Review: Hair Story

Hair Story by Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps

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Everyone has their own hair story. Mine focuses largely on attempting to maintain length without it developing sentience and killing me in the dead of night (that’s barely a joke; I’ve woken up several times in my life with my hair wrapped around my neck), seeing how long I can go without highlights before my natural hair color starts bothering me, and the occasional empty threat of shaving my head. (Hey, there could be a treasure map back there. How else will I know?) But for black women and especially for African-American women, their hair stories are complex, often painful, and always political. Fairly late in Hair Story, Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps quote the screenwriter Lisa Jones: “Everything I know about American history I learned from looking at Black people’s hair. it’s the perfect metaphor for the African experiment here: the toll of slavery and the costs of remaining. It’s all in the hair” (158).

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Review: Bitchfest

Bitchfest edited by Lisa Jervis and Andi Zeisler

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I don’t remember the moment I became a feminist. Presumably, it occurred around the point my mother determined that I would not be raised in the Catholic Church and didn’t come up with an alternative, so I would have been negative a few months old. Of course, being an itty bitty ace feminist didn’t stop me from being alarmingly femmephobic throughout my adolescence, but I like to think that my feminism is in a constant state of evolution. Even so, my formerly impervious pop culture bubble didn’t particularly allow me access to magazines like Bitch or Bust, but there’s no time like the present to catch up, especially when they just go ahead and publish a greatest hits collection. Merci!

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Review: The Soul of Anime

The Soul of Anime by Ian Condry

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While I’ve more or less reinvented myself as a daughter of Western fandom (which usually means yelling “SEPTEMBER 1974 WOO!” a lot), I was introduced to fandom through anime—Digimon, to be specific, although it was Yu-Gi-Oh!, with its use of ancient Egypt, that captured my imagination as a young wombat. As preteens in the early aughts, my friends and I were witness to and participants of the rise of the popularity of manga in the United States. But I drifted away from it as I grew up, and, for better or worse, I think I have a tendency to keep away from it precisely because I associate it with my child self. So when I saw The Soul of Anime on NetGallery, I thought it was high time to get back in touch through an academic lens.

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The Literary Horizon: Rapunzel’s Daughters

Hair can be a such a huge part of one’s identity; I, for one, enjoy the fact that I can imitate my pseudo-medieval feminist paradise fantasies in follicular form, and the fact that I learned to braid hair at the age of eighteen communicates, I think, quite a lot. And that’s not even touching on the political implications of hair, especially African-American hair. But it’s hard to ask other people about their own journeys with their hair, because I tend to assume that I’m the only one who cares about such things and it’s also a little impolite. But today’s selection is a whole book of such reflections! Glorious!

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Review: Whipping Girl

Whipping Girl by Julia Serano

In my middle school health class, there was a day that was going to be “boys versus girls”—a dialogue, if you will, between the two genders. I, of course, butched up as much as I could under my mother’s supervision and spent the entire class period siding with the boys; I remember rocking back and forth going, “Yeah, I don’t get that, why do you do that?”. I cringe to look back on it now, because it’s sort of the moment that captures how sexist I was and how much I hated femininity. To be fair, part was backlash against being forced to present against my own gender presentation (I’m about fifteen degrees butcher than the average Jane), but a lot of it was exactly what Julia Serano discusses in several of the essays in Whipping Girl—hatred and fear of the supposedly mystical and artificial feminine.

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Booking Through Thursday: Lessons

Have you ever used a book to instruct someone of something or is there anyone for whom you would like to do that? (I don’t mean a text book for a class, but a work of fiction or non-fiction that would get a certain message across either through plot or character). What is the book and what do you wish to impart?

One year, for either her birthday or Mother’s Day, I gave my mother a copy of Natalie Angier’s Woman: An Intimate Geography, because it really changed how I view the female body and aging. I mentioned that once or twice that I hoped it would help her with those concepts, as it’s a bit of a preoccupation for her. I later found it in my parents’ garage, which is where books go to die. You can’t win ’em all, I guess.

Review: Textual Poachers

Textual Poachers by Henry Jenkins

After finishing my last read, I looked at my stack of library books, sighed, and declared, “Bring me Jenkins!”. Nothing perks me up or fascinates me like media studies and particularly Henry Jenkins’ even-handed writings on the subject, and I know it’s time for me to start focusing on the books I can only get at my college library. (Oh, I don’t want to think about graduating. I’m ready and not ready, you know?) So I ventured into the stacks and came out clutching Textual Poachers, apparently the first person to check it out since 1996.

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