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A #MeToo Reading List

Swirling headlines, new revelations, another story breaking.... You know what the #MeToo movement needs right now? It needs books. Books to make us think deeper, ask questions, make connections, and figure out not only what's happening now, but also what needs to happen next.

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Ascent of Women, by Sally Armstrong

Why we're taking notice: From our 2013 Q&A with Armstrong, "Look at the story of Malala, look at the one about the young woman who was gang raped to death in India, the one about Sahar Gul in Afghanistan. The stories about these girls make the front page. The world doesn't let go. We used to look the other way. Not anymore. These girls have become our daughters. Their case is our case. The issues affecting women and girls today are all over the news—on the front page. Yes—we're winning. Big time." 

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Putting Trials on Trial, by Elaine Craig 

Why we're taking notice: "In pursuit of trial practices that are less harmful to sexual assault complainants as well as survivors of sexual violence more broadly, Putting Trials on Trial makes serious, substantiated, and necessary claims about the ethical and cultural failures of the Canadian legal profession." 

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One Hour in Paris, by Karyn L. Freedman

Why we're taking notice: The world, Freedman tells us with two decades of perspective in addition to the experience of her own violent rape, is a dangerous place for women, as statistics demonstrate in places as close as our own neighbourhoods and as far away as the war-wracked Congo. But nobody talks about these experiences, suggesting that such incidents are rare, suggesting to those lucky enough to not know better that sexual violence is a crime of circumstance, that it’s something most of us should be able to sidestep. It’s why newspaper columnists suggest that if a young woman refrains from drinking to excess, she might not get raped, and if she is raped, she should have known better. Thereby perpetuating victim’s sense of her own complicity in the crime against her, ensuring her silence, and so the cycle continues.

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Author Rachel Giese

Boys: What It Means to Be a Man, by Rachel Giese (Forthcoming: Out in May) 

Why we're taking notice: It's not only girls who pay a price for living in a culture of toxic masculinity. In her book, Giese unpacks "the man box," the narrow confines of masculinity in which boys are permitted to express their true selves, and shows that expanding these limits is good for everybody. She demonstrates numerous examples in schools, recreational programs, and sports organizations where this is actually happening, and leaves her reader ultimately hopeful for the men today's boys are going to grow to be.  

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The Red Word, by Sarah Henstra (Forthcoming: Out in March)

Why we're taking notice: "Gossip was one thing. Gossip was a bunch of us feeling unhappy about the way we were treated and feeling temporarily better when we complained about it to one another, and then feeling worse, probably, afterward. But this was the opposite of gossip. It was declaration, accusation. It was visible and solid. It wasn't about feeling better or worse; it leapt out ahead of our individual feelings into collective action. Right here on this ordinary weekday morning in this ordinary homely room, Dyann was giving us permission for something we'd never even considered an option." 

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One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter, by Scaachi Koul

Why we're taking notice: Koul's bestselling first book is worth reading for a million reasons (among them, the scene where she gets stuck in a dress in a change room), but it belongs on this list for her essays about racism, rape culture, the date rape drug, and being the target of misogynist online harassment. 

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Policing Black Lives, by Robyn Maynard

Why we're taking notice: El Jones (Halifax Poet Laureate, 2013-2015) references Maynard's book in her essay, "How Many Times More Likely?", where she writes, "particularly in the era of Me Too, where Black women are still struggling to have the ways gendered violence disproportionately affects Black women recognized, and yet are continually silenced and marginalized, not prioritizing sexual assault, domestic violence and other forms of gender discrimination as urgent issues is a mistake." 

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F-Bomb: Dispatches from the War on Feminism, by Lauren McKeon

Why we're taking notice: Has the pendulum swung too far, people keep asking about #MeToo? To learn more about this preoccupation with pendulum swings and with feminist backlash, read McKeon's exploration of the not-remotely-new movement of Anti-Feminism, in which women and men alike proclaim that women's empowerment violates a natural order to the detriment of society as a whole. The good news? Feminism keeps winning. 

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The Invisibility Exhibit, by Sachiko Murakami

Why we're taking notice: From Erin Wunker's "Reading to Smash the Patriarchy": "This book of poetry asks the reader to look for what is not there. Or, more accurately, it asks the reader to look for who isn’t there. Set in Vancouver and mainly in the Downtown Eastside, The Invisibility Exhibit asks: whose lives count? Whose bodies are grievable? Whose lives are worth saving? The poems are unflinching in their gaze, yet they rarely name the objects of their looking. “Missing Women” is a phrase that is never written in the collection, yet the absences of the hundreds of women, many of whom were Indigenous, who have gone missing, been murdered, or disappeared from the Downtown Eastside people these poems. Each poem enacts memorial and testament. Each poem burns with rage for those we’ve lost and the myriad ways we have failed them. Each poem demands that we do better."

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Shrewed, by Elizabeth Renzetti (Forthcoming: Out in March)

Why we're taking notice: Globe and Mail columnist Renzetti's wit and fierce intelligence are on display in full force in this essay collection, in which Renzetti takes stock of what she's learned after a few decades writing about feminism and women's issues. She writes about the myth of fearlessness, the allure of having it all, sexual assault and harassment, why we shouldn't stop until there are too many women in politics, about motherhood and daughterhood, and reporting on the Trump campaign trail. This is a book that will make you laugh, then move you to tears, and you're going to want to give a copy to every woman you know. 

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Pluck, by Laisha Rosnau

Why we're taking notice: In the days since public allegations of sexual assault started occurring on a regular basis, I've been thinking of Rosnau's poem, "Music Class," about the shocking ordinary-ness of sexual assault and the trauma so many women carry through ordinary days for the rest of their lives.

From the poem: "I kicked open the door/ instead of biting down though, if I had, perhaps/ our children wouldn't go to music class/ together, It was too far to walk home/so I told him that if he gave me  ride/ I would make up a life/ in which I wouldn't mention him./ I don't say anything to his wife while/ our children go to music class./ Instead, this becomes a refrain/ that I write about, over and over, a way/ I make up a life."

(Roseau's new book, Our Familiar Hunger, comes out in April.) 

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The Slip, by Mark Sampson

Why we're taking notice: Sampson's book is a comic novel about an absent-minded public intellectual who says something abhorrent about his female colleague in a television broadcast, and becomes the centre of a social media outrage hurricane, pitted between the outraged feminists and the right-wing pundits, and nobody comes out of the story looking very good. Outrage culture can be ridiculous and awful, as Sampson demonstrates in The Slip, to great comic effect. But Sampson also shows his character realizing his misstep, taking responsibility for his behaviour, and trying to make the situation right again, instead of just being wildly defensive. And this is a part of the narrative that happens all too rarely in the real world.  

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Witness, I Am, by Gregory Scofield 

Why we're taking notice: From Scofield's conversation with Trevor Corkum, "The act of witnessing, for me, is a sacred act. It involves the ceremony of our eyes and ears, the ceremony of connecting to what is in front of you. This act of witnessing can be both painful and magical, but I believe it’s through this ceremony we are led to new understandings within ourselves. We learn to move our minds and bones differently.

The act of bearing witness, as I mentioned, is highly important because it enables us to connect with the things we find incomprehensible and fearful, yet it enables us to connect with the things we find comforting and familiar."

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The Best Kind of People, by Zoe Whittall

Why we're taking notice: I'm still haunted by the last line of Whittall's wildly successful novel, its perfect cadence, the tragic inevitability. I would love to think that the conversations around #MeToo that are happening right now could make a different kind of ending possible. 

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Notes from a Feminist Killjoy, by Erin Wunker

Why we're taking notice: When #MeToo started happening in October, it made me think about Wunker's chapter on rape culture: "Rape culture normalizes sexual violence. That normalization is what taught me—so early—simultaneously to fear rape and not to make a big deal about that fear, because the forces that catalyze my fear are 'natural.'"

Later in the chapter Wunker asks the question, "Who gets to be angry?" 

February 1, 2018

Books mentioned in this post

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Ascent of Women

A New Age Is Dawning for Every Mother's Daughter

by Sally Armstrong
edition: Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged: women, human rights, women's studies

This book is about the final frontier for women: having control over your own body, whether in zones of conflict, in rural villages, on university campuses or in your own kitchen. Recent studies by economists such as Jeffrey Sachs and social scientists such as Isobel Coleman claim that women who gain such control--who are not oppressed--are the ke …

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Putting Trials on Trial

Sexual Assault and the Failure of the Legal Profession

by Elaine Craig
edition: eBook
also available: Hardcover Paperback
tagged:

Over the past few years, public attention focused on the Jian Ghomeshi trial, the failings of Judge Greg Lenehan in the Halifax taxi driver case, and the judicial disciplinary proceedings against former Justice Robin Camp have placed the sexual assault trial process under significant scrutiny. Less than one percent of the sexual assaults that occur …

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One Hour in Paris

A True Story of Rape and Recovery

by Karyn L. Freedman
edition: eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged: personal memoirs, women's studies, sexual abuse & harassment

In this powerful memoir, philosopher Karyn L. Freedman travels back to a Paris night in 1990 when she was twenty-two and, in one violent hour, her life was changed forever by a brutal rape. One Hour in Paris takes the reader on a harrowing yet inspirational journey through suffering and recovery both personal and global. We follow Freedman from an …

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Boys

What It Means to Become a Man

by Rachel Giese
edition: Hardcover
also available: eBook Paperback
tagged: gender studies, children's studies

The successes of feminism have led to greater opportunities for girls, by challenging stifling stereotypes about femininity and broadening the understanding of what it means to be female. While boys have travelled alongside this transformation, narrow definitions of masculinity and manliness haven’t faced the same degree of scrutiny. Whether they …

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The Red Word

A Novel

by Sarah Henstra
edition: Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged: literary, psychological, contemporary women

 

Winner of the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction

The battle of the sexes goes to college in this nervy debut adult novel by a powerful new voice

A smart, dark, and take-no-prisoners look at rape culture and the extremes to which ideology can go The Red Word is a campus novel like no other. As her sophomore year begins, Karen enters i …

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Policing Black Lives

State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present

by Robyn Maynard
edition: Paperback
also available: eBook Audiobook
tagged: discrimination & race relations, women's studies, criminology

 

Delving behind Canada’s veneer of multiculturalism and tolerance, Policing Black Lives traces the violent realities of anti-blackness from the slave ships to prisons, classrooms and beyond. Robyn Maynard provides readers with the first comprehensive account of nearly four hundred years of state-sanctioned surveillance, criminalization and punish …

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F-Bomb

Dispatches from the War on Feminism

by Lauren McKeon
edition: Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged: feminism & feminist theory, women's studies, gender studies, popular culture

Shortlisted, 2018 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize

From pop icons to working mothers, women are abandoning feminism in unprecedented numbers. Even scarier, they are also leading the charge to send it to its grave. Across North America, women head anti-feminist PR campaigns; they support anti-feminist politicians; they're behind lawsuits to silence the vic …

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The Invisibility Exhibit

by Sachiko Murakami
edition: Paperback
tagged: canadian

These poems were written in the political and emotional wake of the “Missing Women” of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Although women had been going missing from the neighbourhood since the late 1970s, police efforts were not coordinated into a full-scale investigation until the issue was given widespread public visibility by Lori Culbert, Lin …

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Pluck

by Laisha Rosnau
edition: Paperback
tagged: canadian

Pluck is a series of poems taking on issues of sexuality, female vulnerability and parenthood with delicacy and intent. In turn, Rosnau employs words that give way to feelings of both solid surety and waning doubts. From the harsh realities of sexual assault to the routine heaviness of child-rearing, Pluck's sharp portrayals evoke how "beyond the s …

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The Slip

by Mark Sampson
edition: Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged: humorous, literary

In this wickedly funny novel, one bad afternoon and two regrettable comments make the inimitable Philip Sharpe go viral for all the worst reasons.

Dr. Philip Sharpe, absent-minded professor extraordinaire, teaches philosophy at the University of Toronto and is one of Canada’s most combative public intellectuals. But when a live TV debate with his …

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Witness, I Am

by Gregory Scofield
edition: Paperback
tagged: canadian, native american

Witness, I Am is divided into three gripping sections of new poetry from one of Canada's most recognized poets. The first part of the book, "Dangerous Sound," contains contemporary themed poems about identity and belonging, undone and rendered into modern sound poetry. "Muskrat Woman," the middle part of the book, is a breathtaking epic poem that c …

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The Best Kind of People

by Zoe Whittall
edition: Paperback
also available: eBook
tagged: literary, family life

A finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and a national bestseller, Zoe Whittall’s The Best Kind of People is a stunning tour de force about the unravelling of an all-American family.

George Woodbury, an affable teacher and beloved husband and father, is arrested for sexual impropriety at a prestigious prep school. His wife, Joan, vaults betwee …

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Notes From a Feminist Killjoy

Essays on Everyday Life

by Erin Wunker
edition: Paperback
also available: Hardcover eBook Audiobook
tagged: women, feminism & feminist theory

Winner of the Atlantic Book Awards 2017 Margaret and John Savage First Book Award
Winner of the East Coast Literary Awards 2017 Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award
Finalist for the 2017 Atlantic Book Award for Scholarly Writing

Erin Wunker is a feminist killjoy, and she thinks you should be one, too.
Following in the tradition of Sara Ahmed (the or …

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