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I think I liked the two other Joanna Russ books I've read better (What Are We Fighting For? and How to Suppress Women's Writing), but that is largely because I am much more interested in feminism than I am in SF.

I know! I am a genre reader, but not really an SF reader -- I grew up on fantasy, and that's still what I seek out. And I've read very little SF, so many of the things that Russ comments on, I don't know enough about to really analyze. I also haven't read several other works she refers to, including Willa Cather and "The Yellow Wallpaper" and Shirley Jackson (um. yes i know. i will some day....).

On the other hand, I continue to enjoy Russ' casual, conversational style and notes, along with her wit and her way of looking at things. I may not always agree with her, but I like that she continues to examine "marginal" genres and works, though this collection of essays focuses more (solely?) on white women instead of on POC.

Also, I am glad to have finally read this, despite the horrific overdue fine my library will charge, because I have now finally read her essay on Gothics, "Somebody's Trying to Kill Me, and I Think It's My Husband"! I'm excited because [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink refers to it for romances, and I'm excited because I feel more equipped to read the Gothics [livejournal.com profile] rachelmanija has given and lent to me.

So, recced, but more recced if you have actually read what Russ is referring to.
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I am not even sure how to start writing about this book; there is so much in it and so much to think about for me.

As a caveat, I add that I am woefully undereducated in Feminism 101, Anti-Racism 101 and Feminist Women of Color 101, and pretty much completely uneducated in Class 101, so I may very well be flailing over what is common knowledge for most people.

Russ first looks at the state of feminism today ("today" roughly being around the 80s, when she was writing the book) and noting the appropriation of "feminism" to mean "anything related to women" or "insane radical bra-burning blahblah you know the stereotypes." She makes a pretty convincing argument for separatism, although she also points out later on that this means separating women of color from allies against racism or lesbians from allies against heterosexism, which I think are excellent points. I'm not sure if she ever goes back to point out that excluding male-to-female transgendered people via female separatism is a way of sticking with binary gender and also a judgment on mtfs as "not real women;" I wish she had, because I had a problem with that.

I didn't take that many notes in the early chapters; they cover Russ' frustration with critical theory via psychoanalysis, the misogyny of Freud, and other issues. This isn't to say they weren't thought-provoking; they were, but I have been thinking about feminism for longer than I have been thinking about race or class, so the territory was more familiar.

But then she goes into class and feminism, which I found very interesting and thought-provoking. Alas, I have no really good comments about this section because I feel like I need to read up more.

The part of What Are We Fighting For? that affected me most was the final section, in which Russ adds race to the picture.

Feminism has and always will be a huge part of how I view the world, but I've often felt excluded from it, even when I wasn't able to articulate that exclusion or my distance from it. And much of that exclusion has been because of race. And so, it was so good to have Russ address that, so much so that I nearly cried through the chapters that followed.

This is, by the way, not to credit Russ as the sole proponent of women of color; she states very clearly that she is not and that she has often gotten in the way of women of color, to her shame. And I have encountered these ideas before, even though I still need to read more women of color. But because I didn't grow up reading women of color, because I am only finding them now, I suspect any acknowledgement of this intersection will affect me a lot for a long time to come.

Quotes )

And it's not just the intersection of race and gender and class, it is life in that intersection, in all those intersections, when any one movement -- be it anti-racism or feminism or socialism or anti-imperialism or queer pride -- does not work because it means obscuring yet another part of your identity. It is not being able to pick an oppression over another, not ever being able to forget that you are marginal not just among the majority culture of the US, but also in the smaller groups that you have chosen for yourself. And while I think the "more oppressed than thou" game is stupid and divisive, I think it is also important to recognize when someone is dealing with more than one axis of oppression.

Also, Audre Lorde says it much, much better than me.

Anyway, highly recommended, and I need a copy for myself.
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I'm blogging books and manga separately this year, just because I read so much manga. I feel like I've read remarkably few books this year; last year my reading had gone down in total, but I didn't separate the books and manga out, so I'm not sure if I read more books this year or last year. I definitely read way more manga this year, which is why the book count is only at 90. It's really weird; not reading many actual books makes me feel like a slacker, particularly since much of what I did read was YA.

Thoughts about the year in books )

I've blogged nearly all of these previously; the ones that haven't been written up yet are asterisked. You should be able to find everything via tags or LJ memories, and if you're curious about one of the unblogged ones, leave a comment and I shall expound upon it.

And now, without further ado, my top ten books of 2006:

  1. Gillian Bradshaw, assorted novels )


  2. Sarah Dessen, Just Listen )


  3. Scott McCloud, Making Comics )


  4. Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, eds., This Bridge Called My Back )


  5. Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing )


  6. Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night )


  7. Beverley Daniel Tatum, Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? and Other Conversations about Race )

  8. Megan Whalen Turner, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia )


  9. Jo Walton, Farthing )


  10. Scott Westerfeld, Succession )


Also recommended: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre; Christina Chiu, Troublemaker and Other Saints; Sarah Dessen, Dreamland; Emma Donoghue, Life Mask; Mary Roach, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers; Susan Vaught, Stormwitch; Cornel West, Race Matters; Frank H. Wu, Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White; Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese

Total read: 90 (3 rereads)

All books read in 2007 )
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(O Readers, do not doubt, for I am putting race into this as well!)

(uh, not that anyone is probably looking forward to that...)

I think, had I seen the title of this book ten years ago, I would have thought, "'Suppress' is such a harsh term! Yes, women's writing is nowhere near being acknowledged widely, but is it really actively being suppressed?"

These days, I think suppression doesn't have to be an active process, particularly when the status quo already favors an imbalance in the portrayal of minority writing (women, who aren't statistically a minority but are in terms of representation; people of color; experiences from other religions; differences of sexual orientation; class differences, etc; and all of the above combined).

And, even worse, I self-identify as feminist, and I still don't recognize many of the female authors Russ names, I still haven't read enough about them in textbooks to recognize the portrayal of them. I know who James Joyce hung out with and who read Keats' poetry, but I don't know who Jane Austen read or who she influenced, beyond the Brontë sisters (right?), and I'm ashamed of that.

Russ frames the book as an instruction manual for an alien race on how to suppress women's writing; the introduction is a little cute for me, but I can see it being deliberately shocking as well. I think Russ also notes that all these instructions work for suppressing any "undesirable" group's writing.

The book is divided on chapters, each one discussing one more way to suppress women's writing. The first, not given a chapter, is of course to not educate women, to not let them read or write. But after that, the arguments become more and more sophisticated and more difficult to argue with because they are based on truth (I will get into this more a little further down).

Cut for length )

Highly recommended.

Links:
- [livejournal.com profile] cupidsbow's essay on feminism and fan fiction, as informed by this book

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