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2011 Favorites and Wrap-Up

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This year I read significantly less than last, which was both my first year blogging and keeping track. I gave very few 5-star ratings on Goodreads, maybe because I took more chances by straying from the “classics” and breaching new-to-me topics. I guess those risks didn’t quite pay off this year, though I will continue to take them in the future. Here’s the small list of books that got 5 stars from me this year:


Half of A Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins

The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters

Honorable mentions:

The Group, by Mary McCarthy

Wish Her Safe at Home, by Stephen Benatar


So Long a Letter, by Mariama Ba


Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England, by Sharon Marcus

The Invention of Heterosexuality, by Jonathan Ned Katz

Honorable mentions:

Nymphomania: A History, by Carole Groneman


The Sound of Wings: The Story of Amelia Earhart, by Mary S. Lovell


Flat-Footed Truths: Telling Black Women’s Lives, by Patricia Bell-Scott and Juanita Johnson-Bailey

Honorable mentions:

Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class, edited by Michelle Tea 

I bet you can spot a few of my favorite themes, particularly in my non-fiction reading 🙂

And there you have it! As for 2012, The Year of Feminist Classics project that Amy, Ana, Iris and I hosted this year will be continued. We’re adding more hosts so that we will be better able to cover for each other when we’re busy (which is a lot, these days) and will be making the announcement about this year’s reading list soon.

So far I haven’t joined any challenges. I’m more interested in challenges this year than I was last, but honestly, I haven’t across any yet that particularly grab me. I might sign up for a few a little later down the road, but for now I’m still pretty happy leaving my reading plans wide open.

Thank you to everyone who’s commented here or inspired me to comment at your place. I’m so grateful for all the bloggy friends I’ve made and kept this year, and can’t wait to keep talking books with you all in 2012! Happy New Year’s Eve!!!

Written by Emily Jane

December 31, 2011 at 8:55 pm

Posted in Misc., Uncategorized

Catching Up, Part 2

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In A Border Passage: From Cairo to America–A Woman’s Journey, Leila Ahmed, an Egyptian Islamic feminist scholar in America, details the events of her childhood shaped primarily by the events of the 1952 revolution and her academic experience at a British college. I learned a lot of valuable history from this memoir, which is especially interesting and pertinent given what’s happening in Egypt today. I was especially interested in Ahmed’s college experience and the dawning of her interest in colonialism and post-colonial theory and feminism. This memoir was incredibly insightful, but I didn’t feel I got to know its author in any personal sense and this put me off a bit. I’m keeping an eye out for Ahmed’s more straightforward non-fiction work, particularly Women and Gender in Islam, which I think I’ll get along with a little better.

World of Wonders concludes the Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies (here’s what I thought of the first two books in the series, Fifth Business and The Manticore). This trilogy is completely brilliant, and introduced me to one of my new favorite authors who, luckily for me, was fairly prolific. World of Wonders shines a spotlight on the most mysterious of the trilogy’s characters, Magnus Eisengrim (or Paul Dempster). Paul grew up in a religiously oppressive household with a “mad” mother and was abducted by a member of a traveling circus as a child. There, he learns some of life’s hardest lessons, and when he’s able to leave the circus and move into the world of theater, he learns to hone his skills of manipulation and becomes the world’s leading illusionist. This story is told through a series of conversations with Dunstan Ramsay and Liesl (both characters from the first two books) and a film crew which has hired Eisengrim to portray a famous, deceased magician in a documentary for the BBC. By asking him to provide “subtext” for the film, they are able to tease out the history of a very complex and secretive character who, in many ways, provides the key to understanding the events of the trilogy at large. In some ways, I admit, I might have liked Eisengrim’s past to remain a mystery, as I don’t think anything could have really matched what I’d imagined that history to be. But Davies presented the story with the same subtle but invigorating philosophical approach that I’ve come to expect from him, and did it beautifully. Though Fifth Business remains my favorite book of the three, World of Wonders made a fitting end to a very captivating and original series.

Flat-Footed Truths: Telling Black Women’s Lives is a collection of short stories, essays, poems, and photographs exploring the self-expression of African American women. I read this book in one sitting, and loved it. There’s a lot of good stuff in here about the importance of reclaiming black women’s history in the United States and the whitewashing of feminism. There’s also some really great writing about black women’s friendships, artist and activist communities, the radical act of love and the true meaning of solidarity. The image of woman, and black woman in particular, has long been tarnished with the worry and discomfort of an insecure and prejudiced society; for this reason, it is important that black women’s voices are not ignored, that their self-image and creativity is recognized and validated. And anyway, you really can’t go wrong with any collection that includes writing by both bell hooks and Audre Lorde 🙂

I had so much fun reading Nymphomania: A History. The history of nymphomania, I learned, is a history of western anxiety about women’s sexuality; the arbitrary meaning of the word nymphomania is flexible, and able to encompass the particular concerns of different generations with distinct ideas about women, sex, how much sex is too much for women, and what kinds of sex are appropriate for women to enjoy. It was horrifying to learn about how women’s sex drives were pathologized in the Victorian era, and…(UM, I THINK A TRIGGER WARNING MIGHT BE APPROPRIATE HERE)…”treated” with cauterization, bleedings of the uterus by leeches, and institutionalization. EEEEEK. It was interesting to see how women’s sexual behavior was, and is, deemed appropriate or not based on their class status and race, and how these ideas have been changed, but not been done away with, by the sexual revolutions of the twentieth century. I only wish that the book was a little longer. Each section felt brief, and I would have liked more detail. There were also some big chronological gaps between the different sections that could have been filled. Ultimately, though, I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

I read both Diary of a Bad Year and Elizabeth Costello a few years ago, and kind of hated them both, mostly on account of plot events. I held out hope for Disgrace, based on the fact that it seems to be most people’s favorite Coetzee, but wasn’t much happier with it. Mostly because I had no sympathy for the disgraced protagonist, David Lurie, at all. He’s a South African college professor who has a terribly coercive “affair” with one of his students, refuses to “reform his character,” and is fired (good). He goes to live with his somewhat estranged daughter Lucy in the countryside, but their already tense relationship becomes even more strained when three men break into their home, beat him up, and rape Lucy. He is frustrated by how she deals with the emotional aftermath of the rape, and tries unsuccessfully to persuade her to change her life and move somewhere he considers safer. In so doing, a host of racial South African power dynamics come into play in Lucy’s community and each must deal with their “disgrace” in their own way. There’s an interesting story here, I know, but as I said…I really hated David Lurie and that completely influenced my reading of this book. There were moments when I was able to appreciate Coetzee’s writing style, but I was bothered by the content of the writing itself. I’m ready to say that J.M. Coetzee just isn’t for me.

And with that…I am leaving town for a few weeks tomorrow. This means I probably won’t be posting for a while, and when I get back, you can expect a few more catch up posts. I can’t wait to get back into posting and commenting on other people’s blogs regularly, but am equally excited for a little vacation 🙂 I hope all your summers are off to a great start, and I’ll read y’all soon!

Books Read

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Here’s a list of all the books I’ve written about here at Booked All Week or other blogs at which I’m hosting projects or read-a-longs, alphabetized by author’s last name, with a link to the post in which they were featured or mentioned.


Abramsky, Sasha–American Furies: Crime, Punishment, and Vengeance in the Age of Mass Imprisonment LINK

Ackerman, Diane–A Natural History of the Senses  LINK

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi–Half of a Yellow Sun LINK

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi–The Thing Around Your Neck  LINK

Ahmed, Leila–A Border Passage: From Cairo to America–A Woman’s Journey  LINK

Alexie, Sherman–War Dances LINK

Anaya, Rudolfo–Bless Me, Ultima  LINK

Angier, Natalie–Woman: An Intimate Geography LINK

Antonio de Alarcon, Pedro–The Three-Cornered Hat  LINK

Atwood, Margaret–Cat’s Eye LINK

Atwood, Margaret–Alias Grace LINK

Atwood, Margaret–Wilderness Tips LINK

Austen, Jane–Pride and Prejudice LINK

Austen, Jane–Emma LINK

Austen, Jane–Persuasion  LINK


B., David–Epileptic  LINK

Ba, Mariama–So Long a Letter LINK

Baldwin, James–Go Tell it on The Mountain LINK

Barker, Pat–Regeneration LINK

de Beauvoir, Simone–The Second Sex  LINK

Bechdel, Alison–The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For LINK

Bell-Scott, Patricia, with Juanita Johnson-Bailey–Flat-Footed Truths: Telling Black Women’s Lives  LINK

Benatar, Stephen–Wish Her Safe at Home  LINK

Bergman, Megan Mayhew–Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories  LINK

Blackburn, Julia–Old Man Goya  LINK

Burge, James–Heloise and Abelard: A New Biography LINK


Cable, Mary–Black Odyssey: The Case of the Slave Ship Amistad  LINK

Castillo, Ana–So Far From God  LINK

Cather, Willa–Death Comes for the Archbishop LINK

de Cervantes, Miguel–Don Quixote LINK

Chabon, Michael–The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay LINK

Chang, Iris–The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotton Holocaust of World War II  LINK

Christie, Agatha–Three Act Tragedy  LINK

Cisneros, Sandra–Caramelo  LINK

Coetzee, J.M.–Disgrace  LINK

Collins, Wilkie–The Woman in White LINK

Collins, Wilkie–The Moonstone  LINK

Crosley, Sloane–I Was Told There’d Be Cake LINK

Crummey, Michael–Galore  LINK


Daneshvar, Simin–A Persian Requiem  LINK

Darko, Amma–The Housemaid  LINK

Davies, Robertson–Fifth Business LINK

Davies, Robertson–The Manticore LINK

Davies, Robertson–World of Wonders  LINK

Dazai, Osamu–Schoolgirl  LINK

Dickens, Charles–A Tale of Two Cities LINK

Didion, Joan–The Year of Magical Thinking  LINK

Doctorow, E.L.–The Waterworks  LINK

Douglass, Frederick–Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave LINK

Duras, Marguerite–The Lover  LINK


Eisenberg, Robert–Boychiks in the Hood: Travels in the Hasidic Underground LINK

Elkins, Caroline–Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya  LINK


Fessler, Ann–The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades  Before Roe v. Wade  LINK

Flaubert, Gustave–Madame Bovary LINK

Forster, E.M.–A Room With a View LINK


Gaskell, Elizabeth–North and South  LINK

Gibson, William–Neuromancer  LINK

Goldsmith, Barbara–Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull  LINK

Gregorio, Renee; Logghe, Joan; and Sagan, Miriam–Love and Death: Greatest Hits  LINK

Groneman, Carol–Nymphomania: A History  LINK


Hardy, Thomas–Jude the Obscure LINK

Hernandez, Jaime–Locas: A Love & Rockets Book: The Maggie and Hopey Stories LINK

hooks, bell–Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics  LINK

Horwtiz, Tony–Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches From the Unfinished Civil War  LINK

Hulme, Keri–The Bone People  LINK


Ibsen, Henrik–A Doll’s House LINK, LINK, LINK

Ivey, Eowyn–The Snow Child  LINK


Jacobs, Harriet–Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl LINK

Jansson, Tove–The True Deceiver LINK

Joyce, James–Dubliners LINK


Katz, Jonathan Ned–The Invention of Heterosexuality  LINK

Kingston, Maxine Hong–The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts  LINK, LINK

Kosinski, Jerzy–The Painted Bird LINK


Lawrence, D.H.–Lady Chatterley’s Lover LINK

Levy, Andrea–Small Island LINK

Li, Yiyun–The Vagrants LINK

Lorde, Audre–Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches  LINK, LINK

Lovell, Mary S.–The Sisters: Saga of the Mitford Family LINK

Lovell, Mary S.–Amelia Earhart: The Sound of Wings  LINK


Maier-Katkin, Daniel–Stranger From Abroad: Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, Friendship and Forgiveness LINK

Manguel, Alberto–The Library at Night LINK

Marcus, Sara–Girls to the Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution LINK

Marcus, Sharon–Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England  LINK

Marshall, Paule–Brown Girl, Brownstones  LINK

du Maurier, Daphne–Rebecca  LINK

McCarthy, Mary–The Group  LINK

McFarland, Philip–Mark Twain and the Colonel: Samuel L. Clemens, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Arrival of a  New Century  LINK

Melville, Herman–Benito Cereno/Bartleby the Scrivener/The Encantadas/Billy Budd, Foretopman  LINK

Menchu, Rigoberta–I, Rigoberta: An Indian Woman in Guatemala LINK

Meriwether, Louise–Daddy Was a Number Runner LINK

Mill, John Stuart–The Subjection of Women LINK

Min, Anchee–Red Azalea LINK

Mistry, Rohinton–A Fine Balance  LINK

Momaday, M. Scott–House Made of Dawn  LINK

Morrison, Toni (ed. by)–Race-ing Justice, En-gendering Power: Essays on Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, and the Construction of Social Reality LINK

Morrison, Toni–Beloved  LINK

Murdoch, Iris–Under the Net  LINK


Naylor, Gloria–The Women of Brewster Place LINK


Ogola, Margaret–The River and the Source  LINK

Okri, Ben–The Famished Road  LINK

Oyono, Ferdinand–Houseboy LINK


de Pizan, Christine–The Book of the City of Ladies  LINK

Pollitt, Katha–Subject to Debate: Sense and Dissents on Women, Politics, and Culture  LINK

Potok, Chaim–My Name is Asher Lev LINK

Potok, Chaim–Davita’s Harp  LINK



Robinson, Marilynne–Housekeeping LINK

Rose, Alex–The Musical Illusionist and Other Tales  LINK

Roy, Arundhati–Power Politics  LINK


el Saadawi, Nawal–God Dies By the Nile  LINK

Scahill, Jeremy–Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army LINK

Skloot, Rebecca–The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks LINK

Smith, Patti–Just Kids LINK

Smith, Zadie–NW  LINK

Sobel, Dava–Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love  LINK

Spark, Muriel–The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie LINK

Staal, Stephanie–Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life LINK


Tea, Michelle (ed. by)–Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class  LINK

wa Thiong’o, Ngugi–Wizard of the Crow  LINK

Thomas, Dylan–Quite Early One Morning LINK

Tolstoy, Leo–The Death of Ivan Ilyich  LINK

Toole, John Kennedy–A Confederacy of Dunces LINK

Trollope, Anthony–The Warden  LINK

Turgenev, Ivan–Fathers and Sons LINK




Walbert, Kate–A Short History of Women LINK

Waters, Sarah–The Little Stranger  LINK

Waters, Sarah–Affinity  LINK

Weisberg, Barbara–Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism  LINK

Weller, Sheila–Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon–and the Journey of a Generation  LINK

Wharton, Edith–Ethan Frome LINK

Wharton, Edith–The House of Mirth LINK

Wilder, Thornton–The Bridge of San Luis Rey LINK

Winchester, Simon–The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary  LINK

Wollstonecraft, Mary–A Vindication of the Rights of Woman LINK

Wood, Gaby–Edison’s Eve: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life  LINK

Woolf, Virginia–A Room of One’s Own LINK

Wright, William–Harvard’s Secret Court: The Savage 1920 Purge of Campus Homosexuals  LINK

Wyld, Evie–After the Fire, A Still Small Voice LINK


Xinran–The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices  LINK


Yoshimoto, Banana–Kitchen LINK


Zola, Emile–Germinal LINK

Written by Emily Jane

May 31, 2010 at 6:17 am

Posted in