A debut collection of personal essays on the meaning of being a woman living in a patriarchal society.
Pine (Modern Drama/Univ. Coll. Dublin; The Politics of Irish Memory: Performing Remembrance in Contemporary Irish Culture, 2010, etc.) breaks years of learned silence to take feminist aim at taboo subjects. The opening essay, “Notes on Intemperance,” concerns her relationship with her father, a depressed alcoholic writer who “seemed happiest when he was as far away from his family as possible.” As she chronicles his struggle to pull back from the brink of liver failure, she examines the difficult emotions she experienced as a loving daughter who raged inwardly at her father’s profound selfishness. Her experiences starting a family of her own were no less painful, but for different reasons. In “From the Baby Years,” Pine discusses the pain of agonizing over whether or not she wanted a baby and then undergoing several unsuccessful fertility treatments. In another essay, she considers the female body, discussing menstruation in a powerfully unfettered way. Daring to offer details about such topics as menstruation during sex, Pine calls attention to the way female bleeding—and, by extension, the female body—is still seen as unclean. She suggests that her own discomfort with even saying she is menstruating is evidence of the pernicious way “women are policed. And of how we police ourselves.” In the most personally revealing essay, “Something About Me,” the author chronicles her “wild child” teenage years when she was part of the London club scene. A lonely child from a broken and dysfunctional home, Pine skipped school, drank, drugged, and had sex with strangers. Eventually, university life saved her, and she became a professor. But as she writes in her essay about being a woman in an institution built on patriarchal values, that home had its own breakdown-inducing stressors. Bold and timely, Pine’s book tells truths about being female and human that are as necessary to speak as they are to hear.
A sharp, refreshingly frank collection from a fresh voice.