If I had one regret from this year's San Antonio Book Festival, it is that I missed out on attending the panel discussion titled The Future Is Female: Feminism for the Real World with Kelly Jensen, Jessica Luther, and Siobhan Vivian. The thing is, I was volunteering at the time of the panel. But I was able to buy the book, Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World, and have all three women sign it. The book includes 41 other voices as they write and draw about what it means to be a feminist today.
Genre, Themes, History: This book is a collection of essays, letters, comics, web posts, and drawings, all about feminism and what it means to be a feminist. Most of the entries were written specifically for this anthology, while a few were taken from other publications and online entries. At the beginning of each chapter or section, there is a brief introduction to the subject. Sprinkled throughout the entire book are short but informative FAQs about feminism, and nothing is left out. Nothing is left untouched. The chapters are broken out into subjects like getting started on your own feminist journey; the body and mind; gender, sex, and sexuality; culture and pop culture; relationships; confidence and ambition; and finally, finding your own feminism that works for you. Ultimately, you may not be the type who will hop onto a podium and given an impassioned speech at a rally (Lord knows I'm not). But you may be someone who is good at listening; good at expressing themselves through writing or singing or drawing; good at seeing someone who is hurting and simply offering them your presence. All of these are helpful. All of these are necessary. Feminism does not belong to any one type of person or any one group of people. If you're willing to fight for change, you can join the movement.
My Verdict: Although this book is geared towards the young adult crowd, it would be good for pretty much any adult to read it too. Though I suppose that isn't too terribly surprising; in my opinion it would be good for adults to read most of the young adult novels I come across. Here We Are is a great anthology offering a wide range of voices from different cultures and backgrounds, all speaking on the issue of feminism. Courtney Summers, a YA author whose books I have featured on this blog, wrote a fantastic essay about the likability rule that is unfairly applied to female characters in literature, especially when that character is hurting or attempting to speak out about an injustice. Actress Amandla Stenberg makes a couple of contributions, but my personal favorite is an Instagram post of hers titled "Do Female Black Lives Matter Too?" Muslim blogger and YA author Kaye Mirza wrote about how faith and feminism can go together and are not at all mutually exclusive. YA author Brandy Colbert wrote about something I could certainly relate to: growing up without a sister, while also not having many female childhood friends who were also black. And of course, there is the excerpt from Mindy Kaling's Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, which basically confirms the fact that all of the accomplishments you may have had in high school are immediately forgotten about and lose all relevance upon graduation. There is a lot of material here and a lot to take in. Wherever you are in your feminist journey and wherever you stand, there is something that can be gained from this collection.
Favorite Essay: A Thousand Paper Cuts by Shveta Thakrar.
Favorite Quotes: "Get sliced open enough, bleed enough, and you start to hold back. You ball yourself up tight, so there's less of you showing." - Shveta Thakrar
"When talk of reproductive justice by white feminists focuses on abortion access and ignores the way the right to reproduce has throughout history been taken from communities of color, from disabled women, or from anyone who doesn't fit a narrow mold, it's not just ignorance at play. It's the very real problem of being immersed in a culture that positions motherhood as something only certain women should be able to access and protect." - Mikki Kendall
"While white women are praised for altering their bodies, plumping their lips, and tanning their skin, black women are shamed although the same features exist on them naturally." - Amandla Stenberg
Recommended Reading: All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister was my favorite nonfiction book of 2016, and the author was also a guest at last year's San Antonio Book Festival.