What we read at Women’s Fund Armenia – 2023 Spring edition

The team of the Women’s Found Armenia shares a number of books that we are currently reading or have read recently.

Yelena Sargsyan

Maya Angelou – “Mom & Me & Mom”

Mom and Me and Mom eBook : Angelou, Maya: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store Poet, writer, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou’s memoir, “Mom & Me & Mom”, is the last of her 7 autobiographies, published in 2013. Although many episodes in the memoir are repeated and included in previous memoirs, Angelo’s unique and beautiful pen never gets tired and every time you read it, you feel a warm and soft embrace, wrapped in love and care. The work was perhaps most accurately described by the author herself. “This book has been written to examine some of the ways love heals and helps a person to climb impossible heights and rise from immeasurable depths,” the author writes in the prologue.

The memoir is about the relationship between the author and her mother, it explores the healing and love that developed over a lifetime between the two women. Even if we do not delve into the content of the book, the mere idea of the book already makes the work unique and important, because there are very few works of this nature that focus on representing the relationship between two related and at the same time alien women, mother and daughter, and their transformation over time. The important core of the work is love, the love that, according to the author, forgives and liberates.

The book also presents the experiences, hardships and injustices the author faced as a black woman in extremely difficult and discriminatory times.

Lyudmila Shirvanyan

Virginia Woolf – “A room of one’s own”

Whenever they try to convince you that women aren’t talented enough, and point to the fact that there are no famous women scientists or writers, you want to make them read Virginia Woolf’s collection of essays, “A Room of One’s Own”, which sheds light on all the possible reasons for the scarcity of women in literature: the huge differences in schools for girls and boys, the patriarchal system, the sexist mentality… Fiction in which women are written by men, resulting in works in which women are not presented and valued as they really are, but as considered by the patriarchal system. And what kind of talents would Shakespeare’s sister have, if she had the same opportunities and conditions to be educated, to experience self-development and to put her thoughts on paper and publish them?

Woolf argues that women need a room of their own and sufficient income to create literary works. It is the best discussion of women’s intellectual freedom and creative life in feminist literature.

Although the book was written almost 100 years ago, it is still very relevant from the point of view of understanding literary history from a feminist perspective and can become a source of inspiration for many girls.

Armine Markosyan

Andrew Sayer – “Why we can’t afford the rich”

Andrew Sayer is a renowned British social scientist, lecturer in social theory and political economy at Lancaster University. “Why We Can’t Afford the Rich” exposes all the mechanisms that allow the world’s rich, 1% of the entire population, to siphon off the wealth produced by others through ownership and control of money.

Economic inequalities and the consequences of austerity policies are deepening in the world. Against this background, the capitalist class continues to impose on people the myth that the rich create vital values and jobs. The book shows that the extreme concentration of wealth in the hands of a handful of people is not only unfair, but also reduces the resources available to the less well-off and seriously harms democracy and the environment. The wealth of the rich is unearned; is the result of extracting or simply exploiting the value created by others. Sayer’s approach is a new version of Marxist economic thought and is fundamentally different from mainstream economic theses. He combines moral arguments with traditional political and economic theses, emphasizing the need for social justice and fair redistribution of natural resources.

Siran Hovhannisyan

Gohar Khachatryan, Anahit, Ghazaryan – “Dark Matter: Notes on War”

“Dark Matter: Notes on War” is a communication of two women during and after the Karabakh war of 2020. To read Gohar’s and Anahit’ thoughts, feel and share the pain that is theirs but at the same time everyone’s. To describe the war without talking about it. To talk about war, questioning your own existence and meaning of life. Two women and people surrounding them. Two women – one here, the other – there. I will never forget the excitement I had at the book presentation in Yerevan, the fear of repeating the horror, my wet eyes, the hugs with the authors, the silent exchange of thoughts with glances. “Dark Matter: Notes on War” is not just a book. It’s a scream, a call, an attempt to be heard and practice therapeutic writing.  I will recommend everyone to have a sample of this book.

Aram Pachyan – p/f

We always talk about the fact that most of the writers are men. We always discuss that we should promote women’s works through our platforms. I completely agree with this thought and standpoint. This story is a different one. I will be honest, I had heard about Aram Pachyan’s works years ago but every time, when an occasion presented itself to get to know his thoughts and work, I would delay it. In December of last year I bought p/f despite the salesperson’s recommendation not to start reading the writer from it. Turns out I was unconsciously looking for something that was directly or indirectly connected to “war”. Then I learnt that the presentation of the book had taken place on September 26 of 2020. I read it, then left it, then read it, then distanced myself from it, then read it.

Lara Aharonian

Dr Jen Gunter – “The Menopause Manifesto”

The Menopause Manifesto: Own Your Health with Facts and Feminism: Dr. Jen Gunter: 9780806540665: Amazon.com: Books

As I have been transitioning to menopause these past years, I started noticing sometimes drastic, sometimes slow but steady changes in my body, my health, as well as my overall well-being and emotional health. Adding to these changes, I have started to be exposed directly to the devastating stereotypes around menopausal women both in the medical field among health workers as well as in society. This timely book by Dr. Jen Gunter is a lifesaver for feminist menopausal activists like me trying to denounce the prejudices and stereotypes around women’s aging bodies and dismantle them one by one. Gunter expresses her anger in this book towards the medical field for how invisible aging women are and those experiencing menopause in their research, reports and diagnosis. She raises the issues of lack of information around women’s bodies going through this process and in an empowering way explains both using evidence-based scientific data with a gender analysis and personal experiences to debunk many myths and prejudices related to menopause. She explains the harm behind the discriminatory and misogynistic attitudes of practitioners and tells us in an utterly honest writing the truth behind many aches and illnesses we experience during this time of transition. She tackles many sensitive issues, including sexuality, weight gain, body image, as well as the remedies options available, including hormone therapy.

What I like is that she also challenges narratives and words around “menopause” and goes deeply into its sexist and highly patriarchal origins and meanings.

Although it is written from the minority world (north/Eurocentric/western world) perspective and mostly based on women’s experiences from that part of the world, it still gives a good overview on the topic from a feminist perspective.

Gohar Shahnazaryan

Juliet Mitchell – “Woman’s Estate”

Juliet Mitchell wrote her book “Woman’s Estate” more than 50 years ago, but it’s still relevant to nowadays women’s movement. Mitchel examinees two main questions: What were the origins of the Women’s Liberation Movement? Why did it arise in the second half of the 60s? 

Main principles of the women’s movement discussed in the book resonate with our conversations about the movement’s status today. Categories analyzed by Mitchel are: maximum collective work, minimum domination by leaders, consciousness-raising, and ‘no leaders’ and ‘non-elitism’. 

As Mitchel writes: “Many liberationists see consciousness-raising as one of the most important contributions of the movement to a new politics. Women’s Liberation is crucially concerned with that area of politics which is experienced as personal. Women come into the movement from the unspecified frustration of their own private lives, find that what they thought was an individual dilemma is a social predicament and hence a political problem. The process of transforming the hidden, individual fears of women into a shared awareness of the meaning of them as social problems, the release of anger, anxiety, the struggle of proclaiming the painful and transforming it into the political -this process is consciousness-raising”. Mitchel analyzes women’s oppression through four key areas: work, reproduction, sexuality and the socialization of children. She believes that the liberation of women can only be achieved if all four structures are integrated and transformed.

The question that Mitchel asks in the book is the question that feminists around the world ask today as well: Where are we going? Her answer is still very relevant as well: we have to develop our feminist consciousness to the full on the one side, and transform it through a scientific socialist analysis of our oppression.

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