Wending My Way through Women’s Studies

When you start to read on any one topic with a certain focus or goal, you’re bound to get off-track, and most of that (at least in my case) can be attributed to the number of references to other work I’ve stumbled upon as I make my way through the Women’s Studies section here.

 

Whether due to many of the extensive bibliographies at the back, casual references to other books throughout the works I read, or whole sections on authorial influences, while reading my way through our Women’s Studies section, I found myself straying from my designated path into everything from pop culture to ethnicity studies, history to art criticism, philosophy to nature essays.

 

Really, I was running all over the bookstore (and the wonderful Seattle Public Library system) in an attempt to satiate my reading needs.

 

So, did I make it through every book on the shelves here?

 

Not quite, but I certainly came out better than I thought, and now my brain snacking on all sort of knowledge, new thoughts, challenging ideas, and informed perspectives. Here are a few of my favourites in our Women’s Studies section I think are particularly noteworthy:

Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by Bell Hooks

No list I could create on this topic would be complete without at least one of Bell Hooks’ books. This is the book I want to put into a person’s hand when they don’t feel they have a clear picture of what feminism is or can be, or feel a little lost. This one is a classic must-read for, well, everybody.

…Maybe I should start walking around with an extra copy in my bag…

Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier

Having an idea about how cultural perception and gender stereotypes have shaped our approach to history, science, and our bodies is one thing, but having a writer like Natalie Angier actually show you how this has happened (and continues to happen!) is completely different…and for me, much more meaningful. I honestly expected to leave this book with a sense of outrage at how much these biases have shaped the world we’ve created, but Angier writes with a straightforward approach that offers suggestions for improvement and enlightenment.

Don’t Call Me Inspirational: A Disabled Feminist Talks Back by Harilyn Rousso

When I finished this book, I felt chastised and entertained, and I left it a far more thoughtful person. This book reads as an open letter to the world–to you, to me, to all of us–and Rousso wastes no time in setting us straight and laying down a few essential ground rules. I adore this book because of the honesty with which Rousso writes offers both humour and critical insight as she forces you to reconsider feminism and disability politics.

Shout Out: Women of Color Respond to Violence

I’m not certain where to start with this book. I know it’s going to stay with me long after many of the other books I read from the Women’s Studies section have started to fade from my mind. A collection of essays, poetry, creative non-fiction, and experimental form, this book is complex, powerful. I recommend picking up a copy and allowing yourself time to read it.

The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor

This book came as a bit of a surprise to me, as I wasn’t expecting it to reach me like it did. I may have judged this book at a glance (I know better! Or I should!), because I went into it thinking it would be a surface read: quick, fun, and easy. Instead, it resonated with me and slowed me down in a way that had me reconsider my own creative outlets and allowances. It’s honestly a book I wish I had known about while I was in grad school!

 

And, because I strayed from my Women’s Studies path, here are a few of the other unexpected gems I read along the way:

Stigmata: Escaping Texts by Helene Cixous

Until I started to read through the Women’s Studies section, I’d never heard of Helene Cixous…but suddenly she was everywhere I read. Naturally, I had to follow this trail through to its natural end and read as many Cixous texts as I could get into my hands. This is not light reading, but delectably heady philosophy. I highly recommend her.

She Matters: A Life in Friendships by Susanna Sonneberg

A memoir through female friendships… I think any woman who has had or has female friends in her life will find in this book memories quite intimate. I particularly enjoyed reading this book for the bonds of friendship Sonneberg has struggled to repair, maintain, or regain as time passes, and for the intimacy she brings in writing this book.

Hild by Nicola Griffith
This book came into my life at just the right time (while I was working my way through the Women’s Studies section). A much-needed work of fiction, I devoured this with a greed I reserve for my absolute favourite stories. Meticulously researched, Hild is lush with historic medieval detail and bold characterization. Griffith writes the story of Hild, and in doing so, fills in the spaces of history with luminescence.

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