Posts Tagged ‘identity’
Read my entire review of Peggy Orenstein’s fourth book about princess culture on Bookslut.
Peggy Orenstein’s fourth book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter, chronicles the author’s journey through America’s princess culture with her young daughter, Daisy. Beginning with Disney princesses, Orenstein comes to examine American Girl dolls, the “tween” market, Miley Cyrus, social media, beauty pageants, and of course, Barbie, all in the united effort to best understand the decisions she is making for her daughter. Acknowledging early on in Cinderella Ate My Daughter the tumultuous battlefield of potential body issues, poor self-esteem, rampant sexism, and gender essentialist impositions, Orenstein opens her book with an awareness for the road ahead in raising a girl.
Tags: American Girl doll, Barbie, beauty pageant, Bookslut, childrearing, Cinderella Ate my Daughter, daughter, Disney, family, female roles, feminism, identity, motherhood, parenting, Peggy Orenstein, princess, princess culture, self-esteem, sexism, tween, women in media
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Erin Blakemore’s debut book chronicles the most important heroines of the literary canon as well as their authoresses. Beginning with the life stories of writers like Zora Neale Hurston, Betty Smith, and Harper Lee, Blakemore then transitions to the inspiration behind their most notable protagonists, marking financial hardships, marital woes, and the illnesses that obstructed their respective literary paths.
Blakemore mines these literary figures for inspirational qualities, looking to Janie Crawford in Their Eyes Were Watching God for faith, Celie in The Color Purple for dignity, and the infamous Claudine in Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette’s Claudine novels for indulgence.
Blakemore applies an autobiographical read of these classic literary giants when analyzing characters like Scarlett O’Hara or Jo March, inviting the reader to study the kernels that gave them such notable fictional females. Louisa May Alcott’s poverty-stricken childhood and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s complex relationship with her daughter are shared in an effort to understand how these experiences may have shaped their work.
Blakemore’s indisputable passion for the literary canon, and more specifically for the women who have helped punctuate it, make this pocket-sized dose of literary criticism a very quick read. Her light-hearted study of the many functions and facets of these classic literary figures evidences a childhood, as well as a womanhood, devoted to understanding literature. Employing a feminist understanding of Mary Lennox and Lizzy Bennet, Blakemore always looks to the circumstances, history, and societal expectations of both heroine and authoress.
What makes The Heroine’s Bookshelf a gem amongst leather-bound tomes, however, is Blakemore’s unassuming narrative; she presents complex literary themes and character analysis in ebullient prose. Much like the fervent notes you might scratch to yourself in a college level English course on women characters, The Heroine’s Bookshelf reads as the diary of an impassioned student rather than the essay you would turn in.
A delight for seasoned readers of classic literature or younger first-timers, The Heroine’s Bookshelf prompts a revisit to favorite novels while encouraging others to tackle what they have not yet read.
To read more about Erin Blakemore, click here.
Tags: Betty Smith, Celie, classic literature, Claudine, Erin Blakemore, female roles, feminist analysis, God, Gone With the Wind, Harper Lee, heroine, identity, Jane Austen, Janie Crawford, Jo March, Laura Ingalls Wilder, literary canon, literary criticism, literary fiction, Little Women, Lizzy Bennet, Louisa May Alcott, marriage, Mary Lennox, motherhood, Scarlett O'Hara, Sidonie-Gabrielle Collette, The Color Purple, The Heroine's Bookshelf, The Secret Garden, Their Eyes Were Watching God, writing, Zora Neale Hurston
Posted in Literary Criticism No Comments »
Carlene Bauer’s debut book, Not That Kind of Girl, details her evangelical upbringing in a small, cloistered town in southern New Jersey. Indoctrinated into her nondenominational faith by well-intentioned parents, Bauer and her younger sister struggle with eventual integration into public school, religious questioning, and general adolescent turmoil. Bauer eventually leaves her small pond for a slightly larger one: a private Catholic college. She majors in English and “communes with the dead,” spending hours poring over Virginia Woolf, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Simone de Beauvoir. Bauer eventually moves to Brooklyn where she tries to reconcile her belief in God with a hunger for sex, love, and other experiences beyond the conditions of her faith. Bauer passes into her twenties with little to no sexual experience, without any tales of drunken debauchery to share at the local dive bars in which she feels out of place. She yearns for a boyfriend but can’t seem to develop a full-fledged romance; she refers to her suitors as “false starts.”
Bauer is articulate in her religious contemplation, communicating her experiences of doubt and illumination with eloquent and lucid prose. She observes her small town well, recalling the details of youth groups and high school social politics, discerning her own visceral reactions to the reckless behavior of her peers with evocative and arresting perception. Upon hearing stories of drunken escapades by friends at the edges of town, Bauer fears losing control of herself in the typical high school party setting:
The word party, because of how I’d overheard them described and seen them depicted in John Hughes movies, filled me with fear. I was afraid of what people would see if I let myself go wherever my mind and alcohol and drugs would take me. I didn’t want anyone to ever have to step over me while I lay openmouthed like a fish that had been knocked from its bowl onto somebody’s parents’ shag carpet. Or pull my face, mottled with vomit and mulch, out of somebody’s parents’ landscaping after I’d heaved in the bushes. I didn’t ever want anyone who wasn’t related to me to see my body’s secrets spilled out in strangers’ ranch houses when I wasn’t even sure what its secrets were.
The themes of Bauer’s work stand strong: feminism, literature, and religion. A budding feminist in her religious community, she gravitates towards the writings of Sylvia Plath, looking to the late poetess for inspiration as she plans a life for herself in New York City. Her dedication to classic literature is matched only by her love of God, a relationship that is beautifully entwined in Bauer’s introspective narration.
Bauer writes keenly about female friendship, exposing delicate moments in the lives of ambitious young women whose faith eventually dissipates. Each of her female comrades is finely drawn as they travel, give up God, and meet up with Bauer some years later in different settings and with new attitudes. Warned from an early age to steer clear of teen pregnancy, drugs, and hair dye, she unexpectedly becomes close with rebel and chronic smoker Caroline. Bauer describes their polar opposite nature with fondness, writing, “I thought girls as different as we were had to circle each other with suspicion, but she came over and pulled me to her.” She identifies the friendship as a “sisterhood,” explaining humorously that, “we might have recognized men as the oppressor, and raged against them in the abstract, but we could be charmed by individual cases.”
Not That Kind of Girl suffers from a lackluster ending, but Bauer’s bow to convention does not detract from this indubitably well-written memoir, an observant and reflective work in a recent boom of mediocre memoirists. This contemplative meditation on identity and God from an analytical, well-read, and self-professed “good girl” announces a promising Brooklyn-based writer with insights worth reading.
To read more about Carlene Bauer, click here.
Tags: brooklyn, Carlene Bauer, Catholic, catholicism, classic literature, evangelical, faith, feminism, friendship, God, identity, Jesus, Manhattan, Memoir, New Jersey, new york city, religion, spirituality, Sylvia Plath, women's personal writing
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