Women We Read This Week

Madeleine Schwartz’s Interview With Vivian Gornick in The Believer

Here’s one for the writers in the house. And the ladies. And especially the writer ladies. Discussing feminism, persona, the fallacy of “craft,” and the difficulty of writing love scenes, Gornick champions memoir and nonfiction, and takes a stab at the shortcomings of MFAs–all of which endear her deeply to me. How badly do I want to hang out in her West Village apartment drinking tea with her and her cats? Very.

Natalie Diaz’s “If What I Mean Is Hummingbird, If What I Mean Is Fall Into My Mouth” in The Best American Poetry

Natalie Diaz is my new writer crush. After first coming across her work two weeks ago, I’ve downloaded her book of poetry, When My Brother Was an Aztec , and it is blowing my mind. So I was super excited to find another essay of hers, this time about language restoration, cultural genocide and love. I hereby vow to read everything she writes.

Emily Orley’s “Being Raped in a Bankrupt City” on Buzzfeed

What can you say about this piece? It’s a portrait of what it means to be female in a poor, majority non-white American city. Emily Orley’s reporting reveals the intermingling of underfunding, victim-blaming and incompetence behind Detroit’s 11,000+ backlogged rape kits, and depicts the uphill battle to change a culture of minimization. Coming from a city where active home invasion is a low-priority crime, this piece struck a particularly chilling chord. Very happy the story is being told. —Lauren

Carina Hart’s “Gilding the Lily” in The New Inquiry

This piece is smart, clear, and I hate to sound cheesy, but it made me think (without being aggressively “thought-provoking”). In particular, Hart touches on skin as a key thing that distinguishes adornment from alteration – skin is, she writes, “an unreliable barrier, and I think we would prefer that it wasn’t.” But it’s also more broadly about a certain set of binaries (Hart invokes Donna Haraway to get at this particular point, writing: “Human-animal, human-machine, inside-outside, natural-artificial: It is even more true now than it was in 1985 that we live within very blurred lines. Photoshopped selfies of ourselves in Spanx and full makeup are fast becoming the foundation of our identities, in our virtual-real lives”) – and about what, in this context of blurred lines, it might mean to be human, to be natural, to be beautiful.

Skin is the barrier between inside and outside, and making changes inside the skin is a more difficult, committed, and often more permanent process than an outside change: say, liposuction vs Spanx. This barrier is also crucial to the way we think about beauty work, so that cosmetic surgery has a much higher moral, emotional, and political charge than a wardrobe makeover. We have this potent desire for self-transformation, but in practice a truly drastic, inside-and-out transformation makes us queasy as well as some combination of impressed, fascinated, and jealous.



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