Bitch Magazine Removes Books From ‘100 Feminist Books for the YA Reader’ List

This is really disappointing. Bitch Magazine made what was an awesome list of feminist YA books. But after a couple of people complained in the comments, they swiftly removed and replaced three books: Tender Morsels, Sisters Red, and Living Dead Girl. Why? One because it was deemed to be too triggering (despite that you could say the same for nearly all the other books on the list) and the other two because of scenes regarding rape.

The only one of these books that I’ve read is Sisters Red, which I think is an excellent feminist novel. (You can read my review here.) Yes, there is a scene in which one of the characters is victim-blaming. But is it wrong to include that in a novel that’s partly about sexuality and rape? Because the scene in question is from Scarlett’s point of view, I don’t think we’re meant to agree with her. Scarlett is a survivor, and if we look at Fenris attacks as symbolic of rapes, I think she’s struggling to prove that she didn’t “deserve” it. Scarlett is angry and irrational and blames herself for everything. I don’t think it’s un-feminist to include a scene where, as part of her struggle, she tries to blame other women. I think it’s something we should discuss, but I don’t think it makes this book un-feminist.

Oh, and you can bet your ass I’m going to go read the other two books now.

You can read wonderful comments on this topic from Holly Black, Maureen Johnson, Diana Peterfreund, and Scott Westerfeld, all of whom have books featured on the list, all of which could be considered triggering or which have been challenged from a feminist viewpoint. I love that these authors are so willing to stand behind their work and their colleagues’ work, and I suggest you go read what they have to say.

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Zombies Vs. Unicorns

Zombies Vs. Unicorns, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

Something terrible has happened. I was totally Team Unicorn going into this book. I just really wanted to read about some awesome killer unicorns. And there were indeed some awesome killer unicorns. But I found myself completely seduced by Team Zombie! All of my favorite stories from this anthology are zombie stories.

As you have probably gathered, Zombies Vs. Unicorns is a short story anthology in which editors Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier pit their respective supernatural creatures against each other. Sadly, these two ladies (who are two of my favorite authors) did not write stories for this collection. However, they did write introductions to each story, which are full of smack talk about each others’ teams and help bind the stories together.

Holly Black leads Team Unicorn, which includes Kathleen Duey, Meg Cabot, Garth Nix, Margo Lanagan, Naomi Novik, and Diana Peterfreund. Team Unicorn presents us with some traditional unicorns with healing powers, some ironic hearts-and-rainbows unicorns, and lots of killer unicorns goring people with their horns. My favorite unicorn story is Meg Cabot’s “Princess Prettypants”, which takes a kind of traditional coming-of-age story and adds a humorous unicorn who glows and farts flowers, and then helps the protagonist get revenge on the boys who have hurt her and her best friend. I also love Diana Peterfreund’s story, “The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn”, which takes place in a world in which unicorns are going extinct, but they are considered nasty, bloodthirsty monsters.

Heading up Team Zombie is Justine Larbalestier, and shambling behind her are authors Libba Bray, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson, Carrie Ryan, and Scott Westerfeld. Carrie Ryan’s story “Bougainvillea” is my favorite of the entire anthology. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising, since as the author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth series, Ryan is the zombie queen of YA right now. I love how she uses dual timelines to introduce us to the protagonist, Iza, and jump into the action simultaneously. The best part is the way she subverted the romance novels that Iza loves to read into an ending where Iza is a kick-ass girl who rescues herself instead of needing to be rescued by a man. Alaya Dawn Johnson’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is a funny, sexy zombie story, which is something I never thought I’d say. And “Prom Night” by Libba Bray is a very clever take on a typical teen trope. In Bray’s story, the adults have all been infected with the zombie virus, so the teenagers have driven all the adults out of town or killed them, and are running the town by themselves. It’s a bittersweet story that takes place on a night when most teens want nothing more than for their parents to go away.

Zombies Vs. Unicorns is available in bookstores now. I received an ARC of Zombies Vs. Unicorns at BEA 2010 (which both of the editors kindly signed for me).