Tuesday, February 1, 2011

100 Feminist Books

Ok.  Bitch Magazine/Bitch Media, a longtime favorite of mine, has just put out a list of 100 YA Books for the Feminist Reader.  And when I saw it I remembered how several months ago I had enthusiastically posted a couple comments to one of their blog posts asking for recommendations of feminist YA.  Thus, I am claiming personal responsibility for Brock Cole's amazing Celine appearing on the list.  (The cover art, and especially the awful "tag line" are unfortunate, I realize, but it's not the book's fault since it came out in 1989—a full decade before the YA renaissance we all know today—and I think that's just how it was back then.)

I was rereading it for the dozenth time in the bathtub just a couple weeks ago, and wishing all over again that I had found it when I was an actual "YA." I only found it after Cole's 1996 book The Facts Speak for Themselves became a National Book Award finalist, but I was 13 when it came out and I really think it might have changed my life.
So.  Celine is a weirdish high school artist who befriends her seven-year-old neighbor whose parents are having problems.  And the boy's father is an artist himself, and an art professor at the local college.  Celine develops a bit of a crush (but don't worry--that's not what the book's about).  She destroys her own paintings for unrelated reasons and gets super excited about new art ideas.  And she snarks about stuff, and notices weird things and people, and has to get a doctor's note so she doesn't have to swim in PE.  The plot can't really be described properly and doesn't matter anyway so I'm not even going to try.  It's the excellent writing and the complexly real characters that are the point.  The part where the little kid is telling her what his therapist said about his parents' breakup and her response and the tears and the cookies and the matter-of-factness of it all?  Oh my god, my own parents are married to this day and I have still wept indignantly every time I've read it.  And the vomiting inside the sweater?  The bathtub and the miniature tarts and the hand on the knee?  You don't even know what you're missing.  All creative and/or disaffected youth, and also general people who appreciate good books, should read it ASAP.  Seriously.

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