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THE FEMINIST KILLJOY HANDBOOK

THE RADICAL POTENTIAL OF GETTING IN THE WAY

A good reminder that the work of activists is often challenging yet important.

A guide to being an uncompromising feminist in today’s world.

In her latest work, British Australian writer and scholar Ahmed, author of Living a Feminist Life, offers a guide to thriving as a feminist. A feminist killjoy, also known as a “buzzkill, miserabilist, party pooper, wet blanket, dampener, and spoilsport,” is someone who speaks out and calls for change in response to sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or racist comments. “My aim,” she writes, “is not to rescue us from the feminist killjoy but to give her a voice,” and she hopes to help those “fighting against inequalities and injustices of many kinds.” Throughout, Ahmed shares her experiences as a queer female feminist of color as well as stories that others have shared with her, with a particular focus on the responses and types of push back commonly encountered. As the author points out, as feminist killjoys, “we learn about the world from what comes back at us because of what we say or do.” Ahmed also references and analyzes literature and films that have inspired her and help illustrate her points. Among the survival tips she shares with fellow feminist killjoys are surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals, knowing that you are not always responsible for how you are received, and remembering that there is only so much you can do. As a supplement, Ahmed also includes her collection of killjoy maxims, recommended further reading, and reading group discussion questions for the book. The author notes that she was strongly influenced by Black writer and feminist Audre Lorde and references her works extensively throughout the guide. Although Ahmed makes strong and relatable points, her writing is wordy and repetitive at times. Regardless, feminist and social activists are certain to find the book encouraging.

A good reminder that the work of activists is often challenging yet important.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9781541603752

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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POVERTY, BY AMERICA

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

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A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.

“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.

A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 9780593239919

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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