Bookshop's Women's Voices Campaign
Bookshop Santa Cruz has launched a year-long program called Women’s Voices in which we look to books to help us elevate the voices of women writers, further the dialogue around issues facing women today, and create a community conversation about equality in Santa Cruz.We are at an important moment in history, during this time of a worldwide focus on the reality of women’s lives and calls to action for equality. Through book selections, author events, reading challenges, children’s programming, and community-building events, Bookshop hopes to increase attention on women’s and girls’ lives and help customers discover (or rediscover) books that further the national and local conversations on these issues.Each month throughout the year, Bookshop will highlight a book, either fiction or nonfiction, written by a female author that we invite everyone in Santa Cruz to read. Our goal in making these Women’s Voices selections is to get people talking about women’s lives today. (See our current selections below.) Further details available here.
MAY SELECTION: Women & Motherhood
by Terry Tempest Williams
In this seminal book, Williams interweaves the story of her mother’s unsuccessful battle with cancer with a record-shattering rise of the Great Salt Lake and its destructive effect on a nearby bird refuge. Refuge is a beautiful, insightful, and hopeful book about the enduring links between mothers and children, change in those relationships, and their reflection in the natural world.
JUNE SELECTION: Queer Voices
by Janet Mock
NOW IN PAPERBACK
Best-selling author and transgender rights activist Janet Mock writes about culture with an emphasis on gender, race, and representation. In Surpassing Certainty, she reflects on her years as a young woman searching for purpose and place in the world without a roadmap to guide her forward.
There are endless subjects that could be the focus of our Women’s Voices campaign. Here are some areas in which Bookshop staff members feel that books are an avenue to understanding issues facing women today:
by Clara Hartman
When I think about empowering women’s voices, I am drawn to the world of girlhood. We learn how to be a woman and how to be ourselves amidst conflicting expectations, new roles, and our own personal journeys into power, passion, agency, identity, and sexuality. When I was a kid, books broadened my horizons. Louisa May Alcott and Cornelia Funke inspired home theatricals and tight friendships. Tamora Pierce and Ursula Le Guin were behind elaborate quests and play battlefields. I had Madeline L’Engle and Zilpha Keatley Snyder to thank for their unrelenting, highly specific questions about history and science. Lois Lowry and Sharon Creech made me think more deeply about what I believed and what I would do with my convictions. Their stories of adolescence gave weight to my presence as a girl and to the lives of the girls around me. In Bookshop and in schools I see the way that new books like The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and We Are Okay by Nina LaCour are exciting and empowering the voices of girls in our community.
Being a girl in 2018 is its own animal. On the nonfiction side, Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein and Enough As She Is by Rachel Simmons do a fantastic job exploring the pressures facing girls today. Orenstein interviews girls about their body image and sexuality, while Simmons loks at the overwhelming expectations for girls to do and be all. In order to understand any experience of womanhood we have to understand what shaped us and I’m grateful that authors are telling those stories.
by Karena Fagan
It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I really understood the importance of female friendship. I had been raised in this culture that tells us friendships with other women have less value, that women are “catty” to one another or “shallow.” I have since learned the folly of this, and books have helped me in this.
Roxane Gay has an essay in Bad Feminist about friendships with other women that really resonated with me. She gives 13 bullet points (more, counting the sub-bullets) on how to be a better friend, including her 5th bullet: Always want nothing but the best for your friends. It will make you happier as well.
In Text Me When You Get Home, Kayleen Schaefer argues that platonic friendships aren’t lesser than romantic relationships, as we’ve always been told. Oftentimes they can be greater. We need girlfriends to balance us out.
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan is a great example of constant evolution. Four women newly immigrated to the United States come together to play mahjong, only to end up sharing decades worth of raising children, loss, and hope.
Another example would be the Neapolitan quartet by Elena Ferrante. In her first book, My Brilliant Friend, she introduces us to two friends who come together and drift apart throughout their lives. The writing is complex and real with emotions we actually experience.
Our friendships aren’t perfect. How can they be, when we ourselves aren’t perfect? However, they are far from the mythological fragile and fraught portrayals we are given to believe they are. Our friendships with other women make us better.
WOMEN & COOKING
by Stefanie Berntson
Women in the kitchen—from home cooks to professional chefs —have been underappreciated for their roles in building community and undervalued for their contributions to cuisine. Books not only give us insight into the lives of these women and the food they cook, but make their accomplishments known to a broader audience.
One such book is The Jemima Code by Toni Tipton-Martin, which chronicles the huge contributions of women of African descent to America’s food culture. Tipton-Martin set out to “reclaim the reputation of black cooks” and spent years collecting cookbooks by African American authors. One hundred fifty of those books—from Mammy’s Cook Book to Cookin’ with Queen Ida—are profiled in The Jemima Code. It is incredibly inspiring to read about women who created nuanced, sophisticated food, often from very meager means—and about activist cooks, including those who made nourishing meals for marchers and community leaders during the civil rights movement.
One of the books included in The Jemima Code is The Taste of Country Cooking by Edna Lewis. (Probably my favorite cookbook of all time.) Tipton-Martin celebrates both the achievements of Miss Lewis as an executive chef and restauranteur, as well as the reason Miss Lewis, who grew up on a farm in Virginia, wrote her books: so that future generations might “learn firsthand from those who worked hard, loved the land, and relished the fruits of their labor.”
Numerous women have published memoirs in the past decade that give readers an inside look at what it’s like to be female in the food industry—and the sexism, misogyny, and harassment that often are part of their experiences. From Gabrielle Hamilton’s best-selling Blood, Bones and Butter to Boston restauranteur Barbara Lynch’s Out of Line to Jen Agg’s I Hear She’s a Real Bitch, women are calling out the “bro” culture of the restaurant business and showing just how hard they’ve had to fight to get where they are.
For a straight-up celebration of women in food today, look no further than Cherry Bombe: The Cookbook. The editors of the hit indie magazine asked the women profiled in their pages—including the Bay Area’s Elisabeth Prueitt, Heidi Swanson, and Tanya Holland—for their most meaningful recipes and gathered them in this cookbook. Cherry Bombe is more than a collection of delicious recipes; it is a dynamic look at women making their mark in the culinary world.
Whether feeding families, building communities, passing down personal histories, or becoming executive chefs, women’s contributions to American cuisine are bountiful and are celebrated in books.
PREVIOUS WOMEN’S VOICES SELECTIONS
by Morgan Jerkins
Jerkins’ collection of linked essays interweaves her incisive commentary on pop culture, feminism, black history, misogyny, and racism with her own experiences to confront the very real challenges of being a black woman today.
by Nina Willner
Willner’s book makes visceral the pain and longing of one family forced to live apart in a world divided by two. “In this increasingly tumultuous modern era when borders, both theoretical and physical, have once again become the front lines of critical issues such as immigration reform, pervasive prejudice and terrorism, stories like Willner’s are especially important.” — BookReporter
by Meg Wolitzer
“An intricately woven and deeply layered story that follows women who connect, yearn, chase their ambitions, navigate structures of existing power while claiming their own, and who write their own stories—stories that ignite their imaginations and, sometimes, look vastly different from what they first planned.” —Southern Living
This article was featured in our 2018 Summer Newsletter.