knows black magic) doesn’t want him to talk about the family so they stop writing but IT WOULD HAVE BEEN YUGE, YOU GUYS AN INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER Y’ALL DON’T EVEN KNOW.

-now she’s imitating farm animals. Hello darkness my old friend.

-She can even make people dying about herself.

-She’s going mountain climbing. Should she exercise? Should she lose weight? Should she see if she can climb up a damn hill first? Nah.Other people will stop what they’re doing to help her.


-Cool she’s complaining about an understaffed missionary service not dropping everything to fly her out of a village so she can make it to her boat tour.

-I just want you all to know there’s still 4 HOURS left of this book.

-She wants to touch strangers, that’s not weird is it?

-She hates this German dude immediately because he frowns. Then he has the temerity to get himself injured and her tour has to end early. Fucking Han…

–Back in Bali, she’s living (for $8/day) in the palace and the new head of the household decides he doesn’t want to pay for a phone line. Exact quote: “How could he do this to his mother? To me?” Then she calls him stupid TO. HIS. FACE.

-I just want you to know that I’ve started writing about the crazy shit this lady is saying, but then I realize how much I’ve already complained and I delete it. But just so you know, this book is still terrible.

-Rich people love bragging about how much money they save. I don’t have any teacups. Well I don’t have any car insurance. WELL I DON’T HAVE WATER PIPES AND I BATHE BY THE RIVER AT SUNRISE WITH THE HELP OF THE WOODLAND CREATURES.

-Her instructions for how to forge friendships remind me of Mr. Collins’ tips on how to woo the ladies. Distant, vague, uncomfortable, like they’ve only seen other humans on television and now they have to try and fit in.“I’ve learned to compress time through introducing early in my conversation, intimate details of my life.”

These are the kinds of little things which please her ladyship, and it is a sort of attention that I conceive myself peculiarly bound to pay.

-Of course this lady talks to the crazy people on the bus

-Whew boy, we’re going to back up a little. When she was in Indonesia, a sick baby died wrapped in her jacket. I didn’t mention it because it was sad and the only emotion I’m interested in during this review is a clean, seething, hatred. But she moved to Seattle, sold some stocks ($$) AND SHE STILL KEPT THE DEAD BABY JACKET WHY DID YOU DO THAT AND WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS?!!

-After years of living everywhere, it’s in Seattle where this trick decides to have a full-fledged freak out about forgetting her wallet and needing $1.25 in bus fare, further confirming my theory that she never did any of the shit she’s been bragging about.



-Just got an in-depth tutorial for how to butter a scone. Pull the scone open and put butter on it. This will be on the test.

-Rita’s tendency to repeat herself has gone into overdrive. I think her editor may have given up, as have I.


sad mascot

Phew. Well. I don’t really know what’s left to be said about Tales of a Female Nomad. This made me feel things, guys. I don’t feel this strongly about anything anymore. I didn’t know it was even possible to have such a visceral hatred of a book. It makes me wonder if I should give this book a higher grade. After all, is it not the point of literature to provoke a strong reaction?

Nah. One star.


4 thoughts on “Sweet, merciful Jesus, what a dumpster fire: A real-time review of Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman

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