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Haifa Fragments, by Khulud Khamis.

March 5, 2015

Haifa Fragments, by Khulud Khamis.  Melbourne, Australia: Spinfex, 2015.

 Favorite — 5 stars

An impressive novel about a Palestinian woman living in contemporary Israel, loving her roots, but seeking independence amidst the personal and political forces that bind her.

Maisoon is a young Palestinian woman living in Haifa. Designing jewelry has given her a means of self-expression and an income that allows her to live alone. Her lover is a Muslim man, an architect unable to find work in the Jewish city. Her Christian father adamantly objects to him because of his religion.   As the novel progresses, we follow Maisoon as she moves among her friends and family. We see her hemmed in by the physical realities and dangers of her life as a non-Jew in Israel and by the troubled history of the Palestinian people. At the same time she seeks independence from all who would control her, she seeks to understand her roots. This isn’t a “coming of age” story, but a narrative of an adult woman finding ways to bring together the fragments of her identity.

Rather than being driven by plot, the novel reveals the stories of its various characters. In addition to Maisoon, there are the young woman of the refugee camp, the older Jewish woman who sells Maisoon’s jewelry, and Maisoon’s lover. A cluster of old letters that her father had written as a young man reveal him to have once been a different person than the submissive man she has known.   In conversations with these other characters, Maisoon gradually articulates her own beliefs.  She refuses to be defined by traditional definitions of a woman’s honor.  “The Honour of my family isn’t between my legs. It lies in leading a dignified honest life.”  Visiting the refugee camps in the Occupied Territory, she observes the costs of the resilience, or sumud, on its residents, particularly the women and children.  She also comes to realize that over fifty years of living in lands divided by the Israelis has created differences between Arabs in Israel and those in the Palestinian camps.  Humiliated at a border crossing, she learns not to “take in” the hatred of the Jewish guards.  She comes to resent and deny that Jews and Arabs are engaged in “a great war of religion.”  As her father explains, “This is a struggle over home. Religion has nothing to do with it. ”  In the end she realizes that she belongs in Haifa and loves her life there:

There is a reality here. Two people, sharing the same spaces, bound by history.  So much was ruined, so much pain caused.  But she knew she didn’t have to compromise her art—she could continue making designs with Palestinian history, become a partner with [Jewish] Amalia, and yet stay true to herself.

Khulud Khamis lives in Haifa, the daughter of a Slovak mother and a Palestinian father.  Growing up between cultures, she is sensitive to issues of language and identity, belonging and space.

I am. I am a woman who dreams in an unknown language. Who counts “one-two-three” in one language, and “four-five-six” in another. My thoughts come in fragments of four languages.

My language of love is the poetic song of this ancient land – Arabic. My language of politics is a language I have no connection with – Hebrew. My language of creative writing is yet a third language – language foreign to me and my land – English. And my language of family – well, that’s the simple language of my early childhood – Slovak.

A self-defined feminist, Khamis displays the best of feminist writing.  Gender matters, but so do other issues. Both her female and male characters are well-developed and compelling, their lives affected by both the personal and the political. Women love each other as well as loving men. Khamis has a M.A. degree, having written her thesis on women’s negotiation of space of their own in literature. In addition, she is an activist, working at a feminist organization and registering her protests on a range of social issues. The accounts on her blog about her treatment as an Arab in Haifa are chilling. She also hosts a website called “A Safe Spaces for Writing” for women telling about their stories of sexual abuse.  Learn more about her at her blog.

Khamis writes so well that we feel the constant dangers of her character’s lives.  I held my breathe whenever they crossed into the Occupied Territory. The book is less about the original Israeli take-over and more about how that history continues to shape lives today.  Khamis is able to tell a narrative combining continuing anger over the past and present treatment of Arabs by Israelis with a story of Jew and Arab friendship.

I strongly recommend Haifa Fragments.  I am glad to learn about Kamis and the work she is doing.  I look forward to her future books.

Thanks to Spinifex for publishing this fine book, and for sending me a review copy of it.

Giveaways in Honor of Women’s History Month

March 3, 2015

Giveaways in Honor of Women’s History Month

I am in the middle of a major thinning of my books and want to give some of them away FREE to anyone who is interested in them. First come, first served.  Some help with postage would be welcome, but not required.

I have sorted the books loosely into general books in Women’s Studies, Literature by Women, Feminist Literary Criticism, and U.S. Women’s History. I put autobiographical writings under literature.  In the past as now, my interest has been in the variety of women’s experiences. Many of the books in each of the categories are by or about African American, Native American and Hispanic women. Some of them are recent and others are classics from the 1970s and 1980s.

In addition to these books, I have some excellent anthologies designed for Women’s Studies and US Women’s History classes. These include a range of articles that have shaped both those fields. And I have early publications of Signs and other Women’s Studies journals.

If you are interested in some of the books, please leave a comment or email me with your address.  I would be glad to give you more information about particular books if you have questions.

X means that a book has some underlining

Women Studies

To Write Like a Woman, Joanna Russ

Feminist Scholarship, Ellen Dubois

Learning Our Way, ed. Charlotte Bunch

Theories of Women’s Studies, Gloria Bowles

The Politics of Women’s Spirituality, Charlene Spretnak

The Radical Future of Liberal Feminism, Zillah Eisenstein

X My Name is Chellis & I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization,” Chellis Glendinning

Women, Race and Class, Angela Davis

Sexual Politics, Kate Millet

Backlash, Susan Faludi

Headed Nowhere in a navy Blue Suit, Sue Kedgley

Feminism in Our Time, Miriam Schiner.

Modern Feminist Thought, Imelda Whelehan.

The Feminist Papers, ed. by Alice Rossi

Sisterhood is Powerful, Robin Morgan

Reclaiming a Conversation, Jane Roland Martin

The Mismeasurement of Women, Carol Travis

X The Dialectic of Sex, Shulamith

Modern Feminisms: Political, Literary, Cultural, by Maggie Humm

A Passion for Friends, Janice Raymond.

Women as a Force in History, Mary Beard

X Feminism and Materialism, Annette Kohn

Methodist Women: A Guide to the Literature, Kenneth Rowe

X Going Too Far, Robin Morgan

XCapitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism, Zillah Eisenstein

Contemporary Feminist Thought, Helen Eisnstein

The Courage to Question: Women’s Studies. AAUW report

Blaze a Fire, Nesha Haniff [Caribbean Women]

Feminist Research Methods in Social Research, Shulamit Reinharz

From a Broken Web, Catherine Keller

The Long Journey Home: Revisioning the Myth of Demeter and Persephone, Christine Downing

Dance of the Spirit, Maria Harris [Women’s Spirituality]

In Her Image, Kathie Carlson

To Be a Woman, ed. by Connie Zweig

Feminist Generations, Nancy Whittier

Listen Up, Barbara Findler

Language, Gender and Professional Writing, Fracine Frank

“I Hate Feminists,” Melissa Blais [Killing in Montreal in 1989]

 

LITERATURE

Portrait in Sepia, Isabel Allende

So Far From God, Ana Castillo

Undersong, Audre Lorde

Spoken in Darkness: A Small-town Murder, Ann Imbrie

A Daughter’s Geography, Ntozake Shange

Riding the Moon in Texas, Ntozake Shange

I am a Woman and a Jew, Leah Morton

Daughter of the Earth, Agnes Smedley

The Book of the City of Ladies, Christine de Pizan

Minor Characters, Joyce Johnson

X On Being Told…, Tess Schlesinger

The Unpossessed, Tess Schlesinger

The Mamie Papers, ed. by Ruth Rosen

Woman Carved by the Sun, [poems]

The Ways of the Grandmothers, Beverly Hungry Wolf

Spider Woman’s Granddaughters, ed. By Paula Gunn Allen

Cogewea, Morning Dove

Mountain Wolf Woman, ed. by Nancy Lurie

The Promised Land, Mary Antin

The Silent Partner, Elizabeth Phelps

Give Us Each Day, Alice Dunbar-Nelson

The Memphis Dairy, Ida B. Wells

The Journal of Charlotte L. Forton

Teacher of the Freedmen, Sarah Jane Foster

Our Nig. Harriet Wilson

 

FEMINIST LIT CRIT

Seduction and Betrayal, Elizabeth Hardwick

Sturdy Black Bridges, [Black women in literature]

Writing and Sexual Difference, Elizabeth Abel

Sister’s Choice: Tradition and Change in American Women’s Writing

Images of Women in Literature, Mary Anne Ferguson

The Female Malady, Elaine Showalter

Women’s Liberation and Literature, Elaine Showalter


HISTORY

Ar’n’t I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South, Deborah Gray White

Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America, Vicki Ruiz

Women on the US-Mexico Border, ed.  Vicki Ruiz

Changing Woman: A History of Racial Ethnic Women in Modern America, Karen Anderson

Apache Mothers and Daughters, Ruth McDonald Boyer

Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers, Lillian Faderman

Women and Religion in America, Rosemary Reuther [19th century]

Women in the Civil Rights movements, ed. Vicki Crawford

The Curse of the Chalon, by Lois McMaster Bujold.

March 1, 2015

The Curse of the Chalon, by Lois McMaster Bujold.  Harper Torch, 2002.  Paperback.

4 stars

An enjoyable fantasy with plenty of intriguing characters; villain and heroes, strong women, and unlikely saints.

Cazaril is a solider, beaten down by war and his own enslavement. Returning home, he is made the secretary and tutor of Iselle, a young women who is the sister to the heir to the Chalon throne. She is threatened by those who would use her to seize power. She and the rest of the royal family also carry a curse that will ravage and destroy each of them. Cazaril’s job is to protect her from treachery and treason and to find a way to end the curse.

The world of Chalon is rather like that of most readers, with a medieval touch in its dress, warfare and castles. Its politics and religions are unusual, but not its people. Gender roles are not extreme, but several of the women are very bright and willing to be leaders alongside the men. “The gods” are powerful, but are limited by the fact that can only act through human agents.

Lois McMaster Bujold is a popular and prolific writer, one that has won many awards in the fields of speculative and fantasy writing. The Curse of the Chalon is a stand-alone novel, the first of three related books. The second of this series, Palatin of the Soul, contains spoilers for the first novel, but the third, The Hallowed Hunt, is a prequel and does not. Looking at her website, I feel like I have opened a treasure trove of future light reading.

The Curse of Chalion was not written to be a deep book. It is full of action and intrigue.  Yet it is both entertaining and wise in its portrayal of people seeking to live honorable and useful lives. The gods are not overbearing, and the supernatural elements in the book can appeal to readers whether or not they believe in deities. The book is a fantasy that will be enjoyed by young adult readers and also older ones who enjoy fantasy.  Assuming this book is similar to Bujold’s other ones, I gladly recommend them to readers.

Thanks to Eva @ astripedarmchair for introducing me to Bujold.

Loving Donovan, by Bernice McFadden.

February 25, 2015

Loving Donovan, by Bernice McFadden.  Akashic Books (2015), Edition: Second Edition, Paperback, 224 pages. (First published in 2004.)

5 stars — FAVORITE

Another compelling novel by an African American writer featuring the stories of a man and woman, each emotionally scarred as a child, reaching out to each other with love.

Bernice McFadden is the author of ten novels, several of which have won literary prizes.  She is one of my favorite African American writers. Her prose is spare and powerful, moving easily between characters and their pasts. The people in her book are vividly alive, believable, and complex. She does not hide their pain, but her calm, understated manner of describing it is compelling. And for her, pain can be transcended, in this book as in the others I have read by her.  McFadden never denies pain but she is essentially a hopeful writer.

Loving Donovan is divided into three section; Her, Him, and Them. The first sections deal separately with Campbell and Donovan growing up in Brooklyn, not far from each other but never meeting. Both belong to solidly working-class families, but both families are torn by violence and lack of love. When they meet, both Campbell and Donovan have created successful lives for themselves, but they are still seeking love. At first they seem to find it with each other, but their pasts haunts them. The book’s ending is unconventional, but I thought perfect. (The fact that my plot summary is full of “but” is a clue to the human contradictions that McFadden depicts.)

While this book is set firmly within the African American community, it is not about segregation or racial interaction as some of McFadden’s books have been. Instead it is narrative of individuals and families; a narrative that none of us can pretend can only happen to other people.

I enthusiastically recommend Loving Donovan, and others by McFadden.

Akashic Books is to be congratulated for reissuing the books of this fine writer.  I am grateful to them for sending a copy of McFadden’s latest to read and review.

Other books by McFadden that I have reviewed and recommend:

Gathering of  Waters, by Bernice McFadden.

Nowhere is a Place, Bernice McFadden.

Pleasantville, by Attica Locke. Harper, Hardcover, 432 pages.

February 23, 2015

I originally read a pre-publication version of this book, but I was asked to hold my review until closer to its publication date.  So finally here it is.

Pleasantville, by Attica Locke.  Pleasantville, by Attica Locke.    Harper, 2015, Hardcover, 432 pages.

Favorite — 5 stars

Another fine mystery by an African American woman who writes insightfully about race, politics and white-collar crime in her hometown of Houston.

Attica Locke is one of my favorite contemporary African American authors.  She writes mystery novels that are far more than the genre usually provided giving readers an inside look at into diverse black individuals and communities. Here she focuses again on her hometown of Houston and the complex interplay of groups seeking political and economic power. This book is a sequel to her first novel, Black Water Rising, set in 1996, fifteen years after the previous novel.  Jay Porter, the black lawyer of the earlier book, is overwhelmed with grief over the recent death of his beloved wife, Bernie, and clueless about raising his 15-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son without her. Although he has won some major environmental cases for poor communities fighting pollution, the companies responsible for the damage refuse to pay up.  He lacks the drive to make them.  Then he becomes involved in the murder of young black women, the third in recent years, on the edges of Pleasantville, and again faces a complicated political intrigue.

Pleasantville is an actual neighborhood within Houston, the fictionalized setting of the book.  According to Locke, it was created in 1949, and advertised nationally in African American newspapers as “a planned community of new homes, spacious and modern in design, and built specifically for Negro families of means and class.” Its residents  had learned to fight back against those who would discriminate against them.

…yes, they endured the worst of Jim Crow, backs of buses and separate toilets; and, yes, they paid their toll taxes, driving or walking for miles each election day, waiting in lines two and three hours long. Yes, they waited. But they also marched. In wingtips and patent leather pumps, crisp fedoras and pinstriped suits, belted dresses and silk stockings, they marched on city hall, the school board, even the Department of Public Works, holding out the collective vote of a brand-new bloc as a bargaining chip to politicians reluctant to consider the needs of the new Negro middle class, and sealing, in the process, the neighborhood’s unexpected political power, which would become legend over the next four decades.

I was unable confirm Locke’s depiction of the neighborhood’s history although the Handbook of Texas Online, of the Texas Historical Association, indicates it could be accurate. Whether or not her description is factual, Locke captures the spirit of an important segment of African Americans, whom we tend to forget today.  With all their imperfections, Locke honors them as forgotten pioneers.  Their fight for ending segregation, however, eventually weakened the community.  By the 1990s it is no longer a rare “segregated oasis” for young black professionals with expanded housing options.  Others moving into Pleasantville are not always happy with its surviving First Members.

Jay Porter has been the lawyer for Pleasantville residents and is continuing to try to make an industry pay for the damages from a fire that had brought disaster to its residents. He is brought into the investigation of the murder of Alicia Newell, the third young black woman killed in Pleasantville.  The investigation threatens the campaign of Alex Hathrone, Houston’s former Chief of Police, running to become the first black mayor of Houston. Alex is the son of Sam Hathorne, the original creator of Pleasantville and its accepted leader. Affectionately called “The Chief Nigger in Charge,”Sam has long been “the funnel” through which resources have flowed into the neighborhood. He wants Jay to keep the murder from damaging his son’s campaign. Nothing is simple, however. Suspense rises as Jay has to decide what he believes is right while at the same time protecting his children from the dangers of his public stance. Some of his friends and enemies from Black Water Rising appear to help or hinder him. Jay must not only find who killed the young woman but he must sort out the political struggle swirling around it and threatening Pleasantville.

Attica Locke is a superb storyteller whose language and plotting keep readers engaged. She has a rare talent for capturing the essence of an individual or situation. As I read I was constantly amused by her depictions. Houston itself is the target of her sharp remarks.

Houston’s crime problem was as much a part of its cultural identity as its love of football and line dancing, barbecue and big hair, a permanent fixture no matter the state of the economy or the face in the mayor’s office. [Town’s focus included] the widespread fear that Houston would never pull out of the shadow of the oil bust that had decimated its economy in the 80s, wounding its diamond-crested pride, until it got its crime situation under control.

Locke’s account of the city’s politics was so real that I carefully checked sources on the web to assure myself that it was fictional. I was glad to see it was, except for George Bush hovering in the background and dirty tricks and big money that are changing American politics.

Although this is a sequel, those who have not read Black Water Rising need not worry about what they missed. Locke carefully fills readers in. The problem with reading Pleasantville first is simply that it could lessen the suspense of the earlier book which would be a shame.

I strongly recommend Pleasantville to readers who enjoy mysteries by people of color. For those, for example, who enjoyed Mala Nunn’s mysteries about South African apartheid.  And I recommend the novel to those who care about understanding the complexity of race relations in the United States.

 

 

Cities of Empire, by Tristram Hunt.

February 20, 2015

Cities of Empire: The British Colonies and the Creation of the Urban World by Tristram Hunt.  Metropolitan Books (2014), Hardcover, 544 pages

4 stars

An unconventional history of the of the British Empire focusing on ten major colonial cities, for general readers.

Colonialism can be studied in a variety of ways. Tristram Hunt has chosen to approach the topic through the cities which developed as the British Empire grew and changed.  Viewing the cities as essential to the empire, he has researched ten of them, looking at their place in imperial economies and politics as well as the material art and culture which developed in each.   Although some studies claim that colonialism was either all good or all bad.  Hunt provides us with the details and complexities that caused specific groups to profit or to suffer by the colonial enterprise.

Tristram Hunt is a professionally trained historian, the author of several histories, and a member of the British Parliament. He belongs to the subgroup of  historians whose focus on cities allows them to cross the traditional boundaries between political, economic, intellectual and military history and the new approaches to the study of artifacts and culture. This background enables him to describe a wide variety of aspects for the cities he has chosen and how these changed over time.  He makes his research fresh and alive for general readers.  While the cities have some predicable similarities, he sees each as depicting a particular aspect of empire building. Although the colonial narratives overlap somewhat in time, he has arranged them in a roughly chronological order according to when each reached its peak of success. In doing so, he reveals how the Atlantic empire, organized around merchantilism, flourished in the 1700s and was replaced by the shift to Asian markets and the ideology of free trade.

Hunts account of British colonization of the western hemisphere is  an example of his approach.  English settlers in Boston initially prospered within the centralized trading patterns of merchantilism, but they never lost their fundamental opposition to the crown. When trade regulations interfered with their profits, they were ready to rebel.   On the other hand, Bridgetown, the central city on Barbados in the West Indies, thrived because of Europeans’ newly acquired desire for sugar. The slave trade fit nicely into British system and enormous profits were made. Like Boston, the region had been virtually emptied of indigenous people by epidemics of disease. Unlike Boston, the elites of Bridgetown remained closely tied to leaders in Great Britain and were more able than the Bostonians to acquire regulations that profited them at the expense of other colonies. In addition, Hunt’s work on Bridgetown includes recent detailed studies that provide evidence of how the wealth gained from slavery in the colonies was essential to British leadership in the Industrial Revolution. Other cities that Hunt examines are Dublin, Cape Town, Calcutta, Hong Kong, Bombay, Melbourne, New Delhi, and Liverpool.

Cities of Empire offers much to readers like myself, trying to put together the scattered bits of global history that I have learned from my reading. It would serve global travelers well in a similar way with its attempts to set the current structures of the cities in an historical context. The book is a pleasure to read and requires no former knowledge of global history. Hunt seems to have done a creditable job of summarizing a vast amount of current scholarship, and his book has the documentation to support his claims. His numerous excerpts from the writings of people in the heyday of each city, brings his narrative to life. The vast majority of these quotations, predictably, are from elite Europeans who visited or worked in them.

Yet this book is explicitly an overview, and as such, has its weaknesses. Hunt simply tries to write about so many topics that the details can become overwhelming. His categorization of the cities is neater than the narratives he tells about their changing leaders and policies. The discussions of the architecture of the cities are fascinating but lack enough illustrations to be clear for those of us who do not know them firsthand. There are no African or Middle Eastern cities in the book—except for Cape Town, which may be an exception—and I wonder how their inclusion might change Hunt’s narrative.

Particularly in his discussion of Asian cities, Hunt makes the intriguing point that despite the British monopoly on power, other groups made important contributions to what the cities became. He notes how “multicultural” some of them were as people from other regions arrived as workers or refugees. A few non-British obtained wealth and social acceptability. In the early years, sharp distinctions might exist between White Town and Black Town, but crossing the barriers was easy and people of mixed ethnicities were numerous. This is an issue I would like to explore. Certainly in fiction, characters on the boundaries of their own cultures frequently interact, despite the sharp formal distinctions. Also, Hunt’s accounts focus on British colonists almost exclusively in some colonies. In other colonies, those who were being colonized are more of the story. I wasn’t quite sure if Hunt meant to say that Asians were more acceptable to empire-builders than darker-skinned Africans or Indigenous Australians.

I found Cities of Empire, well-crafted and interesting, especially for non-scholars seeking a wider understanding of how our world came to be as it is.  I recommend it to all seeking to understand our interconnected world.

I am interested in global history and would welcome suggestions for other books of this type.

 

Links to other global histories that I have found useful in my attempt to make sense of global literature.  I also recommend each of these.

The Birth of the Modern World, by C.A. Bayly.

Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350. By Janet Abu-Lughod. 

 Drawing the Global Color Line: White Men’s Countries, by Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds.

A History of the World in 100 Objects, by Neil MacGregor.

 

“I Hate Feminism,” by Melissa Blais.

February 18, 2015

“I Hate Feminism:” An Account of December 6, 1989, and Its Aftermath, by Melissa Blais.  Melbourne, Australia; Spinifex Press, 2015,

A scholarly account of how feminists, non-feminists, and antifeminists shaped the collective memory of the 1989 killing of fourteen young women in Montreal who were studying to become engineers.

On December 6th, 1989, Mark Lepine entered the Ecole Polytechnique where young women were studying for their final exams. Declaring “I Hate Feminists!,” he killed fourteen of them and wounded fourteen more before shooting himself.  A note found in his pocket and released two days later listed other women and men whom he planned to kill. These were vocal feminists or female leaders who had achieved success in traditionally male professions.

Melissa Blais is interested in how groups develop collective memories of specific events, especially horrible ones like these murders. She defines herself as a feminist and is interested in the role that feminist analysis has played in the process of social creation of memory. This book was originally her dissertation for a Ph.D. in Sociology. She has conducted careful research into the response to the killings in its immediate aftermath and at the commemorations of the event 10 and 20 years later.  The book is not easy reading.  At times her writing becomes entangled in academic jargon and attention to what other scholars have said on the topic of the collective memories. Her determination to present all positions fairly sometimes results in confusion over who took which position. Her work is important, however, both inside and outside academia. She helps us see just how feminism gets attacked and diluted by those who oppose its fundamental message.

The initial response to the killings was dramatic. Expressing outrage and fear, feminists viewed the attack as linked to the high rates of violence against women and their overall debasement in society. Although their specific positions varied, feminists quickly reached an overall consensus. Some men, whom Blais calls profeminists, were supportive of feminists and shared this consensus. All stressed the factual evidence of Lepine’s intent to harm feminists and other women stepping into the public sphere. Their efforts to commemorate the killings after ten and twenty years are evidence of their continuing commitment to express their views and work for social change. Their voices received limited mainstream coverage, however.

The positions taken by non-feminists were more varied than those of feminists, and they reflect views frequently voiced against feminism more generally. Some leaders and journalists sought to play down the tragedy in order to move on, with both women and men working together to forget their pain.  A similar position urged that silence and contemplation was the best response to avoid more pain to the relatives and friends of those killed or to the reputation of the school where they studied. These responses increased in the years following the killings. Another approach was to shift attention away from this particular event to focus on the need to end mass violence through gun control. While these positions were not explicitly anti-feminist, they turned the focus away from the fact of women’s vulnerability and any need for social change.

Other responses shifted blame onto feminists and the factual evidence of the killer’s goal of killing feminists was ignored. Psychologists claimed that Lepine’s personal problems were the cause of his action. The violence against him as a child and his failure to succeed in the military or in college were at fault, not negative social factors. Lepine, rather than the women he killed, was the victim. Who he happened to kill was irrelevant. Their focus on the alleged ways in which feminism threatened led to men stating publicly that they were sympathetic to Lepine.  Some praised him as a hero who acted out what many men were feeling.

The idea of male suffering grew in importance over the years and contributed to the rising popularity of groups that Blais identifies as “masculinists.”   Male suffering became a basic part of the collective memory of the event.  Unlike those of feminists, these views were widely expressed in the media. Over time Lepine’s misogyny has been acknowledged, but feminism itself is still seen as the “real” problem. Discussion of the killing includes stereotypes of “bad feminists” who allegedly hate men and refuse to work with them and “good feminists” who are seen as having given up their anger and their calls for change. Those making such claims declare that the women have reached equality with men and feminism is unnecessary. Blais provides strong evidence that statistics on assaults by men on women tell the opposite story.

In 2009, a film was made about the shooting and the debate between feminists and anti-feminists resurfaced. Blais notes that Polytechnique contained elements of both feminist and anti-feminist analysis. The leading woman was a strong woman, wounded in the attack but helping other women to survive. The leading man, however, is more central to the plot. He watches the shootings and is unable to try to stop them. Afterward he is so upset that he commits suicide.   While Blais includes men in feminism, she refuses to let pity for men overshadow a feminist analysis of this event.

In her conclusion, Blais discusses the ways in which media shape our collective memories, in this case muting and silencing factual, feminist analysis. She lays out the methods by which this is accomplished and urges women not to let the needs of men to overshadow what happens to actual women in the formation of our collective memory.

Although Blais’s writing is sometimes hard to follow, I believe this book should be read by all who even marginally consider themselves feminists.

Thanks to Spinifex for sending me a copy to read and review.

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