The first “everyday vegan” memoir I’ve read so far
Self-published in 2023 by eighteen-year vegan Christine Cook Mania, Vegan Minded: Becoming a Steward for Animals, People, and the Planet is a collection of personal essays about transformation. I learned this style of book is called “memoir-in-essays.”
The first thing I’ll say is that this book has one of the best book covers I’ve ever seen. Many authors don’t understand how important a book cover is, and Vegan Minded‘s cover is packed with colour. It stands out on a shelf!
Unlike previous memoirs I’ve reviewed that are about a specific industry (like Moby’s Porcelain), a travel adventure (Kristin Lajeunesse’s Will Travel for Vegan Food), or how one came to run an animal sanctuary (Ellie Laks’ My Gentle Barn), this book tracks how an average person went vegan, why she did, and her life since.
It’s the most genuine and honest vegan memoir I’ve read in which the author shares how she lives a values-aligned life, but doesn’t shove veganism down the reader’s throat. It’s more conversational than a fiction book, and you’ll feel like the author’s talking to you and telling her story. If you’re veg-curious and would prefer a more personal approach to the lifestyle along with the real challenges it poses, this book’s for you.
The author’s vegan journey
Mania shares how she first went vegetarian and then vegan. Unlike most people I know, she had a “go vegan” date and came up with a series of rituals to prepare for it.
Practicing yoga enhanced her identity as a vegan and personally I can see why—although I’m sure most yoga teachers in the West don’t eat plant-based. Mania presented about veganism to her cohort of yoga teachers, which led her to run a series of workshops.
She then started a blog called “It’s Easy Being Vegan,” even though Mania didn’t always find it easy. She talked about changes in her social life and not being invited to dinner parties anymore. She titled two chapters “Joy of Missing Out” (JOMO).
I resonated a lot with the quote she shares in the first chapter: “I finally realized that living with integrity was more important to me than fitting in. The desire to conform, which had played a primary role throughout my life, was now in direct conflict with my conscience. I needed to be willing to stand out—to be different than my friends and family at every meal—in order to rebuild my integrity and live by my principles.” (12)
Veganism is aligned with human rights movements and Mania talks about how resistance often leads to change.
Other elements in Vegan Minded
Mania gets vulnerable and talks about her body image. She also talks about what it was like to date people as a vegan and how she used one scam company that targeted vegetarians before finally meeting the man who would become her husband on eHarmony.
Over the course of the book, we learn how veganism is linked with the environment and how that influenced Mania to become more sustainably-minded, even though she can feel helpless sometimes (anyone relate?).
She talks about moving to Sierra Nevada, California, sharing the land with other animals, and eventually adopting a rescue dog. She then moves to the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington state to avoid the effects of the wildfires in California.
The author talks about how she dealt with the pandemic and the link between animal consumption and pandemics, confronting aging, animal testing, and finding a vegan deodorant that works (I’m in this phase now too). Again, I love this addition of everyday details that might seem mundane but that everyone faces, and how that might change when you go vegan.
Mania ends the book with practical tips on how to be an activist or a changemaker and defines what “vegan minded” means to her.
I’ll leave you with a powerful statement about personal impact from her Epilogue: “What you eat affects everyone. I understand that changing how we eat is challenging for most people, myself included, but if we rely on the current people in power to solve the climate crisis, then we will be waiting a long time. We need to act ourselves. Government moves too slowly. Corporations depend on profits, making their willingness to change business practices unlikely unless forced. But people and animals need a healthy planet now. Future generations are counting on us. My nieces and nephews are counting on us. Your children and grandchildren are counting on us. What is good for the earth is also good for humans and other animals.” (265)
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