Thursday, February 24, 2011

Living Dead Girl: Feminist Novels (also, the Bitch list)

I just finished Living Dead Girl, which was hard to read but I had to read it all in one sitting--it's short, and also I had to know what would happen. It's the Stranger Danger story--the life of the girl who's taken away; her story as she might tell it. Ick.

I put this book on hold at the library because Bitch Magazine made a list of "100 Young Adult Books For the Feminist Reader," which they describe as "100 young adult novels that every feminist should add to the stack of books on their bedside table." Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott, Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan, and Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce were on the original list, but there were complaints about them being "triggering" for rape survivors, so staff members at Bitch reread (and/or read) those three titles then removed them from the list. Several writers, including Scott Westerfeld, asked to be removed from the list themselves, since they considered that it was now an embarrassing list to be a part of, and Bitch refused to take those authors off. I don't want to say more about this because I've spent too much of my life on it already (here's the original post and the zillions of responses if you're interested--and I do think it's interesting!), but suffice to say that Bitch's removal of these books from their list made them the first I put on hold at the library. It also made me less likely to ever buy another issue of Bitch--I'll spend my money elsewhere. Whoever was taking responsibility for the list should have read all the books on it and been prepared to stand behind their choices, but instead it seems that no one even read all the titles, and there isn't any clear statement, much less consensus, on what makes these titles feminist or must-reads. As one of the gazillion posters, Walter Underwood, notes, "Bitch is not clear about what sort of list this is. Is it favorites or authoritative?" He observes that "If it is authoritative, then there are some books on there that I don't think make the cut for 'every feminist' to read." Plus they're implying that you must be literate to be a feminist, then, which is--okay, back to my review of Living Dead Girl.

This was not a pleasant book to read. But it was well-written and it was a story I hadn't really thought about: the girl who is abducted by the scary man, and the years she spends living with him. She talks about how on TV talk shows, audience members always blame the victim: "Why didn't she speak up?" "Why didn't she do something?" but the book does a great job of showing why she doesn't speak up, why she doesn't do anything, how frightened and isolated she is.

Now I'm reading Sisters Red.

Other interesting posts about the Bitch fiasco:

Margo Langan's (author of Tender Morsels) blog post

Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog

There are many more, and both these posts link to many of them.

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