Tag Archives: Knopf

Comments about Feminism in Recent Best-Sellers

At the First Friday Book Synopsis, we have presented a number of books over the past few years dealing with feminism.  All of these are available for purchase at 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com.

One of our Creative Communication Network part-time consultants, Carmen Coreas, CarmenTowerClubDinnerPictureCroppedrecently weighed in with her views about feminism, citing information from some of the books we have presented.  In this blog post, she discusses what feminism means to her, and how in her opinion, the definition of feminism has evolved.  She finishes by revealing whether she considers herself to be a feminist.  If you have read these books, attended our synopses, or listened our recordings, you can see how closely her remarks resemble your own.

What Feminism Means to Me

Many women are tired of discussing the feminist movement.  Many have just given up, moved on, and accepted society and the business world as they are.  They are no longer interested in trying to enact real change in the workplace, at home, in non-profit organizations, and other venues.

I believe in the words that Sallie Krawcheck wrote recently in her best-seller entitled Own It:  The Power of Women at Work (New York:  Crown Books, 2017).  The point of her book was not about excluding men, but rather, including womenHer stance is well aligned with the best-seller, Lean In:  Women, Work and the Will to Lead (New York:  Knopf, 2013) by Sheryl Sandberg.

To me, feminism is not defeating men for the good of women.  I define feminism clearly and concisely as standing up for who we are and what we do.  Women can do that in ways that are not at the expense of men.

This is so different from what other authorities claim.  One journalist, Jessica Bennett, is a flaming feminist.  Her book, Feminist Fight Club:  An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace (New York:  Harper, 2016) is described as “part manual, part manifesto – an illustrated, practical, no-bullshit guide to battling sexism at work” (source:  www.feministfightclub.com).  The entire book is a men-basher.

Conversely, Sallie Krawcheck believes in the power of womenWe women are different.  And therein lie our greatest strength and competitive advantage in the modern workplace…We need more women acting more like women. And this goes not just for female CEO’s or women in top senior leadership positions, but for all women.  That’s because the power of diversity is…wait for it..,diversity” (p. 9).

This quote resonates well with me.  I define feminism as being ourselves.  We are women.  We are good.  We need to let everyone know that we deserve a voice.  But, this is not a fixed pie.  We can stand up for ourselves, and do everything we need, without fighting men in the process.  Our gains are not men’s losses.

Evolvement of the Feminist Definition

In its earliest days, feminism was a power play.  Women participated in braless public rallies.  Women would attend professional seminars to learn how to survive in a man’s business world.  They would learn how to dress like a man, participate in meetings like men, how to challenge and speak with men interpersonally, and even not to drink water before a meeting with men, so that they would not have to excuse themselves to use the rest room.  At that time, you could not be a woman, because to survive, you had to act (and even look) like a man.

The early attitudes were to fight men.  Remember the great push in the late 1980’s for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).  The Reverend Jesse Jackson, in his 1988 Democratic National Convention speech in which he accepted the nomination, rallied the crowd by exclaiming, “women cannot buy bread cheaper, women cannot buy milk cheaper,” and stated that they deserve to be paid the same as men.  At that time, women made about 68 cents on the dollar to a man doing the same job.  Today, there is still a disparity, even though women’s pay is now about 86 cents for every dollar a man makes.  The difference for minority women is even greater.

Ronald Reagan was not popular with women by failing to support the ERA.  His point was that in the wrong hands, equal rights will damage women.  He said that unscrupulous people would use the ERA to also push equal responsibility. For example, he was concerned that women would be required to lift materials of great weight on a job, equal to men who had to do the same.

Not everyone was on board with the man vs. woman dual.  One of the famous opponents to feminism was Phyllis Schafly.  She was a strictly constitutional based attorney, as well as a famous conservative activist. Schafly was highly conservative, both socially and politically, and she opposed abortion.  She is considered one of the major forces behind the failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

This train of thought of fighting men has not gone away.  Read this 2016 quote from Jessica Bennett’s Feminist Fight Club: “We need weapons of our own, then – an arsenal of them.  We must be armed with data to prove the problem exists and tactics to chip away at it from the outside and the inside.  We need skills, hacks, tricks, tools, battle tactics to fight for ourselves while also advocating for change within the system.  But!  This is not a solo task.  We need other women by our side.  So let ‘s start by linking arms” (p. xxvii).

Myself as Feminist

I do consider myself as a feminist.  I do not see myself solely in house slippers, cooking breakfast for my family, getting my kids ready for school, and spending my day doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom, then, cooking dinner, putting the kids to bed, making love to my husband, and then starting the process over the next day.

I do want to be married and have a family.  I want to be a good wife and mother.  But, I have other goals as well.  I cannot define myself by what I am to others.  I must define myself as who I am.

I am proud to be a woman.  I am of Latina origin.  I am aware that I am in a low percentage of women in my culture with the ambitions that I have.  I am working hard to get my Bachelor’s degree from college, and then, go to law school.  I know that I will represent women who are not as fortunate as I will be.  I will have female clients who have been beaten, victimized, molested, and in many other ways, taken advantage of.  But, I will also have male clients who have their own backgrounds and histories.  I must represent them both.

It is my goal to stand up for myself, but not because I can do anything better than a man.  My preference is to be strong-willed, but work with men, not against them.  Therefore, my definition of feminism is inclusive, not exclusive.

You can reply below to let me know what you think about this subject.  Thank you for reading my comments.


The Blazing World – A New Take on Deception by Siri Hustvedt

What an amazing concept that Siri Hustvedt exposes in her new best-seller, The Blazing World (New York:  Simon & Schuster, 2014).  As described in The Wall Street Journal, “to expose sexism, a female artist asks three men to be fronts for her work.  The stunt goes terribly awry” (p. C8).  The book has only been released one week, and it is rapidly climbing the list of fiction best-sellers on Amazon.com.

Siri Hustvedt PhotoWho is Siri Hustvedt?  She is the author of five novels, The Blindfold, The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, What I Loved,and The Summer Without Men.  She also published three collections of essays, A Plea for Eros, Mysteries of the Rectangle: Essays on Painting, and Living, Thinking, Looking, in addition to a nonfiction work: The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves. She is the recipient of the 2012 International Gabarron Prize for Thought and Humanities.

I found this summary of the book on Amazon.com:

Blazing World coverWith The Blazing World, internationally best­selling author Siri Hustvedt returns to the New York art world in her most masterful and urgent novel since What I Loved. Hustvedt, who has long been celebrated for her “beguiling, lyrical prose” (The Sunday Times Books, London), tells the provocative story of the artist Harriet Burden. After years of watching her work ignored or dismissed by critics, Burden conducts an experiment she calls Maskings: she presents her own art behind three male masks, concealing her female identity. 

The three solo shows are successful, but when Burden finally steps forward triumphantly to reveal herself as the artist behind the exhibitions, there are critics who doubt her. The public scandal turns on the final exhibition, initially shown as the work of acclaimed artist Rune, who denies Burden’s role in its creation. What no one doubts, however, is that the two artists were intensely involved with each other. As Burden’s journals reveal, she and Rune found themselves locked in a charged and dangerous game that ended with the man’s bizarre death.

Ingeniously presented as a collection of texts compiled after Burden’s death, The Blazing World unfolds from multiple perspectives. The exuberant Burden speaks—in all her joy and fury—through extracts from her own notebooks, while critics, fans, family members, and others offer their own conflicting opinions of who she was, and where the truth lies.

From one of the most ambitious and interna­tionally renowned writers of her generation, The Blazing World is a polyphonic tour de force. An intricately conceived, diabolical puzzle, it explores the deceptive powers of prejudice, money, fame, and desire. Emotionally intense, intellectually rigorous, ironic, and playful, Hustvedt’s new novel is a bold, rich masterpiece, one that will be remembered for years to come.

You can read a full review of this book by Clare McHugh, published in The Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2014, p. C8, at this link:  http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303795904579431460059821576?KEYWORDS=Vengeance+by+Deception&mg=reno64-wsj    Ms. McHugh is an expert reviewer, currently an editor at Time, Inc.

You won’t see this one at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, because we do not present works of fiction, unless they are business-related.  One example of that we might see is The Circle by Dave Eggers (New York:  Knopf, 2013), as I gave this book to Randy Mayeux for Christmas.  I’m not sure he’s finished it, and it is not on our selection list yet, but we only announce books one month in advance, so we will just wait and see.

Regardless, you might put this one on your escape reading list.  It looks  great!

Gender Stereotypes in Action in Recent Best-Sellers

One of the great gender-based stereotypes about authors is that females emphasize character development, while males emphasize plot development.  Intuitively, I believe this to be true, but it is never exemplified any better than in two recent non-fiction best-sellers.

Claire Messud wrote The Woman Upstairs (Knopf, 2013), a first-person rendition of Nora Eldridge, an elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who exploits her creative habits in a studio with a partner who is the parent of one of her students.  I have never read such a deeply detailed and intimately personal description of a character.  Not only does the reader understand Nora’s thoughts and behaviors, but we are also treated to her thoughts behind her thoughts, allowing us to actually predict her next thought and her next movement.  The story dances about, and may actually be fairly shallow, but that is not the strength of this book.  Readers know the characters as well as is possible.

Contrast that book with The Highway by C.J. Box (Minotaur, 2013).  This is a story about an evil and sordid truck driver, two teenage sisters, a former police investigator, and his young former partner.  The book is action-filled, moving rapidly between scene and scene, almost as if time were an enemy.  While we follow the characters, we really don’t know them very well.  They are simply pawns on the larger board of a riveting story.  We learn enough about them to allow us to move through the action, but there is minimal coverage of their backgrounds, personality, and inner-most thoughts.  I personally hope that someone purchases this script to make a movie.  It would be a good one.

The point of all this is that there are differences.  Even Catherine Coulter, who has made a career writing FBI thrillers gives us greater character insight than authors such as John Grisham or John Sandford.  Maybe we see what we want to see when we read these books.  And, there are certainly exceptions.

But, that’s how I see it.  What about you?  Let’s talk about it really soon!

Long Run for LEAN IN is Over – Quite a Ride for That Book!

The long run at # 1 for LEAN IN by Sheryl Sandberg (2013, Knopf) has ended.

In today’s (7/27/2013) Wall Street Journal list of best-selling hardcover nonfiction books, LEAN IN has been unseated. At # 1 is a book by Phil Robertson with Mark Schlabach entitled HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY, published by Howard Books.

It was quite a ride for LEAN IN. We don’t have any figures on the number of books sold, nor the amount of revenue generated, but it is most likely at the top of both of these lists for nonfiction books in 2013.

Don’t forget that we can present a synopsis of LEAN IN for your organization. We have a 25-minute synopsis, followed by a 25-35 minute discussion period. You can contact us for details at: , or by calling at (972) 601-1537.

59 Seconds Reminds Us Why We Do Science

On Friday, March 5, at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas, I jokingly referred to my book, 59 Seconds, as a bathroom reader.  The exact citation is:

Wiseman, R. (2009).  59 seconds:  Think a little, change a lot.  New York:  Knopf.

I suppose that you could use it for that.  The reality is that the book is filled with results from many different types of studies that revolve around self-help topics.  In the book, Richard Wiseman surveyed the field of academic psychology and mined its research for practical ways to actually achieve goals, win friends, and find happiness.  In his own words:

I wondered whether there were tips and techniques hidden away in academic journals that were empirically supported but quick to carry out.  Over the course of a few months, I carefully searched through endless journals…a promising pattern emerged, with researchers in quite different fields developing techniques that help people achieve their aims and ambitions in minutes, not months” (p. 8).

I would assume that for most of you, academic studies are not your favorite type of reading.  They are not mine, and I wrote and read them for years.

However, let’s stop for a moment and examine why we do science.  This book reminds you that science is all about verifying, debunking, or altering what we assume to be true, such as common-sense or myths.   Instead of believing that there is some type of relationship between two items, or outcome that always results given some sort of stimuli, science tests these assumptions and tells you whether it is true.

This book has no shortage of these results.  The good news is that Wiseman has provided us these findings without requiring us to go read the original studies.  Of course, we must trust him – that he reported these results accurately.  I think it is worth the risk.   And the fact that we can read a summary of the findings really is good news – no matter where you end up reading this book.

You will be able to purchase my synopsis of this book at 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com.  You receive the audio recording, a presentation outline, and a sheet of key quotes.