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Posts Tagged ‘emma straub’

Hit the Books: The Best Feminist Reads of 2014

In books, race on January 1, 2015 at 2:50 pm

BITCH PLANET LOGO 1Welcome to 2015! A new year means 365 days’ worth of opportunities to read great books written by people who are not dead straight white dudes. If you’re looking for a place to start, here are a few of the best reads that crossed Girls Like Giants writers’ desks, nightstands and Kindles last year. Be sure to check back next week for even more recommendations.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub

The Vacationers is the first novel I read after finishing graduate school and moving across the country. It is the novel that saw me through a tough time where everything was stretched too thin and chaos and uncertainty ruled the day. Reading The Vacationers is particularly pleasurable when everyone you know is on luxurious vacations, yet you can’t afford a pedicure. Readers are quickly acquainted with a family whose operational dynamics are complicated yet intimately familiar. The heady intimacy I developed with the characters was the most pleasurable part of the novel. A close second was the sensory experience Straub offers to those for whom Mallorca is but a fantasy. This novel, better than any of the other vacation-themed novels I read in desperation this past summer (to compensate for my lack of a holiday), captures the warm, damp weight of exhaustion that follows excesses of sun, sand, and wine. This, combined with Straub’s wit and refusal to shortchange any of her characters, makes the story a keeper for me. – Chelsea B.

Bitch Planet, Pretty Deadly & Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Two years ago, when her reboot of Marvel’s spacefaring superhero title Captain Marvel was launched, barely anyone had heard of Kelly Sue DeConnick. It’s safe to say that 2014 belonged to her. KSD’s Carol Danvers, the game protagonist of Marvel, dropped the thigh-high boots and the “Ms.”, started going by “Captain,” traveled back in time to retcon herself a more feminist origin story, and joined up with the Guardians of the Galaxy (in the comics). Not to mention the recent announcement that DeConnick’s definitive run has inspired what will be the big M’s first female-led superhero film. 2014 also saw the completion of the first arc of DeConnick’s first creator-owned series—the surreal, supernatural western Pretty Deadly—and the beginning of her second, Bitch Planet. The last is a feminist reworking of 1970’s women-in-prison exploitation films: here, ‘noncompliant’ (NC) women are sent to a remote space station where their jailer—a giant, pink whore/nun hologram called The Catholic—attempts to rehabilitate them into normative femininity. Needless to say, our inmates are not going down without a fight. Bitch Planet is biting and timely and smart, playing out a little like Orange is the New Black meets But I’m a Cheerleader meets Django Unchained. (In space.) – Brian Psi
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Ladies First: Five Fairly Recent Books by Women, About Women

In books, Uncategorized on November 29, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Sarah T.

Although the subjects of the novels below range from coming of age to coming to America, all five have two things in common: They’re written by women, and they center on female characters. What books by women and/or about women have you been perusing?

A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore

Moore’s coming-of-age novel is set in a post-9/11 Midwestern college town. I read it on a Metro North train and I was really into it. So into it, in fact, that I got off one station before my transfer in a haze of which-world-am-I-in confusion. Then, as the doors shut, I realized that I was still an hour away from my final destination. As the train pulled away, I had two additional revelations: I had left my phone on the seat, and this was the last train of the night. I was fully marooned.

“I guess I live here now,” I thought. I trudged down to the taxi stand to start a new life for myself. Now here I am, a happy resident of Brewster, NY. No, $90 later I got home. But the point of this story is: Moore is very absorbing, especially if you like puns. People in her books are always verbally jousting with each other, no matter how unhappy or confused they are. Even when two characters don’t like each other very much, they can usually cease hostilities long enough to bond over a good homophone. It’s Moore’s way of telling us how lonely her characters are. In her universe, puns are the way that people grasp for connection.

The novel’s narrator, Tassie, is a smart college student cut off even from the people she loves most. One of the novel’s key plot points hinges on an email from her beloved brother, who writes asking for advice on a major life decision. Not only doesn’t Tassie write back, she never even reads the email. She doesn’t understand why herself. But the isolation that courses through the book provides the explanation: The vulnerability of her brother’s email, and the prospect of taking responsibility for another person, was too much for Tassie to bear. People turn away from intimacy throughout the book. The decision seems almost sensible, given that nobody is who they say they are–not  Tassie’s Brazilian boyfriend, nor the white couple who hire her as a nanny for their adorable, bi-racial adoptive daughter Mary-Emma. Self-deception runs deep too. Their liberal college town, which prides itself on being the kind of enlightened place where you can protest wars and buy organic kohlrabi all in one go, reveals a racist underbelly.

Needless to say, this is a sad book. You kind of hear “Eleanor Rigby” playing on repeat as you read it. But Moore makes sure you don’t drown in melancholy: there are still bowls of fresh strawberries with balsamic vinaigrette, the joy of discovering Simone de Beauvoir, art etched into the foam of cappuccinos. The book recognizes the balancing power of ordinary consolations, even as it suggests–steely-eyed–that they’re not enough.  Read the rest of this entry »