To say that Rebecca Solnit’s last collection of feminist essays was a success would be an understatement; Men Explain Things To Me was a national bestseller, and I’m hard-pressed to think of anyone in my feminist circles who hasn’t read at least one of the essays in the collection (namely, the title essay). So, I was delighted to learn that Solnit had a new book of feminist essays planned for publication, the contents of which were written within the past few years; I believe they’re all from 2014 on. As such, The Mother of All Questions feels fresh and timely, part of a larger conversation on feminist issues that continues to grow.
Like its predecessor, The Mother of All Questions is a slim book packed with incisive cultural commentary. It’s split into two parts: Silence is Broken and Breaking the Story. The first part begins with Solnit’s newest and longest piece in the collection, “A Short History of Silence,” which explores the damaging roles that silence plays in society. Its opening paragraph immediately had my attention:
Last year, one of the tasks for Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge was to read a feminist book. I saw how people seemed to be stuck in a rut, listing the same books over and over, so I came up with feminist book recommendations for every task in the 2016 challenge.
The 2017 Read Harder tasks were announced a few days ago, and I’ve been mulling these topics over ever since. So what the heck…here are 100+ more feminist book recommendations that should cover most of the tasks (alas, I’m afraid I can’t recommend a book you’ve already read as I am not a mind reader). The micropress task had me stumped for a while, but I got that one too. And hey! For those of you panicking about your library acquiring a micropress book, an added bonus: Native Realities offers Deer Woman for free as an ebook download! Am I good or what?
A lot of titles overlap with other tasks, but each author is only listed once. Happy reading!
Task 1: Read a book about sports.
- Course Correction: A Story of Rowing and Resilience in the Wake of Title IX by Ginny Gilder
- Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women’s Sports by Susan Ware
- Getting in the Game: Title IX and the Women’s Sports Revolution by Deborah L. Brake
- Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
- Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape by Jessica Luther
Task 2: Read a debut novel.
- 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
- Cinder by Marissa Meyer
- Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
- The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
Task 3: Read a book about books.
- Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman
- Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak
- The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman
- Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
- Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading by Nina Sankovitch
Erm, well this is awkward. I was supposed to post my fave nonfiction reads of 2015 today, but…I forgot to finish that post and I’m about to spend the next 6 hours driving to Austin. I’ll post that list tomorrow. In the meantime, chew on this! I’m bumping it up the schedule just for you!
So. I completed Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge in 2015, and, being a total nerd, figured out my list for 2016 within hours of the categories being posted. This year, feminism is on the list. YAY, right? But as I was figuring out my own list, I kept seeing how many of the books I was considering overlapped with the feminist category. And then I started seeing, via the Goodreads boards and hashtags, what other people were choosing. That’s all part of the fun.
But is it me, or is everyone stuck in a feminist rut? The main titles being bandied about are:
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (good book!)
- Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (good book!)
- Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (good book!)
- How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (PLEASE GOD NO WHYYYYY)
That’s cool (Moran’s book notwithstanding). In the world of feminist publications, those do seem to be the heavy hitters of the past few years, and it’s great that people are seeking them out (Moran’s book notwithstanding). It’s just that there’s a huuuuuuuge world of feminist literature out there. So huge, in fact, that a feminist analysis can be applied to every single category.
Every. Single. Category.
On my first night in Naples, I went out to dinner with some kids (the thing about backpacking as a thirty-something is that almost all of the other backpackers are at least a decade younger than you). We were at a restaurant, and somehow the conversation briefly turned to “real feminists,” which, to the guy in our group, meant really believing in/fighting for equality and not being a hypocrite and expecting guys to buy you drinks at bars. There were a few good feminists out there, but too many “feminists” were hypocrites that gave the good feminists a bad name.
I chose to remain silent through this conversation, but this is what my internal dialogue sounded like: “Sometimes it’s nice to have drinks bought for you…haha, I’m Feminist Texican…Also, guys can be feminists…I should probably say something but I just want to drink beer and look at the ocean…Say something…Nope, I don’t want to have this conversation with strangers right now…Mmmm, beer…You are a bad feminist.”
It’s a recurring conversation I sometimes have with myself. I’ve had my Feminist Card revoked many times, sometimes by other Feminists, sometimes by myself, like when Jay-Z’s “Can I Get A” pops up on my shuffle and I’m filled with shame as I sing along (yes, I realize that song is about a million years old). And it’s this kind of feminist backsliding, among other things, that Roxane Gay addresses in her new collection of essays, Bad Feminist.
On one end of the spectrum of stereotypes Asian American women must deal with, there’s Exotic. Subservient. Quiet. Model Minority. On the other, Manipulative. Overbearing. Dragon Lady (a reference to Empress Dowager Tzu-hsi of China). Missing from these common images are the voices of actual Asian women, who came to bear the brunt of these stereotypes through centuries of colonialism and racism.
Published in 1997, Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire is a collection of essays and interviews from Asian American activists. Many express their frustrations with white feminism (the mainstream feminism most people are familiar with), and some reject the feminist label altogether. Several of the authors also express frustration at people’s reactions to the Asian American feminist movement: within their own cultures, claiming oneself as “feminist” can be seen as unfeminine and offensive. In society in general, some have trouble even wrapping their heads around the concept of “Asian American feminism;” the term just seems so incompatible with stereotypes of Asian women. However, as all of the authors prove, feminist activism has been around a long time in the Asian community, and the Asian American feminist movement continues to grow.
The book is split into four parts: Strategies and Visions; An Agenda for Change; Global Perspectives; and Awakening to Power. Regardless of the theme of each section, there is definite overlap in the essays. The Asian American feminism that all of these activists speak of has a global aspect; yes, these women are based in the U.S., but because so much of their work focuses on issues related to immigration and labor rights, an awareness of different cultures and issues is necessary.