The Radical Element // Twelve Stories About Badass Girls

Author: Twelve different authors
Genre: Historical //  YA
Series: A Tyranny of Petticoats #2
Goodreads rating: 3.77
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 

 

In an anthology of revolution and resistance, a sisterhood of YA writers shines a light on a century and a half of heroines on the margins and in the intersections.

To respect yourself, to love yourself—should not have to be a radical decision. And yet it remains as challenging for an American girl to make today as it was in 1927 on the steps of the Supreme Court. It’s a decision that must be faced whether you’re balancing on the tightrope of neurodivergence, finding your way as a second-generation immigrant, or facing down American racism even while loving America. And it’s the only decision when you’ve weighed society’s expectations and found them wanting. In The Radical Element, twelve of the most talented writers working in young adult literature today tell the stories of the girls of all colors and creeds standing up for themselves and their beliefs—whether that means secretly learning Hebrew in early Savannah, using the family magic to pass as white in 1920s Hollywood, or singing in a feminist punk band in 1980s Boston. And they’re asking you to join them.Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

I HATE rating and reviewing anthologies – some of these stories were amazing and I would’ve loved to see them as an actual book, others not so much. So while some of these are solid four or even five star reads, I ended up rating it three stars. I’m happy that there’s diversity not just among the stories and their protagonists, but also among the writers themselves, which means we also have some own-voices stories. All of the women featured in this book are incredibly empowering and inspiring. Even if the short story they appeared in didn’t really capture me, they certainly did. I am disappointed that there were no f/f romances though, even though one of the protagonists liked girls.

💛 Daughter of the Book by Dahlia Adler ⭐⭐⭐ // This one tells the story of Rebecca Gratz, a woman who really existed and was an advocate for Jewish women and economic equality. Daughter of the Book shows her as a young girl with a thirst for knowledge of her religion, culture and history. I really liked how determined Rebecca was and how it focuses on how important Jewish women were. I do feel like it was more of a set up though, but it did make me really interested in finding out more about her!

”What do I say when they want to know how you could leave them behind?”
”Tell them I’m Jewish first.”

💛 You’re a Stranger Here by Mackenzi Lee ⭐⭐⭐ // My expectations were really high for this one, as I absolutely loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. This one fell a bit short for me, as I felt like not much really happened. I still ended up giving it three stars because I love Lee’s writing style and I really liked the message of it:

”Finding things that give you hope, and make you want to do good things for others. And if Joseph’s words do that” – she pats the Book of Commandments manuscript – ”then that seems fine to me. Seems like a thing that people could need.”

💛 The Magician by Erin Bowman ⭐⭐⭐⭐ // I didn’t expect to love this one as much as I did! Ray has a reputation as an unbeatable poker player and calls herself a ‘magician’ rather than a cheat. Pretending to be a boy so she could earn more money, she agrees on going on an expedition, which of course could mean having her secret exposed. Besides Ray being a badass, her relationship with Mrs. Lowry, the woman who took her in and raised her, was my favourite aspect of this story. Despite this relationship, she is still desperate to find her biological family and find out more about who she is. While I wasn’t blown away by Bowman’s writing in Vengeance Road, I absolutely loved it in The Magician.

She was tired of pretending, and here along the river, she was a mystery even to herself. She was a boy and she was a girl. She was motherless and she was someone’s child. She was a soul wanting to belong and a soul desperate to escape.

💛 Lady Firebrand by Megan Shepherd ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ // Two girls, one of which black, the other in a wheelchair, being spies against the South during the Civil War, blowing things up and fighting against slavery as a masked hero? Yes please. I would love to read more about these badass girls and their beautiful relationship.

Pauline and she, they were more than coconspirators. They were more than Lord Firebrand. They’d be there for each other in hard times and in good times, no matter the danger, always trusting in each other’s strong heart.

💛 Step Right Up by Jessica Spotswood ⭐⭐⭐ // Ruby wants nothing more than to escape her abusive uncle and become a part of the circus and their family. I would’ve loved to see more of her relationship with the people at the circus over the years, as that would’ve made the story a lot more heartwarming. Although her uncle treats her horribly and her mother turns a blind eye, Ruby does have a good relationship with her sister Pearl, which of course I loved because sisters!! While they loved each other, Pearl understood Ruby’s dream and supported her in any way she could.

”You looked after me the whole time we were growing up. It’s time for me to look after myself now.”

💛 Glamour by Anna-Marie McLemore ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ // This one too I need as a full book it was so beautifully written and magical and just dsjgh It made me super excited to read Wild Beauty wich I finally can now that I’m back home. Glamour follows Graciela who uses ‘glamour’ to make herself look white and works in Hollywood as Grace, and Sawyer, a disabled transgender boy. According to McLemore this story is her ‘wish to give Graciela, a daughter of Mexican-American farmers, and Sawyer, a transgender boy living with a disability, the space that history would have tried to deny them.’ And she definitely did. I just want more haha. The way it was written felt very real, and despite being a short story Graciela and Sawyer were very well-developed. Just,,, give me a full book please

She had told no one why she wanted to become Grace Moran: because the world left so little room for Graciela Morena

💛 Better For All The World by Marieke Nijkamp ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ // Oh my goodness this one was so good. I need to read more by Marieke Nijkamp, something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time now, but especially after reading this. Short stories often feel underdeveloped to me, but this one was truly perfect as a short story. It’s an own voices about an autistic girl, following the trial of Carrie Buck (who really existed), another autistic girl who’s fighting in court for her bodily autonomy as the state wants to sterilize her. It’s an incredibly powerful and important story.

”Carrie Buck is a girl like me. Despite everyone telling her that she didn’t matter, she came here to fight for her choices. She has the inalienable right to do so. But instead of recognising that, we assign vallue to her, to each other, to ourselves. We tell her she isn’t competend enough. She isn’t fit enough. She isn’t equal enough. Do you know what would be better for all the world? If instead of fighting to limit her rights – our constitutional rights, our fundamentally human rights – we fought to embrace them and strengthen them. If we limit equality, we can never be truly equal.”

💛 When the Moonlight Isn’t Enough by Dhonielle Clayton ⭐⭐ // This one was just a bit eh for me. The main character and her parents drink moonlight in order to stay immortal, but this was never really touched upon. It just left me with a lot of questions and I was bored. Nothing really stayed with me and I didn’t hightlight anything. It doesn’t help that it’s been a while since I read this either.

💛 The Belle of the Ball by Sarvenaz Tash ⭐⭐⭐ // This one was fun! The protagonist wants to be a comedy writer, which of course wasn’t easy for a woman back then. It was a fun and interesting read, but it just didn’t blow me away.

💛 Land of the Sweet, Home of the Brave by Stacey Lee ⭐⭐⭐ // I would’ve loved to have rated this higher, but it fell a bit short to me, as if not much happened. Lana wants to become the face of Miss Sugar Maiden, because ‘maybe it was time for a nonwhite on the box. Sugar Maiden’s product comes direct from Hawaii, born of the sweat of thousands of islanders – Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, and Filipinos – yet the girls on the boxes have always been as snowy as its contents.’ The story also focuses on the discrimination her parents as half-Japanese and Chinese faced and another important aspect is Lana’s love for her family, which keeps her going. It just left me with a ‘that’s it?’ feeling, which is why I ended up rating it three stars, but I really loved Lana and her story.

💛 The Birth of Susi Go-Go by Meg Medina ⭐⭐⭐ // As mentioned before, it’s been a while since I read this and well… I don’t really remember this one? It wasn’t badly written, but it wasn’t very memorable either. Susana’s grandparents are finally coming from Cuba to live with her and her parents, which she is very nervous about because she doesn’t remember them. I wish the story would’ve focused more on that and that we had seen her grandparents more.

💛 Take me With U by Sara Farizan ⭐⭐⭐.5 // This one was a lot of fun! Soheila has fled from the war in Iran to live with her uncle, aunt and little cousin, who is her only friend. Until she meets Mai that is. Mai introduces her to pop culture, especially music and eventually Soheila becomes a part of Mai’s band. I really liked how Mai became a big sister to Soheila, Soheila discovering American pop culture and the band aspect. Plus of course how Soheila (and Mai!) hung out with her little cousin. He was adorable.

During that set, I was free to be whoever I wanted to be. Not Apollonia, not Amir’s babysitter, not a self-conscious girl. I was bitchin’ and so was my band.

All in all this is a fun, inspiring and empowering anthology that I definitely recommend.Have you read The Radical Element? Or another cool anthology like this? Let me know in the comments!

Why You Should Support The Bold Type (Because I Need A Second Season and So Do You)

I’ve talked about The Bold Type before, but this amazing show deserves a post of it’s own. Especially after that beautiful, emotional finale – the show just got better and better. Oh and because we still don’t know if we’ll get a second season* or not which is TERRIFYING so I need y’all to go and support this show that stole my heart (and will steal yours too!!!)

* Though maybe by the time this goes up it will have been renewed?? Not that that would make this post unnecessary – I still want to spread the love

Why YOU should also watch, love and support The Bold Type

💛 It’s about three best friends who work at the same magazine together (friendship!!)
💛 One of them is a black bisexual woman!
💛 Who falls in love with a lesbian Muslim!!

💛 Their relationship is the main ship on the show????

me screaming about Kadena

💛 Their relationship is build up slowly and beautifully and is healthy and just

💛 Don’t mind me crying over here okay

💛 The magazine the girls work at is a women’s magazine, but it doesn’t just talk about fashion, makeup, relationships etc. but is also very feminist

💛 The show itself is incredibly feminist and explores a lot of (other) important issues: immigration, sexuality, rape, breast cancer, misogynistic trolls on the internet  to name a few and it does so beautifully

💛 The female editor-in-chief is not a bitch!! Devil Wears Prada Who??* She’s kind, inspiring, ambitious and hardworking, supportive, and really, really cares about her staff. She’s an icon and I know I already said she’s inspiring, but she’s SUCH an inspiration I love her

💛 The friendship of the three girls is the heart of the show and while the girls all have their own stories, relationships with other characters, it always comes back to their love and support for each other. Of course they sometimes fight, but whoever is in the wrong always realises their mistake and apologises for it. They always have each other’s back and it’s just such a beautiful friendship. While Kat’s realising that she’s bi the other two never make a biphobic or homophobic comment and are just excited for her when the relationship seems to be going well

💛 Besides Kat (black bisexual) and Adena (lesbian Muslim) we also have Alex (black) who is such a sweetheart. He’s an amazing friend to both Jane and Sutton and really funny and he’s just?? I love him??

💛 While it covers important and heavy issues, at it’s heart it’s a feel-good show: it’s funny, inspiring, positive, fun, heartwarming. There’s such a good balance with the heavy topics

💛 It’s amazingly written, directed, filmed and acted. It’s such a powerful show, especially the finale was amazing. One of the final scenes gave me chills and I was a sobbing mess. Just writing about it now makes me cry again.

💛 No romanticisation of abusive relationships?? They’re all healthy??

💛 As a journalism student myself it was so much fun to watch a show about journalism – and so inspiring! I just wanted to write articles myself haha

💛 And so many more reasons that I can’t put into words?? Or have forgotten because I have a terrible memory and I didn’t take any notes** It’s just so beautiful and amazing and funny and inspiring and important??

* Don’t get me wrong I love The Devil Wears Prada but I’m SO TIRED of this trope
** I want to rewatch it so bad but there are so many other shows I need to watch ahhh

Did you watch or are you watching The Bold Type? Did I convince you to watch it? Do you have any recs that are similar to The Bold Type that can keep me satisfied while I wait for season 2? (Please please let there be a season 2) Let me know in the comments!

The Artsy Hufflehoe: “My Mother is Dead. My Father is Dead. I’m Gay. I’d Like to be A Poet. This is My House.”

I originally wrote this post for Stedelijk Journal and thought I’d share it here for this month’s Artsy Hufflehoe

Thus begins Female figure by Jordan Wolfson, just before “Applause” by Lady Gaga starts playing. According to Wolfson, the robotic figure is a sexual object and the work addresses “the violence of objectification”. Without being aware of this, the viewer can already feel it when standing in the gallery with the robot.

She is a blonde woman dressed as a hypersexualized pop star: she wears a semitransparent skirt through which her underwear is visible, thigh-high boots, and long gloves. She is completely in white, the color of virginity. Her body appears dirty, but the reason for this is unknown. Her face is concealed by a mask of a witch’s face — this symbolizes infertility, according to Wolfson, while the movements her body makes simply scream fertility.
Because her face is hidden, it feels as if the mask
makes her more of an
object rather than a person.

She is attached to a pole — as if it forces her to keep dancing. Even when no music is playing and she addresses the audience, she continues to dance. From behind the mask, her eyes constantly follow the crowd in the room, unnerving the viewer. She is fixed in place, and her audience cannot leave. She is continuously “performing” for the public. And, as a spectator, the viewer can do nothing.

When “Applause” finishes, she begins to whisper a monologue in which she says, among other things, “I’ll have sex with you, but that’s not my calling”. This capitalizes on the idea that women only exist to satisfy men. She constantly asks what to say, and repeats the words that were said by a man (Wolfson’s voice): “Touch is hate. Say feeling love. Touch is love”. She embodies the utmost submissiveness, just as women are also still often seen today. She says, “This is my house”, but in her own home she has nothing to say and is unable to leave.

During the “performance”, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” also plays, a song that became controversial as a result of lyrics that seem to condone or downplay rape. The words “touch is hate” could indicate this as well. Victims of rape often have difficulty with being touched.

She continues to repeat her dance moves. She is, of course, a robot that is perhaps incapable of performing many steps, but this can also be interpreted as a woman who is constantly forced to perform — to seduce men and to please them — but she is weary and hapless.

While Wolfson himself has said that Female figure is about the “objectification” of women, the observations given here are naturally my own interpretation. The emotions and ideas behind the choices Wolfson has made came to me when I saw the artwork. Perhaps the witch mask only stands for infertility, and the words “touch is hate” might have nothing to do with rape. Others may interpret the work differently, of course. Is Female figure really an effective way to expose “the violence and objectification”? When you are alone or with a group in the room with her, I think you will feel uncomfortable. Therefore, the message is still communicated, but whether the work can help put an end to “objectification” is another question entirely.

The Artsy Hufflehoe: Nalini Malani and Immigration and the Oppression of Women

The first post (hopefully of many) of my new feature all about art! Today I’m going to talk about one of my favourite artists, Nalini Malani.

I had unfortunately never heard of Malani until an exhibition opened in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam called Transgressions. I was immediately hooked when I read that her work focused on issues like immigration and the opression of women, so naturally I had to check it out. And guys I was immediately in love.

But let’s talk about Malini herself first. She is one of India’s most important contemporary artists. Born in 1946 in Karachi, Pakistan, she had to flee a year after with her family during the separation  of India and Pakistan. Till this day you can see this reflect in her work.

She was trained as a classical artist in Bombay, but when in the ’90s religious fundamentalism started to gain ground she changed her style and medium. She criticised these changes by working  with different mediums that were new for India, like her wall drawing/erasure-perfomances, experimental theater and video/shadow play.

As I said her work focuses on immigration and the opression of women, but also globalisation, poverty and many more. She often combines these themes with motives from classic literature and mythology.

Basically she’s awesome and I love her and I want all the books Stedelijk has on her but

I mentioned Malani’s wall drawings/erasure-performances. She made a drawing in the Stedelijk as well, at the beginning of the exhibition:

She made this a week before the opening. It criticises the current refugee crisis and combines that with her fascination for literary and mythological stories in which women play important roles. On the last day of the exhibition the drawing will disappear through an ‘Erasure Performance’.

My two favourite works of her at the exhibition are the installation Transgressions and the video ‘In Search of Vanished Blood’.

Stills of ‘In Search of Vanished Blood’

TRIGGER WARNING: RAPE

‘In Search of Vanished Blood’ is an incredibly powerful and emotional video in which you’ll hear the inner voice of a woman who has been brutally raped by a group of men (you don’t hear the actual rape). It’s inspired by the book ‘Cassandra: A Novel and Four Essays’ by Christa Wolf and the poem ‘In Search of Vanished Blood’ by the Pakistani leftist intellectual and revolutionary poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. The video is about a collapsing society for which Cassandra offers a humane escape, if we would only listen and learn from past tragedies. Instead of the standard world map, Malani used a world map with the USA in the middle as a backdrop.

Honestly I felt like crying while watching this video (if I had been on my own I probably would’ve). It is so powerful.

The other work is Transgressions, which is the heart of the exhibition. It’s a beautiful installation that can’t be captured in pictures. And not just because of the projected images changing and the audio.

There is so much to see that you just can’t stop looking. It also felt very hypnotising, with the combination of  the turning of the cylinders and the voices of the woman and the girl who are constantly on repeat.

The installation covers the past and current situation of India, the trauma of colonisation and the beginning of globalisation. Seriously, it’s such a impactful work. I really recommend seeing it for yourself if you have the chance.

If you’re in Amsterdam somewhere between now and June 18th, you can still see the exhbition at the Stedelijk Museum. I couldn’t find out where the exhibition is headed afterwards, but I really recommend keeping an eye out for it!

Are you familiar with Nalini Malani’s work? Have you seen it? What did  you think? Who are some of your favourite artists? Let me know in the comments!

The Discussing Hufflepuff: Am I Overreacting?

Something that I often think when I see something sexist, racist, homophobic, etc. is: ‘am I overreacting?’ This has lead to me not pointing these things out, not tweeting about it, not writing blog posts about it… Nothing.

Last week I wrote a post on The Feministas about sexist Dutch magazines, and honestly? Before I wrote it I wasn’t sure if I should. Was I making a big deal out of nothing? Was the way women are being portrayed in these men magazines the same way women’s magazines portray men? Even though my female friend was just as outraged, even though I discussed it with the other members of The Feministas first, I still felt like maybe I was overreacting.

Now this doesn’t always happen. I know my reaction as to what happened to Arden Cho on Teen Wolf wasn’t an overreaction. I know that when The Real O’Neals made a biphobic ‘joke’ I was right to be angry and hurt (if you missed it, the protagonist Kenny was afraid that what his new boyfriend was going to tell him would be bad news. He was like ‘what if it’s money problems or webbed toes. Or worse! Bisexual!’)

So why is it that often or not I feel like I shouldn’t say anything? Is it because I grew up in such a sexist, racist, homophobic etc. society? My mom always taught me to speak my mind and is very outspoken about these matters as well. Did our society, that is constantly trying to silence minorties, get to me anyway?

Or is it because of my PTSD, because I’m terrified people will get mad and yell at me?

I don’t know why, but it’s something that’s been bothering me for a while. There are so many things that I’ve wanted to discuss before, but I was scared. Scared that I was wrong, scared that I was overreacting. Scared that people would attack me.

But if I felt hurt, violated and disgusted at seeing the way women are being portrayed as objects, sexual fantasies and entertainment for men, shouldn’t that count? Shouldn’t it count that my friend, another woman, also felt this way? Shouldn’t it count that my fellow Feministas were also disgusted after hearing about it? Why did I still worry about it?

Do you ever feel the same way? Let me know in the comments.

The Feministas!

Last night 10 amazing bloggers and I came up with an amazing idea: start a blog together where we’ll talk about issues in the world that we don’t agree with and that we want to change. It started with sexism, but there are so many more problems in the world that we decided not to just leave it at that. And thus The Feministas were born!

As we just started last night, there isn’t much there yet. We’re still working out all the details, but I’m really excited and I hope we’ll be able to inspire others and make a difference!

Visit the blog and have a look! You can also follow us on Twitter.

Again, I’m REALLY excited and can’t wait to start.

– The Writing Hufflepuff