Tag Archives: women

* Trenton Makes by Tadzio Koelb

The heroine of Trenton Makes murders her abusive husband and starts living as a man — an admittedly desirable choice in 1946. She finds a factory job and a common-law wife, but her double life will eventually unravel.  An unusual premise an an intriguing start could not rescue the story for me, which quickly veered towards far-fetched situations and a long, boozy grind towards her eventual unmasking.

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Filed under New fiction

*** The Electric Woman by Tessa Fontaine

The author of The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts has a very, very sick mother — but most importantly she has decided to join the circus! After practicing fire eating, she signs up and discovers stupefyingly long hours, dangerous working conditions, certainly unpleasant ones, and an unforgettable cast of characters and situations.

This is the book for you if you’ve always wondered how to carry a snake on your shoulders, or light lightbulbs with your tongue. Also how a season with a carnival troupe can be exhilarating and perhaps life-changing.

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Filed under True story

** Ask Me About My Uterus by Abby Norman

In the well-worn format of contrasting personal experience with general research, Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women’s Pain tells of the author’s years-long search for relief from endometriosis pain and the more general problem of women’s pain being dismissed as either exaggerated or all in their heads.

The author makes a great point that women’s pain is dismissed too easily, but the issue may be more complicated than that, namely that, once physicians have ruled out all the causes they can think about (or, more modestly, that they can test), they then declare that the issue is psychological. And there is not much of an incentive to keep searching for the root cause in a system that’s fee-based, and for a patient that is not insured to boot.

 

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Filed under Non fiction

*** Dress Like A Woman by Abrams Books, Vanessa Friedman, & Roxane Gay

Dress Like a Woman: Working Women and What They Wore simply shows 240 photos that show women at work, young and old, famous and (mostly) not, doing typically feminine work and aggressively atypical work, humble and extraordinary work, alone or together. There is remarkably little text and the result is brilliantly eloquent.

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Filed under Non fiction

* A Lab of One’s Own by Patricia Fara

I wanted to like A Lab of One’s Own: Science and Suffrage in the First World War, and I wanted to recommend it, but alas I found it mostly boring. Sure, the women described in it, who marched for the right to vote, who tolerated terrible working conditions, who had to leave England to be allowed to study medicine, who persevered while idiotic speeches were made explaining that women were too stupid and fragile to work, who were paid a fraction of what men made for the same work because, after all, they don’t need to buy tobacco, al these women are remarkable and brave and interesting. Sadly, the book is dull.

 

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Filed under Non fiction

** Women and Power by Mary Beard

Women and Power: A Manifesto, contains the transcriptions of lectures about sexism, and lectures don’t translate well into books. That said, the author’s considerable erudition takes us seamlessly from Homer to Twitter, showing that trolls and idea-stealers come from a long and sad tradition. I would have liked a bit of optimism with all that sad, long history.

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Filed under Non fiction

*** A Long Way From Home by Peter Carey

I loved A Long Way From Home, which takes us, very literally, around Australia in a madcap road race on dubious roads and in standard cars. We all root for a couple who wants the recognition to start a dealership, assisted by a fired schoolteacher who will discover his roots, very unexpectedly, during the trip. It’s the 1950s and the brutal treatment of Aborigines is just coming to be known, if still tolerated, and the second part of the story dwells heavily on that topic.

Written in alternate chapters penned by the wife, a fast and fearless driver battling the usual sexist strictures of the time and the navigator, the schoolteacher, the book is full of well-observed details of daily life even as the competitors race around Australia (and you will be sorely tempted to follow along on your favorite maps app).  I could have done without some of the more elegiac chapters at the end of the book but I still warmly recommend it.

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Filed under New fiction