33 posts tagged books
Good question! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Ain’t I A Woman? by bell hooks
Talkin’ Up To The White Woman by Aileen Moreton-Robinson (she guest lectured a session in one of my undergraduate courses, and was confronting and amazing)
Feminism For Real ed Jessica Yee
Colonize This: Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism ed Daisy Hernandez
Women of Color and Feminism by Maythee Robbs
Daughters of Suburbia: Growing Up White, Middle Class and Female by Lorraine Kenny
And Finally We Meet: Intersections and Intersectionality Among Feminist Activists, Academics and Students ed Alice E. Ginsberg
Given how prominent intersectionality is in online debates around feminism, though, I feel like there is a need for another book I haven’t been able to find yet. Something bold, big picture, modern, accessible and challenging: a Big Idea argument book, rather than another anthology. (Anthologies are great for getting a mix of voices out there, but they tend to be quite piecemeal.)
Great question. The funny thing about non-fiction writing (and any writing really, and possibly even anything) is that the more you do of it, the more critical you become of other people’s attempts. So while something like, say, Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth inspired me to want to write a mainstream feminist book, when I returned to it after writing most of said book, all I could think was, “Naomi, your analysis of power is all wrong.”
Anyway, books that have shaped my thinking in writing my own include (listed in order of most to least accessible) Leonore Tiefer’s Sex Is Not a Natural Act (very readable), Gail Hawkes’sA Sociology of Sex and Sexuality (a bit dense and academic), and Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, which took me three attempts over as many years to understand, but when I finally did, I was like, “Awesome. So you’re basically arguing the same things I am.” I also liked Annie Pott’s The Science/Fiction of Sex which, while a bit academic and from a different perspective to my own, is a fun and smart read.
For non-sex related books, Brigid Delaney’s This Restless Life felt like life wrapped up in a(n admittedly complicated) bow to me when I first read it, and I have recommended it to countless people since. It is smart and ambitious, but very readable and not at all academic. Paul Gilding’s The Great Disruption makes climate change so compelling and easy to understand that I texted my friends in excitement as I read it. Hazel Rowley’s biography of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre is an inspiration, and while I wouldn’t say it has particularly influenced my philosophy per se, Catherine Mayer’s Amortality is an excellent piece of non-fiction work.
Finally, on the fiction side of the fence, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin (much better than the film, IMO), and Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach are all outstanding. If you haven’t yet read them, you are very lucky, because it means you still have the chance to enjoy them for the first time!
This kid’s book looks amazing.
“The new kid in school needs a new name! Or does she?
Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from. But while Unhei practices being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, one of her classmates comes to her neighborhood and discovers her real name and its special meaning. On the day of her name choosing, the name jar has mysteriously disappeared. Encouraged by her new friends, Unhei chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it —Yoon-Hey.”
A lot of my PoC immigrant friends would have needed this book when they were young. You can purchase the book here.
“Mentoring week” is well and truly over now, having stretched over not just a week but more than a fortnight, but there are still a couple of stories I’d like to tell you, so I’m going to continue through to the end of this week. Then I’ll return to your usual scheduled programming of feminist issues.
Today’s story is about coaching. Or specifically, as the title of this post suggests, how hiring a writing coach was the best $240 I ever spent.
I didn’t hire my coach at the start of my career, but just a few months ago in March this year, after I’d already been writing professionally for six years. I didn’t hire her because I didn’t know “how to write”, but because I was about to embark on a journey that was a bit (okay, a lot) outside the scope of anything I or anyone I knew had done: getting a book deal in the US as a first time author who was born in Australia and lives in London. And while I could try to strategise and feel my way through the process, I figured I’d be in a much better position to do it if I sought advice from someone who, you know, actually knows these about things.
And so I hired Brooke. I’d actually heard of her years before I asked her to coach me, through my many friends in the US femmesphere. I’d even sent her a book proposal on the advice of one, five years ago when my understanding of “book proposal” looked more like “hastily written email” (yeah, I didn’t hear anything back).
I knew Brooke worked as a commissioning editor at a publishing house specialising in gender and sexuality. I knew she looked at book proposals all the time. So, when I found out through She Writes that she offered a coaching service, I jumped at the opportunity to work with her.
Who better to tell me if my proposal was ready? Who better to guide me through the confusing process of navigating the publishing world, or fill me in on which agents might be interesting in books like mine? (They must be sending her manuscripts all the time, right?)
I have to admit, when I went into our first session, I kind of hoped she would say, “Your work is amazing. Get thee a six-figure book deal now!” Yeah. She didn’t. She said I had the bones of a good idea, but she hoped that I was willing to work on it.
So we did. It turned out that I didn’t need to change the concept that much after all: it was more about clarifying what the hell I was talking about. She got me to redraft my chapter names from simple and (I liked to think) Alain de Botton-esque, to something catchier, more exciting and, well, more American. We decided to add an extra chapter to the structure… and then I went out and wrote that chapter to replace one of the ones in my original proposal. She drove me to clarify my ideas, encouraged me when I felt like everything was hopeless, and gave me a solid set of deadlines to keep me honest.
Last week, after three and a half months working together, we agreed that my proposal was ready to send out into the world. And something amazing happened, which could never have happened without her. In an industry where would-be authors are led to expect to wait for months to hear back on anything they send out, I received an offer of representation four days after I sent out my initial query letter. From an amazing agent who not only “gets” what the book is about, but who shares my greatest creative and commercial dreams for it, and who believes we can make those dreams a reality. I haven’t cracked my dream yet, but I’m one significant step closer to doing it.
That’s not why I’m writing this post in praise of Brooke – I had this series planned out a couple of weeks before I even sent out my query. And I knew I wanted to write a post like this months before this series was planned, after my second or third session with Brooke. I knew then that I was getting something truly invaluable from our relationship: direction, motivation, and a set of objective eyes who could tell me when I was being a perfectionist, and when I really did need to do another redraft.
So what’s the take away here for you? I don’t think a coach is the answer to everything that ails you – and I wouldn’t recommend hiring one unless it’s to help you with something you’re very actively working towards and they have specific expertise in that area (or unless you have money to burn and hiring coaches is something you’re able to do as a hobby). And like mentors, coaches can only help you if you’re willing to put in the work yourself.
But if there’s a specific hurdle you’re facing and you know there’s someone out there who can guide you to the answers, hiring them to do that can be a transformative experience – even more so than having an informal mentor, and especially if you’re not in the position where you already know someone who will help you out for free.
Related: It’s mentoring week here at Musings of an Inappropriate Woman
Mentoring week: Putting together your mentoring dream team
Mentoring week: Do men and women mentor differently?
Mentoring week: Mentoring and the media industry
The Great Disruption, by Paul Gilding.
I have not been this excited by a non-fiction book since Brigid Delaney’s This Restless Life in 2009. Since starting it last week, I have bombarded friends with text messages, and The Boyfriend and our house guests with ceaseless conversations trying to explain why, exactly, I like it so much.
I want to buy it for around 8 people, and have a big, The Great Disruption-based book club.
I’m planning to write something more substantial on it in the next few weeks (which I will either link to or post here), but basically, the core argument is that we won’t take serious action on climate change until we can’t hold off any longer, but once do, we will act swiftly and near unilaterally - think World War II or the Global Financial Crisis.
For me, it explains the kind of denialism most of us (including myself) are currently embedded in - not the full-scale, this-is-a-global-conspiracy denialism, but the more insidious kind, in which we know intellectually that climate change is real, but haven’t fully emotionally registered the impacts, because we hope that it won’t be “that bad”.
It also raises questions about international and global political processes. Is there really a difference between voting for mainstream left-wing political leaders who pay lipservice to climate change but don’t act, or voting for conservative political parties who are in full-scale denial but will be forced to act eventually? Or will the slow, incremental changes already taking place set us in better stead once Gilding’s ‘Great Disruption’ comes into full force? And can something like the UN climate conferences ever effect the change we need?