Women Writers 2017 Reading Challenge

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This reading challenge is pretty simple: only read books by women writers for one year. Bonus: Review it in as many places as possible – blog, Goodreads, Twitter, smoke signals, whatever gets the word out about fabulous women writers. I’ll be using #womenwriters2017 on Twitter and Instagram

What counts? Any writer who identifies as a woman.That’s it. Books co-authored by men are ok, but a woman has to be one of the authors. If it’s a collection, one of the editors should be a woman OR at least half the entries should be by women.

Find a book by a man you really want to read? Add it to your TBR and read it in 2017.

Need suggestions? Check out the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, the Amelia Bloomer Project, VIDA, Persephone Books, or Our Shared Shelf for inspiration.

Sign up here for the Challenge and to receive a monthly newsletter!

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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!

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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)

 

Review: Girl in a Band

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Read: Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon

Stars: Three

Drinking: Blackcurrant & Vanilla, Twinings

I did not enjoy Gordon’s memoir as much as I hoped. Gordon is an artist, a feminist, and a musician who lived through a formative period in modern American art and music. She name drops connections from modern art, the New York art scene from the 70s and 80s, and musicians from the No Wave and punk movements. I have no frame of reference for most of these things, and frequently she just assumes that the reader knows who she is talking about and moves on. Despite her great writing style, I struggled to connect.

I think my main problem with Gordon’s memoir is that it is tinged with regret and lingering anger over the breakup with her longtime husband and music partner, Thurston Moore. A lot of sections, particularly in the series of essays about their albums and tours and specific songs, where she talks about how she “should have known” or how Moore treated her badly are incredibly bitter and difficult to read. Her perspective of the albums and the band’s history is affected by the breakup. The focus on their failed relationship inhibits more than enhances the narrative.

Also, can we talk about the title? I know it’s meant to reflect what the music magazines were calling her (“What’s it like to be a girl in a band?”), but for a woman who is so invested in feminism, it’s an odd choice.

I really wanted to like Girl in a Band. I wanted it to be another on my list of great feminist memoirs. But it falls short.

Review: Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud

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Read: Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud

Stars: Four

Drinking: Earl Grey, Twinings

I read Hideous Kinky for a book club meeting that I was, unfortunately, unable to attend. This autobiographical novel is well-written and absorbing. A young girl narrates the story of her move to Marrakesh with her mother, sister, and her mother’s boyfriend and his wife. Unlike some books with child narrators, Hideous Kinky sticks to the limited view of a small girl who doesn’t necessarily understand what is going on but accepts the world as it is, although her sister wishes for a “normal” life.

A lot of the reviews of Hideous Kinky revolve around the apparent flakiness of the narrator’s mother in taking her daughters to Morocco and then taking lovers and experimenting with extreme religion. I actually sympathized with the mother. Maybe I’m also irresponsible, but the move was a good opportunity for the girls to be exposed to a different culture. Sure, the mother was trying to “find herself” while having to take care of two kids, and they didn’t always have money, but she clearly loved them and wanted them to be happy. To the point where she let the older daughter, Bea, stay behind in Marrakesh to go to school while she went to stay at a Sufi monastery with the younger. I don’t think I’ll ever take off for a different country with my lover and his wife and two small kids, but I wouldn’t be opposed to a slightly better-planned adventure.

The mother character is intriguing to me. She was clearly well-off but left her wealthy family to become a hippie nomad. Her children’s father is merely an inconsistent source of money. At one point she jokes that her own mother wouldn’t know she had kids had a family friend not seen them one day on the street. The mother certainly has her own struggles throughout the story, particularly with men:

Mum shifted me off her lap. ‘He knew where to write when we were at the hotel for months and months…’ She sneezed and then she began to cry. ‘He knew where to write then.’

Hideous Kinky is short but complex. Overall, the novel is well worth reading. A film based on the novel, starring Kate Winslet, was released in 1998.