With 100 days until the election, lets take a look at 100 books every American should read. These write-ups will be short and not incredibly comprehensive looks at some books and novels that will help you become a better citizen.
I love it when Rebecca Traister pops up on one of my favorite podcasts. You might know her from her work in New York magazine or The New Republic. She concentrates on politics and women’s issues.
Traister’s writing hits my three main requirements. It’s clear, crisp and concise. There’s no wasted words, she turns fun phrases at times, and her points aren’t blocked by lazy, repetitive or fuzzy writing.
Few come off well in all those mediums. Traister pulls it off.
What I enjoy most when she’s on one of those shows is when she gets on a tear about women’s issues. It’s like she suddenly gets possessed by the spirit of Robin Williams. She’ll hit you with a quick comment on one issue, abruptly switch to a second, pop over to a third, then return home to the original topic.
It can be dizzying, particularly because she’s often talking about important topics that don’t get enough coverage.
Traister’s book, “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger,” came out in 2018 and is driven by what makes Traister such a a good journalist: She’s thorough and accurate. And she’s a great writer.
You can’t help but be challenged by the book. And you can’t help but be a better American when you’re finished. That’s what this list is all about.
A strong voice
In just under 300 pages, she explains how so many of America’s biggest changes have been driven by women’s anger.
As America approaches it’s two hundred and fiftieth year since revolution was declared, still just 150 years since abolition, a century since some women won the right to vote, and 50 years since African-Americans in the Jim Crow South were fully in franchised — all events that occurred in the wake of uprising of Americans furious at the injustices they faced — women in America are coalescing in anger again. It is messy; it is written by division — racial and generational and political. It is not civil, it is often profane; calls for civility are designed to protect the powerful by casting themselves as victims. It is mass fury: occasionally so frenzy that it makes people nervous. Were any other way, nothing would ever change.Good and Mad, pages 40-41
When I read the book, I kept thinking about a reporter colleague who was talking about gun violence with me. “Nothings going to change because there aren’t enough angry moms. That’s who makes change.”
This was right after Newtown. He was right. And sure enough, after Newtown, Mom’s Demand sprouted and has been a lynchpin in change on that issue.
Traister takes you through all those types of movements. She also shows you how the way women are perceived matters in the fight.
I’m on most popular strategies used to justify women’s rage in public spheres is to attributed to something else, emphasizing that whatever anger you’re feeling is actually channeled from a more authoritative source. Like, for instance, God. This was a point made to me about women in politics by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who said in 2018 that “women have to be angry on behalf of someone else in order to be taken seriously. So if you’re hairy Tubman, or Joan of arc, you have God bringing you this passion.”Good and Mad, pages 82-83
What I loved about Traister’s book, as well as Jill Lepore’s “These Truth’s” and Ibram X. Kendi’s “Stamped from the Beginning” (Both of which will be later entrants on this list.) was finding out about American heroes I had not known.
You might not agree with everything Traister has to say. I don’t think I did. But the point of this exercise is reading something that might give you a perspective of America you haven’t noticed. Or if it’s something you noticed, it will give you a deeper understanding.
One final point about “Good and Mad”: While it is the 100th book on this list, it is not the 100th most important book. These books aren’t listed in order. However, I picked Traister’s book first because it is a challenge, as well as fun.
Traister’s voice is an important one in the American dialogue. And if you haven’t heard it, you’re missing out on a good piece of America. Now, get reading.
Up next: A novel of war and truth.