Feminist summer reading list: 3 picks
Even for a year-round book addict, there’s just something about summer reading: picking up my summer reading packet from the library as a kid, taking my kids to do it now, the breeze on my bare shoulders as I sway back and forth on a porch swing and read a good romance novel.
Each of the three book below make great summer reads and are 2016 releases. They cover everything from pop culture to criminal justice and range from nonfiction to southern gothic. And they’re feminist as fuck.
The book collects dozens of Hurley’s essays on feminism, geek culture, and her experiences and insights as a genre writer, including “We Have Always Fought,” which won the 2013 Hugo for Best Related Work. The Geek Feminist Revolution will also feature several entirely new essays written specifically for this volume.
Reason to add it to your summer reading:
Don’t think of this book as only for self-identified geeks or people who know what the hell a Hugo is – it’s not. While it’s easy to assume I love this book because I fit a niche audience – writer, feminist, geek – themes in this book reverberate beyond just writing and pop culture. When Hurley says in the introduction “the stakes are high – not just who gets to play, who gets to create, but who gets to speak” – she’s talking about a great many things beyond the geek community.
Hurley also states in the introduction her belief that the stories we tell potentially have a much bigger life ahead of them (“comic books, television series, movies, and merchandising endeavors”) so that the art we make today “could have a profound impact on future generations of storytelling, which influences the behavior of our entire society.” Countless books argue that we see the world through stories, and when you read Hurley’s essays you get the sense this is a writer who understands that responsibility.
Smart and timely. Pick it up.
The essay format makes it perfect for reading in chunks. Stick it in your work bag and read Wives, Warlords and Refugees: The People Economy of Mad Max on the train and Making People Care: Storytelling in Fiction versus Marketing on your lunch break.
Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in School by Monique W. Morris
Just 16 percent of female students, Black girls make up more than one-third of all girls with a school-related arrest. The first trade book to tell these untold stories, Pushout exposes a world of confined potential and supports the growing movement to address the policies, practices, and cultural illiteracy that push countless students out of school and into unhealthy, unstable, and often unsafe futures.
For four years Monique W. Morris, author of Black Stats, chronicled the experiences of black girls across the country whose intricate lives are misunderstood, highly judged—by teachers, administrators, and the justice system—and degraded by the very institutions charged with helping them flourish. Morris shows how, despite obstacles, stigmas, stereotypes, and despair, black girls still find ways to breathe remarkable dignity into their lives in classrooms, juvenile facilities, and beyond.
Reason to add add it to your summer reading:
Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow ushered in a wave of attention to the damaging and failed war on drugs. Black Lives Matter, both the official movement and the spirit of grassroots efforts the phrase embodies, has spread across the country since the Ferguson protestors said enough. All those threads are weaving together in an unprecedented public dialogue on the need for criminal justice reform.
Since the 1980’s Black women scholars from Kimberle Crenshaw to Dorothy Roberts have warned us that we generalize criminal justice issues as male and therefore overlook the way the system impacts Black women. Morris builds on the work of these women as she asks us to start with Black girls and they ways in which the education system fails them. She explains the conversation about the school to prison pipeline is seen through a male lens, and asks us to broaden our understanding, using the term school to confinement pipeline instead. Morris explores the ways in which this term better captures the broad spectrum of conditions Black girls face, beyond the factors that channel girls to jail or prison. She also looks at what impact placement in detention centers, house arrest, electronic monitoring, and other forms of social exclusion have on Black girls.
If you are a white woman reading this, there is a nearly 100% chance you know another white woman who is a teacher. There’s a not insignificant chance you’re a teacher yourself; white women dominate the field.
Which means when we read about these girls we are failing, these girls we are harming, it is white women who are standing at the mouth of the pipeline and pushing Black girl after Black girl in.
White feminists, buy this book, read this book, then start passing it on to every teacher you know.
This is the kind of book you want to read in the evening, so you can have a glass of wine (or whatever calming beverage you prefer).
The Bourbon Thief by Tiffany Reisz
When Cooper McQueen wakes up from a night with a beautiful stranger, it’s to discover he’s been robbed. The only item stolen—a million-dollar bottle of bourbon. The thief, a mysterious woman named Paris, claims the bottle is rightfully hers. After all, the label itself says it’s property of the Maddox family who owned and operated the Red Thread Bourbon distillery since the last days of the Civil War, until the company went out of business for reasons no one knows… No one except Paris.
In the small hours of a Louisville morning, Paris unspools the lurid tale of Tamara Maddox, heiress to the distillery that became an empire. Theirs is a legacy of wealth and power, but also of lies, secrets and sins of omission. Why Paris wants the bottle of Red Thread remains a secret until the truth of her identity is at last revealed, and the century-old vengeance Tamara vowed against her family can finally be completed.
Reason to add it to your summer reading:
This review is extremely biased as Tiffany Reisz is one of my favorite writers. Her Original Sinners series, which I describe as literary gothic erotica, is one of my favorites. The Bourbon Thief is her first full length stand alone novel.
It does not disappoint.
The compelling story moves at a brisk pace with all of Reisz’s trademark twists and, like most of her books, explores taboo subject matter. The setting (the book takes place in my home state) feels real, past and present, and the two timelines blend masterfully. Dual timelines are hard to pull off and maintain tension, yet The Bourbon Thief is one of those one-sitting books you can hardly stand to put down.
Like all of Reisz’s other work, this book features diverse characters and is not white-washed.
And the characters (swoon). Reisz writes women who don’t just leap off the page – they strut, they run, they fly, and they stumble. They are irresistible, smart, and wholly, messily, human. And what’s more feminist than that?
On vacation, if you can. Somewhere you can stretch out and luxuriate in the web of secrets, lies, and blood money Reisz weaves in splendid southern gothic fashion. Read it with a bourbon, neat.