A captivating, essential perspective on a neglected conversation.

RADICALIZING HER

WHY WOMEN CHOOSE VIOLENCE

An intimate dive into the lives of female freedom fighters in the Global South, correcting long-standing American misconceptions of women, violence, and politics.

As the director of the Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative at the City College of New York, Gowrinathan is perfectly equipped to tackle this significant yet overlooked subject, and she forces readers to reckon with the erasure of freedom fighters as political actors. Interspersed with her own family’s history with resistance in Sri Lanka, the author uses a combination of sociological critique, philosophical texts, political theory, and interviews she conducted over the span of 20 years to provide a new understanding of gender and power. “Violence, for me, and for the women I chronicle in this book, is simply a political reality,” she writes. Though the author is astute in her analysis of the complex issues at play, she is candid about her inability to offer concrete solutions. “As a part of a lifelong project that took shape in the image of the female fighter,” she writes, “Radicalizing Her is open-ended: offering no recommendations, only an exploration of new landscapes of political possibility.” Regardless, this book is a well-informed jumping-off point for any further study. From the heart-wrenching separation of Kala, a Tamil Tiger fighter, and her mother, Latha, who sought refuge in London, to Sandra, the senior commander in Bogotá’s branch of the FARC, the Marxist guerrilla group in Colombia, Gowrinathan examines the roles of rape, marriage, motherhood, and policies to create a necessarily complicated picture of why some women choose violence and some choose nonviolence as their preferred form of resistance. “Our view of the female fighter has been obstructed by both the moral compulsion to decry violent resistance and a societal drive to divide categories of thought along gendered lines,” writes the author, and this limited view perpetuates a host of oppressive myths about female fighters, myths that she corrects in this powerful book.

A captivating, essential perspective on a neglected conversation.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8070-1355-7

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Consistently illuminating, unabashedly ferocious writing.

GIRLHOOD

An acclaimed nonfiction writer gathers essays embracing the pleasure, pain, and power of growing up as a girl and woman.

In her latest powerful personal and cultural examination, Febos interrogates the complexities of feminism and the "darkness" that has defined much of her life and career. In "Kettle Holes," she describes how experiences of humiliation at the hands of a boy she loved helped shape some of the pleasure she later found working as a dominatrix (an experience she vividly recounted in her 2010 book, Whip Smart). As she fearlessly plumbed the depths of her precocious sexuality in private, she watched in dismay as patriarchal society transformed her into a "passive thing.” In "Wild America," the author delves into body-shaming issues, recounting how, during adolescence, self-hatred manifested as a desire to physically erase herself and her "gigantic" hands. Only later, in the love she found with a lesbian partner, did she finally appreciate the pleasure her hands could give her and others. Febos goes on to explore the complicated nature of mother-daughter relationships in "Thesmophoria,” writing about the suffering she brought to her mother through lies and omissions about clandestine—and sometimes dangerous—sexual experiments and youthful flirtations with crystal meth and heroin. Their relationship was based on the "ritual violence" that informed the Persephone/Demeter dyad, in which the daughter alternately brought both pain and joy to her mother. "Intrusions" considers how patriarchy transforms violence against women into narratives of courtship that pervert the meaning of love. In "Thank You for Taking Care of Yourself," Febos memorably demonstrates how the simple act of platonic touching can be transformed into a psychosexual minefield for women. Profound and gloriously provocative, this book—a perfect follow-up to her equally visceral previous memoir, Abandon Me (2017)—transforms the wounds and scars of lived female experience into an occasion for self-understanding that is both honest and lyrical.

Consistently illuminating, unabashedly ferocious writing.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-252-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A pithy, upbeat memoir by a self-described romantic feminist.

THE SOUL OF A WOMAN

The popular Chilean novelist shares life's lessons.

Approaching 80, Allende offers wise thoughts on aging, romance, sex, love, and, above all, her feminism—which began in kindergarten, when she saw her mother, abandoned with three small children, forced to become dependent on men. “I became obsessed with justice,” writes the author, “and developed a visceral reaction to male chauvinism.” Angry and often rebellious, Allende was “expelled from school—run by German Catholic nuns—at age 6, accused of insubordination; it was a prelude to my future.” Thankfully, her doting grandfather, although “the unquestionable patriarch of the family,” encouraged her abilities; “he understood the disadvantages of being a woman and wanted to give me the tools I needed so I would never have to depend on anyone.” Married at 20 and soon a mother of two, Allende felt stifled until she joined the staff of Paula magazine, where writing provided an outlet for her restlessness. The author charts the evolution of her own “fluid, powerful, deep” feminism as it relates to her self-image. While she refuses “to submit to the Eurocentric feminine ideal—young, white, tall, thin, and fit,” she does “jump out of bed an hour before everybody else to shower and put on makeup because when I wake up I look like a defeated boxer.” Now happily married to her third husband, Allende claims that “love rejuvenates” and that after menopause, life gets easier, “but only if we minimize our expectations, give up resentment, and relax in the knowledge that no one, except those closest to us, gives a damn about who we are or what we do.” Buoyed by the “spiritual practice circle” she dubs the “Sisters of Perpetual Disorder” and involved in a foundation dedicated to empowering vulnerable women and girls, Allende is ultimately joyful: “My theory and practice is to say yes to life and then I’ll see how I manage along the way.”

A pithy, upbeat memoir by a self-described romantic feminist.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-35562-6

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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