Helen Fielding, Tina Fey, and Ellen DeGeneres (all of which I’ve read), there’s not a lot to choose from. Pretty quickly your search starts turning up titles about how to laugh at your breast cancer. No thanks. But eventually I poked around enough to discover Caitlin Moran. She’s not nearly as widely known in the U.S. as she is in her native Britain, where she’s an award-winning columnist for The Times, but How to be a Woman was reviewed widely in the U.S. and sold well.
This book is scary funny and scary raw. Moran, it seems, will say anything, and in this book she tackles all sorts of issues: body image, pornography, feminism, fashion, childbirth, and especially poverty. She is fearless and relentless as she makes her points, in a way that is both shockingly direct and extremely funny. This book is not light humor. It’s social commentary delivered via shovel, in a voice that is loud, original, irreverent, and hilarious.
Moran grew up the oldest of 8 children in a three-bedroom council house (subsidized public housing) in a down-at-the-heels northern English city in the 1980’s. Despite this bleak beginning, she was winning writing awards by the time she was 13 and by 18 had landed a job as a reporter at a music magazine. Her childhood poverty informs all her commentary, especially when she takes on mainstream academic feminists and really anyone whose privilege gets her goat. Moran has also cultivated a larger-than-life public image in Britain and recently led a 24-hour boycott of Twitter in response to the anonymous threats of violence against outspoken women that are pervasive on that social network.
In case you like the idea of Moran’s work but aren’t very interested in how to be a woman, last year she released another collection called Moranthology which applies the same approach to more gender neutral political and pop culture topics. I just bought that one for my Kindle – sample chapters include I Do a Lot for Charity but I Would Never Mention It, and Downton Abbey Review 2: “SEX WILL BE HAD! SEX WILL BE HAD!"
(Book 3, 2014)