Fiction · Julia P · Women

Red Clocks | by Leni Zumas

Red Clocks

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
(Little, Brown and Company, 2018, 356 pages)

Red Clocks is a novel told from the alternating perspectives of four different women. Set in coastal Oregon in a not-so-distant future we are now in a world where abortion is illegal and attempts to have one result in you being charged for murder. Efforts to obtain legal abortions in Canada are blocked thanks to the “Pink Wall” – the Canadian government will return anyone trying to cross the border for illegal purposes. Connected with this, adoptions are in the process of being limited so that only two-parent households qualify. With these reproductive restrictions come understandable stress and risk.

The book starts off a little disjointed because you’re not given the names of the main characters right away. As the book progresses, though, you get a better understanding for why Zumas chose this tactic. Interspersed throughout the accounts you also get excerpts from a biography-in-progress about a 19th-century female polar explorer. These excerpts of the explorer’s life provide an interesting parallel to the limitations society continues to place on women in the present day.

If you’re a fan of The Handmaid’s Tale (book or show) I would definitely recommend this book to you. This was a timely read… some might find it a little too close for comfort, but there’s a motivating message behind the text.

4/5 stars

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Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Relationships · Women

The Argonauts | by Maggie Nelson

The Argonauts

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
(Graywolf Press, 2015, 160 pages)

This unique “memoir” focusing on the relationship between Nelson and her partner was beautifully written. This is so much more than a memoir because Nelson is also deconstructing things like gender, love, family, and identity. Interspersed throughout her own story Nelson refers to and quotes a number of other intellectuals. The breadth of her knowledge is impressive and when she references these thinkers she does so by utilizing the margins of the book. Initially I was confused by this formatting, but then I acclimated and appreciated the fact that it helped keep the body of the text clean.

The Argonauts isn’t the kind of book you can just breeze through because there is so much to unpack but it’s well worth your time to pick it up.

4/5 stars

Essays · Julia P · Non-Fiction · Pop Culture/Entertainment · Women

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud | by Anne Helen Petersen

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman
by Anne Helen Petersen
(Plume Books, 2017, 234 pages)

I know Anne Helen Petersen from her pieces on Buzzfeed. I follow her on Twitter. I subscribe to her newsletter. I knew I would be picking up this book I’m just surprised it took me so long. This book is comprised of 10 essays, each focusing on famous woman who is considered “too” something; meaning she has taken it upon herself to exist outside the boundaries of what society views as the appropriate way for a woman to behave. Petersen covers women from Serena Williams and Lena Dunham to Caitlyn Jenner and Hillary Clinton. She is deconstructing what it is about these women that makes people simultaneously love them and love to hate them. Petersen deep dives into how these women refuse to limit themselves by the societal norms so many people want to force upon them.

This is definitely a book I’d recommend.

4/5 stars

Essays · Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Parenting · Women

Bad Mother | by Ayelet Waldman

Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace by Ayelet Waldman
(Doubleday, 2009, 213 pages)

It used to be that the books most inclined to catch my eye were food-forward memoirs, but since becoming a mom those have been less on the forefront for me. I was strolling the aisles at my local public library not long ago and this collection of essays caught my eye. What Waldman hits on here is that regardless of how hyper-involved you are (or aren’t) as a parent, you will inevitably find a time when you see yourself as a “bad mother.” We’ve been conditioned by society to think nothing we do is ever really good enough – we’re keeping up with other mothers (and fathers) who only highlight the amazing things they do with/for their kids; keeping hidden the times they lock themselves in the bathroom with wine to cry it out.

This book offers humor, clarity, and the occasional moment that breaks your heart just a little. Whether you’re a new-ish mom or not, I think you can appreciate this collection of essays. I’ve been eager to read Waldman’s latest book, A Really Good Day, but I’m glad I got a better feel for her writing style thanks to this collection. If YOU are intrigued, check out this Modern Love piece that got her on a lot of people’s radars a little over a decade ago.

4/5 stars

Autobiography · Humor · In the Library · Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Quick Read! · SCC Book Club · Women

Shrill | by Lindy West

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
(Hachette Books, 2016, 260 pages)

This is the second title up for discussion by the SCC Between the Covers book club. Prior to picking this up I was familiar with Lindy West thanks to her Op-Ed pieces in the New York Times as well as the work she did prior to that on Jezebel. I initially approached this book as a collection of essays but had to recalibrate when I came to the realization it was a memoir. That helped explain why it seemed like the book progressively got darker. Granted, I laughed throughout as I was reading, but there were some sections that were significantly more humorous than others.

West covers a lot of ground in this book. It’s more than just a memoir; it talks about body image, rape culture, relationships, loss, the world of comedy, online trolling… and she does it all in a way that makes the heaviness of the subject matter seem almost “bearable.” While I was reading I found myself comparing her work to some of Roxane Gay’s essays that touch on similar issues and it was interesting to think of how their tones come across differently.

I’m glad this was our March selection for book club and I’m glad it got me to read more of Lindy West’s work (specifically her writing in The Guardian). If you want to hear more I guess you should come to the book club discussion on 3/28! 😉

3.5/5 stars

Essays · History · In the Library · Julia P · Non-Fiction · Quick Read! · Women

Women and Power | by Mary Beard

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.

4/5 stars