PositivePortland MercuryNelson, who’s written about everything from murder to abject heartbreak without (it would seem) flinching, isn’t flinching now. Instead, she commits to what Donna Haraway describes as \'staying with the trouble\' ... This is not \'Everything happens for a reason\' hogwash. It’s a thorny, circuitous route to something resembling hope for the future, and it’s a difficult joy to make the journey with Nelson. It’s also deeply comforting to read someone else describe the world as it is through clear-eyed language and heady analysis, and to witness her still come away believing in a practice of \'all heart, no escape\' ... really a book about ideas, so get out your monocle emoji. There’s a lot of Foucault and Marx in here. Like, a lot. There are also some stumbles, especially in her analysis of the #MeToo movement ... recasting sexual gray areas as some misunderstood zone of female agency? I’m just not sure this is the move. Still, I’m comfortable with my discomfort ... It is a privilege to follow a writer’s work like this, when the writer is still alive, and you can experience their books as markers of time in your own life.
MixedThe Seattle TimesTo write about history as it’s happening, a political movement as it’s building, can be a tricky proposition. It assumes a certain blindness, and risks a superficiality that Traister has not wholly avoided. At times, reading her breakneck account of recent events simply felt like scrolling back through my own Twitter feed from the past two years ... Traister’s reporting feels most fresh in one of the book’s final chapters, when she lays out the contributions women activists, many of whom had never been politically active before, have made to resistance efforts against the Trump administration ... For longtime activists, or folks well versed in the movement and the various schisms within it, much of Good and Mad may be review material ... Like all emotions, anger is neutral. It isn’t good or bad ... To its detriment, Good and Mad does not fully acknowledge this distinction, or honor the nuanced emotional landscape activism can contain.
RaveThe Seattle Times\'I feel like all those pictures of the heads of state in the world, where it’s eighty-nine men in suits, and then the Queen, being a woman, on her own\' ... This is something articulated beautifully in Moran’s novel, whose bubbly tone belies a profound frustration and sadness that, to all too many, will be relatable ... This, along with other, smaller slights accumulates into a picture of an industry that enables predatory men, and denigrates young women—whether they’re fans, critics, or musicians. How to Be Famous is a subversive celebration of those young women ... Something to always remember is that women talk to each other. And reading How to Be Famous shows how far we can go when we listen to each other, when we see the bad odds, complain to each other over whiskey, and then do the thing anyway, because it’s our job.
PositiveThe Portland Mercury...the heart of Richards’ book is her mother, whose improbable rise to power her daughter recounts with a balance of nuance and outright admiration ... Gov. Richards is remembered as a fiery straight-talking anomaly, but the one Cecile Richards remembers is more complicated: an incredibly competent, but self-doubting woman, whose status as a divorcée and a recovering alcoholic was considered political kryptonite ... That was Ann Richards’ second act. I can’t wait to see what her daughter’s will look like.
RaveThe Portland Mercury\"Tillman isn’t a writer you look to for plot-forward work, and Men and Apparitions is no exception, but neither does it coast on the clumsy charm of its narrator, though it could. Instead, it’s interested in something much more cerebral, and much more difficult to distill into a 600-word review. As I read it, I realized it was doing something I haven’t seen convincingly accomplished in any recent literature: It captures the feeling of life in a society that’s focused more on the quick consumption of a massive amount of text and images than it is on experience ... Men and Apparitions begins as a book about men, and becomes one about everyone.\
Anne Helen Petersen
RaveThe Portland MercuryPetersen has encapsulated something so profound, so elemental, so obvious that I almost felt like I’d known it intrinsically, but had heretofore lacked the language and theoretical context to truly articulate it … Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud more than supports its thesis that the future belongs to women who claim space as subjects in their own lives, rather than objects in the lives of men. Petersen’s examples of this are stark and powerful: She thoughtfully deconstructs Williams’ refusal to apologize for her body, her Blackness, or her strength; Minaj’s insistence on her place in the upper echelon of hip-hop and her willingness to adopt personae that are ugly or angry, trading likeability in order to be the boss; and Clinton’s unkillable ambition in a political arena that’s tried to destroy her time and again … Here is a book whose delight in its own wonkiness is infectious, and whose deep empathy for its subjects is also matched with fair-minded critique.
PositiveThe Stranger...while at first the character reads remotely and rather flatly on the page, through an accumulation of glimpses into her psyche, a sensitive portrait of a woman at her wit’s end begins to emerge ... Gray is a writer best known for work with an absurd bent to it, and Isadora is very much in line with this, even as it addresses Isadora’s ostentatious self-presentation; her occasionally childish, often capricious behavior; and her terrifying, all-consuming pain. Like its subject, it’s full of contrasts and contradictions, a story wrought with complexity and understated humor that lives comfortably in the nuanced, darkened corners of experience.
RaveThe Portland Mercury...one of the pleasures of Parker’s book is her use of persona. There are so many Beyoncés in this book—Beyoncé 'on a Shrink’s Couch,' 'White Beyoncé,' Beyoncé mashed up with Yeats, Beyoncé assembling her will—and so many appearances of Black womanhood and identity throughout pop culture and history ... There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé exists in conversation with that battle for self-preservation and survival. 'I do whatever I want because I could die any minute./I don’t mean YOLO I mean they are hunting me,' writes Parker. The book that holds these lines cannot be reduced to discussions about clickbait-y reinventions of poetry. It is not about the poetics of pop culture. It’s about something much more complicated. And much more beautiful.
PanThe Portland MercuryWhy I Am Not a Feminist, which it turns out is neither particularly feminist nor really much of a manifesto, makes for a baffling, unpleasant read. The breadth of Crispin’s disdain for other women’s choices in this book is apparently boundless ... It is from [a] predetermined, closed-off starting point that she writes her book, and the result is just as disjointed, exhausting, and unproductive as you’d expect ... empathy is something not much present in Why I Am Not a Feminist, and that’s a shame. It’s odd to read a polemic against contemporary feminism that takes no concrete stock of feminist activism as it currently stands ... If Crispin hopes to critique feminists for not thinking boldly enough, why is her book so contextually shallow? Why no endnotes? Why no references? Why no calling out these Bad Feminists by name?
PositiveThe StrangerNicotine is a well-plotted, funny, subtly horrifying read ... Zink thankfully approaches her occasionally wackadoodle lefties with the exasperated warmth of a slightly irritated parent who’s nonetheless paying for her child’s nose piercing ... But at times, Penny’s characterization acquires the flatness of [Jonathan] Franzen’s constructions of women. This is a terrible shame, because the language in Nicotine is an outright joy to read.
RaveThe Portland Mercury...a deeply researched account of our culture’s misogynistic obsession with trainwrecks—not the benign version pushed by [Amy] Schumer, but women in the throes of public mental health crises (like Britney’s), public drug use and addiction (like Whitney Houston’s), and public—or publicly perceived—neediness (like Jennifer Aniston’s).
PositiveThe Stranger...familiar hallmarks make reading [But What If We're Wrong?] like dropping in on an old friend and having an argument over a beer about something that doesn't ultimately matter ... [Klosterman] seems out of his depth in a convoluted section that veers into lit crit. But he turns out to be a surprisingly effective pop-science writer ... One of Klosterman's best qualities as a writer and as a critic has always been his attempt to engage meaningfully with whatever weird shit he's writing about. But What if We're Wrong? isn't a collection of blog posts in print, it's a book that appears to have been edited, something that shouldn't be notable, but is. And that shouldn't surprise anyone who's followed his career. Klosterman's books were always sold in a fun package. But they were never not serious.
RaveThe Portland Mercury\"...by embedding Margaret Cavendish\'s own text into a fictitious account, and by fleshing out that fictionalized world so skillfully, Dutton refreshes Cavendish\'s words for a contemporary audience, rendering them relevant and powerful once more. They gain a kind of traction within the narrative that the confines of a Bible-paged Norton Critical Edition simply cannot provide. They become accessible, personal, and perhaps most importantly, they elevate Margaret the First from mere historical fiction to a hybrid of literary criticism and novel.\
PositiveThe StrangerSingle Ladies pushes some much-needed common sense against conservative arguments for marriage over, you know, PUBLIC POLICY. But what's also hugely important is that Traister normalizes and puts into words the vast, varied lives of unmarried women.