Notes from a Feminist Killjoy by Erin Wunker

Reviewed by Julie Feng 

Erin Wunker’s Notes from a Feminist Killjoy is a collection of essays that, despite being steeped in academic theory, reads more like a letter from a friend. In the tradition of Sara Ahmed, the writer and professor who coined “feminist killjoy,” Wunker pens a collection of thoughts that encourages open and fluid conversation.

“This is a collection of attempts,” writes Wunker. Notes from a Feminist Killjoy has no pretense of grandeur. The notes themselves do not pretend to be a canonical cornerstone of feminist thought—they are simply candid thoughts from one particular feminist. They are, as the author puts it, “notes for conversations, notes from conversations.”

The most powerful theme of the book is the ways in which women connect to one another. Mothers to daughters. Mentors to mentees. Friends to friends. The author to the reader. There’s an entire chapter devoted to female friendship and recurring references to it throughout the collection.

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Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond edited by Bill Campbell and Edward Austin Hall

Reviewed by Vanesa Pacheco

“We can also assume that it’s dead because a melanin-devouring plague (Schuylerosis?) either killed all people of color or that same plague killed all the melanin on the planet, leaving only a handful of affable sidekicks in its wake.” – Bill Campbell, editor of Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond

It’s not surprising that, to this day, depictions of the future (be it utopian or dystopian) continue to create worlds where people of color only exist as token splashes of diversity. The genre of science fiction and fantasy has the power to construct a world where artificial intelligence takes over Earth, magical serums save humans from zombies, or life as we know it now happens in space. Nevertheless, the majority of popular sci-fi/fantasy texts have only continued to perpetuate the social constructs of western society. We basically see white saviors or societies that show “everyone else” as lesser–and that isn’t too far off from how the world works now.

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From the desk of Vanesa Pacheco 

Continue reading “Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond edited by Bill Campbell and Edward Austin Hall”

Franklinstein by Susan Landers

Reviewed by Julie Feng

In Franklinstein, Susan Landers tells the story of Germantown, a Philadelphia neighborhood. The mixed-genre volume starts as an elegy for a closing church in Germantown. It is at once an ode to this place and a critical scouring of how the history of such places are made.

With multiple references to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the hybridity of Landers’ literary “monster” is centralized. She weaves poetry and prose into a collection that feels more like an ongoing project than a finished product. Landers says of history, “Always there will be coming more and more of it.” The insinuation is that her work, now part of the historical landscape of Germantown, will continue to develop. She draws heavily from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans—but the parts of the poems and pieces that are most salient are the parts about race and colonization. The title of the work itself is a one-word allusion to these three sources by Shelley, Franklin, and Stein—made obvious by Landers’ choice to start the book with quotes from these writers. Continue reading “Franklinstein by Susan Landers”

Islanders by Teow Lim Goh

Reviewed by Vanesa Pacheco

Teow Lim Goh’s collection of poems imagines the lost stories of the women detained on Angel Island’s Immigration Station, as well as of their families, staff, and of those involved in the 1877 San Francisco Chinatown Riots. Decades after the Immigration station closed, poems were found written on the walls of the men’s barracks sharing their thoughts, documenting their experiences, and giving voice to their journeys. Unfortunately, those of the women’s were destroyed in a fire that burned down their barracks and, ultimately, erased their words. As Goh shares with The Fem, she blends “fact and fiction, politics and intimacy” to give voice to their tales so that others may finally hear their stories.

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Voyage of the Sable Venus: From Art to Identity | A Review by Vanesa Pacheco

The World wants to know
What I am made of. I am trying
To find a way
To answer Her.

-from “On the Road to Sri Bhunvaneshwari,” Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems

To read these poems, you confront realities of past and present. There are no lip trills or fancy six-syllable words to confuse the brain and muddle the imagery. Instead, there is raw and honesty in metaphor with touches of honey to help you swallow. We are trekked back in time to individual moments and left alone to digest on how powerful words are on perception and identity.

Robin Coste Lewis, in The Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems, questions where ideas, stereotypes, and concepts about the black female figure begin. To do so, Lewis creates a narrative poem using only the words titling or describing Western art that feature black women. Additionally, Lewis includes autobiographical poems that both open and end the book as a way of placing her own history and identity-shaping in the midst of the world’s. Continue reading “Voyage of the Sable Venus: From Art to Identity | A Review by Vanesa Pacheco”

Dietland: When Your Female Protagonist is Fat and Stays Fat | A Review by Noël Duan

“Chick lit” is a genre of popular fiction, written by women about women, that has unfortunately been treated with condescension and disdain in traditional literary circles. Bestselling author Jennifer Weiner once told The New Yorker, “I could write the Odyssey and people would say, ‘Chick lit in Greece.’

It’s because women’s tastes are not considered to be serious.

Not surprisingly, women authors who want to be taken seriously in the literary canon tend to veer away from the plot and character tropes found in chick lit franchises—it’s not because chick lit, oftentimes nuanced social commentary on women navigating success and love in certain socioeconomic levels, is not serious. It’s because women’s tastes are not considered to be serious. Continue reading “Dietland: When Your Female Protagonist is Fat and Stays Fat | A Review by Noël Duan”