How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Harper • $15.99 • ISBN 9780062124296
published July 17, 2012
It's been a long time since I laughed as much while reading a book as I did while reading How to Be a Woman. Billed completely accurately as "half memoir, half manifesto," the first book from the British rock critic, which was released in the UK to rave reviews last year, is a ruthlessly honest and witty critique of modern society, as seen through the lens of Moran's own experience.
The early chapters, which chart Moran's early years as the oldest of eight children living on a council estate in Wolverhampton (not the most glamorous part of England, to put it mildly) are especially gripping—that "ruthless honesty" extends to puberty's most awkward moments, and Moran's early attempts to figure out what being a woman means.
This moment, when Moran has just repeated her mother's (limited) explanation of periods to her sister ("Is it supposed to hurt this much?" "Yes, but it's ok"—why it's all right was never explained.) is one of the many that had me laughing out loud.
I take everything off, sadly, while I get my nightie out of the drawer. When I turn around again, the dog has slunk out from under the bed and started to eat my bloody sanitary napkin. There are bits of shredded, red cotton all over the floor, and my knickers are hanging out of her mouth. She stares at me, desperately.
"Oh, God—your dog's a lesbian vampire," Caz says from her bed, turning over to sleep.
Book Case readers will also identify with Moran's perfect explanation of the joys of reading:
Books seem the most potent source: each one is the sum total of a life that can be inhaled in a single day. I read fast, so I'm hoovering up lives at a ferocious pace, six or seven or eight in a week. I particularly love autobiographies: I can eat a whole person by sundown.
Not every reader will identify with this book 100%, but I defy any woman to read it and not find herself saying "YES!!! That's it exactly!" at least once. While laying out her route to discovering that there's no right way to be a woman, Moran succeeds in putting a human face on feminism.