Today I’m wrapping up my favorite nonfiction reads of 2011 by focusing on a subject near and dear to my heart: feminism! A lot of these were some of the best books I read all year in any genre. Without further ado, here were my five favorite feminist reads listed in alphabetical order by title:
A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness: Writings, 2000-2010 by Cherríe Moraga (2011)
With its focus on learning from the past and the concept of “(w)riting to remember,” Moraga’s latest work positively blew me away. It’s a mix of poetry and personal essays that explore the painful realities of being a mother and queer woman of color in the 21st century. It will always have a permanent place on my shelf. Read my review here.
Arab & Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, & Belonging ed. by Rabab Abdulhadi, Evelyn Alsultany, and Nadine Naber (2011)
Hands down, one of the top three books I read in 2011. It’s an anthology of essays that focus on Arab and Arab American feminists’ experiences. I cannot stress enough how much I learned from these essays. I’m not exaggerating: every self-identified feminist needs to read it. Read my review here.
F ‘em!: Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts on Balls by Jennifer Baumgardner (2011)
In you’re looking for a nuanced book on feminism that’s accessible to a wide audience (i.e., something not mired in academic jargon), F’ em! is a great option. Baumgardner collects some of her previously published essays and interviews various prominent second, third, and fourth wave feminists. Read my review here.
She may joke about being in her “elderly” 40s, be completely clueless about Twitter, and refer to to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” as “Born That Way,” but prominent Third Wave feminist Jennifer Baumgardner has consistently shown a commitment to keeping up with the (feminist) times. In her years as an activist and writer, she has continued to acknowledged the feminists who came before her and honored the experiences of the next generation of feminists trying to carve their own path. Her latest book, cheekily titled F ’em! Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts on Balls, continues her quest to build bridges between the feminist generations.
The book is composed of old and new material; about half of it consists of essays that have been printed elsewhere, while the other half consists of “epilogues” to the previously printed material and interviews with an array of feminists. Focusing on topics like motherhood, gender, sexual orientation, patriarchy, and the political and cultural legislation of female sexuality, Baumgardner explores the many contradictions within the feminist movement(s). Her willingness to explore these gray areas is the thing I loved most about this book.
There are a lot of valuable lessons to be gleaned from this book’s pages. In her discussion about each feminist wave needing to learn from each other and properly build upon the previous generation’s work, Baumgardner recalls an idea she had in her early years: she tried to convince publishers to get out-of-print feminist classics back into print. Since I’ve been participating in a yearlong Feminist Classics project myself, my ears perked up at this. Baumgardner learned several hard lessons in trying to accomplish her goals, one of the biggest being that it wasn’t a straightforward case of The Man trying to keep women down–many times, it was the authors themselves who impeded and chance of a reprint. Case in point: Shulamith Firestone, who rescinded her approval for a new edition of The Dialectic of Sex and told Baumgardner, “If your generation really wants it, there are a few copies available on Amazon.com.”