A captivating, essential perspective on a neglected conversation.



An intimate dive into the lives of female freedom fighters in the Global South, correcting long-standing American misconceptions of women, violence, and politics.

As the director of the Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative at the City College of New York, Gowrinathan is perfectly equipped to tackle this significant yet overlooked subject, and she forces readers to reckon with the erasure of freedom fighters as political actors. Interspersed with her own family’s history with resistance in Sri Lanka, the author uses a combination of sociological critique, philosophical texts, political theory, and interviews she conducted over the span of 20 years to provide a new understanding of gender and power. “Violence, for me, and for the women I chronicle in this book, is simply a political reality,” she writes. Though the author is astute in her analysis of the complex issues at play, she is candid about her inability to offer concrete solutions. “As a part of a lifelong project that took shape in the image of the female fighter,” she writes, “Radicalizing Her is open-ended: offering no recommendations, only an exploration of new landscapes of political possibility.” Regardless, this book is a well-informed jumping-off point for any further study. From the heart-wrenching separation of Kala, a Tamil Tiger fighter, and her mother, Latha, who sought refuge in London, to Sandra, the senior commander in Bogotá’s branch of the FARC, the Marxist guerrilla group in Colombia, Gowrinathan examines the roles of rape, marriage, motherhood, and policies to create a necessarily complicated picture of why some women choose violence and some choose nonviolence as their preferred form of resistance. “Our view of the female fighter has been obstructed by both the moral compulsion to decry violent resistance and a societal drive to divide categories of thought along gendered lines,” writes the author, and this limited view perpetuates a host of oppressive myths about female fighters, myths that she corrects in this powerful book.

A captivating, essential perspective on a neglected conversation.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8070-1355-7

Page Count: 152

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Lorde’s big heart and fierce mind are at full strength on each page of this deeply personal and deeply political collection.


The groundbreaking Black lesbian writer and activist chronicles her experience with cancer.

In her mid-40s, Lorde (1934-1992) was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a radical mastectomy. Through prose, poems, and selected journal entries beginning six months after the surgery, the author explores the anger, pain, and fear that her illness wrought. Her recovery was characterized by resistance and learning to love her body again. She envisioned herself as a powerful fighter while also examining the connection between her illness and her activism. “There is no room around me in which to be still,” she writes, “to examine and explore what pain is mine alone—no device to separate my struggle within from my fury at the outside world’s viciousness, the stupid brutal lack of consciousness or concern that passes for the way things are. The arrogant blindness of comfortable white women. What is this work all for? What does it matter if I ever speak again or not?” Lorde confronts other tough questions, including the role of holistic and alternative treatments and whether her cancer (and its recurrence) was preventable. She writes of eschewing “superficial spirituality” and repeatedly rejecting the use of prosthesis because it felt like “a lie” at precisely the time she was “seeking new ways of strength and trying to find the courage to tell the truth.” Forty years after its initial publication and with a new foreword by Tracy K. Smith, the collection remains a raw reckoning with illness and death as well as a challenge to the conventional expectations of women with cancer. More universally, Lorde’s rage and the clarity that follows offer us a blueprint for facing our mortality and living boldly in the time we have. This empowering compilation is heartbreaking, beautiful, and timeless.

Lorde’s big heart and fierce mind are at full strength on each page of this deeply personal and deeply political collection.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-14-313520-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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A moving essay that should find its way into the hands of all students and teachers to provoke new conversation and...


An enchanting plea by the award-winning Nigerian novelist to channel anger about gender inequality into positive change.

Employing personal experience in her examination of “the specific and particular problem of gender,” National Book Critics Circle winner Adichie (Americanah, 2013, etc.) gently and effectively brings the argument about whether feminism is still relevant to an accessible level for all readers. An edited version of a 2012 TEDxEuston talk she delivered, this brief essay moves from the personal to the general. The author discusses how she was treated as a second-class citizen back home in Nigeria (walking into a hotel and being taken for a sex worker; shut out of even family meetings, in which only the male members participate) and suggests new ways of socialization for both girls and boys (e.g., teaching both to cook). Adichie assumes most of her readers are like her “brilliant, progressive” friend Louis, who insists that women were discriminated against in the past but that “[e]verything is fine now for women.” Yet when actively confronted by an instance of gender bias—the parking attendant thanked Louis for the tip, although Adichie had been the one to give it—Louis had to recognize that men still don’t recognize a woman’s full equality in society. The example from her childhood at school in Nigeria is perhaps the most poignant, demonstrating how insidious and entrenched gender bias is and how damaging it is to the tender psyches of young people: The primary teacher enforced an arbitrary rule (“she assumed it was obvious”) that the class monitor had to be a boy, even though the then-9-year-old author had earned the privilege by winning the highest grade in the class. Adichie makes her arguments quietly but skillfully.

A moving essay that should find its way into the hands of all students and teachers to provoke new conversation and awareness.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-91176-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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