Six Degrees of Separation: from Hold Tight to The Handmaid’s Tale

For August’s 6 degrees of separation, we’ve been asked to start with the last book we finished in the month of July. For me, that was Jeffrey Boakye’s Hold Tight: Black Masculinity, Millennials and the Meaning of Grime.

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Boakye discusses the societal pressures on young black men in London and the way these pressures have led to the creation of Grime, a truly working class music scene that has its problems as well as its positives.

Hold Tight is like nothing else that I’ve read, so my next book is a tenuously linked one.

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My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite is a story of sisterly love in which an older sister covers for her younger sibling when she decides to mete out her own justice towards men. The link is that many of the young men who are involved in Grime have a misogynistic attitude towards women and the titular serial killing sister in Braithwaite’s novel attempts to be a one woman rectification of male subjugation of women.

That leads me to the book I’m currently reading, Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs by Lina Wolff.

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One of the central characters is a writer who believes that there is too much lazy reliance on violence against women in literature and so starts to write stories built around women subjecting men to similar kinds of gratuitous violence, kind of to see how men like it.

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There’s a similar bent to the Colette short story in the anthology I just finished reading, Wayward Girls and Wicked Women. In this story, a young woman disappointed in her marriage retreats to her sister’s apartment and proceeds to try to kill her husband by sorcery. Other stories in the anthology also focus on women’s frustration with men having it all their own way and being disappointments.

Which reminds me of Valerie Solanas in Sara Stridsberg’s The Faculty of Dreams.

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Solanas famously wrote the S.C.U.M. manifesto which argues that men have ruined the world and it’s up to women to fix it. Stridsberg makes a fictional case for why Solanas might have been so anti-men.

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Of course, women don’t always work in harmony towards the greater good, something that Charlotte Wood considers in her exceptional novel The Natural Way of Things. Women are just as varied in temperament and personality as men, and each of the women locked away because of some perceived lack of correct femininity finds her own way of dealing with their shared situation.

Sexual politics is, of course, a large element in Margaret Atwood’s dystopia, The Handmaid’s Tale.

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When the TV adaptation aired there were many comparisons with how the political landscape in the USA was changing. Almost three years down the line from the inauguration of The Male Chauvinist in Chief, some of the fears expressed at the time are coming true, with women losing autonomy over their own bodies in some US states.

One of the messages in Boakye’s book at the top of this chain is about needing to do better in treating each other with respect, regardless of gender. The books that I’ve linked range over a century of publication and show that women still need to be vigilant in bringing the fight for equality to our male counterparts.

What was the last book you finished in July? Where would it take you in a chain of six more books? Join in the fun on Kathy’s blog.

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