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Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession
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GROUP READS > April NONFICTION selection DEAD GIRLS: ESSAYS ON SURVIVING AN AMERICAN OBSESSION

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message 1: by El (new) - rated it 3 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
Welcome to April! Our selection this month is Alice Bolin's collection of essays from 2018, Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession.

Goodreads description:
A collection of poignant, perceptive essays that expertly blends the personal and political in an exploration of American culture through the lens of our obsession with dead women.

In her debut collection, Alice Bolin turns a critical eye to literature and pop culture, the way media consumption reflects American society, and her own place within it. From essays on Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, Bolin illuminates our widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster a man’s story.

From chronicling life in Los Angeles to dissecting the “Dead Girl Show” to analyzing literary witches and werewolves, this collection challenges the narratives we create and tell ourselves, delving into the hazards of toxic masculinity and those of white womanhood. Beginning with the problem of dead women in fiction, it expands to the larger problems of living women—both the persistent injustices they suffer and the oppression that white women help perpetrate.

Sharp, incisive, and revelatory, Dead Girls is a much-needed dialogue on women’s role in the media and in our culture.
I've been wanting to read this one for a while. I'm still waiting for the library copy to come in, but I at least put in my request earlier than usual. :)

Has anyone already read this one? Care to kick us off with some thoughts?


Rachel | 9 comments I just finished and I'm underwhelmed to not put too sharp a point on it.


message 3: by El (new) - rated it 3 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
Interesting, Rachel! I'm curious if you can tell us a bit more. I'm going to start reading it probably tonight on my way to NYC for work. Maybe I should have a back-up travel book in mind? :)


Rachel | 9 comments Let me know what you think after you've read it.


message 5: by El (new) - rated it 3 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
I found the first couple essays pretty okay so far. I just started Part II and I think my biggest issue is that Bolin tends to meander off her point, so far that it doesn't seem to connect to the point at all. I don't mind the discussion of her own life intermixed with her dialogue on "dead girls", but it doesn't always connect for me in the end. The best example I've found of this so far is when she talks about the Millennium trilogy but then goes on this tangent about her father possibly having Asperger's. It didn't work for me.


Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
Finally starting! On the first essay, immediately concerned if I'm going to be lost a lot because I haven't seen the shows or read the books she may reference? And also maybe there should be a spoiler alert at the beginning of her book because I quickly learned how like 3 shows end. (Insert laughing emoji here)


Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
El wrote: "I found the first couple essays pretty okay so far. I just started Part II and I think my biggest issue is that Bolin tends to meander off her point, so far that it doesn't seem to connect to the p..."

I'm still on Part 1, but I was a little confused as to what her point was for the chapter, Black Holes. She started by talking about her childhood environment and then kind of about how the northwest seemed to draw reclusive gun nuts (I'm paraphrasing) or fanatics. I think it was an introduction to/analysis of typical Dead Girl settings?


Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 375 comments Mod
So I finished. I really did enjoy a few of the essays, I have to agree that there was a lot of personal rambling tied in - and loosely tied in - to the point that I couldn't really follow what her point was.

In some essays, like the one on Ginger Snaps, it really worked to run a parallel analysis of her personal friendship with the sisterhood depicted in the movies. In other essays, which like El said mostly revolved around Joan Didion and L.A. (and I noticed a strange sort of not necessarily name dropping, but a lot of "my rapper friend," type of celebrity status friend dropping?) it just seemed to be either her own personal reflections on something media related, not even necessarily having to do at all with the Dead Girls trope, or random memoir-y ruminations.

My final takeaway is that I really liked the essays that I did like, but there was a ton of random extraneous chatter that I didn't like or feel that I needed to be subjected to.

One thing that stood out, and she didn't even connect these dots for me, was the popularization of teenaged girls by older men. Specifically how older men would write girls in movies, shows, and books, as well as how older men wrote the songs that would then be popularized by teenaged female pop stars. In a roundabout way, she explores the obsession as a way for older men to express themselves through girls. Although my frustration with this theory is that it is another general media analysis that she does that doesn't really fit in with the supposed theme of the book.

In fact, this book might have been better received if it had been marketed as a media analysis thesis.


message 9: by El (new) - rated it 3 stars

El | 756 comments Mod
Anita wrote: "My final takeaway is that I really liked the essays that I did like, but there was a ton of random extraneous chatter that I didn't like or feel that I needed to be subjected to."

I think this is exactly right. I feel similarly. I also agree with what you said about it having been marketed as a media analysis thesis or an investigation of popular culture. But I'm still thrown specifically about the long bit about her dad being on the spectrum. That didn't seem to fit in anywhere, whereas I could maybe find an argument for some of her other digressions.

It's a 3-star read for me. I look forward to seeing what else Bolin writes in the future. Kudos to her for doing so well with her debut collection.


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