Review: The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

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Read: The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

Stars: Five

Drinking: Lavazza Prontissimo! Intenso

The Improbability of Love is a sprawling novel full of intrigue featuring the seedy underbelly of London’s high art world.  At first glance, it seems like the usual contemporary fiction, but Rothschild has crafted the story so well that the reader is immersed. I only put it down with regret for work and sleep. This book has everything: Nazis, dysfunctional parent-child relationships, a sweet love story, and MI5.

What made the novel so unique from others in its class was the characters, particularly the titular painting. Found – rescued – from a junk shop by Annie, a broken-hearted chef, the painting tells us its story interwoven with Annie’s and that of Rebecca, Annie’s boss and heir to an art auction house. From the painter’s short and tragic life to Nazi looters, and royal hijinks all over Europe in between, the painting represented love to all who owned it.

She has the eye. The heart. She may be bog poor but she knows, doesn’t she? She can feel and sense my greatness. Like anyone, I need to be loved and admired.

Jesse was another character that I loved. He knew that Annie was struggling with both herself, her past relationship, and her mother. Instead of pushing her into a relationship or whining about being “friendzoned,” he accepted that Annie did not want a romantic relationship and instead was actually a friend. As an artist, he was fascinated by the painting and its mystery. He was able to put aside his unrequited romance to support Annie in solving the puzzle, even when it

The mystery part of the book was gripping as well, especially in the last twists and turns of the painting’s history. I honestly did not see the twists and turns of the last quarter of the book coming.

The Improbability of Love is a fun, lighthearted mystery. I highly recommend it.

 

5 Essential Feminist Words

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feminism” by Jay Morrison is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Whether you are new to feminism or have been one for years, there are a lot of terms that get thrown around in the movement that you may not be familiar with. Here are 5 essentials:

1) Feminism is the idea that all people are equal and thus should have equal opportunities in life. Feminism seeks to identify and dismantle barriers to equality.

2) Intersectionality was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s. Intersectionality is the idea that people have more than multiple identities that interact to create overlapping disadvantages.

3) Gender norms are the socially constructed ideas of how men and women should behave, dress, and interact. Those who challenge or do not adhere to gender norms can face negative consequences such as bullying, shaming, or ostracism.

4) Mansplaining is when a man explains a woman’s area of expertise to her, particularly when he is less educated about it.

5) Patriarchy is the system whereby men (usually white men) hold the power and authority. Patriarchy usually excludes or discourages women from gaining  any type of power. It interacts with gender norms to create a rigid system of behavior and roles for men and women that neither can escape easily.

Of course, these 5 terms are not an exhaustive list of feminist language. Share more below!

Feminist On Wednesdays We Smash The Patriarchy Feminism Ladies T-Shirt
Hallion Clothing on Etsy

Review: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

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Read: The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore

Stars: Two

Drinking: Fairtrade rooibus by Sainsbury’s

Have you seen the trailer for the Wonder Woman movie yet? If not, stop everything, go watch it and then come back. It looks EPIC.

The Secret History of Wonder Woman, on the other hand, was disappointing. Jill Lepore found a fascinating, complex web of influences and family secrets. But the way the narrative was structured made it incredibly difficult to read. She jumped around in time and between characters with little to no transition or explanation. Given that the book is a biography of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator, and his polygamous family,  more narrative structure would have helped immensely.

Marston was a con man who was entirely sincere. His life was full of lies and half-truths that he seemed to believe anyway. From the invention of the lie detector to the true author of various papers and books that he wrote, the truth was stretched in every way possible. He used this exaggerated credentials for publicity for himself and his creations.

Marston was an unusual man who believed in women’s rights and equality in a time when even many women did not. As an undergraduate at Harvard, he heard famous suffragettes like Florence Kelley and Emmeline Pankhurst speak. His feminism clearly influenced the creation of Wonder Woman and all she stands for.  The Marston family was polygamous at a time when bigamy was incredibly taboo, although the family kept it hidden. His two wives, Betty and Olive, and their families also influenced Wonder Woman’s creation. The younger wife, Olive, in particular, was a model for Wonder Woman. She wore two thick bracelets around her wrists following their marriage. Her aunt, Margaret Sanger, was also an influence on Wonder Woman’s principles and activism.

Lepore discusses the changes to Wonder Woman following Marston’s death. The character remained popular, but her focus turned away from gender equality. The new writer did not agree with Marston’s vision of Wonder Woman as a women’s rights activist. In the 1970s, Wonder Woman, controversially, was on the cover of Ms. magazine, sparking a discord among feminists and conspiracy theories that Ms. and Gloria Steinem were trying to destroy the women’s rights movement. A superhero born to be a feminist icon became a point of division.

And, while the Redstockings’ consipracy theory really was crazy, they did have a point about Wonder Woman. Who needs consciousness-raising and equal pay when you’re an Amazon with an invisible plane?

The most touching detail of the book is that Betty and Olive lived together following Marston’s death until Olive died in 1990. Their decades of family life, with Betty earning to support the family and Olive raising the children and writing articles for extra money, made the two women close. All four children considered both women to be their mothers. When the children finally found out the truth about the family, one son was angry about the secrecy, but the rest took it in stride.

Overall,  The Secret History of Wonder Woman has a lot of good history and facts. But the narrative structure is so difficult to follow that I really cannot recommend it. Lepore had unprecedented access to the Marston family and their documents, but unfortunately, that is not enough to overcome the reading issues. If you are interested in the feminist  influences on Wonder Woman and her history, it’s hardly worth trying to read.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, IMDB

 

Saturday Tea & Feminism

Orphan Black has taken over my life. I’m fascinated by how Tatiana can play so many vastly different characters (and characters impersonating each other) with no flaws. I easily forget that they are all the same actress.

Anyway, here are some links I liked this week – enjoy!

Cultural appropriation: what it is, why it’s bad (i-D)

 The reason gender was included with race in the Civil Rights Act? A joke. (Longreads)

The Latitude Festival’s 20 best books by women. (Baileys Women’s Prize blog)

Roxane Gay is joining Ta-Nehisi Coates and Yona Harvey to write a new comic book series called World of Wakanda about 2 women from Black Panther’s country. Clearly it is going to be AMAZING. (New York Times)

Saturday Tea & Feminism

Happy July! If you are in America, enjoy your long weekend and fireworks! If not, enjoy your July weekend!

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Women need to be included in environmental policy, as they can have different relationships with the land and resources than men. (Huffington Post)

Unilver has pledged to stop using sexist stereotypes in its advertising. If only more companies would get on board. (LGBTQ Nation)

“Germaine Greer has said women take leadership positions in a male-dominated world and actually don’t make a difference. The controversial academic said this was the case because women ‘just behave like men’ to fit in.” Older feminists…please stop undermining the cause. I get your point, but your wording is not helping. (The Telegraph)

Andrea Tantaros’s ‘Tied Up In Knots’ reveals an important lesson. (New Republic)

Another new book, by Frank Browning, explores the fluidity of gender identity. (Maclean’s)

I reviewed the award-winning The Glorious Heresies.

Review: The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

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Read: The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

Stars: Four

Drinking: Raspberry Leaf Tea, Clipper

Three weeks ago, The Glorious Heresies  won the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Last week, it won the Desmond Elliot Prize for new fiction. I was unsurprised. It’s a well-written, quirky novel of the seedy underbelly of Cork. The characters are vivid, funny, and tragic all at once. However, it wasn’t “fiendishly hilarious,” as The Times claimed. The novel is dotted with funny moments, but overall it just felt more depressing than anything else.

Ryan, his father Tony, Maureen, and her son Jimmy, Tara the creep, and Georgie the prostitute are all connected by murder and the drug trade. The Glorious Heresies traces the consequences to all the characters of Jimmy’s decision to cover up Maureen’s “accident.”

I liked Maureen the best. Inside her head is a funny place to be, whether she’s accidentally killing men or intentionally setting fires. Her lack of self-awareness, despite being in her late 50s, is amusing. She finds herself back in Cork after 40 years when her illegitimate son, and now head gangster in the city, retrieves her from exile in London and puts her up in one of his former brothels. I loved her narration. She was sent away after getting pregnant unmarried, just a bit too young for the Magdalene Laundries.

Ryan, on the other hand, is the most tragic of a cast of tragic characters. His arc starts out promising, with young love. But the dark side of his life is quickly revealed – child abuse, drug dealing, rape.

McInerney handles all these heavy topics deftly. Even an astute reader might not immediately catch some of the subtle events. While it is a dark novel, it certainly is lighter than most. Even the lowest points have a grim humor. It’s not always to my taste, but I certainly appreciated the irony.

The book certainly deserved its Baileys Prize win. It didn’t hold me the way that some other novels do, but it made me think, it was well-written, and it was definitely irreverent and a bit heretical. The Church, though it guides life in Cork, is secondary to the worship of drugs and self.

I’m looking forward to McInerney’s follow up to this strong debut. Meanwhile, go pick up The Glorious Heresies.

Saturday Tea & Feminism

Well, Brexit is happening. As a recent immigrant to the UK, I’m interested to see how it will all play out economically and politically. I’m nerding out a bit to see how the process will actually work. The little details are fascinating!

Anyway, have a great weekend and enjoy these links! If you read anything good, share it, please!

(Also, as an aside, it bugs me that when I look for stock photos of women with tea it’s almost exclusively white women – even when I specifically search “African American woman” or “diverse women” *grumble*)

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Brexit is a feminist issue and women need to be equally involved in the negotiations. (The Telegraph)

In common sense news: South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that bursaries (scholarships) for virgins are unconstitutional. (BBC)

Another legal win for women: “Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba was sentenced to 18 years in prison by the International Criminal Court on Tuesday for heading a 2002-03 campaign of rape and murder.” (Huffington Post)

Breastfeeding in literature. (The Millions)

A good review of Jessica Valenti’s new book. (New Republic)