Saturday, January 02, 2016

books on women, writing, survival, and history

In no particular order, the following ten books are on my reading list.

1. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Vanity Fair describes this book as "the British version of Tina Fey's Bossypants." Funny enough, I read Bossypants in a few days this past summer, and I highly recommend it. I'm a terribly slow reader, so the fact that I read it in less than a week says something.

This was one of my Christmas gifts this year, and I'm already in love with it. I've already started jotting down several quotes to look back on later:

"However, while chipping in your two cents on what it's actually like—rather than what we pretend it's like—to be a woman is vital, we still also need a bit of analysis-y, argument-y, 'this needs to change-y' stuff. You know. Feminism." (page 11)

"I don't know if we can talk about 'waves of feminism anymore—by my reckoning, the next wave would be the fifth, and I suspect it's around the fifth wave that you stop referring to individual waves and start to refer, simply, to an incoming tide." (page 13)

2. On Writing by Stephen King

I love a good memoir. The book is described as "part memoir, part master class" on the back cover. Perfect. 

3. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

I recently found out that a friend of mine, Julian, connects with this book similarly to how I connect with The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. It's very important to him. He's listened to the book multiple times, and often gives it to others as a gift.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm supposed to read the book first. He agreed to watch the movie with me as soon as I finish the book.

4. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

My older brother, Ben, gave this to me for Christmas this year.

I honestly have no idea what to expect from this book. Unfortunately, I don't know anything about Kurt Vonnegut. Apparently he is very funny, yet the subject matter of the book being the firebombing of Dresden during World War II, I wonder how he manages to weave in humor.

I don't read nearly enough historical books, which is odd for me, so I'm curious to see how this goes.

5. 1493: Uncovering the New World that Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann

My AP European History class read excerpts of this book earlier in the year as part of our unit on exploration.

My oldest brother, Sam, also strongly recommended this to me. This one will definitely take some time.

6. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Another historical book, this one taking place during World War II. Highly recommended by many.

Similar to 1493, this one will take me some time, but I'm excited to start reading it.

7. Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

Given that I'm planning to study Women's, Gender and Sexuality studies as an undergraduate, this one might not be a bad idea. Besides, it looks interesting, and of all of us out there who identify as feminists, none of us are perfect.

In my U.S. History II class last year, our teacher said to us,
"Raise your hand if you believe that men and women should be socially, politically, and economically equal." Everyone raised there hand, some more hesitant than others. He had told us before doing this exercise that he had a trick to show us.

"Okay, now keep your hand raised if you are a feminist." Nearly half of the hands in the room went down, after hearing the dreaded f-word. That was his trick. The definition of feminism is exactly that: the belief of social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

I started reading this around 7:30 last night, and I couldn't put it down. Next time I checked the clock, it was 12:30 in the morning. It's funny, honest, and eye-opening and I love it, and highly recommend it.

8. The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women by Jessica Valenti

No shame at all, I'm so excited to read this.

There's an unbelievable amount of bullshit about virginity in our culture. This all ties back to the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.

9. Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity by Matt Bernstein Sycamore

Sensing a theme?

I had a strange identity confusion/crisis/something about three years ago, from the summer after eighth grade through the majority of my freshman year.

I had come out to everybody as bisexual at the end of eighth grade, and I honestly shouldn't have. I was terribly confused about my sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, as well as distinguishing the differences between the three. Back then, I didn't know those were three separate things; they all blurred together in one big question mark.

At first, there were the times where I preferred to wear slacks and button-down shirts instead of dresses and still identified as a girl. Then there were the few months where I started to wear tight sports bras regularly, baggy pants and shirts, and was often mistaken to be a guy. I liked that.

For several months, I felt very neutral, like I didn't fit in with boys or girls.

I even considered gender neutral names, such as Alex, Max, Chris, or Jamie. I settled on Dylan. I thought about testing it out at camp the upcoming summer, to see how I liked it. Several close friends knew that I was pondering a different name, and they were incredibly supportive. "Just let me know if you decide to go by Dylan, alright? It's all good." One of them said.

However, I gave it some time. I wanted to see if I still felt this way, like a neutral Dylan Winter Heels, after another few months.

Turns out that after the time had passed, I didn't feel the same. I felt like a young woman.
And that was that.

For a quick and easy diagram on sexual orientation, biological sex, gender identity, and gender expression, Sam Killerman is your guy. In his latest version of his diagram "The Genderbread Person," he makes the important distinction between romantic attraction and sexual attraction. I also read one of his books, The Social Justice Advocate's Handbook: A Guide to Gender, and highly recommend it for anyone who wants to understand the complexities of gender. It's easy to digest, funny, and full of diagrams and comics.

10. It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

This was strongly recommended to me by a friend who has struggled with similar obstacles as I have. I actually bought the book about two years ago and blogged about it as a part of my (failed) picture-a-day project.

Unfortunately, at the time that I bought it, I thought that the worst of these struggles was behind me. Now, however, I've been making incredible progress and I know that I can handle reading this.

I've read several chapters already, and much like I did with Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, I see my old self in the main character, Craig Gilner. Incredibly comforting, actually.