*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."
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.
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.
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.
I've always liked Eleanor Roosevelt because, unlike a lot of other first ladies, even in my dude-heavy history textbooks she was portrayed as having an identity beyond political wifehood. Why, then, did I decide to read a biography that is specifically not about Eleanor on her own, but instead focuses her relationship with that other important person she was married to? A biography that doesn't even list her name first? To be totally honest, I was convinced by the advertising. I heard a review that hailed Hazel Rowley's Franklin and Eleanor as a "crackling" account of the Roosevelts' "radical" marriage, written by an author who'd detailed other unconventional partnerships in the past. I never knew much about the Roosevelts' marriage before I read this book (other than the fact that the two were distant cousins who were both related in some way to Teddy) so the idea that their relationship was somehow "radical" was intriguing to me.
The reality of the book is a little disappointing.
Books that use food as a gateway to emotion can be pretty unbearable (hi again, Eat, Pray, Love). Thankfully, Aimee Bender's new novel is more like one of the fairy tale rewrites I wrote about a few weeks ago than one of those self-indulgent food memoirs.
The story follows Rose Edelstein, who discovers on her ninth birthday that she can taste feelings. When Rose takes a bite of food, it tastes like all the emotions of whoever made it. And not just "happy" and "sad": as she ages and her palate develops, she can sense desires, regrets, hesitations, and many other subtleties hidden inside everything she eats. She knows where every ingredient came from: she can taste the metallic coldness of factories and the specific locations of farms.