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Why God Is a Woman (American Poets…
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Why God Is a Woman (American Poets Continuum)

by Nin Andrews

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In this collection of prose poetry, Nin Andrews takes the traditional gender roles of patriarchal culture and completely inverts them. Through this very satirical exploration, Andrews mines her alternative reality so that it, and the source of the satire, can be more clearly seen as the bizarre concept that it truly is. While there are some bits and pieces that were more fantastical, WHY GOD IS A WOMAN generally portrays the up-turned reality to great effect.

In the land called Island, women hold all the positions of power. They automatically get respect and admiration in whatever they do. Whatever their given names, most of the women choose to be called Angelina, because Angelina Jolie is the most beautiful, idealized woman. (In fact, there are many poems where the reader isn't entirely sure how many females are being mentioned because the only name that appears is Angelina.) While the women perform most of the jobs in society, men are expected to stay home and raise the children. Working men are constantly harassed about when they're planning to get married and start a family.

Men serve as sex objects more than anything else. Their outfits generally consist of loose-fitting tops that are unbuttoned to expose the chest and abs as well as to show off the distinctive Islander tattoo. The pants are tight-fitting Lycra, meant to display the legs and buttocks for the women. Men are expected to maintain a certain body image - very muscular and toned bodies, no facial or body hair, and youthful skin. Plastic surgery and spa treatments are very popular among the men, and they gather weekly in beauty salons to gossip about their neighbors.

One of the fantastical elements of Island society is that, when a man reaches a certain age, he sprouts wings from his back. As the wings emerge, the man bleeds and has to wear absorbent towelettes over the openings. The size of a man's wingspan is directly correlated to his lovemaking abilities. Men with smaller wings are considered outcasts in society. The narrator of these prose poems is a man who had very small wings, and chose to leave his family and go live out his life in seclusion. He is reminiscing about his life on Island, his lost love Angelina, and how much he questioned and disagreed with the matriarchy.

I really enjoyed WHY GOD IS A WOMAN, for the way that it played with stereotypes that are rampant in patriarchal culture. However, I found many of these stereotypes -when they were satirized- to be treated in a highly obvious and heavy-handed way. It was almost as if the author had a checklist of different critiques that she specifically wanted to make. I wished there was more nuance to the poetry, especially in the messages that were being conveyed.

There are almost 80 individual poems, and 75% of them begin with either "On the Island Where I Come From" or "On the Island Where I Grew Up". The reason for this repetition wasn't obvious, and did not serve the story in any meaningful way. As a result, I found the flow of this poetry collection disjointed and, because of that, the collection didn't feel cohesive. The collection could have been shortened significantly and the message would have remained just as obvious.

WHY GOD IS A WOMAN is a really interesting and thought-provoking poetry collection. It clearly lampoons patriarchal culture through examination under a highly satirical lens. There are some issues with formatting and structure that diminish its message somewhat, but overall it was a very worthwhile read. ( )
  BooksForYears | Nov 4, 2016 |
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