Sunday, April 13, 2008

On The Reading Nightstand: Brain Food for Thoughtful Thinkers

Top of the Reading List

Recommended: New Books about Ida B. Wells
and Women's (Fluid) Sexuality

Ida B. Wells: Exiled American, courageous black woman (and southerner) who would not be silenced in the face of crushing threats and violence. A timely reminder of this great american Woman Hero/shero/heroine. The new book by Paula J. Giddings got a great review in the Washington Post — "She Would Not Be Silent" which would have made an excellent subtitle itself.

Wells used words to fight white Southern lynch mobs, an indifferent white Northern public and, sometimes, black critics who felt that her outspokenness undermined their agenda. Southern white supremacy was cruel and crazy, and she was the rare person who could see beyond the cultural insanity in which she was immersed. For that she paid dearly.

Giddings describes the tensions within the black women's club movement, which fought locally and nationally to ameliorate Jim Crow, and excels in portraying the sexism of black male civil rights activists and their white allies.

Ultimately Giddings does not portray Wells as a victim but instead as the heroic activist who may finally receive the recognition she deserves.

Sexual Fluidity: Understanding Women's Love and Desire by Lisa M. Diamond.
Also mentioned in the Post with another book that received more attention by the reviewer, the editor is to be commended for the title/subtitle of the review:
Carnal Confusion: As sexy as our culture is, we still don't understand sex.

Setting out to prove the theory that, for some women, love is truly blind where gender is concerned, Diamond presents her evidence in a fascinating, anecdotal fashion -- by tracking over the span of a decade the relationships of nearly 100 women who at one point or another had experienced "same-sex attractions." The women move from men to women and back again (or vice-versa), their sexual identity as changeable as their desires. Additionally, she delves into the brain science behind lust, love and infatuation, revealing that what draws women toward a particular partner is as much a function of biology as it is anything else. To her credit, Diamond avoids scripting her arguments in obtuse academese. With her compassionate, understated approach, she has stepped up the business of gender research.

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