Criss-Crossing America, Redefining Feminism

by Katharine Wray

16 October 2009


Girldrive: Criss-crossing America, Redefining Feminism

Nona Willis Aronowitz and Emma Bee Bernstein

(Seal Press)

Authors Nona Willis Aronowitz and Emma Bee Bernstein document and reveal American women across the continent in Girldrive: Criss-crossing America, Redefining Feminism, while traveling the literal and metaphorical road. With a manifest certainty, these life-long friends hit the road in search of “what do other 20-something women care about? Have they heard of this nebulous idea of ‘feminism’ and do they relate to it?” As recent college grads, Nona and Emma decide to take this trip to hear women’s different stories about feminism in America, using their talents as writers and photographers.

There is a trio of plots being told in this unassuming book. The cover and size of the book is similar to that of a photo album, but it’s filled with more than just pictures and memories. The book starts with an ominous dedication, “For two kick-ass feminists who left this world too early”: Emma Bee Bernstein, one of the authors of Girldrive, and Ellen Willis, Nona’s mother.  This information lends a bittersweet poignancy to certain transitional passages.

As Nona and Emma travel the United States, they can’t help but feel “entrenched in a cinematic and literary idea of road tripping.” This nostalgic theme runs through the book, making it at times read like a travelogue, in the cleverest way. Like any well told road trip, this tale stirs wanderlust in the reader. They actually travel from sea to shining sea.

However, above all, this is a book about feminism. As Nona and Emma travel through the States, they interview young women about perspectives on being a woman in modern America. While the authors are strident feminists and embrace the word and it’s history, many of their subjects don’t subscribe to the term, ignore it, or protest against it. Yet, all of these women have very strong opinions about being empowered females.

The tales of these women accompanied by stirring photographs offers a decidedly female perspective in Girldrive. Nona and Emma manage to exhibit the feminine perspective on the American countryside, as well as social and racial issues, with a sense of humor.

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