This book seems to have been published as a direct reaction to the 2016 election, and I read it years ago as an ARC. It is an anthology that covers the intersections of race, sexuality, and feminism. It was really cool to get to see the world through the eyes of women coming from walks of life entirely removed from my own. There were many whose struggles I couldn’t even begin to imagine dealing with, while others I found comfort that I wasn’t alone in the issues that I have faced. Nasty Women covers a wide range of topics by authors from drastically different backgrounds.
“Being able to be myself was like being able to exhale for the first time after holding my breath for years. It’s only when you taste freedom that you can see how tight your bonds were.”
The one essay that stood out the most to me was Choices by Rowan C. Clarke, which discussed the author’s difficult relationship with her mother and that never-ending struggle to please. While the underlying messages in all of the stories were political and feminist, they were also very personal and down to earth which is what made this collection pretty emotional.
I did have a few issues with the anthology, however, that I need to address. The first was that since there was no specific theme the quality of each essay varied pretty wildly. The ARC kindle edition that I read also had formatting errors with the citations. As for the actual content, most were incredibly well written and heartfelt, but a few felt like angry rants that were more alienating than empowering.
While on the subject of alienation, despite the rather diverse sets of authors and essays, I feel like there were some missing pieces still. It’s obvious from the title what many of the authors thought about the 2016 election and who they voted for. The politics were so black and white that there was no room in-between, and the discussion of what were recent events at the time seriously dates this book. With these sorts of books, the only readers they invite are ones looking for confirmation bias. With today’s political climate in the United States, this is a tragedy because it completely closes the door on discussion with the other side.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that what was already here was pretty great. I see what they were going for and I appreciated it. I love to see discussions about politics and social issues, but I worry when the tone leans too far toward one extreme it only invites backlash from the other extreme. It’s a difficult balancing act between maintaining one’s own core beliefs while also trying to open discussion with the other side so that perhaps they could engage in the conversation and, ideally, listen and have their own perceptions changed.
But I digress, despite the complaints I had about the book, I found it to be a pretty quick and enjoyable read. It gives a voice to groups of women that aren’t often heard in the greater narrative of the feminist movement. The experiences of these many women enrich that narrative and there’s a lot we can all learn from each other especially in these troubling times.