Summer reading can be light and breezy, but sometimes you need a scorching read to match an equally hot day. Cue this week’s book club, filled with memoirs and manifestos from women who took the heat and refused to be confined to the kitchen. Instead, they jumped, passion-first, into the worlds of politics, geekdom and sex-and-body positivity. Keep them for inspiration and as handbooks for when you’re trying to make your own mark — they might make you drop an f-bomb or two (F for feminism, that is!).
1. I Do It With the Lights On: And 10 More Discoveries on the Road to a Blissfully Shame-Free Life by Whitney Way Thore ($18): The word “hot” can be a pretty loaded one when it comes to body image. One of the most revolutionary things a woman can do is simply be fat and happy. This is especially true in the world of dance, where the pressures to maintain a certain body type can be more than intense (we all watched Bunheads, right?). Whitney Way Thore, star of My Big Fat Fabulous Life on TLC and YouTube viral sensation, wants you to know that she’s over 300 lbs, but damn, she can move — and she couldn’t be happier.
In her memoir, Thore reveals the tough road she traveled to get to where she is now, overcoming harassment, depression and an eating disorder, and her continuing struggles with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Follow Thore’s journey through chapters like “Life Got Better When I Was Fat,” and “Feminism Is My Favorite F-Word,” and see how much better life can be when you’re dancing through it.
“It’s a life I never could have conjured up even in my wildest imagination — one full of genuine confidence, happiness and respect for the old life I survived,” Thore writes. “I am actually living in a way that I previously thought impossible.”
2. The Art of Tough: Fearlessly Facing Politics and Life by Barbara Boxer ($20): “Barbara Boxer Gives a Damn.” That slogan, which first catapulted the Democratic senator to Congress, has defined her life. The now 75-year-old, Brooklyn-born Boxer has been the junior United States Senator from California for 23 years, with a 10-year stint in the House of Representatives before that. As the Democratic Chief Deputy Whip, Vice Chair of the Select Committee on Ethics and a member of the committees on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Environment and Public Works (Ranking Member) and Foreign Relations, she has A LOT to talk about.
In The Art of Tough, Boxer covers her storied and impressive career as a crusader for social change, including her fight for an increase in medical research and patients’ rights, blocking oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, founding the Excellence in Education award and voting against the US invasion of Iraq. She even led a group of female House members to the Senate Judiciary Committee, telling its members to take Anita Hill’s charges of sexual harassment against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas seriously. So yeah, she’s pretty tough.
Reading Boxer’s history might make you remember what you’re fighting for. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, our favorite Veep, calls it “an inspiration to politicians everywhere, both real and completely fake.” If you need to get fired up for November (and you probably will after six more months of the circus), take feminist icon Gloria Steinem’s advice: “Read this as a bridge into the coming political year, and you won’t just vote, you’ll fight to vote.”
3. The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley ($18): Science fiction and fantasy often show us a vision of an ideal world where anything can happen. Yet, the real, current world of genre writing can be imaginatively stunted when it comes to progressive gender politics. In The Geek Feminist Revolution, Kameron Hurley, a two-time Hugo Award-winning fantasy novelist and essayist, collects a large number of her essays and insights into being a woman and genre fiction scribe. Together, the assembled essays and blog posts form a guide to surviving sexism online (like the flames of Gamergate), in the media and in the “real” world.
The book also reprints her famous “We Have Always Fought,” winner of the 2013 Hugo for Best Related Work, which metaphorically tells us that, if every story you read about llamas tells you that they’re sea creatures, you might start to doubt your actual experiences with llamas on land, and seek out or misremember confirmatory examples of llamas amongst the waves. When llamas (that is, women) make up 40 percent of genre writers and 60 percent of readers, it’s time to tell their real stories. As Hurley says, “It’s easier to tell the same stories everyone else does… It’s just that it’s lazy, which is just about the worst possible thing a spec fic writer can be. Oh, and it’s not true.”
What books fuel your fire? Tag us in your next hot read @BritandCo.
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