If you follow Olivie Blake is Not Writing, then you're probably already aware that Aurora Sinclair and I accidentally started a book club by virtue of insisting people listen to our excited bursts of rambling as we explored literary erotica, beginning with Anaïs Nin. After realizing there were a number of women interested in reading along, we decided to create a monthly book recommendation along with guided discussion questions.
The idea behind this particular thought experiment is that each book focuses on an aspect of the female experience. While not every book is necessarily erotica (some definitely are, but not all), each one has a feature of sex positivity along with a contribution to the collective understanding of womanhood in literature.
If you'd like to follow along, check in on any of my social media! We start reading on the first of the month and discuss during the final week.
March 2019: Henry and June by Anaïs Nin
April 2019: The Awakening by Kate Chopin
May 2019: The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by A.N. Roquelaure
June 2019: Seductress by Betsy Prioleau
July 2019: Chéri by Colette
August 2019: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
September 2019: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
October 2019: Jane Eyre / Rebecca by Charlotte Brontë, Daphne du Maurier
November 2019: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin
December 2019: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
January 2020: Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
February 2020: The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
March 2020: Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
April 2020: Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf
May 2020: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
June 2020: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
July 2020: If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha
August 2020: You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
September 2020: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
October 2020: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
November 2020: The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
December 2020: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
January 2021: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
February 2021: The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan
March 2021: Too Much by Rachel Vorona Cote
April 2021: Kindred by Octavia Butler
May 2021: In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
June 2021: The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans
by Jia Tolentino
Who was it that asked me how to run an online book club? The truth is that I obviously have no idea, and anyone who thinks otherwise has been magically bamboozled. If you’re wondering why I’ve gone full Sisyphus despite barely having the time for the usual discussion posts, I too have wondered the same thing. I had to ask myself several times what I was trying to accomplish with this little vanity project of mine—Do I want to find sexy, diversely authored rom-coms for the erotica of it all? Feminist classics followed by incisive critiques of inherently exclusive white feminism? Something completely different?—only to remember that the answer was: Well, yes. In the words of Angelica Schuyler, I'm looking for a mind at work. I also want to bully people as much as possible into books I either have read or want to read, so here we are.
This one falls into the latter category—a book I haven’t read but want to. I have a love-hate relationship with what social media has done to, you know, society. On the one hand, where would I be without it? Nowhere. I’d be absolutely nothing. I also came of age in the era of song lyrics in bios (subterfuge about who you liked for the critically discerning) and the ultra-high selfie angle that felt like my best side, so do with that what you will. But on the other hand, what is our online existence doing to our perceptions of each other, ourselves? I wanted someone to help answer that for me (among other things) and I came across Jia Tolentino, a fellow Filipina who comes hailed as the next Joan Didion by Zadie Smith and Patricia Lockwood, two completely disparate authors I admire and respect.
This book is a collection of essays, so another anomaly in my usual pursuit of novels, but since I’m writing this while pumping my boobs I’m choosing to forgive myself the break in continuity. Check back in at the end of July for discussion questions and links for further reading. If you'd like to follow the discussion, send me an ask on Tumblr or reply to this month's S.P.E.L.L. post to be tagged!