Elevate Difference

Reviews by kristina grob

Correspondence Course: An Epistolary History of Carolee Schneemann and Her Circle

A giant hot pink book filled with nearly 500 pages of letters, emails, and images, when merely considered as an object, Kristine Stiles’s compilation of of artist Carolee Schneemann’s correspondence is intimidating, impressive, and a little bit sexy. The material is no less overwhelming. Carolee Schneemann is an artist whose art played with the boundaries of bodies and embodiment, and of taboo and the abject.

My Sister Chaos

A woman leaves her country at the last minute, as a refugee in a civil war. She and her sister leave together and seek asylum in a new country where they will continue their lives. Laura Fergus’s wonderful first novel takes up the story of this woman (I) and her sister (the sister). We do not learn the sisters’ names. We do learn that they are twins and that they are no longer very young.

Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms

Ralph Keyes’s Euphemania is so poorly written that, in spite of the rich and interesting subject matter, it is difficult to read. On the one hand, Keyes insists that euphemisms—circumlocutionary words and phrases—signal both the pliancy and richness possible in human languages and the creativity of the human mind.

Iona Dreaming: The Healing Power of Place

I felt deeply uncomfortable while reading Clare Cooper Marcus’ Iona Dreaming. Too uncomfortable, I thought—like eavesdropping on a stranger’s conversation with a long-lost friend.

With Friends Like These

Sally Koslow’s With Friends Like These is mostly predictable. The main characters—a group of four women who are each others’ best friends—are often caricatures, and there is nothing terribly new or innovative about the story. Still, I didn’t dislike the book (except for the ending, which was terribly trite) and may even read it again.


Michelle Huneven’s Blame spans twenty years in fewer than 300 pages but avoids any frantic pacing or strange leaps. Patsy MacLemoore, the main character, is an alcoholic. A young academic, her scholarly accomplishments initially help to balance negative effects of her alcoholism. Huneven’s protagonist has a professorship at a at a small liberal arts college.

A Kind of Intimacy

In Jenn Ashworth’s debut novel, A Kind of Intimacy, the reader follows a few weeks of Annie's life. Annie is not exactly a well person. She doesn’t have much going for her either. Her father was abusive and she married early partly to leave home and partly because she doesn’t have anything better to do.

Universal Women: Filmmaking and Institutional Change in Early Hollywood

In Universal Women, Professor Cooper launches a multidisciplinary investigation into the mystery of why it was that Universal Film Manufacturing Company broadly supported women directors during the 1910s before abruptly reversing the policy.

The Uterine Health Companion: A Holistic Guide to Lifelong Wellness

In The Uterine Health Companion, Eve Agee brings her training as a medical anthropologist and as a holistic healer to bear on the subject of life-long uterine health. She begins the book by explaining both holistic health and the structure and function of the uterus to her readers. Then she outlines a plan for optimal uterine health, with chapters on emotional/spiritual and mental health, the power of nutrition and the importance of a strong body.

All the Living

It doesn’t take much of a search to learn that All the Living by C. E. Morgan has been very well-reviewed. The story itself is simple: girl and boy meet; event pushes them toward a commitment neither of them had thought through; life gets rough and someone thinks about finding a way out; a certain kind of intimate conversation between girl and boy becomes possible as a result of the difficulties they learn to endure together.

Interrupted Life: Experiences of Incarcerated Women in the United States

Surprise—it’s a real downer to read about prison. That glaringly obvious statement aside, Interrupted Life is quite an achievement. The book comprises eighty-seven pieces, which are written by scholars, activists, incarcerated women, and formerly incarcerated women and span breadth of generic types.

The Last Empress: Madame Chiang Kai-shek and the Birth of Modern China

No one will fail to notice this giant red book on your bookshelf.

How Perfect Is That

How Perfect Is That is a story of becoming. When Blythe Young begins her tale, her world is in the process of crashing down around her. Though she married into a wealthy Texas family, her mother-in-law was one step ahead of her and insisted upon a prenuptial agreement—an agreement which carefully stipulated no provisions for Blythe in case of a divorce.

Resolving the Paradox of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Sexual Politics

Professor Ice begins her book with what she calls a paradox within philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau's social philosophy. In her words, “Rousseau's views on women sits [sic] in tension with his philosophy of freedom and equality.” That is, Professor Ice refers to the apparent discrepancy between Rousseau's vision of freedom for men and his endorsement of subordination for women.

In Her Own Sweet Time: One Woman's Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love, Commitment, and Motherhood

I read this book in one day. It, like the author, and like the problems she explores, is not perfect. Like the author, In Her Own Sweet Time is lovable and I eagerly devoured it for the stories she tells, the problems she outlines, and the social phenomena she identifies. The question “What is the impact of new reproductive technologies (NRTs) on feminism?" is a recurring motif within this book.

Clear Leadership: Sustaining Real Collaboration and Partnership at Work, Revised Edition

I was pleased to find that a book devoted to helping people to communicate effectively and clearly was written very, very clearly. It was not pedantic or condescending; in it, the author seems to genuinely respect his audience.

The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity is Hurting Young Women

Let me begin this review by professing my support for Jessica Valenti's overarching purpose in The Purity Myth: to expose the trope of sexual purity as deeply entrenched in American culture and to demonstrate the harmfulness of this trope on young American women.

The Kept Man

One thing I don't expect to find in a chick lit-type book* is a line like this: "The thing about fucking on coke is, afterward, there's no rolling over and going to bed." Oh. I'd never thought of that.

Our Bodies, Our Crimes: The Policing of Women's Reproduction in America

I expected to write a strongly positive review for this book and am disappointed that I am unable to do so. The main strength of this book is its acknowledgment—in a single volume—of the many and layered aspects of women's reproductive health.

"Screaming O" Vibrating Cock Ring

The "Screaming O" Vibrating Cock Ring seems like a great way to make safe sex fun. Disposable and designed to be used with a condom, the pink, jelly-like cock ring has a tiny vibrator that transmits decently powerful vibrations from the base of the phallus (penis or dildo—the packaging invites either option) to the vulva during penetration. While the vibe worked just fine, my partner found it too distracting to be much as much fun as it promised, claiming it detracted from the multiplicity of sensations he typically enjoys.

Mama-Ji Perfume Oil

If you're looking for a new fragrance, then look no further. Do these folks ever make scents! Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab's Mama-Ji perfume oil is very different from my usual Dior perfume. By the end of my first day wearing it, I couldn't stop smelling my wrist; one day later I purchased two others, eager to find out if their other scents are as addictive. So far Mama-Ji is still my favorite.

Make Believe Not War Tank

My favorite new tank top comes from No Star Clothing. It is black with the slogan “Make Believe Not War” printed on a military helmet - a helmet that holds crayons. Swoon. All of my academically-inclined, left-leaning coffee-shop customers loved this tank top. One cynically suggested that the only way to make any sense of our current military endeavors is to, in fact, make believe. I think this tank top brought me bigger-than-usual tips and even bigger smiles. Certainly it doesn't hurt that it fits me perfectly, washes well and doesn't show stains.

Crochet Jewelry: 35 Fantastic Pieces of Jewelry to Make and Wear

“This is not your grandmother's crochet!” Indeed it is not. Sophie Britten's big, glossy book of DIY jewelry features pieces that exude charm, youth, and even grown-up glamour. For those of you who cannot think “crochet” without immediately thinking “granny squares” this book may change your mind. As a wannabe DIY-er whose crafts are generally restricted to making my own birthday cards, after poring over Britten's book, I may just dig up those crochet hooks I've got in the back of my sewing box and get back at it. Britten is wise to us, of course.

The Sex Workers' Art Show (3/1/2007)

The Sex Workers' Art Show performed its last show of the season to a full crowd at Chicago's Abbey Pub on March 1, 2007. The performances I experienced were gorgeous, funny, embarrassing, heart-breaking, hopeful, offensive and affirming. And all in a good way. The burlesque teacher who performed at least 12,000 table dances to work her way through college and grad school taught a woman from the audience to perform a striptease and twirl her tassles. Amber Dawn, the retired prostitute, read another of her short stories based on her experiences.