What I’ve Been Reading Lately…

Feel Free, Zadie Smith

I have read several of Smith’s previous novels, including White Teeth, On Beauty, and The Autograph Man, and found them to be heartbreakingly accurate reflections of what it means to be human in an ever increasingly complicated world. In this collection of essays I was surprised to find the complete opposite—most of them did indeed start with concrete examples from her personal life, but swiftly diverged into an abstract and philosophical world that was, frankly, hard to follow most of the time. Even the columns she wrote for Harper’s seemed to barely be about the books she was supposedly reviewing, making her almost completely unrecognizable to me as an author that I previously loved. That sounds harsh—I do indeed still love her work, but will most definitely be sticking to her fiction in the future.

No Men, No Cry: Contemporary Lithuanian Women’s Prose

I bought this collection in a coffee shop/bookstore a year ago while on a short trip to Lithuania, in the capital of Vilnius. At the time I remember being short on cash and not sure if I should buy it or not (I ended up using a credit card ha), but it was completely worth it, although it did leave me very disappointed. I am not a person who reads excerpts of work or even one short story out of a collection—I want to read everything, the whole work, the while collection, the whole novel. So reading this anthology consisting of excerpts of novels and one short story from a collection of a dozen was, honestly, difficult and unsatisfying. By the time I got in to the characters and understood what was going on, the excerpt was finished! But I am guessing that the editors of this collection would be satisfied with their work, because after finishing it, I am left with the desire to search on the internet for every novel and book that appears in the anthology. Divided into sections focusing on sisterhood, motherhood, identity, and body politics, each excerpt highlights the struggles women confront, and have confronted, in the face of war, trauma, or simply moving to a new country and having to meld together a new identity (as if this were a simple thing in and of itself). In many of these selections I recognized parts of myself, and in others I encountered new aspects of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century, where we have “never had it so good” but also where we still do battle with sexism and discrimination on a daily basis.

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