Monday, November 6, 2017

#MeToo October


Today's post contains two recommendations that deal with sexual assault and harassment. If you need to skip these or come back later, that's absolutely okay. Do what you need to do.
First of all, #metoo. If you're unfamiliar with that hashtag, it was used this past month by women and some men to share past experiences of sexual harassment and assault to emphasize how ridiculously common it is. It's common enough that I can accidentally read two novels about sexual assault and harassment in one month. If you want statistics, you can visit RAINN. If you want nonfiction, I recommend Asking for It by Kate Harding or Missoula by Jon Krakauer to start. And this month for fiction, I recommend Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu and The Hollow Girl by Hillary Monahan. Both contain sexual assault. 

Moxie is set in Rockport, a small town on the Texas coast (and directly in the path of Hurricane Harvey), where a boys will be boys attitude prevails at the high school at the expense of the girls. Sexual innuendo on shirts and "make me a sandwich" jokes during class are okay for the guys, but girls are pulled out of class for vague dress code violations. It's enough to make a good girl break the rules and anonymously start a Riot Grrrl-style zine with tiny homework assignments for other fed-up girls. At first, just drawing stars on their hands so that they can find each other, but the homework gets bigger as the boys and the administration pushes back. But never fear, because Moxie Girls Fight Back! 

The Hollow Girl follows Bethan, a young Romany woman training to become the next healer for her clan. Despite being told no, the chieftain's son Simon won't give up on the idea of making Bethan his wife. He hounds her, following her to market where she sells the healer's sachets of healing herbs, and picks fights with Martyn, a half-Romany boy she was becoming friends with. One night, after Simon and his friends have been particularly nasty, Martyn escorts Bethan home for her safety. Simon and his friends are waiting; they beat Martyn nearly to death and Simon sexually assaults Bethan, thinking that she will now have to submit to marrying him. Instead, Bethan chooses to have her revenge and save Martyn's life with some very, very dark magic- the kind that requires blood sacrifice.

Together these novels are not just about revenge (though both of them have it), but about taking back power and control. Sexual assault is not the victim's fault, though they often bear the brunt of the shame and vitriol if they come forward. In both Moxie and The Hollow Girl, the heroines refuse to submit to this narrative that they are at fault. It's what ultimately makes me recommend them. 


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