Brace yourself… the Inauguration is coming. What’s a Nasty Woman to do?
Whether you’re on a bus headed for the Women’s March on Washington, or on your couch with a bottle of wine (or three), you’re going to need some reading material to get through the upcoming changeover. So get nostalgic, get aware and get crunk with the three new volumes in this week’s book club.
1. The Meaning of Michelle: 16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own edited by Veronica Chambers ($18): We’re going to miss Barack when he leaves the White House one last time, but all nasty women know we’re really going to miss Michelle. The Princeton- (Tiger pride!) and Harvard Law-educated dynamo has been an absolute class act and inspiration, through her passion for numerous essential causes and initiatives, her unshakeable poise and her inimitably powerful speeches. The essays in The Meaning of Michelle share our love for one of the most influential First Ladies of all time, never content to be an extension of her husband, but brilliant and successful in her own right. The book teaches us how to say goodbye while giving us hope that we may not have to say goodbye permanently.
So, why is Michelle Obama #LifeGoals? Not only is she the most beloved First Lady since Jackie Kennedy, but, as the collection’s writers rhapsodize, she has changed the perceptions of so many, opening them up to a new way of thinking and a new potential. This effect was particularly noticeable on women, and specifically on the generation of Black women whose voices make up the bulk of that collection. The essays speak of Michelle as a trailblazer in fashion, culture, parenting, policy and advocacy, covering not only how Michelle has influenced culture but also a serious look at what that culture currently is, a discussion of the pulse of America, its advances and setbacks. (But it’s also a love song to the First Lady’s arms, and the “intimacy we felt with her from the beginning.”)
The Meaning of Michelle is a look back, but it’s also a look forward, as writer Roxane Gay discusses how the still-young First Lady could potentially extend her legacy. It’s a legacy worth extending, argues this collection, as even the name Michelle, writes Ava DuVernay, “carries a whole world of meaning.” Other essay contributors include professors Tanisha Ford and Sarah Lewis, chef Marcus Samuelsson, Cathi Hanauer of The Bitch Is Back and Hamilton’s Phillipa Soo. They all line up to say, one last time, thanks, Michelle Obama.
2. Closing the Courthouse Door: How Your Constitutional Rights Became Unenforceable by Erwin Chemerinsky ($22): Every nasty woman needs to stay informed about her rights, which are constantly in danger of being stripped away. The current vacancy on the Supreme Court and the change in power brings up some anxiety as to what will happen going forward; this anxiety, says Law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, is warranted — not necessarily due to a potential change in the system, but due to the system itself. National Jurist calls Chermerinsky one of the “Most Influential People in Legal Education,” and here he seeks to influence readers to not only look at specific decisions, but at the overall landscape of jurisprudence.
Through scrupulously researched evidence, Chermerinsky takes us through a court system chaired first by William Rehnquist, then John Roberts, that has structurally significantly increased the difficulty of Constitutional appeals. This creates a near-impossibility of citizen redress against government injustice, particularly at the federal level, with added immunity for those in power, and added hoops to jump through for the plaintiffs (whether through an individual or class action suit). He writes, though, that it’s clear “The King Can Do Wrong,” and looks forward toward the possibility of challenging and potentially changing the institution. As a socially conscious nasty woman, it’s worth checking out why the door has been shut, and what we might be able to do to open it.
3. The Crunk Feminist Collection edited by Brittney C. Cooper, Susana M. Morris and Robin M. Boylorn ($19): You can’t truly get nasty (or through Inauguration Weekend) without getting a little crunk — at least, the way the Crunk Feminist Collective defines it. Though the concept of crunk means different things to different people, in the case of the Crunk Feminist Collection, editors Cooper, Morris and Boylorn describe crunkness as a state of mind and a platform, “our commitment to feminist principles and politics.” How do you get crunk? Get wise to the world’s power structures, oppose oppression and create a supportive, empathetic space for those who tend to get shut out of the discussion by virtue of race, gender or identity. How do you do that? Reading this collection is a good start.
Though the Crunk Feminist Collective was founded in 2004 when its instigators (now professors) were grad students at Emory University, it gained a wider reach (almost a million readers annually) and a new life with an online reboot in 2010. This compendium contains the best and most influential posts from the blog’s first five years. Before you dive into the essays, you can read the group’s manifesto and get up to date with the mission. Cooper, Morris and Boylorn explore their identities as brilliant black women, using their experiences to contextualize musings on, among other topics, religion (“Jesus Wasn’t a Slut Shamer, or How Conservative Theology Harms Black Women”), relationships (“She Got a Big Ego? Thoughts on Dating With a Doctorate”) and music (“Sticks, Stones and Microphones: A Melody of Misogyny”). Personal experience matters, because, as one chapter states, “The Personal Is Political.”
The writing in the collection is both intellectual and approachable, a seamless cultural mashup, as the authors hope to “articulate a crunk feminist consciousness” for “women and men of… the hip-hop generation.” If any terms escape you, there’s also a helpful glossary at the back to explain just what misogynoir means. So, how do you love certain aspects of culture or society, the collective asks, while being aware that they trade in racism or misogyny? You acknowledge it, and you try to make that culture better. As we head toward a new era, that seems like a good way to move forward.
What books give you hope for the future? Tag us in your next nasty read @BritandCo.
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(Featured photo via Getty)