Book review: Sisters of the Revolution

Sometimes I forget how fulfilling it can be to read explicitly feminist writing.

So I have been enjoying the heck out of Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer.

Speculative fiction is a catch-all phrase for science fiction, fantasy, and other harder-to-classify writing with a fabulist “what-if” slant. What if employees were encouraged to conform to corporate culture through biological additions, as in Eileen Gunn’s “Stable Strategies for Middle Management”? What if there was “The Woman Who Thought She Was a Planet” as in Vandana Singh’s story?

This book encompasses an excellent selection of stories from the 1960s to now by a diverse group of writers, both well-known–Angela Carter, Octavia Butler, Ursula K. Le Guin, James Tiptree, Jr. (really Alice Bradley Sheldon)–and up-and-coming–Nnedi Okorafor, Rachel Swirsky.

Although this collection is definitely for adults, I was excited to see a couple of my favorite kidlit authors, Catherynne Valente and Kelly Barnhill, represented. I was also thrilled to discover writers like Nalo Hopkinson and Hiromi Goto.

Some of the stories are familiar, like “The Screwfly Solution” and “The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” but these are woven artfully among others arranged so that stories “speak” to one another across time and space. I loved the combination of styles: a journalist’s “report” (“The Forbidden Words of Margaret A.” by L. Timmel Duchamp) horror, surrealism, sci-fi (Elisabeth Vonarburg’s great reimagining of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), sword-and-sorcery, fairy tales, and more.

The strains of feminism are diverse too, with varying degrees of satire, uplifting hear-me-roar grrl power, and horror-filled dystopian warnings. These stories represent women of different cultures, ages, sexual orientations–even species. Each selection is delightful reading and a thoughtful commentary on women’s roles in society. These are stick-to-you stories. I know that Susan Palwick’s “Gestella,” about a werewolf in love, will haunt me.

Highly recommend this book, and I can’t wait to dig further into the oeuvre of many of these writers.

Special shout-out to publisher PM Press, an amazing, socially conscious publishing organization out of Oakland. Looking forward to exploring their collection further, too!

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