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Reviewed in the United States on September 12, 2018
This anthology is a tough one for me to rate. If I were reviewing it based solely on the nature of the work—this book about intersectional feminism, equality and equity, and fighting back against a society that perpetuates things like treating women and nonbinary people as less than men (and women/nonbinary people from marginalized communities as lesser, still)—it would be a 5-star read, with no hesitation.
Unfortunately, the execution of the collection leaves a bit to be desired, and if I were rating it exclusively on my enjoyment, it would be 3-star worthy (hence my compromise at 4 stars in the end). One of the problems that I found was that, frankly, the collection feels repetitive by the end of it. If I’d read one essay a day, maybe this wouldn’t have been an issue, but as it stands, I read this in two days, and was feeling by the end as though I was rereading earlier pieces.
My enjoyment for the collection as a whole dropped in the final third, where we had one story in particular from an author who has already proven herself not to be an intersectional ally of people of color, yet spent far too many pages explaining her privileged upbringing and humble-bragging about what a great activist she considers herself to be. It felt like a bold, unintentional reminder of why allocishet white women need to stop being what this society accepts as “the face of feminism”.
Of course, there were some real gems in the collection, like Anna-Marie McLemore’s; I always love the way she has with words, and her descriptions of how difficult it was to grow up religious in a world where her deity was whitewashed by the masses was incredibly insightful to me, as a white former Christian who never had to deal with those devastating thoughts as a child. I was also particularly fond of Sandhya Menon’s bit on immigrating from India, Julie Murphy’s story that managed to weave fat rep and recognizing that her privileges as a white woman still protected her despite her size, and Amy Reed’s devastating recounting of sexual assault.
All in all, while this was certainly not the best nonfiction anthology I’ve read, it’s still definitely worth a read (though you can probably skip Ellen Hopkins’ story with no harm done, to be fair). Especially if you are a person who sits in a great place of privilege, the greatest thing about this collection—and the reason I am still giving it 4 stars—is that I do think it has a great deal to offer in the ways of encouraging intersectionality, which is something we can never have too much of.
An outstanding collection of essays about feminism, about activism, and about growing up being female in the US. The voices here are authentic, showcasing not only feelings and experiences, but the ways in which these women have chosen activism that works for them. Standouts in this collection include Brandy Colbert's essay about learning the racist history that changed her home town from one with a larger black population to one where she was one of few black people in her school, Maurene Goo's piece about the way she uses her anger to fuel her, Julie Murphy's essay about why being fat meant she was political whether she chose to act on it or not, and the piece that closes this book by a new author, Tracy Deonn Walker, about the way other people put expectations on her as a black girl and how she uses art to fight back.
Not all of the essays will resonate with all readers, but that's the greatness of an anthology. Some pieces didn't do much for me, but I also know they'll work for other readers.
There is one glaring omission in the collection worth noting: there are no voices of trans women here. We have acknowledgement of trans women throughout, but, it is disappointing not to see their voices in here alongside these other women. Anna-Marie McLemore talks about her husband, who is trans, but it's still not a specific experience of being a trans woman.
Pass this along to readers who want a book about the current political climate -- most talk about the election (which, admittedly, gets tiring after a while, but if you don't read this in a single sitting, will not grow as tiring) -- and a book about being a girl in modern America. These women span all backgrounds, ethnicities, races, sexualities, and religions, and those intersections are emphasized. For readers who enjoy HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD, this would pair really nicely with it.