Sunday, November 1, 2009

Women Unbound

Women Unbound is a reading challenge that runs from today through November 30, 2010. Participants are encouraged to read nonfiction and fiction books related to women's studies = "the multidisciplinary study of the social status and societal contributions of women and the relationship between power and gender."

Interested in participating? Choose one of these three levels:
* Philogynist: read at least two books,
including at least one nonfiction one.
* Bluestocking: read at least five books,
including at least two nonfiction ones.
* Suffragette: read at least eight books,
including at least three nonfiction ones.
Reading two books would make me a Philogynist:
Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God ~ by Joe Coomer, 1995, fiction.
Nine weeks after losing her husband, Charlotte escapes to a wooden motor yacht in New Hampshire, where her shipmates are an aging blue-haired widow, an emotional seventeen-year-old, and the ugliest dog in literature. A genuine bond develops among the three women, as their distinct personalities and paths cross and converge against the backdrop of emotional secrets, abuse, and the wages of old age.
We Are Our Mother's Daughters ~ by Cokie Roberts, 1998, nonfiction.
"'A woman's place is in the house... And in the senate' the T-shirts and buttons proclaim at women's political events." This first sentence got me because I used to wear this pin and probably still have it in my desk drawer. I was active in the women's movement in the 1970s, so I guess that makes me one of the mothers, huh?
I know full well I'll read more than two books about women in a year plus a month, so here are three more that would make me a Bluestocking:
The Pull of the Moon ~ by Elizabeth Berg, 1996, fiction.
"Dear Martin, I'm sorry the note I left you was so abrupt. I just wanted you to know I was safe ... I won't be back for awhile. I'm on a trip. I needed all of a sudden to go, without saying where, because I don't know where. I know this is not like me. I know that. But please believe me, I am safe and I am not crazy, I felt as though if I didn't do this I wouldn't be safe and I would be crazy ... And can you believe this? I love you. Nan"
Mrs. Man ~ by Una Stannard, 1977, nonfiction.
This book, which I read about 1980, is about women taking their husband's names. I read it not long after getting a divorce and wondering if I should use my maiden name again. ("Maiden" name? Sheesh! It was my daddy's name.) Because I had three young children, I kept Jacobs (their father's name) so we'd all have the same last name. I ordered a used copy of this book in order to re-read it. I haven't been able to get it any other way.
Prodigal Summer ~ by Barbara Kingsolver, 2000, fiction.
This novel is all about connections -- or better, interconnections -- as it weaves together the lives of three women: Deanna, a reclusive wildlife biologist watching changes in the ecosystem as coyotes are reintroduced; Lusa, a bookish city girl turned farmer's wife who is recently widowed; and Nannie, an elderly woman feuding with her neighbor about God, pesticides, and the possibilities of a future neither of them expected.
I may decide to go for eight and be a Suffragette. Here are the ones I'll read, if I get this far:
The Silent Passage: Menopause ~ by Gail Sheehy, 1992, nonfiction.
"The pregnancy club is for women a joyous one -- the menopause club is one nobody wants to admit she has joined" (from the back cover). "Menopause may be the last taboo," says Sheehy, whose goal in writing this book was to "render normalcy to a normal physical process." She takes a look at things like memory loss, "embezzles bone," hormones, night sweats, postmenopausal zest, and the risk of a heart attack.
Herland ~ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1915, fiction.
The book describes an isolated society composed entirely of women. They reproduce by parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction) and have an ideal society free of war, conflict, and domination. The men who find this isolated culture think they've found heaven, thinking the women will treat them royally. I re-read this one about once a decade, and it's time to read it again.
Founding Mothers ~ by Cokie Roberts, 2004, nonfiction.
"George Lucas brought his English wife and daughters to South Carolina in 1734 to claim three plantations left to him by his father. Before long, however, Lucas left for Antigua to rejoin his regiment in fighting the war against Spain, leaving his sixteen-year-old daughter in charge of all the properties, plus her ailing mother and toddler sister. ... Can you imagine a sixteen-year-old girl today being handed those responsibilities? Eliza Lucas willingly took them on."
If you are interested in reading along with us, sign up at the special Women Unbound blog set up for this 13-month challenge.

UPDATED (November 21,2009):  I have posted a longer list of books I've read or have on my shelves, in case you need book ideas for this challenge.  I have already changed my mind about which ones to read, but I have also decided I'll read and review as many during the year as possible.  I see already that my final number will be much greater than eight!


alisonwonderland said...

Great list! Once I get past a tax deadline at the office, I'm going to make a list of my own.

Kailana said...

Glad to see you are joining in with this challenge!

Suzanne Yester said...

That is a great list! I actually was looking at The Cokie Roberts book for one of my choices in the challenge, as I bought it and posted about it my Independence Day post, but have yet to read it! The challenge would be a perfect time!

Good luck in the challenge!

Unknown said...

Bonnie -
A thoughtful list...and I like your notes about each.
I have Herland on my list too.
Looking forward to your thoughts.
btw - When I did finally marry at age 41 I did not take my husbands name.... :)


Anonymous said...

Interesting list, Bonnie, I only know one or two of them, so I'm looking forward to your reviews. I'm especially curious about the Charlotte Perkins Gilman one, as I read some of her short stories earlier this year and I loved them. I'm definitely going to read more by CPG.