Thursday, November 15, 2018
Read by Bahni Tupin
Published August 2014 by Harper Collins
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library
A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.
“Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.”
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
If you are not made uncomfortable by this collection of essays, I want to meet you, I think. You are either the most culturally aware, well-educated and understanding person I have heard of, in which case I need to pick your brain. Or, you really don't get it and you are just the kind of person that will cause me to bang my head on the table in frustration.
I thought I was getting a book of essays about feminism, which, as you can see from the summary is not all this collection includes. I was a little disappointed that I didn't get what I wanted, in that regard. On the other hand, Gay certainly gives readers a lot to think about with this collection, in which she takes aim at everyone - men, women, whites, blacks, Quentin Tarantino, Chris Brown, Charlie Sheen, and Tyler Perry. And Caitlin Moran. You know how much I love Moran and how much I loved her book, How To Be A Woman so you can imagine how my hackles were raised when Gay questioned some of the statements Moran made in that book. I can't deny that Gay raises legitimate points, though.
Many of the essays were remarkably eye-opening for this white woman who is trying hard to understand what life is like for black people in this country. I'm feeling pretty damn guilty now for enjoying both the book The Help and the movie adaptation of it. I'm almost afraid to go read my review of that book now. Gay doesn't just want white people to face up to the racism we don't even see. She is definitely not a fan of Tyler Perry, seeming to feel that he has built a career on stereotypes of race and sex. In The Racism We All Carry, Gay talks about the rules of racism and the fact that everyone carries some degree of racism even if we largely keep it hidden from the world.
Other essays made this liberal, feminist lady cheer, especially The Alienable Rights of Women, which talks about the right of women to control their own bodies, and Bad Feminist Take Two, which talks about the struggle women have with being feminists (is it ok to like fashion if we truly want to be considered a feminist?).
Yet others broke my heart. Tragedy. Call. Compassion. Response. talks about our response to the world's tragedies, both large and small, including the massacre in Norway and the death of Amy Winehouse. The Careless Language of Sexual Violence is both heartbreaking and infuriating.
If you're ready to be pushed out of your comfort zone, if you're ready to think about uncomfortable subjects, I can definitely recommend this collection. And now I have to go rethink a lot of what I've said and done.