In this poignant collection, Alice Bolin examines iconic American works from the essays of Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, illuminating the widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster men’s stories. Smart and accessible, thoughtful and heartfelt, Bolin investigates the implications of our cultural fixations, and her own role as a consumer and creator.
Bolin chronicles her life in Los Angeles, dissects the Noir, revisits her own coming of age, and analyzes stories of witches and werewolves, both appreciating and challenging the narratives we construct and absorb every day. Dead Girls begins by exploring the trope of dead women in fiction, and ends by interrogating the more complex dilemma of living women – both the persistent injustices they suffer and the oppression that white women help perpetrate.
Reminiscent of the piercing insight of Rebecca Solnit and the critical skill of Hilton Als, Bolin constructs a sharp, perceptive, and revelatory dialogue on the portrayal of women in media and their roles in our culture.
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 26, 2018)
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 26, 2018)
Dead Girls centers around essays about pop culture and books and the trope of how we as a culture, have a fascination with the female victim--the dead woman (or dead girl as is the current habit in book titles) and how so much of what we watch, read, and listen to focuses on the violence against young, often vulnerable women. Woven into mentions of everything from Twin Peaks to Brittney Spears are stories about Alice Bolin's own adolescence and young adulthood, particularly after her move to Los Angeles and Hollywood, the mecca of the dead girl. Bolin explores her family relationships, boyfriends, her best female friend, and the rotation of somewhat random roommates she lived with eking out a food service living in expensive LA. For me some essays worked better than others--I found many of them a fascinating look at popular culture through feminist glasses and wanted them to continue while a few felt bogged down and wandered about, and I pushed through those. Although many of Bolin's references lean to what was popular in the 1990s-2000s when she was coming of age, she also pulls in more obscure and older references--books and movies from the 1960s and 1970s, Joan Didion and the Swedish Martin Beck book series, and she also riffs on more recent fare like Law and Order, the Serial podcast, the Lisbeth Salander books, Gone Girl and True Detective--so there's probably something in here that any pop culture fan can respond too. Bolin is smart, witty, and often darkly humorous and although Dead Girls is a bit of a mixed bag, it is an impressive non-fiction debut that I enjoyed and made me feel just a little bit smarter after reading. ;-) Take it to your favorite indie coffee shop and settle in with it and your brew of choice.
Author Notes: Alice Bolin’s nonfiction has appeared in many publications including ELLE, the Awl, the LA Review of Books, Salon, VICE’s Broadly, The Paris Review Daily, and The New Yorker‘s Page-Turner blog. She currently teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Memphis.
Find out more about Alice at her website, and connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.
There's not a lot of good food in Dead Girls, although there is an essay that focuses on food obsession. Food mentions did include things like a plate of chicken (sadly, used to describe how a male comedian looked at a female rapper), pizza delivery, a raspberry bramble, grilled cheese and tomato soup, junk food, Thai noodles, sarsaparilla, expensive sandwiches, In-and-Out, roasted marshmallows, hot sauce-flavored potato chips, white wine, spaghetti, canned ravioli, Starbucks, peanut butter, peaches, a side of broccoli at a steakhouse, jars of preserved fruits and vegetables, "six dried apricots cut in quarters and mixed with a half cup of plain yogurt," angel food bundt cake with strawberries and sauce, Ginger Snaps (the movie but it could also be the cookie), a tea party, breakfast, Bud Lite with lime, the best Oaxacan food, Intelligentsia coffee beans, Pad Thai, a burrito, Diet Coke, chocolate and cookies, flash frozen ice cream, kimchi and pickles, chicken strips, root beer and dumplings.
So why deviled eggs? I like to tell you it's a because of the eggs symbolism of life, birth and fertility, immortality--womanhood and all that that fits into the feminist vibe of the book. Truthfully, the list of food mentions are either things I don't eat, junk food, gluten and excess carbs that I am currently avoiding, or things I just don't like. I had a busy week and had one book review post already and I was planning on making these eggs for I Heart Cooking Clubs--so I combined them with my review in one post. But, let's pretend it was because of the whole egg-feminist symbolism thing, OK? ;-)
Regardless of the whys, these are pretty yummy deviled eggs from Eric Ripert, made with a bit of luxury with the crème fraiche (spoiler alert--I used some Tofutti vegan sour cream I had on hand) and smoked salmon.
Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon
Slightly Adapted by Eric Ripert via AvecEric.com
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp crème fraiche (I subbed in vegan sour cream)
2 oz smoked salmon, diced
1 Tbsp sliced chives
cayenne pepper (I used Aleppo pepper)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon, cut in half
smoked paprika to garnish (I added a few capers to garnish & and a bit of extra smoked salmon & chive)
Place the eggs in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, cover and remove from the heat. Let the eggs sit, covered for 12-15 minutes; drain the hot water and run cold water over the boiled eggs until cool.
Peel the eggs and cut each egg in half lengthwise. Gently remove the yolks from the center into a small mixing bowl. Set aside the egg white halves.
Add the mustard, crème fraiche, shallot, smoked salmon and chives to the egg yolks and stir to combine. Season to taste with cayenne, salt, pepper and freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Spoon the mixture back into the egg whites. Garnish with paprika.
Notes/Results: I am a deviled egg lover (Seriously, invite me to a party and if there are deviled eggs I will hover obnoxiously over the platter...) and a smoked salmon fan and I adore the two together. These have the perfect amount of flavor--nothing overpowers and they have a good, silky texture. Rather than stand over a tray of these eggs at a party, I would carry it to the couch and snarl at anyone who tried to take one. (There go my invites!) I would happily make them again.
Linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is From the Starter Menu, Eric Ripert recipes for appetizers and small plates.
I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
Note: A review copy of "Dead Girls" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.