Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks
Ah, the dreaded “I’m not a feminist, but…,” the handy way to espouse feminist politics without any of those nasty connotations the word “feminist” comes with. You know, the connotations associated with feminism by people doing their utmost to making feminists sound so icky that nobody will be one. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle based not on what feminism actually is, but on the press feminism receives in a patriarchal culture.
The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan
Before striking out on my own, I was not the kind of person who could improvise with food. While I adapted recipes right and left to my own nefarious purposes, I always needed to start with a recipe. But a few weeks ago, I, eager for something other than baked eggs, sweet potatoes, and muffins, finally snapped. I, a woman who once cried when I undercooked a chicken breast (even though I could just put it back in the oven), improvised a fish curry with what I had on hand—curry paste, almond milk, frozen vegetables, leftover mushrooms, and some manager’s special salmon. Once finished, I declared it a template for “whatever curry,” so perhaps my days of slavishly following recipes aren’t entirely over. But it’s still a big step for me, towards what Tracie McMillan calls “culinary literacy.”
Yes Means Yes! edited by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti
This week makes it a month since I decided to forsake Atlanta for Denver. And in those four weeks, I’ve been harassed on the street more than I ever have been in my life so far. (Not that I think Atlanta is particularly superior in that regard, only that being at a women’s college was a very different context. Although I will say that there is a Hollaback Atlanta and not a Hollaback Denver.) There’s nothing like waiting to cross the street after a long day at work and getting honked at, whistled at, or have someone grab their crotch at you to remind you that, by daring to be female and in public, your very corpse is considered public domain by an alarming amount of men. Between that and the success of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” (which I am not linking to), this summer has given me a fresh handle on the concept of rape culture.
Televising Queer Women edited by Rebecca Beirne
I’ve never met anyone else who thrifts like I do: hard. I’m talking going through every shirt at the Goodwill because you never know when you’ll chance across a Disney*World exclusive t-shirt. Peter Parker has Spidey senses. I have retail senses, telling me when there’s a copy of Textual Poachers for sale at the thrift store I used to volunteer at. So when my retail senses were directing me to a literally underground thrift store that creeps me out a little, I trusted it, and ended up finding a book about two things near and dear to my heart: media criticism and queer ladies.
How to Suppress Women’s Writing by Joanna Russ
In How to Suppress Women’s Writing, the late, great Joanna Russ talks about how important it is for the writing woman to have role models. In this spirit, I dedicate this post to three of Russ’ clear heiresses (besides, you know, her annual collection)—Ana, Jodie, and Renay, especially when they assemble the patriarchy-smashing Voltron that is ladybusiness. I thought of them after reading each chapter of this book. Ladies, Russ clearly belongs to you.
The Times of the Eighties edited by William Grimes
In 2005, MTV ran a program, undoubtedly influenced by the success of That 70s Show, called The 70s House. It was a reality competition where twelve contestants parted with the modern world, lived in a simulcrum of the seventies 24/7, and competed to see who could be “the most 70s”. I never saw it, but when I heard about it, as a tender, awful-haired fourteen-year-old, I daydreamed about the possibility of a The 80s House, which I would undoubtedly dominate. Such a show never surfaced, of course, but something like The Times of the Eighties would have been very useful to prep for my audition. When I saw it on NetGalley, I couldn’t hit the request button fast enough.
Rhetoric: A Very Short Introduction by Richard Toye
Oxford Press’ Very Short Introduction series is a godsend for someone like me. I’ve mentioned before that there are massive, gaping holes in my pop cultural education (I have never seen The Wizard of Oz or The Sound of Music), but there are some in my academic education as well. Lately, I’ve come to tackle my blind spots with equally blind enthusiasm (“I’ve never seen a James Bond film! LET’S WATCH ALL OF THEM!”), but some are easier to tackle than others. And that’s why this series is perfect for me: in a little over one hundred pages, each volume has more depth and focus than a Wikipedia article and allows me to get a feel for the basics without going deeper into the subject than I need to.
Beyond Katrina by Natasha Trethewey
And that’s it—that’s the last book for my “Old South, New South, No South” class. I think it’s really just hitting me that this is it—college is over. Knowing anything about my life for sure beyond a year out is over. Wearing chucks and band t-shirts every day is over. Not cooking for myself is over. (Thank you, Jesus.) But enough about me and my “problems”, which fade away in the face of what Beyond Katrina covers. Our professor has been talking up the book since day one of the class, and I’ve been looking forward to it because of that. Well, that and its slim size. That’s always appreciated when finals are posed to attack…
Segregation by Robert Penn Warren
I was about to mention that, for whatever reason, I have a hard time imagining Warren as male, but it has recently been brought to my attention that his name is, in fact, Robert Penn Warren, not Robin Penn Warren. I imagine this oversight occurred because my professor’s first name is Robin and I have an uncontrollable urge to gender-flip everything. (Thus why Jailbreak the Patriarchy is my jam.) I also don’t know that much about Warren, beyond the fact a film version of All the King’s Men was released several years back. But, of course, that’s why I’m taking this class on Southern history: to fill in my (considerable) blank spots.
Fire in a Canebrake by Laura Wexler
Part of the reason I’m taking this class on Southern history is because, all things considered, I’m probably going to leave the South at some point in my pursuit of publishing glory. This will mean negotiating different standards of manners (I never realized how Southern I was until I spent five minutes in Boston). It also means that, being Southern (well, because of my accent, revealing I’m Southern) is going to get me some looks from Yankees, and I want to be prepared to talk frankly about the South’s painful, problematic past when I’m asked. Thus this class, and thus books like this.