Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

Period. Books. Period.

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Christina M. Rau

Staff Writer

Christina M. Rau is the author of the sci-fi fem poetry collection, Liberating The Astronauts (Aqueduct Press, 2017), and the chapbooks WakeBreatheMove (Finishing Line Press, 2015) and For The Girls, I (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). In her non-writing life, she teaches yoga occasionally and line dances on other occasions.

I’ve owned Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation for years. A friend gave it to me as a birthday gift, saying it’s the kind of unique thing I’d like. The cover is pretty kitschy. With the publication of Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life last year, I remembered Flow. Then I got to thinking—how many books about periods and menopause that are not science-y can I find? The answer is quite a few.

Flow CoverFlow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim

As aforementioned, this book is so kitschy! I mean, that pinup gal on the cover! It includes the history of how society has “dealt with” menstruation, which includes advertisements for feminine care from days of yore. It’s also super simple and clear in answering age-old questions like Hey, why do we have to get our periods anyway? I love how Flow fits into the realm of any other cultural history lessons.

It's Only Blood coverIt’s Only Blood: Shattering The Taboo of Menstruation by Anna Dahlqvist, Translated by Alice Olsson

Apparently, the struggle is real across the world. It’s Only Blood reveals how activists in the United States, Uganda, Sweden, Bangladesh and other countries world-wide work to develop equality and fairness in laws. Health care, education, and social acceptance are all affected by this natural bodily occurrence. This book as a period activist in itself, breaking down myths and eliminating the stigma that come with talking about periods.

Last year in “Get Your Bleed On,” Rioter Ashley Holstrom mentioned these next two that warrant mentioning again.

period twelve voices tell the bloody truth coverPeriod: Twelve Voices Tell the Bloody Truth by Kate Farrell (editor)

I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but since I already gushed over that kitschy cover for Flow, I’ll take a moment to first sing the praises of the cover of Period. It’s a tampon, y’all! Which I actually didn’t notice at first, but then I realized, hey, it’s got a tampon cord attached to the title. Genius!

The 12 voices speak about periods from various perspectives that are even more taboo than speaking about periods in and of themselves. Santina Muha reveals the truth about being paralyzed and having your period in “I Can’t Walk but I Can Bleed.”

This may sound not taboo at all, but two of the essays approach the topic from a gender perspective—which doesn’t seem so odd at all, I know, but really, the perspectives are incredible personal and unique tales. Arisleyda Dilone‘s piece “She’ll Become A Woman Soon,” describes “I am a woman with male chromosomes.” Wiley Reading offers the essay, “My Period and Me: A Trans Guy’s Guide to Menstruation.” These essays will leave you thinking about gender and periods in a completely new way.

Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement by Nadya Okamoto book coverPeriod Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement by Nadya Okamoto, Illustrated by Rebecca Elfast

This book has a very clear goal: let’s talk about periods as a normal part of life,  y’all. It eloquently combines Okamoto’s personal experiences with practices and beliefs in society surrounding menstruation that prove to be unfair. Along with the problems, she offers solutions, starting with: let’s all have a conversation about periods. Hence the title of the book.

Wild Power coverWild Power: Discover the Magic of Your Menstrual Cycle and Awaken the Feminine Path to Power by Alexandra Pope and Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer

Here’s a nice change of pace—menstruation as magical powers! Okay, they aren’t exactly magic, but Wild Power offers ideas about how menstruation aligns with energy to empower women. In addition to teaching the ladies how to harness and use this innate power, it also guides us to a new approach to menopause. Basically, this book redefines everything we may think about menstruation.

Under Wraps coverUnder Wraps: A History of Menstrual Hygiene Technology by Sharra Vostral

With periods come all the accouterments for living as comfortably as possible throughout your cycle. Under Wraps chronicles the politics of tampons and pads as well as belts and other contraptions that seemed like a good idea at the time. Vostral shows how these “technologies” connected to women’s abilities to, you know, keep their jobs by pretending periods didn’t exist.

Side Note That I Find Hysterical: When finding the cover image for Under Wraps, the list of You May Also Like To Read suggestions included a bunch of books about periods and ended with Nicholas Sparks’s A Walk To Remember. Draw your own conclusions here.

Flash count coverFlash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life by Darcey Steinke

Women stop getting their periods, and we call it a pause. Why it’s not called menostop, I’ll never understand. Anyway, Flash Count Diary gets to the real raw truth of what it feels like to go through a change from menstruator to no-longer-menstruator. You want to know what a hot flash feels like? Steinke will offer every single uncomfortable moment and all the awkwardness that goes along with it. Want to learn about menstrual cycles of killer whales? Steinke’s got the facts. With references to art, literature, and history, Steinke’s account shows how menopause activism is just as necessary as period activism.

There’s even more out there about periods, which means period activism is really revving up and hopefully the stigma is fading away for good. Read the rest of Ashley’s suggestions here.