“He reached out in a proprietary way and rubbed the collar of her shirt between his fingers, and she was startled and didn’t know what to do, because this wasn’t right.”
This line comes early in Meg Wolitzer’s upcoming novel, The Female Persuasion (Riverhead). Greer Kadetsky, a week into her freshman year at college, is groped at a party. Reading the word proprietary sticks in the throat — uncomfortable and unsettling, and yet so familiar to so many women out there.
The Female Persuasion, which explores ideas of female ambition, power and leadership, cuts at just the right time: the post-Weinstein, #MeToo era. One of the main characters is a Gloria Steinem-like figure: feminist icon Faith Frank, who ends up being a mentor to Kadetsky. The book gets its title, in fact, from a similarly named manifesto by Frank, “which essentially implored women to see that there was a great deal more to being female than padded shoulders and acting tough,” writes Wolitzer. “They could be strong and powerful, all the while keeping their integrity and decency.”
It is a wondrous read. While there’s plenty of food for thought, The Female Persuasion is also deeply enjoyable. Wolitzer’s characters are compelling; her writing, engaging. There’s no black and white and it’s in these gray areas, in the flaws of her characters, in uncovering the complex terrain of feminism, that the book sings.
Here, we chat with the author.
Doing what excites and engages you the most, without thinking too much about what other people might think or feel about your efforts.
The woman who inspires me to #EmbraceAmbition most…
My mother. She’s a writer too, and from the time I was a little girl she was supportive of my efforts. I felt as if, in a sense, we were in it together — this long process of doing what excited and engaged us, despite the hard parts. (And there are always hard parts.)
I #EmbraceAmbition in my life by…
I try hard to have various things going on in my life at a given time, and this includes my writing life, my reading life, my family life, and the life I share with my friends. I enjoy the idea that every day might provide a new chance to try something out, to stretch yourself just a little.