I read three Jessica Valenti books over the past two months. I couldn’t quite get enough of her style. And really, just her words gave me all sorts of hope for so many things. I didn’t read her books in order. You can. Or you can choose one that suits you now. I checked them all out of the NB Public Library. You can, too!
Let me start with the first one I read: “Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness”. I wish I had this book when I was in my twenties. I wasn’t sure then if I wanted kids. I certainly wasn’t ready. But the message of this book would have warmed me to the idea. Or at least softened my hesitation. Valenti’s thoughts on parenting parallel my own. She says, “when we parent, we’re trying desperately to control an inherently uncontrollable situation” (165). And so she suggests a community-minded experience. Not the insular one we have now. She suggests that we start “thinking about raising our children as a community exercise. Shifting our consciousness in this way has the potential to change so much. When we take the pressure off ourselves to be the one and only caregiver for our children, it will not only free us from the increasing loneliness of solitary caretaking but also open a world of love and support to our children. When we think about society, instead of just our individual kids, it makes it that much easier to demand government and workplace policies that honor parenting for everyone. We can fight for extended paid leave for all parents” (166). Her cry for parenthood is that we support one another. That there isn’t one way for parenting our kids. She exposes the prescribed ways we dictate for motherhood, exposes the BS and the anti-feminist legislations, and proposes to support one another instead. Simple. Revolutionary? Perhaps. Read it.
Next, I read “Sex Object: A Memoir”. Valenti explores how violence against women is “not a matter of if something happens, but when and how bad" (11). If I wished I’d had “Why Have Kids” a decade ago, I wish I had this book in high school before I went to university. I think reading a book this honest and open about being a woman would have armed me somehow as I went to university, and later, when I was 22, traveled to New York City to start a teaching career. I didn’t know the world beyond my books, and my experiences in small town Canada. I think this book would have been that honest friend with all the wisdom I needed during those years. Reading it now, her story helped define things in my past. I couldn’t help but parallel my own experiences as I read the book. Around the same time Valenti lived in NYC and started writing this book--from what I gathered as I read--I moved from New Brunswick, Canada to live in Brooklyn, and then Queens, and eventually Manhattan. She made me think more clearly about my own experiences on the subway, and on the streets of New York. Things I took for just part of the world, didn’t give me pause when it should have. I didn’t speak up. I didn’t fight back. I kept my head down. I didn’t ask questions. But I think maybe if I had this book in my hands, sitting on the subway in the early morning or way too late at night, I would have felt a little less powerless. My head raised a little higher. Read it.
Now, I am finishing “Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters”. I started reading it at the end of August and then September kicked my butt with back-to-school. But, as I continued to read my library copy I realised more and more that I needed my own copy. I needed the marginalia! So I ordered it from Amazon, and now I am back at it. If the other two books are those I wish I had as I navigated my early adulthood and started my life as a mother, this is the textbook to feminism I wish I could buy in bulk and hand out to every young person who graduates high school. Congratulations on your emergence into adulthood, now please go study this book and be a great human. That is all. Read this book. Buy this book and take notes. And if you’re on my Christmas list, you may be getting a copy!
These writings are comprised of my creative nonfiction, and books, books, books. This blog is a exploration of the books I read, the people I meet, and my life as a backyard homesteader.