When two or more sources come together and form a theme, it’s a “Mashup.” This issue of Bookisshh brings to you a mashup– a by-product of intuitive reading–reading what intrigues me. The end result: I came away with compassion, and varied interpretations of feminism as it meanders around in all the fronts women find themselves in. Enjoy!
Stir by Jessica Fechtor / Memoir
Imagine being a marathon runner and training all over the boroughs of New York City. Imagine being a PhD candidate at Harvard also with degrees from Oxford and Columbia and passionate interests in music, religious study and food. You have imagined yourself as Jessica Fechtor, who at the age of 28 suffered a life-changing brain aneurysm while running on the treadmill at a hotel gym during an academic conference at which she was a presenter.
Life changing indeed… After boring into her skull to clamp the aneurysm, Fechtor had a long journey to recovery and what brought her to the healing table was her rediscovery of food and the physical and sociocultural significance food plays in our lives. Food spoke to, inspired, stimulated, motivated and brought to mind memories of life-shaping events and people thus giving Fechtor the will to carry on and ignore the disfiguration and neurological challenges posed to her due to this new normal.
Fechtor has a quiet, patient narrative voice as she chronicles her experiences before, during and after her craniotomy, rehab and recovery from surgery. Softly, she details her new normal and peppers her story with the loving people who supported her. She shares with her readers no negativity, which at time hinges on ideal, as perhaps her most private thoughts are left to those moments of struggle and/or depression not catalogued.
The text embeds her story between comfort recipes that symbolize memory, challenge and change as Fechtor reconnects to her brain and its function in her life. Interacting with food returns Fechtor to her primacy and her rootedness in her most basic passion, food, enables her to forge her recovery. She narrates lessons well extracted and serves up good food for her readers. Though the subject matter is heavy, the narrative reads lite. A good read for someone needing an uplift during perhaps a challenging time.
Back Talk Stories by Danielle Lazarin / Short Story Collection
Women’s equity is not fading into history during this time in the culture and the literary world reflects this considerably. Onto the tableau marches, Back Talk Stories by Danielle Lazarin, a Brooklyn based author.
Using quiet feminism, Lazarin dishes out 16 short stories varying in length and point of view about women emerging, individuating, coming of age, falling apart and rediscovering themselves.
Stories migrate from the boroughs of New York City to Paris where consequently Lazarin resides or has resided and honed her skills as an author. Themes covered in this collection include: loss of a parent, marital and familial breakdown, entry into sexual life, coming of age and discovering “No” as a personal choice rather than a social imposition. Lazarin explores inter-gendercompetition between women, sibling relationships and rivalries, individuation struggles within families, and identity as it relates to conventional definitions of the female self.
Unique about Lazarin’s writing is her capacity to create tension and leave her readers unresolved and immersed in contemplation. Psychological conflicts are deeply embed within her characters, and slowly as they move within their world, unapologetically they grasp at self-actualization and quickly conclude. Some stories are likened to domestic thriller from a female point of view. Lazarin gives readers access to things women endure as they define their lives. She shares the drama, pain, confusion, struggle and boredom that domestic centered living so generously affords. Definitely one to share with the book club!
“Too Fat Too Slutty Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman” By Anne Helen Petersen
I read this work in conjunction with the feminist book club, Persist created and moderated by Book Riot which reads and discusses Feminist works quarterly via Instagram.
Anne Helen Petersen, journalist, PhD and Culture Critic for Buzz Feed has researched and catalogued a book that speaks to women’s advancement in several professions and demonstrates the extremes to which women have gone to create and guarantee other women the opportunity to achieve freely and equally.
Featured in this work is a group of women who are defined as, “unruly” due to the casting aside of traditional womanly ways and mores to achieve a place individually defined as, “the greater good.” Women identified in this work include: Serena Williams, Melissa McCarthy, Kim Kardashian, Madonna, Hillary Clinton, Lena Dunham, Caitlin Jenner, Nicki Minaj, Abbi Jacobson & Ilana Glazer and Jennifer Weiner. Demonstrated by this list one observes that Petersen focuses mainly on celebrity culture and defends this choice by stating, “Celebrity culture is where women become most unruly. Their every move is documented and the bolder the better as they challenge the conventions limiting their acceleration to a desired status.” It makes sense really, though this reader feels like the bar could be set a little higher in terms of professional achievement. Nonetheless, she persists and demonstrates for her readers, how these women transcend convention, make space, suffer criticism and market share, persist, reinvent, persist some more and rise to icon status enabling alternative women to borrow from example.
The research going into this book is decent though it does suffer from organizational issues at various times and reads as if the author is struggling with her value base as she’s defining one for the reader. Each chapter opens with a woman’s name and the extreme to which she has gone to with her unruly behavior. For example, Madonna is too old, Kim Kardashian was too pregnant, Hillary Clinton is too shrill, Lena Dunham is too naked, etc. Petersen presents sound, organized well-supported discussions in some of these chapters and in others she meanders and discovers with her readers. This book would benefit from a little editing and further addition women in high profiles NOT within celebrity culture, because at the end of the day, it takes some unruliness to get through the day, the every day, miles down from the celebrity mountain.