ARC Review: Nevertheless, She Persisted edited by Mindy Klasky

Image of book cover from Goodreads
Image of book cover from Goodreads

Title: Nevertheless, She Persisted: A Book Café Anthology

Editor: Mindy Klasky

Category: Adult Science Fiction (Anthology)

Publisher/Date: Book View Café Publishing Cooperative/8 August 2017

Edition: ARC/eBook

Nineteen stories of triumph in the past, present, future, and other worlds.

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.”

Those were the words of Mitch McConnell after he banned Senator Elizabeth Warren from speaking on the floor of the United States Senate. In reaction to the bitter partisanship in Trump’s United States of America, nineteen Book View Café authors celebrate women who persist through tales of triumph—in the past, present, future, and other worlds.

From the halls of Ancient Greece to the vast space between stars, each story illustrates tenacity as women overcome challenges—from society, from beloved family and friends, and even from their own fears. These strong heroines explore the humor and tragedy of persistence in stories that range from romance to historical fiction, from fantasy to science fiction.

From tale to tale, every woman stands firm: a light against the darkness.

I received an ARC via LibraryThing. Content warnings for Mindy Klasky’s short story “Tumbling Blocks” for graphic depiction of rape of a teenager, and for Sara Stamey’s short story “Reset” for graphic depictions of domestic violence.

This anthology was just okay to me. It’s partially that the stories just weren’t to my taste, but none of them really stood out to me in particular as my favorites. I enjoyed many of them while I was reading, but out of nineteen stories I can really only tell you about a couple of them because the rest were kind of forgettable.

I felt largely disappointed for the lack of intersectional perspectives in this collection — while there are a couple of Jewish authors and one of the story featured polyamorous f/f characters (in a story that was just… weird…), as far as my search skills could tell me, all of the authors were white. In fact, there were more stories written by white men in this collection than by women of color (there was ONE story by a white man, but one story by a man is still more than zero by WOC). As an anthology that is marketed as an anthology of stories about women overcoming challenges, there is a huge lack of stories by the women who face the most discrimination in our current society.

I also really want to bring up the racism present in Irene Radford’s story “Den of Inequity.” This is a quote from the story (content warning for child rape mention):

“And these?” Angela spread three more photos in front of us, all men, different ages, different races, different economic groups determined by expense of haircut and clothing.

“Sorry. We get a lot of people through here, regulars as well as strangers. I don’t remember any of these men.” But the ancient Asian man wearing elaborate silk robes brocaded in gold resembled someone who had stumbled through the door and straight into the fire without bothering with a drink. He’d been convicted of raping eighteen children; five of them died. He couldn’t live with his crimes (addiction) any longer and sent himself straight to Hell. Almost a redeeming act, except he’d taken control of his death and not left it to the big man upstairs.

The middle-aged black man in a well-made off-the-rack suit had drunk his fair share of special beer, sobbing about the people he’d made homeless by embezzling their mortgage payments to the bank he worked for. Gabe had set him straight and told him how to set up a trust fund to repay those he’d duped.

Ariel had taken care of the blond man with slightly up-tilted eyes suggesting Slavic origins, who’d fallen into the trap of selling drugs to young teens. She’d found the right rehab and job training for him and ordered him into volunteer work helping the people he’d lured into the downward spiral of drug addiction and escalating crimes to pay for them. (44%)

First of all, it’s PRETTY obvious how the white man is treated here compared to the “Asian” man (whose actual race is never specified) and the Black man. The white man here had “fallen into [a] trap” while the men of color are responsible for their crimes. The white man is obviously not at fault here, according to the story, while the men of color are clearly fully responsible. The contrast here is stark and it pulled me out of the text.

Here’s a fun fact: this “Asian” man and Black man are the only “Asian” and Black characters in the entire anthology that are specified as such. Not just men. All characters.

The men aren’t the only ones who are treated like this in this story; a Mediterranean woman is described as having “olive skin and dark, exotic beauty” (45%). Considering women of color to be “exotic” is a common Western maneuver to “other” them, as they are essentially being told that they are strange compared to “non-exotic” (read: white) women. This minor character, as far as I can tell, is the only non-white woman present in the anthology outside of the “Past” section, which are all stories set centuries in the past.

When you’ve got nineteen stories in an anthology about empowering women, your only depictions of people of color should not rely on negative depictions and stereotypes. As individual stories, many of these stories are quite good; “Unmasking the Ancient Light” by Deborah J. Ross and “After Eden” by Gillian Polack (both of whom I believe are Jewish — kind of shows how much I felt intersectionality was needed in this collection) were clear standouts to me.

The individual stories in this anthology themselves, for the most part, were not the problem for me. The problem I had was how the collection was presented together. It’s not a bad thing for a feminist anthology to have stories about white characters; it is a bad thing when almost all of the characters are white. This anthology rang a little too “white feminist” for me, and it could have been done better.

Final rating: 3 of 5 stars

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