Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
(Liveright Publishing, 2017, 115 pages)
Despite the amazing reviews this book was getting, I found Mary Beard intimidating as an author. I was scared her work would be too academic and “high-minded” for me given how little I know about the Greco-Roman world (Beard is a well-known Classicist). When I saw my library’s copy of Women & Power I couldn’t resist checking it out and seeing if I could handle it… To my pleasant surprise, I could! This was much more readable than I’d thought it would be. I psyched myself out based on the author’s biography. Sure, you have to pay attention to what you’re reading – she packs a lot of punch in this slim volume – but this is accessible to the non-academic. Plus, there are pictures throughout 🙂
Hailed as a “feminist classic” already, Beard looks back at the history of misogyny and how women have been “put in their place” for ages. Her first essay addresses the silencing of women and her second looks at the relationship between women and power. We’ve been conditioned throughout history to determine who “deserves” a voice and who should have power based on a male lens. We’ve been guided by a history that prized men and devalued women. It’s time to acknowledge that and redefine how we interpret what power looks like.
I was surprised at what a pleasurable reading experience I had with this title; especially given the subject matter. Beard’s writing style was accessible and has me eager to see some of her earlier work.
If you’re intimidated by this book but keep hearing about it, pick it up! If you enjoyed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists this should also find a place on your to-read pile.
The Flintstones, Vol. 1 by Mark Russell; illustrated by Steve Pugh
(DC Comics, 2017, 168 pages)
One of my favorite co-workers, Kelly M, convinced me to pick up this graphic novel. I’d been hearing about it off and on but I wouldn’t necessarily have gone out of my way to pick it up for myself. Then Kelly pitched it and I figured I’d give it a shot.
This satirical interpretation of The Flintstones was entertaining and hit on a lot of issues you wouldn’t anticipate finding in a graphic novel about this classic t.v. show. You can check out a more in-depth review on Slate. Just know that I plan on seeing where they take the rest of the series 🙂 This was a quick read with surprising depth.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
(Riverhead Books, 2016, 278 pages)
I decided to listen to the audio of this book and I am so glad I did. The talented narrator was able to use different voices to portray the different characters. She really brought the story to life. When I first started listening I was worried that it would be a story that would not hold my attention, but I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it drew me in.
This novel touches on aspects of life that I think many people can relate; the longing for close friendships, a parents’ love, trying to find a place in this world, and even sometimes having to make decisions that could possibly have a lifelong effect on you and/or your loved ones. Bennett writes this story beautifully. She is a great new voice with a compelling debut novel. Definitely an author to keep an eye on.
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
(Hachette Books, 2016, 260 pages)
Fierce feminist views. Rally call!
Ordinary Beast by Nicole Sealey
(Ecco, 2017, 64 pages)
I don’t remember what poem jumped out to me initially as I flipped through, but there was something about the language in this book that compelled me to check it out rather than allow it to be re-shelved. Sealey is the Executive Directer at the Cave Canem Foundation and I always try to stay on top of the poetry they spotlight and the prizes they award. A collection by the Executive Director was surely going to find a place in my hands.
Her work in Ordinary Beast was accessible, thoughtful, and creative. There were more than a few poems that I had to stop and reflect on. Not to mention Sealey’s poetry had me going out of my way to look things up so I could better understand various references and what she was trying to spotlight in some of her poems. When a poet can inspire you to delve deeper, you know you’re in good hands.
Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta
(Scribner, 2017, 309 pages)
I wasn’t blown away but it was an entertaining read.
Here’s the blurb from Amazon:
Eve Fletcher is trying to figure out what comes next. A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve is struggling to adjust to her empty nest when one night her phone lights up with a text message. Sent from an anonymous number, the mysterious sender tells Eve, “U R my MILF!” Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. While leading her all-too-placid life—serving as Executive Director of the local senior center by day and taking a community college course on Gender and Society at night—Eve can’t curtail her own interest in a porn website called MILFateria.com, which features the erotic exploits of ordinary, middle-aged women like herself. Before long, Eve’s online fixations begin to spill over into real life, revealing new romantic possibilities that threaten to upend her quiet suburban existence.
Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot
(Penguin Classics, 2011, 880 pages)
After multiple attempts and months of stopping and starting I have finally finished Middlemarch. I’m sure that doesn’t make it sound appealing but truthfully I loved every minute of it and it really speaks more to my flaws than to the novel’s appeal. After finishing Middlemarch I read a New Yorker article “Middlemarch And Me What George Eliot teaches us” by Rebecca Mead and decided that instead of giving a plot summary I would just include a quote from the article that I think speaks to what I found most interesting; the novel is sometimes biting and satirical but never at the total expense of the characters:
But Eliot’s satire, unlike Austen’s, stops short of cruelty. She is inveterately magnanimous, even when it comes to her most flawed characters; her default authorial position is one of pity. Rosamond Vincy is foolish and intractable—her husband refers to her in his later years as his basil plant, because it was “a plant that had flourished wonderfully on a murdered man’s brains.” But the sequence of chapters in which self-involved, trivial Rosamond realizes that Will Ladislaw is in love with Dorothea, not her—she is “taken hold of by an emotion stronger than her own, hurried along in a new movement which gave all things some new, awful, undefined aspect”—is a masterpiece of sympathetic imagination. A reader marvels at Jane Austen’s cleverness, but is astonished by George Eliot’s intelligence.