Top critical review
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on April 17, 2013
When I read Deborah Copaken Kogan's article in The Nation titled "My So-Called `Post-Feminist' Life in Arts and Letters", I felt really bad for the author. Copaken Kogan shares her frustration with the patriarchal literary establishment that ignores and trivializes her work because she is a woman and a feminist. I decided to show solidarity for the author and bought her novel Between Here and April.
And this is what I have to say after reading it: if your books don't get reviewed, if your articles don't get published, if your CV always ends up in the trash can, if you are always passed by for a promotion, if you are denied tenure, etc., there is a possibility - just a possibility - that this doesn't happen because you are a woman, a Muslim, an atheist, a religious person, a Jew, a Ukrainian, an autistic, a parent, a childless person, a man, an immigrant, etc., but simply because your books are no good, your articles suck, your CV is bad, and your tenure dossier is unconvincing.
Between Here and April tells a story of Lizzie, a very immature, inept woman who, at the age of 41, speaks and acts like an 11-year-old, and who makes a half-hearted attempt to jump-start her dying career by investigating the suicide of another immature and inept woman. Lizzie is incapable of making any decisions of her own and always needs some man to tell her in detail what to do. A former employer tells her that she needs to drop everything and go on a journalistic mission to Iraq, and she starts to prepare for the trip. A former lover lectures her on why it will benefit her not to go to Iraq but to investigate the suicide of a woman who killed herself and her children, and Lizzie forgets all about Iraq and starts to investigate. Another man tells her to stop investigating, and she does.
Lizzie's life is a mess. Her marriage is a disaster and she feels extremely resentful that she has to invest any energy or time into bringing up her two daughters. Yet instead of letting these daughters develop normally, she stunts their growth to render them completely dependent on her. This gives her a fresh round of excuses for her miserable life and crumbling career.
Lizzie's explanation for her ineptitude is that, as a woman, she is the victim of her female physiology to the degree that makes her practically incapable of functioning. This is where the "feminist" part of the novel resides: in the belief that all women are subject to "hormonal fluctuations" that never happen to men and that render women completely incapacitated.
The novel ends in a manner typical to Harlequin romance fiction: the protagonist solves all of her problems by having another baby. The message of a novel that tried to demonstrate that many women hate being mothers is that all these women who hate their children to the point of planning their murder should make everything right by. . . having another baby.
"Women, keep having babies and that will solve all your problems!" seems to be the novel's conclusion. Yes, I'm sure that the patriarchal literary establishment was extremely scandalized by the powerful feminist thrust of this ultra-subversive message.
"It's career suicide, colleagues tell me, to speak out against the literary establishment; they'll smear you," Copaken Kogan writes in her article. I'm sure that it is a lot more flattering to think of oneself as a brave, solitary feminist who is persecuted for her views by an all-powerful sexist establishment than to recognize that you are a very bad writer whose literary talents stand somewhere a little below Jodi Picoult's and a little above E.L. James's.