logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: 2016-read
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-11-08 19:26
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing

First let me say that I cheated a bit and listened to this 27 hour audiobook and that part was a mistake. It made the divisions in the story more difficult to understand and I ended up going back and getting the ebook to make sense of it afterword.

The book hit me much like Madame Bovary did back when I read it first but I understand the problem now and can honestly say that I see why it is considered a feminist classic and how it contributed to the body of work that eventually won Doris Lessing the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The book is incredibly problematic in many ways right from the start. The point of the book though, is the introspection into the four notebooks where the main character looks at all the ways in which the bubble of her life as an upper middle class white heterosexual in the society of England just afte WWII is problematic. While I'm sure problematic would not be the word Lessing would have used at the time, this is where we've come in looking at books and feminism and all the intersections of life. As part of this, there is also a diversity problem throughout. Nevertheless, we do get to see some people who still have representation issues and though the characters aren't treated well, it's a part of the book that the main character spends time writing in the notebooks about her treatment of them, her feelings about it, and sometimes debating other tactics. None of this makes her noble, but it definitely makes the book ahead of its time. For the record, it was originally published in 1962, which is a year before The Feminine Mystique. Along with the aforementioned notes about people, she also takes a long and introspective look at her life, her role in society, the way society treats her and the things expected of her by everyone.

Like I said, it was a book ahead of its time. It's problematic in many aspects right from the start but the point is looking at her life. For me, that makes the nature of the problems a part of the plot and not an afterthought or something the writer neglected to care about. The whole point is seeing for yourself if you are a racist or sexist or hetero-sexist.

Some minor spoilers ahead.

To elaborate on what I was getting at above, this book is great in that it so well explains that plight of women in several walks of life during it's time. The part that bothers me is intricate to what makes it great. It's so true.

Yes, it gets quite complicated and it may be difficult to understand what I mean by that in a review and I did think at first that maybe it was just me and I just really identified with the women the story is about. But it's not. I know that because I also get the ebook, as I mentioned above, which has two introductions that were written by the author, one in 1993 and the other in 1971. She has received enough fanmail and letters stated this that I know I'm not alone in that.

What I mean by the "plight of women" is that there are things that we all know happened back in the time that this book was made that we like to gloss over. We watch old movies where men say things that we would not consider a compliment if said now and the women laugh and then we laugh as if it's okay because those aren't real women anyway, right? Well, many of those very things had to be a part of the culture, it only makes sense when it pops up in, literally everything made in the time. Let's go ahead and add in the feeling that there is a requirement to have sex with a guy who buys you dinner now, let alone in a time before the Women's Liberation movement.

So yeah, what made me squirm as I read the story wasn't that I didn't like it as a masterful piece of work with a beautiful prose that just makes you feel what the characters feel, but the idea of living and breathing in that world terrifies me. A lot. Like, A LOT. It's not Hunger Games level, but it's not necessarily far off either.

I grew up knowing that there were lots of women around me that felt like they had to just be happy with the man they married despite affairs and poor treatment because they were unemployable and he was a decent provider for their kids. And just like with some of the men here, it was her kids, not their kids together. These guys don't feel anything for their children, they aren't a part of their lives. Having kids was a favor they did for the women they kept all but chained to the house. Now, don't get me wrong, house-wives are great. It's the idea of a man looking at his housewife as if she exists as a burden to him and having children with her solely to give her life meaning because he won't "let" her do that by any other means or because she feels bound by society to make that the meaning of her life that I have a problem with.

Part of what makes this so clear is that the book itself isn't about a housewife, it's about a serial mistress. She doesn't want to be married. I don't want to spoil all the details of why and her circumstances, but this gives us the window through which we get to see these men. Married men in pursuit of her as their girl on the side and then we get to walk through her thought process and whether or not she wants to sleep with them and whether or not she does in spite of desire but out of obligation. All of these things leave her in positions that I would loathe finding myself in as well as most of the other women in the book. Before I get accused of making the distinction, though I don't think it should be necessary, I do understand that this is her circle and the people she finds herself around. I'm sure there were plenty of perfectly happy marriages with men who didn't sleep around. This book isn't about those marriages or those men.

What makes it a truly interesting book despite all the things that terrify me is that what makes the plot move along is Anna's introspection that is brought on by her notebooks. She has written a successful book and is compartmentalising in an effort to find adequate inspiration for a new book. Her introspection makes her take a second look at everything, even the most menial, repetitive, or normal things. For example, she mentions washing up several times a day while on her period and changing out her tampons. She doesn't just mention it but thinks on how it makes her feel, how it effects what happens throughout the day that she has to take this extra precaution.

The commentary on communism is an interesting one that I've never really heard before. It makes sense to see it in the beginning as something hopeful on that level but I love that it is also broken down into people and how people can so easily break a concept like communism. My dad once said (and he was probably quoting but he's my original source) that communism is a great idea until you add people to it. I remember working to figure out what that meant and realizing that it does sound like it should create a better world, then later realizing that some greedy people will always come along and destroy it all. This, of course, was well after the Cold War ended and that cat was out of the bag. I'm sure I was watching something that mentioned something about it.

Due to her experience in Africa and the nature of her first novel, Anna does also get introspective about racism and even colonialism. The plot of that first novel would be considered very problematic these days and she realizes it in the book and spends some time on why and how and what she could have done differently but that it would not have sold that way. No one would have believed it or wanted to see it if she had told the real truth.

I found her dreams toward the end with the projectionist interesting. I had a similar, though different, experience recounting events in my life as I had started to become better versed in feminism these last few years and started to see all the little ways that I had bought into internalized misogyny. I had been a girl who said that I wasn't like other girls because I genuinely didn't like many other girls at the time. The list of faux pas from back then goes on, but the introspection was an important part of it. It's a little jarring when you sit down to it, at least it was for me and I appreciate that it was equally so for Anna.

Like Reblog Comment
review 2016-04-04 00:34
Shatter Me Complete Collection
Shatter Me Complete Collection: Shatter Me, Destroy Me, Unravel Me, Fracture Me, Ignite Me - Tahereh Mafi
Like Reblog Comment
review 2016-04-04 00:04
Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity
Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity - Julia Serano
Like Reblog Comment
review 2016-04-04 00:02
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg - Irin Carmon,Shana Knizhnik
Like Reblog Comment
review 2016-04-03 23:55
Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home
Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home - Anita Hill

The search for home is different for everyone, if for no better reason than that it can mean something different too. Feeling at home in America doesn't come easily to everyone and finding a home within our borders can be complicated.

I had never thought of home ownership as a part of the American Dream, but I am not that far removed from the parts of my family that first settled in the US. I believe my mother was the first home owner on her side of the family and my father didn't come too far behind on his. At the same time, I did understand that buying a home was a privilege and a hard thing to do. I remember how the location of that home determine what school I went to and all the whispering in the family about how my parents got me into a better school than my cousins because of where we had moved. I remember being tied for the smallest house in the area in order to go to that school.

The point is that not thinking about home and home ownership as an ingredient to realizing the American Dream was an oversight on my part. Where our houses are, how big they are, and the demographic makeup of our neighborhoods all contribute to our individual identities before we even start getting into who lives in our homes with us or the way we are treated there. Of course home is an essential part of equality. This book made me wonder how I missed it.

Beyond that, the book discusses facets of the recent housing crisis. It reminded me that the quickest way to get taken advantage of is to think you are being treated equitably. I have known plenty of people who paid too much for their homes during the "bubble" but most managed to keep their homes. I am grateful for that, but it allowed me to be ignorant of the gravity of the situation that we have faced as a nation or the bad practices that went into creating this problem.

So many of us are not home yet. We aren't comfortable in the buildings we live in, the people we live with or around, or can't even find somewhere to rest. There is a strong correlation between race and gender and this problem that goes beyond class and finances that Hill lines out beautifully.

If you're trying to reimagine what equality means to you, particularly in your home, this is the book to read. I quoted it a few times over the past few weeks, and I'd like to end with this last quote:

In sum, we must begin to reimagine equality as Abigail Adams did, with all women as equals, have full authority within the home and full citizenship under the law; as Booker T. Washington did, with people of color as welcome neighbors, not as community outcasts; as Nannie Helen Burroughs did, with women's work inside and outside the home deemed both socially and economically valuable.

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?