Back to index of Nerve 19 - Winter 2011

Round-up of Recommended Reads

By Mandy Vere

What luxury to be able to recommend lots of yummy feminist books! Let’s start at the beginning with "The Equality Illusion" by Kat Banyard (Faber £8.99). It's subtitled "The Truth About Women and Men Today" and don't you just notice that "women and men" never comes as naturally as "men and women"? By such subtle means are we kept in second place. Anyway Kat tells it like it is. Us feminists, female and male (there we go again), may know it already but it's a great one to open the eyes of less-well-informed friends. And Cordelia Fine has produced the definitive argument against the tide of blue and pink that viciously moulds our young people in "Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences" (Icon £8.99). In fact there's been such a glut of new feminist books lately we can hardly keep up. It's a great indication that women's liberation is firmly on the agenda again, and if you fancy 'a thin, bloody sliver of feminist dialectic' then "Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism" by Laurie Penny (Zero Books £6.99) is for you, with its critique of modern culture's obsessive control of women's bodies. [[especially when one gets into the bestseller lists, like Caitlin Moran's "How to Be a Woman" (Ebury £11.99) which is part memoir, part rant, cool, funny, engaging & revealing.]] If you enjoyed "Cunt" by Inga Muscio, her new book is a must. "Rose: Love in Violent Times" (Seven Stories £12.99) explores the impacts of passive violence, sexual abuse, war and cultural trauma on our most intimate lives.

Another personal memoir/rant is "I Killed Scheherazade: Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman" by Joumana Haddad (Saqi £9.99) which is angry about the way Arab women are portrayed in the West and also challenges Arabic women to confront preset patterns of religion, politics, sexuality, writing & life. It reminded me of that classic "Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism" by bell hooks (Pluto £21.99) which examines how black women have been oppressed by both white men and black men, and by white women.

Well worth revisiting: "The Trouble & Strife Reader". Edited by Deborah Cameron & Joan Scanlon (Bloomsbury £18.99), it gathers together the best of that radical feminist journal of the 80s and 90s, in articles such as: porn in the Guardian, feminism & AIDS, women & fundamentalism. Each wave can learn from the last. Now here's a wonderful new collection of poems and essays, "Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution" edited by Alix Olson (Seal Press £11.99).

It's American so we've not heard of most of them but it looks like a raging, celebratory, inspiring anthology. "Each writer is a role model who has stood up to the system and lived to tell the tale." And so on to some great new novels. Belgrade writer Tea Obreht won the Orange Prize with "The Tiger's Wife" (Orion hb £12.99), a haunting novel involving tigers, Balkan wars & grandfathers' stories. Nawal El Saadawi is the Egyptian feminist who taught us so much about Arab women's lives, and at 80 has now added blogging to her activism. Her latest novel is "Zeina" (Saqi £8.99). As ever it explores Cairo, revolution and women's lives. If you've loved Roma Tearne's fiction, here's another Sri Lankan writer, Ru Freeman, with "A Disobedient Girl" (Penguin £8.99) which sets a tough heroine against the volatile backdrop of class and prejudice. That's what we like. Nearer home, Helen Walsh's new one, "Go To Sleep" (Canongate £12.99) name-checks the Amorous Cat Bookshop, Gambier Terrace, Sefton Park and our beloved River Mersey, in a story of a new mother's desperation. Honest and gripping. Finally, for you organized folk, we have the "Women Artists Datebook" fresh in from America (Syracuse Cultural Workers £8.50), complete with women's artwork and poetry, lunar cycles and menstrual calendar!

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