By Heidi Stevens
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Columnist Heidi Stevens shares the names and works of some of her favorite feminist authors. These are “nasty”, brilliant women Stevens says you should know.
If you only read one essay in “Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America”, and really, why would you stop at one?, make it Chicago author Sarah Hollenbeck’s “As Long as It’s Healthy.”
It’s a searing, gorgeous examination of our descent, as a nation, toward cruelty, told through the lens of women born with Moebius syndrome, which causes partial paralysis of the facial muscles.
“My experience of being a disabled woman is discovering in small, sharp explosions what I look like through the feedback of strangers,” Hollenbeck writes.
In the essay, Hollenbeck, co-owner of Chicago’s Women & Children First bookstore, wrestles with whether to try to have a baby with her husband, Andy, and wonders if her maternal tug is, at least in part, a desire to show the world her body can behave “normally.”
President Donald Trump’s mocking, among others, of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski for his congenital joint condition, and winning the election anyway, felt to Hollenbeck like a shift in the world in which she’d be raising a child.
“I am furious when I think about all the black, brown, refugee, and queer babies, and the ‘unhealthy’ ones like me, like Annie (Hollenbeck’s sister), being born into a world that feels unequivocally less nice now than it was more than 30 years ago,” she writes.
“For me, what is new about this era is a top-down unkindness,” she writes. “Instead of making a new human, I feel a responsibility to be a better caretaker for the humans who are already here.”
So does Zerlina Maxwell’s “Trust Black Women.”
“We know what it’s like to be left out of important conversations about issues that affect us directly,” Maxwell writes. “We know what it’s like to see our suffering ignored. … We know what it’s like to be underestimated. … And we know what it’s like to persevere anyway.”
So does Cheryl Strayed’s “She Will.”
“Though I’ve never been under the illusion that sexism has vanished, before Trump was elected there was a history-lesson element to the stories I told of my first consciousness about what it meant to be female in America, a quality that had made the sexism I experienced as a girl seem antiquated and nearly extinct,” the “Wild” author writes. “The message was: This is the way it used to be! Isn’t that amazing? In witnessing the presidential race and Trump’s eventual win, I’ve concluded that I had it wrong. This isn’t how it used to be. It is the way it is. It amazes me still.”
Samantha Irby’s “Country Crock” is fantastic. Sarah Jaffe’s “Donald Trump’s War on the Working Class” is essential. Carina Chocano’s “We Have a Heroine Problem” is brilliant.
Just read the whole book. It’s only getting more relevant by the hour. Trump called the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who’s been sleeping on a cot and wading through sewage and trying to save her ravaged island, “nasty” the other day. (She responded by showing up on TV in a “NASTY” T-shirt.)
Oh, and there’s a party. Friday, Oct. 13, Women & Children First will host an author panel featuring “Nasty Women” contributors Irby, Hollenbeck, Kate Harding and Samhita Mukhopadhyay. Chicago author Megan Stielstra will also participate. Deejay Maggie Tomasek will add the tunes.
It’s at 7 p.m. at Wilson Abbey, 935 W. Wilson Ave. You can buy tickets on the Women & Children First site.
Friday the 13th. A room full of nasty, brilliant women. Books. Music. Resistance.
I love this town.