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The Refrigerator Monologues

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The lives of six female superheroes and the girlfriends of superheroes. A ferocious riff on women in superhero comics.

A series of linked stories from the points of view of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, female heroes, and anyone who’s ever been “refrigerated”: comic book women who are killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad, disabled, or had their powers taken so that a male superhero’s storyline will progress.

160 pages, Hardcover

First published June 6, 2017

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About the author

Catherynne M. Valente

263 books7,166 followers
Catherynne M. Valente was born on Cinco de Mayo, 1979 in Seattle, WA, but grew up in in the wheatgrass paradise of Northern California. She graduated from high school at age 15, going on to UC San Diego and Edinburgh University, receiving her B.A. in Classics with an emphasis in Ancient Greek Linguistics. She then drifted away from her M.A. program and into a long residence in the concrete and camphor wilds of Japan.

She currently lives in Maine with her partner, two dogs, and three cats, having drifted back to America and the mythic frontier of the Midwest.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 806 reviews
Profile Image for Karl.
3,258 reviews256 followers
December 21, 2017
What Catherynne M. Valente states in the afterword to her new book of stories concerning the wives and girlfriends of superhero’s, titled “The Refrigerator Monologues” , pertains to the untimely deaths bestowed on those ladies.

Emphasizing the total lack of respect for the female character roles in comics in general, Valente compares this book to her personal version of “The Vagina Monologues” for the comic industry.

All of the various female narrators in “The Refrigerator Monologues” are dead. They tell their stories from the afterlife in a place called “Deadtown”. The female hero’s gather together and aptly name themselves “The Hell Hath Club”, which becomes the framing sequence for the individual cleverly written stories.

Ms. Valente has gone to great lengths to give her characters creative and original names, and powers, yet the origins of the names leak through. The reader should be somewhat familiar with comics and the tropes utilized in this totally original and unique book.

“The Refrigerator Monologues” is dedicated to Gail Simone who was fired from writing the DC comic “Bat Girl” thus diminishing the active number of female writes in the comic industry. According to Wikipedia, Simone created the “Women in Refrigerators” website in 1999. The site was created for comic book fans and lists examples of the comic book trope whereby female characters are injured, killed, or depowered as a plot device, and seeks to analyze why these plot devices are used disproportionately on female characters.
Kudos to Ms. Valente.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,083 reviews17.3k followers
January 7, 2019
This book is a parody and it’s not. Inspired by the trope of Women in Refrigerators, aka Women Getting Fridged For Manpain, The Refrigerator Monologues satirizes sexist tropes within media representation.

And just like the trope itself, this book is weird as hell. It’s following a bunch of women in a literal deadtown, all becoming friends with each other and telling their own stories. It’s a story of solidarity between women, but in the end, a bit of an inconsistent one - this story’s main strength is as a parody. And unfortunately, as someone with not much knowledge of the specific source material - although plenty of knowledge of these tropes - I had trouble with a few stories that had ambiguous references and therefore lost the full message.

My biggest problem here was the writing style. This book is written in a manner that is way too complex for the source material, which is essentially comic books. I know Valente is known for her writing, but something about it just felt odd to me more than anything else.

Still, though, this book felt as if it were missing some fundamental something. I think this excellent review offers some of my thoughts, but I might add more to this review after the book has settled in my head.
→ Individual Story Reviews ←

Paige Embry based off Spiderman’s Gwen Stacy - ★★★★☆
This story is about being the equal partner to begin with, the one who tries desperately to continue a full relationship with her partner even as he becomes something greater.

Julia Ash based off X Men’s Jean Grey - ★★☆☆☆
She keeps popping in and out of deadtown due to retconning. The concept of this is super meta and clever, but this did not captivate me at all.

Pauline Catch based off Batman’s Harley Quinn - ★★☆☆☆
uh. Well, this story didn’t was by far my least favorite. First of all, this story on audiobook was incredibly grating and difficult to listen to. But perhaps more important, I felt the author simplified Harley Quinn’s character, and especially her future development, to make a point. It felt like am oversimplification of basically one of two comic book characters I actually follow and I did not like it.

Bayou based off Aquaman’s Mera - ★★★★☆
This is a story about being demonized for your own emotions. This mainy worked for me because I loved this character. Bayou is bitter and jaded and completely aware of her flaws, yet so effortlessly sympathetic. Despite my lack of idea of the source material, the tropes being subverted here still ring true.

Daisy based off Daredevil’s Karen Page - ★★★★☆
This story is about becoming the secondary, the one who stays at home, and how it can cause you to lose yourself. Daisy’s character is complex and intriguing, and I adored her arc.

Samantha Dane based off Green Lantern’s Alexandra Dewitt - ★★★☆☆
Oddly, despite this being about the original woman in a fridge, this story is about being the progression of anti-authority work to authority and fame. Yet I found the ending somewhat unsatisfying.

→ overall ← a satisfying collection, but I wanted a little bit more.

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Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,004 reviews2,596 followers
June 5, 2017
3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2017/06/05/...

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a girlfriend or wife of a superhero? The answer is not so glamorous in The Refrigerator Monologues, a new book containing a series of linked short stories by Catherynne M. Valente. Inspired by “Women in Refrigerators”, a term used to describe a trope used in many comic book plots involving the deaths, disablement, and disenfranchising of female characters to forward a male superhero protagonist’s storyline, this clever collection offers both a darkly humorous commentary on the subject as well as a vicious lampoon on these kinds of story arcs as a whole.

Meet the six women of the Hell Hath Club, all inspired by well-known characters in the DC or Marvel universes so that even passing fans of comics should recognize some of their origins. There’s Paige Embry, the brilliant and driven college student who saw her bright future snuffed out when she was thrown off a bridge by her superhero boyfriend’s arch nemesis. Gwen Stacy anyone? Or how about the powerful telepath and telekinetic, taken away at a young age for a school for special powered people to fight another group of special powered people by an ostensibly well-meaning professor, who later puts Jean Gre—I mean, Julia Ash on an otherwise all-male superhero team called the “Millennial Men”? And of course there’s also Samantha Dane, based off of Alexandra Dewitt, the girlfriend of Kyle Rayner whose gruesome manner of death in the Green Lantern comics is what inspired the “refrigerated” term in the first place.

The tales go on like this, each one exploring the background of a female character who has been killed, depowered, or generally dismissed in favor of the male superheroes (and in one case, a supervillain) in their lives. Now the six of them meet regularly in the afterlife, hanging out at a quaint little joint called the Lethe Café where they share their stories, support each other, and listen to the gargoyles bands play punk rock.

The Refrigerator Monologues was a quick read, offering brief but plentiful examples to illustrate the concerning trend in comic books of having bad things happen to female characters as merely a plot device. While these are entertaining stories, I’m afraid there’s also very little lightness to them. After all, the women portrayed here are meant to represent the victims of “lazy writing” and “stock storylines”, most of them reduced to playing second fiddle to their male superhero counterparts or as pet causes for their romantic partners. Valente shines a harsh, subversive light on the injustice and absurdity of these situations, from Gwen Stacy whose death has somehow become an inextricable and defining moment in the life of Spider-Man, to Harley Quinn who is forever standing resolutely by the Joker even after the bajillionth time he leaves her to rot in Arkham. The short vignettes here capture both the tragedy and comedy of the women’s fates by putting readers in their shoes.

I also thought the length and format of the book was perfect for the author’s vision. It is clear anything less would have failed to deliver the same level of poignancy, while a longer book containing more stories would have run the risk of being repetitive. The writing style here is very distinctive, aiming for biting humor and as much as snarky finesse, though after a while I found it difficult to distinguish the different voices of the women for they all seemed to speak with the same mannerisms. By the end, I was also feeling a little weary and heartsick from the underlying tones of sadness and dejection. For you see, this isn’t a book that “fixes” things, nor was it ever meant to be—I think Valente put it best in an article I once came across where she said (and I’m paraphrasing based on memory), “I might not be able to swoop in to save the damsel, but I can turn on the mic to let her scream.” You might read these stories expecting more anger and indignation from the characters, but ultimately the Hell Hath Club isn’t so much about fury than it is about a place where its members can come together to vent, grieve, commiserate, or simply to tell their personal stories and be heard.

In closing, I also want to give special mention to the world-building of Deadtown. Aside from being the most unique and interesting aspect of the book, this brilliant setting ties all the characters’ stories together and gives this collection a special touch. Being dead isn’t easy—you’re basically stuck wearing whatever god-awful outfit you were buried in for all eternity, and there are bizarre rules like how all food can only be made from plants and animals that have gone extinct, or that the only books available are those that have been forgotten to time, etc. Still, it isn’t all bad. Residents of Deadtown share the afterlife with a population of friendly gargoyles who sure know how to have a good time!

Finally, you certainly don’t need to be familiar with comics or comic book characters to appreciate this book, but knowing some of the context would probably help. Sharply droll and acerbic, The Refrigerator Monologues offers a look at the superhero genre from a rare but important perspective. Whether these stories make you laugh or cry, pound your fists or roll your eyes, at the end of the day they’re bound to evoke emotions and start some conversations. And sometimes, that’s all that really matters.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,908 followers
September 26, 2017
I know I keep saying this about Cat Valente, but damn... this is great stuff.

Six women in six linked short stories. They're all superhero fodder. Oh, Raynor, she's been refrigerated! :)

All the names have been changed but we can see who they are rather easy, and delightfully so. They're genuine female viewpoints and the ranting from a bar in Deadtown while listening to gargoyles play punk music is also delightful as hell, but what we've really got is Jean Grey, Harlequin, Gwen Stacey, and even poor Raynor's dead girl in the refrigerator.

Even so, much more than the names are changed. Whole complex storylines, mythologies, and characters, equal to or even better than the source material in all comic books, are in full evidence in Valente's work. A ton of love and care and, I should say it, CARE, was put into this writing and her vision.

It's equally biting satire, deep love for the comic mythos, ranting, raging, and a delightful romp with some very interesting women that know how to be as funny as they are outraged.

Pick up on the Vagina Monologues vibe? It's true and real but given to our favorite women who have become meat for the main men's sad-arcs. I think it's well worth the read whether or not you're a fan of the comic industry mythos.

These are quite genuine and powerful stories in their own right, and it transcends almost all competitors. :)

Profile Image for Thomas.
1,424 reviews8,309 followers
August 21, 2018
Totally recommended for fans of superhero comics and feminism. The Refrigerator Monologues contains six short stories from the perspectives of fictional female characters who were killed or assaulted for the sake of progressing a superhero storyline. With plenty of wit and voice, Catherynne Valente takes a stab at the many misogynistic tropes in superhero comics, ranging from how women are punished for showing emotion while their male counterparts rage all the time and get rewarded for doing so, to how women in general get killed off to advance men’s storylines. Valente rerenders these tales to give voice to these women and to expose the sexist content many of us have ingested without enough critical thinking.

I enjoyed reading this one a lot, only giving it four stars because I am mostly unfamiliar with the original stories and characters, so I did not get a few references. Still, Valente’s commentary is spot on and transcends the superhero genre – yes, I’m thinking precisely of Ernest “misogyny” Hemingway and other glorified white men in the western literary canon. Appreciative of Valente for tackling this issue in an innovative way and excited to read more of her work.
Profile Image for Gabrielle.
986 reviews1,113 followers
June 20, 2018
The website Women in Refrigerators (www.lby3.com/wir) compiled a list of all the female characters who were maimed, killed or had their power and agency otherwise taken from them as a plot device to move the male characters’ arc forward, instead of having some real story and character development of their own in the mainstream comic book cannon. This was not something I’d ever given much thought to, mostly because I am not such a rabid comic book fan, but once I was made aware of this, I started watching superhero movies a little bit differently… And while I feel like there are plenty of great female characters out there, it’s impossible to ignore that there are so many of them that were treated as cannon fodder, to give their superhero boyfriend/relative a reason to go on rampages against the supervillains. Kidnapped, taken hostage, tortured, mutilated, manipulated and killed to make a guy in a cape tick…

Valente disguised her characters very well, but even without in-depth knowledge of Marvel and DC comic characters, I was able to infer who were the women telling their stories (there are also plenty of little Easter eggs for serious comic nerds). She placed them in one of the strangest and most intriguing versions of the afterlife I’ve ever come across; a place where people wander, a bit aimlessly, acting like they are still alive out of habit. In that strange place, six women meet up regularly at a gargoyle-run bar to share their stories. They all come from the same world, where superheroes and supervillains are battling each other all over the place, often with twisted and tragic consequences – and these women happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The stories are a subversive rant against the fate these women had to endure, the stories they never got to share because they were murdered, driven insane, disabled or cruelly abandoned so that a man could carry on. Valente gives these characters a distinct voice, and a chance to say what they have been holding back for so long, and they spill their guts in anger, guilt and dark humor. A woman that had too much power and had to be controlled and stopped by her male counterparts. A woman who fell into a literally insane and abusive relationship. A woman who sacrificed her life and dreams on the altar of her partner’s glory. Things like that happen in comic books, but they happen in real life too. Valente’s writing is, as usual, stunning. While every story in this book is amazing, I especially liked Pauline’s (but then I’ve always been fascinated by the Joker and Harley) and Bayou’s.

Some critics have called the book heavy-handed, but I think it is necessary food for thought. It is necessary to get mad about the interrupted, corrupted lives these characters suffered. Not that there is anything we can do about it, expect maybe write stories a little differently in the future? Enthusiastically recommended to all comic book fans and to everyone who has been curious about what the other side of the story felt like.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,874 reviews3,381 followers
May 2, 2018
Cat Valente has become one of my favourite writers. She seems to be an allrounder who can write space opera as much as whimsical fairy tales full of artistic prose or a book offering a critical look at women in comicbooks.

She is a quirky person who loves art and poetry as much as computer games and comics. Her love for the latter especially shows here. Because loving something doesn't necessarily mean not being critical of it. And let's face it: no matter how much you love comics, many of them have some obvious problems.

A while ago, another woman, named Gail Simone, called the world's attention to the major problem with women in comicbooks. She called the phenomenon: the women in refrigerators.
For those of you, like me, who don't know it, she named the phenomenon after a girlfriend of Kyle Rayner's (the next Green Lantern after Hal Jordan), who got murdered and literally stuffed in a refrigerator for him to find - solely so he could get worked up in a rage, resulting in him being able to be the hero and beat the villain.

Just like this famous example that gave a name to the problem, almost all girlfriends, wives, mothers, other female superheroes even, or any other kind of women represented in comics end up like a plot device to spur on the hero and make him get to the next level in his existance.

Thus, Valente took 6 examples - some are fairly obvious representations of famous comics, others I have to guess (or maybe I'll google them) - of such women and wrote their stories. They are all dead now, and form a sort of self-help group where they talk about what their story was really like. How their men kept secrets from them, didn't really care about them, or their children, or their wives' own powers so long as they could be the stars of the show. In the process, we get a 360° look at the kind of partners these women have been because they were almost all different in how they supported their men.

One story, as I said in my status update, was not very much to my liking as I didn't see the girl being a victim of anything other than her own bad life choices that she then blamed on the guy. Other than that, I definitely see the problem and had seen it in some comicbook movie adaptations even *cough*GwenStacey*cough* and that gave further delight to these tragic tales of sacrifice, love and death.

Some of these stories are quirky and wonderfully well written, some go that extra mile to also rip your heart out. All of them show the author's talent as well as her attention to detail and uncanny ability to take a theme, break it up into its individual parts and then throw everything back together - but in a slightly new and better way.

For anyone interested, here is a breakdown of who the ladies represent: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/s...
I didn't take a peek until now that I've finished the book and I got 4 out of the 6 right without being too well versed in comics. I should or could have known #5 as well but that's ok. Anyway, interesting article.
Profile Image for Samantha.
409 reviews16.7k followers
May 2, 2019
3.5 stars! These stories were takes on classic superhero stories of the heroes love interest getting killed, with recognizable tropes, heroes, and situations throughout. I found it enjoyable but overall pretty depressing (as expected) but not in as deep or complex of a way as I’ve seen in other stories discussing similar topics. As with any short story collection, there are also some stories you’ll love more than others, which brings the overall rating down.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,385 reviews11.8k followers
August 25, 2017
You can always rely on Valente to take a genre - this time it's comic book hero stories - and turn it completely on its head.
Profile Image for Emily.
296 reviews1,528 followers
April 11, 2019
WHEEEEWWW boy I'm excited for the TV adaptation...

This is a mix of several interconnected stories, each told from the perspective of a woman who has been "fridged" – killed, in one way or another, to further the story of their superhero significant others.

Like all Valente books, the writing is gloriously decadent. I will say, this time around things are much more colloquial (read: a lot more slang) than her other books. But I think that fits the context of the book.

This is a fabulous reclamation of female agency. As each woman tells her story, as they slowly come together in the purgatory of Deadtown (where they all now "live"), it felt like my soul got a little bit bigger.

Valente is both helped and hampered by her clear knowledge of the comic book canon. On the one hand, this enables her to masterfully set-up and dismantle the all-too-common tropes of superhero stories. On the other, at times some of the references feel a bit too familiar. In the end, the former proves much stronger than the latter.

This book left me feeling with a an empowered, targeted type of rage. This is a righteously angry book, and in reading it felt like I was seen, that my anger was also righteous.
Profile Image for Artur Nowrot.
Author 8 books40 followers
June 14, 2017
*ETA: Updated review now with THREE postscripts! One of which might just be as long as the rest of the review!*

I like stories that offer transformation of oppresive structures or suggest ways of escaping them.

This book isn’t like that.

It is a raging, despairing howl against the world.

There is no subversion of the comic-book narratives (and the book is based on very well-known comic book storylines – I was able to identify all but two and I’m a fake geek guy). The women get to tell their stories, but they cannot change them. They are dead. They will remain dead. You can feel, on a visceral level, that every one of the narratives is cut short. Interrupted. That those girls had hopes and dreams and plans that they will never be able to bring to life. And even though there is a beautiful portrait of women’s solidarity between the dead girls, there will be no closure – the stories are designed to make you angry and sad at their fate.

This has its purpose, of course, as it might push the reader to act.

The thing is... I was angry and sad before.

I guess someone else has to take care of the transformation.

PS. I’ve had a bit of an issue in the past few years with Valente’s writing – it felt slightly overwritten, too precious, particularly with the anthropomorphisations cropping up seemingly everywhere. This was an issue here at first, but the feeling passed very quickly and I had no trouble immersing myself into the narrative.

PPS. I wish the stories in the collection, since they all followed pre-existing plot points, were more formally daring. My favourite was the one about Julia Ash (not gonna spoil which comic book character she is based on), which played a bit with the format of the story.

PPPS. I’ve looked at the book as literature and described the affective response it elicits. But this is a prime example of a critical-creative re-writing, a text that is simultaneously literature and literary criticism. As the latter it contains some valuable insights. The line “I belong in the refrigerator. Because the truth is, I'm just food for a superhero. He'll eat up my death and get the energy he needs to become a legend” is an incandescent diamond. Given the anticipation of the Harley Quinn/Joker “romance” (*vomits quietly*) in Suicide Squad in some parts of the fandom, the story of Pretty Polly and Mr. Punch should be displayed on bus stops and sides of tall buildings. The Julia Ash story is a great depiction and critique of the “woman with too much power must be stopped” motif (or trope, as kids today would call it, whatever).

I was going to say that other than that the books stays in the by now well-trod line of criticism of women in refrigerators, started by Gail Simone and therefore doesn’t offer much beyond that. Only it’s not quite true. There is a bit about the value we place on manpain over women’s pain and emotional responses; there is something about the sacrifices women are expected to make in relationships for the sake of the development of their partner’s career. There is even an incisive critique of mainstream pornography. The result is a multi-faceted look at the marginalisation and victimisation of women in different aspects of life – not just superhero stories and not just art. This is very valuable and definitely shouldn’t be overlooked in favour of the “women in refrigerators” part.
Profile Image for Holly (The GrimDragon).
983 reviews234 followers
July 16, 2019
"Look, I have never been anything but hardcore since I said my first swear, but when my son grabbed onto me for the first time, it was like a harpoon in the heart. Nothing ever hurt so much or felt so good."

Holy fucking fuck! This book. THIS GLORIOUS BOOK!!

This one is close to my heart. Badass chicks are my JAM. It's my deal! I mean.. clearly. Give me all the powerful women who break through glass ceilings!

The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente (with illustrations by Annie Wu) shines a well-deserved light on women in superhero comics. The girlfriends, the female superheroes. Those that are often just a catalyst for the male storyline. Generally straight, white dudes at that. Don't get me wrong - I love superhero stories. But there is a massive imbalance when it comes to gender and racial representation. It’s honestly baffling to me that in 2019 there is still such a lack of diversification, but here we are.

Valente is certainly doing her part to smash through that disproportionate gap! In fact, The Refrigerator Monologues is currently being adapted for Amazon Studios by Shauna Cross (who wrote the brilliant screenplay for Whip It!) A superhero franchise by women? FUCK YES!!

The Refrigerator Monologues is a multi-narrative novella with linked stories centering around six women inspired by well-known characters in comics who were were “fridged,” killed as a plot device used for motivation to the hero. The term was brought into the mainstream by the fabulous comic book writer Gail Simone on her website dedicated to women in comics who have been "depowered, raped, or cut up and stuck in the refrigerator."

Set in a version of hell called Deadtown run by gargoyles, it is always autumn and always the middle of the night, we are introduced to Paige Embry. She runs the Hell Hath Club, a support group of women who meet in a cafe each night to discuss their old lives.. including the men they loved and how they ended up in the afterlife. You don't move on once you are dead. You are forced to wear the same clothes you were buried in and even more painfully.. you continue loving the person you loved before you died. Oof.

Paige is the main narrator, the glue of the story. She is a scientist who accidentally gave her boyfriend superpowers. During a battle with his nemesis, Doctor Nocturne, she ends up thrown off of a bridge.

Julia Ash is.. well.. she's fucked up (aren't we all?!) She flickers in and out of life. Literally! She exists in multiple timelines and is a transmutation of species. Raised in St. Ovidius's School for Wayward Children and thrown onto a team of all male superheroes, she became incredibly powerful (and destructive!) She was told time and time again to hold back. To be less than. She wasn't allowed to be stronger than her male counterparts.. or even equal to them.

Pauline Ketch.. Most Likely to Piss in Grimdark's Sad Black Cornflakes. See also: Arsonist. In love with the deranged Mr. Punch who she met at the lunatic asylum, a dude who frequently treats her like shit. Then murders her.

Blue Bayou, Trash Queen of Backwater Atlantis, Alligator Princess of the Great Galactic Delta, the Creature from the Rhinestone Lagoon. She is a kind of mix of alligator/siren/electric eel. She used to play the drums (and conch) in a band called Blowhole that played such tunes as, I Wanna Be Mutated. Her story takes a hard right the day she meets John Heron aka Avast. She falls in love and immediately gets knocked up. Totally not what she ever expected! Unfortunately, her happiness is short-lived when her son is killed. From there, Avast became the hero. The one who tried to save both his wife and son. Yet Bayou was treated terribly for how she responded to the tragedy. The devastation of losing a child and daring to grieve. So off to the mental institute she goes.

Needless to say, my heart exploded for the punk rock alligator princess! She was by far the one that affected me the most. Goddamn.

Daisy Green hosts a radio show in Deadtown. She used to be an aspiring actress who fell in love with a superhero and becomes relentlessly haunted by his nemesis, Miasma. She leaves The Insomniac and struggles with life, becoming a porn star and addict along the way before her untimely demise.

Samantha Dane is the new arrival. She's a doomed artist and photographer. She gave up her dreams to support her superhero boyfriend. The girl in the refrigerator herself.

These women may have been killed as a result of the superhero men in their lives, but in death they begin to reclaim their stories. 

The Refrigerator Monologues burrowed into my soul. It made me wickedly angry, yet also made me laugh; it gave me hope, but ripped my heart out and stomped all over it as well. I cried. Oh, how I cried.

Superheroes and feminism and humor! This has those things in spades. It's unafraid, enthralling and beautifully profound.

"I'll love you till the sun burns out."
Profile Image for lauren ♡.
529 reviews107 followers
June 13, 2017
Can everyone please read this because wow is it important in regards to the way women are treated just to further men's storylines. If you're interested in superheroes and feminism then you're gonna love this.
Profile Image for Vivian.
2,839 reviews389 followers
November 5, 2018
Flickering through recycled realities, losing myself in myself, over and over.

The Refrigerator Monologues is a mashup of The Vagina Monologues and comic book history. Valente uses some pretty well known female comic book characters and riffs off them. Each character's place in Deadtown is introduced and then she shares her origin story and how she got "refrigerated", written out.
Trouble is, my story is his story. The story of Kid Mercury crowds out everything else, like Christmas landing on the shops in August while Halloween tries to get a bat in edgewise.

It's funny, and a great rage read that makes you laugh even though some of it makes you want to cry at the same time. If you can't laugh it's just sad. Right?
It always stings when there's this whole story going on and you're really just a B-plot walk-on who only got a look at three pages of the script.

I like an outraged political statement that's thirty years out of date. If they'd had one that said Warren G. Harding Is the Anti-Christ, I'd have grabbed that one, too. Occupy Yesterday, baby!

I called him my manic pixie fucktoy.

Yeah, we've all pick up toys and realized we should have left them on the shelf. Plenty of reasons to throw him back, let someone else have that "catch".
But the longer I'm dead, the more I think the universe is a big blackboard with the rules scrawled all over it in chalk and stardust and it's just that the damn thing is flipped over and turned away from us so we can't see anything but the eraser, which is death, hitting the floor. Write out your life one thousand times, kid, or you'll have to come back and finish tomorrow.

Valente's knowledge of ancient Greeks is evident throughout the story, but I guess I just really love how she describes the Hell Hath Club and Deadtown because they sound exactly like shades. The dead are jealous of the living for precisely this reason:
Everthing tastes a little thin, a little slight. It's more like we were buried with the memory or the idea of hunger, and now it's stuck to us like old toilet paper.

Also, calls Odysseus a dick--knew I loved this writer for a reason. Yes, if you follow my reviews every time he appears I will totally call him out for the liar and thief he was--he's not a hero; he's an asshole.
The underworld's come a long way since Helen and Medea and Iphigenia and Clytemnestra painted the town black--the original Hell Hath Club.

As women we keep saying that, but when do we get to the end of road? Why aren't we there, yet? Anyway, highly recommend this book if you can comprehend the amount of suppressed frustration and rage women carry around with them or if you do.
Profile Image for Craig.
4,880 reviews111 followers
May 2, 2019
This is a really terrific little book. Valente has created a fictional portrayal of Gail Simone's famous "Women in Refrigerators" examination, and has created six analogs of the most famous examples. Her love of the comics genre shines through, and she handles the situations with empathy and care and considerable humor, yet still manages to get across her message that the medium can and should be better... more sympathetic, more inclusive, just -better-. I've read a few reviews that ding the book for having a feminist agenda, to which the only appropriate response is "You're welcome!" Even the casual comics fan will come away from this prose offering elevated. Hats off to a future classic.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,499 reviews187 followers
October 4, 2017
Cathrynne M. Valente's distinctive writing style is put to use describing the former lives of various girlfriends/partners of superheroes. There's plenty of anger expressed by six women who were relied on then quickly and easily forgotten by their distinctly unheroic superhero partners. The women are interesting people, who, because of their association with superheroes, come to abrupt ends that the superheroes use to propel themselves into bigger and more ridiculous confrontations, all the while spouting lines about freedom. The women bear the costs, and all ask pointed questions about value, respect, and responsibility, which the superheroes seemed to have scant regard for. It was impossible for me to not feel moved by the women and how their bodies and usefulness were trampled and destroyed by the men who supposedly cared about them, and life.
Profile Image for Erica.
118 reviews
August 24, 2018
Such a good book! I really enjoyed the monologue structure -- it reads like a linked short story collection, and Valente does an amazing job capturing the distinct voice of each character.

You don't have to be a major fan of comics to enjoy this one. I know only what I've seen in a handful of movies, and still really appreciated reading Valente's take. I'm sure hardcore comics fans would get an extra layer of depth, catching references/in-jokes that I missed, but that's definitely not required to enjoy the read.

Valente eviscerates the maddening ways female characters are treated in comic stories; and, let's face it, those tropes extend well beyond comics, to media portrayals of women in general. My favorite thing about reading this was the razor-sharp anger expressed throughout. The book absolutely oozes it. Revels in it.

To hear women (even fictional women) unapologetically embrace and broadcast their anger is such a rarity, and I LOVE Valente for going there. As she said in an interview with the Mary Sue, "you can’t fix [the woman character] dying. She was always going to die. She always dies. ...I can’t swoop in and save the damsel. What I can do is turn on a mic and let the damsel scream." And does she ever.
Profile Image for Claudia ✨.
495 reviews352 followers
November 25, 2019
"I belong in the refrigerator. Because the truth is, I'm just food for a superhero. He'll eat up my death and get the energy he needs to become a legend."

My first book by Catherynne M. Valente had me crying my eyes out on a train at midnight.

It had me writing down gutpunching quote after quote, write my girlfriends that they had to read this awesome and horrible book, and add the rest of Valentes books to my TBR. The writing and characters just refused to let me go. The Refrigerator Monologues was simply an experience.

If you haven't heard of the women in refrigerator term, it's generally when women in comics, books, tv-shows or movies are killed to boost the male protagonists storyline. When they are traumatised, raped, mutilated or killed just to spark a vengeance in the male hero or add to his character development. This is especially a big thing in superhero comics and is, in my humble opinion, fucking disgusting. Because it's more than just a little thing that happens in the stories we dive into every once in a while, as those little stories mirror our reality.

"It's a funny thing. You go your whole life thinking you're the protagonist, but really you're just backstory."

In this heartwrenching novella we get to meet and hear the stories of six women who meet up in the afterlife and all share their similar stories of their life and how they died. They're all girlfriends or wives of superheroes, and it's fairly easy to tell which characters inspired their creation. Don't worry though, even though they all have a lot of similarities, they're still different enough that each story felt like an entirely new one - it just followed a very old, sad and worn pattern. I loved and hated it at the same time.

Sometimes the things written in this book were so real that the book literally felt heavier in my hands. That's how powerful The Refrigerator Monologues was. All the stories were crazy amazing, and even though I did have my favorites - Paige and Julia's - I would probably sell a kidney to have an entire book per woman.

I don't know what more to say about this - I miss it and already want to read it again. I also need every single person in this world to read this. You need to read this. It's just such an important book. It will make you furious and want to punch someone and maybe cry or laugh and it's so important.
Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 28 books5,609 followers
January 9, 2018
I have mixed feelings about this. I understand why it was written, and I love that she wrote it. The stylishness was undeniable. But I feel like it needed so much more.

For instance, Bayou's story was absolutely heartbreaking, and read like the outline of a larger story, one I wish I could read. A couple of the stories had to be so speeded up, to fit the monologue style, that I found them more confusing than tragic. The one story that really worked for me was Polly's. I am absolutely horrified by the glamorization of Harley Quinn and the Joker's "relationship" and every time I see a little girl dressed as Harley Quinn I feel sick. The story based on them was perfect.

This is such an important topic and I hope the conversation keeps going. I understand that, in using the Vagina Monologues as a model, the stories needed to be short, but that just didn't work for me as well. Valente created a whole world, a whole universe of worlds, actually, and a pantheon of heroes and villains and humans and gargoyles, and she did it in a few brief strokes. That's amazing, but it left me wanting so much more and asking so many questions!
Profile Image for Tracy.
625 reviews21 followers
December 13, 2017
This was very good. It’s inexcusable that it took 8 days to read as it is only 147 pages long (and its illustrated). My excuse is that I have the world’s shortest attention span and it is Christmas. I loved these stories. The rage in them fairly dances off the page. It also sparkles with humour and the final image of our heroines sitting in a bar listening to a Gargoyle band is beyond awesome. Catherynne Valente is such an amazing writer I am completely in awe of her.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
74 reviews38 followers
May 3, 2018
"I belong in the refrigerator. Because the truth is, I'm just food for a superhero. He'll eat up my death and get the energy he needs to become a legend."

Well, fuck. What a great place to explore my rage at the way women are treated in fiction.
Profile Image for Ashley.
2,598 reviews1,664 followers
January 29, 2020
The Refrigerator Monologues is a feminist response to the way women are treated in superhero comics. It's a short read, a novella really, at only 147 pages, but it packs a punch. Riffing on both the stage play The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, and Gail Simone's website Women in Refrigerators (which coined the term "fridging," for any female character who dies in order to further the plotline or character arc of a man), Valente's book six women whose lives were reduced to subplots for various superheroes, and gives them back their voices (which in most cases is little consolation; they're still dead).

At first I was a bit worried that Valente hadn't used real comics characters, but each character has a clear analogue, even if details in their stories differ. This gives the stories much more weight than they would have had otherwise, because her criticism has an actual target, but also speaks to a more general problem. The six women who give us their monologues from beyond the grave are Paige Embry (an analogue for Gwen Stacy, Spider-Man's famously dead girlfriend); Julia Ash (Jean Grey from X-Men); Bayou (Mera from Aquaman); Pauline Ketch/Pretty Polly (Harley Quinn from Batman); Daisy Green (Karen Page from Daredevil); and Samantha Dane (Alexandra Dewitt from Green Lantern, the character this trope is named for, since she was killed and left in a refrigerator for her boyfriend to find).

This is the first book I've read by Valente that I've liked without reservation, so perhaps I shouldn't give up on her as an author quite yet. She does a great job just zeroing in on the point of each woman's story, getting her voice right, and then doing it. It has the feel of a book that just fell out of the author's pen/keyboard (if that's not the case, then I'm even more impressed).

I liked all the stories, but I very much appreciated the presence of the Jean Grey analogue, because I have ALWAYS HATED the Dark Phoenix storyline (in every iteration or adaptation I've seen it in), and because it's not really linked to the existence of a significant other, hadn't thought to think sexism was why I hated it so much. But! That makes so much sense! I've always just hated it because I had this nebulous feeling that she was a victim of her writers, like okay she's very powerful, why does that have to be scary and bad? Why does that make her into a crazy person who kills everyone? Why?? This is not a story we've ever seen with a man at the center. Anyway, most of that story was great, except I wasn't sure what the point of that Retcon guy was. I mostly just found him confusing.

Highly recommend this one!
Profile Image for Lisa.
346 reviews532 followers
June 17, 2017
Review from Tenacious Reader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2017/0...

I love the concept of this book which gives voice to those sidelined females in comic books. It creates fleshed out characters that have motivations and thoughts and intriguing stories all their own. It shows they are something more than just a footnote in the story of a super hero.

And this book is all that, which is wonderful. However, this is going to be a hard one for me to review. When it comes down to it, while I love the concept and the general stories, the style itself is just not a style that works well for me. That does not mean it’s poorly executed by any means. This is a book where the type of humor just really fell flat for me. This is not an unusual struggle for me, it happens often enough I can recognize when I have issue due to the style rather than the writer’s ability to craft a story. I can also recognize the areas that this book fell flat for me may very well be what makes it a stand out in a very positive way for others.

The book covers 6 different protagonists, each one with a unique story and situation (often a familiar one, though all names have been changed). It is a fun concept. And the way all of these chapters are tied together is through the Hell Hath Club. It is a an afterlife hangout where all of these women can go and share there stories.

And when it comes down to it, the entire point of these stories is not to make people laugh, but to learn to appreciate how often women in the standard stories are there only to progress the male story line. They are merely dispensable stepping stones that are given little thought or depth, just a byline in the story of the male protagonist. Valente finally gives them a voice and the ability to stand up and be known. It makes a statement that and gives people something to think about the next time they come across a super hero story with women that could easily join the Hell Hath Club.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews658 followers
September 1, 2017
The Refrigerator Monologues was a birthday present from my wonderful husband, along with a Funko figure of Louise from Bob's Burgers. I have an affinity for small angry ids in character form. I don't let anger out very often in my real life, so roleplaying games and identification with angry women/girls is pretty much where it makes its place in my life. So, in as far as that is concerned, this was a particularly good pairing, because The Refrigerator Monologues is both angry and heartbreaking.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for Meg Elison.
Author 43 books966 followers
July 21, 2017
The moment this book referred to Batman as a "leatherjock emo fuckmuppet" I laughed so hard I died. When it put Jean Gray into an abusive relationship with a villain named Retcon, my corpse cried itself back to life. If you are a ladyperson who reads comics, you need this.
Profile Image for Tammy.
814 reviews135 followers
June 22, 2017
The nitty-gritty: A powerful collection of loosely tied together stories of the women who fell in love with superheroes—and died because of it.

I never wanted children. Let’s get that straight up top. All I ever wanted to do was to drink beer, play my horn, and ride mutant armadillos till the end of the world. But you don’t get to hit those high notes when you’re Queen of something. Hard to scream-sing fuck the man authority is deathpuke anarchy in Atlantis when your mom is, like, the entire government.

Reading a Catherynne M. Valente novel is always a treat for me. Her writing is the equivalent of listening to edgy slam poetry in a smoky bar, but in prose form. No one writes quite like her, and if you like the paragraph I’ve quoted above, then you really do need to pick up one of her books. Even better, her world building is some of the most unique I’ve ever read. I highly recommend Radiance if you have an open mind when it comes to quirky science fiction worlds.

But getting back to the book at hand, Valente once again proves she has extreme writing chops, an imagination that won’t quit, and a penchant for poking fun at tropes. The Refrigerator Monologues is a slim book comprised of six short stories, each one told by a girlfriend/side kick/lover of a male superhero. The kicker? All six women are dead and now reside in Deadtown, where they’ve formed a support group called The Hell Hath Club. They gather at the Lethe Café and take turns telling their stories of woe. Valente takes characters from familiar superhero stories, like Batman, Superman, etc., but gives them different names. Still, readers who are up on superhero lore will recognize them immediately.

In one of my favorite stories, for example, it was easy to identify Pauline Ketch as Harley Quinn, the brash and crazy (literally, she’s in an insane asylum) girl from Batman. Polly, as she calls herself, had one of my favorite voices, upbeat and slightly manic even as she’s telling us about her horrible life. We already know how Polly ends up—dead—but Valente goes into intimate detail about her weird and destructive relationship with Mr. Punch, and Polly’s death—like each of the other girls’ deaths—is almost anticlimactic (“And then he killed me. The end.”)

Each of the stories is preceded by a short interlude chapter that ties everything together, so the reader has the feeling that, like the book cover, each character is taking her turn at the mic, telling her sad story to an appreciative and sympathetic audience. The overall feeling was one of intimacy, although I have to admit that after hearing about the terrible lives of these six women, I had had enough. They all seemed to take their injustices in stride—beatings, verbal abuse, abandonment and more—and while I felt for them, I also wanted to shake each one and yell “What the hell are you thinking??” Which is the point, I guess. Women in the male dominated world of the superhero always seem to get the short end of the stick.

The book is lightly illustrated by Annie Wu, whose style fits perfectly with the comic book vibe. I loved having some visuals to go along with the narratives, and Wu nails the aesthetic.

What I didn’t get enough of, though, was Valente’s amazing world of Deadtown, which seriously, I could read a whole novel about. I want to go there myself, well, provided it’s only a short visit!

But in the end? Nothing is really resolved. Polly, Paige, Julia, Blue Bayou, Daisy and Samantha are still dead. In the final story, Samantha Dane reveals that she was killed and stuffed into a refrigerator, describing a term coined by comic book writer Gail Simone—“fridging”—which brings us back to the theme of this book. Valente’s characters may seem to be taking things in stride in the afterlife, but deep down they’re hurting and angry. The Refrigerator Monologues will make you uncomfortable, but maybe that's a good thing.

Big thanks to the publisher and Wunderkind PR for supplying a review copy.This review originally appeared on Books, Bones & Buffy
Profile Image for Jacki.
1,137 reviews47 followers
March 19, 2017
As usual, Valente makes it all look so easy...

In this short story collection, six women share the stories of how involvement with superheroes and supervillains led to their deaths or downfalls. Ignore that part of the blurb that tells you to expect an entirely new universe, because although some details are different, the protagonists are blatantly based on DC/Marvel women. You've got:
--A Gwen Stacy, whose science experiment gave her boyfriend his powers
--A Jean Grey, who pops in and out of the afterlife due to continual retconning
--A Harley Quinn, with a fatal attraction to a villain
--A Mera, whose grief at the loss of a child takes a backseat to her husband's
--A Karen Page, who winds up second fiddle to her hero boyfriend
--And of course, an Alexandra DeWitt who literally gets stuffed into a fridge
Valente's powerful imagination shines as she creates new superheroes with new powers to frame familiar situations, but for the most part, she simply gives an incisive voice to female characters too long treated as props or frequently rewritten to fit the writers' needs for the male characters' story arcs. A sad, funny, and necessary little book.
Profile Image for MrsJoseph *grouchy*.
1,011 reviews83 followers
January 30, 2018
So, this was a DNF for me. This is a hard read. There isn't anything to alleviate the darkness of being used and dismissed/forgotten over and over again.

It's wonderful that the women had a voice but the end-game stayed the same, regardless.
Profile Image for Lena.
1,139 reviews236 followers
November 12, 2017

”I belong in the refrigerator. Because the truth is, I’m just food for a superhero. He’ll eat up my death and get the energy he needs to become a legend.”

These are the stories of the dead: women’s voices of the Marvel/DC universe forever silenced, because after all, it was never their story. Until now.

The Jean Grey story hit me the hardest.

”I was used and tricked and thrown away, but I cannot be forgiven. It’s a funny thing. You go your whole life thinking you’re the protagonist, but really, you’re just the backstory. The boys shrug and go on, they fight and blow things up and half of them do much worse... and still get a key to the city, and eventually you’re just a story your high school boyfriend tells the kid he had with his new wife.”

I’ll never see X-Men the same way again. Replacing Professor X with Professor Yes was genius. Who says No to someone with mind control?

The cover says this book is “a powerful combination of entertainment and sad truths” - that’s accurate.

Catherynne Valente’s writing is second to none: every page quotable, every page powerful. I must now read everything by her. Be seeing you in December’s TBR Catherynne!
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