Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

04 May 2016

Book Review: Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown


Modern Girls by Jennifer S. Brown is a heart-wrenching read that you won't want to put down. Set in NYC just after World War I in the heart of the Jewish immigrant community, we find Rose and Dottie, mother and daughter, both faced with unplanned pregnancies and their long-awaited careers within their grasp.

Full disclosure...Jennifer is a long-time bloggy friend. When she asked if I wanted a copy to review, I jumped at the chance. While I use to read her blog on a regular basis, I was not prepared with her fiction writing to be so gripping. The scene where Rose realizes Dottie is pregnant made me cry on the train.

Modern Girls goes beyond two unplanned pregnancies. It is a story that touches on that tension inherent in immigrant families where the parent wants a child to "do better" than them. Rose proclaims, "A head bookkeeper? Wait until Lana hears about this. She was just bragging about her daughter's new sewing job the other day. Not my daughter! No manual labor for her." Rose also refused to teach Dottie to even sew in an effort to ensure Dottie works with her brain, not with her hands. How many children of immigrants and working class parents have heard that line?

The beauty of the novel comes from how the mother-daughter pair deal with their unplanned pregnancies. Brown beautifully writes their conflicted feelings on how to proceed.
"My life was about to take a sharp turn, and I'd never come down this path again...Before or after. I'd either be a wife with a home and a child or be a career gal with the ghost of what could have been."
Despite the timing of this story and the decisions to be made, sex is never framed as bad. Even Rose spends time reminiscing about her long-lost love. In any other book, someone would feel bad about the sex that resulted in the situation the women find themselves, but Brown eschews any sexual guilt for our protagonists. That decision makes this book a truly feminist read.

I was a bit torn by the end of the novel. In fact I noted a point in the book where I thought would had been a fitting conclusion, but it was not to be. The remainder of the story helps to wrap up a few more plot lines, but when Rose and Dottie walk down the street is where I would have ended this tale.

Modern Girls is an exploration of the mother-daughter bond, the immigrant experience, what it means to be "a modern woman" and a reminder of a time when women's choices were severely limited, but they still tried to find a way to stay true to themselves.

Please purchase your own copy of Modern Girls from Powells or Indiebound and support Viva la Feminista.

29 April 2016

Flashback Friday: The Gender Voting Gap by Kartemquin Films

cartoon of a man talking to a woman. Woman giving side eye.

To celebrate their 50th anniversary, Kartemquin Films is releasing films to download for free! This week the film is from 1984 and "explores the growing difference in the voting patterns of men and women (the gender gap) that could no longer be denied by the mid-1980's. Issues like compensation equality, environmental preservation, subsidized childcare and healthcare became wedge issues in Ronald Reagan's America as more and more women joined the workforce." It is wonderfully illustrated by Nicole Hollander. At the end of the film there is an update on the issues from 2012. It is pretty sad how much the 1984 film is still relevant in 2016, especially considering Donald Trump's "woman card" comments.

You can view the film online below, but if you visit Kartemquin Films you can download the film for free and own it forever!


26 April 2016

Book Review: The Obsession

CW: The plot of this book deals with sexual assault and emotional abuse. Some graphic depictions of assault.

Photo by Viva la Feminista

I have to admit that I read the description of this book when it was pitched to me pretty quickly. I am sure I was pulled in by the "heroic young woman moving past tragedy" framing because it did not really dawn on me that I was asked to review a Nora Roberts book. And I didn't even really know who Roberts was, I mean I knew her name, but I didn't have all the parts of the math equation. Then when I got the book I put it off long enough I had to sprint through the book to get it done even close to my deadline. Suffice to say, this review is from someone who didn't realize she was reading a romance novel until she was done and read the author's Wikipedia entry. So the book...

As I said, I decided to sprint through The Obsession by Nora Roberts to even get close to my deadline. Luckily this book grabs a hold of you so quickly that I would have sprinted through it even if I had started it a year early. The first few chapters document the first 20 or so years of Naomi's life that at one point I was pretty disappointed not to get more into those pivotal years. We go from Naomi learning the awful truth about her deranged father and saving a young woman's life to buying a huge house on Puget Sound, Washington that it was a bit whiplashy. But you soon learn that The Obsession is a roller coaster ride and that was just the opening drop.

I want to stop and give major props to Roberts for her ability to describe the Puget Sound area so vividly. I have family in that area and have spent some time in that area, thus my photo at the top. If there is one area outside of Chicago I would move to in a heartbeat, it would be the Pacific Northwest. Roberts doesn't come out and say exactly where Naomi's house is, but from the small names dropped and description, I knew exactly where it was. I could smell where Naomi would hike to take her photographs. I envied her sunrise view cause I have seen the same views from my godmother's kitchen.

When Naomi moves to Washington, she was finally stopped running from her past as the daughter who caught this century's most notorious serial killer. After having been raised in New York by her gay uncles and enduring the suicide of her emotionally abused mother, Naomi finally settles down in an old bed and breakfast in much need of a rehab. She is making her living as a photographer - half artsy stuff that sells in NY galleries and half stock photos. While she has changed her last name, Naomi is always on high alert for anyone who might discover her real origins. This is in fact one reason she chose a sleepy small town to lay down roots.

Naomi quickly is drawn into this small town's social scene, especially after catching the eye of the town hottie/rocker/mechanic. See...it takes awhile for the romance to show up! You get how it took me awhile to realize I was in for some steamy love scenes. I have to admit that I felt the same as Naomi when Xander showed up. He is brash and overconfident in himself. Ugh, I thought. Then as he worked his way into Naomi's heart, he also did to mine.

When Roberts gets this roller coaster moving through the zero-G loops, you are racing through the pages again. I'm proud of myself for picking up on some of the foreshadowing to figure out a little of the ending. There were certainly times when I was thinking, "No, No..NO!! This is not how this ends up!" But Naomi's past does indeed catch up to her now that she has stopped running.

The actual conclusion of the mystery part of the book was only half-satisfying. But the ride was good enough that I would recommend this book be tossed in your beach bag this summer. It will keep you engaged as you take in some sun, but also a book you could conceivably leave for a few days and pick up without a problem. But....I highly doubt you'll be able to put the down long enough for that to happen.

After I did find out I had read a romance novel, definitely not my usual genre, I did a bit of a search on Nora Roberts. She is listed as a feminist romance novelist. Indeed Naomi does mention feminism in the book. The manner in which the book treats Naomi's mother's abuse is honest and gentle in a very feminist way. In fact, I kinda felt that one conversation could had been ripped from an emotional abuse brochure. I would not be surprised if Roberts gets letters from women who say, "I didn't realize I was in an abusive relationship until I read this book." When Naomi discovers her father's secret life, the family moves in with her mom's gay brother and his husband. Their relationship is treated without much fanfare outside of moments early on where Naomi's mom and uncle have to talk out the contradictions between his marriage and the morals she came to believe under her husband's rule, especially since it is an interracial marriage. Naomi is a strong character who determined to not only support herself, but save herself from her father's sins.

Again, this is an excellent beach book for the upcoming summer. But if you buy it now, I dare you to make it past Memorial Day before you devour this book.

Please purchase your own copy of The Obsession from Powells or Indiebound and support Viva la Feminista.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from a publicist.  

15 April 2016

EVENT: espnW Comes to Chicago



The pay gap that the US Women's Soccer team plays under has been an issue for decades. The team went on strike in the 1990s. Even as the team was fighting towards their third World Cup the media covered their wage gap. Now the team is fighting for fair pay. But soccer is not the only sport that shortchanges women players. Equal pay is just one topic that should be discussed at an upcoming event in Chicago on women's sports. The inequity of women athlete salaries is often dismissed to the lack of fans who attend games, thus less sponsorship dollars and on and on. But it trickles down to unequal playing conditions in high school too. Hopefully this gathering of women's sports influencers will craft some sort of plan to tackle the inequities of not just salaries, but media attention that often drives fan attention. If I can see developmental league basketball on ESPN, I should be able to see professional softball and basketball.

On April 20th, 2016, espnW will host the first-ever espnW: Women + Sports Chicago event.
Inspired by the renowned espnW: Women + Sports Summit, this one-day event will unite
a powerful group of sports leaders, marketing executives, professional athletes,
and influencers in the women + sports space.

While tickets are $595, if you are a student you can email ESPNw for a discounted rate. 

13 April 2016

Review: Confirmation

Kerry Washington (Credit: Frank Masi/courtesy of HBO)
Twenty-five years ago the country, if not the world, were flung into a crash course on sexual harassment. A staffer’s call to a legal professor in Oklahoma ignited a fire that has yet to be extinguished. That professor was of course Anita F. Hill and that call asked her if she knew anything about her former boss Clarence Thomas that should be known before his confirmation hearing to join the U.S. Supreme Court. What came next is still hotly debated and is now a dramatized movie on HBO starring Kerry Washington as Hill, Wendell Pierce as Thomas and Greg Kinnear as then-Senator Joe Biden sporting an excellent accent.

Confirmation dives right into the intrigue and suspense of how does the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee handle the discovery that a number of young women claim to have been harassed by Thomas. Considering that we know the outcome of the hearings as Justice Thomas just asked his first question in a decade from the Supreme Court bench, the movie still had me at the edge of my seat. The movie focuses on the time when Anita Hill is brought into the confirmation process, Thomas’ reaction and how the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee handles the entire situation. I found myself cheering on Biden, then screaming at the screen later into the hearings.

Among the many heart wrenching scenes, the one that broke was when Hill had to sit down and not just inform her parents of what Thomas did to her, but also prepare them for the onslaught of attacks. Thomas is portrayed as angry and aloof. At one point he refuses to even watch Hill’s testimony on TV despite, as his wife points out, he will be questioned about her accusations. The movie is almost stolen from Washington’s excellent portrayal of Hill by the dance Senate staffers Carolyn Hart (Senator Biden) and Ricki Seidman (Senator Kennedy), engage in to attempt to ensure Hill gets a fair hearing.

I was in high school when the confirmation hearings occurred. When I saw her speak a few years ago at a luncheon in Chicago, I was reminded of her bravery. I was reminded of how she gave me language for what I was experiencing in school. She remarked how she knows this is her legacy - she taught us what sexual harassment was and how to speak up about it. Watching this movie you are reminded of the price Hill paid, especially at the time, to make sure the Senate knew everything possible about Thomas before voting on his lifetime appointment to the court.

Confirmation debuts on HBO on Saturday, April 16, 2016


28 March 2016

Book Review: Asking for It by Louise O'Neill

CW: This book deals with the aftermath of a sexual assault from the survivor's point of view.


I'm not going to beat around the bush, Asking for It by Louise O'Neill is intense.

O'Neill artfully writes from inside the head of a rape survivor from days before the assault to a few years post. Emma O' Donovan, our protagonist, is not an outspoken feminist activist and for the most part, refuses to even think the word 'rape.' Her life is turned upside down, not just from the rape itself, but the aftermath is almost as tragic. Within feminist circles, we often bemoan the way the mainstream media covers rape cases, but Asking for It shows how feminist sites are eager for rape survivors to tell their side of the story as their own click bait. Emma is equally haunted by op-eds that state she is making it all up as well as the flood of requests from feminist sites and the trending supportive hashtags.

#IBelieveBallinatoomGirl

I don't want to be their champion.
I don't want to be brave.
I don't want to be a hero.

As a YA book, the target audience is the high school and up crowd. I highly recommend this book for everyone who is a parent. And not because I think it will help you prevent the sexual assault of anyone, but because as a parent, the way Emma sees her parents post-assault is heartbreaking. As a parent, you may be tempted to take this book as manual for how to not to trust your daughter or to protect her from the world, but I beg you to read it as a manual on how to be a supportive parent.

When did we all become fluent in this language
that none of us wanted to learn?

Asking for It presents the reader with a very imperfect victim. Emma is not a virgin, while she is still in high school she is 18 and is the quintessential party girl. She is everything that makes up the idea that someone "asks for it." And yet, throughout the book, if you are willing to be open to the idea, you are rooting for Emma to regain her life, triumph over the slut-shaming she endures and watch as her rapists are locked away. I won't spoil the book and say if any of this happens. In light of the recent Ghomeshi trial verdict and how the judge accused the survivors of not acting properly, this book is timely. Emma is not only not the ideal victim due to her sexual past, but she does not play the ideal victim afterwards. 

So many things make this an excellent read. O'Neill sets up Emma as a spoiled party girl, who even commits the sin of slut-shaming herself. In an early scene, she even talks down one of her girlfriend's date rape. She plots about how to bag the next of her trophies. She is beautiful and wields that beauty as a weapon. Knowing that she will be the victim of a rape makes you question all the dislike O'Neill sets up. As a feminist who knows all the tropes and stereotypes that we must fight to end rape culture, I still caught myself thinking all the things: "Don't keep drinking!" "Don't go in there!" Asking for It is a horror flick and you keep yelling at the book hoping to change the ending, but you know it is all for naught.

There were definitely places in the book where I could not stop reading as well as places where I needed to walk away from the book for a bit. This book should not be an after school special warning for young women as to the dangers of excessive partying. Rather this book is a wake-up to those of us who want to support survivors or who are forced to support survivors. Seriously, her parents do this all wrong or at least Emma thinks they do. This book exemplifies why some survivors do nothing but "go on" with their lives. This book will stay with you long after you finish.

Asking for It goes on sale April 5th. Please purchase your own copy of Asking for It from Powells or Indiebound and support Viva la Feminista.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from a publicist.   

GIVEAWAY

 I have three copies to giveway!

GUIDELINES:

  1. To enter, simply comment with your email address. Seriously, without an email, I can't get a hold of you.
  2. Extra entries awarded if you share this review on Twitter (tag me @veronicaeye) or Facebook (tag me @vivalafeminista).
  3. Once all entries are in, I will number the entries, toss into Random.org and that magical machine will select a winner.
  4. This giveaway is limited to shipping addresses in the USA and sorry no PO Boxes.  
DEADLINE: Thursday, April 7, 2016 at 10 PM Central Time. 

24 March 2016

#WithSyria: CARE Letters to Syrian Refugees [Sponsored Post]

https://ooh.li/db4dc59
Photo by CARE


I was surprised to learn that after World War II CARE was sending care packages from people in the USA to refugees in Europe. And since March 2016 marks the 5th anniversary of the conflict in Syria, a war which has caused the largest refugee crisis since World War II, CARE reached out to some of those original CARE Package recipients who now live in the USA to write letters to Syrian refugee children.

https://ooh.li/db4dc59
Photo by CARE
Reading and hearing the letters sent from WWII refugees is touching. Especially in light of the fact that Syrian refugees are not only fleeing from their war-torn homes, but running towards vast amounts of racism and fear of their religion. So many elected officials fuel the flames of hate and ignoring the fact that refugees are fleeing the same violence we are trying to reduce. CARE continues to support refugees with care packages. And you have an opportunity to write your own letter of hope to Syrian refugees.

My letter to Syrian refugees:
Please know that there are far more good people in the world than not. Sometimes these good people are scared, become scared by the not-so-good people. Many people who can see through the fear are fighting to get your more assistance, to welcome you to our countries. I hope you can feel that support. I hope you find a new and safe home soon. My family, as most people in the USA, has a legacy of leaving ancestral lands for the USA with big dreams and hopes. Hold on to your dreams, never let them go. I'll keep fighting on my end too.   
Of course those letters and care packages can't get there on their own. Please consider making a donation to help CARE send them.

Thank you to CARE for sponsoring this post!

14 March 2016

Book Buzz: Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet's Ace Reporter

Investigating Lois Lane: The Turbulent History of the Daily Planet's Ace Reporter by Tim Hanley is an intriguing look into a character most people consider a sidekick. As someone who has never read any of the Superman comics, my grasp of the mythology is based on the 1980s movies with Margot Kidder as Lois. I always loved her spunk. While I am far from finished with this book, it is already shedding light on not just the origins of Lois, but what the comics industry was like in the 1930s and 1940s.

What I have found the most fun about this book is that it is arranged so each chapter starts with discussing Lois Lane, the character. The subchapter is then focused on the stories of real life people who brought Lois to life.

I'm posting this as a Book Buzz in order to alert Chicagoans that Tim Hanley will be at Women and Children First this Wednesday at 7:30 PM for an all-star panel discussion with Lauren Burke, Caitlin Rosber, Katie Schenkel and my friend Anne Elizabeth Moore. See you there!

Please purchase your own copy of Investigating Lois Lane from Powells or Indiebound and support Viva la Feminista.  

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from a publicist.    

13 March 2016

Remembering Dr. Quentin Young


Dr. Quentin Young left our world last week. While he was 92, it still seems too soon to lose this mighty leader. I doubt that he would have known me from any of the other Chicagoans who stood in awe of his work. But I wanted to mark this moment here. Dr. Young may be best remembered for being a staunch advocate for single-payer healthcare, I saw him at reproductive justice events. One year I MC'd an abortion speak out at Roosevelt University. He came to tell his story of watching women who has attempted self-abortions show up at Cook County Hospital. I wish we had video of that moment because I cannot do justice to his words. Only to say that his words were inspiring.

A few months ago I heard his voice again in an unlikely space - Latino USA. His granddaughter was reporting on growing up Latino and Jewish. It made my heart smile.



So here's to you, Dr. Young! Thank you for not only doing good in the world, but pushing us all to do so ourselves. To be more than we think we can be. I hope Chicago does you proud.

Image from Democracy Now!

08 March 2016

Book Buzz: Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases, and Fifty Years That Changed American Women's Lives at Work

Welcome to a newish feature here! I get far more pitches to review books than I have the ability to read & review. That is where "Book Buzz" comes in. This is where I will post about books that I think look worthy of not only me reviewing, but maybe, just maybe you picking up before I give the thumbs up. I've done this a few times, but finally have a name for it! Yay! Let's get to our first official "Book Buzz," shall we?

Because of Sex: One Law, Ten Cases and Fifty Years That Changed American Women’s Lives at Work by Gillian Thomas takes readers through ten landmark sex discrimination cases that helped dismantle a “Mad Men” world where women could only hope to play supporting roles, where bosses’ leers and propositions were as much a part of the air women breathed as cigarette smoke, and where pregnancy meant getting a pink slip. Readers will meet Ida Phillips, denied an assembly line job because she had a preschool-age child; Kim Rawlinson, who fought to become a prison guard—a “man’s job”; Mechelle Vinson, who endured sexual abuse by her boss before “sexual harassment” even had a name; Ann Hopkins, denied partnership at a Big Eight accounting firm because the men in charge thought she needed "a course at charm school”; and most recently, Peggy Young, forced off her UPS delivery route while pregnant because she asked for a temporary reprieve from heavy lifting

Gillian is a Senior Staff Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project. She previously litigated sex discrimination cases at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Legal Momentum (formerly NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund).

You can read an excerpt at Facebook. I hope to bring you a review in the coming months. 

03 March 2016

American Masters -- Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl


On Friday American Masters premieres Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl. In Chicago it will air at 9:30 PM. Everyone else, check your local listings. I haven't had time to preview this documentary for a review, but I am excited for this! When I was growing up, much of the music in our house was country and western music. My first concert was seeing Kenny Rogers. We watched Hee Haw and Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters. Loretta Lynn was everything back then. I did not realize how revolutionary she was until I was older. I do remember not quite understanding how popular culture reduced women in country music to "Stand By Your Man," when I knew them by Loretta, Dolly and Barbara. If you need evidence of Loretta's feminist ways, take a peek at the clip below. Then check out the full documentary Friday night.

EDITED TO ADD: It has come to my attention that Loretta is a Trump supporter. My heart is crushed. More evidence that even bad ass women are not perfect.



American Masters -- Loretta Lynn: Still a Mountain Girl explores Lynn's hard-fought road to stardom, her struggles to balance her marriage to Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn and six children with her music career, her friendships and collaborations with Spacek, Patsy Cline, Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash and music producer Owen Bradley, along with her life on the road, her Nashville and Hurricane Mills communities, her songwriting inspirations and her music's lasting impact on her peers and fans.

22 February 2016

Stopping HIV in the Latino Community One Conversation at a Time


I am proud to be part of the CDC's national communication campaign - We Can Stop HIV One Conversation at a Time / Podemos Detener el VIH Una Conversación a la Vez - to bring awareness of HIV and encourage conversations about HIV prevention in the Latino community as a paid ambassador.

The numbers can be scary. Hispanics/Latinos continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV. Although representing 17% of the total US population, Hispanic/Latinos account for 21% of the estimated 1.2 million people living with HIV in the United States and 23% of new diagnoses.

What the Latino community needs to realize is that the first step to stopping HIV in the our community is talking about it, but so many people in our community still remain silent. Research indicates that talking openly about HIV can be a simple but powerful way to eliminate some of the stigma, negative stereotypes, and shame that are too often associated with HIV within some segments of our community that prevent many from talking, getting tested, disclosing their HIV status, and seeking treatment.

To help Hispanics/Latinos start these critical conversations, the campaign provides resources, including a dedicated campaign website and practical tools and tips to help families and friends begin or continue important conversations about HIV prevention, testing, and treatment.

I joined other One Conversation ambassadors for a Twitter chat last week. It was fun and enlightening to see what others were thinking about HIV awareness in our communities.  A lot of people cited the stigma Latino families have around sex. I have always found that so ironic that we are stereotypically seen as hypersexual. But it is true, Latinos find it difficult to talk to their children about sex, much less HIV prevention.

I hope that the CDC's campaign site helps parents who need support talking to their kids about HIV prevention. We can bring down the rates of infection One Conversation at a Time.

17 February 2016

Review: Race


EDITED 2.23.2016:
There was something about the film that kept poking at me over the weekend. It took a lot of stewing in my head and reading of other reviews to realize what it was. We rarely hear from Jesse himself. We get a lot of scenes where Jesse is the center of conflict, but other people in the movie resolve it or explaining it. This movie is still beautifully shot and can be the start of a larger conversation. My daughter and I had a good chat about whether or not the Olympics should had been held at all. We also talked about the choices that athletes need to make sometimes, about their social responsibility. I think it was having these conversations that I realized I did not really know what Jesse was thinking, outside of a few dramatic scenes. This leads me to be very conflicted about the film. 
------------------------------------------

I took Ella to see Race tonight. I won a pair of passes to the Chicago sneak preview and thankfully she did not have a lot of homework. Now while I am a sports fan and I knew Jesse Owens, I did not know details of his story. Sure, I knew that he went to the Berlin Olympics and kicked Nazi butt, but that was about it. I saw that to say I have no deep historical record to compare this beautiful film to.

Owens was the world's fastest man during a time when most of the world would rather not acknowledge the existence, much less the accomplishments of a Black man. The movie picks up a few years before World War II, meaning that the US is still stuck in the Great Depression. Owens' father has been out of work for a long time and that clearly weighs on both of them. When we meet Jesse he is on his way to Ohio State University to start his college career. At one point his brother makes a comment about him being a college boy - but not in a supportive way either. Ugh...

There is so much conflict in this film that it made my heart hurt. Owens is torn about leaving his family, including his girlfriend and toddler daughter at home while he heads off to college. Racism runs amok on the OSU campus including the locker room the integrated track team shares with the apparently all-white football team. Of course then we have the build up to the Berlin Olympics. Should the US boycott or not? The politics of this decision seems to be fairly well depicted, including the pressure that Owens later receives from the NAACP to not compete. There is an obligatory "there are no politics in sports!" moment that is there to make it clear that sports is all about politics.

Overall I enjoyed the film. As a politically minded sports fan, I always love a movie that does a good job at depicting especially hot political moments.

RACE stars Stephan James, Jason Sudeikis, Jeremy Irons, Carice van Houten, Shanice Banton, and William Hurt, in the incredible true story of Gold Medal Champion Jesse Owens opens in theaters nationwide this Friday, February 19th!

15 February 2016

Review: Unslut by Emily Lindin

Emily Linden is either the bravest woman or the dumbest. It is brave to think you could transcribe your middle school diary & be celebrated. She is dumb to think it wouldn't matter. Emily may also be a far better person than I ever will be. But first let's get to her book, Unslut: A Diary and A Memoir.

Unslut is the diary & memoir of "Emily Linden.""Emily Linden" is a pen name as the real Emily did not want to put her name on the project, for obvious reasons, and then also changed the names of her friends from that moment of time.  In the sixth grade Emily went to a friend's house to hang with her boyfriend and another guy friend. One thing lead to another & kissing occurred. Then a little more. While no intercourse happened, there was sexual contact - third base. Yes because this is a middle school diary a lot of the sexual contact is referred to by its baseball equivalents. After letting her boyfriend go to third base he of course tells others, not to mention the other guy friend in the room and thus begins her multi year journey through slut shaming.

What makes this book is powerful is not just the fact she transcribed her middle school diary so you can watch her deal with the slut shaming, but also the fact that "Future Emily" is annotating the diary. It takes the whole "what you would say to your 13-year-old self" though exercise to the next level. Future Emily is remarking not only on the lingo of middle school from the turn of the century, but also talking her middle school self down when she starts to slut shame herself. Take for example when Emily is walking with friends and a guy she is not dating grabs her breast. She writes furiously how sorry she is that she cheated. Future Emily is having none of it.

Moments like that will strike a chord with every girl who was every slut shamed and still carries around scars. This means that if you still do, I warn you that you may flashback to those moments in the hallway when that guy who always put his hand on your butt and you could never find a way to stop it. Or you reflect back on why you could never find the right words to say, "No," because as Emily puts it, sometimes there is social power in just letting things happen.

Emily is not the only "slut" in this diary. A few of her friends have slut moments and her reaction to those moments will kill you. They kill you because you are invested in her pain and then she lashes out at the other girls. They kill you because you might have done the same when you were her age and you regret the hell out of it. As Future Emily does.

I am torn as to whether or not giving this book to a teenage girl or boy would help them be kinder to themselves and each other. I wonder if Future Emily's annotation is too "parental" for a current teen to understand as anything other than mature reflection. I have no idea, but I am giving this to my 12-year-old daughter who is a year older than Emily was when she labeled a slut. The book is explicit in its depiction of teenage sexuality. She uses phrases to describe sexual activity that made this mother cringe. Then I had to recall what kind of language I used then. The flipping back and forth between mom-mode and survivor-mode was exhausting.

Eventually I finished reading this book as I ate dinner by myself in a restaurant.  I assumed it was busy and dark enough that I was invisible. Alas, my despair at the book ending and all the feelings that were dredged up was clearly visible on my face. After taking a selfie with the book to mark the occasion the couple next to me asked me what I was reading. "A powerful account of one girl's journey as she was slut-shamed in middle school." And that is exactly what this book is. Powerful.

I guess I am still unsure if Emily is a genius or dumb to not know how much we needed this book.

Please purchase your own copy of Unslut from Powells or Indiebound and support Viva la Feminista.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy from a publicist.  

GIVEAWAY

I have one copy of "Unslut" to giveaway!

GUIDELINES:
  1. To enter, simply comment with your email address. Seriously, without an email, I can't get a hold of you.
  2. Extra entries awarded if you share this review on Twitter (tag me @veronicaeye) or Facebook (tag me @vivalafeminista).
  3. Once all entries are in, I will number the entries, toss into Random.org and that magical machine will select a winner.
  4. This giveaway is limited to shipping addresses in the USA and Canada. 
DEADLINE is Wednesday, February 24th at 10 pm Chicago time

Good luck!

13 February 2016

Beyond Balance Storify

In case you weren't able to attend Women Employed's "Beyond Balance" conversation, I Storified it. Enjoy!


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