The Bell Jar

It’s been around a month since I finished this novel and I still don’t know exactly how to say how I feel about it. This articulate, funny, intimate, and authentic novel is about the depression and breakdown of Esther Greenwood. But through that, it’s about the inescapable confines the expectations of being a woman in Post-modern Western society.

Esther is a studious and successful nineteen year-old. She’s in New York for wining a writing contest and is enrolled in an advanced English program where she can devise her own curriculum. She constantly feels he pressure of her future. She doesn’t know what she’s gong to do after college except get married and have children, like all of the other women around her. She also feels the fruitlessness of her degree. It seems like just something to do until she can perform her feminine duties.

I chose this novel for our book club. I didn’t realize that it was going to hit home for all of the women in our group- albeit in different ways. We all took different parts of this novel very personally and identified with it. We all felt like this was a novel women in our situations should read.

I loved this novel. I feel like I read it for the first time at the perfect moment. I’m sure I’ll reread it in a few years and I’ll get something else out of it. It may not be technically flawless, but it affected me deeply.

5/5

The Argonauts

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson is her memoir about her relationship with Harry and her journey into motherhood. This book examines theories on gender and social identity that stem from Nelson’s personal experiences.

While I enjoyed the theoretical part of this book, it felt like Nelson was constantly quoting other authors and people. This strengthened her arguments and assertions, but it made the book slightly inaccessible. To me, it felt like the target audience was the intelligentsia. I completely support trusting your readers, but it made Nelson’s story more removed from the common sphere, something that it needed no help doing.

Overall, I loved listening to this book. It was utterly absorbing. I just wish that it didn’t have such an academic tone.

3/5

Difficult Women

This collection of fictional short stories by Roxanne Gay centers on a variety of women that have suffered hardships. When I first started the collection, I thought that it was non-fiction and I was horrified that Gay went through that situation. Then I started the second story and I realized that these must be fictional stories about different women. But none of them are dramatized, and similar, if not exact replicas of these situations, happen every day.

While I wouldn’t call any of these stories ‘happy’, some of them did have hope. My favorite was “North Country”. This is one of the longer stories in the book and follows a woman who teaches engineering at a college in the Midwest. Due to the dark color of her skin, people assume time and time again that she is from Detroit. Like most of the stories in this collection, the plot revolves around a traumatic event that occurred in this woman’s life. But unlike most of the other stories, this one ends with a hopeful tone. She is able to find love again and is part of a healthy relationship.

My biggest problem with Difficult Women was that every story had the same themes and tone. There was a variety in plot, but Gay centered on the same themes of trauma and the crimes against women. These are extremely important topics, but it was difficult to read stories about them over and over again. But Gay is a fantastic writer and I moved through these swiftly. I can’t wait to read her novel, now that I’ve finally finished one of her works.

4/5

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

There are few reading experiences that I’ve enjoyed more than listening to I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. The audio book I listened to was read by the author, who sadly passed away in 2014. This was my first experience with Maya Angelou and it felt deeply personal.

This book is a memoir of Angelou’s childhood. She lived a tumultuous childhood, filled with negligent parents, being raised by your grandparents, and teenage pregnancy. Angelou remembers a time of both love and abuse, happiness and pain, and freedom and captivity.

As I listened to this memoir, I understood why schools have it on reading lists and why it is a banned book. Growing up in a suburban Southern town, I can’t imagine that I would have read this book in high school, even though I took advanced English. This book is the type that people in high school should be reading- one that resounds with truth and they can connect to in a personal way.

Even though I enjoyed this book, I don’t know if I ever want to read it again. It was sad and true. Nevertheless, I recommend it to everyone.

5/5

We Should All Be Feminists

This book is the transcript from Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche’s TED talk of the same name. It is very short and I read it in a single lunch hour.

“We Should All Be Feminists” is Adiche’s argument for how Feminism will not only help women, but will help and advance all of society. She does this through personal examples and acedotes. She tells of one of her childhood best friends who was the first to call her a feminist and he didn’t mean it as a compliment.

A part that struck me was Adichie trying to call herself a feminist without offending anyone. She eventually says that she called herself a “happy African feminist who does not hate men and who likes lip gloss and who wears high heels for herself but not for men. Adichie might be exaggerating, but she hits the heart of it. When people call themselves feminists, they feel the need to qualify it because it is looked down on. I know I’ve personally qualified my feminism by saying that I don’t want to burn my bras and I don’t hate men.

The video for this TED talk is only around 30 minutes and available online here. I highly recommend it to everyone. And if you would rather read it like I did, the transcript is also available on the TED website. I feel like a lot of people are feminists without realizing that they are one. Adichie’s talk tries to make what a feminist is clear and how feminism would make society better for everyone.

4/5

Milk and Honey

I don’t give many 5-star reviews. I give a fair amount of 4s and some 3s, but it takes a lot for me to give a book 5 stars. It has to move me personally, as well as being extremely well-written. I am more familiar with prose over poetry, so I don’t know how much I can judge the writing of this book. But I do know that Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur touched me.

This collection of Kaur’s poetry is divided into four sections meant to move one through the stages of heartbreak. Kaur first gained fame as an Instagram poet. Her poetry is frequently accompanied by hand-drawn minimalist/line-art pictures. Sometimes they just match the poem, but they always heighten it.

When I first went through these poems, I read some of them with my boyfriend. I expressed to him that I would love my own copy so I could write in the book and share it with other people. Ever the amazing man that he is, he bought be a copy for our anniversary and even marked a few of our favorites. This is, by far, the best gift I’ve ever received.

Overall, I don’t have anything negative to say about this collection. I love the structure, illustrations, and the poetry itself. I would recommend this book to anyone and I can’t wait to pass my copy around to everyone I know.

5/5

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal

Like I’ve said before, I have little to no knowledge of Marvel outside of MCU. So I’ve heard of Ms. Marvel, and I’d heard the hype about this newer series, starting a Muslim American teenager living in Jersey City. While MCU hasn’t had much diversity (where is our Black Widow movie??) the comics have been doing alright from what I can tell.

This graphic novel collects the first five issues of Ms. Marvel. It follows Kamala Khan as she goes through high school, gets powers, hangs out with her friends, and saves lives. She struggles with the meaning behind her newly-acquired powers and what she is obligated to do with them.

Even though my family is not Muslim, there are so many similarities between Kamala’s parents and mine. These similarities, plus the occasional Arabic, were like little gems for me. I’ve spent the majority of my life without seeing people who look like me in the media. Well, unless they played Terrorist #3. I can’t even begin to express how I fell when I see a superhero who looks like me.

Overall, I enjoyed this graphic novel a lot. Most of it was introductory in nature, so I can’t wait to read more of the series to see where they go.

4/5