Earlier this #femsummer, the editors at Gazing Grain Press tweeted and shared on Facebook their top picks for a feminist summer reading list—and a few of our friends and followers chimed in with theirs as well! Here’s the list; curl up in your favorite shady spot and read on, because there’s still time this summer to make it a #femsummer!
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, recommended by GGP co-editor Liz
Women’s rights evaporate in this dystopia, where women able to bear children are made scarce by a toxic chemical spill. Those who are able to carry a pregnancy to term are held hostage by their very fertility, imprisoned in a domestic ritual of emotionless sex, subservience to men and to the Eyes who are always watching. Atwood’s page-turner is narrated by a woman whose memories of the past, when women held jobs, owned property, and made their own choices in love, haunt her as she tries to make sense of the present.
Windowboxing: A Dance with Saints in Three Acts by Kirsten Kaschock, recommended by GGP co-editor Mack
This beautiful poetry chapbook from Bloof Books is a rallying cry for thinking outside the box about gender identity and gender normativity. The Small Press Book Review notes that Kaschock’s collection “celebrates women who define themselves variously, and refuse to be domesticated through gender labels and stereotypes.” Don’t let the minimalist cover art fool you; the pages inside are electric and full of surprises.
Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia, recommended by GGP co-editor Catee
A finalist for the National Book Award, Garcia’s prose has been compared to the likes of Chekhov and Marquez. Dreaming in Cuban weaves together three generations of strong-willed women, love letters never mailed, the dynamics of the Cuban Revolution, and the strains of diaspora to tell a story about the destructive tensions of class status, politics, and geography.
Balloon Pop Outlaw Black by Patricia Lockwood, recommended by GGP co-editor Kathy
The debut poetry collection from Patricia Lockwood is a philosophical investigation of the physical world and its fleeting stability. What are we made of? How are we defined? “What is Popeye?” Enter the strange world of Balloon Pop Outlaw Black to seek out the answers for yourself.
Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals by Patricia Lockwood, recommended by GGP Facebook friend Leah Welborn
Lockwood’s most recent collection, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, has garnered rave reviews and earned Lockwood two mentions on this #femsummer reading list. Lockwood’s poem “Rape Joke” took social media by storm, and it is just one of many poems in this dynamic collection that challenge sexual norms and our senses of ourselves.
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, recommended by GGP co-editor Sarah
The chapter in Genesis about the rape of Dinah, daughter of Jacob, offers few details about Dinah herself. “Her total silence cried out for explanation,” Diamant said in an interview with Ms. Magazine, “so I decided to imagine one.” Thus The Red Tent is narrated in Dinah’s voice, and offers a glimpse of what her life might have been like. In a world where childbirth and menstruation are what brings women together under the “red tent,” it is the power of storytelling and ritual that binds them together.
The Trees The Trees by Heather Christle, recommended by GGP co-editor Kate
“This is the fairy-tale refanged,” warns the Kenyon Review of Christle’s Believer Award–winning collection. That chill in the air comes from the carefully, deliberate disjointing of Christle’s meticulous prose as it hesitates, staggers, and gasps across the page. These surreal poems thrive on the tensions of both form and subject, the latter a tight-rope walk between the whimsies of imagination and the realities of survival.
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, recommended by GGP co-editor Alyse
A staple on any feminist reading list, this classic recounts a single day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, in which the emotional suffering of a young WWI veteran with PTSD (though of course it wasn’t called that then) contrasts and overlaps with Clarissa Dalloway’s own strained considerations of her marriage, her life, and the privilege of her social status.
In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens by Alice Walker, recommended by GGP Facebook friend Sarah Winn
Better known for her poetry and novels, this collection of nonfiction pieces by Alice Walker is just as piercing and insightful. Her essays investigate and illuminate other writers like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Flannery O’Connor as well as aspects of her own personal life, including a disfiguring childhood injury. Whether she is writing about racism, womanhood, or the events that shape us, Walker is noted for prose that is “thoughtful, intelligent, [and] resonant.”
Incarnadine by Mary Szybist, recommended by GGP Facebook friend Leah Welborn
An imprint of Graywolf Press, Incarnadine is winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry, among many other accolades. From the National Book Foundation review: Through the lens of an iconic moment, the Annunciation of an unsettling angel to a bodily young woman, Szybist describes the confusion and even terror of moments in which our longing for the spiritual may also be a longing for what is most fundamentally alien to us. In a world where we are so often asked to choose sides, to believe or not believe, to embrace or reject, Incarnadine offers lyrical and brilliantly inventive alternatives.”
Still have some room on your #femsummer reading list? We couldn’t resist listing these, too:
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, recommended by GGP co-editor Alyse
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, recommended by GGP co-editor Lisa
The poetry of Muriel Rukeyser, recommended by GGP co-editor Mack, who advises: “There are used copies and affordable collections readily available.”
The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin, recommended by GGP co-editor Liz