Welcome to What We’re Reading. Each month, we’ll curate a list of books―from perennial classics to new releases―chat with authors, and review titles with the hope of co-creating a community of well-read makers. Discussions around work, creativity, and entrepreneurship are constantly evolving; here, we aim to create a space for different ideas and approaches to be in conversation with one another. Whether you’re already an avid reader or wish you read more, we hope you’ll feel inspired to read along with us.
For most of the year, I’m what, in the 1960s, might have been called a “liberated woman.” I work. I vote. I don’t shave my legs. Sure, I’ve got three kids and I was married to a man for a decade. But, this year, my kids and I are celebrating our first Christmas with my current partner, a wonderful woman who they call “Weird Uncle.” So, ya know: not a lot of traditional gender-roles going on over here.
I’m sorry if all this seems like an overshare. I just want you to know what my normal life is like, so that you can understand the weight of it when I tell you that, every year on Thanksgiving, before I eat, I make plates for my uncles. And male cousins. And all of the children.
The grown men will sit on the couch watching the game or playing dominos; I (along with my other female relatives) will shovel food into my face while standing, then move through the space fixing second helpings or refilling drinks. The women will fuss at little ones to eat more and keep their greasy hands off their new sweaters before clearing dishes, wiping surfaces, and covering everything in foil. We’ll gossip about the family, which mostly means speculating on peoples’ relationships and reproductive choices. My aunts will inevitably congratulate me on gaining a few pounds, since that thickness will help me “snag a new man.”
And I will smile and laugh. I’ll turn around and arch my back to show the aunts that yes, it’s true, I am getting rounder in all the right ways. I’ll make my uncles’ plates the way they like them, and hold my cousin’s new baby so that she, too, can fix plates—without it ever even occurring to either of us that what we’re doing is ridiculous.
Because for me—and, I think, for a lot of us—the holidays are a time when we're thrust into filling heavily-gendered familial roles that often don't align with our professional selves. Roles we've even sought out to deny in the workplace. Which is why, this month, I gathered up some reads to help me (you? us?) work through and make sense of all the gendered backsliding that often comes with going home for the holidays. Enjoy, my little bookworms.