cover image A Sentimental Education

A Sentimental Education

Hannah McGregor. Wilfrid Laurier Univ, $22.99 trade paper (142p) ISBN 978-1-77112-557-4

McGregor, host of the podcast Secret Feminist Agenda, delivers a stirring collection of essays exploring sentimentality and the use of emotion in reading and storytelling. Combining personal anecdotes with scholarly analysis, McGregor unpacks sentimentality’s shortcomings and potential to harm—as well as its opposing potential for “drawing the revolutionary out of the mundane detail”—to better understand her experience of sentimental reading and storytelling as a fat, queer, white “settler” who grew up on Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. With verve and insight, McGregor underscores the contradictions of contemporary narratives that seek out the harrowing details of societal marginalization while offering no solutions to its problems. McGregor takes up what she considers the voyeuristic, fetishizing aspects of such media as This American Life—which position the emotional response to the suffering of others as an end unto itself, and not the beginning of care—and imagines alternatives in which a sentimental response can inspire a more political one defined by “granular attention to the everyday realities of people’s lives.” McGregor draws on the works of feminist thinkers including Sara Ahmed, Lauren Berlant, and Jia Tolentino, and her work will surely take its place among them. This radiates with intelligence. (Sept.)