They say when a dictator or tyrant takes power, you should keep a list of all the subtle changes so you'll know how to fix them later.
Amy Siskind started such a list when Trump took office and would pass it onto her friends, and from there it grew into a website, and now a book. As much as I try to stay on top of current events, there were things in The List that I had missed which makes it a worthwhile read for anyone interested in modern politics.
If you look at the About Us page on this website you will see a photograph of the original Barbara's Bookstore on Wells Street in Chicago, circa 1963. I was quite familiar with that store, not only because when it opened my wife and I lived a short block away from it but also because it became part of my professional life. No, I was not one of those knowledgeable staff members who was familiar with every title in the store (as the caption states); instead, I was a rookie publisher's sales rep calling on the owner/buyer in hopes of selling her a decent representation of my company's offerings.
"The merest schoolgirl, when she falls in love, has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language runs dry."
-- Virginia Woolf, "On Being Ill"
With this, Abby Norman begins her tale of personal pain, self-advocation, and systemic struggle. Each chapter starts with such a quote, and they remind the reader that Ask Me About My Uterus is not a new story, but one that many women and femmes have experienced and chronicled throughout history. While the book is more memoir than scientific study, at its heart is Norman’s diagnosis of endometriosis.
The Female Persuasion-Meg Wolitzer
Greer Kadetsky is a college freshman when she meets Faith Frank, a prominent figure in the women’s movement. Although madly in love with her boyfriend, Greer feels that something is missing, a sense of ambition she can’t place. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, something comes alive within Greer, and the two women connect. Faith invites Greer to seek out her purpose, and soon Greer finds herself on a path winding away from the future she’d always imagined. It’s Meg Wolitzer at her best.
Look Alive Out There-Sloane Crosley
Readers will know Sloane Crosley from her acclaimed essay collections I Was Told There’d Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number and fans will be delighted to have her back with this new collection. Still witty as ever, these pieces are also warm, hilarious, and full of adventures.
The Overstory-Richard Powers
Barbara's Bookstore owner/buyer Janet Bailey says, "The Overstory is a grand mandala of stories both delicate and all-encompassing. These stories that finally merge in a violent conflict, confront recent history through an oddly mundane yet gracefully poetic theme, the life of trees. Ecology as both hope and despair. It is a big book in every sense, richly human, winningly pedantic. This is a masterpiece by a master writer."
One of the ways that society oppresses people is by silencing their stories. This creates a narrative that promotes a particular lifestyle, group, or perspective while denying the existence of those who do not fit that norm. Therefore it is a revolutionary act when a marginalized person is able to speak their story, and it is essential that those who live with privilege listen and actively make space for those stories.
This is why I am so excited about the recently released book, All Out. Edited by Saundra Mitchell, All Out is a collection of short stories about queer teens throughout history, written by queer YA authors of various backgrounds and ethnicities. Some of these tales are re-imagined fairy tales, and some of them feature famous historical figures. The main character of all of the short stories is a queer teen, and, since these tales are told from so many different perspectives of culture, gender, ability, and sexuality, All Out is a testament to the expanse of teen expression that exists in the world.
The timid 12-year old Nisha must leave her home with her Hindu family when India splits into two countries in 1947. She senses unrest in the world around her and takes to writing notes to her deceased mother in her diary. Nisha's extreme shyness makes it hard for her to convey all of her thoughts, so she does it the old-fashioned way- by writing.
Zelie is a 17-year old girl who mourns the loss of magic on her native island. The magi are murdered by a powerful, ruthless king who abolishes the dark arts of magic and its connective powers on Orisha. Among the murdered is Zelie's own mother, leaving a determined Zelie to find a way to reverse the evil that King Saran has wrought. But can she find a way to do this without being caught up in the traps that Saran and his minions have set all over the island?
Naomi Alderman's The Power reimagines our world where the power dynamics between men and women are flipped. In her novel, women develop a biological weapon, an evolutionary trait that is suddenly reawakened by young girls. This electric power can debilitate and hurt others, making them physically threatening to all those around them. Throughout the world, women begin experimenting, training, and using their new ability to fight their oppressors. They create armies, establish new countries, and rapidly overturn our male-dominated society. Men soon feel threatened by this new strength as they lose the control and security they’ve long been accustomed to. While attempts to suppress and ‘cure’ women arise, the world is fundamentally changed and not for the better.