If you’ve never heard of Laurie Penny, here’s a snippet from her website introducing herself:
Laurie Penny, journalist, activist, feminist, troublemaker, nerd and net denizen. Contributing Editor at New Statesman. Writes and speaks on social justice, pop culture, gender issues and digital politics for The Guardian, Vice, Salon, The Nation, The New Inquiry and many more. Lives in a basement full of spiders in London. I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.
I was given Unspeakable Things as a birthday gift earlier this month by my good friend Gem (5th July, for future ref. Pop it in your diary just in case you forget. I like books and cakes FYI). Once I’d finished marvelling at the super soft lusciousness of the cover, I excitedly read the blurb. I immediately knew that this was the book for me and as I was to discover, the book for everyone.
Unspeakable Things is the culmination of 27 years of living on planet earth as a female human. Laurie has chosen to use her writing talents for the good of women (and men) kind everywhere. Unfortunately, this has attracted some deeply unpleasant abusive responses over the years for Ms Penny. But no amount of vile abuse distributed on the internet and other places will slow this one down. She ain’t no quitter. She is the tenacious mouthpiece for feminists everywhere. This is why you must read this book.
If you are already a feminist, you will read this book and nod along knowlingly, sometimes with the faint taste of bile in your mouth as you analyse the disgusting things that humans who are not white and male often have to face. If you are not a feminist, (or are a member of the very disturbing “we don’t need feminism” movement) read this book and you will learn. Oh, the things you will learn. Read this book.
Like she says in the opening line, “this is not a fairy tale”, so don’t read it if you fancy a light read. With chapter titles such as “Fucked-up Girls”, “Lost Boys”, “Anticlimax”, “Cybersexism”, and “Love and Lies”, you can’t expect too much frivolity. But read it anyway.
I don’t want to go into too much detail about what the book says, because I could never do justice to Laurie Penny’s powerful and direct writing. I have written and rewritten this review SO many times. Each one longer and more convoluted than the last and consequently deleted and restarted. But that’s how inspiring Laurie Penny’s writing is. As I read the book, I felt like every chapter was a springboard for my own feminisms and I filled the best part of an A5 notebook with some of my own horrible experiences of sexism.
This book has been dismissed by some as being “too personal, too politically strident, too left-wing, too queer or too dark” (http://laurie-penny.com/trolls-sabotage-unspeakable-things/). Well it is personal, political, left wing and all those other things, of course it is, how could it not be? What else were these people expecting?! How can you be expected to write a book of any substance without those things? Read it and you’ll see.
Honestly, for at least the first two chapters, I did little else but tell my long suffering colleagues how very ranty this book is. So very ranty! And the things it ranted about were so unpleasant and ugly and upsettingly true. I also said this to a lovely lady in a coffee shop as I sat reading, after she asked if I was enjoying the book with the intriguing title and striking cover.
But, as we all know, there is an awful lot to rant about. And who am I to talk? I can rant. I am very good at the ranting. The ranting is one of my top four hobbies. Rants are a necessary human survival technique. Better out than in as they say.
Also, as I left that coffee shop, I gave the lady a scrap of paper with “Laurie Penny, Unspeakable Things” marked with my unruly scrawl, so that she would remember to buy it. You’re welcome.
I don’t know if this is weird to say seen as I’ve never met the girl, but as a fellow 27 year old human woman, I feel really proud of Laurie Penny for writing this book. She has captured the voice of a generation, which I feel I can say with authority, as I am her generation. She has been writing and campaigning for political change from such a young age and she has accomplished so much already. I look forward to her future publications. Lets hope they are as ranty as ever, because that’s what we need!
Definitely read this book.
Buy it. Now.