This nonfiction title explores some heavy topics, such as racism, sexism, mental health, and feminism through McLaren’s life lens. Her perspective is not unique, but the way she writes about her story feels inspiring and fresh. I was drawn to Womanish by the gorgeous bright pink and purple cover, but a pretty cover does not always a five star book make. Let’s jump right into the meat of her essays.
McLaren jumps right into her book with an essay about online dating. The thing I noticed right off the bat, and continued to appreciate throughout her book, is that she often highlights the lessons she has learned clearly for the reader to see. Her lessons are pretty powerful stuff. Whether or not you’re ready to hear them, and whether or not they are simple or complex, McLaren’s got some truth nuggets that are sure to be helpful in one way or another. I found her first essay drew me in, as McLaren is funny and open with her experiences, her lack of defensiveness helps this feel more like a conversation.
Her second essay is more of a hard hitter. Entitled Becky and Me, McLaren writes about her relationship with white women, and black women’s relationships with white women in general. She does this through several angles; her own perspective, women she has interviewed, and TV shows and pop culture provide adequate material to dissect and reflect upon. While I acknowledge what she has to say as true, and want to be an advocate for change in the way white women treat black women, this was a hard essay for me to read, being a white woman myself. And I am able to read it and appreciate it for the information and emotion McLaren provides her readers. I hope with all my heart that the bulk of white women who read this book can take this essay in just as they take her other essays in, and learn and grow from it without being put off by the truths that are within. McLaren is quick and careful to acknowledge her generalizations, and she puts them in there at the same time to make powerful arguments and draw attention to her statements. While this was not my favorite essay, I thoroughly appreciate it’s existence and the way McLaren challenged my own perspective.
Her following essays are just as poignant, and I found I learned something from each of them. Her essay on mental health was incredibly powerful, and a call to take better care of ourselves however we can. She moves on to write about the prison system, with a personal attachment to her nephew who is sentenced to prison. She threads in statistics seemingly effortlessly, and I enjoy how she weaves her personal narrative and statistical evidence together to provide such emotional perspective to both of these heavy topics.
“The way you stride at any given moment depends as much on the shoes you’re wearing and the ground you’re covering as anything.”
The essay that personally effected me the most, although they are all wonderful, was On Self-Delusion. This essay was a hard hitter for me because McLaren takes time to call attention to lies we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better. She guides readers through a look at her own self-delusions, and encourages readers to think about and acknowledge what delusions we each have. I feel as though I am at a stage in my life in which I am seeking to replace habits with new routines that work for me, and this essay gave me a wonderful start for calling myself on my BS. What are the lies I’ve told myself to avoid being vulnerable with the decisions I have made or continue to make? In acknowledging where our vulnerabilities lie, in confronting those, we can better understand where we fall in relationship to others. Thank you, Kim McLaren, for putting this essay out in the world so that I could find it at this time in my life.
Clearly I could continue to talk about how great the rest of her essays are, but the point is there is something here for almost everyone, and I wuold be surprised if you can’t find something in here to learn from or connect to. I haven’t read anything else from Kim McLaren, but I’m 100% inspired to pick up more of her works after reading Womanish.
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review through the publsher via Edelweiss+.