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Sex Object by Jessica Valenti: Is Feminism Changing?

I brought Sex Object with me to London, because why wouldn't you want to read a feminist memoir that refuses to be optimistic when you're on a week-long trip?

Jessica Valenti is obviously a Name in popular feminism. As the founder of feministing.com and a frequent go-to lady for quotes about how things in the culture affect the ladies, it makes sense for her to be writing books. And she's a good writer! And yes, there is a but, but that only but is that this book is a major downer. Which I RESPECT.

Valenti points out that "even subversive sarcasm" in response to comments from men being assholes "adds a cool-girl nonchalance, an updated, sharper version of the expectation that women be forever pleasant, even as we're eating shit" and that the "inability to be vulnerable--the unwillingness to be victims, even if we are--doesn't protect us, it just covers up the wreckage."

This has made me think.

Because we are conditioned to act like none of…
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London has many leatherbound books and smells of rich mahogany

I brought upwards of 20 books back with me from England. Following the excellent advice of Jenny from Reading the End, I packed an empty suitcase so carting the inevitable bookhaul home wouldn't be a problem. Which turned out to be a great idea, because this was the (almost) final product:



The thing is, you're there and you're like "WHAT IF THESE ARE NOT EASILY GOT IN AMERICA" and sure, you could check your phone, but that's not fun. Also sometimes you're at Blackwell's in Oxford and you're like "you know, maybe I need these £4 secondhand copies of Necropolis and Bedlam, because it's not like I DON'T want to read about London as a graveyard and how it's historically dealt with its mentally ill residents."

And then it kind of continues in that vein and then you have all the books except for those giant biographies of Catherine of Aragon and Jane Carlyle, because they are MASSIVE and you just don't have the room/upper body st…

March & April 2017 Reading

March and April were pretty damn good reading months for me, meaning I read 14 books between them, and YES COMIC VOLUMES COUNT AS BOOKS. Kind of.

Broken down into fun genres they are:

COMICS
The Beauty, Vol. 1
The Borden Tragedy
Black Panther, Vol. 1
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1
Batman, Arkham Asylum

YOUNGER PEOPLE BOOKS
Star Wars: Before the Awakening
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

STRAIGHT UP FICTION
The Girl on the Train
The Graduate
The Secret Life of Bees
Life After Life

PRETTY GREAT / WORTHWHILE NON-FICTION
Between the Wars: 1919-1939
She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders
Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life


Yes, that's a weird number of comics starting with a B. No, it was not planned. COINCIDENCE? Yes. Yes entirely.

I also got a pretty good assortment of comics at C2E2 in Chicago. Two (Rough Riders and INSEXTS) are by Aftershock Comics, which I most inDEEDLY encourage you to check out, because I'd never heard of them, but pretty much all their stuff looked really interesting.



Rough Riders is T…

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black: Vampires! Vampires everywhere!

I took a break from life to read some sweet sweet fiction.

Holly Black's The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is about a world where--VAMPIRES! VAMPIRES EVERYWHERE! Except more specifically in Coldtowns, which are like big walled in areas where they keep the vampires. Only they haven't caught all of them, so you still have to take precautions in normal life or you could get bitten and then infected and then you either have to sweat it out for 88 days and somehow not drink human blood, OR, you go to Coldtown. 
ALL ROADS LEAD TO COLDTOWN.
So the main character is Tana and she's 17 and she wakes up the next morning after a party and all her friends are dead. That is the BEGINNING. She finds her ex-boyfriend still alive in a room, but bitten, oh and there's also a vampire chained up in there. But said vampire warns her that the other vampires are calling from inside the house so she's like "oh shit" and they all get outta there.
But who is this mysterious, sexy-but-dange…

She's Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan: More transgender memoirs, please

You know how last year you'd catch a random episode of I Am Cait, and suddenly you'd be like, who is this extremely articulate and intelligent woman talking on this reality show and why does her name sound familiar?

Well, that woman was Jennifer Finney Boylan, and her name sounded familiar because you've had a copy of her 2003 memoir She's Not There on your shelf for approximately 5 years.

Boylan is an extremely intelligent English professor who used I Am Cait as a vehicle to speak about transgender rights and issues. Her memoir covers her life from small child to married transgender adult with a family and a professorship. And weirdly enough, best friend Richard Russo, author of Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls. 



I really loved She's Not There. It's especially brave for the time in which it was written, and it's a clear narrative of her struggles and resolution of the fact that she was born with an exterior that did not match who she naturally was.

Her them…

Between the Wars by Philip Ziegler: 1919 says "Haha like that'll ever happen again." 1939 says ಠ_ಠ

HO BOY. World War I and World War II. What happened between them! Philip Ziegler can tell you. Some of it, anyway.

If history isn't even really your thing, this book feels particularly timely, as it shows how the unthinkable occurred. There's a reason World War I used to be called the Great War. Everyone thought 'Well, this was the absolute worst NO WHERE TO GO BUT UP FROM HERE.'





The thing is, most people nowadays, except for those who have a complete set of Churchill's The Second World War (my parents have two sets in case you need one) pretty much think of WWII as England/France/America vs Germany/Italy/Japan. And then Russia's kind of running back and forth between them, like a confused kid playing Red Rover.

I loved having a more expansive view of the year "between the wars" opened up to me. I didn't know SHIT about Picasso's Guernica. I didn't know anything about the actual Guernica that inspired it. I didn't know about General Fran…

A Quick Rundown of Irish Lesbian Author Emma Donoghue's Books for St Patrick's Day

HAPPY ST PATRICK'S DAY! What better way to celebrate than quickly running through an Irish lesbian author's work with little tidbits about each book.


These aren't all of Emma Donoghue's books, but it's a LOT of them, because when there is an out lesbian author who is even halfway good, you read her shit. And Emma Donoghue is more than halfway good, so there y'go.

Slammerkin
Slammerkin is INTERESTING because it's about this girl in the 18th century who wants more out of life and basically gets thrown around London until she winds up working for a lady and there is a SURPRISE ENDING. It makes you feel like you know what it was like to live in the 18th century, which is awesome, and it's based on a newspaper article Emma Donoghue found while just casually perusing an 18th century newspaper, because Emma Donoghue is a giant nerd.

Landing
Landing is basically a romcom novel about a Canadian girl falling in love with an Irish flight attendant lady and I WOULD LIKE…

How the English Suffragettes Helped Radicalize Us | International Women's Day

SO, women getting the vote in 1920 was a long process involving a lot of work that had been in motion since the early 1800s, but let's ignore the entire 19th century and jump forward to the early 20th when things began to move REAL FAST until the monumental achievement of the 19th amendment, i.e. some recognition that women are people. Which shouldn't be monumental, but HERE WE ARE.



A big part of the movement picking up so much speed in the 1910s was the influence of the radical English suffragettes on the American women's movement. American suffragists never quite reached the live-free-or-die mentality of the English suffragettes, but they became much more "take to the streets" than they had been since the time the women of the temperance movement went to pray in front of saloons.


English women had basically been told to "hang on for a sec while we do this other thing" by the British government for DECADES, and anyone who's been put on hold right aft…

The Girl on the Train: Everyone read it so I read it

Yeah, I read The Girl on the Train well after everyone else, but now I've done it, so I am part of the cultural zeitgeist. This is Gone Girl all over again. And in so many ways! First off: missing or harmed girl lit. What's going on with that. What in our culture is prompting it. I HAVE MANY QUESTIONS. I get that missing girls have pretty much always been fascinating (see Erzsebet Bathory), but we're going through A Thing with them now, I am 99% sure, and it Means Something, but I do not yet know what.


So, Girl on the Train plot: Lady whose life has fallen apart daydreams about a couple she sees when the train she takes every day passes their house. One day the girl-half of the couple goes missing. Fallen Apart Life Lady decides to insert herself into the investigation because WHY NOT. The perspective switches characters every now then, because that is So Hot Right Now.

I have no idea how some of these types of books become insanely popular, but for this one, I would guess…

Strikemakers and Strikebreakers by Sidney Lens: Strikes! Strikes in America!

Mm. Can you feel it? Labor history. Just what we all want to talk about.



I was perusing floor 4 of the downtown main branch of the Chicago Public Library when I found Sidney Lens's Strikemakers and Strikebreakers. 

What I found from even just the opening of this book is that, it turns out, unions came around about the same time as capitalism. Haha can you guess why? Oh, I can tell you – it's because capitalism encourages individuals to make as much money as they can for themselves and not give a shit about other people. #ohnoshedidnt #yesshedid #thingswomenintheir30ssay #alsointheir20s #amihashtaggingright




I've grown up suspicious of unions because they have been portrayed terribly in popular culture. But then of course you learn that unions are why workers have anything. Remember that whole thing about how those with power are not inclined to give it up? Yeah. So if you own a factory, and you're making a ton of money, and you know you can pay your employees less and make…

Matthew Bowman's "The Mormon People": A Book I Slightly Side-Eye

Matthew Bowman's The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith is good. He tries to be unbiased, which is REALLY HARD when you're writing about a religion, since most people's religions sound bananapants to everyone else, and he does a pretty good job.

HOWEVER.

Ok, so you've got Joseph Smith in New York, he has this vision, writes down stuff the angel Moroni tells him or God tells him through the angel or  that God tells him directly (one of those options), Joseph Smith says HEY it's the 1830s, i.e. when everyone in America decided they had they key to the new revolutionary way to do things, and therefore, said Joseph Smith, let's all do this new religion thing that is the way God actually wants us to live.

AND PEOPLE JUST SAID OK SURE because that is what people always do.

PBS made this great map that clearly shows the Mormon path across the United States. They had to keep moving, because every time they landed somewhere, other Americans said "NOPE"…

Lives in Ruins: A Book Review Tempered by the New World Order

A book about archaeologists! ("why does this matter," she said, curled in a ball in the corner) Bop around the world with Marilyn Johnson! ("nothing matters now") See what being an archaeologist in the 21st century is REALLY all about! ("aagghhhhhhhhhh")

Take your everyday-life escapisms where you can get them, my friends. This is our new reality. And it sucks donkeyballs. But here we are. And I read a book I rated 3/5 stars on Goodreads! Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble is by Marilyn Johnson, author of that book you probably saw at the bookstore a few years ago where she talked about how librarians would save the world. WELL WHERE ARE YOU NOW, LIBRARIANS.





Anyway.

Johnson's thing seems to be deciding to find out more about an interesting job and then going around and interviewing people who do that job in a variety of ways. Here she picked archaeology, which is GREAT, because archaeology is the shit.

While she's s…