“Representation matters everywhere, not just in fiction, but also in our everyday IRL lives” // Review of “Wonder Women” by Sam Maggs

Title: Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History
Author: Sam Maggs
Genre:
non-fiction
Date Read:
28/06/2016 – 20/07/2016
Rating: ★★★☆

Review:

(Thanks to NetGalley and Quirk Books for a free copy of this book in exchange for a review).

Represenation matters. This is a huge thing. This goes for history class as much as it goes for Hollywood, and it is pretty appalling that the women featured in ths book have been completely ignored by history. So I have to thank Sam Maggs for bringing them to my attention, and I’ll definitely be going back through the book again to make notes of biographies and books written by the featured women to educate myself even more.

This book is divided into five broad chaptesr, Women of Science, Women of Medicine, Women of Espionage, Women of Innovation and Women of Adventure. Within each chapter, there are several longer biographies of five women, followed by shorter ones of several more, and at the end, an interview with a woman in each field. I had heard of very few of them, and hope this book gets a wide audience so that many more can also experience the wide range of incredible work done by these women. I really appreciated also the fact that while there probably were more Americans featured than any other nationalities, the book was not completely US-focused.

The one thing that did bother me was the writing style. In her acknowledgements, Sam Maggs thanks her editor for helping her strike the right balance between textbook and Tumblr, but for me, the writing was much closer to the Tumblr end of the spectrum than textbook. The very, very, very conversational tone was grating a lot of the time, especially given the number of authorial asides that I did not find as funny as I think the author hoped. I do wonder, however, if this is just a case of being the wrong age group for the book; I think it is probably aimed at younger girls, around the age of 15, and maybe it wouldn’t annoy the target audience quite as much.

In conclusion, I think everyone should take a look at this book, or at least take note of the names featured therein. Just be prepared to cringe a little.

Wonder Women will be available October 4th, 2016


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“Our sex need not primarily define who we are, what we are capable of.” // Review of “The Fictional Woman” by Tara Moss #aww2016

Title: The Fictional Woman
Author: Tara Moss
Audio book narrator: Tara Moss
Genre: Memoir/Non-fiction
Date Read: 20/06/2016 – 26/06/2016
Rating: ★★★

Review:

I had been thinking for a while now that I really should be including a bit more non-fiction in my reading, and when I saw Tara Moss’ memoir available through my digital lending library, it seemed like a good place to start. It was a blog post written by Moss on the gender bias in book reviewing in Australia that gave rise to the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, so even when I was getting a little bored with some of the content of this book, I felt I should push through in order to be able to review it properly.

Tara Moss was born in Canada and embarked on an international modelling career at the age of 16. At 25, she quit modelling and published the first in a successful crime series, and has since followed that up with many other novels. Her experiences as a woman have been many and varied, and she discusses both the labels she gives herself and the labels others have imposed upon her over her career. She combines this with social commentary on the ways women are represented in media, and provides stats and significant backup for her arguments.

I found that the strength of this book were Tara’s personal anecdotes. It was both horrifying and fascinating to hear of the ins and outs of the modelling world, the sexism she experienced in different places she was sent to work, and some other entertaining stories that she included along the way. I am fairly sure I could hear her voice breaking as she talked about being raped at age 20, by a friend (as is actually statistically more likely that the narrative of the stranger in a dark alley), and I felt a lump in my own throat as I listened to her talk about the two miscarriages she experienced, and how miscarriage is so much more common than anyone realises.

The data that she also uses in her book is extremely important and is material that should be common knowledge for everyone. If this book leads someone to the startling surprises regarding such issues as pay gaps and other gendered issues, then that is great. But for someone like me, with even a passing interest in feminism already, I found that a lot of it was stuff I already knew, and in the chapters that were more social commentary than memoir, I found myself getting bored, as I was treading familiar ground. There were times when Tara’s points of view and arguments did not entirely line up with my own, and I appreciated the opportunity to consider why I disagreed with what she said. However, this was fairly rare.

Having said that, I realise that change happens very slowly, and that with movements such as feminism, often things have to be repeated over and over before those in power really get it. So from that perspective, I do appreciate and applaud Tara Moss weighing in on this important subject.


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(This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016. Click here for more information).