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review 2014-02-22 01:15
Barbie: The Front Window
The Front Window - Claire Jordan,Della Foster

Barbie has gotten a lot of flack over the years. She's been accused of causing anorexia, promoting vapid materialism, and reinforcing gender stereotypes. If you're on board with that and genuinely believe that Barbie is going to have such a negative influence on your children that you simply can't bear to associate with the brand, this book is obviously not for you. Personally, I think that's a shame. Even if you aren't a strident member of the cult of Barbie, The Front Window is a pretty great book for introducing young children to feminism.

Over the years, Barbie dolls have been produced that presented the characters as a teacher of American Sign Language, an American football coach, a surgeon, a paratrooper, the United States president, an astronaut, a NASCAR driver, and many, many other careers ranging from traditionally feminine roles to ones that break gender barriers. Here, Barbie becomes an even more impressive feminist icon: an 1800's crusader for women's right to vote.

In the story, Barbie's teenage sister, Skipper, is working on her school's paper with Becky, the paper's wheelchair-bound adviser. When she's tasked with writing a story on "women in business", she's disappointed; businesswomen are old news. What's interesting about women running businesses? But her research leads her to Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and their paper, The Revolution. And she discovers that back in the late 1800's, Susan B. Anthony even made a visit to Skipper's town!

From there, she learns the story of The Front Window, a short-lived feminist newspaper run by a local female dress shop owner upset with the mainstream local newspaper's refusal to write about Anthony and her beliefs. So when she drifts off to sleep in the library, what could she possibly dream about but the story of The Front Window?

What The Front Window--the book, that is--boils down to is an All Just a Dream historical fiction story that casts Barbie as a women's rights crusader in an attempt to teach children about the women's suffrage movement and the prejudice women faced in the 1800s.

I highly recommend the book to Barbie fans, though sensitive children unfamiliar with the concept of sexism might be more upset than educated. For those children that can handle the subject matter, I would advise complementing this with some nonfiction about the women's suffrage movement, as it doesn't cover a ton of actual history; it also fails to address modern sexism, leaving a younger reader with the impression that there's no such thing. If you feel your child's old enough to be introduced to that particular issue, you might want to look into following this up with some books addressing second-wave and modern feminism. Unfortunately, I haven't read much on the subject and can't recommend anything in particular.

Also, be sure to check out other Barbie books in this series, if you enjoy this one. They're adorable, fun, and often educational; great reading for young children.

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review 2014-01-15 06:33
A Handful Indeed
The Invention of Wings: A Novel - Sue Monk Kidd

Sarah Grimke is a precocious girl who runs amok in her father’s library and revels in lessons in Latin and debate with her brother Thomas. Taught to think for herself, but raised in a society in which a freethinking woman is an aberration, Sarah is unaware of what her transition to adulthood will require her to give up. Her first hint arrives when she is presented with a gift on her eleventh birthday: a skinny, clever slave girl named Handful by her Mauma, but called Hetty by her masters. Sarah is appalled at the idea of owning another human being, and writes up a refusal of the gift, but there is no giving Handful back.


And so the two girls are thrown together. Well-matched intellectually, they live in two worlds that exist uneasily under the same roof. If Handful is a minor disaster as a lady’s maid, Sarah is no more accomplished a master. To assuage her conscience, Sarah teaches Handful to read; a freedom of the mind that Handful soaks up, delights in, and continues to learn, even after being whipped. Handful sasses back, takes a few odds and ends, runs scams, and speaks her mind, just like her Mauma, Charlotte does. Handful becomes an excellent seamstress and quilter, also like Charlotte, and the two express themselves by creating a story quilt that tells the travails of Mauma’s life. In the meantime, Sarah’s stutter worsens as the noose of proper female behavior tightens around her neck.


Sarah and her sister Angelina eventually become famous orators on abolition and women’s rights, attracting a diverse crowd and finally, freeing her voice. Handful’s journey is marked with violence, crippling setbacks, moments of beauty, and a growing determination to get free or die trying.


I read this book in 2 days. There was no putting it down. Its strengths lie in the character studies of the two girls, and in their voices which, in alternating chapters, tell the story. Another forte of the book is the extensive research that the author has done bringing the historical characters, Sarah and Nina Grimke, to life.


(I have read in some other reviews that there is a version of this book in which Oprah’s notes are reproduced all over the text. I did not read the book in this version, and am glad I didn’t. If you purchase this book, and I would recommend that you do, you will want to be aware of which version you are purchasing, annotated or not. Personally, like the characters in this book, I prefer to use my OWN mind.)

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text 2013-11-17 20:30
Women's Rights in Romance Novels
In Name Only - Janet Bieber
Saving Grace - Julie Garwood
After Hours: (InterMix) - Cara McKenna
A Kiss For Midwinter - Courtney Milan
A Lady's Lesson in Scandal - Meredith Duran
The Lady's Tutor - Robin Schone
A Brother's Price - Wen Spencer
Shotgun Wedding - Maggie Osborne
Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake - Sarah MacLean
Never a Gentleman - Eileen Dreyer

I always find it an unexpected pleasure when a romance novel I am reading carefully weaves in an exploration of women's rights.  Depending on the historical setting or world that has been created, the subtle and not so subtle cultural forces of gender and how to find a love that truly sees you within those structures create a powerful level of truth that makes me fully engage with the story 


Also, these kinds of everyday but unusual conflicts of the right to vote, own property, not be property, control of reproduction, intellectual equality, bodily autonomy, hold public office, fair wages, education, military service, legal contacts, and so on make for excellent plots. 


I would like to recommend for you the most excellent blog Romance Novels of Feminist: for readers who like a little equity with their love. 


Here is a list of great love stories that also think carefully about Women's Rights. 


1. Shotgun Wedding by Maggie Osborne examines the real consequences of putting the philosophies of New Modern Womanhood into action. 

2. In Name Only by Janet Bieber explores how a heroine frees herself from her own inflexible beliefs. 

3. Never a Gentleman (The Drake's Rakes, #2)  by Eileen Dyer showcases a remarkable heroine who due to circumstances beyond her control submits to convention. 

4. Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake (Love By Numbers, #1) by Sarah MacLean looks at the social restrictions on women in a more light hearted but still truthful way.

5. A Kiss For Midwinter (Brothers Sinister, #1.5)  by Courtney Milan confronts the father's ownership of a daughter. 

6. After Hours by Cara McKenna is a contemporary look at the the intersection of class and gender.

7. A Brother's Price by Wen Spencer gives us a matriarchal world where men are expected to be virgin and the nurtures and women are the warriors. 

8. The Lady's Tutor by Robin Schone digs into a women's suppressed sexuality and contraception  in the Victorian Age. 

9. Saving Grace  by Julie Garwood frames womanhood as seen by the Church.

10. A Lady's Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran marvelously reveals the difference between working class women and and those of the upper class. 



 As always, I would love your suggestions for great love stories that deal with issues of Women's Rights.


If you would like to vote for the best of best, go to the Goodreads list: Women's Rights in Romance Novels

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text 2013-10-10 12:03
Malala Yousafzai on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai

I am writing with tears in my eyes. This girl has the gift of oration. Or something I can't explain.


Every time she talks I can't help but hold my breath.


Part of it is the issue of Women's Rights which is important to me as it should be to any woman no matter which country she lives in. Another part is her story of speaking up and being shot for it.


She brings all these dark and distant news stories from the Middle East right into your heart. Malala believes in what she is saying and she believes there is something everyone can do fix this tragedy. It is amazing to see.


Right now I am going to go search for more interviews with her and to learn more of her story.


I just wanted to share this episode of the Daily Show with everyone. I'm honestly crying!


You can watch it here: The Daily Show with Jon Steward - Malala Yousafzai



Source: www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes/tue-october-8-2013-malala-yousafzai?xrs=share_copy
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review 2013-09-30 03:09
Dance the Moon Down by R L Bartram
Dance the Moon Down - R.L. Bartram

I like it when a book is more than just a story. I like it when I'm taken into a world or era or both that I am not much familiar with, and by the end of the book come out feeling like I've lived it. I like it when the writing transports me on so many levels because the words and the phrases flow with ease, they lend vivid details to the imagination, and touch a chord whether in describing beauty or horror.


Dance the Moon Down is all of these things and more. R L Bartram seems to me a sensitive writer. It is not always that a male writer understands what makes his women characters tick, or so I have thought from my reading experience. But Bartram knows them inside out, and every woman character in this book can be sympathised or empathised with on some level or the other.


Victoria is one of very few privileged women of her time to receive a college eduction. During her time in college she meets Gerald Avery, a young poet, and they fall passionately in love. They marry. But only a few months after their wedding the rumours of war that have been circulating through the country for years, manifests itself. Gerald voluntarily responds to the call for soldiers and he is assigned on the frontline in France. Almost everyday Victoria receives letters from him and responds. She lives for those letters until six months into the war they completely stop.


From here on out the story really begins. We read about her determination to try anything and everything to learn what has become of her husband. She has received no telegram that he is dead and believes strongly that he is very much alive. Her search for the truth of his whereabouts leads her into some trouble that she barely comes out of. Then, as the war rages on and shows no signs of stopping she realises that she has another battle on her hands -- one for her own survival. We are taken through a male dominated England that has no place even for a woman of higher education. To be fair this attitude seems to prevail mostly in the English countryside. But Victoria is bound to Staunton Gifford - the village where she and Gerald had only just begun to live together when he was called to war - for having promised her husband she would wait for him there.


She finally finds a job as a farm labourer in Orchardlea, not many miles away from her home, and Victoria begins to learn an entirely new way of living. She meets some wonderful young women there - all of them children of the soil. They stand by her, supporting her through all her trials as she tries to become acclimated to her new circumstances and to a physical labour she was never born to. During her time here all Victoria's notions of class and women in general undergo a change. She grows to love and respect her labourer friends and their bond is great. Through the remaining three years of the war, these young women stand by each other, each of them with their own problems and nightmares to deal with while their men are away and they struggle, along with many other women like them, to help England live through the war.


As you can tell, this book shows the other side of war. It is a story about the ones who were left behind. The women become the backbone of their country, drafted into men's jobs to help make England survive. These women were fighting emotional, mental and physical battles constantly. They feared for their men; they feared for their own survival; and they needed each other to keep themselves sane.


Dance the Moon Down also gives us a look into the government propaganda of the day. The people at home were completely ignorant of what was taking place in the frontlines. The newspapers were completely under the control of the government and so the censorship was severe. It was easy for the government to suspect someone of being a spy should they take even a marginal interest in what was really going on.


There are many themes dealt with in this book that I would love to discuss here but in doing so I would give much away. I think this would make for a very meaty book discussion. Speaking of which, I enjoyed the format of this story, and the underlying crux of it. It was a page turner and I thought there was something rather Victorian in the manner with which Bartram uses the voice of an overseeing narrator. His writing style is also much along those lines. There is absolutely nothing contrived about his language. It flows smoothly.


Here is a brief excerpt to whet your appetite:


It was as if he felt that by going to France and facing the enemy there that he might somehow prevent them from ever reaching England and her. Victoria had read enough of his poems to know how he felt about his country. Now that war had been declared, he didn’t go to fight in defence of some distant foreign land. It was for England, her pastures, her fields of golden corn, her woods and lanes, everything that was England. Often, they were so intense that it seemed as if he were characterising a woman, beautiful and pure, whom he loved beyond life itself. Sometimes, when she could persuade him to recite them to her, it was with such passionate sentiment that she wondered, from the way he looked at her, if it was actually herself he was describing; if, in fact, she and the country were one in his mind.

It was then that she knew that she shouldn’t keep him from going; worse, that she was able to stop him but that she should not. His desire to defend his country was a supreme act of love, not only for the land, but for her. It epitomised everything he believed in - love, honour, duty. It was the nature of his character. That was what she’d seen in him when they’d first met. That was why she’d married him.

By the same token, she couldn’t deny him now. If she insisted that he remained with her, he would stay and she could keep him safe, as half a man with half a soul and half a heart. Her choice was horribly simple; keep him and crush his spirit, or let him go and risk losing him forever.

For many, it was impossible to resist the tremendous surge of nationalism that had gripped the country. The propaganda, the reports of German atrocities already being committed in Belgium, and the lies of conniving politicians were a potent concoction inclined to arouse the passions of any red blooded Englishman. Others simply followed suit with little or no idea of what they were agreeing to, and even less regard for the consequences. They went in their thousands, laughing and waving, with full hearts and the absolute assurance that it would be a short war, over by Christmas; that Britain would win, and that it would be glorious.

Victoria wondered if, in the future, the people of tomorrow would understand why the people of today had acted as they did. Would they realise that it was the spirit of the age that moved them? That it was their absolute conviction that what they did was right?



I would highly recommend this book to those who love reading the classics, those who like to read books on the World Wars and those who like to read anything on women and their struggles.

Source: breadcrumbreads.wordpress.com
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