Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life

Stephanie Staal, Author
Stephanie Staal, PublicAffairs, $15.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-58648-872-7
Open Ebook - 289 pages - 978-1-58648-876-5
Paperback - 442 pages - 978-1-4596-1260-0
Open Ebook - 289 pages - 978-1-280-87109-2
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More than a decade after her graduation from Barnard College, journalist Staal (The Love They Lost) revisits feminist literature to conduct "a highly personal investigation" into the "balance between selfhood and womanhood." Her marriage is limping along, and motherhood and housework have intruded on her professional life. Contrasting her new responses to such feminist classics as Friedan's The Feminine Mystique and de Beauvoir's The Second Sex with those of her 19-year-old self and to those of today's students, Staal despairs over the "objectifying" of self she observes in young women today, but discovers that "absolutes that once dominated my thinking had been rubbed down by experience." Staal offers an interesting overview of feminist history and writings; however, her exploration of transformations in her life is superficial (her marriage was healed by "coming closer together through the thousands of tiny moments that make up a day"), and she learns the fairly trite lesson that "life is unpredictable, relationships are complex, and the mind cannot always rule the heart." (Feb.)
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