My Lady-Rage Reading List for This Year’s Election

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Sonja Palmer

Staff Writer

Sonja resides in Asheville, NC where she has a job she loves at a children’s nonprofit.  When she’s not working, she probably has a book or comic in hand as she tries to read her way out of the ever-growing stack in her small apartment.  On weekends, she’s probably clambering through the mountains with her husband and dog or trying to eat too much cake while watching Great British Bake Off.

I started this post about five times as I struggled to put into words how this year’s US Presidential election has made me feel. I could say things like unsafe, undervalued, ignored, sick…I could talk about how it feels as men talk over you and still get more credit for the words you are saying while you say them.

But I guess I finally settled on a word to describe my feelings, somewhere around Trumpy’s 100th WRONG:


Sometimes, you just want to be angry. Angry you aren’t listened to, angry that people second-guess you, angry that people still somehow assume that women accuse men of sexual assault for funsies.

So I present my lady-rage reading list to make it to November 8th:

the-female-of-the-species-by-mindy-mcginnisThe Female of the Species by Mindy Mcginnis

This is something I picked up fairly recently. I listened to it on audio, and I went into it not really knowing anything about it, and I think that worked to its advantage, so I’ll try not to spoil it.  I do want to give a very serious trigger warning about sexual assault and violence, because this definitely takes a hard look at rape culture and violence against women and how that thrives in our culture, and how we allow it to thrive with our silence. (Or how we allow it to thrive with our disbelief and cowardice, as its easier to let it go). Alex, one of the main characters, is out for revenge, and she isn’t taking prisoners, and this story isn’t about how her violence balances everything out; it lays out the real consequences of her behavior. But the way she impacts the other people around her, and the way this author deals with her story is really interesting and I think important this year, especially with the recent focus of consent and what that actually means in this election.

jane steele lyndsay fayeJane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

This one was everywhere, I feel, a while ago and for good reason. If you read the original Jane Eyre and thought there should be some more murdering, then man, this is for you. This is about a Jane Eyre who strikes back; when she finds herself in situations where she is backed into a corner, she defends herself and the people she loves. I think it is cathartic to read. Because yes, she does have to come to terms with her actions, but there is some kind of emotional resonance in today’s political climate. I think this is also relevant because there’s a throughline in this about how the Sikh butler that Mr. Thornfield employs is untrustworthy because he isn’t you know, white and English. Hmmmmmm.

bitch-planetBitch Planet by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Valentine De Landro

Guys, this list would not be complete without Bitch Planet. I think almost everyone around here has read this, and quite a few of you have non-compliant tattoos, but it is time to do some re-reading because this is about women who are put in prison on an alien planet because they live in a patriarchal world that doesn’t value their bodies or their opinions. They decided to be different, so they are non-compliant and relegated literally to a prison to keep their poisonous ideas away from everyone else.

Hm.  That might have some relevance maybe?

I love all these characters, and how they are willing to band together and fight for themselves, even though there are consequences at points-heartbreaking ones. But this comic is about how standing up is important.

Fire by Kristin CashoreFire by Kristin Cashore

Sure Graceling is the more obvious choice here, as Katsa is an angry survivor, but I went with Fire. Here’s the thing: not every woman expresses their hurt the same, and Fire expresses her anger and hurt by defending the people she loves and by trying so hard to be kind and different from her father.

Fire is a monster–she’s beautiful and she has great power. She can manipulate others around her, and she has to deal with the way men around her want to possess her beauty. This book is about consent, and about rape culture and how anger and bravery can look different in different people, and how important it is to take control and ownership of your own actions and how the victim is not to blame. I love this book and Fire, and her struggle to be kind and to save the people around her, is dear to my heart.

The Young Elites/The Rose Society/The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

Young Elites

I’m including this because if you want a catharsis, then I think this series will provide one. Also, it’s super entertaining so it might distract you until this whole thing is over. Adelina is another character who is close to my heart, as her anger comes from a place of abuse and cruelty. When she was younger, she was marked by a blood fever, and so her father shuns her and mistreats her. (You know, because she’s different. And different=bad. This is the logic that some people take to adulthood and how they try to win national elections.)

One day, it is revealed that she has powers and she has to set out on an epic journey to join others like her.  As this series develops, Adelina goes on a really interesting journey-both as she crosses her world to try to save people like her and as she deals with anger at how she was treated. That anger affects everything-how she forms relationships, what path she takes, and how her power develops.  I think the conclusion of the series also has something to say about that.

So that’s it: that’s what I’ve been reading lately. I could list my She-Hulk and Black Widows and Fifth Seasons here, but this is my start.I’m wondering whats on your list for the next two weeks as we all struggle to reach the finish line.