Picking one book to rec this month was a challenge. Anansi Boys had me sucked in from the beginning, Snot Girl had me laughing at the woes of bloggers, and The Sun and Her Flowers took me through a rainbow of emotions. But I had to talk about Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion because it gave me so many questions.
Truthfully, the plot is rather basic and rather like all the books I seem to be picking up lately. Young, bright girl goes to college, struggles to find her way and/or purpose in life, but with [insert big life event here] she gets put on the right track and she starts to come into herself and have a fabulous life while I cry over it later because it’s not mine.
I’ve been avoiding these types of books for fear of some serious self pitying, but I put that aside for this one. I remembered how much I loved and connected to The Interestings all those years ago, and the 30% off Target sticker sealed the deal.
So I dove in.
Why I Recommend it
From the description above you know there has to be something that subverts from the pool of sorrow most of these books land in. For The Female Persuasion it’s a sense of reality, hope, and reflection.
I’m still fascinated and a little mystified how authors can make a character feel real. There’s something about it that makes them feel like they could be flesh and blood, and have their own emotions. That sense of reality also comes from the characters lives. As life goes on, I find more and more grand plans, or even simple ones, are usually diverted, revised, or sometimes forgotten all together. In this book all lives are messy, not in a comical way, but rather similar to mine and my friends, who are roughly in the same age group as the main character Greer.
Personally, what keeps this book out of the ‘only read when you’re sad’ pile is Greer’s optimism throughout the book. Her early journey reminds you of the feelings of first discovering feminism. That righteous fire that lit up your whole life and made you feel more powerful, more confident, and more connected to the women around you than ever before.
Unlike most ‘feminist’ books, though, this one leaves me more curious than reaffirmed. I’m inspired by the characters in the novel, but more so they have me questioning myself and who I look up to. What are my motivations? Am I performing feminism more than I’m internalizing it? How do beauty rituals integrate into feminist theory? What should we bring back from older generations? What should we leave in the past?
Unlike the other recommendations this year, The Female Persuasion became so much more than a book so quickly. It landed its way into my personal favorites for its ability to get into my life and affect it so precisely.
No pity party here, just pondering.