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review 2018-06-04 15:08
Rereading Junot Díaz in light of recent events - the cycle of abuse harms us all
This Is How You Lose Her - Junot Díaz

Men may feel they get the upper hand by treating women poorly, but long before "me too" Yunior told us otherwise in these stories and in the novel.

 

Reread these after recent revelations by both Junot Díaz & women who were victimized by him. I was interested to see how this would affect the reading.

 

If you've missed the fireworks, a quick rundown:

  1. Junot Díaz publishes a personal essay in the New Yorker (The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma) revealing that he was the victim of repeated childhood sexual abuse by a man in his neighborhood, that he's paid dearly for it, can no longer write and has mistreated women tremendously while trying to hide behind a mask of machismo.
  2. Fairly quickly he is confronted by a number of women, notably women of color, other writers of sexual misconduct and verbal abuse.
  3. He decides (with the full blessing of the committee) not to take his place as Chair of the Pulitzer committee.
  4. Bookstores decide to remove his books from the shelves, others keep him on, nobody knows what the right thing to do is, and everyone picks a side.

 

All of this led to discussions - hell, thousands of discussions - around me, with women, with other survivors, with everyone but writers. I don't know any writers or I'm sure they'd have talked to me too. EVERYONE in the trauma community was afire with this discussion. Eventually some of us got around to his writing, and my response was that I hoped I'd still be able to read it, since I really have been a fan, and it made me sad to read in the NYer that he could no longer write. Then I grabbed these short stories off my shelf and read them. This is where I landed:

 

I loved these the first time I read them. I was just as uncomfortable with the over-flexing of what we now call toxic masculinity then as I was this time. In fact, I think my reaction was pretty much the same: the narrator's toxicity harms him and everyone else in his life, including his great love - but in the end, he's hurt himself badly (some great female writer might want to take the feminine perspective someday.) If only we could get people in real life to own up to how harmful toxic masculinity actually is for everyone.

 

The character in these stories is clear on how he's harmed himself, and while he may use bravado to try and mask his torment, it clearly doesn't work. Everything, including his body, breaks down.

 

Explanations are not Excuses. 

 

This is not to say that these fictional stories should be taken as an indicator of real life, but misogyny is a problem for everyone, and the pain in the voice of these stories spells that out. In fact, I think these stories might be used as an example of how badly misogynistic bullshit works out for everyone. Men may feel they get the upper hand by treating women poorly, but long before "me too" Yunior told us otherwise in these stories and in the novel.

 

As a person who has lived through some stuff, I'm glad to have read these stories the first time and again now. They are excellent, and the message is probably more clear now than it was the first time I read it, though my history hasn't changed at all. I still react badly to the mind games, abuses of power and name calling, AND I appreciate the stories. They have a moral dimension I now see even more clearly, and it's about far more than diversity or a "unique voice." Yunor spells out how harmful his misogynistic buddies and lifestyle are to both the women and the men in his life.

 

Sexual abuse begets pain, anger, confusion, acting out and abuse - sometimes even more sexual abuse. The issue is not on whose side will we fight - we should all be on the side of protecting children and getting everyone (including rapists and child molestors) help before this cycle begins in yet another person. Otherwise we are doomed to an assembly line of horrors. I'd bet that if you spoke to the man who abused Junot Díaz, he'd probably have some horror tales to share about his life. None of this excuses anyone. It does show how harmful it all is for everyone, be it the abused person, the perpetrator or the many people who have relationships with either of them through lifetimes. Abuse is poison. It harms souls. It murders a part of us that we can never regain.

 

When we have no tools for coping with this existential terroristic threat, we often cope in tremendously harmful ways - both to ourselves and those we love. Interpersonal relationships are forever changed, and we're all the victim - everyone in society.

 

This is why "rape culture" and "toxic masculinity" must end. It's killing as many men as it is women. It's a way of acting out, and it's unacceptable, if understandable. It will reach us all eventually, and nobody comes through unscathed.

 

As for the stories, the final line "sometimes a start is all we ever get" rings just as poignantly as it did before I knew so much about Junot Díaz.

 

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review 2018-02-26 04:10
Adults who refuse to learn...
Girl Unknown - Karen Perry

Much of this book was read in a state of disbelief that two adults who have jobs, raise children and own property could be as naive, insipid, psychologically stunted, and stupid as the couple who co-tells this woeful tale. As they conveniently hid things from each other and themselves "for the sake of the children" I kept saying aloud, "Your children could not possibly be as dumb as you two."

 

Luckily, the children were not as immature as the parents, but they were damaged in other ways. It would be hard to grow up with these parents and not be, actually.

 

Nonetheless, I kept reading, because we have two unreliable narrators telling a similar yet competing tale about a third person (the "girl unknown") who isn't trustworthy either. So I just wanted to see what kind of crash they were foreshadowing from sentence one.

 

I will admit, the crash was different than I imagined. And for that, they get an "it was OK" from me. If nothing else, this is a cautionary tale about trying to keep secrets from those around you and doing the things that make "the neighbors" or the PTA or whoever else you're trying to impress or shield from the truth happy.

 

Finally, one of the best parts of this book was that I kept forgetting who wrote it, and from time to time, I'd think "only a woman" or "only a man would write this." Turns out I was wrong, or maybe right, 100% of the time. "Karen Perry" is the pen name of a male/female Irish writing team who wrote this book together. I won't say the thing about two heads....

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review 2018-02-17 11:00
The Powerful Heritage of a Woman: The Loving Spirit by Daphne du Maurier
The Loving Spirit - Daphne du Maurier

In spite of its title, the novel The Loving Spirit isn’t just another one of those shallow romances set in the picturesque landscape of Cornwall that swamp the book market. Much rather the English novel from 1931 is a family saga with obvious echoes of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and poetry.

 

Spanning a hundred years, it shows the fate of four generations of the Coombie family starting in 1830 with wild Janet whose boundless love not only marks her own life but also that of her descendants... including that of her unloved son who makes a fortune to gain power and have his revenge to the very last. But he can't destroy the strong seed that Janet planted.

 

Please click here to read my long review on Edith’s Miscellany!

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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review 2018-02-03 11:00
Rebirth of an Orphan Girl: The Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons by Monica Cantieni
The Encyclopaedia of Good Reasons - Monica Cantieni,Donal McLaughlin
Grünschnabel - Monica Cantieni

Here's the sublime debut novel of a - so far - rather unknown Swiss author. As a matter of fact, the book won the most renowned Swiss literary award. The story is simple and yet gripping:

 

Being only six years old and an orphan girl she is a greenhorn in life and in a family, when she arrives at the home of her new parents sometime in the 1970s. They are Swiss, but not particularly well-off so they live in a poor immigrant neighbourhood on the outskirts of Zurich with all its problems. The little girl needs to learn an awful lot and not just new words that she stores in all kinds of boxes (following the suggestion of her new father). With the help of her new - senile - grand-father Tat she finds her way.

 

To know more about this Swiss novel, I invite you to click here and read my long review on my main book blog Edith's Miscellany!

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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review 2018-01-20 11:00
Abused and Shunned by Society: The Diary of a Lost Girl by Margarete Böhme
The Diary of a Lost Girl (Louise Brooks edition) - Thomas Gladysz;Margarete Bohme
Tagebuch einer Verlorenen - Margarete Böhme

This forgotten classic from Germany was a best-selling novel in 1905 and translated into many languages.

 

It was also widely read for nearly three decades – until the story of a fallen girl from a bourgeois family who sees no other way to survive but prostitution was pushed into the abyss of oblivion because it didn’t fit into the ideal and virtuous image of Germans that Nazi propaganda created. Mute films made of it had the same fate although the 1929 film of G. W. Pabst starring Louise Brooks is much appreciated by enthusiasts like the editor of the again available English edition of the book.

 

Please click here to read the full review on my main book blog Edith’s Miscellany!

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
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