Sometimes you read a book at a specific time in your life and it takes such deep root inside your mind that you continue to feel its impact long after you’ve forgotten the name of the book. I was flipping through my little book of read books and found this title and in an instant, I remembered how changed I felt after reading it. Memoirs aren’t usually my interest, but Kidd’s read so much like a novel that I almost forgot it wasn’t one. The first page will either hook you or make you put it down, since I’ve found, when it comes to feminism in literature, women, especially, are surprisingly pro or con. Kidd begins the book by recounting a moment in a drugstore when she overhears two men talking about her teenaged daughter who was crouched on the floor, restocking toothpaste. “Now that’s how I like to see a woman—on her knees,” he says to his friend who chuckles in agreement.
It was a small moment between the men, but for Kidd, who watched her daughter’s face droop with humiliation, it was a moment that lit the fire that had been smoldering in her for years. For me, the moment (and the book) was a quieting one. I’ve spent my life scoffing at the idea of feminism, that sexism still existed, that anything like it that I’d experienced in my life was rooted in such arcane nonsense. For me (and possibly many women from my generation), freedom from sexism was found in the idea that it had died out long ago. To talk about, or even acknowledge, sexual discrimination or harassment or abuse was nothing but a display of weakness. But Kidd shifted my perspective on the subject, which, for me, is no small task.
If you enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees, you’ll find The Dance of the Dissident Daughter something of a character study for Lily, who makes a similar journey in the story. If you’re comfortable with feminism, its language and veiled world, you will also feel comfortable with Kidd’s memoir. But I believe the power in Kidd’s message will burn brighter in those like me, who have spent their lives quieting trying to smother it.
Use this link to find this book in your local indie bookstore (our book-buying choices matter!)