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Reading Women by Stephanie Staal
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Reading Women

by Stephanie Staal

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1543477,562 (3.78)21
  1. 10
    Great Books by David Denby (Nickelini)
    Nickelini: If you liked the concept and structure of Staal's memoir, you may like Great Books by David Denby. Staal looks at the feminist canon while Denby looks at the Western canon.
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Feeling adrift in middle age, Staal re-enrolls in her college feminist texts seminar and rereads the great works of feminism.

I thought this was a very interesting read, probably because I am in a similar situation as Staal was when she wrote it. I'm a mom of one, middle-aged, doing a little freelance writing but mostly a stay-at-home, wondering what my role is without a job or career, not wanting my only identity to be as mother. I am glad that Staal decided to read these feminist texts looking for answers, so I don't have to (although I have read all of the fiction that she discusses). I enjoyed most her take on the texts themselves and how she applied them to her life. I confess that although I did identify with Staal's particular time in life, I skimmed a lot of the personal in her book. She has a pretty nice life, and some readers may think she's whining, but she, like a lot of us, is just continually wrestling with the question, "Who am I? Is this who I am?"

Spoiler alert: This book has no answers. I think we readers are used to turning to books for answers. It was Staal's instinct, and it's certainly mine. But I had an a-ha moment as I was reading it: there really are no answers to life, not that anyone else can give us, anyway. I consider myself a feminist; I feel passionately that women deserve better than we get and that we should not be reduced to merely mothers, wives, or vaginas. Still, we are also individual human beings, each of us on our own life path. Even as we continue the struggle for equality, there is no one single prescription for all of us. We are all writing our own stories, and we are still writing. Reading is a terrific way to get the brain working, particularly if it's been feeling sluggish, but ultimately any answers we find, we find within ourselves.

Read as part of my "Reading Women" project in 2015. ( )
1 vote sturlington | May 15, 2015 |
I stumbled across this book at the library, and ended up buying a copy for myself because I want to refer back to it. Staal's "Reading Women" was one I really identified with. Life does change after becoming a wife and mother, and Staal acknowledges this. While struggling to deal with these changes, she decides to audit classes in feminist texts at her alma mater. There's much insight in this book, and I have already started reading, and looking for, many of the texts she refers to and discusses. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | May 12, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
though this book has great promise, i ultimately found it very disappointing. while the writer is contemplating a feeling of her identity being subsumed by the roles of mother and wife, she decides to retake women's studies 101 courses at her alma mater.

while she discusses the texts at length and their relevance to her, this book ended up being a retread of feminist theory for white women of privilege.

never once in the book does the writer acknowledge her own position of privilege (first of having the privilege of time, then the privilege of money, race, sexuality, etc.), or examine works by women of color, women who aren't (assumed) straight, or women in a different socioeconomic bracket than herself.

for someone searching for a new sense of self through self-awareness, this author is sadly (willfully?) oblivious to the ways in which feminism has been intrinsically changed and influenced by women who are not white, upper class, straight, able-bodied, etc.

while some may argue that the texts which were read in the classes were to blame for the narrow focus of the author, i disagree. there is so much more room for investigation into the many ways that these texts influence and interact with latter day feminisms, and the extent to which this affects not only the author's life and conception of herself but the larger world of which she is a part.

could have been so much more. ( )
  superblue | Feb 25, 2012 |
I loved this book for many reasons- the authors voice was clear and genuine, and having several texts summarized and explained was great. I loved how she tied her personal story and reflections in. I am going to explore a few of the books she discussed. ( )
  chrystal | Oct 27, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Stephanie Staal, finding herself in an Annapolis, MD suburbia and a husband and chlid, decides to retake feminist literature courses at Barnard, where she obtained her undergraduate degree. She reflects on the changes the years have wrought upon her as well as, to a lesser degree, the less passionate nature of feminist men and women today and the stigma attached to be called a feminist.

It is a well written book. Her thoughts are coherent and the conversations included as examples relevant. I don't think it's whiny as one reviewer suggested, why would it be curlish to complain when there are revelations of how the media subtly (and not so subtly) prepetuate stereotypes about women and what they should be able to do/put with? ( )
  macart3 | May 31, 2011 |
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In a personal guide to the classics of feminism, the author examines how well the books hold up to the realities of marriage and motherhood in her own life.

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