What better way to spend the holiday season than cozying on up with a great book, some pumpkin bread, and a huge cup of coffee? Now that school is out of session, I finally have time to catch up on reading books that aren’t found on my course syllabi. My list of books to read is endless, so I have no choice but to narrow it down to a reasonable amount.
So far, I have read two amazing books by two amazing, feminist authors. First, I read Gender Trouble by Judith Butler. I had already read numerous articles and excerpts written by Judith Butler, so I assumed I would love the book… I was right. Her work is both theoretical and intellectual, revolutionary yet completely grounded in reality. Gender Trouble is one of Butler’s earlier books and considered to be part of the canon for feminist and queer theory. In this text, Butler completely challenges our understandings of gender, sexuality, and social constructionism. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in identity politics!
After this, I decided it was time for a break from theory. I needed something easy to read, but equally thought-provoking and inspiring, so I turned to Overcoming Speechlessness by Alice Walker. Before I delved into the text, I spent some time thinking about what it means to be speechless. We are often speechless in light of a situation which elicits a strong emotional response; whether our reaction is positive or negative is irrelevant. After spending a great deal of time pondering the meaning of the title, I turned to the first page and started reading. Once I started, I did not stop until I reached the end. As part of a trip organized by Women for Women International, Walker travelled to Rwanda, Eastern Congo, and Palestine/Israel. She documents her experiences, which later turn into a poem known as Overcoming Speechlessness. Needless to say, I was not left speechless after reading the text. In fact, my mind was racing with thoughts at such a speed that I could barely keep up with them! Walker transported me to a world full of terrible injustices and human rights violations, yet allowed me to see beyond this exterior. Regardless of these terrible situations, there is still love, humanity, and a strong sense of community. Simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming, Overcoming Speechlessness is definitely one of the most powerful texts I have ever read.
Next up on my never-ending list of books to read is Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio. When I first met my best friend, she told me that this book completely changed her life by re-introducing her to feminism and empowerment. Having known nothing about the content of the book, I was intrigued to learn more. I have finally gotten around to reading this book and must say I am pleasantly surprised! I am only a few pages in to the text but can already recognize why my friend loves this book so much. Muscio’s ideas can be controversial, challenging, and absolutely incredible. In this text, she argues that women need to reclaim the word cunt because it represents womanhood, passion, and strength. As Ophira Edut at Bust Magazine says, “Cunt does for feminism what smoothies did for high-fiber diets—it reinvents the oft-indigestible into something sweet and delicious.”
Once I finish reading Cunt, I hope to read a few more books before returning to school, including:
For Colored Girls that have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is not Enuf by Ntozake Shange – I had never heard of this book until it became a major motion picture. From what I had heard, the film discussed issues such as abortion, sexual assault, identity poltiics, and more. Before running to the theater to check out what sounded like a great movie, I decided to pick up a copy at my local bookstore. I’m really looking forward to reading this book, watching the film, and comparing the two!
Nimos War, Emmas War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War by Cynthia Enloe – Next semester, I will be taking on an independent project on women and Islam. When I first approached my professor to discuss this, she gave me some suggestions of texts which I could include in the syllabus. I chose not to use this book because it was slightly unrelated to the other books I would be reading, but it definitely fits in to my areas of interest. Enloe’s text follows the life of eight women during the Iraq War – four from the United States and four from Iraq. In doing so, she offers a realistic portrayal of women’s lived experiences during wartime which challenges the stories which are presented by mainstream news and media sources.
So what have you been reading recently?