Monday, November 3

Reading Challenge 2014: Update #3

9. The Virgins by Pamela Erens

Aviva Rossner and Seung Jung are an unlikely couple at the elite East Coast boarding school and are not shy in flaunting their newly discovered sexuality. Their blossoming relationship is watched with envy and fascination by Bruce and other classmates, who believe their liaison to be one of pure, unadulterated passion and pleasure.

But nothing is what it seems, and as Aviva and Seung struggle to understand themselves and each other, things begin to fall apart. Their ultimate descent into shame and betrayal has disastrous consequences far beyond their own lives.

I don't know how I feel about this book; I would not be surprised if Sofia Coppola turned it into a film, that in itself is both a compliment and an insult (for a book at least). It's beautifully atmospheric and perfectly sets the scene of a 1970's preppy boarding school filled with hormonal teenagers, but it also lacks depth - you never really know or understand the characters.

The story is told through Bruce, a classmate of the main characters Aviva and Seung. Through his retelling of the events surrounding their relationship, you get the impression that Bruce barely knows the characters, let alone the ins and outs of their relationship - although an interesting plot device that keeps you intrigued, it borders on frustrating, and just plain irritating. I suppose to a certain extent 'The Virgins' depicts the way a high-school rumour-mill works, running completely on hearsay and 'Chinese whispers', but I think I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if it didn't rely entirely on that.

10. All The Rebel Women by Kira Cochrane

Kira Cochrane’s 'All the Rebel Women' is an irrepressible exploration of today’s feminist landscape, asking how far we have come over the past century – and how far there still is to go. Whether engaging with leading feminists, describing the fight against rape culture or bringing immediate, powerful life to vital theories such as intersectionality, 'All the Rebel Women' binds everything together into one unstoppable idea. This is modern feminism. This is the fourth wave.

My first e-book, downloaded out of curiosity and because it was cheap. More of an extended essay, than anything else, but filled to the brim with information and interesting (surprising, disappointing, etc) facts. Only £1.99, so definitely worth the money. It's super fact-y, it reads a bit like a report - statement, followed by a percentage, followed with a conclusion; not that the facts presented weren't interesting, just that they came very quickly after each other, but it was good to read a book on feminism from a UK perspective.

11. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

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.

This book made me smile, made me nod in agreement, made me laugh out loud on public transport, made me cry, made me angry and possibly most importantly made me a little more comfortable in my feminism; it has also made me consider what it means for me to be black and a feminist, which is something that I've been more aware of in the past few years - I like the idea that feminism doesn't have to be what anyone else tells me it is regardless of how many people (journalists, public figures, celebrities...) are willing to tell me what it should be. My feminism is defined by who I am and my experiences up to this point.

The book does however cover a wider range of subjects outside of feminism - ranging from race and literature to Competitive Scrabble and Sweet Valley High. Of course there are parts that I don't agree with, but I never felt like Gay was telling me that this is what I should think, this is just what she thinks about certain things.

"I embrace the label of bad feminist because I am human. I am messy....I am not trying to say I'm right. I am just trying - trying to support what I believe in trying to do some good in this world."


And with that I'm all caught up! 

At the moment I'm biding my reading time with Crime and Punishment as recommended by my supervisor, that is until Amy Poehler's book Yes Please is finally (FINALLY) released. Finally. 

I think that every funny book, every lady-centric book, every repeat viewing of Parks and Rec/Mean Girls/Baby Mama, every re-watch of The Golden Globe opening monologues of the past two years, every highlighted Amy Poehler anecdote in Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey's books and every Bronx Beat video have been leading up to this point - I am so very ready for Amy Poehler's book, the best thing is I know Amy will not disappoint me. It is time.

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