When Greer Kadetsky first meets the iconic feminist Faith Frank, she is an unhappy freshman at Ryland College. Greer had been accepted to Yale, where she planned to go with her boyfriend Cory, but was unable to attend due to inadequate financial aid. On her first weekend at Ryland, she is assaulted by Darren Tinzler at a frat party. When stories of Tinzler’s serial assaults go public at Ryland, Greer and other women speak up, but the administration merely assign Tinzler some counseling sessions. It is after this disappointing decision that Greer attends Faith Frank’s lecture. With some encouraging words from Faith and the influence of her activist friend Zee, the shy Greer becomes a feminist and an activist. The Female Persuasion follows Greer through her college years, through her twenties when she works for Faith Frank, and into her early thirties when she becomes a famous feminist herself.
I first knew I was going to relate to this book on the first page, where I read this passage:
Greer, a freshman then at this undistinguished school in southern Connecticut, was selectively but furiously shy. She could give answers easily, but rarely opinions. “Which makes no sense, because I am stuffed with opinions. I am a piñata of opinions,” she said to Cory during one of their nightly Skype sessions since college had separated them.
As a fellow shy piñata of opinions, I was immediately interested in Greer and learning how she would find her voice. And I did enjoy her journey as she first learned to listen and then to speak, to learn from her mentor and then to make her own way. Like Greer, I was fascinated by Faith. Faith Frank is sixty-something when we first meet her. Like Gloria Steinem, she is iconic, sexy, and approachable. Unlike Gloria Steinem, she is more personality than ideas, and her message is characteristic of “white lady feminism,” and even Faith herself would like it to be more.
While this is mostly Greer’s story, it is told from various points of view, including Greer’s, Faith’s, Zee’s, and Cory’s. While it covers more than a decade of Greer’s life and several decades of Faith’s life, it skims over years at a time, just focusing on the moments and the relationships that serve as turning points in the characters’ lives. Wolitzer has created well written and believable characters. Everyone is likable, even when they do things you may not approve of, and I was quite upset with Greer at one point. My favorite character was Zee, Greer’s college best friend, who introduces her to feminism and Faith Frank. Zee is, in many ways, Greer’s opposite. While Greer is at Ryerson because she has excellent grades but no money, Zee has the money but not the grades. While Greer struggles to find her voice, Zee has been an activist since the age of nine. When Greer easily finds her path after college, Zee struggles to find her way.
I do recommend this for your summer reading list. My immediate thought was to recommend it for feminists and other progressives, but its appeal is actually much broader than that. The Female Persuasion is about the relationships that influence the direction of your life.
For more June book reviews, please check out Barrie’s blog by clicking on the image below.
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FCC Notice: I bought my own (Kindle) copy.