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The Radical Notion

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World is both an educational primer and call-to-action.

The Radical Notion

BOOK REPORT for Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen

Cover Story: Text-Heavy
The Most Empowering: “Forever Feminist” by Malinda Lo, “Bad Feminist: Take Two” by Roxane Gay, “I Have Always Eaten the Bread” by Lily Myers
The Most Infuriating: “Somewhere in America” by Zariya Allen
The Most Eye-Opening: “Faith and the Feminist” by Kaye Mizra, “The ‘Nice Girl’ Feminist” by Ashley Hope Pérez
Bonus Factors: Intersectional Feminism
Break Glass In Case Of: Sharing Feminism With the Next Generation, Needing a Boost

Cover Story: Text-Heavy

There’s a lot going on on this cover, and the varied font sizes and weights make it a bit busy for my tastes. But it gets the point across, and matches well the design of the content within.

The Deal:

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World features the writing and art of more than 40 authors, celebrities, musicians and activists—all of whom are feminists. Their work shows the varied and expansive nature of the term feminism; the pieces are at times engaging, educational, heart-breaking and fist-pump-inducing.

The Most Empowering: “Forever Feminist” by Malinda Lo, “Bad Feminist: Take Two” by Roxane Gay, “I Have Always Eaten the Bread” by Lily Myers

I’ve never read any of her novels, but it’s no surprise to me—thanks to the praise she’s received on our site and the fact that she’s a co-founder of Diversity in YA—that Malinda Lo’s personal essay, “Forever Feminist,” struck a chord. The piece is about the fantastic example her kick-ass grandmother set, a woman who married for love, interracially, in a time when it frowned upon and even illegal, and who survived some harrowing experiences only to come out stronger in the end. It’s also about Lo’s search for what feminism means to her; a search I think we all can connect with.

Roxane Gay is known for her humorous and strong personality, and it shines bright in “Bad Feminist: Take Two.” I love how she fully admits that she likes being girly—her favorite color is pink—and how that can be seen by some individuals as not feminist, but she tries to not let that bother her. Gay takes no shizz, and knows who she is, and it’s an absolute breath of fresh air.

Lily Myers’ piece, “I Have Always Eaten the Bread,” is more of a self-love story than a completely feminist one, as it deals with body image issues and eating disorders, but she ties the two ideas together in the end. After reading, I really think I’m going to make “I Always Eat the Bread,” a new life mantra.

The Most Infuriating: “Somewhere in America” by Zariya Allen

Zariya Allen’s poem, “Somewhere in America,” highlights certain pervasive double standards in our country. It’s uncomfortably and undeniably truthful, and that’s what makes it so powerful. The entire thing is worthy of inclusion here, but this particular passage highlights why I think the poem is important:

Now somewhere in America there is a child holding a copy of
The Catcher in the Rye and there is a child holding a gun.

but only one of these things has been banned by their state government
and it’s not the one that can rip through flesh.

it’s the one that says “Fuck you” on more pages than one

The Most Eye-Opening: “Faith and the Feminist” by Kaye Mizra, “The ‘Nice Girl’ Feminist” by Ashley Hope Pérez

In “Faith and the Feminist,” Kaye Mizra writes about her experience as both a devout Muslim and a feminist, and explains how she reconciled the two seemingly (in some eyes) disparate ideas. I hadn’t really thought much about how faith and feminism work—or don’t work—together, and this essay opened my eyes to the fact that they can easily go hand in hand.

Ashley Hope Pérez’s autobiographical piece hit a chord with me; in “The ‘Nice Girl’ Feminist,” she writes about her childhood experiences of being the “nice girl,” and her struggle to overcome the traits that come along with, i.e., not talking back, not being meddlesome, being “wholesome,” and always being happy (at least in your outward appearance). Unlike Pérez, I wasn’t raised in the south, but I was raised by a Texan mother and a father from an older generation, and so I saw parts of myself in her story. I particularly appreciated this passage:

There may be a fundamental conflict between feminism and striving to be somebody else’s idea of a “nice girl,” but feminism is perfectly compatible with genuine warmth, optimism, and courtesy.

Bonus Factors: Intersectional Feminism

I’d heard the term “intersectional feminism” prior to reading Here We Are, but I’m not sure I was totally clear on what it meant until I finished this book. There are so many diverse perspectives in this book, and some of them even contradict one another, which I think is essential to a well-rounded discussion. The book features female voices, male voices, LGBTQ voices, voices of individuals who don’t fall on either side of the gender binary.

Break Glass In Case Of: Sharing Feminism With the Next Generation, Needing a Boost

Here We Are is a book that all teenagers—not just female-identifying ones—should peruse. Not all of the content in the book is exceptional, but I strongly feel like there’s something for most shapes, sizes, sexual orientations, and viewpoints in this book. I connected with some stories, was heartened by others, teared up at others still. Overall, I found myself thanking my lucky stars that I live in a world with such strong and beautiful people in it, and it makes me hopeful for the future, as hard as the struggle is at this moment in time.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Algonquin Young Readers, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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