Most of us have that album in our lives, the one that's the instant open doorway to our core. (Mine is Joni Mitchell's Hejira…or is it P.J. Harvey's Dry? Never mind—what's that album for you, Bitch readers?)
Our ardent devotion to that watershed CD is the theme of the new anthology Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers on the Albums That Changed Their Lives, edited by Peter Terzian. The collection includes fine essays by Sheila Heti (on the Annie soundtrack), Stacey D'Erasmo (on Kate Bush's The Sensual World), Asali Solomon (on Gloria Estefan's Mi Terra), and Colm Tóibín (on Joni Mitchell's Blue).
It also includes Alice Elliott Dark's stunning essay, "The Quiet One," which chronicles her obsession with the Beatles' Meet the Beatles! and George Harrison that intensified at a pivotal, tragic point in her girlhood. Page Turner interviewed Dark about writing "The Quiet One"; truth-telling in fiction versus nonfiction; sexism and the boy bands; Beatle wives; and why she abandoned her belief in pop culture.
Welcome to "YA Lit Bitch," a new Page Turner series about my ever-so-slight (or ever-so-obvious) obsession with young adult literature that's not only good, but represents a wide-open range of teenagers' lives with a feminist heroine (or 2, 3) thrown into the mix. (Can you say Weetzie Bat?) The series will feature interviews with many YA authors about their work as well as feminism, gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and other issues.
We kick off the series with Sara Zarr, who's part of a new generation of YA novelists considered the so-called heirs to grand dame Judy Blume. She is the author of Story of a Girl, (that is, a girl labeled the high school "slut"), which was a 2007 National Book Award finalist; Sweethearts, about the divergent paths taken by two social-outcast friends; and the forthcoming Once Was Lost, which chronicles a pastor's daughter's struggle with faith.
Page Turner talked with Zarr about teen sexuality, feminism, double standards in the YA world, and her own YA lit loves back in the day as a "smart-girl" teen. Read on for more (and please take two seconds to talk about a YA lit love that you want Bitch readers to know about or Page Turner to feature).
"Rave On" is the Page Turner series that asks feminist writers, artists, musicians, activists, leaders, and scholars to talk about a book that completely rocked their world. Today we feature writer Nona Willis Aronowitz on Rubyfruit Jungle, by Rita Mae Brown.
I was in the midst of a family vacation when I flopped on my parents' bed and gave my mom puppy-dog eyes. "I'm bored," I whined. "I finished all my magazines. My Discman is out of batteries. And there's no TV here!"
My mother, feminist writer Ellen Willis, smiled knowingly and dug through her book collection. "Here," she said, handing me a tattered copy of Rita Mae Brown's semi-autobiographical Rubyfruit Jungle. "I promise you'll love this."
It's hard to be a consumer of media these days and not encounter the work of author and multi-media journalist Farai Chideya. She founded the online journal Pop + Politics in 1995 (practically a lifetime ago in online years); authored three nonfiction books that chronicle some of the most pressing social justice issues of our time; appeared as a political analyst on CNN and other media outlets; and hosted NPR's "News and Notes," a daily program about African-American issues that ended too soon in a rash of budget cuts by the organization.
Now Chideya has published her first novel, Kiss the Sky, which is the story of Sophie Maria Clara Lee, a "book-smart black girl from blue-collar Baltimore" who graduates Harvard, achieves rock stardom, and then struggles with love, the music business, family, alcohol, and her own stubborn melancholy.
Page Turner talked with Chideya about her journey to publishing a novel, the autobiographical connections between herself and Sophie, feminism and personal accountability, her decision to talk more openly about her depression, and a crucial question for the next generation of feminists.
"Rave On" is the Page Turner series that asks feminist writers, artists, musicians, activists, leaders, and scholars to talk about a book that completely rocked their world. Today we feature FBomb founder and teenage feminist Julie Zeilinger on Full Frontal Feminism, by Jessica Valenti.
Many books have shaped my feminist identity. Gloria Steinem's Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions really helped shape my feminist voice and helped me understand where the movement had been before my generation even existed. Other books, such as Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation, showed me that youth has always been a part of feminism, recognized or not.
But the book that really prompted me to begin my own feminist journey was Jessica Valenti's Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters.
Peggy Orenstein grapples with it and so do many other feminist mamas, aunts, sisters, cousins, dads and uncles: what to buy your girl-feminist.
A Bitch reader named Maura recently wrote to us asking readers to weigh in about the "best books for budding feminists," especially six- and eight-year-old girls.
So, please take two seconds to channel your feminist girl-self and talk about the fiction that made you feel like you could do anything and become anyone.
I asked Kimmie David, one of the owners of Bluestockings—the radical bookstore, fair trade cafe, and activist center in the Lower East Side of Manhattan—to share her picks for the best feminist fiction or nonfiction books for girls. Read on for her recommendations!
I knew the Little House on the Prairieseries from my mom reading it out loud to me over the span of many many months. As an idealistic Midwestern youngin', I felt a connection to the Ingalls family, romanticizing the debilitating diseases, crippling crop failures, and other completely unrelateable nineteenth-century pioneer ailments they experienced throughout their homesteading and pioneering. (Did I take a family vacation to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri? Yes.) And as an only child, I was delighted to learn Laura Wilder's only daughter aided with the completion of the books. But Judith Thurman's recent New Yorker article "Wilder Women" explores the lives and politics of both Laura Wilder and her daughter, removing both the series and the women behind it from the rosy lens of American lit-lore.
"Rave On" is the Page Turner series that asks feminist writers, artists, musicians, activists, leaders, and scholars to talk about a book that completely rocked their world. Today we feature media activist and writer Anne Elizabeth Moore on the Dirty Plotte comic books by Julie Doucet.
I don't spend a lot of time reading feminist theory, which speaks to an inherently limited audience. I study anti-oppression strategies in general, so most of what I've read that's influenced my drive as a political person who identifies as female isn't overtly feminist.
In fact, I find far more use in work that's not usually discussed in a feminist context, like Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Or books that sort of rail against feminist projects or events and address its weak points, so I can sort out where those sit with me. Like Norma McCorvey's I Am Roe.
But if I really think about something I read that made me gack with identification—that spoke to me in a pretty deep way about being a girl in the kind of world I was living in—it would have to be Julie Doucet's Dirty Plotte comic books.
Here's the short version of Lizzie Skurnick and her sassy-and-smart new book Shelf Discovery: She's a popular book critic and lit blogger who started a column called
"Fine Lines" for Jezebel.com that made you feel like you and your girlfriends were huddled beneath a zip-up sleeping bag with a mini-flashlight reading between the lines of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and all the rest of your beloved, well-worn vintage young adult novels to unearth the subtext 30 years later.
The column became an instant hit and Skurnick's newly released Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics We Never Stopped Reading is the book that collects all of Skurnick's "book reports" with contributions from some YA novelists.
Page Turner chatted with Skurnick about how feminism bleeds through the pages of The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, why she's actually the anti-nostalgia woman, how the YA novels really did make her a teenage feminist, and her mission to create a literary teen canon. Read on for more!
"Rave On" is the Page Turner series that asks feminist writers, artists, musicians, activists, leaders, and scholars to talk about a book that completely rocked their world. Today we feature Estelle Freedman, Ph.D., the Robinson Professor in U.S. History at Stanford University, on Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, by Susan Brownmiller. Read on for more!