Feministing Reads: What We’re Reading

Fall is finally here! And so is our long-delayed round-up of the reads we’re snuggling up with this season.

32828189Barbara: I’m reading Brittney Cooper’s (aka Professor Crunk) new book, Beyond Respectability: The Intellectual Thought of Race Women. Focusing on the political and intimate lives of twentieth century black women thinkers like Toni Cade Bambara, Pauli Murray, and Anna Julia Cooper (among others), Cooper invites her readers to rethink how knowledge is produced and how the lives of black women intellectuals resist attempts to fit them into narratives of respectability. Cooper urges us to see these women not just as important feminist figures, but more importantly, as thinkers and intellectuals whose ideas merit serious and increased attention.

Locking+Up+Our+Own+book+jacketSejal: I’m reading James Forman Jr.’s devastating Locking Up Our Ownand feeling some type of way about it. Forman sets out to examine how and why the black political establishment in the late 20th century supported policies that ultimately contributed to America’s brutal mass incarceration system. The book focuses on Washington D.C. in the 70s through 90s, walking us through the ways that black communities, activists, and elected leaders in the city struggled to fight community violence and drug abuse in a racist system that severely constrained their options. One of Forman’s central arguments is that mass incarceration wasn’t the result of any single law, but the cumulative, unforeseen consequence of laws, policies, and programs that black leaders sometimes supported in an effort to meet urgent community needs. It’s a delicate, uncomfortable, heart-breaking question, and I think it only works because Forman roots his analysis in his own experiences as a D.C. public defender (and because he’s unsparing in writing about the horrors of the prison-industrial complex). I’m still processing the book in relation to my own anti-carceral politics. But for now, it’s a good reminder that history is more complicated than is convenient, and of questions we need to grapple with as we work to dismantle mass incarceration in America.

978-080705783-4Juliana: I’m halfway through An Indigenous People’s History of the United States and it’s making me think that we were all brainwashed in elementary and middle school U.S. history classes. (Eds. note: We were.) It’s incredible to see how rich indigenous cultures were before colonization and how intentionally brutal and systematic their genocide at the hands of white people was. I thought I knew what to expect before starting the book, but I still can’t believe how much this history clashes with what I was taught in school.

9780451499059Dana: Easing my way toward finals, I’ve been alternating between Rachel Cusk’s Outline and Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, each quiet, excellent, and deep into the psychology of their protagonists (in very different ways). And if you haven’t yet read Sally Rooney’s debut novel Conversations With Friends, go do it. It’s smart, funny, poignant. (“Is it possible we could develop an alternative model of loving each other?”)

The_Collected_Essays_of_Elizabeth_Hardwick_2048x2048Sam: The Collected Essays of Elizabeth Hardwick, one of the most brilliant and consistently surprising writers in the history of the essay form, are out this month. In celebratory anticipation of that release, I’ve just reread her slim but thrilling not-quite-novel Sleepless Nightsin which a fictionalized Hardwick stand-in turns private recollection into its own intellectual drama. Though Hardwick was not a feminist, she was highly, instructively attuned to the role of social categories in shaping experience, and to the under-recognized insights such experience affords: “The weak have the purest sense of history. Anything can happen.”

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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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