I am an enormous fan of Joanna Russ' work. The feminist science fiction author is best known for her dense exploration of the effects of parallel societies on a given character, The Female Man, but I swear by We Who Are About To..., about a woman fighting to die rather than colonize an unknown planet, and The Two of Them, about a traveler who feels superior to a gender-regressive realm only to realize her own life is not as free from patriarchy as she wants to believe.
I was saddened to learn of this great talent's passing last week after a series of strokes. Russ was seventy-four years old. There is an endless amount to be said about her influence, her fearlessness, her distinct and sometimes meta modes of writing, and her triumphs and limitations as a feminist role model. Today, though, I'd like to discuss an unsung heroine of sorts: Russ' one book for younger readers, Kittatinny: A Tale of Magic. I only managed to find this bildungsroman recently (and you can imagine my elation, as both a Russ-ite and a YA connoisseur) and have rarely been so enchanted by a story.
For LGBTQ and disability rights activists, allies and California youth, as of April 14th, it got better. The CA senate voted 23-14 in favor of a bill mandating the inclusion of curriculum based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public schools, and if the bill is adopted by the state assembly, the teaching of LGBTQ history will become lawful. Much like the cultural contributions made by women, people of color, immigrants, aboriginals, and workers, if the bill is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, California will become the first state to require the inclusion of LGBTQ history in schools. Hardly mentioned in the media thus far, the passage of the bill will also grant people with disabilities long overdue space in California classroom curricula.
Meg Wolitzer's new novel, The Uncoupling, has an intriguing premise, in a Joanna Russ-meets-Kelly Link kind of way: a spell is cast over the women of Stellar Plains, New Jersey, that makes them stop wanting sex. They all turn away from their male partners for reasons very mysterious and mystical and altogether unclear to everyone (articulated in the novel as "a cold wind"), and though most of them sure did like getting it on up to this point, they suddenly begin to feel that sex with men is generally not such a desirable thing.
I rode on a plane over the weekend, and since I love excuses to buy shiny new hardcover books (and I do not love air travel), I got a copy of Tina Fey's Bossypants to take along. Note to others who might make a similar decision: Bossypants made my trip go by very quickly. It also made me cry tears of laughter, which made the burly dudes on either side of me visibly uncomfortable. You've been warned.
Life was wonderful and simple when I was queen of the prom, when all that seemed to matter was how cute you were? And I was very cute. Just thinking about those days that are so gone depresses me. Everything depresses me today. Especially my own life.
Jessica and Elizabeth are back, and they are as inconsistent, problematic and riveting as ever. Read on for fangirlisms, mild spoilers, and thoughts on whether Francine Pascal is just making fun of us.
Lori Aurelia Williams has been one of my favorite authors since high school, when I was lucky enough to stumble across When Kambia Elaine Flew In From Neptune. Williams' debut novel was a poetic, mesmerizing story of a working-class family in Houston. It also was the rare story to deal with sexual abuse in a believable yet unexploitative manner, as the narrator slowly discovered that her friend, the title character, was being prostituted by her guardian. Williams went on to write sequel Shayla's Double Brown Baby Bluesand additional novel Broken China, and while the latter drew controversy for its depiction of teenage motherhood and stripping, I admire both of those works as well.
So it was that I approached Maxine Banks is Getting Married with astronomical expectations. Williams' first published book in five years, Maxine Banks features
a seventeen-year-old protagonist, her oldest yet and arguably her
strongest. Seeing her friend Tia's (a character from Williams' first
two books) happiness at marrying her longtime boyfriend, Maxine
suspects that marriage is the answer to her own life's inadequacies.
After all, she loves her sweetheart, Brian... and hates living with her
hypercritical mother and her mother's many abusive lovers.
Well, it's Women's History Month, and that can only mean one thing: It's time to freak out about what's happening to dudes.
As anyone who consumes regular doses of media well knows, discussions of how far women have come often devolve into hand-wringing over the plight of men faster than you can say "Men's Rights Activist." And media coverage of two new books that were released, oh so felicitously, at the beginning of this month typify this zero-sum attitude. The books have mirror-image titles: Kay S. Hymowitz's Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, and Dan Abrams's Man Down: Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt that Women are Better Cops, Drivers, Gamblers, Spies, World Leaders, Beer Tasters, Hedge Fund Managers, and Just About Everything Else. And their premises, too have some overlap: Both make the case that women have had unprecedented and remarkable strides and successes in everything from education to employment to self-esteem to, uh, competitive eating.
I noticed the book immediately: a colorful, unmistakably travel-esque picture topped with a billboard that evoked both Broadway and freeway diners, staring out from a new display in my much-loved young adult section. But the best part? The display was for LGBTQ fiction.
Kominsky-Crumb. Gloeckner. Barry. Satrapi. Bechdel. Some of the most well-renowned contemporary female comic artists are all featured in the book Graphic Women: Life Narrative & Contemporary Comics by Hillary Chute, published by Columbia University Press. Chute, an associate professor at University of Chicago (and who helped edit Art Spiegelman's MetaMaus), has written one of the only books out there that specifically looks out how female comic artists tell their story through comics. (And it features a killer cover design by Israeli comics artist Rutu Modan.)
VIDA: Women in Literary Arts recently released several large pie charts comparing how women and men are published in some of the largest literary magazines—who's reviewing books, whose books are being reviewed, and who's being interviewed. Out of 40 charts, women outnumbered men on only two of them.