Women We Read This Week

“The Rumpus Interview With Rachel Kushner” on The Rumpus

After reading The Flamethrowers, I developed a massive lady writer crush on Rachel Kushner, and this interview only stoked the flames. What I love most is her absolute refusal to reduce a very complex novel into a specific argument or interpretation. Instead she insists that the book stand for itself: “there is no thesis; there is, instead, the book.” It’s incredibly daring to try and not attach one’s own narrative or agenda on a work, to instead “follow the internal logic of the fiction” and let it be the thing it wants to be. And even more emboldening to stick to that, not not nuggetize or moralize, when so many readers and critics encourage you to. I guess you could say I’m mildly infatuated now. —Lauren

Elisabeth Rosenthal’s “American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World” in The New York Times

Good (if rather bleak) supplementary reading to Mira Ptacin’s recent piece in Guernia, “Is a Baby a Luxury?“. Rosenthal speaks to American women about the cost of care during pregnancy and birth (“I know that a C-section could ruin us financially,” says one) and breaks down the figures, some of which are astonishing (at least when viewed through the eyes of a freelance writer). I’m living abroad at the moment, but reading this made me feel anxious nevertheless – almost physically uncomfortable at times. Strong reporting on an issue that’s surely on the minds of many women (and men).

Only in the United States is pregnancy generally billed item by item, a practice that has spiraled in the past decade, doctors say. No item is too small. Charges that 20 years ago were lumped together and covered under the general hospital fee are now broken out, leading to more bills and inflated costs. There are separate fees for the delivery room, the birthing tub and each night in a semiprivate hospital room, typically thousands of dollars. Even removing the placenta can be coded as a separate charge.


“So I Became a Witness”: An Interview with Nikky Finney in Sampsonia Way

This week I had the opportunity to hear Civil Rights leader Reverend James Lawson speak, and his use and embodiment of language triggered a deep thirst for poetry in me. Thus, late at night, I found myself re-watching a speech poet Nikky Finney delivered when she accepted the 2011 National Book Award in Poetry. I watch it when I want to be reminded of what it looks like to see language at full stride, to be filled with its presence, power and life.

In such a practical, economic obsessed world, I find it is easy to forget or be told that we should forget the power of language, especially poetry. I like this interview with Finney because, when asked what advice she would give to anyone contemplating becoming a poet, she replies:

The same exact advice my best teacher in the world gave to me: Engage yourself in books, engage yourself in human beings who can tell you stories, and engage yourself in looking in the mirror and seeing who you are, your genuine self. Do not follow the line of dozens of people who are doing whatever they are doing with their life. Don’t listen to people who say, “You can’t do this, you can’t be that. You have to do it this way.” It’s ridiculous. Forty years ago people told me that I couldn’t be a poet and I just held onto it with both hands. Call it foolishness or madness or whatever, I became a poet.


Emily Rapp’s “Grief Magic” in The Rumpus

This essay by Emily Rapp is so powerful, so utterly alive and human, that anything I can say about it seems insufficient. I’ve followed Rapp’s work since she published her first memoir, Poster Child, have watched her writing grow, burst out of its shell and become a force of nature, and this essay about grief in the wake of her son’s death feels like the apotheosis of that progression. She fully and courageously inhabits her voice in this piece, and it feels like she’s struck deeper within herself than most of us will ever be able to reach:

Almost five months gone. Before I know it, Ronan will have been gone as long as he lived, and then longer. How long will it take to lose this grip on vigilance? What span of time, what trick of the light or the season will obliterate this addiction, not just for the moment, but for good? And who will die next, and then when will it be my time? Who will put their hand on my head, close my eyes, wrap me in a shroud and see me out of this world?



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