Two things instantly convinced me to pick this up:
- Why God Is a Woman is a collection of poems written about a magical island where women rule and men are the second sex. Exploring that concept seemed to be right up my alley.
- Also, that stunningly beautiful cover:
Going into this, I was hoping for a collection focused heavily on equal rights, pay, respect, and representation, but Why God Is a Woman didn’t really know where to put its focus. It rather relies more on the superficial side of the movement: barbies (or Boberto dolls as they’re called in this collection), weddings, genital tattoos (for real), Angelina Jolie, wingspan (I’m???)… And I was left feeling quite disappointed.
Maybe it was just that I had such different expectations going into this, but Why God Is a Woman did not live up to the hype I had set up for it in my mind.
I did, however, enjoy a few poems and quotes that I would like to share next:
“On the Island where I come from
parents worship their daughters. They invest all their hopes for the future in their girls, spoiling them rotten, letting them do and have whatever they wish. When I was a boy, my family was no different. While my sisters were allowed to go out night after night, I was never out of my parents’ sight. Like all proper Island boys, I knew I had to remain a virgin. I had to keep my reputation as clean as freshly bleached linen. But by the time I was twelve, I wanted to go out on the town. I wanted to fly around after dark. It’s not fair, I complained. My sisters don’t have to abide by the rules. Why do I? My father said what he always said. You aren’t a girl, son. God didn’t make us equals.
Until I was eighteen, my father kept me indoors, checking on me after he turned out the lights. A homemaker and charm-school graduate himself, he was forever tidying the kitchen and garden as well as my hair, my wardrobe and my changing moods. He knew when the first sign of desire crossed my mind, and when I kissed my neighbor, Angelina, on the sly. He knew when I smoked my first cigarette and drank beer with the cool kids after school. And he knew when anger flared beneath my obedient smile. Anger, he said, is unbecoming of a proper Island boy.”
“Alone, he stared at the wall, and when asked if he was okay, he didn’t answer. He couldn’t. He was drowning in a sorrow so deep, the words would not rise from his throat.”
“On the Island where I come from
the first signs of puberty happen at night. A boy wakes to feel a fire inside him, like an ache, a hunger, an indefinable wish, followed by the first prickling of wings. It hurts so much when the wings break through the flesh, each wing-bone a knife in the skin. (Picture it as the sharp beak of a baby bird pecking its shell. Only the shell is a skin full of nerve-endings.) Then there is the blood, the shame, the need to cover it up so no one will know. This, the boy learns, is how it feels to be a man. Nothing he does, says, or prays can ever make him feel safe from what he has become.”
Why God Is a Woman
“When I was a boy, did I already tell you this? I had an ongoing conversation with God. I spoke to God loudly at the end of each day, complaining about the women who ran my life: my sisters, my mother, my aunt. One day my mother told me that God is a woman. She said someday I would understand.”
Overall, this collection was a bit of a let down because of its huge potential to succeed with a fascinating question such as: Why God Is a Woman. But you can’t always get what you want. And I’ll still be on the look out for more feminist poetry to enjoy.