International Women’s Day was this week, which is both a day of celebration of our best ladies and a day of rage that there is still so much to do for equality. Well, as they say, advocacy begins at home. The three women behind these kickass memoirs learned the hard way that they had to amplify their own voices before anyone would shout with them; it was a matter of owning and embracing their identities, then seeking a better life. In this week’s book club, you’ll learn what makes them tick, and maybe get some inspo for your own mini-revolution. (PS: Want to start advocating now? Do we have an amazing, action-packed new manual for you!)
1. Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women’s Pain by Abby Norman ($27): Futurism associate science editor Abby Norman faced an impenetrable wall when she went to see doctors over her debilitating menstrual pain — and we’re not just talking about uterine lining. No, her inability to get herself taken seriously was a function of long-standing prejudices in the medical community against women and their pain. Norman has a long history of advocating for herself, beginning when she successfully sued to become an emancipated minor from her abusive family when she was 16. Her mother’s illness, and her lack of empathy toward Norman’s own pain, had prompted Norman to always attempt to repress anything related to sickness, and early experiences with ineffectual doctors didn’t help much.
While attending Sarah Lawrence College, however, she began to suffer from intense, long-lasting and incapacitating pain, which eventually impacted her life so much that she had to leave school. A lack of health insurance had delayed her attempt to seek help, but when she did, she was dismissed as an attention-seeking hypochondriac with a UTI: “Was I really so weak-willed and pathetic that I was getting worked up over a silly, stupid little ailment?” Finally, she was able to get a diagnosis of endometriosis: a serious condition, not limited to women, where displaced uterine tissue causes lesions on one’s internal organs. Before this happened, though, she had to bring in her boyfriend to confirm that something was wrong.
Framing her research around her own personal story, Norman gives us a brief history of women’s health and the medical establishment’s failures. She explains early experiments to quantify pain that involved women in labor, and the inherent limitations of the pain scale to fully describe something so subjective. In the end, her quest to understand the medical establishment has led her to training in HAZMAT operations and health literacy. Forever an advocate, she has spoken at many medical conferences and participated in panels for Yale University and the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid.
2. Would You Rather? A Memoir of Growing Up and Coming Out by Katie Heaney ($16): For as long as she could remember, former Buzzfeed editor Katie Heaney described herself as “boy crazy.” The weird thing, though, was that she had never actually interacted with a boy in a romantic or sexual context, and she was 26. Her first inkling that this wasn’t a mere case of late blooming came with the discovery of The L Word during a study-abroad term in Spain, but she put away the idea upon her return home. Eventually, though, through a path that was anything but linear, she came out at the age of 28 — and she’s never been happier.
“If you, too, are a person who has ever found herself Googling something like ‘is it normal if you’ve never had a relationship’ or ‘can someone realize they’re queer when they’re kind of old’ or ‘oldest living virgin,’ if you have ever wondered if it’s normal not to feel normal — this one’s for you,” writes Heaney. Her book is full of stories about her journey, with comments about the general lack of relatable female queer characters in mainstream media and the preponderance of heteronormative and male-focused language, as well as thoughts about the loneliness that can come with losing one of the most common points of connection with the majority of other people.
It’s that relatability that worried her the most — as a female memoirist, she explains, being seen as relatable and likable is not only applicable to your personal life, but to the viability of your job. She might not really mind that she’s becoming less likable as she ages, though, as it means she’s accepted herself.
3. Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride ($26): “It’s rare to know in real time that what you are about to do will define the course of the rest of your life. But as I sat at my laptop in the small office I had been given as student body president at American University, I knew my world was about to turn upside down. I was about to reveal my deepest secret and take a step that just a few months before would have seemed impossible and unimaginable.” Sarah McBride had always been interested in politics, fighting for gender equity and economic and racial justice. Popular and successful, she was student body president at one of the most politically active schools in the nation. But she had a hard time reconciling the future she wanted with who she really was: a transgender woman.
When McBride decided that she needed to live her life the only way she could, she found love and acceptance from her classmates. However, she was well aware that the world in general was a difficult and often openly hostile place to be, so she has worked tirelessly to change that. She became the first transgender person to speak at a political convention and the first openly transgender woman to intern at the White House. In the almost six years since her public announcement, she saw historic advancements for the LGBTQ+ community. In her book, she details her work and some of these advancements, as well as the losses and setbacks, professional and personal, including the loss of her beloved husband Andy from cancer.
McBride “continues to be there for every transgender person still rejected by their families and friends,” writes former VP Joe Biden in his foreword. “For the one in five who will be fired from their jobs because of who they are. For the transgender women of color who continue to live in an epidemic of violence. For the young transgender student bullied and harassed in schools or homeless on the streets. She is there for every transgender American targeted by state legislators and their ‘bathroom bills’ that serve only to prey on people’s fears.” Mcbride’s book is an inspiring story of change, and an important reminder of who’s fighting and who we’re fighting for.
What books do you advocate for? Tag us in your next inspiring read @BritandCo.
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