Great artists don't just have to exist in galleries. Books have given us some really inspirational pre- or post-feminist characters that are good at art, and this liberates them either emotionally or physically. What unites them is their independent thinking, as they are determined to go against the grain and not end up like their peers, bitter or vacuous. Some examples here are from classic novels, such as Jane Eyre, where art is a form of escapism for our heroine, whereas in Andrew Davidson's modern novel The Gargoyle we find a sculptress whose work is so consuming that it leaves her exhausted. Whatever the situation, it is clear that these women take their art seriously—it's not just a hobby to keep them occupied before they're whisked off by Prince Charming. This is so much better than a fairytale.
Dorianne Laux's fifth book of poetry, The Book of Men, was released earlier this year. Spoiler alert: It is NOT ACTUALLY A BOOK OF MEN. It is a book of earth, and sex, and war, and food, and even a book of Cher. Yep. Cher. After reading The Book of Men I immersed myself in Laux's other books, and have emerged remembering what is best about reading poems.
The latest book to grace the shelves of Bitch's virtual bookstore is Who is Ana Mendieta?. Part comic book, part eulogy, and part social critique, this book is a unique graphic retelling of the life and legacy of conceptual and land artist Ana Mendieta by artists Christine Redfern and Caro Caron.
In May, Religion Dispatches published my first interview with former darling of the Christian contemporary music scene, lesbian singer-songwriter Jennifer Knapp. Then over the summer, I got to meet and interview Knapp in person while covering the Wild Goose Festival, an event that celebrated (predominantly Christian) spirituality, justice, and art. We talked a bit about the limitations of Christian music, feminism and sexuality on the same day she filmed the "It Gets Better" video below. I'll be critiquing some evangelical Christian music later in the series, so I'm very excited to share unpublished parts of our interview with you here today:
The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities is an incredible anthology (that started as a zine) out from South End Press providing essays, accounts, and testimonials about challenging assumptions about interpersonal violence while constructing and sharing new paths to healing and accountability.
Ching-In Chen and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, two of the three intrepid co-editors of the book, took some time from their busy schedules to answer some questions about the book, and shared some incredible organizations and resources that inspire them, including several mentioned in the book. Read on!
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.
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."
If you're straight, monogamous, and female, Carolyn Evans wants to SAVE YOUR MARRIAGE! Her new book, Forty Beads, has "simple, sexy" advice: overcome the "libido gap" between women and men by having sex whenever your husband tells you to.
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.