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Fates and Furies

9781594634475_custom-a1c60d0db7c4d3d9fce99ec338b463c8ea95ca03-s400-c85.jpgI was inspired to read Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies after NPR chose it for their Morning Edition book club. My immediate reaction was to roll my eyes at the language, and I even started to write it off as a bit pretentious, but that changed after just a few pages. I became enraptured by this book, finding myself thinking about it and wondering what was going to happen next in between readings. Ugh, I LOVE when that happens during a book.

It’s the tale of a marriage told from the perspective of the husband (Lancelot aka Lotto) first and then from the perspective of his wife (Mathilde). Mathilde’s perspective was almost alarming since I didn’t see any of it coming—the skeletons in this woman’s closet have their own closets full of skeletons. Usually I like to think I’m relatively perceptive, but damn, Groff—you got me. It threw me so off-balance that my immediate instinct was to totally reject the character and her secrets that. I wanted to believe that she had a perfect marriage where she and her spouse knew everything about one another. That is, until I started questioning why I disliked this strong, wildly independent female lead so much and preferred her as the timid wife that her husband saw her as. I think it was simply because I heard Lotto’s side of the story first and was so ready to read the perspective of his quiet, stay-at-home wife who lived to serve him and their marriage.

In her interview with Morning Edition, Groff talks about how she rejected the idea of marriage until her now-husband proposed and she accepted since she didn’t want to lose him. She felt like a hypocrite (I definitely don’t think she is), and this book was a redemption of sorts for her. What she created was a strong character who tells her husband within the first few pages of the book that she isn’t his just because she’s his wife. Girl, YES.

Lotto was raised with a lot of money and the constant support of his family who put him on a pedestal at birth—he was told that he could do anything and that he was destined for greatness, an that idea followed him for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, Mathilde was lonely and outcasted (sometimes intentionally so), and never understood what it was like to be adored while her husband had legions of loyal followers. He turned a blind eye to the imperfections in his life and to Mathilde’s somewhat obvious flaws rather than deal with the possibility of failure or falling short of perfection. He wanted to believe that he had a wife straight out of a fairytale as well as the best job and all the fame that came with it. They finally recognized his talent, he believed, and now he could sit back and relax as everything in life continued to come to him easily and fall into place.

Reading it from Mathilde’s perspective was startling, though. How she went into his study after he fell asleep drunk to edit and refine his plays, or finding out how she kept them financially afloat while Lotto struggled to find his calling. It was impressive, resourceful, at times exceedingly manipulative, and so not the Mathilde that I thought I knew. Then, on the other hand, it deeply saddened me to read about her own failed plays that she put on under an anonymous moniker. Even though she essentially created works through Lotto, they were accepted and approved of simply due to his name and status in the community.

I also loved the way Groff styled the book and the way she wrote it; it was poetic, yet at times it read like a more detailed play. There are few things I love more than amazing character development, and this continued right to the very end. It was an entrancing read that captivated me pretty much from start to finish; there was nothing I would change about this novel. I think if I were to read it again (which I probably will, let’s be serious), I’ll probably discover so much more than upon my first read through.

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Bad Feminist

badfeministI loved this book. I loved this book. I needed this book.

Here’s a little secret you may not know about me. I LOVE WORDS. Weird, right? And Bad Feminist was full of words and phrases that I wish I could high five and befriend. There were times while I was reading that I burst out laughing and others where I shook my head as I held back tears. There aren’t enough words to express how much I appreciate a writer that can make me emote, and Roxane Gay is a prime example of one. She was also able to articulate so many thought-provoking assertions in such an eloquent way, leaving me utterly impressed by her talent, skill, and brutal honesty. The thoughts that she expressed are ones that I’ve had before, but was unable to find such a composed way of conveying.

There is now a huge, not-so-secret part of me that wants Gay to recognize me on Twitter and somehow become my new best friend. I want to sit with her and roll my eyes at terrible movies and just vent about what’s bugging me lately in the world. I identified with so much of what she thinks and has experienced, and when I couldn’t personally relate, she still made it coherent and accessible.

Every woman has a series of episodes about her twenties, her girlhood, and how she came out of it. Rarely are those episodes so neatly encapsulated as an episode of, say, Friends, or a romantic comedy about boy meeting girl.

I can’t express how reassuring it is to hear someone complain about how difficult and stressful their 20s were, for instance. I had NO IDEA what I was getting into once I graduated college. My parents and all my aunts and uncles met in high school, got married in their early 20s, then moved into houses with mortgages by my age now. Not only is that absurd, but that’s unrealistic—not that I knew that growing up, though. This was the example I had to grow up alongside, so imagine my anxiety when life wasn’t that easy come the end of my educational career.

After finishing the book, I feel a bit more jaded but also way more aware. I’ve always felt like I fell a little short on the feminism spectrum since I hadn’t studied the classics and I probably can’t name many of the women who made important strides in the movement. There was a part of me that didn’t feel qualified to assert my voice and opinions in conversations revolving around gender equality. However, this book reassured me that the feelings I have are justified and worth having—I feel totally reinvigorated in my feminism.

It’s hard not to feel humorless, as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you’re not imagining things. It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away. The problem is not that one of these things is happening; it’s that they are all happening, concurrently and constantly.

(I absolutely LOVE this quote! It is the perfect example of Gay’s clever writing and honest perspective.)

Most importantly Bad Feminist made me mad. I’m mad that we, as women, have to deal with so much nonsense still. I’m mad that myself and other qualified, impressive women aren’t paid nearly what we deserve in comparison to our male coworkers. I’m mad that our culture glamorizes sexual harassment and inequality, making it seem like those of us who demand respect are “wrong” or “too radical” or “cold-hearted.” I’m mad that if I get catcalled or inappropriately touched, then my clothing or way I carry myself is to blame. I’m mad, and I’m sick of letting it happen or risk being coined the token “bitch” of the group if I refuse to go along with it. Misogyny is a big joke to most of our society where everyone goes along with it, and if you’re offended then you’re told to relax and just laugh because it’s a joke after all. Well I’m done pretending I’m relaxed, and I’m done trying to be on the inside of a joke that I don’t even find funny.

This book is an important reminder that there is still A LOT of room for improvement in regards to gender equality in this country. We live in a progressive country that still fosters so much negativity and absurd gender biases. The realization that equality is worth fighting for and I’m worth fighting for has become rekindled upon reading Bad Feminist, and I’m so happy it’s reawoken this in me.

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