Books

What I’ve been reading lately #10

When I reactivated my library card earlier this year I immediately reserved all of the feminist non-fiction books I’d wanted to read recently. After renewing them multiple times I finally made time to read them this month. Plus the book which currently holds the title of ‘favourite book of the year’.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

I didn’t know anything about Roxane Gay before reading Bad Feminist; I’d just seen a lot of people recommend her books. This collection of essays made me fall in love with her almost immediately. Some essays were more personal, such as one on Scrabble (really!):

“I have my own tournament board now as well as a timer (with pink buttons), tiles (pink), and long tile racks (sadly not available in pink). I also have a carrying case with a shoulder strap so I can rock my Scrabble board along across my shoulders like a boss.”

And some were more academic, focusing primarily on the representation of women and people of colour in popular culture:

“As with Inglourious Basterds using World War II, Tarantino once again managed to find a traumatic cultural experience of a marginalised people that has little to do with his own history, and used that cultural experience to exercise his hubris for making farcically violent, vaguely funny movies that set to right historical wrongs from a very limited, privileged position.”

I learned a lot and there were certainly moments where I had to check my white privilege. I’ve often ranted about the problem with the amount of men writing and directing films about women for female audiences and overlooked the impact of white people telling black stories.

Everything is fair game in these essays and I enjoyed the references to the likes of Sweet Valley High, Twilight and The Hunger Games:

“I am not the kind of person who becomes so invested in a book or movie or television show that my interest becomes a a hobby or intense obsession, one where I start to declare allegiances or otherwise demonstrate a serious level of commitment to something fictional I had no hand in creating. Or, I didn’t used to be that kind if person. Let me be clear: Team Peeta… He frosts things and bakes bread and is unconditional and unwavering in his love, and also he is very, very strong. He can throw a sack of flour, is what I am saying.”

There are also considerations of more serious topics, such as representation of rape in the press and popular culture, female reproductive rights, plus an essay called Dear Young Ladies Who Love Chris Brown so Much They would Let Him Beat Them. No holds barred. Epic.

Buy it on Amazon

Girl Up by Laura Bates

I’ve been meaning to read Everyday Sexism for a while now but, as that reservation hasn’t come through at the library yet, I started my Laura Bates reading with Girl Up. What I didn’t realise before reserving it was that this is intended for a younger audience – but I still read it cover to cover.

Early in the book, Laura shares a shocking statistic:

“The idea of our body as a disappointing problem that never matches up to our hopes starts very early indeed. In fact, research shows it starts at the age of five. Before we even know the words to articulate the idea of body image pressure, we girls learn to worry about our shape. By the time we are seven years old, 25 per cent of us have tried to lose weight. By the time we reach the age of ten, that number is estimated to rise to 80 per cent.”

I think this book has the potential to empower so many young women. With chapters dedicated to social media, online safety, how to respond to a dick pic, mental health, consent, body image, imposter syndrome, feminism and more, it’s the kind of book I wish I had over a decade ago!

My only issue is trying to suggest an appropriate age range. At times I thought it should be required reading for all girls on entering secondary school. Then I thought some of it was a bit too mature for thirteen-year-olds, so I figured maybe on entering college, but by then it’s too late for some young women to have received this information for the first time. Girls are maturing faster than ever and a book like this could be so helpful.

Buy it on Amazon

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

I hadn’t heard of Dolly Alderton when Everything I Know About Love was released but it was mentioned on most of my favourite blogs, so I wanted to give it a read. It seemed to be the millennial memoir and I found it relatable in terms of the pop culture references (Bebo, Hear’Say and The Babysitters Club), but not so much in terms of the middle class upbringing, boarding school and drug use.

I wanted to love it and, if it wasn’t for the inclusion of the fascinating supporting characters in her life (Farly, Florence, Adam and Eleanor), I probably would have reviewed it quite negatively. There was also a chapter which moved me to tears, which goes to show that the girl can write, I just didn’t immediately warm to her. Roxane Gay on the other hand…

Buy it on Amazon

That Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give was one of the most important books of last year. I ordered it as a post-Christmas treat to myself but only just got round to reading it. It’s banned Books Week, so it seemed like the perfect excuse.

I can’t believe such an important book has been banned in schools – same with Thirteen Reasons Why. These stories were written for young people so that they might feel less alone and realise that their voices matter. If anything they should be made required reading, not banned!

For those not already in the know, THUG is about a high school girl who witnesses a white cop shoot an unarmed black teenager and the actions that follow. I saw on the Silent Book Club Facebook group that some people were reading this at the same time as me and couldn’t believe the negative comments which were posted, with people primarily criticising the use of language (it’s written from the point of view of a sixteen-year-old girl from what she refers to as ‘the ghetto’) and claiming that it’s very much ‘a young adult book’, as if that’s a bad thing. Would this book have been more credible if it was written from the point of view of one of her parents instead? Why do some readers still insist on looking down on young adult books?

I cannot praise it highly enough. It’s one of those books which made me want to stay on the bus and carry on reading – and tell everyone about it when I had finished. It’s become my book of the year and I strongly encourage everyone to read it.

Roxane Gay, Bad Feminist: “Books are often far more than just books.”

Buy it on Amazon

What books have you read and loved recently?

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