Tag: feminism


Best Books: 2014

Posted 30 June, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in books and publishing

best books 2014

It’s that time of year y’all! If you were here ’round this time last year, you know that I don’t do my best of list until the end of June, mostly because everyone is so sick of best of lists in December that they want to throw up. So, here’s my best twelve books of 2014 list while you’re fresh and ready!

  • The Word Exchange by: Alena Graedon – Mostly this list is in no particular order, but The Word Exchange blew my socks off so early in the year that very little else came close to me. I love dystopia, I especially love a near future dystopia where words are at stake. I loved this book.
  • Pro by: Katha Pollitt – This might have been the most important book published in 2014. It’s a call to stop shaming women who choose abortion and how access to abortion for all is not only something that women should never feel guilty about — it’s actually a morally righteous decision. Anyone who is on the fence about abortion or who thinks that exceptions for abortion are okay in rape and incest situations need to read this book.
  • The Magician’s Trilogy by: Lev Grossman – Okay, so only The Magician’s Land was actually published in 2014, but I gobbled up the whole 1,200 page trilogy in a matter of two weeks. I hate that I had the opportunity to see Lev Grossman speak (and did!) at The Decatur Book Festival last year but did not secure myself a signed copy of The Magician’s Land. Hailed as a ‘grown up Harry Potter’, I absolutely must agree. Except maybe it’s all the best parts of Harry Potter and all the best parts of the Narnia series. Go forth, read them all. Immediately.
  • Revival by: Stephen King – I loved the slow burn of this novel and the feeling of creepiness slowly coming up on you, along with the balls to the walls scareded-ness that come at the end. Yes. Absolutely a must read for Stephen King fans young and old.
  • Bellweather Rhapsody by: Kate Racculia – If you’re a band nerd, former or current, or if you love some crazy, quirky, mysteries this is a fabulous book for you. There was so much about this book that rang true to me — from being a former band nerd to the fact that it had almost a Stephen King-eqsue feel with the hotel (The Shining is what I’m thinking of) this book is unique and wonderful.
  • Dear Committee Members by: Julie Schumacher – Are you sick of the rash of epistolatory novels? DON’T BE! Dear Committee Members is delightful and laugh out loud funny at times. Anyone who has worked in an office setting or especially  in higher education in an underfunded department will find plenty of delight and fabulousness in this novel.
  • Station Eleven by: Emily St. John Mandel – Won the Rooster in this year’s Tournament of Books. It was a fantastic and beautiful literary dystopian novel that was absolutely enchanting.
  • How to Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran – The most important coming-of-age novel since Judy Blume. I adored this novel. I laughed, I teared up, I was always team Johanna.
  • The Bone Clocks by: David Mitchell – Yes. Just do it.
  • An Untamed State by: Roxane Gay – I was completely entrenched into this novel, the most important part of it wasn’t, for me, the rape of a woman of color, but it was dealing with the aftermath of that rape and finding hope and understanding in the most unlikely places. A fabulous debut novel by Gay.
  • Yes Please by: Amy Poehler – YES PLEASE! A fabulous feminist manifesto full of positivity and laughter. Poehler’s memoir was everything I wanted to to be, and more.
  • All the Birds, Singing by: Evie Wyld – Another book that I read thanks to the Tournament of Books. I found this book to be so beautifully complex and such a great puzzle. So much for discussion in a book club, so much symbolism and such great writing.

So, Reader, what were your favorite books of 2014? 

April

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Fabulous Feminist Friday: Dietland

Posted 12 June, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Fabulous Feminist Friday: DietlandDietland by Sarai Walker
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on May 26th 2015
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, General, Literary
Pages: 272
Goodreads
five-stars

The diet revolution is here. And it’s armed. Plum Kettle does her best not to be noticed, because when you’re fat, to be noticed is to be judged. Or mocked. Or worse. With her job answering fan mail for a popular teen girls’ magazine, she is biding her time until her weight-loss surgery. Only then can her true life as a thin person finally begin. But when Plum notices she’s being followed by a mysterious woman in colorful tights and combat boots, she finds herself falling down a rabbit hole into the world of Calliope House, a community of women who live life on their own terms. Reluctant but intrigued, Plum agrees to a series of challenges that force her to deal with the real costs of becoming “beautiful.” At the same time, a dangerous guerilla group begins to terrorize a world that mistreats women, and as Plum grapples with her own personal struggles, she becomes entangled in a sinister plot. The consequences are explosive. Part coming-of-age story, part revenge fantasy, Dietland is a bold, original, and funny debut novel that takes on the beauty industry, gender inequality, and our weight loss obsession—from the inside out, and with fists flying.

As the memes say, Dietland was so much win for me. It’s possible that part of the win came from the fact that I almost didn’t read it. Shannon at River City Reading sent me her copy and I wasn’t really arrested by the description, but I am a feminist so I thought I might as well give it a whirl, if for no other reason Shannon spent $4.07 mailing it to me.

Guys. This book will change your life. Or at the very least will have you re-examining so many parts of our culture. This book touched me in a very personal way so,  before I get to the book review we’re going sit down and have a little fireside chat. Move in closer, I’m going to get a little personal.

Growing up, through my twenties, up until the point that I had The Girl four years ago, I was that girl. I was the girl who could eat as much of anything that she wanted and never gain an ounce. I fluctuated between 115 – 120 or so, never exercised until I joined the Air Force and never gained weight. Well, as so often happens once women pop out that first baby they find their bodies inexorably changed forever. I now fluctuate between 160 – 170 and it’s taken me a long time to recognize that this is my new body. Well, this is my new body unless I want to live in Dietland.

Foxy, hot, fuckable. Whatever it was called, that’s what I’d wanted  – to be hot, to elicit desire in men and envy in women. But I realized I didn’t want that anymore. That required living in Dietland, which meant control, constriction – paralysis, even – but above all it meant obedience. I was tired of being obedient.”

I freakin’ love to eat guys. I love it. I’m terrible at exercising regularly, which I should do for health reasons but that’s a different issue. Do you know what this book did for me? It set me free from Dietland. I’m a size 12, I’m going to stay that way, and I am okay with that. Okay seriously, the review now.

Dietland takes on all the issues. Gender inequality, fat shaming being one of the last acceptable prejudices, beauty culture. The writing is good, there are some characters that seem a little underdeveloped, but I almost wonder if this was intentional – if these characters are less characters and more caricatures. For me that worked with the satire and social commentary that Walker was creating.

I enjoyed every facet of this book with the sole exception being the treatment of anti-depressants in the novel. Monika mentions this in her review as well (linked below), and it’s just unclear what statement Walker was trying to make about the use of anti-depressants – but I’m uncomfortable with negativity expressed towards their use, just because the stigma against mental health treatment is so high.

The timing of the publication of this novel is perfect, the novel itself is light and airy while still packing a substantive punch of social commentary that the world needs to hear. This might be the best book I’ve read this year.

Other Opinions:

River City Reading

A Lovely Bookshelf

Books Speak Volumes

A quote for the road:

“On the Nola and Nedra Show, Nola Larson King said: “I’ve been thinking about what you said earlier, Nedra, and I agree with you. I don’t think that this is terrorism or lady terrorism. Do you know what I think it is?”

“I’m dying to know,” said Nedra Feldstein-Delany.

“I think it’s a response to terrorism. From the time we’re little girls, we’re taught to fear the bad men who might get us. We’re terrified of being raped, abused, even killed by the bad man, but the problem is, you can’t tell the good ones from the bad ones, so you have to be wary of them all. We’re told not to go out by ourselves late at night, not to dress in a certain way, not to talk to male strangers, not to lead men on. We take self-defense classes, keep our doors locked, carry pepper spray and rape whistles. The fear of men is ingrained in us from girlhood. Isn’t that a form of terrorism?”

What do you think, Reader? Too subversive? Too weird? Let’s chat! Also – expect to see this broken down completely at The Socratic Salon some day soon!

April

 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Feminist Friday: Yes Please

Posted 27 March, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Feminist Friday: Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Limited on October 1st 2014
Pages: 288
Goodreads
four-half-stars

In a perfect world... We'd get to hang out with Amy Poehler, watching dumb movies, listening to music, and swapping tales about our coworkers and difficult childhoods. Because in a perfect world, we'd all be friends with Amy -- someone who seems so fun, is full of interesting stories, tells great jokes, and offers plenty of advice and wisdom (the useful kind, not the annoying kind you didn't ask for, anyway). Unfortunately, between her Golden Globe-winning role on Parks and Recreation, work as a producer and director, place as one of the most beloved SNL alumni and cofounder of the Upright Citizens Brigade, involvement with the website Smart Girls at the Party, frequent turns as acting double for Meryl Streep, and her other gig as the mom of two young sons, she's not available for movie night. Luckily, we have the next best thing: Yes Please, Amy's hilarious and candid book. A collection of stories, thoughts, ideas, lists, and haiku from the mind of one of our most beloved entertainers, Yes Please offers Amy's thoughts on everything from her "too safe" childhood outside of Boston to her early days in new York City, her ideas about Hollywood and "the biz," the demon that looks back at all of us in the mirror, and her joy at being told she has a "face for wigs." Yes Please is a chock-full of words and wisdom to live by.

This was going to be one of three mini-reviews, until I wrote a whole lot on it.

I loved this book to pieces, guys. Everything from the writing itself, to the narration, to the message that the book was seeking to get out there appealed to me. Poehler’s narration is delightful and I love that she brings in guest stars to do bits and pieces for her.

The title itself is a call to positivity. “YES PLEASE!” more positivity in my life. “YES PLEASE!” more positivity in the book blogging community “YES PLEASE!” more positivity among and between women, lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down. The part of the book that really impacted me the most was the discussion that Poehler had on child-rearing and really all decision making among womenfolk. The general sentiment is that we should strive towards the attitude “That’s great for her, but not for me.” Whether a woman chooses to breastfeed, bottle feed, stay at home, go back to work – whatever it is – if it’s not for you great! But recognize that it could be what’s best for other people. She really just verbalized the way we could make the mommy wars stop – if everyone would just read this book.

Other than that, Poehler is warm and funny, while still being vulgar and surprisingly revealing some of her bad girl history. It’s a great great listen. Even if celebrity memoirs aren’t your thing, I highly recommend the audio.

So Reader, what do you think? ARE celebrity memoirs your thing? Have you read this? Tell me your thoughts and dreams.

Signature

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Feminist(?) Friday: After Birth

Posted 6 February, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Feminist(?) Friday: After BirthAfter Birth by Elisa Albert
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on February 17th 2015
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Literary
Pages: 208
Goodreads
two-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A year has passed since Ari gave birth to Walker, though it went so badly awry she has trouble calling it “birth” and still she can't locate herself in her altered universe. Amid the strange, disjointed rhythms of her days and nights and another impending winter in upstate New York, Ari is a tree without roots, struggling to keep her branches aloft.When Mina, a one-time cult musician — older, self-contained, alone, and nine-months pregnant —moves to town, Ari sees the possibility of a new friend, despite her unfortunate habit of generally mistrusting women. Soon they become comrades-in-arms, and the previously hostile terrain seems almost navigable.

Honestly. I’m not sure how to feel about this one. My overwhelming feelings are negative. But at the same time I’m a feminist that wants to accept feminists of all stripes.

However. This is not a book that accepts all women as women. For me the protagonist of this novel seemed to encourage the ‘mommy-wars’ rather than bring us all into a warm and hugging sisterhood. There are looooonngggg passages about the evils of a C-section and the horrors of feeding your infant formula.

NEWSFLASH! C-Sections save lives. Lives of women and children. Formula. Christ. Not every mother has the ability to breastfeed — even if they want to. I’m prone to severe depression both as myself and through family history. PERSONALLY it was more important to me, my mental health – which thus affected the health of my infant to be sane rather than to breastfeed. So I chose formula… and I don’t feel even a little bad about that. But I felt like this novel attempted to make women who had to have C-sections or chose not to breastfeed to feel bad about it… and to me, that’s not what feminism is about.

To paraphrase Amy Pohler in Yes Please, those things are GREAT FOR OTHER WOMEN but NOT FOR ME. I support, encourage, and cheer on women who want natural home-births, to breastfeed their children until they are seven, and all the other attachment-parenting/”the way things were” stuff. But it’s not for me. Again, I won’t feel poorly about that. Again, this book felt like it was trying to make me feel just that.

There are passages that criticize second and third wave feminists… really? Maybe I missed a deeper meaning and irony in the book — but to me women are women and feminists (however trite the saying may become) are just people who want to see women as equal participants in society.

Let’s talk about the writing. Stream of consciousness can be amazing. (See: Faulkner) But Faulkner, Albert is not. Instead the writing becomes confused and convoluted, which takes away from whatever power the narrative may have. Instead it becomes a distraction and an irritation.

Between the failed attempt at stream of consciousness and the too narrow “feminist” message I was totally turned off. 

Lord. In the first draft of this review I was so disappointed by what I didn’t like about this book that I forgot to mention what I did like about it. I completely related to the rage that Ari felt after giving birth, the disconnected-ness to Walker, the lack of female friendships. I liked the way that Albert portrayed the (in my opinion, correct) idea that it takes a village to raise a child. The wet-nursing did not freak me out in the least.

Have you been recently disappointed by a book whose politics you thought you agreed with, Reader?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights

Posted 2 December, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion RightsPro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt
Published by Picador on October 14th 2014
Genres: Abortion & Birth Control, Social Science, Women's Studies
Pages: 272
Goodreads
five-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A POWERFUL ARGUMENT FOR ABORTION AS A MORAL RIGHT AND SOCIAL GOOD BY A NOTED FEMINIST AND LONGTIME COLUMNIST FOR THE NATION. Forty years after the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, "abortion" is still a word that is said with outright hostility by many, despite the fact that one in three American women will have terminated at least one pregnancy by menopause. Even those who support a woman's right to an abortion often qualify their support by saying abortion is a "bad thing," an "agonizing decision," making the medical procedure so remote and radioactive that it takes it out of the world of the everyday, turning an act that is normal and necessary into something shameful and secretive. Meanwhile, with each passing day, the rights upheld by the Supreme Court are being systematically eroded by state laws designed to end abortion outright.In this urgent, controversial book, Katha Pollitt reframes abortion as a common part of a woman's reproductive life, one that should be accepted as a moral right with positive social implications. In Pro, Pollitt takes on the personhood argument, reaffirms the priority of a woman's life and health, and discusses why terminating a pregnancy can be a force for good for women, families, and society. It is time, Pollitt argues, that we reclaim the lives and the rights of women and mothers.

Holy poop on a stick, guys. I almost gave myself whiplash when I read this book. There was nodding and highlighting and more nodding and more highlighting. Pollitt nails it.

Clearly and concisely she lays out why abortion doesn’t have to be, nor should be, a scarlet letter upon women who have them. She speaks clearly on the anti-choice movement and breaks down the ‘true believers’ from those who would limit abortions to limit the upward mobility of women. 

First, the concept of personhood as applied to the zygote, blastocyst, embryo and, at least until late in the pregnancy, fetus makes no sense: it’s an incoherent covertly religious idea that falls apart if you look at it closely. Few people actually believe it, as is shown by the exceptions they are willing to make.

I thought about this statement for a little bit and then I realized how much truth it had in it. If anti-choicers rabidly believe in life at conception – then life is life right? Rape and incest should be excluded exceptions, right? I’m not saying that there aren’t true believers out there who would love to exclude rape and incest as a means for abortion, however I think, (hope, pray) that if you asked the majority of anti-choicers whether rape and incest were valid reasons to ‘allow’ a woman an abortion, they would say ‘Absolutely.’

Indeed, it makes my stomach churn to think of a world full of ‘true believers’ in the personhood movement. (As a book blogger I must give you a hint and tell you it looks a lot like Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.)

Pollitt makes demands on her own audience as well:

I want us to start thinking of abortion as a positive social good and saying this out loud. […] I want to argue… that it is an essential option for women – not just ones in dramatic, terrible, body-and-soul-destroying situations, but all women – and thus benefits society as a whole. 

Whoa. “Abortion as a positive social good…”? Yes. I will stand up and say that abortion is a positive social good.

Pollitt explores the terrible things that happen to women in countries where abortion is completely illegal (IRELAND), the lack of proper sex education here in the U.S. and how the anti-choice movement is weirdly at odds with both proper sex education for our youth and contraception – both which have been shown to reduce unwanted pregnancies (and therefore abortions) by a large margin in the youth population. If they hate abortion so much, how come they block the most effective ways to prevent it?

But the most remarkable part of this book is where Pollitt unpacks something that I’ve long known was there, but have been unable to express.

Motherhood is the last area in which the qualities we usually value – rationality, independent thinking, consulting our own best interests, planning for a better, more prosperous future, and dare I say it, pursuing happiness and dreams – are condemned as frivolity and selfishness. […] We don’t like the idea that a man might be severely constrained by a single ejaculation. He has places to go and things to do. That a woman’s life may be stunted by unwanted childbearing is not so troubling. Childbearing, after all, is what women are for.

…and there it is, right there. The notion in the anti-choice movement, whether they be true believers (who I can empathize a little more with) or people who consciously (or unconsciously) have a desire to keep women “in their place” that all women must be desiring (and able to care for) a child at all times is absolutely ridiculous in this day and age.

Let’s get a little personal. I had my one and only daughter during my second year of law school. I was one of the thousands (millions?) of women who had used her birth control properly and had seen it fail. I didn’t particularly want a child at that time in my life and while I’ve always been pro-choice I used the conventional logic that I was “too old, too married, and too financially stable to justify an abortion”. My daughter is delightful, but it’s been a hard road – especially for a woman who never wanted children to begin with. I’m lucky to have a spouse who takes on childcare-type things 50/50 (maybe even 60/40 in his favor sometimes) and that I am white and middle class.

TWIST.

The Girl was maaaaaybe six? seven months old when I was told that the birth control that I had resumed had failed again (Nuva Ring, ladies – it sucks) I was pregnant again – still in law school, now with an infant, oh and by the way – it was twins.  I was devastated. All  the work I had put into law school – down the drain. Two more babies and there was no way I could continue law school at that point in time – and I had already fought so hard to be there. But, all of my rationalizations against abortion were still there – I wasn’t seventeen, I couldn’t really justify one, could I?

I went so far as to call Planned Parenthood and see if there was anything that could be done. I was inching up closer to that cutoff mark and needed to make a decision, plus the 24 hour waiting period that was in place at the time. I didn’t believe in the idea of life at conception but at the same time society – even liberal society – had hammered the idea that abortion was so bad, so immoral how could I even consider such a thing? But I wanted one. I did. It’s also important to note that my husband backed me up on whatever I wanted to do, but was also leaning towards an abortion.

In the end I was saved the decision when my body decided for me and had a spontaneous abortion (see also: miscarriage). The relief that I felt was palpable. When I talk about it, it’s still palpable. To have had twins (and an infant) at that point in my life would have destroyed everything I had been working so hard for up to that point.

Had I read Pollitt’s book then, I might have had a different perspective on an abortion than I had at the time, and while I feel that I never would have regretted the decision had I had to make it – I’m not sure I could’ve made it. With this book I could have made it and not felt remotely ashamed about it.

Yet this is not my story alone. Every year thousands of women, many who are already mothers, many who are far more unfortunate than me, have failed birth control and lack the ability and/or the resources to bring another child into this world. After being denied an abortion because of arbitrary waiting times, or the inability to get the money together to have the procedure actually done – these women are forced to bring a life into the world that they may neither be competent nor financially able to care for. Where are the anti-choicers (the so-called pro-lifers) then? Dare I say cutting funding from WIC, food stamps, and Medicaid?

Pollitt points out the classist and sexist attitudes that both the left and the right have taken towards abortion, adoption, and contraception. She stresses the need to change our language and rhetoric in order to change the conversation. More often than not abortion is not the tragic, awful thing that anti-choicers would like the rest of us believe that it is.

One final point that Pollitt makes and then I’ll let this rest, the law, as it is currently written cannot compel a parent to give so much as a blood transfusion to a living child. Why is it more acceptable under the law to require a mother to be a walking incubator for nine months if she chooses not to? How does one resolve the two? Short answer: you can’t.

One last quote for the road and to possibly really piss you off:

And what about the Second Amendment? If abortion is different because it’s about life and death, so too, potentially, are guns, yet we seem positively loath to examine people’s reasons for wanting to own them. Any old wave in the direction of an explanation is good enough — “they’re fun,” “they’re part of our tradition down here,” “I’m a collector.” And unlike abortion, guns kill more than 32,000 actually existing people every year.

This has been a deep and harrowing post, Reader. So I won’t pose any questions. Feel free to air all opinions (for and against) here – respectful dissent is always encouraged.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Carrie, Carrie, Carrie

Posted 27 October, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

As Halloween is upon us and I noticed that the new Carrie film was on Netflix, it only seemed appropriate to do a three way comparison. Since I consider Carrie to be a book/movie that has become a part of our collective cultures, there will be spoilers. But, I’m pretty sure if you haven’t read/seen it already… you still already know about it.

Let’s just get this out of the way up front. Neither movie holds a candle to the original source novel. King wrote an epistolatory novel that also has flashes of into the first person of a few different characters. See my review. But the characters are well fleshed out and there’s just no way that could ever be translated to the screen.  Now that we have that out of the way, let’s compare movies.

I lurve the original 1976 film directed by Brian de Palma and with Sissy Spacek in the title role. But last night I finally got around to watching the 2013 version directed by Kimberly Peirce with Chloe Grace Moretz in the title role. (I liked it a lot too!) I think the easiest way  to do this is going to be a side by side comparison.

Carrie

Title character – miscast this and the whole movie is going to be ruined. As I said before I lurve Sissy Spacek’s take on this kid, but Mortez brings something different to the character. I think that Spacek’s portrayal is more true to the book, but I love the attitude that Mortez brings to the character after she realizes the power that she wields. While Spacek remains the ‘deer in the headlights’ Carrie throughout the entirety of the film, after discovering her powers and especially after having the pig’s blood dumped on her, Mortez starts to kick ass and takes no names.

Verdict: Tie. I just can’t choose.

Margaret White

Personally, I think it would have been cool to see Sissy Spacek come back and play the role of Margaret White, but Hollywood and its infinite wisdom did not allow for that. Instead we have Piper Laurie in the 1976 classic and Julianne Moore in Peirce’s 2013 version. I loved what Peirce did at the beginning of the 2013 film, seeing Margaret give birth to Carrie, alone, and wanting to kill her because she’s such a fanatic nut was frickin’ brilliant. We get some of that in the ’76 version but it’s done through allusion rather than what the audience actually sees.

I also love how Moore is shown in the 2013 version flagellating herself, using her fingernails, or the seam ripper. That being said, Laurie didn’t pull punches when trying to portray the totally batshit crazy religious mom.

Verdict: Julianne Moore for taking it up a notch with the self flagellation, even if she seems a wee-bit more approachable than Piper Laurie.

Sue Snell

Maybe it was just the seventies realness that left me unable to really connect with Amy Irving as Sue Snell in the original movie. Or maybe it was because I wanted to punch her in the face. But I felt like Gabriella Wilde came closer than Irving in portraying the character as written in the book. In the book Sue really is sympathetic to Carrie and is haunted by her actions in the infamous locker scene even before the main action goes down.

Verdict: Gabriella Wilde, Class of 2013.

Chris Hargensen

The meanest of the mean girls. I love the feathered hair realness that Nancy Allen brought to the role in ’76, but I felt like it was Portia Doubleday brought the true mean-girl/really nasty girl high-school bully to the screen. Two parts masochist, one part scared little girl who counts on Daddy to make it all right. I was disappointed in both versions with the pissing contest that takes place between the principal and Hargensen’s lawyer dad over her suspension and loss of prom privileges. In the book the principal has some incredible balls and promises a counter lawsuit under the theory of locos parentis (which I really don’t think would have worked, but hey, fiction, right?) on behalf of the treatment Carrie receives from Chris.

This was close one, but I think the iPhone update pushes it over the edge for me.

Verdict: Doubleday, for publishing the ‘plug it up’ video on YouTube and for generally just looking scary and entitled.

Penultimate Shower Scene

The opening scene to the novel and the movies – this is the scene that sets the tone for the rest of the body of work. While I enjoyed the updates in the 2013 version, I felt like Spacek’s performance was rawer and realer than Mortez’s performance. I think that Spacek shows a lot more vulnerability that keeps pace with the way that the novel was written. Besides, Mortez is just too damn pretty. On the other hand the cinematography of the original focuses just a little too long to pubescent girls just having and awesome time in the locker-room, which is so far removed from reality I don’t even know what to classify it as.

Verdict: 1973’s performance was rawer, realer, and does a better job at setting the tone for the movie.


Prom Night

In the 2013 version I really think this is where Carrie begins to come into her own. She kicks ass, take no names and becomes judge, jury, and executioner to her tormentors. We also get to see Sue’s pregnancy (she’s not a virgin and she gets to live?! What the what?!). Even in the stances the two actresses are taking, you see Mortez owns the power better than Spacek. I like that.

Verdict: Prom Night 2013, foreveah!

Overall Verdict:
Well, obviously the book wins over any movie adaptation. But I think I’m going to have to go out on  a crazy limb and say that I preferred the 2013 reboot to the original film. It felt truer to the book, the characters were less one dimensional, and I’m pretty sure Peirce snuck some subversive feminist messages in there. It’s also worth noting that school shootings and mass terror wasn’t a thing in 1976, so that made the subject matter of a girl basically blowing up her high school all the more… explosive today?  (Sorry, poor taste.) But Peirce handles the subject matter deftly, and I can’t recall a single cringe worthy moment on account of that type of subject matter.

So, Readers, what do you think? Have you read the book? Seen either of the movies? What’s your preference? Oo! Has anyone seen the musical?


April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Terrific Tuesday: How to Build a Girl

Posted 7 October, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Terrific Tuesday: How to Build a GirlHow to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
Published by Harper Collins on September 23rd 2014
Genres: Coming of Age, Fiction, Humorous, Literary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
five-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn't enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes—and build yourself.It's 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there's no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde—fast-talking, hard-drinking gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer—like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontës—but without the dying-young bit.By sixteen, she's smoking cigarettes, getting drunk, and working for a music paper. She's writing pornographic letters to rock stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.But what happens when Johanna realizes she's built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters, and a head full of paperbacks enough to build a girl after all?

I read this book as part of a read-along with a number of other bloggers a few months back. I adored it. This book is going to piss some people off, lots of people are going to be put off by the opening scene, fourteen year old Johanna Morrigan masturbating in bed.
But what’s great about How to Build a Girl is, for the most part it’s an incredibly real book. It’s a book that finally gives a narrative voice to teenage girls about growing up as teenage girls. Sex, drugs, poverty, and welfare are all explored by Moran in such an expert way that I have half of the book highlighted. Moran shies away from none of these things. There is no misty lighting when describing Johanna’s sexual experiences – it’s done very matter-of-factly, there is nothing titillating or pornographic about it. I would love to see this book in high school libraries. I’d love to see it taught to high school students (but it’s never ever going to happen). There’s plenty of laughter and places to feel the feels.
I know other readers are bothered by some tense shifting within the novel. Most of the time we’re hearing the voice of 14 – 17 year old Johanna, but every now and then the tense shifts and the words seem to be coming from an older, wiser narrator. This didn’t bother me in the least, but there are plenty of readers I know who it drove crazy. Which is a bit weird to me, because I’ve read plenty of books since (which some of these same bloggers have also read) that had the same tense shifting and no one said boo about it…
Moran has written a novel here, that, for the first time since Judy Blume, has given teenage girls a voice. But for all the good it could do for teenagers to read this book, it’s not really a YA novel. The best way I can think of to describe it is that it’s a highly relatable coming of age novel that women and girls have needed for a long time now. I applaud Moran for writing this and her publishers for not shying away from the hard topics.
How to Build a Girl is the perfect balance of levity, heart-break, and reality. I highly recommend this to well… everyone. But those most likely to enjoy it will be people with an open mind and understanding of feminism who are willing to stretch just a tiny bit outside of what they perceive their comfort zone to be. It’s worth it.
What do you think, Reader? Could you venture just a little (or a lot) outside of your comfort zone to read this revolutionary book? Or does this sound completely out of bounds for you? I can’t help but shout it from the rooftops. It’s so good.

 

 

 

P.S. If you’ve already read the book, or have no intentions of reading it I might highly recommend my read-along posts:
Part One
Chapters 5 – 10
Chapters 11 – 15
Chapters 16 – 20
Endings

I’m excited to be participating in the tour for Caitlin Moran’s How to Build a Girl, be sure to check out the entire tour schedule here, it runs through 22 October. 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Six Degrees of Separation: Gone Girl

Posted 15 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes

It’s a new month, which means it’s time for another Six Degrees of Separation hosted by Annabel and Emma! I’m a little behind the power-curve this month, but I made it! 


Gone Girl is dark and twisty and delightful. Whenever I hear ‘twisty and delightful’ I think of Chuck Palahniuk. Which of his books to put in the chain?

Let’s go with Haunted which is a collection of short stories. One story involves a boy who has his intestines sucked out by a pool drain pump. It’s dark and funny and as always, totally screwed up.

When I think of people having their intestines sucked out by pool drains I think of John Edwards, but I’d rather talk about his late (sort of) ex-wife Elizabeth. I haven’t read her memoirs Saving Graces – which were written before her husband’s infidelity became public, but she was a figure for both gay rights and I really admired her for filing for legal separation instead of standing by John and just taking the humiliation, like most political wives do.

Since we were talking about politics (and books I haven’t read) – I think of the law (I know, I’m adorable.) Justice Stevens has written a book that I own and am desperate to read: Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. The fact that it had trolls on Goodreads and Amazon before it was even released, made me want to read it even more!

Speaking of trolls and haters, Caitlin Moran’s new book is going to have them coming out in droves, especially if you try to put it in a high school library. How to Build a Girl (you might have seen a post, or seven, about it…) is a delightful coming of age novel that is going to seriously piss some people off. Too bad. It’s fantastic.

Banned books. I’ve already used The Handmaid’s Tale in this meme so lets use something else. How about And Tango Makes Three. Another children’s book that inexplicably (okay, not really inexplicably) pissed people off. How can you hate a book about penguins? I know, I know. They’re gay penguins – so there’s lots of room to hate. <eyeroll>

Let’s end on a positive note. The only public figure I can think of that is more consistently positive than RuPaul is the Dalai Lama. But I’d rather end with RuPaul. RuPaul’s life partner is a man – but he doesn’t identify as gay, still from gay penguins to the drag superstar OF THE WORLD is going to have to work as a link.  Lettin’ It All Hang Out, his 1995 biography, is out of print – but if you can get your hands on it, I highly recommend it. It’s very up-lifting.

So, from Gone Girl to RuPaul’s autobiography Lettin’ it All Hang Out in six easy steps! Do you want to play? I know you do. Here’s how:

Where do YOU go from Gone Girl, Reader? Sorry if I got a bit political and/or America-centric for my international readers – it’s just where the chain took me this month. 


April @ The Steadfast Reader

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How to Build a Girl: Endings (Read Along)

Posted 11 August, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

How To Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran
Read Along! Part Three.

Note: As this is a read along spoilers are gonna spoil ladies and gentlefolk. But it’s gonna be hella fun.

If you want to read along later go to Odyssey Books and get yourself a pre-order! Of course I want to extend a giant thanks to Emily at How the Crowe Flies (and Reads!) and the good people at Harper Collins.


Note Two: These posts are going to have all the language. But on the bright side, it’ll be colorful. Clean readers: This book is not for you.


Final Note: This post differs from many of those on The Steadfast Reader. (Of course it’s still fabulous.) But if it’s not your cup of tea, just know, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming, tomorrow. Also, a proper review (one less gushy and with fewer fangirl moments) will be published on the blog sometime in October. Read along continues every Monday until August 11, 2014.


In case you missed it!

How to Build a Girl – Part One
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 5 – 10
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 11 – 15
How to Build a Girl – Ch. 16 – 20

Part Three

Well. I just have to say, I don’t know if this has been Mr. Toad’s Wild 
Ride for anyone else, but I have thoroughly enjoyed this book.

So at the end of Part Two I thought that Johanna was realizing that her behavior tearing down bands was kind of douchey – but then she continues to act douchey early in chapter twenty one. It’s just not very nice to get people drunk, off the record, and then make fun of their sexual fantasies that they’ve trusted you with. Don’t be a douche, Johanna.



Well, Johanna’s been a douche, so she gets a drink thrown in her face and seems oddly surprised about it. It’s a lesson. Words matter. You know who else is a douche? Kenny. Taking a seventeen year old girl into the bathroom and giving her speed? What the fuck is wrong with these people. But Kenny justifies their douche-baggery and Johanna feels better. Boo, Kenny. Booooo!

I did actually laugh out loud after Johanna blows her nose – thus blowing out her drugs and then asks, “Should I … eat it?” (p. 256)



Johanna becomes the M in the S&M sex with Tony Rich. Who researches S&M at the library? I love Johanna so much. Only tangentially related, I first heard the word ‘masturbation’ on a Roseanne episode and when I asked my parents what it was, I got a very unsatisfactory answer – so I looked it up in the dictionary. So I guess had I wanted to be a lady sex adventurer, I might have gone to the library to research S&M too. Damnit, April.


But, basically we’re back where we were last week – And so we’re back to Johanna not having sex for her own pleasure – but to for the pleasure of the man. Just reference the whole of page 260.


Finally Moran writes in a reminder that Johanna IS seventeen and for all her Lady Sex Adventures – she’s struggling with her feelings for Tony Rich. All the other men seem to be in the periphery, one night stands, but she keeps going back to Rich. In this section much more than the last one, we see Johanna confusing sex with love. Previously – she was using men to gain experience – even if she didn’t understand she should have been enjoying the act as well, she knew she was having casual sex – and she was okay with it. Here, not so much.



Yep. She’s seventeen alright and she has no sense of self … and I don’t think it has anything to do with the lack of mirrors in the house.

Then Krissi tells her how it is. Johanna goes to Krissi, in crisis trying to figure out whether or not Tony Rich is her boyfriend. Krissy: “He’s your smashing posh pedo not-boyfriend.” (p. 263)



Can we stop and talk about the age of consent? It’s really slippery subject that’s a necessary evil to legislate, but I contend that it’s truly different for every person. I’m not sure that 17 to 23 makes Tony Rich a pedophile – but I don’t like him and it has nothing to do with his age.

Before we move on, I want to go back to the scene where Johanna plays her co-workers Dadda’s demo.


I found this scene to be oddly tragic – I think it’s representative of that time in our lives where we finally realize that our parents are just people – they aren’t the all knowing gods and giants that we’ve held them up to be.


Tony Rich’s Parents House – Where Poverty Meets Middle Class.


The whole conversation at the dinner table with Rich’s parents is yet another brilliant commentary showing the juxtaposition between Johanna’s world, where the family barely has enough money to subsist, and upper middle class – where people can sip champagne and laugh at the antics of their black sheep son who chose not to be a lawyer. Similar things happen with Rich’s friends and Johanna’s inner dialogue tells us about her insecurity on the matter. Fabulous commentary.

Okay. Let’s get to the sexy parts.

Johanna’s conversation with Emilia. The subsequent humiliation and the poor poor decision making that the best way to save her pride is to get off with Emilia. She ends up, again confusing her own pleasure with that of someone else. She does what a lot of girls in college did/do – she puts on a show.


In my book – in big capital letters I wrote: this makes no sense!

OF COURSE Rich is into it.
God, he’s such a douche! But Johanna comes back from reapplying her makeup “I am like a dirty goth bride, preparing for her bisexual wedding night.” (p. 274) to find Rich and Emilia have already started. “And suddenly – for the first time in years – I get angry.” (p. 276)



At first I was cheering Johanna on here – because finally! She allows herself to get angry with Tony motherfuckin’ Rich, but then she starts crying and I realize that all this huffing and puffing is a standard teenage heartbreak response – she doesn’t really believe what she’s saying. She still feels less than Tony.


 

Chapter Twenty Three – The Next Day.


I love this realization because it’s the exact opposite of what society teaches girls and women.


Naturally, after coming to terms with the fact that she does indeed have control over her own destiny, she runs to John Kite. …and promptly bursts into tears.

 
YAY JOHANNA!
 


Kite gives her a great pep talk.



Good God. That’s hard cold truth right there. I’ve been biting and scratching my way up, professionally, academically, personally and way too often I tie my self-esteem to my accomplishments, and my self esteem always comes up short. I should emulate Johanna here and put that quote on my mirror.

Kite and Johanna proceed to get incredibly drunk and the last thing we’re treated to before Johanna passes out is her spilling her guts to Kite on how she feels about him. Fade to black. Johanna wakes up the next morning in Kite’s hotel room, it was his turn to sleep in the bath. (p. 285)


Still drunk, with no idea how the night ended, Johanna feels strangely mortified and leaves Kite’s room to (finally) head home. On the bus she picks up a copy of D&ME and reads her own writing.



Johanna has devolved from a blogger before there were bloggers to being a troll before there were trolls. Complete with Godwin’s law.

Upon arriving home, Johanna falls into what can only be described as a deep, black depression. She turns to self harm, and, par for the course, Moran gives us such a great description on why people cut.


Full stop here.

Teenage girls generally don’t just cut once and stop. Just like most people aren’t cured from depression after being lifted from one episode. I felt that this part was just a little off and kind of skimpy on the severity of what it means when kids cut. But I suppose you can’t tackle every teenage issue in one novel.

I did love the bonding time with Krissi – how he cleans her up and takes care of her. Now I’m worried about him, it was astute of Johanna to question whether he’s addicted to Dadda’s pain pills.



Chapter Twenty Four is the culmination of Moran’s manifesto here. Basically, you could skip everything else in the book – read this chapter – and get the essence of the book.

Chapter Twenty Five – I liked – Johanna has reinvented Dolly to be more like herself, a music enthusiast, not a cynic. She’s changed her friends and decided what to keep and what not to keep. These lists have a bit too much clarity from what I’d expect from a teenage girl – but I’m glad she decided to keep having lots of sex with as many people as possible and reject cynicism. Though personally, I’d have gotten rid of the top hat as well.


I loved the heart to heart with mom – glad that the post-partum seems to have lifted and the acceptance and recognition of anti-depressants. In 1993 – that would have been a big fucking deal.


I think that Ali’s part in this book was to be a contrast for what the typical teen experience was versus the experience that Johanna had – it’s a clever device.


Then then then…. the twist we’d all been waiting for. (But kind of knew was coming) the benefits hadn’t been cut because Violet narced on the family – no they were cut because Johanna had decided to leave school, a weird stroke of irony that in her effort to save the family – Johanna caused their downfall.



JOHN KITE FTW. I can’t say much more here, but Ms. Moran, you made me very happy with the ending in regards to John Kite.


It’s still unclear if Johanna knows that Krissi is gay in the epilogue, where he’s coming to London with her for a few weeks – like most seventeen year olds she makes it about herself. “I know what he’s really coming down for: to take me to my first ever gay club, so I can finally make a gay best friend!” (p. 314) No sweetie, he’s looking for a man. I suspect she knows he’s gay – I would have liked to see the conversation – but maybe it was just a close sibling understanding.


That’s all she wrote, Readers! I have so much love for this book. If World Book Night US would have saved itself, I would have handed this out on street corners. Much love to all my fellow #moranalongers. I would have loved this book regardless, but it’s been much more fun with you ladies. How does everyone feel?

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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