Sunday, April 28, 2013

2nd Preview to Summer Link-up: 5 Books Every Woman Should Read
This week's book link-up challenge was really difficult for me (I feel like this will be a trend) :P.  Serena's challenge of choosing 5 books that every woman should read had me brainstorming a few days ago on some of the most influential books that have had some type of impact on me as a woman.  It wasn't until this morning did I come up with these five, one of which I own but haven't read yet (I know, that probably shouldn't count but it's been recommended to me time and again!).

I thought back to my Gender & Women's studies courses at UW-Madison.  I loved them so much that I wish I had made it into a double major instead of just a certificate (the equivalent of a minor).  I learned so much in those courses and it's translated into my life and what I value as a feminist.

I've chosen these five books for different reasons, but I also feel like they will apply to a wide range of audiences and women who may not also identify as a feminist but would like to learn more about female struggle throughout the world, history, and today's society.
1. The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler:
I picked up this book the summer before I went to college.  I was even reading it up to Madison, on my way to a program called Base Camp.  I was about to go canoeing down the Wisconsin River for three to four days straight.  I had it in my hand when I met our "tour guides" who were also Madison students.  They had already read it, loved it, and I saw it as a good sign for the book.  This book is a collection of different monologues or stories of women that is meant to be performed.  I've seen it twice as well as another version called Yoni Ki Baat.  Each story revolves around the female identity, anatomy, and of course, vaginas.  Some stories are more serious than others, some are downright hilarious.  One story even involves an orgasm, making the live performance either incredibly amusing for some and uncomfortable for others.  It was one of my first experiences reading about the female perspective and it was a beautiful opportunity since I was about to leave for college.  This book gave me this window where I decided to check out other courses involving women's history and women's rights.  Looking back, this book was a gently push into me becoming more of a feminist.  I think it's a great book for women to read in general because vaginas usually aren't discussed openly, yet as women we have them, it's the part of the female anatomy that is most often used to describe women, and it has developed a culture around it.

2. Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales:
I took a course in college where we got to analyze fairy tales and I loved it.  I would recommend that women read the original fairy tales as told by Anderson, the Grimms, and Arabian Nights because these have been passed down for generations.  They're also significantly more different than the Disney versions that many of us have grown up with.  Many of them are very dark and teach brutal lessons.  A lot of these stories also paint the history of women in many different cultures, whether they were valued or oppressed and it's a good reminder that each of these stories has a good dose of reality.  For example in Cinderella, her "wicked" step-sisters are forced to dance in burning hot shoes, so they essentially burned themselves to death.  Check out copies from the library and see what life lessons are taught from these original tales.  It's more than prince charming, they often involve realizing your true potential.

3. The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler:
This book helped change my perspective on what young women went through during the eras of the 50s and 60s.  I often think that are portrayal of that time period is very much a depiction of Leave it to Beaver, where you have the perfect household but families didn't upkeep that lifestyle without several flaws.  Fessler, the author, was adopted and she knew that her mother was essentially forced to give up her daughter for adoption so Fessler went on this journey interviewing other women from this time period who were also pressured into giving up their children for adoption.  These women were teenagers or college-aged women who were unwed and became pregnant.  Many were sent away to facilities in other states where they carried out their pregnancies, delivered their babies, and then never saw them again.  These were difficult stories to take in for many reasons, but mainly because these women felt so isolated and they were shamed by their families.  Some of these women were raped and then humiliated.  One story that left an impression on me took place in Wisconsin and a young woman was on a date, who then was threatened to walk home in a snow storm unless she had sex with her date.  It was a dark time and all because these women were expected to have these children and then give them up.  Societal expectations were ridiculous (women took tranquilizers back then to keep calm).  These young women also weren't provided any type of counseling afterwards, so many of them had a lot of emotional and psychological trauma after being isolated and then forced to give up their baby.  Some of the women, who everyone in their town knew what had happened, had been deemed as "sluts" and boys would try to convince them to have sex with them because during that time pregnancy = you knew how to have sex.  These were definitely difficult stories to get through but so necessary to teach future generations.  Today we see Teen Mom on MTV and many of these teenagers have the support of their families and the state.  This was not the case back then.  These stories and many articles that I've read through reproductive rights courses further cements my beliefs in understanding the big picture of what all women go through.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
This book has been recommended to me by so many people!  Diamant takes a biblical character and dives into the story of Dinah.  In the Bible she's mentioned briefly through different sections, however, she is the protagonist in a story that covers the traditions of women during biblical times.  In a time where men would have multiple wives (and still do), women would gather in a separate tent during the time they had their periods, were birthing, or even when they were sick.  The book also covers the stories of the wives of Jacob and how they care for Dinah.  In this tent, they grow in their relationships with each other, share stories, and cultivate a life together.  I'm working through the book right now, but the biggest complaints that I've read from others are usually biblical scholars.  I would approach it with an open mind and focus on the relationship between the women versus the relation of passages from the Bible.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin:
I haven't read this yet, so I feel a little silly putting it on this list, but there are several books that people I admire have recommended and this is one of them.  I have an ever-growing list of books that I would like to read and specifically books that every woman should read.  Being in my early 20s, I think now, more than ever, is a great time to tackle these types of lists.  Although a completely time period, Chopin's novel deals with a lot of the societal issues that are brought up in Fessler's book (mentioned above).  Her protagonist deals with the societal pressures of going into a marriage that she didn't want to be and then subsequently dreaming about what it would be like to have the equalities of men.  What was really awesome about this book was that it was written in a time period where the fantasies of these fictional characters were very taboo.  It's considered a feminist classic.

Preview to Summer participants- make sure to link-up with Serena over at Spillerena!
Link-up with your name and blog title and if you have to schedule your post for a future time, please just leave a comment under her post.

Be sure to check out the other ladies' choice books and if you're looking for some other fun resources check out More and Flavor Wire.

 Thanks for reading!

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  1. I've had The Red Tent sitting unread on my bookshelf forever. I need to get on that! The Vagina Monologues has also been on my to-read list. I actually hate reading all the original fairy tales- some of them are just awful! But I like your point of them representing women's changing roles throughout different times and cultures.

  2. I'd love to read The Red Tent. My mom read it and loved it. The Awakening sounds good too. Don't worry, I wrote down 4 books that I hadn't read yet either on my post today-opps! xoxo- Kristen

  3. I love The Red Tent so much, and I read it many times! I've got to read Vagina Monologues, sounds like something right up my alley. I always love a good book that causes others to stir. LOL

  4. I chose "The Red Tent" too!
    I added the Fessler book to my "to read" list. I hadn't even heard of it. Also - were you a Theta? (that last one, obviously, is totally unrelated.)

  5. I've never read any of these. I definitely want to read The Women who Went Away now though!

  6. Need to read the first one (too shy to type it - yikes!), there are so many references to it in so many other shows and movies.

    The Red Tent still makes me appreciate modern ways of handling my cycle. Though as I get older, I sometimes wish there were a tent to go to. Great book.


  7. The Awakening is on my list too! Although, I have read it haha. I like that you included fairy tales! They definitely have some really important messages.

  8. Loved loved loved The Red Tent! One of my favorites!

  9. I have the Red Tent in my to-read pile and am definitely excited about it. I really recommend the Awakening!

  10. I also reccomend "Ten Thousand Splendid Suns" as an amazing book for women to read. Really beautiful story. Thanks for the reccomendations of the others!

  11. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such in depth descriptions for these wonderful books! I am really excited to add these to my book list of "must reads." I also took a Gender & Women's studies course and we had to read The Awakening (I LOVED IT!). I wanted to recommend a book for your next list (if there is one) or perhaps for you just to read :) The book is entitled, "Mission To Teach" ( about a young woman Jhumki Basu who sought to make a difference in the teaching world as well as her seven year battle with cancer. Jhumki’s absorbing story is made very personal through its narration by her father, Dipak Basu, the author of the book. The reader can see that they had a deeply loving relationship and he shares his daughter's story with truth and you can truly feel the pride he has for her throughout. I think it should be considered a must read for all women. It is inspirational and extremely motivating. Jhumki does not let cancer slow her down; it only pushes her harder to help children with troubled backgrounds make something of themselves. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!