The Week in Books #20

Well I was right, the arrival of a baby seriously eats into any time you may want to spend reading. I’ve been working on the same book for a few weeks, but before the birth I did finish a few others I was really happy with.

Feel Free by Zadie Smith. I love Zadie. This is her most recent collection of essays that cover a range of topics including Brexit, Jordan and Peele, art, movies and more. Some pieces were more readable than others, but overall I enjoyed this book despite the fact that Zadie is waaay more academic than I am. I was inspired to finally watch Get Out starring Daniel Kaluuya (who I already loved as Tealeaf from the dark BBC comedy Psychoville) and enjoyed it, as well as Zadie’s in depth review. She made a lot of really interesting points about race, particularly on biracial individuals – her mother is Jamaican and her father is white, and her partner is also white so how Black are her children? At what point does someone cease to be considered a person of colour? She also spends a few paragraphs talking about Ursula Le Guin, one of my favourite authors, and her thought-provoking science fiction writing that challenges the notion of gender again and again. Not all of the chapters were a winner for me but the highlights made it worth it!

Trash: Stories by Dorothy Allison. This is the short story collection that came before Bastard out of Carolina and really brought Dorothy onto the scene. She is an incredibly unique voice coming from the south and addressing issues predominantly including class, abuse, women, feminism and lesbianism. This collection was powerful, particularly Compassion. Definitely recommend though with a trigger warning for child sexual abuse which is a recurring theme in her writing. Her novel Bastard out of Carolina is also amazing (same trigger warning applies).

The Feminist Utopia Project. This has been on my list for years as it was a selection from my feminist book club on Goodreads once upon a time. There are a ton of stories and essays in this collection (57!) that are all about what a utopian feminist future would look like. Perhaps due to the volume of pieces included the tone is a bit uneven. I was expecting science fiction short stories but many contributions were more like political essays written in a very conversational voice (like blog or tumblr posts). There are many wonderful ideas in this collection; worlds where consent is the norm and gender is non-existent, etc. I liked that the writing was totally accessible to all readers instead of falling into an academic style like many other feminist collections (not all of us hold a degree in women’s studies, nor should we have to in order to understand and debate these concepts) though some of the writing was much stronger than others. Thankfully they are all fairly short so it’s a quick read and really got me thinking about what my ideal world would look like.

Misconceptions: Truth, Lies and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood by Naomi Wolf. MOTHERHOOD. This is now a topic that interests me in a way that it never did before. A lot of books on pregnancy, labour and motherhood have been on my radar for ages but as this was never something I had considered for myself I thought they would be hard to relate to. Well, because life is unpredictable, I now find myself mother to a beautiful daughter that is 4 weeks old today and suddenly I want to read all the birth books. I started this book late in my pregnancy and had just finished Naomi’s account of her labour that went completely off the rails when I was brought into hospital 2 weeks before my due date for an induction due to complications (which, like Naomi’s labour interventions, was not something I had anticipated). This book is essentially a memoir of Naomi’s pregnancy, birth and early motherhood that takes aim at the maternity industry in America. Admittedly while reading this I was shocked by many facts, one being the Caesarian rate at many US hospitals being 30-40%, but also felt a strange disconnect because I assumed Canada was nothing like the USA when it came to women and birth. How wrong I was! Shortly after my own delivery an article came out that revealed British Columbia’s Caesarian rate is 35%, making it the highest in Canada and comparable to the shocking rates in our neighbour to the south. Who knew! Naomi did a fair bit of research for this book and I found the writing engaging, but I struggled with the lack of viewpoints from other women (namely women of colour who have had a different experience of the birth industry than white women) but she can really only write what she knows so I’m not sure why I expected more. I enjoyed this book for what it was, but to read more in depth about labour in North America I then picked up my next book; Pushed by Jennifer Block.

This book is incredibly fascinating so far, but I’m struggling to find time to read it. More on this next week!

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