The Oyster Review
What are the qualities of a gentlewoman? Besides being incredibly well-read, it certainly no longer means “belonging to the gentry.” Sure, a lady can be lovely, stylish, sophisticated if she wants to be. But we think it’s just as important to be kooky, creative, healthy, and loyal. We look to 10 of Oyster’s most powerful women authors for direction on what it means to be a grrl of gumption.
Your Voice in My Head by EMMA FORREST
Jolted from a suicide attempt by a kind and optimistic psychiatrist, Emma Forrest feels umbilically connected first to the man of her dreams, and then to the therapist who helped save her. But the only person who can truly keep Forrest from drowning is herself. A captivating memoir of reluctant but rescuing healing, Forrest writes, “I loved being yours. But now I’m mine, which is all I ever was, in the end.”
How to Be a Woman by CAITLIN MORAN
Caitlin Moran’s description of a modern feminist is simple: “a) Do you have a vagina? and b) Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist.” Now that we’ve got that out of the way, today’s leading ladies don’t put up with patriarchal crap. Don’t want a bikini wax? Don’t get one. Don’t want kids? Don’t have them. Wow, who knew being a gentlewoman could be so freeing?
Mumbai New York Scranton by TAMARA SHOPSIN
When you’re not being flipped off by her father at Shopsin’s, Tamara is taking the family name beyond food artistry. Illustrator, writer, and collaborator with her photographer husband Jason Fulford, Mumbai New York Scranton is a peculiar, renegade’s travel book: one that takes note of the strange, contains cute drawings of dosas, and comes with a twist at the end.
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by JEANETTE WINTERSON
It’s a good idea to be sensible some of the time, but there are instances when breaking the rules is important. Winterson, thrown out of her industrial northern English town at 16 for falling in love with a woman, here recounts the true story behind her bestselling and most beloved novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. As Jenna Woginrich said, “It’s okay to live a life others don’t understand.” And as Winterson wrote, “Being barely alive, on your own terms, is better than living a bloated half-life on someone else’s terms.”
Pucker Up by TRISTAN TAORMINO
You’re bold and innovative (and not just at the office, if you know what we mean). Columnist, lecturer, and sexpert-at-large Tristan Taormino has got the guide for you. Author and editor of eight books, including the Lambda Literary Award-winning series Best Lesbian Erotica, Taormino doesn’t believe in prescribed lovemaking, and as a 21st century gentlewoman, neither should you.
American Childhood by ANNIE DILLARD
A vivid and lyrical account of childhood in Pittsburgh in the 1950s, Dillard’s capacity for joy and wonder at the world and its people is intelligent, nostalgic, and devoid of sap. A writer to aspire to, Dillard is one seriously smart cookie.
I Await The Devil’s Coming by MARY MACLANE
A confessional memoir written by a depressed 19-year-old girl in Butte, Montana who wants to marry the Devil. Oh, and it’s 1902. Do you remember the last time you felt the kind of fanatic passion that presses on young Mary? No? This is your book.
Grace, Gold, and Glory My Leap of Faith by GABRIELLE DOUGLAS & MICHELLE BURFORD
Besides being sporty, talented, and crazy flexible, 2012 all-around gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas is disproportionately humble. “Every dream is possible,” she writes, “especially if your mama refuses to let you fly home, fry chicken, and give up.” Look for her in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Girl Hunter by GEORGIA PELLEGRINI
What if the menu from which you ordered your pheasant tagine also included the story of how it was caught? Whether you’re an old school Good Life follower, or just beginning to wonder what might happen if you planted seeds on your windowsill planter, Pellegrini’s story of going from Wall Street to chef to self-sufficient carnivore might just inspire some lifestyle changes.
Unorthodox by DEBORAH FELDMAN
Married as a teenager to a man she barely knew, and made a mother at 19, Deborah Feldman was paralyzed by the secondary status of women and the strict rules in her Satmar sect of Hasidic Judaism. Unwilling to settle for a life of less, Feldman decided to stop being a good girl. “If you are forced to confront your fears on a daily basis, they disintegrate, like illusions when viewed up close.”
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