I read Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight the other day and didn’t much like it. You can read my review of it at GoodReads if you’d like to know the full reason why. I ended the review with a note that I actually found Amelia’s friend Sylvia rather intriguing, and I would totally be willing to read a book about her (though probably only if someone other than McCreight wrote it; see GR).
It seems perfect timing to talk about why Sylvia is neat, given that Kelly and Kimberly at STACKED have been doing a week dedicated to feminisms and books anyway, and since the Andrew Smith thing, and since in general, women get the short end of the stick on most things. You need to get over there and read those posts, posthaste.
So Sylvia. She’s Amelia’s “slutty friend,” and the school’s Gossip Girl blog writes about her a lot. It’s funny – while I think McCreight wanted her to be one-dimensional and bitchy and oversexed, she actually comes across as the most realistic, complex, and interesting character in the book. Sylvia clearly likes sex and feels safe doing it. Awesome! She also gets with lots of different guys and doesn’t feel bad about it. Good for her! She gets ragged on by everyone for this. Terrible, but verisimilitude! She suffers from depression, clearly, and probably makes some bad decisions because of that, but it’s not a direct depression–>slut equation. It’s more like empowered sex+name calling=frustration AND self esteem issues+depression=bad coping mechanisms happening at the same time, so I can totally see how it is easy to get reductive and see the more tired, common narrative of depression–>sexual deviance. Continue reading
I don’t read a lot of thrillers. They seem to be a thing I prefer in my movies over my books. But unlike heists, which I also prefer onscreen, when I do read a thriller, I tend to be wholly entertained and wonder why I don’t read them more often. So I’m glad I read Lamar Giles’ Endangered (IndieBound). It’s about Lauren, who is known to her classmates as Panda, who also has a secret identity – as a vigilante photographer who finds bullies and bad kids in compromising positions and publishes the photos to her anonymous blog, Gray Scales. It’s a great setup for a book.
After publishing incriminating photos about a girl named Keachin (and yes, she makes fun of the girl’s absolutely ridiculous name, so it’s not just a case of books having absurd character names for no reason), Panda gets a text from a “secret admirer,” who then lures her into a game of oneupmanship in photography – oh, and starts threatening and killing people Panda knows. You know how that goes.
So that’s the plot. It’s a fun mystery, and even though I figured out who the admirer was before Panda did, I didn’t care, because that’s beside the point. You’re supposed to try to figure out the clues before the protagonist does. Also, this book made me happy in a lot of other ways, too. Continue reading
by Flickr user artiseverywhere
You might have heard about this Andrew Smith thing. It sucks. It sucks because it’s just another moment in the daily lives of women being otherized, mocked, shamed, or disregarded. It sucks when I think about how I’m treated like a less-than-human all the time, like last Wednesday when I was walking down the street to go to a yoga class and had a man start following me in his car, yell at me, ask me “Can I be your friend?” and then when I shook my head and kept walking, pulled into the next parking space and got out and shouted that he wanted my number. I hate that I had to be glad that he only did that and didn’t keep following me. I hate that I should be grateful that it didn’t get physical. No one should feel grateful that someone only somewhat harassed them. And, in this Andrew Smith situation, no one should feel grateful that Andrew Smith thinks of women as more of a mysterious, Other Thing than gigantic grasshoppers just because he’s “trying” to be better. Of course he was being facetious when he said his daughter was the first woman in his life – that being nitpicked over is absurd, annoying, and a way of excusing what he actually meant – “I don’t really care about women because I don’t get them and I don’t find them valid” – instead of engaging with it.
No, Andrew Smith is not the biggest jerk in the world or the only person who thinks this way. But he said it, and it’s a chance to engage with sexism, and anyone who says that criticism is the same thing as bullying (see the Stop the Goodreads Bullies movement of a couple years ago for other misinformed idiots who decided that attacking and threatening book critics was somehow righteous) is not helping.
It is an outrage that women are consistently referred to as if they are foreign and invalid. And it is more of an outrage that this has sparked the ridiculous #KeepYAKind movement, and even further that this hashtag seems to be spearheaded by women YA authors. Don’t get me wrong: EVERYONE should be offended by sexism. But to see women working in the very field where we are trying to have a productive conversation about imbalance, about prejudice, about otherizing, about criticism saying, “Hey guys, we think you’re being mean by pointing out that we are treated badly,” makes me really sad. It’s unsurprising – women are socialized to keep things kind and friendly and to accept sexism. But this is a chance to stand up, not to turn fair and warranted criticism into accusations of meanness. This is not the time for kindness. Kindness has nothing to do with sexism or literary criticism. Kindness has to do with playground politics and human decency on a day-to-day level, not societal change. Kindness here is derailing. Continue reading