A sparkling and perceptive critique of ancient ideas that still hold women back.

WOMEN AND OTHER MONSTERS

BUILDING A NEW MYTHOLOGY

A witty and erudite exploration of the enduring influence of the female monsters in Greek myths.

Electric Literature editor-in-chief Zimmerman blends memoir and cultural criticism in a wide-ranging feminist analysis rooted in her youthful love of D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. Drawing on accounts by Homer and others, she argues that female monsters like Medusa and the Harpies have inspired more than a Versace logo and a metaphor popular among right-wing critics of Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren. The fearsome creatures have fostered “a suspicion of women in general” and sounded a warning: “Beware their ambition, their ugliness, their insatiable hunger, their ferocious rage.” A graceful stylist who casts a wide literary and geographical net, Zimmerman can make nearly anything interesting. She begins a chapter on the Sirens by reappraising Aerosmith’s “Crazy” video and one on Scylla by describing the Josephinum medical museum in Vienna, which displays oddities such as wax bones. The author avoids academic cant and shows a disarming willingness to acknowledge her own vulnerability to damaging messages. Her musings on the Sphinx recall a college affair with a professor whose rundowns of her flaws became “a daily referendum on my specific insufficiencies” that at times caused her to retreat into a Sphinx-like self-imposed silence. Not everyone will accept her argument that the traits that made monsters dangerous “are actually their greatest strength[s]” and can be turned on their heads: “When you embrace your imperfection, your imperfection stops consuming you.” Nearly every page, however, brings fresh insights into age-old myths or tragicomic observations on 21st-century womanhood: “How do you cope with a day that might include a guy catcalling you on your commute and a murderous cop going free and a nationwide attack on reproductive rights—and an army of Twitter trolls telling you that all of this is good, actually, and anti-fascism is the real fascism?” This book is excellent armor for the battle.

A sparkling and perceptive critique of ancient ideas that still hold women back.

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8070-5493-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Strictly for dittoheads.

RADIO'S GREATEST OF ALL TIME

An unabashed celebration of the late talking head.

Rush Limbaugh (1951-2021) insisted that he had a direct line to God, who blessed him with brilliance unseen since the time of the Messiah. In his tribute, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis calls him “the greatest broadcaster that [sic] ever lived.” That’s an accidental anointment, given checkered beginnings. Limbaugh himself records that, after earning a failing grade for not properly outlining a speech, he dropped out of college—doubtless the cause of his scorn for higher education. This book is a constant gush of cult-of-personality praise, with tributes from Ben Carson, Mike Pence, Donald Trump, and others. One radio caller called Limbaugh “practically perfect” and a latter-day George Washington by virtue of “the magnetism and the trust and the belief of all the people.” Limbaugh insists that conservatives are all about love, though he filled the airwaves with bitter, divisive invective about the evils of liberals, as with this tidbit: “to liberals, the Bill of Rights is horrible, the Bill of Rights grants citizens freedom….The Bill of Rights limits the federal government, and that’s negative to a socialist like Obama.” Moreover, “to Democrats, America’s heartland is ‘flyover’ country. They don’t know, or like, the Americans who live there, or their values.” Worse still for a money machine like Limbaugh, who flew over that heartland in a private jet while smoking fat cigars, liberals like Obama are “trying to socialize profit so that [they] can claim it”—anathema to wealthy Republicans, who prefer to socialize risk by way of bailouts while keeping the profits for themselves. Limbaugh fans will certainly eat this up, though a segment of the Republican caucus in Congress (Marjorie Taylor Greene et al.) might want to read past Limbaugh’s repeated insistence that “peace can’t be achieved by ‘developing an understanding’ with the Russian people.”

Strictly for dittoheads.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2022

ISBN: 9781668001844

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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