Sunday, 1 November 2009

Women Unbound

During the week, I briefly joined in a Twitter conversation originating with Eva about a potential Women's Studies challenge. I commented that I would enjoy reading more nonfiction in this field and that the choice of fiction to meet the challenge, which is wide but subjective, could be justified in the participant's review. I then went to bed and when I woke the challenge had been defined, named and a website had been set up complete with buttons, readings lists, rules etc. That's women unbound for you!

The Women Unbound challenge runs between this month and November 2010 so that is a whole year to read any book that focuses on women and their issues. As Nymeth pointed out to me, Virago and Persephone books more than meet that criteria and when do I need an excuse to read those? This challenge will allow me to finally read books of my one that have gone unread and potentially reread some feminist favourites. I have decided to participate at the Suffragette level, which involved reading eight titles, three of which have to be nonfiction. A list of potential reads is not required but I have compiled a pool of potential reads but not some of the rereads I may embrace.

Also, if you are joining in and seeking out titles (and even if you are not) then I cannot recommend The Group by Mary McCarthy highly enough. I read and reviewed it a few months ago and it would be the perfect read for this challenge.


Bluestockings by Jane Robinson (I don't have this one of my shelves but it is already on request from the library after reading Nymeth's review).

Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks

Gender Trouble by Judith Butler

Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Sex and the Slayer: A Gender Primer for the Buffy Fan by Lorna Jowett

Cunt: A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio

Everything I Needed to Know about Being a Girl I Learned From Judy Blume
ed. by Jennifer O'Connell

Married Love by Marie Stopes

Women in the House of Fiction by Lorna Sage


The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter (one of only two books by Angela Carter that I haven't yet read; I have been rationing them).

The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks

Fear of Flying by Erica Jong

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy

Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood

Novel on Yellow Paper by Stevie Smith

Invitation to the Waltz by Rosamond Lehmann

Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing (third time lucky?)

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

The Woman Destroyed by Simone de Beauvoir

Carol (The Price of Salt) by Patricia Highsmith

St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

Sophie's Choice by William Styron

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

A number of Colette, Anais Nin or Jean Rhys novels on my shelves.

What do you think of my list? Have you read any? Which are you looking forward to reading about? Do you have any further recommendations?


Care said...

Herland is nonfiction? Thank you for the high rec for The Group by Mary McCarthy. I am so loving all these lists!

Paperback Reader said...

Hi Care, thanks for commenting. Oops, Herland is most definitely not nonfiction! I edited my post. The Group has definitely been one of my favourite books of the year and made quite the impact. The lists I've seen so far are very exciting!

JoAnn said...

If Persephones count,them I'm definitely in! The Group sounds wonderful.

Paperback Reader said...

JoAnn, I haven't decided which Persephones I'll read for the challenge but they most definitely count. The Group IS wonderful.

Steph said...

Alas, the only one I've read from your list is Lady Oracle by Atwood... and I really didn't like it at all. It was my first Atwood and put me off of her for a very long time. I do think it meets the challenge requirements, but for me personally, it is the kind of Atwood that I really don't like. I hope you like it more (and take into account I read it when 16, so would maybe have a different perspective now).

Also, I think I might have that Buffy book back in Toronto... I certainly had one or two non-fic titles about that show! ;)

Anonymous said...

Claire, this challenge sounds great! Thanks for sharing. I think your list of books looks excellent. I'm particularly excited to see what you think of Herland and Woman on the Edge of Time. I haven't managed to get around to Gender Trouble, Women who run with wolves, or To the Lighthouse but will consider those when I make my list. I love Feminism is for everybody. I often recommend it to folks who are interested in learning more but may not be ready to plunge in head first. I read In search of our mother's gardens this year. It is a collection of feminist essays by Alice Walker.
I haven't heard of The Group, but I'll have to look into it.

Paperback Reader said...

Steph, Lady Oracle has always appealed to me and it sounds like the type of book (and Atwood novel) that I would like but we shall see.

That's the only Buffy book that I own but I love Buffy and I love Gender Studies so how could I resist?!

Danielle, I'm looking forward to reading your list! I'm annoyed with myself for not having read Feminism is for Everybody yet as it is so short and apparently accessible (whilst I have read far longer and denser feminist texts). The Butler and Estes I have taken the butterfly approach to and dipped in and out of but they aren't strictly rereads. I've heard good things about Alice Walker's essays.

Laura said...

Isnt' this a great challenge? I'm so excited about it, and enjoyed poring over my stacks this morning thinking about what to read. You have an excellent list there. Can't wait to follow your progress.

Paperback Reader said...

Laura, it's a fabulous challenge! It allows me the opportunity to read so many books from my own collection, not least of all my VMCs.

3m.michelle said...

I'm probably going to join this one as well. You've got a great list!

Paperback Reader said...

Thanks, Michelle! It's a great challenge and I look forward to us both participating.

Ana S. said...

Tender Morsels is SUCH a good choice for the challenge. And you know, The Fox Woman would be perfect too! It's very much about gender and power. I wonder why they're among my favourites of the year :P I really like Judith Butler's ideas, but find her writing very difficult. And I can't believe I've yet to read bell hooks! I look forward to your thoughts on all the books you decide to read :)

Paperback Reader said...

Great to know that Fox Woman is suitable for the challenge too, Ana. I'm going to be able to finally read so many great books for this challenge and since they are the type of books I enjoy reading best, I have a rather large pool of books :). I don't think we are going to find this challenging in the slightest!

Eva said...

I've read Cunt-it's awesome! :D I've read half of St. Lucy's Home, etc. ...overall, the stories aren't as great as I was expecting, but there are a couple gems.

Jenny said...

Okay, every time I see a post about this challenge, it sounds more tempting - especially the nonfiction books. But I have to read about mysticism and things the rest of this year...

(Each time I make this protest, I think it sounds slightly weaker.)

Aarti said...

Fantastic and eclectic list! Mine is very small at the moment, but I feel like if I find a book next year that I want to read and that qualifies, I'll just push it in there and hope no one knows the difference ;-) Can't wait to see what you think of all those books!

Anonymous said...

I haven't read any of those books but it looks like a great list.

And I think the challenge will be the excuse I need to order my first Persephone. :-D

verity said...

What a good list. I wonder how many you'll get through? I like the sound of Everything I Needed to know about being a girl I learned from Judy Blume. Married Love is definitely worth reading; make sure you get the Oxford World Classics edition with the introduction by Ross McKibbin - he's great - went to a number of his lectures at college and read lots of his books.

StuckInABook said...

The L-Shaped Room is brilliant! As is, of course, To The Lighthouse. Those are the only two on your list that I've read, but so many of the others (including The Group) are books I've bought and want to read, but are still in the tbr pile.

Rachel (Book Snob) said...

This challenge sounds fun - it also sounds like the kind of stuff I read all the time anyway - therefore an easy challenge to participate in!

I'll have to think about my titles - but I know I definitely want to read Bluestockings - it's on my Christmas list - and also some books about female madness and also about the domestic sphere and servants etc. As much as I love non fiction I do find I need a push to read it these days so hopefully this will give me the push I need.

Paperback Reader said...

Eva, thanks for the glowing review of Cunt and the less-than-glowing review of St Lucy's!

Jenny, you could always join and participate from the beginning of next year when your mysticism reading is done with.

Aarti, I imagine that I will add to this list as I read reviews from other challenge participants but looking forward to any of the ones I already have set aside.

Jill, a perfect excuse to order a Persephone! Not that you need one...

Verity, the challenge is four eight books. I have the Oxford Worlds Classics edition of Married Love; these are all books that I already own.

Simon, The L-Shaped Room is a book I own because of you! To the Lighthouse is one I will definitely read in the coming year as I love Woolf.

Rachel, it is an easy challenge and reflects a lot of my normal reading and taste in books! I think this little push will ensure I read more nonfiction again without consciously ensuring that I do.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Paperback Reader! I never knew that Patricia Highsmith came out with fiction that focuses heavily on women's issues. I will definitely check this out or probably order it online. I'm a huge fan of Highsmith, especially of her Ripley novels. (I've read them all!)

Paperback Reader said...

Hi Peter, I haven't read any Highsmith yet but this is one that I have had on my TBR for some time. It is a lesbian love story, very controversial at its time and still a seminal text in GLBT literature.

susan said...

I read Sophie's Choice in my 20s. Loved it. It was very cool seeing it here.

Jade @ Tasting Grace said...

I definitely loved 'cunt'. I'm planning to read some bell hooks too. I thought about picking up "Feminism is for Everybody", but "Ain't I a Woman?" looks really interesting too! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the books you read!

Paperback Reader said...

Hi Susan, thanks for commenting. I really hope I manage to read Sophie's Choice during the challenge as I have been wanting to for some time. Even though it is a Holocaust novel primarily, what I have heard of it suggests women's issues to me. Happy to read such a positive endorsement.

Hi Jade, thanks for commenting. Ain't I a Woman? does look interesting but I am striving to read only books that I already have on my shelves! Looking forward to sharing our thoughts on the great books we come across.

Anonymous said...

I must read Radclyffe Hall very soon and also Carol has been on my TBR fot ages so those two are the ones that instantly leap out at me. I promised myself no more challenges (even though have just joined one for november) and so will skip this one but not some of the books.

Paperback Reader said...

Simon, as long as you read some of the books themselves ... I understand the reluctance to commit to anything more but this was one challenge I couldn't pass up as I read so many books anyway that qualify. Looking forward to sharing thoughts with you about Carol and The Well of Loneliness.

mee said...

The Group sounds amazing! (I just read your review) I added it to my wishlist. Did a quick search at my libraries and they don't have it :(

Paperback Reader said...

mee, that's unfortunate; there's a new Virago edition being released in early December so it should become easier to borrow/obtain.

coops said...

Carol was recently nominated by Val McDermid for dramatisation by Radio 4 in their Neglected Books feature.

The Well of Loneliness is a lesbian classic but god it's depressing! Worth reading but not recommended for anyone just coming out and who is looking for affirmation!

Paperback Reader said...

coops, I saw Carol on the neglected list which reminded me that I wanted to read it. Both of the titles you mention aren't strictly within the confines of the challenge but seminal lesbian literature is just as important to the genre of women's studies as overtly feminist texts.

I'll remember not to read The Well of Loneliness whilst I'm feeling down!

vvb32 reads said...

i think i'm gonna add the group to my list as well. after seeing it on the mad men tv show and reading the description, i'm intrigued. i also have women who run with wolves so it will be neat to compare it with you.

Paperback Reader said...

Velvet, I heard about The Group being on Mad Men (I tried to get into the show but failed) and think the product placement of a seminal women's text is very cool. I actually tried to find a still from it to use in an upcoming blog post but couldn't :(. It would be great to compare Women Who Run with Wolves; I hope to start reading it early next year.

Anonymous said...

I'm in a weird position concernign the Women Unbound challenge at the moment... I say I am not joining (yet) becuase I have to finish other challenges first, but still I already know of at least 2 books I am going to read: The Pillowbook by Sei Shonagon and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. So if I would be straight with myself I would admit that I have joined but am not going to read those books before I've got the time ;)

Back to your question. I got stuck in To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf... But it is about 20! years ago that I tried it, so I might read it differently now?

Last year I read The Golden Notebook. Honestly? I like that I have read it but I don't think I would have minded if I hadn't (and there are many pages of it ;) I can imagine it was new in its time but I wasn't really impressed. Of course you might like to read the thoughts of some young female authors who joined in the web 2.0 read-along (there's a link in my blogpost); if they haven't moved the site that is.

Paperback Reader said...

gnoegnoe, I'm reluctant to sign up for any challenges until I have completed outstanding ones this year but the Women Unbound one is a challenge I couldn't refuse.

I enjoyed Persepolis and I have The Pillow Book so perhaps I will read that for the challenge - so many great choices to choose from!

I love Virginia Woolf but her work isn't the most accessible; you will probably be more successful now - I hope you are!

The Golden Notebook is a book that is on my shelves and which I attempted to read a couple of years ago; I knew it was ideal for this challenge but it daunts me.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is so good that I have re-read it about once a decade since the 1970s.

Paperback Reader said...

Hi Bonnie, sorry for the delayed response. That is quite the recommendation for Herland! My copy is at home in Glasgow and I had a look whilst I was home last weekend but couldn't find it; I'll have a longer look when I'm home over Christmas as it sounds like I should definitely read it as part of this challenge.