WORDSLUT

A FEMINIST GUIDE TO TAKING BACK THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

Just the kind of sharp, relevant scholarship needed to continue to inspire the next generation of feminist thought.

A fresh look at how gender impacts language, loaded with strategies to alter the way people think about communication.

In her debut, editor and linguist Montell sets a high bar, proving that linguistics plus feminism equals big fun. The infectious love of wordplay embedded in her work translates into a laugh-out-loud analysis and critique. Readers are invited to enter the realm of ever evolving speech habits and encouraged to consider their own thinking about language and power. With attention to global variations, the author substantively addresses the inherent ways communication patterns have misrepresented and sometimes failed women speakers of English throughout history. In addition to considering how feminism’s language makeover may improve accuracy, Montell offers hilarious insights on such topics as how to confuse catcallers (“and other ways to verbally smash the patriarchy”), techniques for shutting down obsessive grammar correctors, and how to craft insults, talk dirty, and swear (while feminist). The author addresses the game-changing inroads made by academic feminists and writers from the 1970s to the 1990s while also candidly documenting their shortcomings, and she sets the path and pace for reshaping language use with equity in mind. She explores how young women’s speech patterns often influence future directions and examines how some frequently criticized adaptations, like hedging and uptalk, serve distinct social purposes. Montell also analyzes how everything from women’s word choices to voices are policed and coached. She unpacks these biases while debunking related advice that describes itself as ‘empowering’ while encouraging girls and women to change. Grounded in decades of innovative feminist scholarship, full of witty personal stories, and written with the pragmatic aim of disrupting and changing the status quo, this is a humorous and important book for anyone interested in gender equality, wordplay, or fostering precise communication.

Just the kind of sharp, relevant scholarship needed to continue to inspire the next generation of feminist thought.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-286887-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper Wave

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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