Friday, June 29, 2018

Book Review: Dead Girls

Nice, cheery title, right? This was actually a really fascinating book of essays that made you think and look at things twice.

Dead Girls - Alice Bolin

A collection of poignant, perceptive essays that expertly blends the personal and political in an exploration of American culture through the lens of our obsession with dead women.

In her debut collection, Alice Bolin turns a critical eye to literature and pop culture, the way media consumption reflects American society, and her own place within it. From essays on Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, Bolin illuminates our widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster a man’s story.

From chronicling life in Los Angeles to dissecting the “Dead Girl Show” to analyzing literary witches and werewolves, this collection challenges the narratives we create and tell ourselves, delving into the hazards of toxic masculinity and those of white womanhood. Beginning with the problem of dead women in fiction, it expands to the larger problems of living women—both the persistent injustices they suffer and the oppression that white women help perpetrate.

Sharp, incisive, and revelatory, Dead Girls is a much-needed dialogue on women’s role in the media and in our culture.

I'll start by saying I'm going to give this book 2 stars and only because it was reluctantly good. It was slow to get into and I got the feel that the author is the type of person you'd sit in a coffee shop with and she would over analyze everything you said or did and assume you meant it in some nefarious way. Some of the essays were a bit of a stretch to me, and the Britney Spears one was the best in the book. I was going into this thinking this was going to be about the murders of women that are then blown up in the media and in our face for years but no, it isn't that at all. It feels like a memoir about moving to L.A., with a sprinkle (or a heavy dash) of commentary on the works of Joan Didion (who I'm not familiar with) and talks about the entertainment industry and it's just kind of all over the place. To me if it had focused solely on dead girls (actual dead girls) then this could have been beefier and been a must read. If you're interested in feminism as it relates to entertainment commentary.. kind of.. this book is for you.

If you're looking for a relaxing beach read, this isn't the book for that at all. It's heavy, it's meandering, it's easy to put down to instead do a load of laundry and come back to because you have nothing else going on. It's hard to just sit and read it. I struggled. But I feel like every nuance in popular culture was examined and at some point I want to just scream, "and maybe it means nothing at all!!". It was frustrating at times.

If you like thought provoking, different take on modern culture, this would be a good book to pick up. You can find it on Amazon of course, but you can also find it on the Harper Collins website!



Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book for the tour.

DoingDewey said...

I found this engaging to read, but I'm still with you about the author over-analyzing things! I think she was generally right in her conclusions about the way women are treated in popular culture, but I don't think the single examples she cited proved her point very well. And I also found it disjointed and was surprised there wasn't more focus specifically on the dead women are portrayed in the media, either in shows or in reality.