“Hunger,” Roxane Gay

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This is, without question, the most anticipated book I’ve discussed on Lit She Wrote. Historically, many of my choices have been books that have already been established in fiction and nonfiction circles. I work in a bookstore, so it takes a lot to get me excited about new release Tuesday, and even more to convince my bank account to buy anything in hardcover.

Roxane Gay has the unique ability to do both. Hunger is a memoir of Gay’s experience having what she calls an unruly body in a world that will show it no mercy. I tore through the first 75 percent of this book rapidly; I could barely put it down. At that point, however, I forced myself to slow down. Why? Because I didn’t want this book, in which I was seeing so much of my own experience, to end. Continue reading

“Neon Soul,” Alexandra Elle

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Young women are finally having their day. With Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur holding firmly to its bestseller position—both in hardcover and paperback—there’s been a renewed interest in poetry, particularly in young adults. As a bookseller and poetry buff, seeing young women coming into the store every day and heading for the poetry section has been gratifying and heartwarming, if I’m honest.

Many ask me for recommendations after finishing Milk and Honey. I have a few standbys (which will be discussed here at some point). Neon Soul, a new release from Alexandra Elle, just shot to the top of my recommendation list.

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“Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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I have struggled for the past few days to decide what to post about on International Women’s Day. It seems as apropos a day as any to be writing for my feminist book blog, and I have a backlog of books to discuss, but I couldn’t make up my mind.

Luckily, when I arrived at work yesterday morning—an opening shift at a bookstore on New Release Tuesday—the answer was waiting for me on the bestseller table. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It ticked a lot of boxes. A book with “feminist” in the title, by a known feminist author, and one short enough to read in a day. I’m choosing to call it an International Women’s Day Eve miracle.

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“We Should All Be Feminists,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Absolutely.

I could, in good conscience, end this post here if I wanted to. But I don’t want to. The subject demands and deserves time and thought far beyond its own short length.

We Should All Be Feminists is a short book—or long essay—by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who adapted it from her own TEDx Talk. The book outlines her introduction to feminism and how sexism and misogyny have shaped her life, as well as the lives of countless women.

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“Milk and Honey,” Rupi Kaur

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This is the first time I’ve written about an extremely topical book here. The book has been on the NYT best sellers list for several weeks, and as a bookseller I got to witness it suddenly skyrocketing. Women were coming into the store to request it. Others were reserving copies online. In my time working at the bookstore, I hadn’t seen many poetry books become popular. This one, for a while, was out of stock in our warehouse. So, naturally, when I saw we’d finally gotten a few copies in store, I was quick to buy it for myself. I’m a lover of poetry, particularly modern poetry, and one that was being linked to other feminist poets and authors was sure to appeal to me.

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“Are You My Mother?” Alison Bechdel

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Familial relationships are complicated. There’s no sugarcoating it. A childhood in a tense environment can spell lifelong trauma.

In Are You My Mother?, Alison Bechdel chronicles her relationship with her mother throughout her life. The memoir is framed by the works of psychoanalyst David Winnicott, whose theories on the true and false self and transitional objects Bechdel found particularly relatable.

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“Americanah,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Literature is at its best when it moves you. A good novel will elicit an emotional response of some kind. A great novel reaches out and slaps you in the face. It might be depictions of harsh reality, or emotionally charged character behavior. But it nevertheless needs to not only reach you, but also affect you.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie possessed this quality in droves.

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“A Thousand Mornings,” Mary Oliver

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People often shy away from poetry, thinking it’s too complicated, saying that they just don’t get it. Worse: that it’s boring or old. Fair enough. I can’t say it’s for everyone. But, I am a firm believer that any avid reader who decries poetry just hasn’t read the right poems yet.

In Mary Oliver’s A Thousand Mornings, we see the space in which traditional poetic themes are gracefully met by modern sentiments and feelings.

“I go down to the shore in the morning
and depending on the hour the waves
are rolling in or moving out,
and I say, oh, I am miserable,
what shall—
what should I do? And the sea says
in its lovely voice:
Excuse me, I have work to do.”

I Go Down to the Shore, p. 1.

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“The Glass Castle,” Jeannette Walls

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The first chapter begins mundanely enough. An adult Jeannette Walls, sitting in the backseat of a taxi in NYC, catches sight of her mother rooting through a dumpster. The mother and daughter meet up for a meal, and Walls asks her mother what she needs. Her mother recoils, accusing Walls of having lost her priorities. On the next page, Walls is three years old and on fire.

The Glass Castle is a fiercely detailed memoir about her nomadic upbringing with free-spirited and often reckless parents. What struck me immediately was the way her experiences show the dark side of being free-spirited, the toll it can take, especially when children are involved. The idea of living on the road, or constantly relocating is heavily romanticized making it easy to forget the many downsides.

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“Fun Home,” Alison Bechdel

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My introduction to this book was gradual. First, a friend started sending me songs from the musical. They were of course great, but I don’t think my brain made the connection that the musical was based on a memoir. The first time the book itself was recommended to me was during a coffee date with friends. At some point, conversation meandered to books, which was odd but refreshing. We all enjoyed reading, but our friendships each pre-dated us being Adults Who ReadTM, and books weren’t a typical topic of conversation for us. That being said, the recommendation slipped my mind, and by the time I picked it up, I’d forgotten it was ever mentioned to me. Either way, I’m glad it made its way onto my bookshelf.

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home is a graphic memoir dealing with her struggle with her sexual identity, her father’s hidden identity, and his death. Continue reading