It hardly seems possible that a new critique of the Bush administration could enter virgin territory, yet popular San Francisco public radio host Laura Flanders has two books coming out this spring that differ from other red-meat anti-Bush books by appealing to the 52% female majority of the electorate. In particular, Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species, published this month by Verso, has impressed booksellers with its lively analyses of six powerful women in the Bush administration, and the pattern of sexism in the media that focuses more on their wardrobes than what they stand for.
Will Peters, a buyer at Annie Bloom's Books in Portland, Ore., said he thought the $22 hardcover would do well because of its eye-catching cover and especially because there is little critical focus on Bush's female staffers. "People are hungry for knowledge and want answers," he observed about his customers. "They're generally not getting it from TV, and are turning to books for something a little deeper." At Book Passage in Corte Madera, Calif., co-owner Elaine Petrocelli also found the subject of the book "absolutely fascinating," adding, "it should get national recognition. She's a very articulate and brilliant voice."
With a 20,000-copy first printing, the book is Verso's lead title for the spring. "Very few women out there are writing about serious political topics and getting exposure," said publisher Niels Hooper, noting that Flanders has appeared on Fox News Watch, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity and Holmes and other political talk shows. Her book has been also blurbed by a number of liberal female celebrities, including Susan Sarandon and Democracy Now host Amy Goodman.
In addition to doing traditional bookstore readings and radio interviews, Flanders will write book-related articles in the Nation and Ms. magazine. But it's the theater readings during Flanders's 13-city book tour that could draw the most attention. Featuring a mix of performance, education and activism, the launch event at the New York Theater Workshop in Manhattan is typical. On March 8, New York University professor and author Mark Crispin Miller will interview Flanders before local actors and celebrities stage a reading of Sisters (Signet, 1981), a novel about a frontier woman who enjoys free love and envies lesbian intimacy by Lynn Cheney, wife of vice president Dick Cheney. In April, similar events will be held at the Brava Theater in San Francisco and at the UCLA Hammer Museum with actress Janeane Garofalo.
Flanders's second spring title, W Effect: Sexual Politics in the Bush Years and Beyond (Feminist Press, June), includes essays by Barbara Ehrenreich, Jill Nelson and Katha Politt on topics that range from the USA Patriot Act to reproductive rights to the impact of the religious right. According to Feminist Press editorial director Livia Tenzer, Flanders's books are aimed at women who recognize that female politicians don't necessarily vote for policies that will benefit women. "I think these two books coming out together is a sign of the times, and sign of change," Tenzer said.
Dreher has written about books for Salon and the Boston Globe.