Monday, October 22, 2012

Feminist Reads: Reviews of "Why Have Kids?" and "Two Whole Cakes"

So I'm becoming a bit back logged on my promised book reviews.

I think I had said so far I'd get to How to Be a Woman, and Why Have Kids?. And I just now finished Two Whole Cakes. I think I'm probably going to pass on HTBAW (who hasn't already reviewed it, anyway? Just check what they have said.)

But I'd really like to take a quick look at Why Have Kids? and Two Whole Cakes.

Why Have Kids? A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness

It's no secret Jessica Valenti is a favorite of mine. Her most recent book chronicles her experience becoming a parent (which included illness and a very early birth.) She explores the contradictory and frustrating messages that we receive as women about what it means to be a mom.

What I liked: Pretty much everything. Valenti is at the top of her game. She lays out a very logical examination of how society places so much pressure on moms to be perfect, but then systematically sets them up to fail through our societal structures which don't support them (like the lack of paid leave) and unrealistically high expectations. And I've also written before about Valenti's excellent point that society continuously tells women that the most important thing they can do is be moms and ignores the aspirations of the actual women themselves. It's an examination any feminist and most women can relate to.

What I didn't: Really the only compliant I have is that the conclusion and end come very quickly. I felt like I was with Valenti for the ride and then all of a sudden it dropped off without enough discussion of solutions and how to turn public opinion and attitudes to a more feminist perspective.

Who should read this?: Everyone...but specifically anyone who likes Valenti's other work. Don't be scared off by the title. It's not a parenting book, but rather a look at how society views mothering.

Two Whole Cakes: How to Stop Dieting and Learn to Love Your Body

I've recently become a fan of Lesley Kinzel. I found her through Twitter, as a suggested person to follow since I already follow many of her fat positive colleagues. I don't read XOJane, but people often pass me her blogs there because of her body positive and feisty fat defending arguments. So when my bestie sent me Two Whole Cakes for my birthday, I was excited.

She didn't disappoint. Kinzel's book is as fabulous as her Tweets. In it, she chronicles her struggles with dieting over her lifetime, how society treats and talks about fat people, and how she came to fatsion and fat activism.

What I liked: Again, pretty much everything. Kinzel weaves in the perfect amount of personal stories and anecdotes with discussion and analysis of fatness from a societal perspective. Through this perfect combination of personal/political, she is able to make her arguments stronger than they would have been with only one method. She appeals to both your brain and your heart perfectly. And the stories she shared rang very true to me, as someone who has also struggled with hating my body.

What I didn't: (I'm stretching here again.) Kinzel's book is structured without subsections or chapters, at least in my Kindle version. That made it a bit difficult to keep track of what topic she was addressing and to know when she shifted topics.

Who should read this?: Kinzel's book is a great 101 primer for anyone dipping their toe into fat activism or body positivity. I think Kinzel's stories would especially help young women/girls who are in need of support and can really relate. But it was also a fantastic read for me, someone who has been thinking about these issues for a while. Like she says in the book, if undoing the diet talk/body hate is not a long process for you, you're probably doing it wrong, because we are all so strongly socialized to think we're never good enough.

So yeah, all in all they're both great feminist reads and I suggest that you check them out!


  1. Have you read "Fat: The Owner's Manual" by Ragen Chastain yet? The ebook is "name your own price" so you just pay what you can afford. I simply love Ragen, she's an amazing size acceptance advocate. I also keep up with Leslie and others, but Ragen's blog is the one I read every day no matter what!

    You've got me interested to read Why Have Kids? too. I was just discussing this today with some colleagues - all of us are around 30 and all of us are on the fence about having kids. Might be the perfect time to read such a book.

    1. I love Ragen. She used to be here in Austin, but she recently relocated. Sigh :)

      I didn't know she had an e-book. I will definitely check it out!


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