Author: Amy Collier

abortion protest

Marge Piercy Discusses Illegal Abortions

“I lost my best friend when I was 24 to a botched abortion. She bled to death and it was covered up. Usually those kinds of deaths were then covered up.”

“Also it wasn’t just women who were seeking abortions. I had a friend who desperately wanted a child and she was pregnant and she lost the child. But when you lost a child you were treated like a criminal. So she lay in the corridor in the hospital and they wouldn’t give her anything, and they wouldn’t do anything…It was hell in those days.”Read More

image: minimalist geometric paper cut out illustration with two female outlines in a mix of pink and blue.

When Falling in Love Could Kill You: Abortion in the 1950s

Braided Lives is difficult to read as feminist canon. The women are more often frenemies than friends, and the main female friendship is full of jealousies and betrayals. They help each other survive, but help with survival is not enough to cite as positive female/female representation. Braided Lives is about as feminist as your average primetime soap, except for one pivotal factor: accounts of abortion in America during an era when it was illegal, and the social mores that enabled this dating hellscape. That is the political glue holding this novel together, and these glimpses into a society with only primitive access to abortion make the book well worth the read.

At the root of the abortion issue is the misogyny permeating every interaction between the women and the men they date. Read More

book shelves

Worst Bookshelves Reviewed

There are a lot of terrible bookshelves out there, sitting quietly in Brooklyn apartments, doing unspeakable things to the books they are supposed to house and protect. Here are some of the offenders.Read More

image: Illustration of a white woman surrounded by two peacocks with a manor in the background.

A Great Book About a Hilariously Bad Writer

Elizabeth Taylor (Yes, yes, whatever, I’m not going to spend the first paragraphs of this review discussing the name thing. Read any other review of her if that’s what you want.) was a deft writer of comic characters and situations who wove her humor into every description. Take this introduction of the protagonist’s mother and deceased father: “Mrs. Deverell’s own married life had been short and flawless in retrospect. Her husband had coughed his way through only a year and a half of married bliss.” Or a later description of one of the less scrupulous characters: “I really haven’t a friend, I suppose, he thought, going through one name after another in his mind; but he meant, I haven’t anyone left to borrow from.” With Angel, Taylor brings us Angel Deverell, a headstrong teen who hates school, lies constantly, and unwittingly shows us the comedy of escapism.Read More

simone kaya les danseuses

Untranslated Classics: Simone Kaya

Name: Simone Kaya
From: Ivory Coast
Born: 1937

Simone Kaya is a social worker, nurse, and writer who was born and resides in Ivory Coast. Growing up in 1940s Abidjan, Kaya was not supposed to receive an education other than how to take care of whatever guy she’d have to marry.

Remember the part in Beauty and the Beast where Gaston says it’s not right for a woman to read? “Soon she starts getting ideas, and thinking.” Well, that was basically the argument her father’s friends made against the idea of Kaya’s education:  “If we educate them, they will refuse to crush the foutou and the millet.Read More

Dora Alonso

Untranslated Classics: Dora Alonso

Name: Dora Alonso
From: Cuba
Lived: 1910 – 2001

Among the most prominent voices in 20th Century Cuban literature, Dora Alonso was all sorts of talented. A print and radio journalist, playwright, novelist, short story writer, poet, and even children’s book author, Alonso was awarded the the Casa de las Americas prize twice and consistently received awards for her work throughout her career. A passionate activist, Alonso’s focus was political: she wrote about characters oppressed by the alienation and poverty caused by a corrupt society.Read More

Yoshiya Nobuko Uncovered Classics

Untranslated Classics: Yoshiya Nobuko

Name: Yoshiya Nobuko
From: Japan
Lived: 1896 – 1973

According to a 1935 article in Hanashi: “There may be women who don’t know who heads the Women’s Patriotic Association, but there is not a single woman alive who doesn’t know who Yoshiya Nobuko is.”

WELP.

So why has Yoshiya been so ignored by Western scholars? Listen, we like our literature a certain way here in these parts, and we like our short-haired lady authors straight. Shōjo about school girls falling in love? Stories titled Dannasama Muyo (Husbands are Useless)? More like Husbands Are Great Yoshiya, What Are You Talking About by The United States of America.Read More

japanese typewriter

Untranslated Classics

One method we use to decide what is worth reading, and what is not, who should be remembered and who it’s okay to forget, is through translation. What parts of other cultures do we care to know about? What are we ignoring?

In a trend that is probably unsurprising to anyone who follows this blog, while I’ve been researching books by women from other countries to add to our list, I noticed that many stories I wanted to read from many parts of the globe were untranslated. This is especially true for books from the earlier half of the 20th century. Basically, predominantly male publishers of English-language books didn’t care that much about women in this part of the 20th century, but they especially didn’t care about women who didn’t live in their immediate vicinity and look more or less like themRead More