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April 2, 2007 | by  | in Books | [ssba]

Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant

Published in 2002, this is not a new addition to the bookshelves, but one I heartily recommend. Dworkin has published on many areas to do with feminism and women’s experinces in life, some of her titles including Woman Hating, Pornography: Men possessing women, Intercourse, On the continiuing War Against Women, In Harm’s Way: The Pornography Civil Rights Hearings, and Letters From a War Zone. Her death in 2005 left the academic community in the USA reeling, due to her choice to end her own life rather than to continue to suffer from a slow and debilitating disease.

Her autobiography covers the periods of her early life, her college years, and the development of some of the attitudes that became her leitmotifs across the decades. She covers her awakenings to women’s oppressions in many forms, from the disillusionment with ‘free love’ to her eventual discovery that a girl cannot live on a single salary, when a woman’s salary is only seen as a stop-gap expediancy between her father’s home and her husband’s. That a woman might remain single, continue working, and become woman-identified in a community of woman-identified women was ground-breaking stuff, and she broke the ground.

I read this book because I had an academic interest in her other published areas; after a couple of chapters, I was hooked, and didn’t sleep that night until I’d finished it. Her writing style is very accessible in this volume, which, I admit, is a contrast to her more scholarly works, some of which make very heavy reading. She did not stint on the difficult topics, however, but there is a much more anectdotal style to her treatment of the material. She writes about the women who came up to her after lectures she delivered around the States, women who gave their own testimonies of surviving the pornography industry, women who showed the indomitability of the human spirit. She writes about women killed by their lovers, the ordinary deaths that ordinary women die, not trumpeted in the daily papers, but buried in the small column inches.



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