Feminist biographies

Recently I’ve been on a feminist biography rampage, devouring every book written by women who have something to say about feminism or their stories about growing up as a woman in this world. It’s the perfect way to absorb feminist theory, through the personal stories of others. Here are a few classics and a few new releases I’ve read recently:

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Banana Girl, Michelle Lee, Transit Lounge, $29.95.

Michelle writes cleverly about her relationships with friends, love interests and family. Lee mostly writes about her life in Melbourne, but as a Canberran, I love the memories she shares about growing up in the nations capital. She doesn’t hold back with the her more personal anecdotes. There are definitely a few ex-boyfriends reading her book, more than likely horrified that she told the world their secrets. Her lack of filter is what makes Banana Girl it such a compelling read.

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How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran, Ebury Press, $23.

Don’t read this on a plane like I did. The person sitting next to you will think you have lost the plot. Published in 2011, people have subsequently written about how it’s outdated when talking about gender. However, not much has changed when it comes to societies expectation of women. She talks about how a women’s appearance is worth so much more than a man. When a women opens her wardrobe and says she has nothing to wear, what she really means is there is nothing here for what I’m supposed to be today. You can expect hilarious passages like the following:

“These days, sexism is a bit like Meryl Streep in a new film: sometimes you don’t recognize it straightaway. You can be up to 20 minutes in, enjoying all the dinosaurs and the space fights and the homesick Confederate soldiers, before you go, ‘Oh my God – under the wig! THAT’S MERYL.”

Que snort laughing.

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Fight Like a Girl, Clementine Ford, Allen & Unwin, $30.

I expected Clementine Ford’s book to read like her Facebook posts, powerful, aggressive and controversial. I was surprised when it was more of a gentle and reflective biography about her life. Before I read Fight like a Girl I wasn’t the biggest fan of Ford. I felt that she was wasting her time replying to men online. However, hearing her point-of-view made me realise the importance of calling out misogynistic comments, both online and in person.

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Adult Fantasy: searching for true maturity in an age of mortgages, marriages, and other adult milestones, Briohny Doyle, Scribe UK, $30.

Briohny is about to turn 30, so she’s written a book about what it means to be an adult. She looks at whether the definition of adulthood should be changed, since her experience is vastly different to her parents’. Her personal anecdotes feel like she’s trying to protect the friends she is writing about, which can be frustrating, because you want her to open up to you. It’s still a worthwhile read for those about to take the plunge into ‘adulthood’. Whatever that means.

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Work Strife Balance, Mia Freedman, Macmillan Australia, $35. 

Mia has been the source of controversy in the media recently, missing the mark on political issues in Australia. Despite this, I devoured her book in a day. It’s a good mix of funny and serious chat about mental health, work and home life. I particularly loved the chapter written by her son, Luca. Sometimes the conversational style of Mia’s writing annoyed me. She has a tendency to button mash like thiiiiiiiiiis, but I still couldn’t put it down.

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Not Just Lucky, Jamila Rizvi, Penguin Books Australia, $35

Every woman entering the workforce must read this book. Part memoir, part practical advice, I couldn’t put Jamila’s book down. The book works on the premise that women are have a crisis of confidence. They think they are lucky to be in their job and just feel regretful if they receive any type of promotion. Well, Jamila is here to tell women they aren’t just lucky, but have worked incredibly hard to get where they are. I heard Jamila talk at ANU to a packed crowd, which shows that it’s such an important discussion to engage in no matter what field of work or study. Lend the book to all your friends (the blokes too).

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Every Lie I’ve Ever Told, Rosie Waterland, HarperCollins Australia, $30.

I wouldn’t classify Rosie’s new book strictly as a feminist biography, rather a reflection on grieving the loss of a loved one. Rosie is a master at weaving the depth of her grief with stories so funny that I struggled to read them aloud without the cry-laughing. She breaks down the stigmas women face with such as being imperfect, admitting weakness, and it’s not often that women talk about getting ‘fart-poisoning’ from boyfriends who, strangely enough, don’t believe women should fart or have any bowel movements. It’s refreshing (kind of).

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