Ever since I finished Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan series (which I reviewed here), I've felt like I just lost a good friend. I miss the main characters, I had hoped to grow old with them.
So in a quest to "relive" Ferrante's magic, I've been reading feminist fiction like crazy.
What is feminist fiction?
Honestly, I have no idea. But if you google enough, certain titles start to reappear.
Why feminist fiction?
Basically, I wanted to read novels about women. And I didn't want them to be funny or silly or to make fun of themselves. As much as I love (and I do love) Bridget Jone's Diary, I hoped to spend a few weeks discovering stories about female friendships and female thoughts and female problems and I did not want any of it dumbed down. I wanted REAL.
Here's what I found:
1. The Women's Room - This book, published in 1977, was a huge bestseller at the time. Forty years later some of the main character's problems seem dated. Does anyone feel the need to marry right out of high school anymore? Nevertheless many of the characters' problems are disturbingly current - for example, the rape scene in which they blame the girl sounds shockingly familiar in today's world, as does the endless need to balance children and a career.
What I liked best - The author's descriptions of women's friendships.
What I liked least - Some parts drag. In an effort to tell the story of several different women, the book often loses focus and tends to meander.
2. The Country Girls Trilogy - This novel centers on two Irish girls in the 1950s. And if The Women's Room made things seem bad, the girls in this book are often little more than chattel. You just keep waiting for someone to love them as much as you do or, at the least, to acknowledge them as human beings. It's a tough read.
As summarized on Wikipedia, "O'Brien's works often revolve around the inner feelings of women, and their problems in relating to men, and to society as a whole. Her first novel, The Country Girls, is often credited with breaking silence on sexual matters and social issues during a repressive period in Ireland following World War II. The book was banned, burned and denounced from the pulpit, and O'Brien left Ireland behind."
What I liked best - The writing is stellar. And, yet again, the portrait of this complicated friendship is wonderful to read.
What I liked least - It's a sad book. Perhaps too sad.
3. Beloved - I can't believe I turned 40 without reading this classic about a former slave haunted by her baby's ghost.
What I liked best - Morrison's wording and descriptions are like nothing I've ever read. Words seem to dance off the page. No wonder she won the Nobel Prize.
What I liked least - Certain sections are slow. The beginning is confusing (REALLY confusing), though if you keep reading, it all comes together.
4. The Golden Notebook - Every feminist reading list includes this book. It's like THE BOOK. Which makes sense as Lessing won the Nobel Prize. The novel's storyline revolves around Anna, the main character's, four notebooks. "In one, with a black cover, [Anna] reviews the African experience of her earlier years. In a red one she records her political life, her disillusionment with communism. In a yellow one she writes a novel in which the heroine relives part of her own experience. And in a blue one she keeps a personal diary. Finally, in love with an American writer and threatened with insanity, Anna resolves to bring the threads of all four books together in a golden notebook."
What I liked best - The main character's struggle to live independently in a world where such independence is constantly judged.
What I liked least - The final 100 pages are just boring. Lessing describes (in detail) a tumultuous relationship, but reading about this relationship makes you hate both the participants, you just want out.
5. The Fifth Child - Once I read one Doris Lessing book, I had to read another. The Fifth Child is COMPLETELy different from the Golden Notebook. For starters, it's a much easier read (lots of suspense). Further, the main characters of both novels have almost nothing in common.
The Fifth Child tells the story of a couple who wants to have a large family. Despite some ups and downs, everything goes pretty well until the fifth child is born. He's not quite Rosemary's Baby, but he's close.
How do you mother a child whose every instinct involves inflicting pain on others? And how do you protect your other children from such a creature. In a world where parents are blamed for every little thing they do wrong, this book is a MUST READ. After reading it, you can't stop thinking - but what is right? what would I do?
What I liked best - This book will be with me forever. The moral quandary presented haunts me at night.
What I liked least - There's a certain coldness to the book. As if you feel more empathy for the mother than the author does. I'm still not sure how I feel about this as a writing technique.
1. Giant unicorn pool float. Because unicorns. (Though I must warn you THIS THING IS HUGE, we can't even fit it in our car, it has to sit on the roof).
2. Flamingo pool float. To keep the unicorn company.
3. Ogosport Disc Game. Somehow this game is both tricky and addictive at the same time.
4. Tangle Art and Drawing Games for Kids - I read about this on Flash Bug Studio's blog and it sounded perfect for summer vacation.
5. Ms. Marvel, Volume 1. Just like Squirrel Girl, these books feature a female superhero (yay progress!) who is apparently awesome.
6. Car in a can. A remote control car for under $10? How cool is that?
7. Rad American Women A-Z. Because feminism.
8. Kan Jam - My kids play this at school and insist that it's crazy fun, so we bought our own set for the summer.
9. Sphero. Kids need to code. So let's make it fun.
10. Banish Boredom - My friend Rebecca, from Not-So-SAHM, wrote a book that sounds amazing, I can't wait to read it!!
11. Walkie Talkies. The only way to make children think it's cool that you know where they are.
12. Bunch of balloons. So many balloons so fast. Call their friends, it's time for battle.
13. The Ruth Badar Ginsburg coloring book. Because feminism.
14. Stratos Spheres Board Game - Three Dimensional tic-tac-toe. Awesomeness.
15. The Forest Feast for Kids - P keeps saying how she wants to learn to cook this summer, so this seemed like the perfect book (ha! I rhyme).
Happy summer everyone!!
For our beach trip, one of our awesome dad friends asked everyone to contribute five good beach songs for a master playlist. And, I must admit, the result is pretty awesome. Check it out below and then login to spotify to follow!
Have a great weekend!
For the last four years we've taken the kids out of school for a few days and rented a house in the Outer Banks with friends.
If you ask me, there's no better introduction to summer than spending the end of May at the beach (especially since school doesn't get out until the end of June). Houses rent for cheaper in May, thus allowing us to lounge ocean front at a relatively low cost.
But the best part is the village. Parenting is so much easier when there are 16 adults who all help in different ways. Plus, how wonderful is it to make one meal and then sit back and let your friends cook the rest for you?
And for kids? Who doesn't love night after night of sleepovers with several of your besties?
DAY 2 - the forecast showed hour after hour of rain. But, luck was on our side. Though the area surrounding Nags Head was covered with storms, somehow we managed to stay precipitation-free all day.
This may be my favorite photo ever. Just saying.
Shrimp boil and karaoke on the deck. Total win!!
And every beach trip needs a dance party!
DAY 3 - the rain arrived.
Luckily, we had karaoke, stuffed animals, and Musicly.
DAY 4 - Fog. Lots of fog.
This is when the hole digging became serious business.
Best quote of the weekend, "well, I guess the world needs ditch diggers too."
The end (for now). We've already reserved for next year and I CAN'T WAIT!!