Tag: bell hooks

6 Feminist Reads for Trump’s Term


I took the image above in Nashville, TN during the Women’s March Saturday, January 21st.

As always, when something bothers me, I read. And write. So here are 6 recommendations for feminist books to read during Trump’s term. Read, talk, argue, and be heard!

1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

A dystopian novel where the U.S. reverts to rigid patriarchy and women’s reproductive rights are taken away. Sound a little too plausible right now? Many people agree. Trump’s term has been compared to the novel many times, and several signs during the Women’s March on Washington referred to the novel (including mine). If you haven’t read this before, now’s the time to do it. Hulu has adapted it into a TV series and it airs April 26th. Here’s the trailer.

2. Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

“The world changes faster than we can fathom in ways that are complicated,” Gay opens. “These bewildering changes often leave us raw. The cultural climate is shifting, particularly for women as we contend with the retrenchment of reproductive freedom, the persistence of rape culture, and the flawed if not damaging representations of women we’re consuming in music, movies, and literature.” Bad Feminist is the most approachable nonfiction feminist text I’ve read. It combines commentary on pop culture, politics, academics, and the personal in essays that seemingly meander, yet always reconnect to some main point. As the title suggests, feminists can’t be perfect, and we shouldn’t even be trying to. I’m currently co-reading this with a friend, and may post our combined thoughts when we finish. You can also listen to Gay’s TED talk.

3. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Another dystopia. I notice a lot classic dystopians are selling well on Amazon lately, and this is one that needs to be read. It was also one of my top reads of last year. Why I think this particular dystopia is currently relevant is because it deals with race, religion, and gender, and how those intersect. Also, the apocalypse is brought on by the refusal of politicians to acknowledge climate change, and that eventually leads to economic, political, and social collapse. The main character is a black teenage girl who founds her own religion. In book 2, Parable of the Talents, the white supremacist presidential campaign is “Make America Great Again.” I cannot tell you how shocked I was when I read that last year!

4. Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks

This one’s cheating because I haven’t read it yet, but it is on my TBR list for this year. I have read bell hooks before, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom, and I know she’s considered a must read contemporary feminist. She’s also the best-selling feminist author at the bookstore I work at. I will give my review on this blog when I’ve read it!

5. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft

“I do not wish [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.” Okay, if you’re a feminist, then you have to read this. Yes, it’s written in the 18th century. It’s not an easy read. But it is one of the earliest feminist texts (written before the term feminism was coined), and essential in understanding the history of feminism. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman defends women’s right to speak, and calls for equal rights in education between the sexes. It’s in conversation with male philosophers of the time — mainly Edmund Burke, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau — but you don’t need to know their arguments to read this. It stands well on its own. And fun fact, Mary Wollstonecraft was Mary Shelley’s mother, the author of Frankenstein, though Wollstonecraft died shortly after giving birth. Actually, that’s not really fun.

6. The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection by Judith Butler

Key to grappling with feminism is understanding how patriarchy and authoritarianism subjugates and creates subjects, and our own complicity in that process, whether we desire to be complicit or not. “But if the very production of the subject and the formation of that will are the consequences of a primary subordination,” Judith Butler argues, “then the vulnerability of the subject to a power not of its own making is unavoidable. That vulnerability qualifies the subject as an exploitable kind of being. If one is to oppose the abuses of power (which is not the same as opposing power itself), it seems wise to consider in what our vulnerability to that abuse consists.” (bold my own.) This seems obviously relevant to our political climate. As a warning, this is no easy reading. Judith Butler is super smart; I never feel like I understand everything she’s trying to say. However, I always feel a bit smarter after reading her, and she definitely makes me look at the world differently.

What feminist texts do you recommend reading?

Reading Railroad: August’s Reading


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Everything I read in August.

Novels

A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan. Published in 2013. Dragons! ROAR. Sorry, just wanted to roar right there. This book takes place in a country much like England, during a time much like the Victorian era. Lady Trent describes her beginnings as a dragon naturalist, and her first trip to study dragons in Vystrana. But she finds more to study than just dragon biology, for the dragons have mysteriously started killing people, and there are other mysteries besides. Overall, fun book. I read it for a book club, and liked it enough to eventually check out book 2. My full review is on Goodreads. 3.5/5

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord. Published in 2010. Yay, folklore I’m unfamiliar with! Paama is a marvelous cook who’s married to a glutton. When some djomba notice how deftly she deals with her husband, they give her the chaos stick, and from there magic happens. Redemption in Indigo is based on Sengalese folklore. It’s told a bit simply for my tastes, but has that oral folklore feel. 3.5/5

 

 

Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler. Published 1998. Post-apocalypse, book 2 in a series. Wow. So much rape. I mean, far more than book 1, Parable of the Sower, which I really liked despite the darkness. Book 2 was too much for me. And the politics were frighteningly relevant. Jarret has some disturbing parallels to Trump. Here’s one of the Parables of Earthseed from this novel, for all of us to think about during election season:

 

 

Choose your leaders
with wisdom and
forethought.
To be led by a coward
is to be controlled
by all that coward fears.
To be led by a fool
is to be led
by the opportunists
who control the fool.
To be led by a thief
is to offer up
your most precious treasures
to be stolen.
To be led by a liar
is to ask
to be told lies.
To be led by a tyrant
is to sell yourself
and those you love
into slavery.

Overall, I didn’t like this one near as much as book 1, for several reasons. You can read my full review on Goodreads. 2/5

Nonfiction and Other

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling. Published in July 2016. Mainly, I enjoyed being back in that universe again. I wrote a full review right here on this blog. Check it out, but only if you’ve already read it. 3/5

 

 

 

 

Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks. Published in 1994. “When we, as educators, allow our pedagogy to be radically changed by our recognition of a multicultural world, we can give students the education they desire and deserve. We can teach in ways that transform consciousness, creating a climate of free expression that is the essence of a truly liberatory liberal arts education.” An excellent discussion of teaching, that certainly got my mind revved up for the fall semester. I wrote a detailed review over on Goodreads. 4/5

Poetry and Short Story Collections

Roofwalker by Susan Power. Published in 2004. Highly recommend for anyone who enjoys short stories, magical realism, and Native American history. This collection includes seven short stories and five histories. The short stories explore how Native Americans have adapted to Anglo-European America, both in the past and the present. Power tells stories about the mythic roofwalker that eats dreams, stories of love and betrayal and death, a story about a man who finds a talking saint statue in a thrift store, another about a college student that finds unexpected friendships. They’re all really lovely, sweet and sad (but not bittersweet in any way; there’s no bitterness here, it seems to me). The histories shed light on where Power as a writer comes from, and centers around Chicago, where she was raised. Mostly, she explores how her mother gave her a voice to tell stories, and how her father circled their lives and gave her a different kind of ancestry. If you haven’t read Power before, also check out The Grass Dancer and Sacred Wilderness, her two novels. They’re both so wonderful. 4/5

Bone Swans by C.S.E. Cooney. Published in 2015. Bone Swans collects 5 novellas/novelettes by Cooney that explore storytelling and folklore in unique and lyrical ways. My favorites were the two fairy tale retellings, and the collection is worth picking up for just those two stories alone: The Bone Swans of Amandale and How the Milkmaid Struck a Bargain with the Crooked One. In fact, the milkmaid story is my favorite Rumpelstiltskin retelling I’ve read (up until now, of course). I’ve read C.S.E. Cooney before, different stories and poems than in this collection. I was unsure whether I liked her writing or not, but this collection puts her on my read list. Her style is sort of similar to Catherynne M. Valente and Maria Dahvana Headley, so if you like those authors, you should like this. I reviewed each story on Goodreads. 4/5

Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver. Published in 2004. If I hear anyone say they don’t like poetry because it’s too inaccessible, this is the collection I will give them. These are lovely, clear and poignant nature poems. I plan on returning to this collection whenever my heart needs a little boost. Here’s the opening and title poem:

 

Why I Wake Early

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

5/5

Short Stories

Terminal by Lavie Tidhar. Published in April 2016 by Tor.com (free online). Terminals are those at the end of their lives who decide to go into space, alone in their jalopies, and travel to Mars. This short story revolves around three characters: as Mei travels, she listens to earth music; Haziq decides to leave his wife and family to venture to Mars though he is not dying; and Eliza, a nurse orbiting Earth, listens to Mei’s and Haziq’s conversations as they journey on the long trip to Mars. It’s a good short story overall. 3.5/5

 

Santos de Sampaguitas by Alyssa Wong. Published in 2014 by Strange Horizons (free online). Tin’s mother is a witch that serves the dead god, but when the dead god begins visiting Tin at night while she dreams, and tries to convince her to serve him as her mother does, she has a life-changing decision to make. This short story explores sisterhood, relationships, and disability, and also includes some Filipino folkloric elements. 4/5

Happy reading in the month to come!

 

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