Book Review: Don’t Call Me Princess

don't call me princessDon’t Call Me Princess: Essays on Girls, Women, Sex, and Life
by Peggy Orenstein
Nonfiction/Essay Collection/Feminism
378 pages
Published February 2018

This is an interesting collection of essays because it’s drawn from the author’s previous work, so some of the essays are a little…dated. Each essay is preceded by a few paragraphs about it, though, talking about what was going on when Orenstein wrote the essay, or how the subject has changed since the essay was written, so instead of being out-of-touch, it’s more like a historical look back in time. Some of the essays even update other essays! In particular, one essay is about her first fight with breast cancer, and beating it, and a second essay is about when the cancer comes back years later. Similarly, there are essays about her issues with infertility and miscarriages, and later about being a mother.

I really enjoyed these articles, especially since I was reading the book while sick, and 3 or 4 page essays were about the limits of my attention span! I could sit down and read one (or two, if I was feeling particularly good) and actually absorb the contents. I tried to read a novel and wound up setting it aside because I couldn’t focus! I enjoy keeping anthologies and short story collections in my stack for that reason. Sometimes I just need something I can take in small bits, and this fit the bill nicely.

The essays ranged from profiles of remarkable women (Caitlin Moran, Gloria Steinem, Atsuko Chiba) to essays on the author’s personal life, to essays about our educational system, sexism in daily life, and intimate issues like cancer and infertility. It’s a wide range of topics, but all dealing with being a woman, and/or having a uterus. There are a couple of essays in the very back about masculinity, but it’s mostly a woman-centered book. That doesn’t mean men shouldn’t read it, quite the opposite! While the book isn’t quite as engrossing as some of the other feminist nonfiction I’ve been reading lately, it’s still quite good, and does deal with topics that I don’t see discussed often, like breast cancer and IVF, so it might be more interesting to people who have a personal connection to those topics. Well worth reading, though!

From the cover of Don’t Call Me Princess:

Named one of the “40 women who changed the media business in the last 40 years” by the Columbia Journalism Review, Peggy Orenstein is one of the most prominent, unflinching feminist voices of our time. Her writing has broken ground and broken silence on topics as wide-ranging as miscarriage, motherhood, breast cancer, princess culture, and the importance of girls’ sexual pleasure. Her unique blend of investigative reporting, personal revelation, and unexpected humor has made her books bestselling classics.

In Don’t Call Me Princess, Orenstein’s most resonant and important essays are available for the first time in collected form, updated with both an original introduction and personal reflections on each piece. Her takes on reproductive justice, the infertility industry, tensions between working and stay-at-home moms, pink ribbon fearmongering, and the complications of girl culture are not merely timeless – they have, like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, become more urgent in our contemporary political climate. Don’t Call Me Princess offers a crucial evaluation of where we stand today as women – in our work lives, sex lives, as mothers, as partners – illuminating both how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.

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