In a nameless yet all-too-familiar city, where "box-mall-churches" and faceless plazas named after the banks that funded them rub up against vegan cafes, yoga studios, and a "mural of neighborhood black people enjoying gentrification," Della Mylinak thinks about what it would be like to set herself on fire. In her attic bedroom in her brother's house, she places pins in maps to mark where others have self-immolated and rips her mail to shreds to make a papier-mâché head of John the Baptist. She buys candy-colored prepaid cell phones in a mall kiosk and uses them to call in bomb threats that she has no intention of carrying out. Meanwhile, all around the city, actual bombs explode regularly. Della watches the catastrophe with detachment and a muted sense of panic, trying to decide what to do and whether anything can be done.
*WARNING: Sisterhood Everlasting begins with a major, surprising event, and I discuss it in this review. Other potential spoilers are marked.*
It's always dicey when an author pushes a series past its logical conclusion. I met each YA sequel to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants with skepticism, but all four of Ann Brashares' complex, sentimental tomes won me over, as did her threeseparatebooks. After seven respectable novels, one failure should not seem shocking.
But what a failure it is. I found Sisterhood Everlasting abhorrent.
There are as many ways of being an American Muslim woman as there are American Muslim women, and the contributors to the recently-published I Speak For Myself: American Women on Being Muslim will prove anyone who tells you differently (hello, popular media?) wrong. Edited by Maria M. Ebrahimji and Zahra T. Suratwala, I Speak For Myself, which we're happy to be selling at BitchMart, is an anthology that showcases the voices of 40 American Muslim women who are all under the age of 40, all of whom were born and raised in the US. Through personal stories that portray a vast array of identities, practices, beliefs, and values, this anthology illustrates and celebrates the fact that American Muslim women are, as put in the introduction, "neither the same as non-Muslim American women nor one another."
Pageant competitors in a dire situation? It sounds like a recipe for an overly catty misogyfest (or, let's be honest, a terrible porno). Instead, Libba Bray has crafted a complex, blistering satire that is, dare I say, one of the most explicitly feminist novels I have ever read.
On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal fired a shot heard around the literary world: a so-called book review by Meghan Cox Gurdon condemning the YA genre. Gurdon begins by describing a mother looking at covers in a young adult section and finding nothing she considered appropriate for her daughter, only "vampires and suicide and self-mutilation, this dark, dark stuff." Of course, many YA readers (myself included) could name titles that are not "dark, dark" at all, but Gurdon uses this dubious anecdote as a launchpad for a deluge of problematic assertions, contradictions and tacit accusations.
Read more about this misguided article, and the awesome responses by YA lovers, after the jump!
Alissa Nutting's Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls is a collection of bizarre and wonderful stories about the difficulty of bodies and the possibilities that arise when their inhabitants transcend them. Nutting, who is the managing editor of the awesome Fairy Tale Review, paints a series of women deviants with irresistible fairy-tale simplicity, creating loveliness and magic in some extraordinarily wicked places.
Looking into libraries for this post I decided to talk to my former colleague Tara Robertson. In 2009 Tara put together a group called the Lesbrarians to take part in the Vancouver Dyke March. Last year they had about 35 lesbian, bisexual, and queer women who worked in libraries, archives or other information organizations, as well as writers and library lovers. We met when we both worked at the Vancouver Public Library and she's done quite a bit of work on LGBTQ and feminist issues, so I knew she'd be a great resource.