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A Monthly Column of Recommended
Readings Brought to You by the Living Archetype of a
Queer Literature Student

Words by Lily Moskowitz
Contributors: Justin Lavilla & Anitah Diggs


the second sex, simone de beauvoir

the seminal work of french existential philosopher simone de beauvoir, the second sex is required reading for anyone looking to delve into introductory feminist studies. written in 1949, this book lays the groundwork for second wave feminism (ie feminism post-women’s lib/post-suffrage movement) and covers foundational feminist theory. de beauvoir establishes gender performance as a social construct, debunks the archetype of femininity as domesticity, and upends the history of male-dominated academia. topics including, but not limited to: the biblical origins of adam & eve, the misogynistic underpinnings of aristotelian ethics, and the patriarchal tyranny of intellectual antiquity.

“one is not born a woman, but becomes one.”

a room of one’s own, virginia woolf

if you have not read virginia woolf, start here! based on a series of scholarly essays, this book is an ode to female artists and creators. woolf breaks down the obstacles preventing women from being writers (taking into account this was published in the late 1920s). she identifies socioeconomic dependence between the sexes as the limiting force that prevents female authorship, traces the historical infrastructures that muzzle female voices, and urges an uptake of femininity/androgyny in academic spaces.

“it is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly.”

the scum manifesto, valerie solanas

a must read for those interested in radical/fringe feminism! written by the woman who shot andy warhol, the scum manifesto introduces an idyllic society in which men are completely absent. guttural and profane, valerie solanas conquers the notion of masculinity as the pinnacle of great art and culture while simultaneously advocating for women who are trashy, loud, free-wheeling, and disruptive. part camp and part critique, this piece exists as a work of performance art and sensationalism for the particularly antagonistic woman looking to channel her feminine rage.

“there remains to civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females only to overthrow the government, eliminate the money system, institute complete automation, and destroy the male sex.”

the woman identified woman, radicalesbians

a manifesto birthed by the radical lesbian/lesbian separatists movement in the 1970s, this work seeks to include lesbians at the forefront of the feminist movement (something that betty friedan’s the feminist mystique does not do). urging to dissolve the distinctions between heterosexuality and homosexuality, this piece heavily critiques the rigid labels prescribed to gender and sex. tackling male supremacy and condemning the idea that womanhood is constructed in relation to man, this one’s for the girls, the gays, and the gay girls.

“a lesbian is the rage of all women condensed to the point of explosion”

uses of the erotic, audre lorde

ever wondered what the difference is between the erotic and pornographic? audre lorde’s got you covered in her widely referenced essay from 1978. a self-identified black lesbian feminist, lorde reveres the erotic as a replenishing, life-giving force of creative energy and abundance – starkly different from the commodified and objectified sexuality so often inscribed onto female bodies. the erotic is more than purely the sexual: it is a pool of knowledge, an avenue of spirituality, and a seed of joy. central to the pleasure activism starter pack, this piece is a must-read for all sensory bodies.

“[the erotic is] the open and fearless underlining of my capacity for joy. in the way my body stretches to music and opens into response, hearkening to its deepest rhythms, so every level upon which I sense also opens to the erotically satisfying experience, whether it is dancing, building a bookcase, writing a poem, examining an idea.”

i love dick, chris kraus

there is nothing more humbling than asking to find this book at the barnes and noble (spoken from experience). punchy title aside, this novel is unlike any of its kind–  it is polyamory circa the late 90s. composed of a series of love letters to the eponymous character ‘dick’, this book pulls from a variety of cinematic references, art history, cultural critique, and feminist literature to celebrate the monster that is female desire. a blend of memoir and fiction, i love dick is a philosophical exploration of femininity and sexuality at its most raw, its most contemplative, and its most provocative. this one is for the girls who yearn and the gays who romanticize longing to the point of destruction. and if you don’t feel like subjecting yourself to the arduous task of reading a novel, watch the show on amazon. it will murder you and you will enjoy it.

“fuck her once, she’ll write a book about it…[reading] is better than sex. reading delivers on the promise that sex raises but hardly ever can fulfill– getting larger cause you’re entering another person’s language, cadence, heart and mind. ”

borderlands, gloria anzaldúa

chicana feminist, lesbian scholar, and cultural theorist gloria anzaldúa presents an interdisciplinary work grappling with the experience of being a queer person of color in a machismo society. blending prose and poetry, english and spanish, formal and informal, this book is a can’t-miss for all those interested in the intersection of indigeneity, language, and womanhood. de-mythicizing the archetype of the serpentine seductress, dismantling menstrual stigma, and worshipping the divine forces of storytelling and fertility, anzaldúa embodies the shape-shifting feminism of the early 1990s.

“I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpent’s tongue – my woman’s voice, my sexual voice, my poet’s voice. I will overcome the tradition of silence.”

the yellow wallpaper, charlotte perkins gilman

hallucinogenic horror, female neuroticism, and the original girl diary! written at the turn of the twentieth century, this short story is one of the earliest critical depictions of female hysteria in western culture. narrated by a fictional protagonist who has been diagnosed with postpartum depression, the yellow wallpaper follows a woman descending into madness in an attempt to escape the confines of her marriage and her gas-lighting husband. this one is for the final-girl’s girl, the sexy but delusional, the hot in psychotic.

“if a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression - a slight hysterical tendency - what is one to do?”

cyberfeminism index, mindy seu

a resource to end all resources. the cyberfeminism index is a recently published interface by mindy seu, whose practice involves public engagement with digital archives. seu worked with women designers from all mediums such as patricia saunders, who created the Arial typeface—one of the few system fonts worked on by a woman. in this index, you will find everything feminist from trans realness to f@g centrality—cunty abstracts, slay websites, estrogen manifestos and so much more! 

“we are the modern cunt… the clitoris is a direct line to the matrix.”

on women, susan sontag

explicit confession: I have not actually read this one yet. but god am I going to! a recent release from literary critic and bisexual icon susan sontag, on women presents a collection of essays on the constructs of beauty, aging and fascism. and we cannot wait to devour…

want more? craving a socratic seminar? contact us at officialenvyzine@gmail.com with interest in attending an IRL BOOK CLUB MEETING for extra readings & further discussion!

ENVY Magazine