I’ve been sitting here staring at a blank screen, trying desperately to figure out the words to convey the depth and urgency of my love for this book. Let’s start with: if I have anything to be grateful to the former occupier of the White House for, it is the uptick in feminist rage literature. I suppose credit where credit is due. Because we’ve been mad, I’ve been angry my whole damn life, but it’s just now I’m finding books that mirror my own simmering fury at the world I was given. And my goodness gracious, does Kelly Barnhill ever capture all of those feelings perfectly in this exquisite book.
I haven’t been shy about my love for magical realism and the way these stories force us to confront our decidedly less wondrous reality. This book is uses the premise of “spontaneous dragoning” to rail against the silences we are forced to carry, the secrets we lock away in our hearts, the ways ignorance and fear and discomfort limit and cage us.
I loved the way Barnhill wrote this. Our narrator is Alex, it is part memoir, part scientific study, part history. The story starts in childhood with all the confusion of memories made before context. The writing was immersive. I felt completely for Alex, I understood this character in my bones. She deals with some very heavy things, and she is usually left to navigate them alone.
It is a story of women’s anger, but also women’s love. Love for family, love for community, love for ourselves. There is a hope and longing built into this idea — oh what I wouldn’t give to be able to shed this skin, to transform into something mighty and destructive and unstoppable, to right the wrongs I see and to live full of power. I cried during some of the dragoning passages.
I have no clue if this is at all coherent or compelling. I wish I could force this book on to people, not just all of the angry women I know, but the ones who claim they aren’t and the men who’ve never cared about our rage. I want to give this to mothers who didn’t know how to process their own trauma and so refused to acknowledge it and to the daughters forced to bear these silences and omissions. And maybe I want wings and fire and snapping jaws as well. But I’d settle for a world where women are afforded respect and rights and our voices are heard and our power appreciated. How is that too much to ask?