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Because I am an angry feminist with nothing better to do than corrupt the youth and therefore our collective future, I have been reading a lot of books by women with opinions (a sure road to destruction). The topics range from celebrities to family dynamics to relationships with our bodies, but all of these books are written and about women who are in some way ‘unruly’ and trying to be unapologetic for it. These have been some of my favorites of the past few months.
Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of Unruly Women by Anne Helen Peterson — Peterson is a culture writer for Buzzfeed (and a UT alum, hook ‘em!). I read everything she publishes on the internet, so obviously I was ecstatic when her book came out. This collection of essays analyzes ten different female celebrities who are all, in different ways, ‘unruly.’ They break the norms of traditional femininity and challenge the traditional gender roles in Hollywood. Go read everything AHP publishes, like I do, starting with this book.
Priestdaddy: A Memoir by Patricia Lockwood — Patricia Lockwood is a poet who was once called “the poet laureate of Twitter.” Lockwood’s memoir is about growing up with a Catholic priest for a father. But her father is a decidedly untraditional priest, and she is a wonderfully untraditional writer, weaving in poetry, hilarity, and commentary on Midwestern culture (she says she was raised in ‘all the worst cities in America’) to her story of moving back into her parents’ house with her husband during a financial crisis. I literally cackled aloud while reading this alone in my bedroom.
All The Live I Want: Essays About My Best Friends Who Happen To Be Famous Strangers by Alana Massey — In this collection of essays, Massey analyzes what the treatment of female celebrities and pop culture figures (ranging from Lil’ Kim to Gwyneth Paltrow) says about womanhood in America. She is smart and incisive, and her essay about Sylvia Plath and the teenage-girl-Tumblr obsession with her is especially moving and relevant. Also look at that beautiful cover!
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay — Look, Roxane Gay has the range. If you’re not reading her, I don’t know what you’re doing. But in case you live under a rock where you haven’t heard of Gay: her prose is incandescent. Gay was gang-raped at twelve and turned to food as a means of control and comfort. Her memoir of moving through the world in what she terms an ‘unruly’ body— a body that takes up too much space— is heartbreaking and enraging and everything I needed.
Abandon Me by Melissa Febos — This is a chronicle of Febos’s relationship with a woman that she thought was the love of her life. The first six essays were written while she was still in that relationship, and the last and longest was written after the relationship fell apart. That last essay explores her relationship with her absent father, her identity as a Native American, and her family dynamics while parsing all of the stages of a horrific break-up. The prose is beautiful and kept me entranced all the way through.
What I’m Reading Around the Web