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Gina Frangello

Teoksen A Life in Men: A Novel tekijä

14+ teosta 341 jäsentä 30 arvostelua

Tietoja tekijästä

Gina Frangello is the author of Every Kind of Wanting, A Life in Men, Slut Lullabies, and My Sister's Continent. She lives with her family in the Chicago area. Find out more at ginafrangello.org.
Image credit: Photo credit: David Walthour

Tekijän teokset

Associated Works

Homewrecker: An Adultery Anthology (2005) — Avustaja — 34 kappaletta, 1 arvostelu
Flashed: Sudden Stories in Comics and Prose (2016) — Avustaja — 6 kappaletta

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2.5 Stars

There are several unwritten and unpublished versions of this review that are almost as bitter as the book itself, but I've sat on them for a few days and I think I've settled. The longer I work on this, the more I realize that my experience of this book was likely a problem of expectations vs reality, but...it almost ruined my love of reading. For most of the book, I couldn't help but think, this is what fiction is for.

I took the the thesis of this book to be the fact that women can be more than one thing: based on the French feminists that Frangello read as a student, she bookends the...book...with mentions of this, and the pages in between are filled with examples (kind of). This book, too, is many things: namely, each chapter is written with a different stylistic approach. I actually thought while reading that it could have worked well as a collection of essays, because she covers many distinct topics.

The second half of the last chapter added a half a star to my rating. It's the first time that Frangello demonstrated any real self-awareness to me, often seeming to transcend her earlier reflections. I guess self-awareness isn't necessary in a memoir, but it certainly helps the character development/arc of the narrator/author in the eyes of the reader (or at least, in the eyes of me).

While this books is many things, one thing it's not (in my opinion) is a feminist manifesto, as some blurbs would tell you. There are no public aims or policy here. It's more like...a text by a feminist–even about feminism, or "a story of...feminism", like the subtitle says. But just like the French feminists who she read when she was younger, all of the ideas in this book are at least 30 years old, and have all been written down and read before. It's more like a woman's reckoning of her own feminism throughout her life, but her (admittedly) unresolved trauma has her seeming to believe that the state of her internal world is an accurate portrayal of the external world. The main example of this is her real, present fear that her husband is going to first tell her that he's happy she has cancer and hopes she dies, and then that he is actively going to murder her. For this to be a feminist text, I would expect there to be some analysis of this fear and violence, but all we get (which is powerful nonetheless) is a recounting of the horrors that are visited on Frangello's peers over the course of her life by the men in their lives.

My number one biggest problem with this book–the thing that really kept me from ever letting my guard down, getting into it, or enjoying it–is how oblivious Frangello seems to be to the concept of white feminism. Another piece of information that she repeats at the beginning and end of the book is the fact that a majority of white women voted for Trump. However, she also borderline coopts Audre Lorde and James Baldwin's work, expresses no confession outside of a vague regret for American imperialism for adopting her daughters at a time when her husband was [maybe? still unclear] physically abusive towards her, and there is no examination of what might possibly compel a woman to preserve some of her power by siding with the oppressor–she never draws the line of that reasoning back to herself, a white woman. Perhaps this is because the entire book is steeped in Frangello trying to piece together some semblance of her own power, and maybe she doesn't have the bandwidth or desire to think about relinquishing it. She says offhandedly that Joan Didion was so cool she made people forget to discriminate against her for being a woman. As pretty much every Black iconoclast in United States history could tell you, being cool doesn't exempt you from discrimination. (For God's sake, the word "cool" was appropriated from Black culture.) Where'd she get that idea, from Kanye West? I just don't think that in a book that's written in 2019, presumably, and coming out in 2021 that you can circle the drain of intersectionality, throw in a line about how "maybe your skin color affects how you move through the world" and then also put the word feminism in your title. I mean, obviously you can. Especially if you're white.

Without being so glib and dismissive as the Instagram graphic "your trauma isn't your fault, but your healing is your responsibility," I would maybe say something like, "your trauma isn't your fault, but the harm that you cause others is your responsibility" about this book. I was really interested in reading a firsthand narrative about a wife's adultery, but the fact that there is no meta-analysis of the forces at work here and that it's pure narrative makes for not just an unreliable narrator (which I do tend to love), but a deeply dissatisfying one. I don't think that my point is that all women feminist authors have to have something figured out before they write down their experiences; but it seemed to me like she told us that she did. I felt like she was asking very particular questions of herself, the reader, the patriarchy, society, and then providing irrelevant answers.

Am I being too harsh? Am I being misogynistic? Am I holding a white woman to standards I would never think to hold a white man to? I feel like I was so off about this book based on the other reviews, so I'm curious to know what other people thought. I implied at the beginning that I wish this would have been written as fiction, because I feel like that would have added a level of awareness and some distance from the harm inflicted onto her real-life subjects, children included.
… (lisätietoja)
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graceandbenji | 1 muu arvostelu | Sep 1, 2022 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
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AngelaLam | 26 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Feb 8, 2022 |
3.5 stars.

Some of these interlocking essays are fabulous and read like stories. Others are more stream-of-consciousness or facts interlaced with story.

I wanted to know more about the evolution of the affair and the devolution of the marriage beyond what was shown, but I don't know how much more the author could have shared without it becoming something other than what she intended. I thought the essays about her parents and her childhood were more fleshed out. Maybe more time and processing was needed for the marriage, affair, divorce to simmer to a fine stew since only a handful of years have passed since these events happened.

I'm thankful to have read the book. Frangello is one of my favorite authors.
… (lisätietoja)
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AngelaLam | 1 muu arvostelu | Feb 8, 2022 |
Tämä arvostelu kirjoitettiin LibraryThingin Varhaisia arvostelijoita varten.
This book could benefit from a little better editing and structure throughout the plot and character development. The story was a bit blase, but it wasn't terrible.
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Violaine | 26 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Mar 3, 2020 |

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