What does feminism mean to the modern American woman? In Girldrive, Nona Willis Aronowitz and Emma Bee Bernstein take readers on a road trip across the United States in search of the answer to that question. The book is comprised of journal entries, Bernstein’s beautiful photographs, and excerpts from the interviews that Aronowitz and Bernstein conducted at each of their stops.
Aronowitz and Bernstein are both daughters of noted second wave feminists, so their list of contacts is impressive; the two were able to secure interviews with some of the major movers and shakers of the second and third waves. But the true intrigue of the book stems from the voices of the non-famous, everyday women that were interviewed: the activists, the students, the single mothers, the artists. I was even shocked–albeit pleasantly–that one of the women interviewed was originally from my hometown! Aronowitz and Bernstein diligently included the voices of women of color and economically disadvantaged women, and the end result is all the more powerful because of it.
There’s really no way around the main problem of the book, though: the reader is left wanting more in terms of depth. Over one hundred interviews were included in the book, so some of the excerpts were a mere paragraph or two long. Each of the women had so many fascinating things to say about why they did or did not embrace feminism, and the definitions of feminism were also incredibly varied. Yet this book is not meant to be a collection of oral histories; had Aronowitz and Bernstein provided that, the tone of the book would have changed radically (and the book would’ve been about ten times thicker). Still, there were several occasions where I found myself wishing that they had included at least a couple more paragraphs from the interviews.
Girldrive is touching, empowering, funny, and bittersweet (sadly, Bernstein committed suicide before the book was published; even now, thinking back to the interview with her mother is gutting). The book itself is also visually beautiful, thanks largely in part to Bernstein’s photography. It would make an excellent gift to your feminist friends.