Reacting to Lies: A Book Review

Lies: A Journal of Materialist Feminism Vol. 1

Every year for Christmas, my older cousin gifts me books—lovely, badass female-written books. This year, along with two rebel woman memoirs (Pink Steam and Drugs Are Nice, for those interested), she gave me Lies: A Journal of Materialist Feminism, Volume 1, 2012Lies is a collection of essays, poems, et cetera addressing gender relations, sex, and politics. Not only is there a range of content and form, there are various writing styles as well. However, the one thing that unites all of the pieces in Lies is that each one comes from a place of struggle. Each one touches on the complex contradiction that is so difficult to talk about in our society—the feeling that something essential about our immediate and larger communities is utterly toxic, yet at every turn there is something to tell us we’ve over-thought, over-felt and the toxicity we speak of is gone, outdated, or was never there. When I use this term “toxicity”, I am not referring exclusively to misogyny, but to racial and economic issues as well, as Lies discusses all of these.

 

I started reading Lies at my boyfriend’s house while he was on his computer and a blizzard was starting to form. The first piece I finished is called “Letters to L: Paranoia and Visions”.  As I read it, I kept hoping for a happy ending—a solution or at least a suggestion—telling me how to exist sanely in society as an unrelenting feminist. I didn’t get my happy ending and when I finished reading, I found myself feeling oddly numb. To process this feeling, I stared into space for a few minutes. My boyfriend noticed my strange state and asked me how the book was going; I had no idea how to respond. “Weellll, I’m learning a lot and that’s really cool but the content here is particularly personal to me so I’m getting kind of emotional but don’t worry, I think it’s a good thing…!!!” is something I could have said. Instead I announced that the book was very good.

 

Even writing a thank you-letter to my cousin was tricky. Lies is the type of book you give to someone in confidence, trusting they’ll be receptive to the moving, yet cringe-worthy, experience you get from reading it. For me, the way it resonated was at times isolating and even saddening. What persists throughout the entire book is an eerie pessimism; the message underlying each piece seems to suggest that all our efforts to combat social injustices will be held against us. That said, it’s incredibly important, while reading Lies, to remember that each piece comes from a place of passionate opinion and it is up to each reader to do what they will with that. The compilation represents one very concentrated feminist attitude, which may be compatible to some while others may need to take the book with several grains of salt. Regardless, Lies offers a lot to learn and an emotional experience for all.

By Julia Carlin, 14′