Forget busting glass ceilings. Crispin has taken a wrecking ball to the whole structure.




A taut and spirited attack on contemporary mainstream feminism.

Despite the title, Crispin (The Dead Ladies Project, 2015), critic and founder of the pioneering literary website Bookslut, is indeed a feminist. She’s a passionate defender of second-wave writers like Andrea Dworkin and Shulamith Firestone, and her chief complaint is that their critiques of capitalism and structural racism have been rejected in favor of weak-tea lifestyle feminism, where empowerment is making yourself attractive to men and activism is social media squabbling—and those second-wave radical feminists are lazily dismissed as men-haters. This transformation of feminism into “something soft and Disneyfied,” Crispin argues, has produced a raft of lamentable and counterproductive consequences: it has alienated women who aspire to lives that don’t demand climbing the corporate ladder, shamed women who speak about abortion in terms besides upbeat women’s rights cheerleading, and excluded nonwhite, non–middle class women. What good is an uptick in women CEOs and politicians if they’re just perpetuating the same divisions? (“Not a more egalitarian world, but the same world, just with more women in it.”) What good is “self-empowerment” if it only translates into making oneself sexually available? Attacking the patriarchy, though, doesn’t mean attacking men: “toxic femininity” is as pervasive as “toxic masculinity,” writes Crispin, and she keenly balances a defense of men’s role in supporting a more viable feminism without excusing male sexism. As with most manifestos, this one is better at laying out the problem—a “patriarchal, capitalistic, consumerist society”—than outlining solutions for it, and her case would be stronger if it addressed real-world divides as much as online ones. But the author’s ferocious critique effectively reframes the terms of any serious discussion of feminism. You’ll never trust a you-go-girl just-lean-in bromide again.

Forget busting glass ceilings. Crispin has taken a wrecking ball to the whole structure.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61219-601-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.


Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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