The Word for Woman is Wilderness
By Abi Andrews
I chose this book because it’s fiction, released in 2019! The Word for Woman is Wilderness has been described in its marketing materials as “a new kind of nature writing ― one that crosses fiction with science writing and puts gender politics at the center of the landscape.
Erin, a 19-year-old girl from middle England, is traveling to Alaska on a journey that takes her through Iceland, Greenland, and across Canada. She is making a documentary about how men are allowed to express this kind of individualism and personal freedom more than women are, based on masculinist ideas of survivalism and the shunning of society: the “Mountain Man.” She plans to culminate her journey with an experiment: living in a cabin in the Alaskan wilderness, a la Thoreau, to explore it from a feminist perspective.
The book is a fictional time capsule curated by Erin, comprising of personal narrative, fact, anecdote, images and maps, on subjects as diverse as The Golden Records, Voyager 1, the moon landings, the appropriation of Native land and culture, Rachel Carson, The Order of The Dolphin, The Doomsday Clock, Ted Kaczynski, Valentina Tereshkova, Jack London, Thoreau, Darwin, Nuclear war, The Letters of Last Resort and the pill, amongst many other topics.”
I enjoyed the way that the story is broken into smaller sections, so it’s easy to read on a commute, outdoors, or in increments before bed. I also found myself chuckling at the tone and more than once saying, “Ooooh, ROASTED” aloud from the zingers spoken by the young protagonist. I agree with reviewer Elizabeth Wainwright, who wrote in The Ecologist that “The book is built on ideas that are non-dual, vastly intersectional, and highlight the non-constant complexity of life, which cannot always be ordered, or made productive and focused.” This book is messy in the best way. It won’t give you the dopamine of instagram--it will run you around and mix you up and leave your questions unanswered.
I’d recommend this book to feminists of all genders who are looking for a book to immerse them for a little while. I’d pack this book in a bag with a flashlight for a weekend with fresh air.
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