NO TURNING BACK: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women

Estelle B. Freedman, Author . Ballantine $26 (400p) ISBN 0-345-45054-X

While teaching Feminist Studies 101 at Stanford, where she's a founder of the feminist studies program, Freedman was asked to recommend one book that covered all the major issues in feminist scholarship. After finding that one didn't exist, she wrote this exhaustive and rigorous work that not only stands as an excellent primer on the current state of feminism, but also includes a historical perspective for context. Although she spends much time on Western feminism, she also touches on the experiences of women in Asia and Africa, for cross-cultural comparison. The term "feminism" doesn't escape her careful eye, either. Freedman provides a lively summary of the history, and sometimes hatred of, the term, ending with her characteristic optimism: "The term feminism, in short, has never been widely popular. Yet the political goals of feminism have survived... largely because feminism has continually redefined itself." Given the range and breadth of topics, from prostitution to the wage gap, from patriarchal power in days before Seneca Falls to current pro-women legislation, Freedman is inclined to skim the surface of many issues, but this is hardly a failing. Instead of trying to serve as the hands-down definitive work in the field, the book is a point from which readers can start their exploration of feminist subjects, perhaps using Freedman's extensive bibliographic notes as a guide. With an accessible writing style and obvious love for her subject, Freedman has penned a major work that fits well both in the classroom and on the bedside table. (Mar.)

Forecast:Although this work will probably become a major feminist studies textbook, it should also garner some trade interest, mainly because of Freedman's approachable, non-dogmatic writing style.

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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