Nina Power

picks the eight books she'd take to the ends of the Earth with her

July 25, 2010
4 min read

The Managed Heart: Commercialisation of Human Feeling
Arlie Russell Hochschild

A prescient account of how emotions and feelings get incorporated and exploited in certain forms of employment, particularly in jobs that feature a high percentage of women. Hochschild takes as her test case the flight attendant, arguing that here ‘the emotional style of offering the service is part of the service itself’. Hochschild’s book is crucial for thinking about what the supposed ‘feminisation’ of labour might mean, and for thinking of strategies of resistance to the demand to sell emotional as well as physical and intellectual labour.

Wetlands
Charlotte Roche

Set in a hospital, Wetlands follows the thoughts and strange encounters of 18-year-old Helen Memel, the victim of an unfortunate attempt at intimate shaving. It is hard not to see Charlotte Roche’s rebellion against the unwritten demand that women be (mostly) hairless, constantly presentable and perpetually desirable as, in part, an attack on the television culture that made her name (Roche is a TV star in Germany).

Helen is everything a female TV host cannot be: ill, self-involved and obsessed with obscenity. But Wetlands is more than just a complaint against the sexual double standards of contemporary life. It points to an odd paradox: for all the hedonism of an apparently liberated culture in which women can drink and screw with the best of them (think Sex and the City), the language we use to describe this behaviour and these unleashed desires is profoundly outdated or, more often, simply absent.

The Dialectic of Sex
Shulamith Firestone

A visionary account of woman’s historical oppression (what Firestone calls ‘sex-class’, which underlies economic class) and of how technology will bring about what she calls ‘cybernetic communism’, the complete emancipation of women from childbirth and the negative dimensions of female embodiment. Firestone is unusual for making sexual difference her starting point (as opposed to starting with the ‘constructed’ nature of gender, for example), but gives us a vital indication as to how serious and wide-ranging feminism can be.

Heartbreak: The Political Memoirs of a Feminist Militant
Andrea Dworkin

Dworkin was a brilliant, crystalline writer. Whatever disagreements you may have with her positions (her campaign against pornography, for example), there is no doubting the strength and the rigour of her arguments, as well as the passion for her cause. Heartbreak is a short, compelling book that details, often in a humorous way, her encounters with injustice in childhood, adolescence and then as a campaigning and outspoken adult. Her white-hot anger against violence towards women in all its forms burns from the page.

King Kong Theory
Virginie Despentes

This is a half-polemic, half-memoir in which French filmmaker and writer Despentes takes to task French hypocrisy about sex and her own experiences of prostitution. She writes that undesirable women ‘have always existed. We just never feature in novels written by men, who only create women they want to have sex with. … Even today, when women publish lots of novels, you rarely get female characters that are unattractive or plain, unsuited to loving men or to being loved by them.’ It is an angry cry for the recognition of sidelined women everywhere.

The Piano Teacher
Elfriede Jelinek

Jelinek explores the darker regions of the female psyche and sexual desire, linking repression and perversity to broader social and political conditions. The book is about the self-destruction of sexually repressed Erika Kohut, a piano teacher at the Vienna Conservatory. But it is also about obsession, desire and having a weird relationship with your mother. It frightens, but in a good way.

Little Tales of Misogyny
Patricia Highsmith

Highsmith, a gay, drunk crime writer who famously hated women but couldn’t live without them, had a tough, eerie style that generated true psychological anti-heroes. In this short story collection, a Women’s Lib meeting ends in murder at the hands of a can of beans, marriage ends in an arranged heart attack for the husband and little girls grow up far too quickly into back-stabbing women. Highsmith’s refusal to ‘play nice’ is her greatest strength.

Smile or Die
Barbara Ehrenreich

Ehrenreich addresses class, employment, gender and in Smile or Die, a history of the self-help industry. Her first real encounter with this billion-dollar hot-air cloud comes through her own experience of breast cancer and exhortations to ‘think positive’. She points out that if we spent more time looking for a cure, rather than demanding sufferers go on a ‘personal journey’, then we might not need so many pink ribbons.

Nina Power is the author of One Dimensional Woman and blogs at infinitethought.cinestatic.com


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Secrets and spies of Scotland Yard
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh

#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces

How progressive is the ‘progressive alliance’?
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank

The YPJ: Fighting Isis on the frontline
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava

Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'

Confronting Brexit
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond

On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network

Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter

#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement

Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.

Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees

Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides

The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari

Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next

Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace

Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill

Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility

Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports

From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices

How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed

In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design

Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform

Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out

Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank