RaveThe New York Times Book Review... meticulous ... Schwartzman clearly conveys the brutal banality of what happened in that town, the way rape culture, victim blaming and institutional complicity are the rule rather than the exception in American communities. Steubenville could be anywhere ... Something of a companion piece to Schwartzman’s 2018 documentary of the same name, the book expands on the film’s insights by combining vast amounts of contemporaneous evidence with historical analysis, personal reflections and skillful interviews. The book makes an effort to stress that the Steubenville case was made up of individuals, and though we learn virtually nothing about the victim — anonymized as \'Jane Doe\' — the attackers, townspeople, police officers, parents and school officials transcend archetypes to become textured, tangible individuals, all of them navigating cultural myths, conflicted loyalties and the potent pull of denial. But Schwartzman’s compassionate attention to these figures renders her depiction of their moral failures all the more damning: These are human beings, otherwise capable of responsibility and empathy, who did not manage to show these traits to Jane Doe ... Perhaps the most compelling of Schwartzman’s characters, and the hardest to pin down, is the internet itself ... meticulous about protecting her identity, telling readers only that the girl grew up, got married and tried to move on. Shielded by anonymity, she gets to live a fuller life, becoming more than the worst thing that ever happened to her ... But as Jane Doe, she becomes a stand-in for all the victims of sexual abuse who never got justice. This is the price, perhaps, of the cultural forces that conspire to keep sexual abuse victims in the shadows: Those who do come forward have to carry the weight of all those who can’t.
PositiveBookforumGroff’s prose has the formality and cadence associated with historical fiction, but she inserts playfulness and color into her narrative, showing charming, occasionally silly vignettes of daily life that give the abbey a distinctive realism. One of the novel’s pleasures is its depiction of Marie’s organizational skills ... Something about the setting of Groff’s novel makes its themes more palatable. It’s hard to say whether a story about a woman’s search for power could successfully depict a figure so committed to her own intellect as Marie if she inhabited the modern day ... in Marie’s virtuosity and cunning, in her lies and brilliance and scheming struggle against a hostile world, it is hard not to see the traces of some of the powerful women whom the Trump era defeated. This sublimation of politics into art is part of what gives Matrix its power. The modern girlboss is often presented as a monster of entitlement and egoism. But Groff’s Marie offers a more human and complicated vision of an intelligent woman, one who is driven by both a spiritual quest for god and an earthly quest for love.
PositiveBookforumLet the Record Show is a corrective intervention in AIDS historiography, attempting to revise the popular understanding of ACT UP to make it both more democratic and more accurate. Schulman emphasizes the contributions of men of color, like the luminary artist Ray Navarro; of women of color, like the advocate for incarcerated people with HIV Katrina Haslip; and of lesbians, like the radical feminist Maxine Wolfe. Theirs is the ACT UP she wants younger activists to learn about ... The proximity of sex and death is part of what makes AIDS, like abortion, so fascinating, and also what makes it prone to sensationalism and misunderstanding. In Schulman’s telling, this joyfulness and sexuality does not read as indifference to the suffering of the sick, or obliviousness to risk (among other things, it becomes clear that there was widespread use of condoms). Instead, it paints a picture of activists not as martyrs, but as real people, living out the full spectrums of their emotional lives while also trying to meet the demands of history. This is part of Schulman’s project: to demystify ACT UP. The more its membership is understood as a group of plausible human beings, the more that it seems possible that what they built could be built again ... Schulman does not dwell on emotions—she is a markedly unsentimental thinker—but it is clear from her account that this era is something that many people from ACT UP never got over.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...captivating ... Nominally an account of the hotel’s history, Bren’s book is really about the changing cultural perceptions of women’s ambition throughout the last century, set against the backdrop of that most famous theater of aspiration, New York City ... Bren traces the historical pattern of women’s advancement followed by sexist backlash ... The Barbizon is touching in its loyalty to these women, the ones who arrived with suitcases and dreams in the Barbizon’s grand lobby. Bren draws on an impressive amount of archival research, and pays tender attention to each of the women she profiles. But in the rush to do justice to every story, she can hew a bit too closely to her subjects’ point of view, watching them negotiate the constraints of their day without pausing to consider what those restrictions really meant.
Andrea Dworkin, Ed. by Joanna Fateman and Amy Scholder
PositiveBookforumThe style is strident, enraged, and the conclusions are often stark, bluntly phrased, and difficult to read ... Dworkin has a reputation as the quintessential overzealous radical, imperiously steamrolling over the fault lines of race, of class, of history in her call for universal sisterhood. Yet the writings collected here reveal as much attention to what divides women as to what binds them ... This, I think, is part of why Dworkin remains so unpopular. She wants us to do what she did for the women who spoke with her after her college lectures: to look dead into the fact of what it means to be a woman in this world, into the pain and violence visited on women because they are women. It requires us to know more than we can stand to know.
Edited by June Eric-Udorie
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewEvette Dionne, the black American editor of Bitch Media, provides a devastating history of violence, including sexual violence, inflicted on black women by the police—and traditional feminism’s disturbing willingness to ignore it in the interest of cozying up to law enforcement. Other essays miss the mark, or contain odd conceptions of what a feminist project might be ... Much of Can We All Be Feminists? reminds us just how often feminists have failed to listen. Parts of the book also remind us how feminism has not been listened to.
PositiveBookforumIn graceful sentences, Moshfegh lingers on tiny instances of the grotesque. (The effect can be unnerving. She once said of her own writing: 'It's like seeing Kate Moss take a shit.') As well as being unattractive, her characters are often narcissistic, unkind, and plagued by strange preoccupations ... Often Moshfegh's characters are fixated on another person, with desire or with hatred—as if they're looking for someone to blame. Always they are mournful, angry, and driven by a sense that they have not received everything they deserve. A lesser writer might try to soften or redeem these characters, but Moshfegh is more interested in examining the contours of their disappointment, tracing where the shadows fall on unsatisfying lives ... the action seems to take place mostly within the characters' minds, and many of the stories barely even make it out of the protagonist's apartment. The effect can be airless, repetitive, claustrophobic—these people are stuck in their unpromising situations and we, as readers, are trapped in there with them. It's as if Moshfegh were keen to see how much misery we can take. Our tolerance may be higher than we expect. We can't look away from Moshfegh's characters, just as we can't look away from a car wreck.