hello again my friends! I know it is a Tuesday again and not a Sunday, and so that this is the second newsletter in a row I haven’t finished on the Promised Sunday. This weekend I just needed truly to collapse—I slept for a number of hours on both Saturday and Sunday this week, and that meant I did not write the second book review that’s on here until yesterday and that meant I didn’t write this until today! That’s my insider baseball that could also be easily summed up as: I was tired! But I was very tired, because my job does in fact wear me out and I stayed particularly late on Friday trying to finish up some tasks in the new week. Work is tiring! Even when it is good!
I have, for example, in the past week become the staff advisor for a girl empowerment group on campus, based on the fact I “know things about feminism” as advertised to a book club run by a coworker. Today (Tuesday!) was their meeting day, and they start at 7:10 am, which means I had to be here by that time, even earlier than the 7:30 I’m normally in at work. I don’t mind it—I don’t have an aversion to getting up early, and was on campus by that time often even when I was in grad school because of how classes and buses worked—but boy it is early! But it’s still good work that makes me so excited every day, even when I’m frustrated by district policy or Teens Being Teens. (I say with affection that no, gen z is probably not going to save us all, based on what I see at work. Even the most wonderful and brilliant of kids are still kids, and they should be allowed to be.) And I’m still managing to read a little bit here and there! Even if it’s only 15 minutes at lunch, that’s still 15 minutes! And I’m slowly finishing books! So let’s get to that!
Books I Wrote About This Week
I did it!!! I finished one of the two 500+ pages collections of feminist writing! And now of course I have Thoughts about feminism, and how we define it and think about it and especially about how we categorize feminisms. This is mostly because the Conceit of this book is not just that it’s a collection of writings, but that it’s specifically a collection of second wave feminist writings, and that the late legacy of the second wave, much maligned by especially I think people who call themselves intersectional feminists, is deeply misunderstood and limited. A big claim for a collection of writing!
And like yes it is very interesting to consider that some of these movements that are often differentiated from “second wave” feminism—Black feminism and women of color feminisms, third world feminisms—are in fact all a part of the second wave. They did often happen concurrently, and were thinking with and alongside white second wave feminists. Think of, for example, Audre Lorde in conversation with Adrienne Rich, or responding to Mary Daly, or writing about BDSM. I think it challenges some of the dismissiveness that I know I have and I know others—including those teaching histories and theories of feminism—to reconsider maybe the value (or the shortcomings!) of combining these different feminisms under one banner.
But as much as the book seems to be making an argument for an inclusive view of feminism, it also draws a limitation (or… pretends to, which is my LEAST FAVORITE KIND, INCONSISTENT LIMITATIONS,) by claiming it excludes “academic” feminist writing. Folks, look, for better or for worse (probably worse) I was trained by academics who were also feminists—and indeed, are academic feminists. I have learned most of what I know about feminisms from people in academia, and I’m deeply grateful to them, and I myself am something of an academic feminist; I have a deep intellectual commitment to feminism that drives my own inquiries into the histories; it’s why I read this book in the first place! So I’m a little wary already of the exclusion.
AND THEN. And then they didn’t even stick to their own rule, which as we’ve established, if you’re gonna make an argument, STICK TO IT because otherwise I’ll obsess over it and won’t let it go. Like sure it would have been fine if they had excluded academic feminist writing, if they had actually done so. Instead, what counts as “academic” seems to be completely bonkers. They include writings that were first presented at academic conferences—Audre Lorde’s “The Uses of the Erotic,” for example, was first presented at the Berkshires Conference on the History of Women. They include writings that were originally published in academic journals—Social Text is an academic journal. What counts as academic but is excluded from the text for the editors? Genuinely I have no idea. The pieces I would have thought excluded were included. And like yes I think it’s necessary to include things like Lorde’s writings, but I think we also have to take seriously that Audre Lorde worked in university settings, that she was an academic. That doesn’t make her automatically disconnected from the concerns of “regular” women, it just means she had certain kinds of writing space and thinking space. And that’s not something every woman has, no, but it also doesn’t distance her from the concerns of her partner and children.
And of course I have more thoughts—this book was actually very useful to me, and I’m glad I’ve read it. I used it at work to compile a list of nonfiction pieces about feminism for a feminist book club we’re trying to start, so it does definitely have its uses, and it’s good for that kind of thing, useful for learning from. But every time I came across another piece of academic origins, I just felt myself grow a little more irritated at the differentiation.
I’m not a huge horror reader, nor am I particularly genre-savvy when it comes to horror, but this was so tense—which I guess is a product of the genre, lol, but it was done so well that at one point I was reading it on my lunch break at work and I absolutely did not want to put it down and go back to work, and I like my job! But it hit a point where it grabbed me and I had to run with it.
I think one thing the book does so well is in its narrator, Jade. She’s established fairly early on as being unreliable—as a narrator of her own life as well as a person, though obviously there are Reasons why she is unreliable (trauma makes unreliable narrators of us all.) But it makes for a fascinating story. We know there are things going on—again, the genre dictates that we see the first death, unrelated to Jade. But there was definitely a moment in the narrative where I went “…is she just making this up? Or is she totally misreading the situation?” And that lingered even as the deaths piled up. Jones manages to walk this line with her characterization that I found to be so impressive, where I wanted to believe the story as it was being told, but I still had this lingering uncertainty. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it be handled that masterfully before. It really made the book more powerful for me, or at least sucked me in more than I thought it might.
It’s definitely a much different book from The Only Good Indians, the previous book by Jones that I’ve read, and while I can see why that book might be more compelling to some people, and maybe to awards committees (I think it’s won a number of awards and I’m not sure about this book) I think I better understood what Jones was doing here/was less wary overall of the way the narrative was handled, some of which had to do with how the narrative was just different than the other book, and some of which was a greater sense of trust I think I developed in reading his books. Even though I wouldn’t describe myself as particularly interested in the slasher as a genre or horror more generally, I do want to read more of his books (which, lucky for me, he’s fairly prolific!)
The Reading Situation
100 books: at the time of this writing, I’m literally sitting at 99 books out of 100! If you follow me on goodreads it says I’ve hit 100, but it’s fully a lie. But I’m HURTLING towards being done and that’s exciting!
Author identity challenge: I’m still sitting at 14/18 prompts completed, or 78%! After I finish my books I will hopefully turn to really paying attention to this, but we will see (because I have library books to finish, oops!)
Currently reading: I started Greater Good (more Thrawn from Star Wars time!), How to Read Wittgenstein, Stay Solid!, Burn It Down, and Sexual Justice plus a couple more that I’ve started but haven’t been able to finish because they were due at the library, oops. But I’ll get to them!
And that’s it for this week! Thank you so much for sticking with me as I just gush every week about my job and then babble a little bit about books. Life is going fairly well for me for the first time in a long time (it feels like!) and it’s so delightful to be continuing my journey in this way and transforming. It’s made me so happy recently and I’m just so grateful for all of this. If you want to see me tweet FAR more infrequently now (but still occasionally in bursts!) you can follow me on twitter @fadesintointent; if you want to see what cool stuff my friends are up to, you can follow me on instagram @sonofahurricane. Thank you again for reading, and I’ll see if I can get another one of these out to you on our more regular schedule! Take care of yourselves, and each other! <3