10 months ago


something that should be

something that should be immutable. Perhaps there is something in this. For me, originality is specifically female: a desire to rework the stories and language I was given, which crumbled in the face of experience. For Brooke-Rose in particular, this awareness that women’s lives were different translated directly into her work. Critics have latched onto the phrase utterly other discourse which the author used in her novel Amalgamemenon to describe her techniques. But it doesn’t refer to the writing, Brooke- Rose insisted in an interview, it refers to the woman reading and thinking quite other things until she has to switch back to talking to the man. Meanwhile, the stream-of-consciousness of Amalgamemnon’s Cassandra-like narrator, who can use only speculative and future tenses, and whose unstable nouns slither into tricksy puns, seems a narrative strategy created by the character’s job insecurity, and her relationship with her exploitative boyfriend who’ll speak without thinking and meanwhile I’ll think without speaking . . . since my speaking to any purpose other than sado-elegant pub-lounge strategies will already begin to make him angry. In her essay on gender and experimental writing, alliterations, Brooke-Rose claims there is no space for a woman within the traditional parameters of artistic practice where all she can be is beautiful, and hence not understand beauty, or create it. In Brooke-Rose’s The Foot which might be the only short story narrated by a phantom limb a fashion model, crippled in a car crash, decides that, as she can no longer use her beauty, she’ll find another way to earn her living: I thought, perhaps, I could write. Oh yes, replies her sexy-eyed doctor, Love stories you mean? Or spies? But no, she means a translation of her situation into words. She is thinking of me to write about in order to get me out of her system as they call it, says The Foot. You are cherishing your symptoms my dear says Mr. Poole, the seductive surgeon. And are you occupying your mind? I suspect myself occupying, as these writers did, the double fold of uncertainty born of a woman’s attitude to her own situation, and of her knowledge that it is a situation which puts her both inside and outside it, so suspicious of her own mind that her voice splits helplessly into utterly other discourses of cherishing these women’s obstacles, because they were generative of the means they used to vault over them. It would be boring if the only thing I took away from reading these great writers was their life stories, which, set as they were in the late 20th century, provided them with so many more obstacles than most British woman writers face today. And there are differences, of course, between one indeterminate woman writer’s experience and another, and mine. I have never been one for the way biographies iron lives flat into years. I don’t want to be sentimental. The desire for likable female geniuses is as pernicious as the desire for likeable female characters, and the dream dinner party with your favorite authors, living or dead, as guests, seems a nightmarish idea. I don’t expect to like these women, or even to write like them, but it is important to me now to know that these women were there before me, working toward something new. 29 Register Magazine

Books Challenging the Gender Binary in Young Adult Fiction The young adult genre — one that explores coming-of-age and dealing with an adult identity — is an excellent vehicle for challenging traditional gender norms that can often feel constricting to young people. Not That Kind of Girl By: Siobhan Vivian By: Martha Madall The word “girl” is loaded. What does it mean to be a “good girl” or a “bad girl”? In high school, those terms can determine a girl’s fate — more so than we would like to imagine. This novel shows how tenuous those titles are and how silly and scary social mores are when it comes to pigeonholing girls into categories. In an era of institutionalized slut-shaming, this novel comes as a refreshing take on teenage life. The Perks of Being a Wallflower By: Stephen Chbosky This cult classic accompanies Charlie through his tumultuous high school years as he navigates dealing with his past, finding new friends, and feeling like an outsider. “Wallflower” is filled with accounts from all kinds of characters who clash against expectations, including ones involving their gender, in poignant and real ways; and Charlie represents a nuanced male protagonist who doesn’t fall into typical tropes. The Servant By: Fatima Sharafeddine This novel follows Faten as she negotiates the role girls play in her Lebanese society. She wants to earn an education, but must find a secret path to her dream. As the collective expectations of those around her attempt to hold her back, she works against them in the quest to realize her aspirations. The Outsiders By: S.E. Hinton This classic deserves a second look. It serves as a warning about what could happen to boys when they are forced into a guise of toughness, especially if they are hurting emotionally and feel hindered from expressing their inner turmoil. This book has the ability to relate to cultural contexts in complex ways. In the 1980s, when gang violence was on the rise, critics saw this novel as a critique of gang culture. In the 21st century, as constricting gender norms are slowly being dismantled, we can read this book as a critique of inflexible gender binaries and the harm they do to young men. 30

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