Featured Post

100 Days after the Women's March

31 December 2016

Here's to 2017 in color


I asked friends on Facebook what word they want to carry into 2017 and this is what I made from their suggestions. Not everyone's word made it here, but I did my best.

And yes, I made you a black & white version to color for yourself.

Now let's go kick 2017's ass before it can do the same to us.

via GIPHY


via GIPHY


via GIPHY

27 December 2016

Review: Hidden Figures (book) by Margot Lee Shetterly

I am a nerd in many different ways. I love math. I went to Space Camp for my 40th birthday. I could go on, but I think I have established my nerd credentials. Thus when I heard this book came out and a movie, I could not wait! I picked up this book at Powell's Portland airport store. Let me tell you,  Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly is a beautifully written book about the collision of race, gender, and science in the USA from World War II to the late 1960s.

Hidden Figures tells the stories of a number of African American women who found themselves working on engineering projects during World War II and through the 1960s space race. Oh, I should add that they were doing all of this in Virginia too.

As someone who has spent her career working to diversify science, technology, engineering and mathematics, these type of stories are not new to me, even if the characters are. There are so many hidden figures in the annals of the history of science we could write books for a generation. No, what is most compelling about Hidden Figures is how effortlessly Shetterly connects the dots between what is occurring in the government labs during the space race and what is happening in our society writ large.

All those sticky notes are places I wanted to quote to you, dear reader. Alas, that might border on copyright infringement.

In the prologue, Shetterly sets the stage with the fact that "growing up in Hampton, the face of science was brown like mine." This is so important to the overall story. The author grew up in a community where people of color did science, so no big whoop! Can you imagine the choices her generation were able to conceive because of this fact? Goodness. But as she untangles the threads of the stories, she begins to craft a new vision of where she came from. One where Black women as mathematicians were not only recruited, but due to discrimination a smart business move for the government agency that would become NASA. And yes, despite the professionalism that one would give to a government mathematician, the burden of working hard and long hours to offer one's children a "better life" was just as real for these women as the women who labored in homes and factories.

Time and time again Shetterly balances the progress happening in the research labs with how stuck Virginia and the rest of the country were in terms of race and gender relations.

In relation to African Americans fighting in World War II, she writes:
The system that kept the black race at the bottom of American society was do deeply rooted in the nation's history that it was impervious to the country's ideals of equality. 
In relation to using education as a force for social advancement:
The Negro's ladder to the American dream was missing rungs, with even the most outwardly successful blacks worries that at any moment the forces of discrimination would lay waste to their economic security.
Shetterly never lets the readers forget the larger social forces at play, even as our heroes make leaps in mathematical theory. The reality is that they are Black women in the South in the 1940s to 1960s. No amount of heroism allows them to escape that gravitational pull. The desegregation of schools was a huge issue at the time of these women's fantastic accomplishments, but Shetterly writes:
As fantastical as American's space ambitions might have seemed, sending a man into space was starting to feel like a straightforward task compared to putting black and white student together in the same Virginia classrooms. 
One especially touching and brilliant example of the two worlds these women were living in was when Mary Jackon's son wins the box car derby.
Mary knew that her son was a ringer; the two of them had been building to win. Brain busters' kids were supposed to come out on top in a race like this, even if the brain buster was a woman, or black, or both.
Shetterly shares many women's stories with us in 265 pages. You may get overwhelmed by the number of stories as well as the emotions that come along. But keep track. Their stories have been hidden so long that Shetterly could have written a whole book on each woman. Maybe she should for children to read along with their biographies of Glenn, Armstrong, and Lindberg. Because these women may never have gone into space or set foot on the moon, but they are no less part of our history of exploration and American exceptionalism.

Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound. And go see the movie! I can't wait to see it myself.

20 December 2016

Eight Great Feminist Books for Last Minute Gift Giving

I've read quite a few great books this year, but haven't had time to write up proper reviews. Honestly I have a few half-written ones, but I wanted to make sure you have some recs for a last minute run to your local feminist or indie bookstore. So let's get to them...Note all book links are affiliate links so I do get a little something if you buy the book through those links. Which is much appreciated!

Forward by Abby Wambach is a difficult walk through this legend's life. Abby is my favorite player in recent years. I was so eager to read this and while I did not walk away from it not loving her, but rather it changed the temperature of my fandom. Her honesty is brutal in ways that are endearing and off-putting. Abby is forthright with the privileges she has held since childhood from being a star athlete, but also the burden of being a younger sibling of a star athlete. The way she talks about the Brazilian national team and Marta is so dismissive I had to put the book down for a bit. Abby's struggle with addiction is humbling and that comes across throughout the book. In the end I left the book admiring her more, but in a more humane way. Not as the greatest soccer player ever, but as someone who went through a lot of crap to accomplish her dreams. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.  

Threadbare: Clothes, Sex & Trafficking a comics report from the Ladydrawers and Anne Elizabeth Moore is A+ feminist killjoy. Disclaimer...Anne is a friend of mine & I'm friendly with many a Ladydrawer. What Anne & Co do with Threadbare is connect our addiction to cheap cute clothes with the global epidemic of low-wage work that disproportionately impacts women and human trafficking. See...feminist killjoy. Now you say you only buy second hand clothes to reduce the money going into the pockets of big corporations and reduce our environmental footprint? Sorry, you fall into this vicious cycle too. This book is a must read for the feminist fashionista in your life as well as every well-meaning feminist who wants to save women in the developing world. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.  

In what I dub the natural partner to Threadbare is Andi Zeisler's (another friend!) We Were Feminists Once. Andi digs deep into the current pop culture moment feminism is having. For awhile it seemed hard to get through a profile of a pop star or actress without someone asking her if she was a feminist. But what does that mean when feminism is hip and cool? Andi outlines how it ends up watering down feminism and what it means to be a feminist. What does it mean to consider an act of feminism to be consuming Amy Schumer and wearing cute feminist tees? Can we buy our way into a feminist future? Spoiler....Nope. Again, feminist killjoy at its finest. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.


Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner? by Katrine Marcal is a must read for every feminist who skipped economics class because it sounds hella boring and/or intimidating. I admit that I would never had taken econ if it wasn't mandatory for my masters degree. I found it frustrating as hell because we had to suspend reality while talking about supply and demand curves or how if you don't like the benefits at a job you just get a new one. What is especially frustrating about economics is how women's caregiving is lost in all the equations and valuations. Marcal painstakingly, yet in an accessible way, walks us through modern economic theory and points out its flaws in regard to women's work. The title comes from the fact that Adam Smith, who wrote foundational works in economics, lived at home and was able to do all that thinking and writing because his mom took care of him. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.  


This hunk of snark is brought to us by the geniuses at Reductress. How to Win at Feminism is a handy dandy guide to feminism as if written by all the people who don't understand feminism. But way funnier. During these frozen days of winter and depressing post-Trump days curl up with this book to remember all the victories we have had and all the work we still have to do. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.

I really do have a much longer review to be published for Powered by Girl by Lyn Mikel Brown, but let's do this quick hit first, eh? This book is a must read for anyone who works with girls, especially in leadership programs. Girl Scout Leader? Yup. Camp Leader? Totally. At times the book gets a bit repetitious, but considering how few people think that girls can leader, you do need to repeat the message a few times. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.


Another book written by a friend. Dear Princess Grace, Dear Betty by Alida Brill is a sweet look at the life and struggles of a woman who is equally a fierce feminist and a hopeless romantic. What is so wonderful about this book is that you feel the full passion of Alida searching for true love without feeling like she is trying to fill a void like most "looking for Mr. Right" stories. She's not looking for the missing piece or to fill a hole. She simply believes in love and wants some...while also demanding women's equality. She balances both sides of the story in a way that will make you reexamine how you view Second Wave feminists (I mean, if you only know it through history books of course.) Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.

If you haven't heard about Unsportsmanlike Conduct already, you obviously aren't watching ESPN because Jessica Luther has been on countless times since its release. In Unsportsmanlike Conduct, Jessica (another friend!) painstakingly breaks apart the problem of sexual assault and college football. It is not just an epidemic or one of too much drinking. Then she puts things back together in a logical and creates a playbook for every campus to follow in order to better address campus sexual assault and athletics. When she was in Chicago for a reading, I told her that I was truly impressed at the delicate dance she performs at calling out the racism that both makes white women the perfect victim and the often-African American football player the perfect perpetrator AND the misogyny that also invalidates women's rape accusations. Buy a copy from Powells or IndieBound.

Happy gift giving season, everyone!! 

Other great feminist books I read this year:

Disclaimer

This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.

What I'm Currently Reading

I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame
The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation
Gabi, a Girl in Pieces


Veronica's favorite books »
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

As Seen On