Thursday, October 13, 2016

Book Review: "The Bitch is Back" edited by Cathi Hanauer

The Bitch is Back: Older, Wiser, and (Getting) Happier Cathi Hanauer (editor)
Published: September 27, 2016
ISBN: 9780062389510
Genre: Essays
Source: HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Essay collections, feminist writing, sassy women

More than a decade after the New York Times bestselling anthology The Bitch in the House spoke up loud and clear for a generation of young women, nine of the original contributors are back—along with sixteen captivating new voices—sharing their ruminations from an older, stronger, and wiser perspective about love, sex, work, family, independence, body-image, health, and aging: the critical flash points of women’s lives today.

"Born out of anger," the essays in The Bitch in the House chronicled the face of womanhood at the beginning of a new millennium. Now those funny, smart, passionate contributors—today less bitter and resentful, and more confident, competent, and content—capture the spirit of postfeminism in this equally provocative, illuminating, and compelling companion anthology.

Having aged into their forties, fifties, and sixties, these "bitches"—bestselling authors, renowned journalists, and critically acclaimed novelists—are back . . . and better than ever. In The Bitch Is Back, Cathi Hanauer, Kate Christensen, Sarah Crichton, Debora Spar, Ann Hood, Veronica Chambers, and nineteen other women offer unique views on womanhood and feminism today. Some of the "original bitches" (OBs) revisit their earlier essays to reflect on their previous selves. All reveal how their lives have changed in the intervening years—whether they stayed coupled, left marriages, or had affairs; developed cancer or other physical challenges; coped with partners who strayed, died, or remained faithful; became full-time wage earners or homemakers; opened up their marriages; remained childless or became parents; or experienced other meaningful life transitions.

As a "new wave" of feminists begins to take center stage, this powerful, timely collection sheds a much-needed light on both past and present, offering understanding, compassion, and wisdom for modern women’s lives, all the while pointing toward the exciting possibilities of tomorrow. 

My Thoughts:
I may be late to the party, but I lately I've found myself really enjoying feminist writing.  I'm also a sucker for essay collections....So, when this book came across my radar, I immediately jumped....without realizing that it is, of sorts, a sequel.

Yes, there was an "original" The Bitch in the House and, yes, many (but not all) of the essays are follow-ups to writings from the original book.  That being said, this was one of those rare examples in my experience where the sequel truly is a standalone.  When needed, Hanauer provides the reader a bit of a forward to essays that are follow-ups, giving the readers just enough information that they can put the essay in context, but not so much that it would spoil the original essay.  I think there was only one instance in the entire collection where I felt that I had missed anything by not reading the original essay.

Because all the essays are written by different authors, I can't make a general comment about the writing.  Each essay did have its own voice and I did feel that all were well-written and deserving of inclusion.  The very worst I can say is that there are a few essays that didn't especially resonate with me--but that was not because of the essay or the author's treatment, but rather that there was nothing in my life in common with the essay.  Even in those cases, I still enjoyed the experience of reading the essay.

Hanauer did an excellent job of curating and organizing this book.  As I said, the writing was all top-notch and I felt that the essays were organized in a way that they flowed in a logical sense.  None of the essays are either overly short or overly long (if this were a short story collection, I could say that there was no novella hiding in the pages).  I read one essay a night and I don't think any one work took me more than 10 minutes to read.

If you are interested in feminist writing, I think this is a must-read.  I enjoyed it enough that I started to farm the contributors list for new books to add to my TBR.

About the Editor:
Cathi Hanauer is the author of three novels—My Sister’s Bones, Sweet Ruin, and Gone—and is the editor of the New York Times bestselling essay collection The Bitch in the House. A former columnist for Glamour, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen, she has written for The New York Times, Elle, Self, Real Simple, and other magazines. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with her husband, New York Times “Modern Love” editor Daniel Jones, and their daughter and son.

Find out more about Cathi and her books at her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @cathihanauer.

I was given a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

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