It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (June 30, 2014)

The Fault in Our Stars
Oh, look! The Fault in Our Stars will come out where I live… in February 2015.
I Read And Love Both Bridget Jone’s Diary and Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying – So What? by Sarah Seltzer for xoJane

If we don’t feel the need to directly compare a catchy, danceable Rihanna song and a difficult art-rock song by St. Vincent, why should we compare a 500-page epic novel with the latest chick-lit tome? Read and let read.

How “Frozen” Took Over the World  by Maria Konnikova for The New Yorker

[O]ne theme seemed to resonate: everyone could identify with Elsa. She wasn’t your typical princess. She wasn’t your typical Disney character. Born with magical powers that she couldn’t quite control, she meant well but caused harm, both on a personal scale (hurting her sister, repeatedly) and a global one (cursing her kingdom, by mistake). She was flawed—actually flawed, in a way that resulted in real mistakes and real consequences. Everyone could interpret her in a unique way and find that the arc of her story applied directly to them. For some, it was about emotional repression; for others, about gender and identity; for others still, about broader social acceptance and depression.

What Stonewall Got Right and Occupy Got Wrong by Linda Hirshman for The New Yorker

This Sunday, as every fourth Sunday in June, the streets of New York will fill with prideful marchers celebrating Pride Month. There will be similar marches, too, in cities around the country. Sunday marks the forty-third year since the uprising in a Greenwich Village bar called Stonewall that supposedly started the modern gay revolution. The myth is that a few hundred angry people acted out in lower Manhattan, and the world changed. Maybe that’s where Occupy Wall Street got the idea that this is how it’s done.

Rebel Girls: The Writing that Made a Movement by Carmen Rios for Autostraddle

There are some key writings in the field that are often cited but rarely make it out of the realm of academics — and I think it’s time to change that. In line with the values of this column, I’d like to share some of the formative pieces of this beast we call “women’s studies” with you, which coincidentally is also a great way to observe the changes in language and theory that have impacted its course – and our lives.

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#bookaday Challenge, Day 1: The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf

This year, I’m participating in Nerdy Book Club’s Sixth Annual Book-a-Day Challenge. Says Donalyn,

Book-a-Day is not a competition. It’s an opportunity to enjoy marvelous reading experiences and rededicate to daily reading. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we read, or how much, or when. What matters is that we have fun and indulge in our favorite leisure activity—reading a lot of books!
I look forward to my summer adventures, both inside and outside of books.

So, there you have it. Today is the first “real” day of summer vacation (i.e., the first day when I would otherwise have been at work – weekends don’t count!), and to celebrate, I finished reading Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth.

The Beauty Myth Don’t let the cover art fool you; I read it in English. I borrowed this edition from the high school library. One of my favorite things about books is the cover designs, and I think this is the most visually interesting of them. It also reveals a failing of the text itself: racialized ideals of beauty are given only a passing mention, and the way rich women’s beauty is maintained at the expense of poor women is mentioned but I think it could have been a bigger subject of analysis. Likewise, I would have liked to see more about queer and trans women’s experiences of the beauty myth, but like I said in my review on Goodreads:

This text is a modern feminist classic and it’s easy to see why. Some of it was outdated (e.g., her shock at photoshopping) and I would have liked to see more analysis of queer and trans women’s experiences of the beauty myth, but for something written when I was two years old? It’s powerful, and it made me think about beautification in an entirely new way; conceptualizing the beauty myth as political and economic, not as sexual, was a huge revelation and has changed the way I think about images of oppressive beauty and the desire to live up to those expectations.

I said something similar in undergrad during my film class, about how as women’s characters on screen became more interesting and took up more and more narrative “space,” the women actors portraying those characters became thinner and took up less and less physical space.
I was also not expecting the “Violence” chapter to be about diets, disordered eating, and cosmetic surgery, but those are forms of violence; maybe highly sublimated forms of self-harm, but still violence. Like she says in the book, a starving body doesn’t know who is denying it nourishment, or why; the physical and psychological effects are the same.
I’m glad I picked this up and frankly, I’m surprised it took me so long.

“What Are You Reading?” Wednesday (June 11, 2014)

What Are You Reading? Wednesdays originated with Should Be Reading.

What are you reading?
I’m busy with the end of the school year and bouncing around. Lately, I’ve been sneaking chapters of Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within like snacks. I sit down, sip my tea (morning) or cola (afternoon) and read a chapter, since they’re all bite-sized. I’ve been too stressed to write much lately, so at least I’m reading about writing.

School for Good and EvilWhat did you recently finish?
I read The School for Good and Evil over about a week.  A friend of mine recommended it and said she thought the two main characters belonged together, and how great would it be to have some queer girl middle grade fiction? So of course, I was sold. I wasn’t in love with the ending, but…

What do you think you’ll read next?
I’m looking forward to getting my hands on A World Without Princes, but I’m sure I’ll pick up something from my library during the two weeks left between me and my summer vacation. I know I saw it at the bookstore in Shinjuku, so I’ll be over there as soon as I get the chance.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (June 9, 2014)

Skytree

Skytree from Distance by Yuya Sekiguchi


Slenderman Stabbing Shows Girls Will Be Girls, Too by Rebecca Traister for New Republic

Writing this, I think even of the hours and months my high school best friend and I spent obsessing over fictional characters on soap operas. None of which led us to stab anyone, but which was certainly symptomatic of how powerful and intoxicating escapist fantasy from the sometimes scary world of female adolescence, especially in thrilling tandem with another person, can be.

The intensity of bonds between young women have gone especially underexamined in recent years. For generations, it was accepted that adolescent girls might form highly emotional, deeply felt relationships with each other, kind of proto-marriages. For periods of American history, adolescent and teen schoolgirls regularly shared beds, openly expressed their adoration and devotion to each other and were sometimes said to be “smashed”—entwined in committed partnerships. But in the early-20th century, as heterosexual marriage came to be seen as a relationship based on emotion and mutual desire, female partnerships began to be seen as competitive and suspect.

Break the YA Monopoly: Give Us Female Heroes for Adults by Emily Asher-Perrin for Tor.com

And on the playground, when my friends and I pretended to be other people, I pretended to be boys.

It’s entirely possible that many fans who complain that the Harry Potter books should bear Hermione’s name instead are reacting to this very trend, the insistence that women are never the central figures no matter how much know-how, bravery, and fortitude they contribute to a story. Moreover, the lack of these figures in popular adult fiction sends a hard and fast message to female readers and viewers: that once you grow up, you graduate to adult books and adult characters — and they are men.

But here’s a question no one is asking… is it possible that the reason for YA’s popularity amongst an older crowd is in part due to the fact that there are so many female protagonists to chose from? Are we running toward the genre with our arms wide open because we see something that we want and don’t find elsewhere?

Translating Frozen into Arabic by Elias Muhanna for The New Yorker

The Arabic lyrics to “Let It Go” are as forbidding as Elsa’s ice palace. The Egyptian singer Nesma Mahgoub, in the song’s chorus, sings, “Discharge thy secret! I shall not bear the torment!” and “I dread not all that shall be said! Discharge the storm clouds! The snow instigateth not lugubriosity within me…” From one song to the next, there isn’t a declensional ending dropped or an antique expression avoided, whether it is sung by a dancing snowman or a choir of forest trolls. The Arabic of “Frozen” is frozen in time, as “localized” to contemporary Middle Eastern youth culture as Latin quatrains in French rap.

The Fifth Annual #Bookaday Challenge by Donalyn Miller for Nerdy Book Club

Let me admit a secret. I probably won’t make my Book-a-Day Challenge this year without reading more than a few picture books and graphic novels to hedge my bets. You probably won’t either. Book-a-Day is not a competition. It’s an opportunity to enjoy marvelous reading experiences and rededicate ourselves to daily reading. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we read, or how much, or when. What matters is that we have fun and indulge in our favorite leisure activity—reading a lot of books!

Just Take it Bird by Bird: On Personal Writing by Rachel for Autostraddle

For me, the key to reminding myself of those things and also actually writing is first to buy a non-intimidating journal. Because I am ~a writer~, many a well-meaning person has gifted me with beautiful $25 journals with like gilded angels on the front and matching silver unicorn pens (that is a real thing, not a joke). This is a wonderful gesture, but because I am also ~full of anxiety~, I can’t bear myself to sully it by ever actually writing in it, because nothing I write will be worthy of that notebook.