afeministreviews

Just giving a feminist critique of the books I read. Pretty simple!

 

My views don't represent all feminists, as we're all different. There are liberal feminists, eco-feminists, radical feminists . . . and so on. I consider myself an anarcha-feminist, which means that I'll also include critiques of capitalism and neoliberalism in my analysis. 

Additionally, I don't think feminism is just about gender -- it's about race, class, sexuality, etc.

I'm also not here to engage with anti-feminists, sorry! 

 

Insurgent  - Veronica Roth

Reading progress update: I've read 102 out of 525 pages.

The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and and How All Men Can Help - Jackson Katz

Reading progress update: I've read 67%.

The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and and How All Men Can Help - Jackson Katz

Reading progress update: I've read 30%.

I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai

Reading progress update: I've read 15 out of 195 pages.

New Start

So, I've decided to frame my reviews: a feminist focus.

 

All reviews prior to this post (likely mass-posted on 5 Oct.) don't necessarily reflect my current views, nor a feminist analysis. They were written in 2010, before I had my "click."

 

I don't know how often I'll be posting or reviewing, as I'm pretty busy this season, but we'll see! I hope to use this space to refine my writing skills and delve deeper into feminist thought.

 

As my blog description states, I'm not here to debate, though if I'm wrong about something, feel free to point it out. I don't intend to host discussions here about the merits of feminism, or to convert skeptics; that's another, separate part of my life.

 

I enjoy reading and hope that, above all, that love shines through any critiques I might have.

 

 

The Rainbow - Daphne Merkin,  D.H. Lawrence

Review from June 2010:

 

[Though I finished this before I created this blog...I'll post it anyway. This is a short, shallow review.


Originally posted on Goodreads:

Though I related more to the characters in this text (in comparison to Sons & Lovers), especially Ursula, I felt that it was somehow...lacking?
I enjoyed seeing contrasts between the couples and their anguish in trying to fully connect with one another. I know that the Cathedrals were an important motif in this novel, but I didn't feel that they spoke to me. Of course, judging merit solely on my relationship with the work is rather foolish. From what I understand, the contents of this book were very controversial at the time it was authored, which does not surprise me. Its take on nationalism and its forthright, beautiful sensuality alone make it worth reading. The depth with which Lawrence goes into each character's wants, fears and very essence act as a bonus, and for me, a reason to delve more into his oeuvre. Though slow at times, this was a great way to spend a few evenings.]
SPOILER ALERT!
American Pastoral - Philip Roth

Review from June 2010:

 

[My opinions aren't quite clear to me when it comes to this book. Usually I can definitively say where I stand with a text, but American Pastoral challenges that notion. The first third of the book, I felt, was uninteresting. Perhaps because I wasn't aware of the narrator and his life (as this was the first novel I'd read by Roth), who knows. But I didn't feel drawn to read by the story as it was playing out. I'm not one for reminiscing on times lost, at least on a grand level like that. Memories interest me when they are tragic- not when they consist of growing up in "innocent" America. This doesn't mean that the text was inherently bad; it might speak of my generation's inability to relate to the experiences of our parents. Either way, only when the plot progressed and the focus left the narrator and his stories did I become more interested. The character of Seymour (I rather dislike saying "The Swede", pardon me) was one my sympathies fall on, which I'm sure was the author's intention. Innocent, hard-working and reliable, Seymour embodied the American ideal of the "Every-man", which was pushed upon him by his immigrant parents. Watching his life get better and better, while knowing that it was soon fall apart was difficult: it was hard not to root for him. As he agonized over what moment has caused his daughter's downfall, one gets the sense of just how grand was Merry's act. Though my sympathy dwindled toward the end with twists that were revealed, I still, after completing the book, felt for Seymour. How can I not? Society has trained me to love the "Good-boy" Archetype, which is very much what Seymour is--just an embodiment of all the hopes and expectations of the time. With the wars and seemingly disappearing innocence, that type was needed more than ever. It satisfied a need that I'm not sure still exists today.

What also interested me, other than Seymour's psyche, was Merry and her life. At first I was disgusted with her (partially her appearance; sorry!) and her actions. How could she find fault with the deaths in Vietnam and then not only condone but commit murder herself? Whining at the dinner table and being just the little rebel with your friends does nothing, just as terrorism achieves nothing. I originally picked up this book because it referenced another work I'm familiar with, Franz Fanon's Wretched of The Earth. Without getting side-tracked by my opinions on that, I'll just say that I took issue with her logic: Colonialism in Algeria differs greatly from any of her perceived enemies. Though, that's not to say, that I am a supporter in any way of War or America's actions in regards to foreign policy. I just found her rather naive. Yet, as she changed into a Jain, I related much more to her plight. Jainism, especially ahimsa, has always been an interest of mine. Enthralled I was by Seymour's (read: America's) take on Merry's philosophy. I take much of my personal beliefs from the religion, so I found myself an opponent of his reactions. Yet, I saw very much what this father did: how every thing was a passing phase for his monster. Merry also functioned as the antithesis of the American dream and Seymour himself, and perhaps to Western culture and values.
I suppose I can sum up my personal reaction much more succinctly. I would not re-read this book. Going through Seymour's mind, while interesting, was arduous. I did not particularly enjoy any passages or feel them resonate with me; but they were something I'm glad I came into contact with. I questioned my own beliefs and struggled with my own notions of what truth really was. For that reason, this is a book worth reading.


Thoughts while reading:

16/June/2010- I'm around page 175 right now. At first it was hard to get into. I'm just not that enthralled by baby boomer memories, which I suppose I should feel bad for admitting. My interest was piqued, however, when the focus shifted from the narrator's old pals and the way things used to be, and onto "The Swede" and how his life fell apart. The language is simple but not juvenile and Roth's insight into Levov's psyche is what is keeping me reading. He doesn't seem to hide anything, and I'm hooked on the honesty. I'm laughing a bit at Merry's feelings, which I'll expound on when I finish.


Quotes:
"Yes, alone we are, deeply alone, and always, in store for us, a layer of loneliness even deeper. There is nothing can do to dispose of that. No, loneliness shouldn't surprise us, as astonishing to experience it might be. You can try turning yourself inside out, but all you are then is inside out and lonely instead of inside in and lonely."
"There is no protest to be lodged against loneliness-- not all the bombing campaigns in history have made a dent in it."]

Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

Review from June 2010:

 

[I originally got started with Vonnegut on the recommendation of an on-line...acquaintance? I was forewarned of his eccentric style and unconventional themes, and was told to start with Slaughterhouse-Five. I didn't, and read Cat's Cradle instead, and Breakfast of Champions and Sirens of Titan soon followed. I finally picked up Slaughterhouse-Five, expecting a master-piece. Well, that's not quite what I received.
It's a rather quick read, which I think is part of the problem for me. I wanted more of the story, though I'm thinking now that the point really isn't with the plot but more the ideas behind the work, which is something I should know by now, after reading some of his other novels. Perhaps I was over-hyping the book; I expected some sort of time-travel epic (ugh, I hate that word now, thanks worthless internet nerds!) and instead got a concise story with a distinct aftertaste. I'm told that this story is one of the great anti-war reads, but I'm not quite sold on that claim.
Yet, I did enjoy it. For instance, the repetition of "So it goes" found a fan in me. Vonnegut's simple style belies his universal and terribly important themes. However, I feel that his ideas are better realized in Sirens of Titan, a favourite of mine. Though not just focusing on war, it had a much bigger impact on me than this book did.
Another selling point! What I often find so annoying in other works is not to be spotted here: unnecessary information. Vonnegut gets straight to the point, though perhaps not chronologically. He doesn't waste words, and every paragraph is an investment to your pleasure and enlightenment. Even the books I've liked least (Cat's Cradle) were worthwhile.
Ultimately, I'd recommend Slaughterhouse-Five just as my friend did. It would surely be an excellent litmus test for whether one would enjoy Vonnegut's style. I've many of his works left to read, so I may change my mind about some of what I've said here. But I think the basic ideas will stay the same: this is a necessary, enjoyable read, but definitely not the only work one should read of this wonderfully imaginative author.

Quotes:
"Another time Billy heard Rosewater say to a psychiatrist, "I think you guys are going to have to come up with a lot of wonderful new lies, or people just aren't going to want to go on living."
"One thing was clear: Absolutely everybody in the city was supposed to be dead, regardless of what they were, and that anybody that moved in it represented a flaw in the design. There were to be no moon men at all."]

SPOILER ALERT!
The Death of Ivan Ilyich/Master and Man - Leo Tolstoy, Ann Pasternak Slater

Review from June 2010:

 

[Yay! Er...not sure if I should say Yay to a story about death.

I'd never read Tolstoy before, so I thought I'd give him a try. My intended minor (whenever I get to transfer...) is Russian & Slavic Culture, so I might as well start now. I chose these two stories because one appears on the 1001 list, and it jumped out at me at the library!

I'm not sure if all Russian literature is like this, but these two short stories were heavy. Full of weight (thanks for this mode of thought, Kundera!) and gravitas. Dealing with death, right choices and redemption, they are certainly not beach reads. I preferred the second story to the first, though the ending of the first was compelling.

What struck me (spoilers!) was the difference between the two characters in Master and Man, as far as how they deal with life and death. Vassili was a trivial, easy to dislike sort of man, who was wholly concerned with profits, no matter the human cost, while his servant Nikita, though troubled by family problems and personal addictions, was an affable fellow. Long story short, in the end Vassili, after turning his back on Nikita in an extreme snowstorm, comes to save him and in doing so, dies. Much like Ivan, he is concerned with how he lived his life, what mistakes he might have made. In his death, he is reborn and redeemed. Death, in the eyes of a viewer, is his gift. Yet as for Nikita, though during the storm he doesn't want to die, he is rather resigned after the debacle. He has tired of all of life's difficulties and just wishes it to be over. It almost makes the gift that Vassili gave worthless. The juxtaposition of these two deaths made for a haunting story.
Even though I would have to anyway, I'm looking forward to reading more from Tolstoy. I read a bit about his personal life, and I'm curious to how it coloured his writing.

Quotes:

(This is from the introduction to the book, and I just thought it was interesting because I adore Lawrence) "Tolstoy is like D.H. Lawrence----on occasion astonishingly repetitive, frequently clumsy. Both allow the thoughts of their characters to suffuse an apparently objective narrative. Unlike the controlled exploration of free indirect discourse in, say, Joyce's Dubliners, what we find in both Tolstoy and Lawrence is the instinctive imaginative projection of the sympathetic author."

-Both are from The Death of Ivan Ilyich- "Everything is always the same. Then hope glints---like a drop of water. A drop lost in a turbulent ocean of despair. And everything is pain again, pain and misery and everything always the same. It is dreadfully sad on his own...."
"There, in his childhood, was something really pleasant that you could live with, if it were to come again. But the person who had experienced that happy time was no more: it was like a memory of another person."
"He heard these words and repeated them in his soul. "Death is finished," he said to himself. "There is no more death."]

Paper Towns -

Review from July 2010:

 


[So I'm obviously behind right now, but I wanted to write this because I've just finished this and I want to review it while it's relatively fresh in my head. I don't read many YA novels anymore, which I see as a good thing, but I'd heard lots of good things about this book from various hangouts on the internet/spots I frequent. I saw it at the library and figured why the hell not.
I started it sometime around 6 yesterday, and read on and off throughout the night, taking time off for some Napoleon Dynamite viewing, hell yeah. I finished around 2 am, happy with the book, and remembering what it was like to have just been starting it. That innocence that I didn't want back, that primordial me. The plot was much different than I expected (I'd been expecting some fantasy elements), yet it was deeper and better than I thought it'd be, and I laughed at some of the passages like I did when I watch the office. The characters were lovable and realistic and reminded me of people I almost knew; of ideas that I used to say hi to. This book made me realize that exactly--that people are just ideas. It reminds me of what my freshman english teacher had told us, about no one ever knowing someone else's heart, think that came from hawthorne.
This is a book to read if you're unsure of your path, if you're contemplating making a clean getaway (heheheh) or thinking about someoen you used to know. The prose (I detest that word) was very easy to get through, but not oversimplified. I didn't *feel* like I was reading a YA novel, and that's what I loved.
You know throughout the book that the journey of introspection is ultimately going to be the more important trip, but you're still hooked, staying in that minimall with Quentin, dreading rats and breathing in Margo.
I adored the literary references, or at least the ones that were made obvious to me (haven't had time to do any kind of deeper analysis here), like Walt Whitman, whom I read in my senior English class years ago. was this what you could call an "i-novel"? I'll look it up.
I'd recommend this to Kerouac fans (though I still haven't finished on the road...) and those who expect a little bit more of their bildungsroman. Green apparently has more works, so I'm going to check them out and read them in between my frenzied 1001 whateverthatwordisicantthinkofrightnow. I'm not going to put up quotes anymore unless I really want to, and maybe I will for this one. Not sure yet. I wasn't especially in love with Margo, but maybe because I see the other side of her, that a "guy" wouldn't see? The not spontaneous and beautiful parts, the quiet parts when you're alone and no one knows you and wouldn't dare call your soul by its name. She's like a sister that I've known all along, and just don't get how people are still drawn to her, but she's my sister so I somehow just *get it*.
The almost running into cows and crying and giving up was poignant.

--jaja, I wrote that around 3 am. I fixed some mistakes, but I'm sure I missed some, and I'm going to just use this because the phrases I used make me laugh. ]

Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice - bell hooks

Met/Attended lecture of bell hooks today and bought this :)

I've never heard of this book but it says I was reading it? Weird. Maybe some issue with my GR import.

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Reblogged from BookLikes
Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference - Cordelia Fine I adored this book. It will be immensely useful both online and in person in discussions over gender, especially when someone brings "science" into the discussion. Far from just being theory, Fine brings in a multitude of studies that back up her assertions, which more or less boil down to what we all learned in Gender Studies 101: gender is a social construct. Fine tackles the idea of brain size, math and science skills, "essential differences", neurosexism, among other issues. The book was by no means dry at all, but it didn't pander to the lazy reader, either. I felt challenged but not overwhelmed. One fact that I'll take from this book concerns gender priming. For example, when a woman is asked to fill out her sex and then take a test (I believe math, but I'll be safe and just say test), her performance sinks. Apparently just being reminded of your gender brings up anxieties related to stereotypes and can affect your scores. That's just one test! Imagine having that happen all the time.This text would be useful to:-any gender studies student-anyone interested in Neuroscience (probably not those who actually teach/research, however)-those who question assertions of male superiority in the sciences as natural-anyone raising children
The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver "This forest eats itself and lives forever." p.5"Leah says in Congo there's only two ages of people: babies that have to be carried, and people that stand up and fend for themselves. No in-between phase. No such thing as childhood. Sometimes I think she's right." p. 358"You have nothing to lose but your chains. But I don't happen to agree. If chained is where you have been, your arms will always bear marks of the shackles. What you have to lose is your story, your own slant. You'll look at the scars on your arms and see mere ugliness, or you'll take great care to look away from them and see nothing. Either way, you have no words for the story of where you came from." p. 495There were more beautiful/moving passages but they were too long. The best can be found in Orleanna's and Adah's narratives.I enjoyed this book because, or perhaps in spite of, its scope. It was a book about a new, strange land. A book about family. About war and religion (aren't they the same?). About Colonialism. About growing up. About loss. I'm not familiar with the Bible so I wasn't able to fully appreciate all of the references to the work, but I could figure out some relevant pieces. I've read some reviews and some people felt that none of the characters were sympathetic. I disagree. Every character had its moments, and more importantly, its own purpose. My favourite was Adah, and then Orleanna. The prose used for these characters was beautiful and effective. Even when Orleanna went a little heavy on the foreshadowing and Adah's backwardssdrawkcab words threw me.My mom recommended this book to me some time ago, and I recommend it to anyone who:-likes family sagas-knows/would like to know a bit about colonialism/missionary work in Africa-questions organized religion-appreciates a good redemption motif-appreciates well-executed speech patterns (really, every character had her own voice. it was excellent!)-wants to sink into a novel

Man Walks Into a Room

Man Walks Into a Room - Nicole Krauss A book better suited for someone of another mind. Or, perhaps, perfectly suited for me: for I do not forget what I should, and invented what should have been buried.Samson was not someone you rooted for. Anna, his forlorn wife, and Donald, his aged pal, were the only sympathetic characters in this debut novel. Having read The History of Love first, I will say that Krauss shows range. I will also grant that she can write some moving passages and stir up some uncomfortable emotions - but that is not enough to fill an entire book. I feel like she had a few points she wanted to make, and quickly chose characters and a plot to bring her ideas to life. Which is fine, but one needs substance to back up ideas, and Man Walks Into A Room very much lacks that. Now, I understand that Samson stands for something else, but guess what: I didn't care. The loss and loneliness, the bigger picture, just wasn't expressed well enough.Very much a rough draft. Also, I'm not sure why, but in her books I've caught the same error: suppose in place of supposed. What's going on here, editors?

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