Reading Women (Paperback)
How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life
PublicAffairs, 9781586488727, 288pp.
Publication Date: February 22, 2011
From the banishment of Eve to Judith Butler's Gender Trouble, Staal explores the significance of each of these classic tales by and of women, highlighting the relevance these ideas still have today. This process leads Staal to find the self she thought she had lostcurious and ambitious, zany and criticaland inspires new understandings of her relationships with her husband, her mother, and her daughter.
About the Author
Praise For Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life…
J. Courtney Sullivan
“If you could enroll in your favorite Women’s Studies class again ten years after graduation, armed with everything you know about the complexities and compromises of adult life, what would you make of the feminist ideals you once held dear? That’s exactly what Staal endeavors to find out in this brave and compelling book, which is one part memoir, one part astute literary analysis. As she struggles to make sense of love, life, marriage, and motherhood on her own terms, the author traces the history of women’s words over centuries—from Mary Wollstonecraft and Virginia Woolf to Erica Jong and Katie Roiphe. I cherished every page.”
“A swift, enchanting, and informative sweep through the feminist canon.”
“Intimate in its reflections and keenly perceptive on a larger scale, Staal’s erudite literary memoir refreshingly embraces women’s eternal quest for self-knowledge.”
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- What did you think of the author’s decision to return to Barnard and take Feminist Texts? If you could go back to college and re-take one course, which one would it be?
- Have you read any of the books from the Fem Texts syllabus? Which one has made a mark on your life?
- Staal writes a lot about the work/mother dichotomy, and how difficult it is for women everywhere to inhabit these roles fully simultaneously. If you are a parent, how have you handled this situation?
- At a panel the author attends, one of the panelists says “Well I don’t know if we should tell our daughters that they have limitless possibilities.” Do you think it’s disingenuous to tell our daughters that they can “have it all?”
- The class encounters different types of feminists throughout the course of their readings—from the radical feminists like Shulamith Firestone to the “post-feminists” like Katie Roiphe. How do you define a feminist? Do you consider yourself a feminist? If you do consider yourself a feminist, can you attribute it to a particular event or experience in your life?
- The last text Staal reads for her class is a blog called “Baghdad Burning.” What non-canonical texts—whether it be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, blog, book, magazine or other types of writing—have contributed most to your understanding of feminism?
- Staal observes many differences between opinions she espoused while in college and those of her Gen Y classmates. How do you think the younger generation, raised in the social network/ Facebook era, will respond differently to the challenges of reconciling adulthood or motherhood with feminism? Will it be any easier for them than it was for the author’s generation?
- Staal is upset by the New York Times article about Ivy League women opting out of the workforce “not so much because these young women wanted to be stay-at-home mothers, but for their seeming readiness, at nineteen years old, to resort to traditional gender roles without a peep.” What do you think of that article? Of Staal’s opinion?
- Of all of the books the author writes about, which one intrigued you the most? Which author was the most interesting to you?