Psychologists have studied this question and come up with many compelling and often helpful answers. But, Ariel Gore noticed when researching this question, the scientists doing the studies and their subjects all had something in common: They’re cis white men.
So begins F*ck Happiness, Gore’s thoughtful, lyrical, thoroughly-researched book about what happiness might mean for women. Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression, and in the studies that do include us, report both greater amounts of joy and greater amounts of struggle. Gore tackles the complexities of emotion and gender in this fascinating book, advocating a shift from positive psychology to what she terms “liberation psychology.”
This book was originally published with minimal fanfare in 2010 as Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness, and promptly went out of print without ever coming out in paperback. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to right this wrong, along with fully updating and expanding the book to encompass new happiness research and contemporary understandings of gender.
And we’re funding it on Kickstarter—you can get $2 off the cover price by pre-ordering the book over there, and there are some reward levels offering nice deals on a bundle of books.
Also, there are seven questions about happiness that Gore posed to her interview subjects for the book, and we’ll be asking them to you in the Kickstarter updates, and asking you to chime in with your own experiences if you feel inspired to.
When given the task to procure one review per month for Microcosm’s blog of a Microcosm published book, the thought haunted me. Choosing a book each month seemed like such a daunting task because there were too many to choose from. So I went with the classic Sam thing to do, and instead of choosing one thing, I chose many. I decided I wasn’t going to limit myself, at least not in the way of one book a month, but instead in the size of the book. Only the teensy weensy titles would catch my eye. I’m aware this doesn’t make much sense, because I wasn’t deciding to limit myself by the page count (that’s too rational). I decided to limit myself by the overall size of the text. Tiny things are cute, so roll with it.
Moments later I found myself poking and prodding through the metal shelving of the backroom and discovered that there weren’t many titles that fell into this niche search, a handful maybe. So that lead me to decide that I would review ALL the Microcosm mini’s and I would write them mini reviews! Maybe I was too excited to do this. Maybe I wanted to write mini reviews on the mini texts. How much this excited me really awakened me to another level of book nerd status I didn’t know I had. So cool.
The book compiles application photos and documents the editor found while rummaging through city recycling bins. These applications, with the students’ photos attached, were riddled with quotes and comments left behind from professors about each perspective doctoral student. Oh! And it’s from 1965 – 1975, so the comments are sure to astound, causing laughter and irritation. This book had me laughing, loudly, on the bus, (people stared), in anger and in embarrassment for all these students pictured before me.
“She is a female and an attractive, modest one so is bound to marry”.
“He revealed himself to be a very bright underachiever with sharp elbows, and I wondered whether he was majoring in house-keeping and girls”.
A series of feminist bike zines (since 2010), all compiled with special attention to the fact that bike culture, as vast as it is in Portland and around the world, is a heavily white, cisgender, hetero, male dominated hobby, lifestyle, and culture. This then inherently creates a struggle within anyone who doesn’t identify as such in the community. This collection speaks to that. Loudly. Vitally. Sometimes it’s difficult and heartbreaking, but always empowering. Oh! Perk! There’s trigger content warning subheadings to allow you to pick and choose from stories if something may be too much for you.
“This issue is about us, by us, for us”.
“Somewhere on that highway I made peace with the risk of seeming weird to people. There will always be someone to gawk…but the things that make me different are my mountain to climb, and I’m proud of every switchback I’ve hauled myself up. I take pride in my weirdness”.
“I’m not a rider or a walker, not really. I’m the movement in between”.
First beginning as a zine that took the mundanity of a blue collar work place and made the hellish reality a laughable one, this book takes those zines further. With an angle of tone and writing that touches on the stupid reality of being a creative type in a less than creative job to make ends meet, Royal finds a way to the humor in the littlest details, pointing out that if we pay attention, pretty much anything is fucking funny. Bring on the co-workers who are competitive square-dancers, who grow hot peppers and who attend 80’s prom massacre parties. Give me the socialized smoke breaks of analyzing the guy who lives in the van out front or whether or not the pizza joint on the corner is a mafia front. This book had me gawking and giggling all the way through in its mundanity and its outrageous oddities.
“It’s a glorified Kinko’s” (7).
“The shit you uncover with such variety in one stupid place is pretty amazing…because you’re weird, and you love weirdos, and you work with a boatload of ‘em”.
[Discussing Smoke Breaks]: “Initially the breaks were just for the smokers, but that’s obviously unfair, as the people would have to take up smoking just to take a breather. The irony speaks for itself…I found that at the bindery, there are two smoking cliques —the front-door smokers and the side-door smokers. Both groups offer social and cancerous delights in their own separate ways, and I considered myself a part of both contingents, even if I wasn’t puffing away”.
“After work I took my gift card to Target to buy myself some Bagel Bites and a Walkman to listen to mix tapes”.
A zine collection of comics and rants on superficial and weighty topics surrounding the Chicago area. For anyone who admires Chicago, traveling, punk shows, ranting about the ways things change or never change, this is your pocket book full of mini doses of these and so much more. I turned to page two and realized I was in deep. This wasn’t a book I could breeze through; it was gonna make me think. The comics towards the middle-end were my favorite: there’s a caveman, dinosaur, submarine and the Creator (all you need to know). This book made me think critically about my own perspective when experiencing a new place or person and how I internalize that information and project it. Really read this book and you’ll know what I mean. This is one of those books I have trouble explaining, even in a snapshot. If you were my friend, I’d place it in your hand, no words given and you’d just read it.
“In early adolescence, as the idea that I’d one day have to assume the mantle of adulthood reared its ugly head, I began to dream of working for Marvel comics. The nagging reality of the situation was that I’d more likely end up on the distribution end of the comic’s rack”.
“And in the end, everywhere is as much, or as little, like Chicago as you interpret it to be”.
“As good an indicator as any for gauging a cities’ commitment to its citizens’ well-being is to examine that cities’ public transit situation…A good public transit system equals freedom, democracy and liberty”
With a pointed look at the cities all over the nation and world, I found myself nodding along in agreement and laughing out loud at absurdities all the way through. Lines that had me reading and re-reading because they were so good, reading them out loud to those around me so I could get the nods of agreement and validation as we all smirk at one another. With human conditions that are relatable, sometimes gut wrenching and other times laughable, this book is sure to be one to carry with you.
“’Citizenship?’ the border cop asks. “American’ I say. ‘Unfortunately’ I want to add, but I don’t. I don’t mention that I feel more like a dual citizen: American by birth, but un-American by inclination”.
“We talk about the grid, how it moves across the Earth, first as an idea, and then as tract houses and strip malls set in neat rows. Sometimes I wonder if the old world isn’t still there, underneath the hatch lines of enlightened reason. That old, magic world that haunts us, the way the restless dead haunt model homes built on top of Indian burial grounds”.
“In San Diego, strangers don’t talk to each other in person, but leave notes under each other’s wiper blades… some people read the notes, and some people don’t bother. Instead, they drive onto the freeway and let the wind take care of the rest”.
These Microcosm minis were all very different in content and form, yet somehow they worked together in ways I couldn’t have imagined. If you find yourself curious to read these mini marvels as I have, find them on our website here.
Microcosm offers nine paid internships every year, in the spring, fall, and winter. Interns get to work on meaningful projects and learn both practical skills and industry knowledge. Every class of interns, for all their many individual differences, has its own personality. I’d describe our Fall 2019 batch, Micaela, Grace, and Sam, as giving us a run for our money. They’re all three ready to act, learn, and build on what they’ve learned, and so efficient and smart that we need to hustle to stay a step ahead of them.
Fun fall intern fact: two of them were high school yearbook editors, and one went to a yearbook summer camp! That’s legit publishing experience.
Here’s a little more about each of them.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a quietly reliable story and linguistics nerd.
What brings you to Microcosm?
I love books and I want to work in a field that lets me be both creative and analytical.
Where are you from? What do you miss/not miss most?
I’m from West Linn, Oregon and I’m still living there now! I miss all my old friends who live in other parts of the state/country/world. I love being close to my family (and also within walking distance of the library).
What creative or empowering thing do you like to spend your time doing?
I write novels and I also paint and draw mandalas.
What’s your favorite thing to enjoy/watch/read/listen to on TV/the radio/in the world right now?
She/Her, Queer, Feminist, cat ‘n plant lady. I’m a total geek for anything comic/graphic novel related, animated shows/movies (especially ones with gay content), and huge book/movie buff. I like to make friends so we can all be a little less alone in this big spacey thing called life.
What brings you to Microcosm?
I graduated from PSU last year with a BA in English and a minor in Writing and I basically have three goals for myself in professional regards.
1. Be the published poet/author I want to be,
2. Work in the publishing world (specifically indie pub.) and maybe one day open up my own small press geared towards publishing zinesters/poets/playwrights
3. Teach college level writing courses (because I want to be in school forever, I miss it).
So working for Microcosm is basically fulfilling one of those dreams and goals for myself. I have been a long time customer of Microcosm, so it feels really good to be a part of the team and get to take part in such a lovely community of people who are actively creative and motivated to make this world a little more EVERYTHING.
Where are you from? What do you miss/not miss the most?
I’m from all over. I technically was born and raised in southern Oregon for about half of my childhood, but after that my family was relocated just about every year for the remainder of my youth. It was great to see all the new places we lived whether it was in the U.S or out of it, culture and diversity and change became a regular thing, but like everything else it had its cons. On the one hand you’re always the new kind on the block, but one the other hand you’re always the new kid on the block. A chance for reinvention and discovery within the freedoms of no one knows you and you can be whoever you want to me. I’m not sure there’s anything I miss about it in general though, as far as a “home” feeling is concerned. I’ve made a home in my chosen family and they are right here in Portland!
What creative or empowering thing do you like to spend your time doing?
Working on my writings and making it a priority is always empowering. Making sure I’m keeping on top of my never ending to read pile is also a wonderful thing to do and feel.
What’s your favorite thing to enjoy/watch/read/listen to on TV/the radio/in the world right now?
Steven Universe has my heart right now.
What’s your favorite or least favorite thing about Microcosm so far?
It is two answers but they are kind of two fold in the sense that it is the best worst thing. You get thrown into projects head on and are free to just figure it out. I’m used to more guided work. It’s scary but also thrilling.
What do you want to get out of your time here, now that you’ve seen the basics of what we do?
I love how willing and open the people of Microcosm are with giving away projects that mean something. It’s really true, everything is important, there’s no time for busy work. I will leave (or be hired on) with a sense of true understanding into the indie pub. business and community.
Do you have any pets?
Margot and Yolanda (my cats). Two of my exes have them now and we share custody. Gay I know.
Last summer, as I was preparing the Kickstarter project for Bikes Not Rockets, my colleague Jeremy Withers, a professor of bicycle science fiction at Iowa State (sadly, I’m not 100% sure that’s his official job title), sent me an email about what may in fact be my arch-nemesis of books: Car Sinister, a long out-of-print, justifiably obscure 1979 anthology of reprinted sci fi stories from the previous two decades about cars. Every single one is written by a man. And they’re all about men, too! Or as the marketing copy on the back of the book reads, “Man and his machine … Machine and his man.”
“It has no bicycles in it,” Jeremy wrote, “but has some really imaginative depictions of cars, roads, traffic, etc. And as the title suggests, the book takes a pretty dim and dismissive view of the automobile. Most of the stories are 1960s and 1970s SF, with selections by some of the masters of that era (Roger Zelazny, Avram Davidson, Frank Herbert, Harlan Ellison, George R. R. Martin, etc.). Unfortunately, the book is also a proverbial sausage fest: no women writers!”
I expected this review to be a fairly easy mandate—no great nuanced reading would be necessary to find a feminist critique for these stories. And truly, I was not disappointed. Most of the stories in this book contain women as window dressing only. A meter maid, an old lady waving a sign, a girl standing in the crowd. The female characters given larger roles tend to be objects of contempt, attraction, or foils for the male lead’s grandiosity.
The stories that are least critical of cars are the ones steeped in the most toxic masculinity—like Roger Zelazny’s two contributions to the volume, each of which pits a stoical, solo man against against a machine. For instance, in the painfully overwritten “Auto-da-Fé,” women appear only as faceless parts of the crowd cheering on the automotive matador.
But in Zelazny’s other story, “Devil Car,” one of the two main characters is a woman, sort of. This is the very first story in the book, chosen by the volume’s three editors to set the tone and substance of the entire volume. It is the story of a man and his car, whose name is Jenny. Their conversation consists of Jenny nagging him to take care of himself and him snapping at her for it. Later, he apologizes. “‘That’s alright, Sam,’ said the delicate voice. ‘I am programmed to understand you.’”
Jenny is a sentient, state-of-the-art killing machine designed by Sam with the sole purpose of destroying the titular Devil Car. But when the moment comes, she intentionally misfires. She is simply “too emotional” to complete the job. The story ends with her human cargo patting her seat and reassuring her that, despite her faults, she’s “well-equipped” and still desirable.
Processing the experience of reading this story led me down a minor rabbit hole in which I learned that Zelazny is best known for a series in which a bunch of white characters colonize a planet where they lord over the other inhabitants in the guise of Hindu gods.
(See? This review writes itself.)
So maybe I’m feeling conspiratorial, but there is one other story in this volume in which a car is anthropomorphized as female—and it’s the book’s midway point and namesake, Gene Wolfe’s “Car Sinister.” A man takes his sports car into a shop for servicing. But due to a miscommunication, his car gets, um, stud service instead and the car becomes, as the mechanic puts it, “that way.” The man finds his car’s condition greatly inconvenient, expensive, and gross. No human woman appears for most of the story, until a passing mention in the end that after the birth, he drives the new car and gives the old, feminized, one to his wife.
Of course, you don’t need to turn your women characters into objects to strip them of their personhood. In Harry Harrison’s “The Greatest Car in the World,” an automotive engineer travels from Detroit to Italy to drop in uninvited on his childhood hero, a race car driver, now an ailing old man. After bullying his way through the front door, he’s greeted by a girl who asks him why he is intruding in “cold tones unsuited to the velvet warmth of her voice. At any other time, Haroway would have taken a greater interest in this delightful example of female construction, but” … he takes a paragraph to describe her tresses, her bosom, and her lips, and then replies rudely and dismissively. This is pretty standard for the majority of stories in this volume. When women appear, they primarily exist as story devices, coveted but contemptible objects for the male gaze.
I was especially curious to read George R.R. Martin’s entry in this volume. The introduction to his story touts him as “one of sf’s brightest young stars and whose nickname is ‘Railroad.'” This sent me off on an image search for “young George R.R. Martin,” which I discovered many of on the web page he keeps about the conventions he’s been to over the years. It contains lots of photos of him, including this collection (truncated so as to include the text, which speaks a thousand pictures) of himself posing with various ladies who, unlike the people appearing in the other pre-selfie photos on this page, are unnamed:
But much as Mr. Martin seems to appreciate women, his story in this book, “The Exit to San Breta,” detailing a crash with a ghost car, is the only one in the book that contains no women at all; not even as window dressing or a passing aside. The copyright page tells us this story was written in 1971, so I guess that’s before he discovered our existence.
The other still-pretty-famous author represented here is Frank Herbert, whose Dune series tackled gender in big ways that attempted to break free from sexist stereotypes, even if it didn’t always work. Not here, though! His story is called a promisingly feminine “The Mary Celeste Move” but the only female character is secretary who appears briefly. We don’t know her name, but we do learn that she’s a “well-endowed brunette.”
Not all the stories are dehumanizing or dismissive to women. Kenneth Bulmer’s “Station HR972” is an opaquely written description of a day in the life of a futuristic service station on a high-speed (250mph) highway.
I was bemused by this passage on page one: “Libby, the torso technician for whose sake he walked the extra hundred yards for coffee, played it cool, daily less shy, daily more inclined to talk about her own handling of units and less to listen to his accounts of rapid crane manipulations.”
Libby turns out to be a skilled surgeon dedicated to rapidly putting humans back together after the inevitable high speed car crashes. She might be the most (only?) empowered woman in this book. Certainly, she’s the only one with a non-secretarial job.
There are a couple of women in whom we glimpse a more complicated humanity. In H. Chandler Elliott’s cartoonishly colloquial “A Day on Death Highway,” a nuclear family flees a planet with strict automotive safety laws to try out life in a different dimension where the dad can fully indulge his road rage and his belief that no rules should apply to him. The story’s notable because dad’s buffoonery isn’t glorified; the family dysfunction is deftly painted, and while Mom and sister Judy aren’t given a lot of ink, they clearly have their own agency and motives.
(Contrast this with the final story in the book, Harlan Ellison’s “Along the Scenic Route” which depicts in gory detail a road-rage fueled duel in which the driver’s wife cowers in the passenger seat as he escalates a violent encounter to its fatal climax … but she is the one to comfort him after they survive. “You did what you had to,” she croons. Side note, he calls another driver a “beaver-sucker,” an insult now burned into my brain.)
Perhaps best of the lot (in terms of representation… not in writing style) was Robert F. Young’s very long and unpromisingly titled “Romance in a Twenty-first Century Used-Car Lot.” Lone among all these stories, the main character is a woman! At first, we think she’s an anthropomorphized car, but then we discover this is a society where cars must be worn like clothes at all times, even indoors, or you’ll be exiled to a “nudist reservation.” Our heroine Arabella Grille lives in a sexist society, but she’s a complicated person with insecurities and strengths that we get to see played out in the story. Her appearance is equated with her value and her intellectual bent is bemoaned by her abusive family, her image-conscious workplace, and her fascist-consumerist society.
In this story, we see the impact of the behavior and attitudes demonstrated in the other stories. When a car-clad stranger, attracted to Arabella’s new car-dress, bullies her into a date to the drive-in movie, she feels validated. When he tries to assault her (grabbing her headlights and grinding his chassis against hers), she knows everyone will blame her for the crumpled fender that resulted from fighting him off. A 24 hour mechanic helps her fix it, and asks her out more kindly. They fall in love over the course of a few dates, but her attacker finds out and calls the police; they intervene and it turns out that her new love is a secret nudist! After she weathers her family’s reaction, she decides to run away to the nudist reservation, too, where no cars are allowed, and they live happily ever after in a single-family detached home with a swimming pool.
Towards the end of the story, Arabella has a revelation about her would-be rapist. “He hates me because he betrayed to me what he really is, and in his heart, he despises what he really is!” This nugget of wisdom is a contender for the highlight of the book, matched only by the machine-gun wielding old lady pedestrian who manages to take out several passengers in the car that intentionally runs her down in the excerpt from the chronicles of the Car vs Feet wars that is Fritz Leiber’s “X Marks the Pedwalk.”
Car Sinister was easy to critique but hard to read. The stories are fantastical, but reading it today, most of them feel cartoonishly old fashioned, especially in the depictions of characters’ families, work, and expectations. In most of these stories, women are either background noise, helpmeets, coveted objects, or overly emotional obstacles our heroes must overcome. The attitudes towards cars and highways—ranging from worshipful and entitled to skeptical and pessimistic—feel contemporary, perhaps because our current climate crisis resonates with the oil crisis of the late 70s.
But even if the editors couldn’t find any car-oriented stories by the many women writing in that era to reprint, the attitudes toward gender, which are unremarked on in the book’s editorial notes, are what truly date these stories and show why most of these writers are truly no longer relevant. Science fiction authors whose work has held up over the years, like Octavia Butler or Ursula K. Leguin, have stayed readable in part because their capacity for complex cultural imagination transcends the “what if it were like now but the cars did cooler stuff and there were bigger guns” style of worldbuilding reflected in the stories in Car Sinister (and the bulk of their genre). But in part, too, they hold up because they treat all their characters as fully human, whole people. Most of the stories in this book, and in this genre over the years, fail to do this, and as a result they fail all the readers, not just us emotional womanfolk.
If there ever were a time for magical resistance, it’s now!
We believe that every bit of energy we put out into the world is our power—our magic—and what we work to manifest often comes back to us in ways we never expected. Our books and zines are all about owning your power and putting it forth with intention.
This season we’re thinking a lot about the crossroads between social justice, self-care, and magic. The things we believe, and say, and do all create the world around us, and the only way to make positive changes in that world is to put real effort into getting there.
Here is a list of books, zines, stickers, and patches that meet somewhere in that crossroads, each meant to build your personal power and help you change the world.
Books we publish about owning your power:
The Practical Witch’s Almanac 2020: Walking Your Path: Witches come from all walks of life and spiritual beliefs. No matter what your path may be, this almanac has all the goodies you are looking for. Special worksheets and articles are included to help you achieve your goals and discover your inner power. Lessons include divination, herbalism, and using stones, crystals, and minerals. Grow your witchy skills to combat our toxic society no matter your current level of expertise.
No Apocalypse: Punk, Politics, and the Great American Weirdness: This vast collection of work includes writing from various publications such as Punk Planet, HeartattaCk, the Skeleton, and much more. We all agree that the world is going to shit. People are corrupt and then they die, corrupt and then die. War is war, but rock n’ roll is rock n’ roll and punk is punk, so let’s fucking change, let’s do something about it. Let’s use our collaborative efforts, knowledge, spells and let’s get amped, get inspired. This world could use more of our power and our ability to change the world, to make it a better place in space.
Our Bodies, Our Bikes:An homage to the classic Our Bodies, Ourselves, this compilation of essays, resources and advice about gender and bicycling covers a lot of ground—bold meditations on body parts, stories about recovery from illness and injury, biking to the birth center, and loud and proud declarations of physical and emotional freedom. Find a place to settle in the various expressions of gender, age, ability, sexuality, menstruation, abortion, and reproductive rights, and ride along with us to a better future.
Teenage Rebels: Stories of Successful High School Activists From the Little Rock 9 to the Class of Tomorrow: Take a glimpse into the laws, policies, and political struggles that have shaped the lives of American high school students. Through dozens of case studies, recount the strikes, marches, and picket lines of teens all over the U.S. as they demand better textbooks, start recycling programs, and protest the censorship of student newspapers. Fighting and speaking for ourselves can begin at any age and this book is for anyone who has ever challenged the rules, or wanted to, and wished for a better world.
Zines we publish about owning your power:
The Sketchy Life of a Fly: Not afraid to take risks, this zine is for anyone who has ever questioned the world around them and seeks to thwart the patriarchy. Through famous speeches and collaborated illustrations it reminds us that we will not be buried by our burdens!
How to Boycott: From Chick-Fil-A to the Boston Tea Party, boycotts have been an instrumental way to change the world. This zine tells you how to craft effective coalitions. Take the wild ride of history and learn tips about how to be the change, from those who were successful!
Speak Out!: A Zine Exploring Gendered Violence: A collection of art, stories, and articles focused on gendered violence. This zine raises consciousness, gives voice to those who have experienced gendered violence, and works as a platform for education. We are badass witches, don’t mess with us.
Plants Against the Patriarchy: Invoking the Magical Allyship of Plants: Delve into your herbal witchy side and learn the power of our plants and the way they can help deal with our capitalist society’s toxic masculinity-driven culture. It includes simple yet beautiful art to put your mind at peace in trying times. Whether to brighten your day or give you the power to cast the medicinal remedy for those douche-bags down the street, this is the zine for you.
How to Plan for Action: A Protest Prep:After practicing your spells to kick injustice’s ass, take a few minutes to read this zine before getting out there! Get ready to stand your ground by learning how to do so legally and wisely. Learn the basics of safety prep, how to deal with the police, what to expect if you’re arrested, and, most importantly, how to be intentional and respectful as a member of a protesting community.
Books we are proud to distribute that help you witch up your life:
Witches, Sluts, and Feminists: Grab hold of your broom-handles, nasty women! Witches, Sluts, Feminists is a brilliant journey through witchy feminist herstory. Featuring gorgeous illustrations, this book is a celebration of powerful women.
Witchcraft Activism: A Toolkit for Magical Resistance: Give your activism a powerful kick with this book! Learn how to incorporate your witchcraft into your activism, adding much-needed power to your protests while also teaching you to protect yourself from those who would do you harm. Hexing the Patriarchy: This ABCs of witchcraft offers 26 options for tearing down the patriarchy with potions, spells, elixirs and other magic. Learn about essential oils, justice jars and herbalism and more, and learn to harness their power. This book is perfect for any feminist witch who is out to make a difference in the world!
Slingshot planners: A spiral-bound calendar and day planner. It includes space to write your contact information, a contact list of radical leftist groups around the globe, menstrual calendar, and extra note pages to record all your important revolutionary ideas. It also lists popular activist and alternative cultural holidays. Another highlight is a guide to saying key phrases in multiple languages. As if this weren’t enough, it also serves as a fund-raiser for the Berkeley radical newspaper, SLINGSHOT. Get yourself organized, make moves, take action and look cool doing it.
The world is pretty toxic right now, but we know we can all do better.
To help in the journey, this season’s books cover detoxing your home, making your own self-care magic, and dealing with trauma at all ages; Ditching body-shame for colorful art, and the “cult of positivity” for radical joy; Workbooks to deal with boundaries and finances, and an “unplanner” to keep track of your life while managing your mental health.
A bit about the season’s designs, from publisher Joe Biel: Our average cover sees about 50 revisions between conception and the time that the book goes to print—often even changing after the first printing—so we try very hard to nail it on the first impression. In most of these cases the concepts were immediate and straightforward but several had the initial drafts completely scrapped in favor of a clearer idea. It’s easy to get stuck in the myopic tunnel of tweaking something endlessly when you need to start over. The number one consideration of cover design is the book’s value proposition. But what if that book’s emotional payoff is a bit silly? You have to embrace that in some way or you risk misleading the reader.
Bright, bold, and brave, our Spring 2020 books are all about making your own joy through planning, understanding, and practical change, and we think the covers reflect that. We went a little more playful even than usual this season, comments Joe. Each cover makes me smile a bit more than usual.
Are people constantly intruding on your personal space, using your stuff, disrespecting you, or otherwise violating your boundaries? You can’t control what they do, but you can control how you understand and communicate your own needs, and make choices about how you behave and respond to the people around you. Dive deep into self-work with this interactive guide that can be used alone or as a companion to Dr. Faith’s book Unfuck Your Boundaries.
Courage Party, written by Joyce Brabner (of American Splendor) with the help of her daughter Danielle, is a story based on a real-life situation Danielle experienced in her youth. To help her get over the trauma of her harrowing situation, Danielle’s mother throws her a “courage party” to celebrate her bravery and ability to work through her feelings and bounce back after being assaulted by a stranger. Written in an easy-to-follow, relatable way, this beautifully illustrated story is meant for kids and grown-ups to read together.
Happiness is big business. Books, consultants, psychologists, organizations, and even governments tout happiness secrets that are backed by scientific findings. The problem is that all of this science is done by and for cis white men. And some of the most vocal of these happiness experts were announcing that women could become happier by espousing “traditional” values and eschewing feminism.
Skeptical of this hypothesis, Ariel Gore took a deep dive into the optimism industrial complex, reading the history, combing the research, attending the conferences, interviewing the thought leaders, and exploring her own and her friends’ personal experiences and desires.
Playful rhymes and whimsical art celebrate the many faces of the vulva in this mesmerizing coloring book. Some of the rhymes uplift this oft-misunderstood body part: My vag is a martini / sometimes dry, sometimes dirty / but always delightful & a little bit flirty. And others keep it wonderfully real: Slobbering on a bush / my vag is a giraffe / majestic in person / but goofy in photograph. These pages provide a wonderful antidote to body shame.
Unfucking your year doesn’t have to start in January. Take control of your life with this “unplanner” at any point in the year, and fill in the months and days as you plan your weeks and work through the exercises month by month. Unfuck Your Year is a perpetual planner with themed months to help you unfuck your life. Features weekly activities in Dr. Faith Harper’s frank style with help from River, the gender-flexible kitty, to guide you along your way. Also includes mood and period trackers, and space for you to set monthly goals along with plenty of achievable suggestions to get you on the right track.
Looking to detox your home without the use of harsh chemicals, overly processed cleaning products, or by any other questionable means? Meadow Shadowhawk will help you through the process, with well-researched advice about topics like making your own cleaning products, selecting paint, choosing a vacuum cleaner, and even replacing furniture and insulation. Includes recipes for creating your own versions of everyday items, tips on what to buy (and what to avoid!), and what the facts are about various household items.
Dr. Faith, author of the bestselling Unf*ck Your Brainand Unf*ck Your Intimacy, tackles one of the toughest emotional topics there is with her trademark mix of neuroscience, gentle encouragement, and no-nonsense language. This book isn’t about getting rich quick (or necessarily at all)—it’s about figuring out your own economic values and baggage, and learning to be the person in the world you know you have it in you to be.
Without fear and shame holding you back, it’s easier to move past social barriers to actualizing whatever your money aspirations are, whether that’s getting a raise, getting out of debt, having honest conversations about money with your family, raising your kids to be savers, or wherever your aspirations lead you. This workbook can be used alongside the book Unf*ck Your Worth or on its own to help you plot out your values, dreams, and cold, hard numbers.
Contemporary life is confusing and it’s easy to feel out of control. Learn how to harness the power of your words and actions to change your life and make the world a better place with this modern spellbook—regardless of your religion or spiritual leanings. Sage Liskey shows you how to get in touch with the mental, emotional, and physical aspects needed for spell casting.
Zoe Reviews This is San Francisco, In Bookstores Now
by Zoe Jennings
My adolescence consisted of frequent commutes to SF to see plays, visit museums on school field trips, and explore the city with friends and family. I grew up in Berkeley, California, just across the bay.
I’m not quite a local, but I’m not entirely a tourist either, though sometimes I play one when family comes to visit. I know San Francisco, and I was already a fan of Alexander Barrett’s books. His first book in this series, This is Portland, was one of my first introductions to Portland when I first moved here for school.
This is San Francisco is a quirky, quick read, a guide to the “City by the Bay” as well as a sort of author’s journal. Barrett chronicles many of the things he’s learned and observed about San Francisco and what makes the city special to him. It’s personal, yet invites the reader in to experience it all for themselves, and to make the city their own.
What I liked: One of my favorite aspects of Barrett’s writing is his use of humor. He introduces each section with a beautiful illustration and dives right into story time, exploring some of San Francisco’s most interesting questions…
Why put a high security federal prison on an island with a perfect view of San Francisco, when the island could have been a beautiful retreat from city life?
Why is Dolores Park Beach called a beach when it is, in fact, not near the ocean?
Oh, you want to go for a nice stroll through a neighborhood with your special someone? Where can you go walking without finding yourselves struggling to continue breathing by the time you’re halfway up the first hill? (Hint: nowhere. But that’s okay!)
While some of the larger, more famous landmarks and facts about the city are covered in this book, Barrett also shares details about lesser-known stories, habits, and histories of SF. For instance, I’ve been to the Castro District before, but I’ve never explored enough to find the giant pride flag at the intersection of Market and Castro. Barrett describes it so lovingly that I know I have to go visit it as soon as I’m back in the Bay Area again: “It is colossal, but even more so when you feel the history and love behind it. After all, it was Harvey Milk that asked his friend Gilbert Baker to design a symbol that they could rally behind. And it made its debut parading down Market Street in 1978.”
I also had no idea there are buffalo in the middle of Golden Gate Park. I’ve been to Golden Gate Park. I lived in the Bay Area for fourteen years. How did I never hear about the buffalo? (Technically they’re bison but the place they’re kept is called the Buffalo Paddock.) Somehow, I missed them. But apparently they’re there, hanging out in San Francisco for anyone to see. Pretty fun fact about SF, I’d say.
Barrett draws your attention to San Francisco’s landmarks and histories so he can reveal their flaws and paradoxes while simultaneously showing you how lovable they are. It is apparent that he holds them close to his heart, no matter how weird or frustrating they are.
What it’s missing: One thing I kind of wished for as I read about all the cool places around the city to visit, was a map with the different neighborhoods and landmarks in San Francisco. I still don’t know the layout of SF very well, and with such cool illustrations on each page of the book, a colorful map delineating all the different places Barrett mentions would have fit well. Nonetheless, it’s easy enough to look things up online and I don’t feel as though the book is lacking anything without a map.
Summary: Overall, this book was a pleasure to read. I found myself smiling at Barrett’s sarcasm and falling more in love with San Francisco on every page. I definitely have some new places to visit next time I’m in the Bay Area. Even as a somewhat local I learned a lot and simply appreciated Barrett’s obvious affection for the city.
Locals and tourists alike will have a great time following his advice on sights to see, lines to stand in, smells to crinkle up their noses at, and layers of clothing to carry around all day.
As much as I think and talk about love and relationships, I had never actually read a book about it. Sex From Scratch: Making Our Own Relationship Rulesby Sarah Mirk stood out to me. It seemed like exactly what I needed to read at this point in my life; I’m a college student dating several people, constantly working on my relationships, and trying to figure out my needs as an individual. The skills and stories I read in this book gave me so many new ideas about my own life and how to navigate the connections I will have in my life. I think it would do the same for many people.
The title itself is a perfect summary of Mirk’s main message in this book: Forget for a minute what society has taught you about what love means: you have the power to start from scratch and build up what you believe is the right way to love for you.
Instead of simply offering specific dating advice or telling you how you should be acting in any certain situation, this book is about unlearning the ways in which society pressures you to shape your relationships, and teaching you to figure out what is best for you.
Mirk helps you ask critical questions: What do I really want/need? How do other people fit into my life? What does the world teach me about my roles in love? Do I agree with those roles?
She constantly recognizes that every individual is different, every relationship fluid, and how that means only you can know what is best for you. Despite the overwhelming cultural expectation of heterosexual monogamous marriage destined to procreate, the possibilities and realities of love are actually endless!
I appreciated the structure of the book – although it’s a quick read, she covers a lot of ground. It’s divided into sections such as “Navigating Non-Monogamy” “Gender is Messy” and “Staying Childless by Choice”. Within each section, Mirk breaks down these complicated topics into bite-size “lessons” that may be a little easier to chew than rethinking your entire life plan.
Mirk draws from her own life experiences to explain how these concepts can actually play out, which gives the book an intimate and caring feeling. She lays out the ideas for you to process, gives real-life examples, then encourages you to take them further on your own and figure out how they apply to you.
The tone is very much that of a supportive friend on your couch at 3AM helping you dig deep into the parts of your psyche that can be difficult to face alone. Perhaps realizing how important that vulnerability can be for learning and growing, the author did extensive interviews with a huge variety of people across the country to give this book a more broad range of advice and experiences. Each section includes interviews with individuals sharing their stories and personal wisdom about relationships.
The relaxed language of storytelling and new voices let the reader feel less alone in their journey, opening up to new ways of loving themselves and others. As a genderqueer pansexual polyamorous person, it can be really tough to find media that supports or even acknowledges my existence, especially surrounding topics of dating and sex. There is most often a heterosexual cisgender narrative that excludes queer people from engaging in these ideas. This book does a wonderful job of keeping the language open so that anyone can read this book and feel like it was made to help them. There is even a chapter specifically about gender that gives trans people the microphone to share how they need to be respected and what they can teach about dating from a queer perspective.
In Sex From Scratch,Mirk never tells you how you should be or assumes that you will be a certain way, which makes this vital conversation around honest relationships and sex more accessible to people who might need it most.
My favorite thing about this whole book is the first chapter, “Loving Being Single,” and the fact that it is the first topic of the book. It can be so easy to lose your sense of self when focused on your relationships, but your sense of self is exactly what you need in order to work through those situations and life in general.
Hearing other people’s norm-breaking perspectives can teach you important skills for loving yourself, keeping an open mind, and building the kinds of relationships that work well for you. Anyone could learn from this book, no matter their current dating situation.
Mirk always keeps the reader in check with the most important lesson – are you looking out for your own happiness?
Through it all she teaches us that there is no correct way to have sex, love someone, or be yourself.
This review was written a few months back by winter intern and zinester, Neil Birch.