Mar. 15th, 2008

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From that ask me anything and I'll blog about it thing:
"What is the most transforming book you've read, when did you read it and why was it transforming?"

Ooh. That's a hard question, for several reasons. First of all, I have a hard time as seeing myself as ever having transformed. I have changed a lot since my youth (in oh so many ways) but I think of it as happening slowly, over long periods of time. In other words, it's my earth sign identity shining through. Secondly, I have a hard time immediately distinguishing between "meaningful" and "transformative" when it comes to books. My first though was Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, but after contemplating that answer I realized that the book didn't transform me so much as soothe and comfort and answer some part of me on a very deep level. It has meant a lot to me.

My second answer falls into a different category--it probably wasn't transformative, but was definitely INformative, as far as my interests and personality go. That book is "Panda Bear's Paintbox," which I read so much as a child that the front and back covers finally fell off and the last page of the book had to be held on with tape. My parents and I replaced it a few years ago--it is out of print, but we found it on ebay. In the book, a little panda bear decides to paint a picture and slowly but surely goes through each color in his little paintbox, learning that red + yellow = orange and so on, until his picture is done. In the end, he gets in the bath and watches all the color swirl down the drain. This book, when combined with my undying love for my artistically inclined Grandmother, was what made 5 year old me want to be an artist. Informative, yes. Transformative? Arguable. But I think not.

So. My answer. I am going to go with Mary Daly. Quintessence. Without that book, I'd never have stumbled into radical feminism or, oddly enough, into queerness. And clearly my ideas about queerness and sexuality and women are not necessarily what Mary Daly wanted when she wrote any of her books. But her fire completely galvanized me. Her language excited me. When I finished that book, my first thoughts were that a different world is possible, and that world can hold My People. Now, "My People" as a concept--potentially problematic, especially when you're coming at it from Daly's view. But in practice, each of us can have our people, our ideal world. I think Quintessence clicked on a part of me that has had me thinking about the possibilities for success and failure and, simply, difference in my academic life as well as my personal world.

I do feel like I just need to say (after stating that Mary Daly transformed me) that I am really clear on the shortcomings of her work. And also if anyone wants to borrow that book so that they can understand the ways that she doesn't fall short, I will loan you my (signed. i am ridiculous.) copy.

What a fun question.


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