Without a Net: the Female Experience of Growing up Working Class edited by Michelle Tea (Seal), 232 pages, $22.50 paper. Rating: NNNNN
Retrieving without a net from the place it landed after I threw it against my apartment wall in a moment of elation, I wondered, "How has this not been written about before?" Believe me, I have looked. This is the first of its kind, a book both innovative and intricate in the way it sums up how poverty shapes young female lives.
I was worried that it would feature only the cool young San Francisco dykes made semi-famous by editor Michelle Tea's Sister Spit spoken-word tours, but this collection is diverse in age, race and experience.
Eileen Myles's The Sound Of Poverty is a highlight. Reprints from icons Diane di Prima and Dorothy Allison stand out as well.
But most compelling are the raw offerings from the under-30 set, like Getting Out, by Frances Varian, a tender, straight-shooting story about being the janitor's daughter at Vassar.
In Dirty Girl, Tara Hardy writes sharply about the class war between femmes and feminists. Siobhan Brooks reflects on a childhood raised in housing projects in The Prison We Called Home, and Nikki Levine's My Mother Was A Whore is a brilliantly written punch in the face to your average sex-work essay, which tends to glamourize the industry.
Two local heroes are mixed among the mostly American authors: Toronto spoken-wordster and sassy queer Hadassah Hill contributes It's Just Blood, a frank look at getting paid to be a human guinea pig for pharmaceutical companies. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha's Scholarship Baby is about what happens when your parents tell you you have one chance and don't blow it, but what if you do?
This book's tales come straight from the mouths of those who have lived them. Compare it to the recent best-seller Nickel And Dimed, by Barbara Ehrenreich, a journalist who went "undercover" working minimum-wage jobs but got paid very well to write a book about it.
In these stories, there are only the voices of women who lived them as children and are now reflecting on their girlhoods with insight and humour.
Satisfying in the way most feminist identity-based anthologies are not.
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