The Feminist Book Fortnight is a chance for bookshops and book people to highlight feminist books and events, and we thought we’d join in with a selection of great feminist titles.
Essays, photography or graphic novel: scroll on to find out what we’ve loved reading, and maybe discover a new favourite in the process.
Icon edited by Amy Scholder
(9781558618664, The Feminist Press, p/b, £14.99)
I was really excited for this when it first came out in 2014, mostly because it included essays by both Mary Gaitskill and Justin Vivian Bond, whom I love. The entire collection turned out to be amazing. In nine original essays, prominent writers talk about the public figures who have inspired them the most, and the result is a tribute to some really incredible women, many of whom don’t get the respect they deserve in the mainstream media. Mary Gaitskill’s essay on Linda Lovelace, the pornstar made famous by hardcore film Deep Throat, is a real gem, as is Kate Zambreno’s writing on Kathy Acker. The whole book is just great, and offers a much-needed insight into a group of unconventional women who have fought hard for their success and recognition, however that may look.
I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya
(9780735235939, Random House Canada, h/b, £12.99)
Published last year, I’m Afraid of Men is a powerful, hard-hitting and poignant exploration of toxic masculinity from a trans perspective. So much written on this subject comes from straight and cisgendered voices, making Vivek Shraya’s longform essay all the more vital. In it, she describes growing up as a feminine boy and being taught to hate her femininity by the various men in her life. As an adult, she’s undone some of this damage but shows how the violence of it still sticks. It’s funny in places, cutting in others, and most readers will relate to some part or another.
Against Memoir by Michelle Tea
(9781936932184, The Feminist Press, p/b, £15.99)
I’ve already written about how much I love this book (and Michelle Tea more generally) on this blog, so for a longer, more vigorous love-in about it you can read more here. For now I’ll just say Against Memoir is incredible, and something I’ve been turning back to time and time again since it came out. For some truly badass women, read HAGS IN YOUR FACE particularly, and Tea’s tribute essay to SCUM Manifesto author Valerie Solanas would be a good one to look up for Feminist Fortnight too.
I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi
by Gina Siciliano
(9781683962113, Fantagraphics, h/b, £25.99)
I Know What I Am isn’t actually published until October, so it will completely miss Feminist Fortnight, but it looks so good I wanted to mention it as a bonus. It’s a graphic biography of Italy’s greatest female painter, Artemisia Gentileschi, who painted alongside the Old Masters but got comparatively no recognition by fault of her being born a woman. In this stunning comic book, Gina Siciliano paints a complex, feminist portrait of Artemisia as a single mother, a sexual assault survivor, and a pioneering practitioner of her craft.
100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism by Chavisa Woods
(9781609809133, Seven Stories, p/b, £11.99)
Like basically every woman, Chavisa Woods has experienced gender-based harassment, abuse and discrimination at a near-constant rate throughout her life. In 100 Times she details these incidents, from workplace harassment to attempted assaults and non-consensual groping, from the time she was five years old through to the present day. Through this catalogue of personal evidence, Chavisa points out that sexual violence and discrimination are not just isolated incidents but are “part of an endless stream of sexist experiences”.
All of Me: Love, Anger, and the Female Body edited by Dani Burlisson
(9781629637051, PM Press, p/b, £17.99)
How do you survive as a woman in the modern world? In All of Me, writers such as Laurie Penny, Silvia Federici and Ariel Gore confront that question with ideas of radicalism and healing. Drawing from both cis and trans perspectives, All of Me is an inspiring anthology for seasoned activists and newcomers alike, focusing on the critical importance of intersectionality and common ground in feminist movements.
So Real it Hurts by Lydia Lunch
(9781609809430, Seven Stories, p/b, £12.99)
Lydia Lunch is brutal. Defiant, uninhibited and unapologetic, her personal essays are like a truncheon coming down on your skull. Lunch is absolutely braining the audience with the truth. So Real It Hurts opens with the Orwellian image of ‘a boot stamping on a human face – forever’ and never really lets up, with scathing treatises on No Wave, counterculture, and heroes, and visceral revenge fantasies against foul-as-hell men… but. But there are also essays about crying children, abuse and the effects of poverty in which Lydia Lunch is – dare I say it? – practically tender. If it were a person, So Real It Hurts would be smiling at you while it stepped on your throat.
Exposure by Olivia Sudjic
(9781999922337 Peninsula Press, p/b, £6.00)
Olivia Sudjic’s debut novel, Sympathy, was published last year to great acclaim, and this non-fiction examination of the unfair pressures female writers are put under touches on similar issues of anxiety, narcissism, and internet feminism. Drawing on her own experiences with mental health issues and the work of a wide variety of authors such as Elena Ferrante, Maggie Nelson, Jenny Offill, Rachel Cusk and others, Sudjic here describes with crystalline, undeniable clarity the reality of being a woman in the public eye in the twenty-first century. Exposure lays bare much more than its slim width would suggest.
Lovin’ My Car: Women in the Driver’s Seat by Libby Edelman
(9781576879177, PowerHouse Books, p/b, £20.99)
This vibrant, glossy photo book collects images of women and their cars, from Laura and her prize-winning 1958 Corvette and Maggie’s ‘61 Classic Rambler Wagon named ‘Bessie’, to Natalie’s 4-wheel drive 1982 ‘hi-lux’ Toyota pick-up truck and Stella’s collection of ‘junker’ school buses that she races on weekends.
Each photo is accompanied by the story of what each vehicle means to its owner, and the result is a fascinating, coast-to-coast look at a subculture often rendered completely invisible.
The Inking Woman edited by Nicola Streeten & Cath Tate
(9780995590083, Myriad Editions, p/b £19.99)
There’s so much to love here, and so much to learn. I spend a lot of time thinking about what we record, who we record, and how we record for posterity, and it’s anthologies like these that really give me pause. Much of the history reproduced in these pages was brand new to me, and I find that both exciting and upsetting: so much of women’s work goes unrecorded that finding out about the bits that did leave a mark is both saddening and exhilarating.
I’m still gutted I missed the original exhibition at the Cartoon Museum, but I love every page in this book. It’s a brilliant, essential work of reference.
The Mental Load: A Feminist Comic by Emma
(9781609809188 Seven Stories Press, p/b, £12.99)
The Mental Load is a collection of feminist comics by French cartoonist Emma. On the surface it looks like a bunch of simplistic line drawings, but then you start reading and before you know it you’re enraged all over again about the state of the world. It doesn’t pull any punches and discusses everything from post-natal depression to domestic violence, and even the humour in the drawings doesn’t pull away from the piercing observations on the page. One quote in particular stuck with me:
“when a man expects his [female] partner to ask him to do things, he is viewing her as the manager of their household chores.”
‘Enjoyed’ is perhaps not the right word, but I certainly found it sharp, smart, and sobering.