Tag Archives: feminism

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin ~ Book Review & Discussion Guide

Pages:  320

Expected Publication Date:  August 22, 2017

Format:  E-book from netgalley

 

 

 

 

This book felt like just what I needed!  Funny, warm, and engaging, Young Jane Young captures what it’s like to be a woman at various stages of life.  It highlights the stereotypes and cultural biases that we have not moved much beyond since the days of the Puritans and the writing of The Scarlet Letter.  It characterizes several generations of women within the same family and their varied responses and attitudes toward similar situations.   It is told from multiple perspectives and there is even a section from Jane Young’s perspective that puts the reader in the driver seat in a choose your own adventure format.

Young Jane Young is a twenty-something female who was born Aviva Grossman.  Aviva Grossman works as a summer intern for Congressman Levin, who also happened to be a neighbor of hers when she was a child.  They begin an affair despite the fact that he is much older, married and her employer.  When they are found out, there is huge backlash against Aviva, but very little towards the Congressman.  Aviva is unable to even get a job, which is incredibly disheartening as she was hoping to go into politics and had been doing an excellent job during the internship.  The internet serves as her “scarlet letter” ruining her social life and any chances for a career.  She feels there is nothing left to do except change her name and move out of state.

I don’t want to give too much away, but this book comes full circle with redemption, fulfillment, forgiveness and understanding all coming into play towards the end after a bit of a rollercoaster ride.  Aviva is able to triumph over her past, first by escaping it, and later, by facing it head on at a time when she is much stronger and more self assured.   This book is a huge slap in the face to the slut shaming that goes on in situations like these!  This writing is powerfully feminist exposing gender inequalities and casual misogyny in today’s society.  The women have their flaws, no doubt, however, they feel incredibly real and relatable.  Even if the reader may not have made the same choices as these women, I think the reader can empathize with their choices through the context of the writing.  The writing is wonderful, fun and enjoyable.  This is a book out to prove a bit point, but does so with much humor and warmth along the way.  I highly recommend this book to all women, young and old.  It would make an excellent book club book, as there is so much to discuss as well as cheer for!

 

Monica Lewinsky & Bill Clinton, the couple who seemed to be the inspiration for this novel

 

 

Monica Lewinsky, from NBC, where she discusses “the culture of humiliation”

 

 

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Compare and contrast Aviva Grossman to Hester from The Scarlet Letter.  In what ways has society and gender bias changed since the writing of that book in 1850  to present day?  How, in effect, does the internet become Aviva’s scarlet letter?
  2. Discuss the fallout of the affair between Aviva and Congressman Levin.    What consequences do each face?
  3. Why do you think Embeth stays by her husband?  Why do you think so many wives in politics stand by their husbands after public outing of affairs?
  4. Compare and contrast the situation of Aviva Grossman and Monica Lewinsky.
  5. Rachel’s husband was cheating on her throughout her marriage.  Why did she put up with it for so long?  Do you think this had an effect on Aviva in her decision to carry on with an affair with the Congressman?
  6. Embeth appears ready to die and even hopeful for it.  She compares her predicament to being a victim of human trafficking at one point.  Do you feel that this is a fair comparison?  Why or why not?
  7. Why do you think that Embeth was never interested in becoming friends with Rachel, when clearly Rachel felt that she had tried?
  8. Why do you think Roz puts her husband’s version of the story (that Rachel kissed him) above Rachel’s version?  Do you think their friendship is mendable?
  9. Do you think Jorge is the father of Jane’s daughter?  Do you think they will ever tell him?
  10. What do you think Wes West’s wife’s secret is?  Why do you think Wes West is such a bully?
  11. Discuss the figure and beliefs of Mrs. Morgan.  How is she pivotal in turning Jane’s life around?
  12. Discuss the meaning of the title.  By the end of the novel, when Jane Young is running for mayor, do you think that Mrs. Morgan would still refer to her as Young Jane Young?  How has she changed or matured?
  13. Did you enjoy the choose your own adventure component to this book?  What do you think it added?
  14. There are so many examples of casual misogyny within this book, such as “douchebag,” and “old wives tales.”  Which other ones can you name from this book and from life?
  15. Aviva and her professor discuss the meaning of feminism.  What is your definition of feminism?

 

Kirkus Review of Young Jane Young

Monica Lewinsky’s TED talk

Gabrielle Zevin’s website

Review by Bookspoils, a fellow book blogger

milk and honey by Rupi Kaur ~ Book Review

Pages: 204

Published: November 4, 2014

Format:  Paperback Book

 

 

 

 

this is the journey of 

surviving through poetry 

this is the blood sweat tears 

of twenty-one years 

this is my heart 

in your hands 

this is 

the hurting 

the loving 

the breaking 

the healing 

– rupi kaur

What a lovely collection of poetry that contains so much depth, beauty, love, pain, insight, wisdom and kindness!  It was amazing to me how much emotion, feeling and wisdom could be contained in so few words.  There is so much empowerment contained within this collection:  of women, femininity, and race.  While reading this, I wanted to be absolutely alone with the book without fear of interruption, so I could fully focus, digest and enjoy these poems.  The poem above is featured on the back of the book and is a brief synopsis of the book.

The poetry in this collection is divided into 4 segments.  The first labelled “the hurting” touches on topics of rape, sexual abuse, and abusive parenting.  It describes feelings of emptiness and suppression, however, also the ability to transcend the hurt with kindness.  It describes the fractured relationship left as a result of abuse.  “The loving” portion is about hope, qualities of a lover, love making, women’s bodies and sex.  “The breaking” is about heartbreak, games young lovers play, the bitter aspects of relationships, and relationships that break you down or want you to be someone you aren’t.  Rupi Kaur speaks of intense extremes of feelings and emotions.  Finally, “the healing” is about loving yourself, the strength within oneself, being contented with being alone.  It is about loving one’s own female body in it’s most natural form and all of the way it functions.  It’s about the power of vulnerability, openness and kindness.  It’s about celebrating and supporting other women’s successes rather than their failures.  It is about celebrating feminine beauty in all its different colors, shapes and sizes.

Beautiful, kind, loving!  The sketches throughout this book are perfect and add to the poetry, almost seeming to be poetry in and of themselves.  I highly recommend this to every woman, especially the late teen and twenty-something set.  I recommend buying the actual book, to enjoy the words, the sketches and probable re-readings.

Rupi Kaur is a Canadian who has created a lot of attention for herself through the use of social media (#poetryisnotdead).  She was born in Punjab, India and moved to Canada at the age of 4.  Not speaking any English, she was inspired by her mother to draw and paint.  In 2014, Kaur self published milk and honey,  however it was so popular that a publishing company picked it up and republished it in 2015.  Kaur posted a picture on Instagram in March 2015 of herself in bed with a menstrual stain on her sweatpants as part of a project aimed at destigmatizing menstruation.  Instagram removed the photo and others in the series, which Kaur argued proved her point.  Instagram later restored the picture, saying it had been removed by mistake.

 

 

Rupi Kaur’s website

 

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ~ Book Review

 

22738563

 

Pages:  49

Published:  July 29, 2014

Format: paperback book

 

 

 

 

This short essay by one of my favorite authors is based on a popular TED talk of hers, thus it reads like she is speaking to you.  I love and agree with the content.  I love how personable and relatable she is, how human and humble she can be, how honest and genuine she comes across in her writing.  I love her vitality of spirit and the way she infuses humor into her stories.  Maybe, though, I was hoping for more from this. Maybe, because of her easy manner, this seemed too obvious.  Yes, women have come a long way, yet there is much further to go.  Yes, there are deep cultural biases that put men early in life in more positions of power.  Yes, we need to raise our daughters and sons more equally, not hold them to different standards.  Yes, we need to begin to redefine gender.  It’s an easy, beautiful quick read with an important message.  Adichie’s manner of explaining feminism and what it means makes it understandable and relatable to everyone.  images-2

Discussion Questions:

  1.  How does Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie redefine feminism?
  2. What cultural biases does she suggest that people have against feminism or people who call themselves feminists?
  3. Describe some ways you feel that your culture treats boys and girls differently.  At what age does this start?
  4. What are some ways we could try to effect change?
  5. Adichie discusses how women feel they need to dress like men in certain situations in order to gain more respect.  How did this make you feel when you read it?  Do you think this is because of the definitions we assign to gender within our society and culture?
  6. Adichie talks about feeling invisible at times.  Hosts of restaurants won’t look at her or address her.  Do you ever feel invisible because of your gender?

Review from The Telegraph

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi’s website

Chimamanda’s TED talk above.