Happy International Women’s Day! Atlantic Books Today salutes the many women who have struggled for equality, for women’s rights, over the centuries. And, as is our wont, we express gratitude to the writers of astute feminist analysis, the groundwork for progress in policy and human behaviour that can, we hope, result in true equality for all genders. This analysis is found in fiction, fact and poetry, and has been for some time. But recently, there’s been a real wave of new books that aren’t afraid to embrace feminism. Here are just five of the many from Atlantic Canadian writers and publishers:
Putting Trials on Trial: Sexual Assault and the Failure of the Legal Profession by Elaine Craig. Craig is an associate professor in the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie. She covers a variety of sexual assault trials (and accompanying scandalous behaviour from members of the legal profession), including “the failings of Judge Greg Lenehan in the Halifax taxi driver [sexual assault] case.” As Clayton Ruby put it, “This spectacular, thoughtful, and hard-hitting book pushes all of us to reconsider the impact of trials on those caught up in the justice system. Elaine Craig has done us all a service. This is the most important book you’ll see this year.”
No Choice: The 30-Year Fight for Abortion on Prince Edward Island by Kate McKenna. Award-winning CBC journalist Kate McKenna points out that while abortion has been legal in Canada for nearly 50 years, the provincial government of Prince Edward Island refused to bring abortion services to the Island in the face of protests from a very vocal minority Right to Life movement until 2016. It is a story of an ideological battleground, a very practical need being denied and courageous women willing to work and fight for their rights.
The Witches of New York by Ami McKay. In her essay on Ami McKay’s novel, Witches of New York, St. John’s novelist Michelle Butler Hallett says “A particular delight of McKay’s novel…is how the female characters determine, for themselves, an answer to the question, ‘Who am I?’” In this work of historical fiction, McKay embodies a feminist perspective by presenting women taking enormous risks to live their lives as they please. Equally significance, male characters struggle with restrictive definitions of manhood. It is a subtle yet significant (and necessary) critique of what men do to maintain their unequal power.
Notes From a Feminist Killjoy by Erin Wunker. As an academic and a writer and a new mother, Wunker faced a common, practical problem. As a primary caregiver to an otherwise helpless (at times sleepless) infant, she lacked the time to seriously engage in proper thought, analysis and expression of ideas. But she still had ideas, some of them having to do with this motherhood. She came up with an innovative solution, writing in “small bursts, on what seemed like little Post-it notes of time.”Killjoy is a series of brief essays that are times humourous but always hard hitting, tackling rape culture and patriarchal “joys” like catcalling.
F-Bomb: Dispatches From the War on Feminism by Lauren McKeon. Like the other four book on this list, F-Bomb is clear that the struggle is far from over. She writes: “I want nothing more than for all the women who have dedicated their lives to feminism to retire and sip pina coladas on the beach while women and girls everywhere enjoy the fruits of their labor. Equal pay, lives free of violence, equal representation in positions of political power, absolute reproductive rights, harassment-free working environments, and about a bazillion other things. But I just don’t see that paradise yet.” McKeon proceeds to present a sophisticated and fascinating look at feminism and anti-feminism, arguing that feminists need to understand their movements flaws and mistakes to make it ultimately more appealing and powerful.