For four years, reporters swarmed the ancient Italian town of Perugia, wrestling one another like dogs to be the first to break each rumor in the titillating murder case of British woman Meredith Kercher. In the vapid analysis of most news bites, headline painted roommate Amanda Knox as a perfect girl-next-door with a dark side: a vengeful seductress killer.
Susan Bordo is one of the most acute and lively chroniclers of our time. Whether she takes to task the male body (in her aptly named book The Male Body) or female body image (Unbearable Weight), Bordo is always a pithy observer of her subject matter, candidly disclosing her own biases and shortcomings. In her newest book, The Creation of Anne Boleyn, Bordo's skills are sharp as ever as she compares narratives from history and popular culture, revealing the bits of truth we know to be for certain about one of history's most elusive characters: Anne Boleyn, the Queen of England from 1553-1556, when her husband King Henry VIII had her imprisoned and beheaded.
If you've ever scanned your Facebook feed and wondered what possessed your old college suitemate to post a full-color photo of her fresh, glistening placenta, well, Blair Koenig feels your pain. We interview Koenig about her popular blog STFU Parents, which is launched in book form today.
Puritans, assigned reading, high school: it's a recipe for literary disaster. But The Scarlet Letter is stronger than that, hardier (like Hawthorne's grim Puritan forbearers), and a hell of a lot more interesting. I recently read the classic and am here to tell you one thing: Hester Prynne is a babe. Hester Prynne is a super babe.
Pussy Riot! A Punk Prayer For Freedom is a collection of courtroom statements, letters, journal entries, songs, poems and tributes from artists and musicians collected from and during the guerrilla performance group's internationally infamous trial last year. The book is relatively short (150 pages) yet speaks volumes on issues of government corruption, human rights, punk, art and feminism and is an intimate look at the trial and band members' experiences.
The book is a tragic read, but a profound historical document. Together, the documents reveal a corrupt trial and a media that cares less about the message of the women's protest but the place and manner in which they chose to protest.
It doesn't take a skilled gender detective to deduce the target audience of the Rainbow Magic books for early readers. These wildly popular books feature covers that literally sparkle, covered in lithe fairies dressed in pointedly feminine clothing and accessories. The series' titles boil down to Feminine-Name the Feminine-Noun Fairy (as in Grace the Glitter Fairy or Bethany the Ballet Fairy). They're published under the pseudonym Daisy Meadows.
These are the girliest girls' books in Girlville.
Why am I so familiar with these gems of English literature? Because they're among my six-year-old son's very favorite books. He devours them, shrieking with laughter at the bumbling goblins. We spend hours playing Rainbow Magic Fairies: "You're Queen Titania and I'm the Museum Fairy. What could a Museum Fairy's object be?" Or, "We're all goblins. Where's Goblin Steve?" These books are very big in my house.
Well over a hundred Rainbow Magic installments are available, but the plot is always the same. Jack Frost and his goblins have stolen some magical object (the weather fairies' feathers, for instance). The displaced objects cause some sort of wonkiness (unusual weather, say). Kirsty and Rachel, human BFFs and friends to the fairies, help recover the objects. The goblins are ugly, mean, and male, and they always lose. The fairies are pretty, sweet, and female, and they win through the power of friendship.
Reading the books is actually teaching my son an unexpected lesson: recognizing sexism.
Bird of Paradise is a charming, engaging memoir from hip-hop journalist Raquel Cepeda that mixes emotional personal history with a reporter's quest to decipher her racial identity. Officially released today, it's a great read.
Cepeda is one of a handful of women who were prominent in the glory days of hip hop journalism. Feminist hip hop fans will recognize her name from the masthead of Russell Simmons' now-defunct One World, and as the editor of the anthology And It Don't Stop: The Best American Hip-Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years.
In the first part of the book, we get to watch Cepeda grow up in New York City, the daughter of two immigrants from the Dominican Republic. A child of divorce who finds community with Latinos and African Americans as hip hop's progenitors, Cepeda is a tomboy who inherits her farther's sarcasm. Even as she takes tennis and piano lessons, young Cepeda is not shy about cursing out anyone who crosses her. Her infrequent vulgarity, just like her Spanglish, is delightful to read.