Tuesday, October 12, 2010

52 Books in 52 Weeks: Book 39

This will be a two-part post because I am participating in an online book club with two sets of questions for this particular book. 

The selection for this edition of book club is Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan. It is a two part book and the questions are also broken up into two sections.

I was really excited about reading this book because it is supposed to explore {in the form of a novel} the complicated and contradictory landscape facing young women today... Instead I find an okay novel with deep roots in feminism. Not exactly what I was hoping for. I will write my full thoughts after I finish Part 2.

1. Which girl do you identify the most with?
I had a hard time determining which girl I identify with. Initially I felt like I didn't really identify with any of them {not as a whole character}, but with more reflection, I think that at this point in my life I identify with Sally the most. She had all of these ambitions of who she would be when she grew up but her life didn't turn out exactly like she thought it would. Even though life isn't what she thought it would be, she seems to be satisfied with her life.

2. If you're a college student or graduate, what similarities or differences do you see between this story to your own college experience?
I attended a small Christian university, so my education was probably vastly different from girls attending Smith.
I did have a small, close-knit group of girl friends that I shared a lot with and I belonged to an all-girls "social club" {similar to a sorority} and lived in an all-girls dorm. Even so, a lot of my friends were guys and while I think it important for women to have equal rights, I am not a hard-core feminist. Also, I wasn't wild at all.

3. Which girl do you think has changed the most since her time in college? In what ways has she changed?
I felt like all of the girls changed to some degree, but they seemed to be the same too. They all appear to be questioning their life choices – which I think is normal for the stage of life they are in. April is the only one who seems to be where she really wanted to be. 

It really bothered me that in this ultra-feminist book April is in a controlling relationship with her female boss. I feel like the book is saying that it is wrong to let a man control you in any way, but it is OK to let a woman be controlling... I think people should not let other people control them. Period.

So far this is not my favorite book, but I will give the full verdict after I read Part 2.

Passages that stuck with me from Part 1:
One day her mother returned home from church and said, "When I was twenty-five, I met your father. And I brought him to my parents, and they said, 'If you marry this man, we will disown you.' He was white, a non-Catholic. I married him anyway. My father died without ever speaking to me again; my mother missed my wedding, and your birth. We don't always do the things our parents want us to do, but it is their mistake if they can't find a way to love us anyway."

This was something Sally hadn't realized about weddings until she started planning one – no matter how simple, they were never just about the bride and groom. Those in attendance who were in love felt all the happier; their love strengthened by being in the presence of a new, hopeful marriage. For those who hadn't been lucky in love, a wedding was like a bad paper cut – annoying and painful and impossible to ignore.

In college, half of what they had talked about was what came next – what they would do for work, where would they live, whom would they fall in love with? They recognized that they were the first generation of women whose struggle choice had nothing to do with getting it and everything to do with having too much of it – there were so many options that it felt impossible and exhausting to pick the right ones.

What daughter didn't hold her mother up as a measurement of all she hoped to be, or all she feared? What mother could look at her young daughter without a bit of longing for her own youth, her lost freedom?
If you would like to participate in an online book club, check out Book Beginnings and Bookends.

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