Tag Archives: books

Excerpt from Pigs Are People, Too (and a Tribute to A Superhero Mama Writer)

Last week, Jen wrote about her first moves towards prioritizing writing in the middle of the frenetic life of a mother of young children and part-time teacher. She introduced our mutual friend, Shell, as an inspiration and a fellow mama-ex-academic-writer-kick-ass-person working very hard to get her own writing project off the ground.

Shell is raising money through IndieGoGo to finish and self-publish a memoir and manifesta for fat women. Shell writes, “Fat women are everywhere. And we are hungry for honest stories about what it’s like to be fat, for the truth about the conflicted feelings we have for our bodies, for funny empowering tales about body-image, and for the all-too-rare point of view that fat phobia—not just obesity–is an epidemic worth fighting… We need some experiences out there that share the truth of living fat, not the sob story of how we got there, or the success story of how we got out, but what we experienced from those around us while we were/are in it; the reality of living as a fat woman in America.”

Jen and I think this is a project worth funding. Let me tell you some things about Shell:

  • She works in a full-time administration position and also teaches nights.
  • She’s been a single mother, teen mother, welfare mother, working mother — and she is an amazing, feminist parent raising incredible young people.
  • She finished a PhD and, while not a grad school quitta, is a total quitta empathizer.
  • She taught in the same program for at-risk college students as me, and she worked miracles with young people who everyone believes can’t make it in college. No kid could resist Shell’s honesty and hilarity. I’ll never forget her story about teaching an article about homophobia in sports to a room full of football players. AWESOME. She is HARDCORE.
  • She was my doula! She pressed on my lower back while I labored with Holly, and fed me spaghetti after the birth. Check it out.

Shell & I with Holly, who is minutes old.

Basically, Shell is an extraordinary person who deserves the satisfaction of publication! She’s raising 2k to upgrade her computer and pay for some dang summer camp so she can have some time (remember, she works two jobs) to write. Please consider supporting her campaign. Read an excerpt from a work-in-progress chapter about being fat and vegan (gasp! at the same time!). Continue reading

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Google Diaries: We know you quit grad school.

When Lauren and I initially created Mama Nervosa, we imagined a space where we could write about the whole, weird range of experiences that make up our lives and identities: watching tv, mothering, unsuccessful crafting, writing, teaching, and figuring out who we are and what we do beyond grad school.

It turns out that this question of figuring out life beyond grad school resonates with a large number of people, many of whom find us by searching some variation of the phrase “I quit grad school now what” on google. I quit grad school. I want to quit grad school. Should I quit grad school? I want my husband to quit grad school. How do I tell my wife I quit grad school? My personal favorite: quit grad school no job 2012. It’s a tiny diary entry, a moment of grief and hope and desperation poured out into the google search box.

We’ve both written about leaving grad school, but while Lauren is saying her goodbyes this week, I said mine a long time ago. Eight years ago, in fact, a number which completely shocked me when I did the math this morning. So what have I done since I sent that fateful email? Continue reading

“Then M. in his plane was just on his way:” RIP Maurice Sendak

Like every Sendak story, “Where the Wild Things Are” explores his preoccupations, chief among which are the vicissitudes of his own childhood, and the temerity and fragility of children in general. His narrative is almost always about a child in danger whose best defense is imagination.

Read more

I love reading Maurice Sendak books with my girls. The transgression, the danger, the nudity. Continue reading

Off balance

Since giving birth to Dorothy 5 years ago, I have done every possible combination of staying at home and working. I worked full time for the first year of her life, lost my job unexpectedly and stayed home for the next 7 months, then went back to work part time as an adjunct prof, teaching 2 or 3 classes during fall and winter semesters and staying at home during the summers. I had 6 weeks of paid maternity leave after D was born, I was unemployed when Lucy was born, and we planned Margeaux’s birth for summer so that I wouldn’t have to take fall or winter semester off. I have had very little structural support in the way of maternity leave or formal child care; we rely on friends, family, and a couple trusted baby sitters to care for the girls when T and I are working.

I don’t think I’m giving away any secrets when I say that adjunct teaching doesn’t pay particularly well. I value the opportunity to teach regardless of the pay because I love to be in the classroom, writing on the board, talking about books and ideas that transformed me; because I love the moment when a student realizes something about herself and her place in the world for the first time; because teaching gives me a reason to keep reading new books and a community to talk about those books with; because my colleagues are smart and funny and thoughtful and kind; because my students are often all those things too.

In addition to trying to work my way through what seems to be an endless number of essays and reading prep self-evaluation worksheets this week, T and I are also trying to figure out what our fall schedule will look like. This schedule involves full day kindergarten 5 days a week, half day preschool 4 days a week, me working 3-4 days per week, T working 5-6 days per week (but his schedule and days off vary each week because he’s in retail), ballet on Fridays, and Margeaux, who snuggles and plays full time.

The practical choice right now would be for me to stay home, or to only teach night classes so I could cut my on campus hours to the bare minimum and do all the driving to school and ballet. I could possibly SAHM full time, or easily SAHM by day, adjunct by night: keep up with the laundry and dishes, sign the permission slips, cook healthy meals, have a few hours with Margeaux each day while the girls are at school. We would certainly save money in gas and food. The household would run more smoothly. I would have more time with the girls. We would eat better. I could use our moms and babysitters to cover a few hours here and there while I went to the Valentines party or the pumpkin farm or got my hair cut.

Financially, there is very little to gain from teaching days instead of evenings; to any outsider, SAHM by day, adjunct by night probably looks ideal. So why did I sign on for a full schedule for fall, teaching 3 classes? Why bring on the childcare stress, the driving, the frustrated students who email me and don’t understand why I don’t respond immediately when I am at home on my off days, making macaroni and cheese and folding mountains of leggings and Hello, Kitty underpants? Why cobble together a childcare patchwork of grandmothers and babysitters on a week by week basis that will leave me stressed and exhausted as I struggle to keep up with driving and Halloween parties and prepping and grading and maintaining an on campus presence so my colleagues know who I am if the interview for that elusive full time position ever comes around?

One reason is that I am afraid if I opt out of the standard academic work day, if I no longer see my colleagues on a regular basis, I will cease to be thought of as a viable candidate for a full time job, should that job ever exist.  Out of sight, out of mind. The quality of my teaching wouldn’t change, but if a 3 page essay jams in the copy machine and no one is there to replace the toner…. Or something.

I share an office with approximately 8 other part time faculty, which means that outside of my allotted 3 hours per week, I work in a lounge. And while this set up isn’t ideal, I have grown to appreciate certain aspects of the arrangement: I am in the middle of the hall. Want to go to the bathroom? You walk past me. Want to make a photocopy? You walk past me.  My presence in the lounge is a clear and obvious reminder that I work here and I want to continue to do so.

But beyond the desire to maintain a physical presence, I value the interaction I have with my colleagues. One of the hardest things for me about being a SAHM is the isolation, the long hours, the endless housework.  I find myself crawling under the table and picking up the Polly Pocket boots for the 200th time and wishing a trap door would open that would drop me into an alternate universe with money trees and robot housekeepers and an awesome playgroup full of moms who are sassy and spunky and feminist and okay with drinking wine roundabout 4 pm. Coming to work means the opportunity to talk to people I like and respect. I value this community. I like having the opportunity to talk through a new ad I’m thinking about analyzing in class, or find out what new book someone is using in the Life Journey class, or share how I used that theatre of the oppressed power game. Coming to work in the evening, arriving to a mostly empty building, might pay the same amount of dollars. But the entire experience would change for me in a way that I find hard to accept.

Even though it would simplify the laundry and the driving and the cooking. Even though it might mean more time with the girls.

Here’s the thing: I am good at my job, and I find it fulfilling and challenging, and I don’t want to give it up, or do it on lesser terms, even if doing so would simplify my kids’ routines and commutes.  Is that selfish?

But also: I am a good mom, and I find it fulfilling and challenging. So why am I so certain that being a SAHM is the wrong choice for me, when practically it’s so obviously the right choice?

And for the record: although I don’t find it fulfilling, T and I have learned to manage the housework with enough success that we don’t usually run out of clean underwear or spoons or milk.

So shouldn’t all that add up to something pretty close to domestic bliss, the perfect balance? Work 3 days a week, home 4 days, clean spoons and chocolate milk for everyone? Why is it such a struggle? Is it the identity push pull, the sense that I really should choose one or the other and immerse myself? Is it fear that I must be selling someone short—my kids, my students, my professional identity? If the goal is work/life balance, I have that. I don’t have Friedan’s problem with no name; I have some weird new hybrid problem. It probably has 3 names, or a hyphenated name, or it goes by some nickname unrelated to its given name. Whatever you want to call it, today I feel like it’s got me beat.

Field of Dreams: A Tulsa (and Iowa) Memoir Part 2

This is part 2 of a series of posts about moving around as a kid and spending a lot of time living in Oklahoma. Check out part 1 here.

Of my immediate family, only my sister still lives in Oklahoma: my parents finally made their escape just two years after I moved away, and now live in Kansas City. Whenever I think about how much I love living in Iowa, I recall a passage from the novel Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella. Shoeless Joe inspired the film Field of Dreams, and was written by a grad student at the University of Iowa, where I’ve been teaching and attending for eight years.

“It was near noon on a gentle Sunday when I walked out to that garden. The soil was soft and my shoes disappeared as I plodded until I was near the center. There I knelt, the soil cool on my knees. I looked up at the low gray sky; the rain had stopped and the only sound was the surrounding trees dripping fragrantly. Suddenly I plunged my hands wrist-deep in the snuffy-black earth. The air was pure. All around me the clean smell of earth and water. Keeping my hands buried I stirred the earth with my fingers and I knew I loved Iowa as much as a man could love a piece of earth.”

I bought Shoeless Joe in early 1994: I know this because the dated sticker from the used bookstore is still on the cover, a 1982, pre-Field of Dreams mass-market paperback edition. I bought it because I’d loved the movie and considered myself a Midwestern ex-pat. I wanted to connect to the place I considered my true home and my ultimate destiny. I was fourteen years old and I’d been living in Tulsa for two years. I read that passage and thought, I want to go to there.

I’d moved all over the Midwest as a young child – hopping from Missouri to Illinois and then Indiana. We moved for my father’s work in the soft drink industry (yes, we really called it that in our house). Crush, R.C. Cola, A&W: the complicated gerrymandering of your regional territories forced us in and out of quite a few states before Dad left the world of soda altogether. Certainly, there are cultural, geographical, and meteorological differences among Kansas City, Peoria, and South Bend, but they all share a soft topography and a genial, white Midwestern mildness that made them feel more similar than different. They (we?) are friendly by default, but not excessively warm; and because we (they?) abhor conflict, no one will inquire about your religion, politics, or those funny plants you’re cultivating in the backyard, as long as you return the favor.

Don’t get me wrong: Midwesterners are as opinionated, judgmental, and full of shit as anyone else in America, but this was the stew I’d grown up in and I was too young to have that kind of meta-awareness. I was a Cubs fan; I knew what snow smelled like; my houses had basements; and we drove through miles of cornfield ribbons to get to Grandma’s house. I love the look and feel of old Midwestern homes: the pastel interior paints, peeling linoleum kitchen floors; arched doorways, white clapboard siding, creaking stairs with plastic tread protectors. The powdery smell of old bathrooms; the rotten stink of well water; hooked rugs. When we bought our house in rural Iowa last year, we bought exactly the kind of home I always fantasized about: a 1937 cape cod with light, wood floors, gauzy curtains, and a telephone cubby.

Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.

My Mom’s family is Irish Catholic. She has nine brothers and sisters and they were raised in a town near Chicago. Grown up, they scattered across the Midwest, concentrated in central and western Illinois, the suburbs of Chicago, and Wisconsin. A few of the sisters – my Mom included – left the Midwest altogether. There’s just something about this family: full of charisma, music, great hair, and extreme volume, every holiday with them was an event of a lifetime. As a child, I felt like a bit of an ugly duckling, wondering how my brainy brownness fit in with these fair-haired wild wondrous people. I sat in the middle of the living room, surrounded by the noise of forty people trying to talk over one another, and was all ears. I used to write and rewrite the list of names, anniversaries, and birthdates of everyone in the family: Linda Jo, Kathleen Ann, December 1, May 10, etc etc.

  • Fact: their last name is a synonym for “angelic.”
  • Fact: as in a sitcom, each member of the family is fabulously attractive and talented.
  • Fact: this family has been known to spontaneously burst into song and dance.

After four years in Missouri (from about age 4 until 8), we spent three years living closer to family (in Peoria and then South Bend IN), and I finally got to see my many cousins more than once a year. We went to christenings, 4th of July parties, random weekend visits, and every major holiday. I couldn’t get enough of being in the mix, eavesdropping on my aunt’s conversations, wondering at my cousins, who were a thousand times more cool and plugged in to culture than I was (they introduced me to NKOTB and the entire concept of “making out”). After we moved to Tulsa when I was 12, our attendance of family gatherings dropped to once a year, maybe twice. Tulsa is in the middle of the country but it’s so much further south: it really feels a million miles from everywhere.

I felt cut off from the universe: missing Thanksgiving felt like missing the party of the year. If I wasn’t there, I was going to be forgotten, and somehow being in this family felt like my one chance at being cool. And being in that family meant being in the Midwest. Thus as a pre-teen, my whole sense of personal possibility was set in a cornfield.

(More to come…)

Feminist Analyses of Hunger Games ROUND-UP!

Since Jen and I chatted (at ecstatic length) about Hunger Games as a feminist novel, many more bloggers and feminists have written up their thoughts on the series, characters, and film as well. Here are some of the latest ruminations.

Feminist Frequency analyzes Hunger Games, both the novel and its film adaptation. If you are unfamiliar with Feminist Frequency, Anita Sarkeesian recently gained well-deserved acclaim for her outstanding video commentaries on the Legos Friends controversy. Her videos are cogent and informative and she has an impressive array of hoodies! The fangirl in me doesn’t want to read anything that doesn’t adore these books with the strength of a thousand suns, but the feminist/teacher/thinker in me knows that they aren’t perfect. Of all the feminist critiques of the Hunger Games trilogy, I think FF does the best job celebrating the series’ many successes and critiquing its many weaknesses. There are more videos to come, so sub to her site already!

Clarissa’s Blog asks “Is Hunger Games a Feminist Novel?” She answers with a resounding NO. I disagree with nearly every point she makes, but it’s an interesting read nonetheless. She criticizes Katniss for clumsily performing the patriarchal roles of mother and prostitute. It might get your blood boiling but it’s worth considering these perspectives (and arguing against them, in your brain, all day long). There’s also some discussion of other YA dystopian series that Jen and I mentioned in our chat, namely the overhyped, overpraised, wannabe-HG Divergent trilogy. (But I don’t have an opinion on that!)

Katha Pollitt makes no bones about how much she loves Katniss’s “feral feminism” over at The Nation. And she hates on Bella Swan, as we all love to do.

Fangs for the Fantasy  indulges in some Bella Swan mockery in a matchup between Bella and Katniss. They also have reviews of the novels. Perhaps best of all, Thought Catalog imagines a girls’ night out with Katniss, Buffy, Hermione, and Bella:

Katniss: What’s the deal with you people and dating vampires? You guys should try humans sometime.

Hermione: Preach.

Buffy: There’s nothing wrong with vampires. Minus their emotional unavailability, lack of reflection, and penchant for really rough sex.

Bella: The rough sex is great, although it’s super awkward that we have to keep buying new pillows every time.

Katniss: This conversation is getting weird. Can I have some of those Doritos?

Speaking of Hermione, I’ve been dying to do this:

Finally, at The Rumpus, Roxanne Gay’s beautiful essay “What We Hunger For” cuts right to the tender center of my Team Peeta soul, as she considers not only what makes Hunger Games so awesome, but also why it speaks to her so deeply. She relays a powerful story about her experience as a disempowered young woman in a terrible relationship (TRIGGER WARNING) and connects that to the “darker turn” of YA fic in recent decades (Jen and I also discussed this in our chat). It’s a really moving piece. “Just because you survive something does not mean you are strong.”

(She has a Venn diagram, and for that, I love her. I love diagrams. You will discover this in a future MN post.) (Thanks for finding this for me, Jen!)

What else have you read recently about Hunger Games? Add your voice to our Katniss-obsessed chorus!

(Chat) Hunger Games: Powerful Feminist Fiction With Love as Its Centerpiece, and other YA recs

Last week, we chatted about YA fiction of our youth, waxing nostalgic about the BSC, the Hunky Dory Dairy, and other books we read under the desk during math class. For this week, we decided to focus on contemporary YA fiction, and Jen read Hunger Games (and then Catching Fire, immediately, within hours) for the first time. With a few exceptions, we are over the moon for the trilogy, its heroine, and Suzanne Collins’ political stance(s) in the novels. Read on as we connect the Hunger Games to Trayvon Martin; contrast our fearless and complex heroine, Katniss, with the blah Bella Swan; and speculate about endings for the series (since Jen hasn’t finished it yet).

THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR HUNGER GAMES, CATCHING FIRE, & THE FILM ADAPTATION BELOW.

Lauren: Hi!

Jennifer: Hi! I just finished the second Hunger Games book.

Lauren: LOL

YES!!!

I knew you would be hooked.

2:59 PM Although book 2 does end in a bit of a rush.

Jennifer: Yes. I will probably have to stay up till 2 am again reading book 3 and then I will hate myself a little for not being able to slow down and enjoy it.

Lauren: I read them in about 4 days.

Then I called my sister, who bought them and read them in about 4 days.

3:00 PM As soon as my student returns HG, I will reread them, probably more slowly.

In a way, I was glad I rushed, because I know I’ll catch more details this time around and enjoy it almost as much as I did the first run through.

3:01 PM Jennifer: I will definitely teach them in the fall, and read them more slowly with my students.

3:02 PM Lauren: Yes, I have a book club reading them in one class (college level) this semester and I’ll teach it in my developmental reading class at the community college this fall.

3:03 PM Jennifer: So, can we talk about how much we love Katniss?

3:04 PM Lauren: So much.

Jennifer: So much.

Lauren: I was just reading a review of the movie that waxes rhapsodic about Katniss as a feminist heroine and I was like YES. YES. YES to all of this.

3:05 PM Jennifer: And I admit I was worried about her character getting swept up in the romance/love triangle angle. But instead I feel like that ended up deepening her as a character: we see her flaws, and she sees her flaws.

3:06 PM Lauren: Yes.

Collins really walks the line with that set up, and sometimes veers a little too close to Twilight dramaz, but mostly I think it’s a mature exploration of the way your feelings change as you go through serious shit.

3:07 PM And, you see how people change really quickly when the reach near-adulthood. I appreciate that Katniss, Gale, and Peeta change over the course of the trilogy in ways that resonate with my memories of that 16-20 span.

3:08 PM Jennifer: Yes. And her personal life is so deeply intertwined with these larger political issues and forces she can’t control and doesn’t fully understand, but her recognition and comprehension is clearly growing, and it changes her sense of self, and her priorities.

I haven’t read the last book yet, but I feel like she will end up with Peeta.

3:09 PM Lauren: Yes. I love the way the personal becomes radical in these books. There’s another YA dystopian trilogy — Matched — that is similar.

Well, I won’t give anything away! But I’ll be interested to hear what you think when you’re done.

A lot of people are anti-Peeta!

My students are always like “She should be with Gale!”

But I like Peeta a lot.

3:11 PM Jennifer: I actually think they are both interesting and compelling. And I like that it’s not clear who we are meant to be rooting for as readers.

Lauren: Definitely.

3:12 PM I think because we align with Katniss so strongly, Gale is really appealing because he is very like her.

He’s strong in similar ways, and she relies on him and trusts him, so we do, too.

Peeta’s strengths as a character are very different, and he’s not as physical as Gale

3:13 PM I think there’s some blowback for that, because he may come across as weak and therefore not as masculine/desirable. (In a stereotypical way, that is.)

3:15 PM Jennifer: Right. He’s a baker and a painter- traditionally feminine. And he has a disability, though he never seems to fall into any of the disabled character tropes: no pity party, no bitterness, no supercrip narrative of overcoming all odds. He just has a disability.

Lauren: Tiger Beatdown had an awesome discussion about this on their blog recently.

Jennifer: It strikes me as incredibly rare.

3:16 PM Lauren: They were disappointed — RIGHTLY — that they play down Peeta’s leg injury in the film. Which I didn’t recognize when I saw it, but is really true, and is the one thing about the movie that disappointed me. (That’s my only spoiler, I swear!)

3:17 PM Jennifer: It’s okay! I haven’t seen the movie yet. Does he not get a prosthetic leg?

Lauren: At the end, he’s injured, but it seems to heal up with some magic goo that Haymitch sends.

They dramatically compress the whole cave storyline.

3:18 PM Jennifer: I glanced over the Tiger Beatdown piece when it went up, but I hadn’t read the book, so it didn’t fully register.

Oh…. so they leave it open for him to keep his leg in the second film. Bummer.

Lauren: Yep.

3:19 PM I guess it’s impossible to make the films as awesome as the books.

ANYWAY: what else do we love??

3:20 PM Jennifer: I love that Katniss hunts, and I love that she’s so…. I’m struggling to articulate this. Embodied?

Lauren: Totally!

Jennifer: She lives IN her body. She knows her strengths and her limits.

3:21 PM Lauren: And, the book hints at sexual pleasure as rooted in her body

She’s not worried about what she looks like when she’s making out with Peeta — not even what the cameras are seeing, much. It’s fairly radical.

3:22 PM Jennifer: Yes. And even though the emphasis on superficiality and appearances in the Capitol is obviously characterized as negative, it doesn’t read to me as an indictment of femininity.

3:23 PM Lauren: No, it applies equally to men and women and seems more aligned with capitalism/excess than it does with gender.

Jennifer: Sometimes I think when we get a character who is a physically strong women, we also get a really heavy handed rejection of the stereotypical feminine. But yeah, the emphasis is really different here.

3:24 PM Especially because Cinna is a man, and he’s the one crafting her appearances.

Lauren: Right: although Katniss is certain that she will never have children, it’s not because she looks down on motherhood or whatever: it’s rooted, in a way, in her protectiveness of children. It’s a very strong nurturing that we get in Katniss.

3:25 PM Jennifer: And Prim and her mother have a more traditionally feminine gift for healing, but they’re also portrayed as having physical and emotional strength.

Lauren: A lot of people assumed that Cinna was gay. I don’t know if it ever becomes clear in the books (my memory is dimming!) but in the film he’s not at all stereotyped in terms of sexuality. He’s just a really grounding force in Katniss’s experience.

3:26 PM Jennifer: He’s powerful.

Lauren: Even little Rue has some skills and is not portrayed as some kind of, oh, Bambi or damsel in distress.

3:27 PM Girl gets an 8! That’s not bad!

Jennifer: Yes. There’s a tremendous range of skills and strengths, and they don’t seem to attach to stereotypical ideas about gender. And the framework of the games itself isn’t gendered: everybody’s in the same arena.

3:28 PM Lauren: Class seems to be a much more central construct in the world of Panem — it forges alliances across gender and race lines.

Which is totally awesome. I mean, in the book, you can tell that Katniss and everyone else are Seriously Hungry

It’s the HUNGER games because these people have been starved half to death.

And that is the root of rebellion.

3:29 PM Jennifer: Right. ‘It must be very fragile, if can be undone with a handful of berries’ is pretty much classical Marxism.

And yet people don’t seem freaked out that these books are going to make kids Socialist?

3:30 PM Lauren: Haha

I did find some sites that said “this is feminist commie death porn” or something like that

3:31 PM Jennifer: Focus on the Family actually has a pretty good set of discussion questions. And they point out that the nudity tends to emphasize Katniss’ treatment as an object. Which is basically a feminist insight.

Lauren: That is a feminist insight. Interesting!

3:32 PM I saw the film within a few days of the Trayvon Martin case getting national attention. And I was really struck by the connection between that reality and the Games, in that, you know, we already live in a world where our system is predicated on the exploitation and killing of children.

3:33 PM I mean, the construct of the Games is shocking, but so many people have pointed out how we expect and accept the killing of certain kinds of children as an aspect of modern society.

(Which is one more reason I cried the whole time I watched it!)

3:34 PM Jennifer: Yes, to all that. Yes, yes, yes.

3:35 PM Lauren: I don’t know if it’s necessarily feminist but it seems like the power of love is so central to the HG — the fear of children being killed keeps society in check, and the anger at children being killed leads to the uprising.

3:36 PM Jennifer: And there’s this incredibly layered sense of love: motherlove, love for family and kin, love for place and land, romantic love, friendship, intimacy…

Lauren: Exactly

3:37 PM It’s powerful and complex, which is tremendously moving.

Jennifer: One of the reasons I think Katniss is so powerful as a character is that she’s riding waves of these different, powerful, experiences of love and identification, and they move her in competing directions.

3:38 PM She loves Peeta AND Gale AND Rue AND Prim, and that’s not supposed to be possible.

Lauren: Yes.

And it doesn’t all come together neatly for her, either.

And there’s a LOT at stake!

Jennifer: It can’t. Life doesn’t.

3:39 PM Lauren: For this reason I think you will find the conclusion of the trilogy truly poignant (like me). But I won’t spoil it!! 🙂

3:40 PM Jennifer: Only in Twilight does it all come together neatly, in which you can marry your vampire love and be a vampire and have a baby and your former best friend/werewolf love can imprint on that baby and you can all live happily ever after. (Salon has a great comparison of Bella and Katniss here.)

Lauren: Ugh, don’t get me started on Twilight.

Collins refuses to tie things up neatly for Katniss

Jennifer: I mean, I’m assuming Gale and Peeta and Prim and Katniss don’t all move in together in some cottage in the woods after the rebellion successfully overthrows the Capitol.

3:41 PM Lauren: That means she experiences true love and true pain, and that is powerful.

Yes, Gale turns into a dog and then they go hunting together and Peeta bakes bread.

Prim marries Peeta and….

Katniss ends up with Haymitch!

(Just trying to complicate things for you.)

Jennifer: I love those endings.

3:43 PM Okay. So we love the emotional complexity, the centrality of love, Katniss as an embodied feminist heroine, and the fact that these books may be turning kids into Socialists but nobody is freaking out about that.

What have we missed?

Lauren: Well, the plot itself is pretty stinking awesome.

The action is compelling. It’s a great transformation of your average death match scenario.

Jennifer: YES, and let us not forget the critique of reality tv!

3:44 PM Lauren: I’m thinking of other movies that are similar, like Running Man or Death Race (which have you seen it? it’s not feminist but it is awesome!) but in those, the death match is between criminals and criminals have no rights so it’s ok to cheer them on as they kill each other.

Making the death match between children is a fabulous twist.

3:45 PM YES I love the reality tv angle. I love the PR nature, and how Katniss feels pressed to conform to femininity so SHE DOESN’T DIE which is pretty high stakes.

3:46 PM Jennifer: But also, it’s so clear that femininity is a construct, and that actually complying with femininity (weakness) would be deadly. SHE CAN’T WIN EITHER WAY!

Lauren: Exactly.

Jennifer: So powerfully feminist.

Lauren: In the film

Jennifer Lawrence perfectly captures the performance angle

3:47 PM When she’s doing the whole Katniss-smiling-and-waving thing but her eyes never smile

They’re in that wide, school photo kind of false happy position and it’s so clear that she is conflicted and uncomfortable. But of course the audience isn’t tuned into that.

I mean the audience of the show within the film.

3:48 PM Jennifer: I can’t wait to see the film.

Lauren: I suggest you go tomorrow 🙂

3:49 PM Jennifer: So, it seems pretty obvious that this is not the YA of our youth. Even the hard hitting diabetes books aren’t on this level.

Lauren: Totally!

The YA dystopian genre is really booming right now, which is really interesting.

3:50 PM I find it fascinating to compare/contrast the author interpretations of the future and visions for different forms of government, different relationships with technology/consumerism, etc.

3:51 PM Jennifer: I’m not as familiar with the genre, but it strikes me as far more political than what would have been considered edgy books/issues when we were reading YA.

Lauren: Definitely

There sure is a lot more death.

Jennifer: I remember edgy mostly dealing with interpersonal issues: drugs, alcohol, family violence, maybe poverty. And always individualized.

3:52 PM Lauren: And a lot of unease about the relationship between people and the gov’t, super Foucauldian questions about what is normal/healthy and what is aberrent, political questions about moreality and ruling, etc.

RIGHT — ohhh, divorce! Pregnancy!

3:53 PM A lot of these new books focus on a female protagonist, which is cool.

3:54 PM Matched is one, that series is more cerebral and romantic but really interesting, I thought.

3:55 PM Jennifer: I was completely amazed by how obvious the political questions are and by how clear the feminism is in Hunger Games and yet it never felt heavy handed to me. If these other series are comparable, I’m totally going back to reading YA.

Lauren: Divergent is another series with a female protagonist that everyone swears is as good as Hunger Games — and in terms of action it is pretty good — but I didn’t think it was nearly as moving or deep as HG.

Yes to what you said — this is why I think HG will be a great teaching tool.

3:56 PM Feed by MT Anderson features a male protagonist and takes consumerism and social media to a terrifyingly possible and absurd conclusion.

I just heard about a series called Shipwrecked that I want to check out, too. (sic — it’s called Ship Breaker)

3:57 PM Jennifer: Awesome. I will have to check these out after I finish the third book. In which I am certain Peeta will marry Prim and Katniss’ mom will marry Haymitch and Katniss will marry Cinna, who be miraculously alive.

3:58 PM Lauren: Right, Cinna comes back as a hologram created by a rogue gamemaker, just like Yoda.

Jennifer: who is. sorry. terrible grammar there.

YES! Or Rue could come back and Katniss could come out.

Lauren: YES!

3:59 PM Well, none of those things happen, but I think you will be proud/pleased of the end of the series anyway.

I found the 3rd book pretty satisfying.

Jennifer: I would read it right now if I didn’t have children to feed and essays to grade.

4:00 PM Lauren: For realz.

That was definitely a series I was reading at stoplights!

4:01 PM Jennifer: Let’s see if we can interview Suzanne Collins for the blog.

Lauren: I’m sure she’s totally into interviews with fledgling feminist mom bloggers.

I’ll have my agent call her agent.

Jennifer: I’ll have my people call her people.

Lauren: We’ll do lunch.

Jennifer: My people are a 5 and a 3 year old wearing princess dresses and demanding pink milk.

4:02 PM Lauren: Ha! Sound like Capitol folk ;).

Mine are grubbier and just as demanding.

Jennifer: Yup. Maybe I’ll get them Katniss dolls for Christmas this year.

Lauren: SRSLY. Be like Katniss! PLEASE!

4:03 PM Jennifer: I can’t give them bows and arrows or I’ll have a mini Hunger Games in my living room.

Lauren: Haha, yes — that kind of intense sisterly love isn’t always in abundance, is it?

4:04 PM Jennifer: It’s always intense between them- but they can go from hugging to hair pulling at the drop of a sparkly princess crown.

Lauren: Same with my 4yo/2yo.

Jennifer: Sounds like another chat: how do we teach them to love each other Prim and Katniss style?

Lauren: We should definitely do a chat about sisters.

4:05 PM Jennifer: You’re on. Right now I should feed these sisters, before there’s a District 8 style rebellion.

Lauren: OK, I will get this posted tomorrow in our continuing post-stravaganza. (Join our awesome giveaway!!)

Jennifer: AWESOME. 4k here we come!

4:06 PM Lauren: We’re almost halfway there, yeah!

TTYL!

Jennifer: TTYL!

If you’re hungry for more analysis of Katniss and the HG Trilogy, check out these fantastic articles and sites:

Hunger Games Tweets — Brings together all the commentary about racist responses to the casting of African Americans in the film. We didn’t get into this because it’s been done brilliantly by folks at Racialicious, Jezebel, etc.

NYT review of the movie and commentary about Katniss as a feminist warrior and “American Adam” archetype, both insightful.

Intriguing commentary about Katniss as a new female superhero, whose feminine characteristics give her power.

Another feminist blog also loves the movie.

Sexy Feminist debates whether or not Katniss is a feminist heroine.

And check out this BRILLIANT Hunger Games/Mad Men MASHUP at Bitch Magazine!!

What did you think about the books and movie?