Feministing Reads: What We’re Reading

Here’s what our team is reading this month! Tell us what we missed in the comments.

Reina: I’m rereading Leela Gandhi’s Affective Communities. It’s a beautiful work of history about late nineteenth century British radicals whose friendships with various Indian radicals caused them to protest England’s imperial regime. Gandhi theorizes a “politics of friendship” as the capacity for humans to act against their own group interests (of class, race, nationality) in friendship with people unlike them. She connects British anti-imperialist thought not only to late nineteenth century utopian socialism, but to animal rights, spiritualism, and homosexuality, arguing that all these movements fundamentally challenged the colonizer’s idea of the human — and presented the possibility of radical forms of community. I love this book, not least of all because I’ve found it a road map for political engagement in my current context, but also because sometimes we undervalue the radical capacity of human intimacy to transform our politics. Friendship is radical, and we shouldn’t forget that.

Senti: I really needed to escape into some cute fiction and find ways to withdraw from the living hell that is our world this month, and found myself reading Emma Straub’s Modern Lovers. It’s a story about love, relationships, regret, intimacy, and two couples who are old friends from college navigating changes and life in their 40s as well as raising children in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. It’s sweet, warm, real, and funny. Would recommend if you’re looking to GTFO of your own head for a while.

Mahroh: I snagged a book from a friend’s bookshelf a few weeks ago that I’m still working through. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven is a series of short stories by Sherman Alexie capturing life around Spokane Indian reservation. All I can say is that this book is lyrical + you should read it + for those of us who haven’t read much written by Native folks, here’s a place to start.

Dana: Alana Massey’s All the Lives I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen to Be Famous Strangers (Grand Central Publishing, 2017) takes as its starting point the most derided and dismissed of celebrity women – the likes of Britney Spears, Amber Rose, and a pre-Stranger Things Winona Ryder – and, like all good cultural criticism, tells us something about ourselves. The eponymous essay on Sylvia Plath (the best of the bunch) is equal parts cutting and heartbreaking, and Massey is a master here of making us laugh and shudder in short succession: “Despite [Sylvia] coming of age among a cohort of men describing their own venereal disease as if the pustules themselves were matters worthy of the canon, it is Sylvia’s interior life that is so often pointed to as a case of something crass and self-indulgent […] Nearly half a century after her death, we remain more interested in girls being kept palatable than being kept alive.” Massey traverses the corners of the internet that are home to Plath-esque female melancholy, resuscitating girlishness and female pain as objects worthy of study in their own right. She reminds us that girls’ expansive documentation of their own vulnerability is fundamentally a project of making meaning of their (our) lives. She insists we bear witness.

Sam: I’ve been thinking a lot this week about Alice Childress, the black feminist playwright and lifelong activist whose key works were collected for the first time a few years ago as Selected Plays. A self-identified writer of “the intellectual poor,” Childress powerfully modeled how to stay engaged and uncompromising in reactionary times (in her case, the early years of the Cold War). I’m also grateful for the lack of irony in her efforts to write dramatically about big political questions — that kind of sincerity feels really rare and precious right now!

Juliana: I just finished Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, which follows the journeys of two sisters born in Ghana and separated by the slave trade, one enslaved and sent to the United States and one to stay in Ghana and work with slavers. Each chapter follows the story of one of their descendants through colonization, Jim Crowe, independence movements, and civil rights movements. It’s incredible how each character is so fully realized on their own, but contributes to the beautiful and painful tapestry of the book.

Barbara: I just read There are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, a new collection of fierce, ***flawless, feminist poems from Morgan Parker. If you’re a member of the Beyhive, this is required reading.

New Haven, CT

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and the co-founder of Know Your IX, the national youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She's testified before Congress on Title IX policy and legislative reform, and her writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. She's also a student at Yale Law School, and you can find her on Twitter at @danabolger.

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and a student at Yale Law School.

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