At this point, it’s become familiar. First, it’s a whisper: on Twitter, in the comments of articles online, among one another. The Author (the one who is beloved, the one who means so much to you, who created the books that you love so dearly) said something or did something or touched something that wasn’t okay. A whisper can be ignored or brushed aside.
But then, more whispers join in. The Author did the same thing to me, to my coworker, to my friend. It made us feel uncomfortable, but we didn’t want to say anything. Who wants to believe that The Author, who showed such sensitivity and emotional vulnerability in his works, could manipulate and take advantage of the same in someone else? I thought it was just me. I thought I was overreacting. But now. Now the whispers join together. The whispers are a roar. Now the whispers shout out the truth.
Why does it feel like such a betrayal when a beloved male author is exposed for sexual misconduct? Maybe because when you read a book, you are allowing an author into your emotional space. Anyone who has been brought to tears by a book knows how much an author can manipulate a reader’s emotions. To discover that they used those abilities and that trust to take advantage of others is a fucking gut punch. We support them, we cheer them on, we champion them, and then we find out…
So what do you do when you find out a beloved author has been acting in unforgivable ways? Some people can separate the art from the artist. But for a lot of us, the art will always be a part of the artist. Or, at the very least, consumption of the art provides support of the artist. Why do I want to give my money and time to someone who is incapable of showing respect to others like me? Luckily, there are plenty of authors out there who aren’t trash. So the next time one of your favorite authors is exposed for misconduct (and, let’s face it, there will be a next time), read one of these books to soothe your broken heart, stoke your fury, and remind yourself that you have power, even if it comes out as a whisper.
Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America
Edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding
These are some crazy times we’re living in. This collection of essays from authors like Rebecca Solnit, Nicole Chung, Alicia Garcia, and Cheryl Strayed offers up a variety of opinions and perspectives from everything from race, religion, to identity politics. If you want a glimpse into intersectional feminism and how the current political climate ripples into every corner of our society, this is the collection for you.
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde
Speaking of intersectional feminism, Audre Lorde helped bring it to the forefront years before Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality.” It was nearly 40 years ago when she was laying out truths:
“As white women ignore their built-in privilege of whiteness and define woman in terms of their own experience alone, then women of Color become ‘other,’ the outsider whose experience and tradition is too ‘alien’ to comprehend.”
Often required reading for anyone taking up gay/lesbian studies, women’s studies, cultural theory, and literary criticism, the essays and speeches in Sister Outsider show the experiences of women are affected by intersecting types of oppression and how true equality means equality for all, not just for some.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Even though feminism seems like a relatively straightforward concept (i.e. treating men and women equally), in practice it can be muddy. Are you less of a feminist if you like the color pink? If you dream of your wedding day? If you want to have plastic surgery? Can you still call yourself a feminist if you enjoy problematic media? Roxane Gay discusses these types of contradictions between feminist beliefs and practice, along with race and pop culture. If you are feeling conflicted between the love of art created by a problematic artist, remember Gay’s declaration: “I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all.”
We are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
Look, sometimes the best way to deal a flaming trash heap is to find something that will make you laugh. THIS BOOK WILL DO THAT. From dating to dead parents to uncontrollable pooping, Irby will make you snort laugh while reading her work. The first essay (“My Bachelorette Application”) has truths like: “WEAR CLOTHING THAT ACTUALLY FUCKING FITS. BUY DRUGS FROM REPUTABLE DEALERS ONLY. DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM AN OVERDRAWN CHECKING ACCOUNT.” And: “The Bachelorette proves that men are as petty and vapid and ridiculous as women are made to seem. They’re just better at hiding it, because they get to be Real Men and sulk and brood and bottle everything up.”
Get you an author that can do both!
Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen
It’s fair to say that most women have felt labeled by one of the categories outlined by Petersen. They are either too loud, too sexy, too strong, or just too much. Women have long self-regulated themselves into what society has deemed “appropriate”. Meanwhile we have heard story after story about men who do whatever the hell they want with little to no consequences. By examining these celebrities who embody being “too” something, Petersen not only discusses fame, but also being female outside of the bounds of “acceptability.”