Our impromptu feminist book club started when Emily got two copies of Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl for the holidays the year before last. We had all been wanting to read it—we being my oldest BFFs Emily and Jasen, and I—so Emily did the only logical thing she could. She offered to keep both copies and lend me one, with the condition that, when I was finished reading, I would pass it onto Jasen. Deal.
As soon as I was done, without a word to Jasen, I slipped the hardcover book into a padded envelope, along with the sage I’d gotten him for his house, and a fourteen-year-old flier for an art show I’d recently found, and sent the package off through the mail. (I had been using the flier as a bookmark while I read, and thought Jasen might want to do the same.) Two days later, I got a text that read: “Yay, best mail surprise ever!” Our book club had begun.
While Not That Kind of Girl was fresh in our heads, the three of us tried to figure out whom the young British playwright was that Lena wrote about (it was Polly Stenham); and we shared the link to the Times article she referenced about the vegan dinner party she had as a teenager. (In case you’re curious too.) When we were all done reading the book, the obvious next question was: What next? We never paused to ask, should we start a book club?; what kind of books would we read?; or, what would the parameters be? It was just, what were we in the mood for, and who wanted it first.
Selecting books was effortless. The books practically chose themselves—we had been friends for 20 years, and had a shared taste in almost everything. When Miranda July, Roxane Gay, Mindy Kaling, and Amy Poehler were suggested, it wasn’t a question of should we or shouldn’t we, it was simply, in what order. We also never made the decision to read books predominantly written by feminist women—those were just the kind of books we liked to read. (I do plan on suggesting Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me as one of our next reads, though!)
It quickly became clear that one of the best things about having a book club with two of my BFFs, where we passed around one shared copy of each book (a slight deviation from the traditional book club model), was that, even though we lived too far away to see each other regularly, we were constantly in touch now, in a way that we hadn’t been for a while. In between chatting about what we each imagined Cheryl Glickman, the main character in Miranda July’s The First Bad Man, looked like, and Amy Poehler’s hilarious preface about how hard writing was, Emily would send us pics of her daughter’s first day of school, and the scarves the two had been finger-knitting together.
As we’ve entered our thirties, moved to different places, and as some of us have started having children, it’s gotten harder to stay in touch. But it’s been nice to know, that no matter what, we’re at least connected to each other through our shared culture. Even when there’s no time for a lengthy phone catch-up, we can surely squeeze in a text and share a laugh about where in the world the name Kubelko Bondy might have come from (also from Miranda July's The First Bad Man).
And how about the magic wonders of real mail! When was the last time I’d sent a friend a package via snail mail? Or got a text like this one from Emily?: “Got the Amy Poehler book! This is so fun!!” Plus, with the revolutionary self-service kiosk at the post office (it opens at 6 a.m.!), it’s actually been super easy to mail things. I thought my days of covering manila envelopes in conversation heart stickers were over (and oh, how I’ve missed them!). But thankfully, I was wrong.
When I mailed my copy of The First Bad Man to Jasen, I included a note explaining that the amorphous blob on page sixty-four was some calendula oil I had accidentally spilled. And when I caved and began marking up my favorite passages in Bad Feminist (I always try to refrain from underlining, at first), I became giddy with the thought that soon my friends would be reading that very book, and would see what I had chosen to annotate.
At some point along the way, Emily introduced the podcast, Call Your Girlfriend into the mix, and we all texted endlessly about free boobin’, and how cute we thought the (now sold out) limited-edition tote was. By the time we were all caught up (it seemed important to start from the beginning), the podcast had just begun a short hiatus. Luckily, KQED Pop’s very own, The Cooler, started up in the meantime, and during the interim, had Aminatou Sow, one half of the amazing feminist duo that makes up CYG, as a guest on the show. And don’t worry, CYG has been back for a while now!
I don’t know the next time Emily and Jasen and I will all be in one place together, but until then, I look forward to texts like this one: “20 pages left and it’s yours!” from Jasen, and, “Did you get to the part where she wears a green corduroy dress with buttons all the way down to the ground?” from Emily, without any context needed.
For the next few days, I plan to camp out by my mailbox, waiting for Carrie Brownstein’s recent memoir, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, to arrive. Only a few hours ago, Jasen texted to say he’d already finished reading it, after buying it only two days prior. A new text just arrived: “Book’s in the mail!”
Our list so far, of books we’ve read and are planning to read:
Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
Bad Feminist & An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me & Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein
I’ll Never Write My Memoirs by Grace Jones
Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Call your Girlfriend
The Cooler (duh!)
Serial: Season One & Two