Book Review: Nasty Women by 404 Ink

Nasty Women is a collection of essays which address the question of what it is to be a woman in the twenty-first century. Edited and published by new, independent Scottish publisher 404 Ink, the collection was put together in the aftermath of and in response to the election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency. The editors’ note explains that they wished to make a stand against this, to give a platform for voices speaking against the hatred prevailing across the globe and to show that in an age of ‘post-truth’ real experiences still matter.

I found the experience of reading Nasty Women enjoyable, challenging and thought-provoking. The twenty contributors tell their stories and explain their perspectives with such candour that it is impossible not to be affected. A range of experiences are covered and a huge diversity of subject matter is explored; disability, sexuality, race, religion, class, gender, all relating very sharply to the twenty-first century context.

All reading is, of course, subjective and like any other reader I did find some particular favourites, some essays which resonated with me or challenged me most. I adored Becca Inglis’s Love In A Time of Melancholia – like Inglis I am a grunge and Hole enthusiast and found her reappraisal of Courtney Love, her life and work and her exploration of her own attraction to Love’s music and celebrity highly relatable. I loved Alice Tarbuck’s Foraging and Feminism: Hedge-Witchcraft in the Twenty-First Century – not only did this appeal to my sensibilities as a witchcraft scholar, but I loved the sense of power that Tarbuck described in returning to the understanding of nature, to the rediscovery of old gifts. I was also deeply affected by Jen McGregor’s Lament: Living with the Consequences of Contraception – this essay and McGregor’s sense of betrayal by something which was supposed to symbolise liberation and progress stayed in my mind long after I had read it.

Irrespective of the stories they were telling, however, I loved the way that the essay format meant that the women themselves, as essayists, were placed firmly at the centre of their own stories: the subjects of the lived experiences, the ones in control of the narratives. These were their stories; as a reader I might not always be able to relate, but I could certainly learn something.

An excellent and thought-provoking read. Five stars.

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