Tag Archives: feminism

Lit Life: Labor of Love & I Kissed Dating Goodbye

17 Aug


As I mentioned yesterday in my Citrus Coconut Drinks post, my alumnae book club recently discussed Moira Weigel‘s Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating. I’ve been a member of the book club for many years now, and I love the intellectual banter that arises for the wide variety of books we choose. We’ve read classics like J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (see my book club theme party pics here) and we’ve read feminist texts such as Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

As graduates of a women’s college — Scripps College in Claremont, California — we enjoy discussing womanhood, gender, and feminism. We talk a lot about our lives. We talk about what’s going on at campus. And we talk about politics. Through the course of a recent catch-up session, we began talking about dating, marriage, and motherhood. Our members span a thirty or forty year age range, with some people in their twenties and others retired. Some got married right out of college and juggle career and babies. Others have not gotten married and wonder about fertility and whether they will quit their jobs — their careers — if they have children.

There had recently been an article about Moira Weigel’s book in The New Yorker that discussed the complexities of dating. It addressed dating not as a self-help book might but in terms of its history and through a feminist lens. We decided to read it and see what we thought.

Through the course of our book club discussion, we discussed: Who pays? Is “going steady” and serial monogamy ruining chances for marriage? Why did some generations go out with a different person every weekend and think of dating more casually while today’s generation is more likely to be in committed relationships? Does this have to do with premarital sex? Slut shaming? Why is the biological clock something only women have to worry about? What happens to men’s sperm as they age? Is marriage warped by consumerism the same as dating is?

Here’s an excerpt from Weigel’s Labor of Love:

At a time of dramatic social and economic change, the ways the biological clock was talked about reinforced old ideas about gender difference. Indeed, it exaggerated them, creating a sense that male and female partners were even more different than traditionalists of the 1950s had imagined. More and more women were breaking into the previously male world of well paid work. Nonetheless, conversations about the biological clock suggested that reproduction was an exclusively female concern.

Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating and our discussion of it was fascinating and eye opening. In explaining dating’s history, Weigel talks about how men and women met and married through social events in a family home. There were no flowers. No emoji eggplants. No candlelit dinners at fancy restaurants. It was courtship. Dating began when people moved outside the home. The gender wage gap meant that women couldn’t afford their own meals out, so they had to rely on dates to pay for them. Women were sometimes accused by police of being prostitutes just because they accepted free meals from men! This then set up a power dynamic in that women had to rely on men if they wanted to go out and men were never sure if women liked them or just wanted a free meal. Not much has changed today. Women typically can pay their own way now, but there’s a lot of confusion about what chivalry is, what a date should consist of, what one should look for in their partner, and how to go from a monogamous relationship to a married relationship while still young enough to have children — if one so desires.

What’s interesting is that about the same time that Weigel’s book came out talking about how dating put women at a disadvantage, Joshua Harris has been in the news for taking a step back from his influential 1997 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Harris, a conservative Evangelical Christian, preached that instead of contemporary dating, singles should practice “courtship.” You might be familiar with that term from the Duggars, of 19 Kids and Counting fame, who are known for their strict rules against even hand-holding. Harris recently told NPR:

But I think one of the things that I’m changing in my own thinking is I just think people – myself included – it’s so easy to latch on to a formula. You know, you do these things and you’ll be great. You’ll be safe and you’ll be protected and you’ll be whatever.

And I just don’t think that’s the way life works. I don’t think that’s the way the life of faith works. And so when we try to overly control our own lives or overly control other people’s lives, I think we end up harming people. And I’m – I think that that’s part of the problem with my book.

It was interesting listening to discussions of both Moira Weigel’s book Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating and Joshua Harris’ book I Kissed Dating Goodbye: A New Attitude Toward Romance and Relationships around the same time. Their perspectives come from such vastly different vantage points, and yet both are critiquing the contemporary dating scene and discussing the idea of courtship. It seems that in the end, when it comes to dating today, men and women need to be upfront about their expectations and desires. Maybe this will scare some people off, but maybe it’s better to know that upfront anyway. Maybe there’s no formula for how relationships work. Maybe each person and each couple has to actually communicate and find out what works best for them.

28 Mar

Sheryl Sandberg Quote

Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In was one of my favorite books of 2013.


“A Secret Hidden in This Book”

21 Mar



“I Am No Bird”

14 Mar

Charlotte Bronte Quote

Happy National Women’s History Month

7 Mar


March is National Women’s History Month. I’ll be posting quotes by women writers each Monday of the month.

You might also like:::

  • NY chapter of Scripps (the women’s college) book club reads Burning Furiously Beautiful 
  • How to murder a woman’s sense of worth
  • VIDA does a great job tracking women writers
  • Vice’s suicide poet: Elise Cowen





Photos and Video from My Reading at WORD Jersey City

22 Sep

Last month I had the exciting opportunity of reading at WORD bookstore in Jersey City with my friends and colleagues from the  Hobart Festival of Women Writers. One of my very best friends, Sue Jin Chang, came out to support me and took me out for a drink at Barcade to calm my pre-reading jitters. I was, after all, reading with highly esteemed writers whom I admire.


Poet and cofounder of the Hobart Festival of Women Writers, Cheryl Clarke, PhD, emceed the reading.


Cofounder of the Hobart Festival of Women Writers, Breena Clarke read from her novel Angels Make Their Hope Here.


E. J. Antonio, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at last year’s festival, read her powerful poetry.


J. P. Howard, who hosts the Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon, read her poetry.


Evie Shockley performed her poetry, including a provocative piece on the recent events in McKinney.

It being a reading featuring women authors, I decided to go the feminist route and read a selection from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” about the woman who was a catalyst for On the Road.

Sue Jin — whom you may remember from this jazz outing for peace and her mix Music and Poetry for On the Road — took these photographs of me.

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And here is a video of me reading a snippet!

Women on Top: Pam Belluck, Hettie Jones, Margot Olavarria, Marci Blackman & Beth Lisick

23 Mar


At the Burroughs 101 reading, Three Rooms Press announced that their next reading at Cornelia Street Cafe would be Women on Top, featuring “five feisty females”: Pam Belluck, Hettie Jones, Margot Olavarria, Marci Blackman, and Beth Lisick, and hosted by Three Rooms Press’ Kat Georges. My friend and I decided on the spot, without even consulting our schedules, that we were going.


The main reason I knew I had to be at this reading was Hettie Jones. As a Beat scholar, I’ve long admired Hettie Jones for being a woman who was more than just a muse — she is a writer with her own voice and transcends categorization. I first heard her reading at the Women of the Beat Generation panel at the Bowery Poetry Club, which incidentally was the first time I ever ventured into Bob Holman‘s poetry venue, which became an important part of my own literary upbringing. Later, while studying creative writing at The New School, one of my instructors introduced me to Hettie because he knew I was interested in Beat literature. She was so down-to-earth and honest. She talked with me for a long time, and I greatly valued her insight into the role of women in the Beat Generation. The last time I heard her read was at 2013’s Downtown Literary Festival, where she read at McNally Jackson. Obviously, it had been way too long since I’d heard her read! I loved, loved, loved the poems she selected to read at Three Rooms Press’ Women on Top reading. She read about driving, about New York City, and about the 1940s. Jones didn’t self-analyze, but what I found particularly fascinating to think about was how driving was almost a feminist act at the time. It’s not that women didn’t know how to drive; it’s that the men usually took over the driving. Jack Kerouac, however, hated driving. Occasionally, he took the wheel, but oftentimes he rode Greyhound or let his buddy Neal Cassady do the driving. I don’t think it would be fair to make some sort of leap and question Kerouac’s masculinity because he wasn’t a man who liked driving, but I do think it’s fair to say Jones didn’t let culture dictate what she could or couldn’t do as a woman. She blazed her own path.


Driving appeared to be the theme of the night. Margot Olavarria, the original bass player for the punk band The Go-Go’s, told tales from life on the road. The world of rock’n’roll is so full of men’s stories that I appreciated hearing what it was like a woman’s experience of life out on tour.


Marci Blackman had a road connection too — the award-winning novelist is an avid cyclist. Check this out: “An avid cyclist and veteran of the Sister Spit Rambling Road Show, Blackman once spent six weeks in a van with 11 queer writers on a cross country spoken word tour and 12 weeks, alone on a bicycle, pedaling from San Francisco to the outer banks of North Carolina.”


Beth Lisick is one of those authors whose name is everywhere, so I was excited to hear her read. She did not disappoint. She is a true performer, an author who makes readings lively and entertaining. She read from her work-in-progress. Now I need to work my way through her other five books.


Pam Belluck is on the health and science staff of The New York Times, and even before that she covered a wide range of fascinating news topics. She regaled the audience with stories of what it was like being a pregnant woman covering major news events.

Festival of Women Writers Shines Spotlight on Me

26 Aug


The Festival of Women Writers in Hobart, New York, recently featured me in their newsletter! You can read it in full here.

I can’t wait for to get up to this cute little town of books up in the Catskills. It’s such an honor to be included in this year’s festival. The line-up is spectacular:

I’ll be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful as part of the Hobart Book Village Festival of Women Writer opening readings on Friday, September 5th at 3:30pm. Then on Saturday, bright and early at 9:30am I’ll be teaching my popular workshop The Role of Place for Reader and Writer. Workshop participants will look at several examples of great setting from literature and then do writing exercises to explore unique ways to imbue the story with a sense of place. You can register here.

Find out more on the Hobart Festival of Women Writers website.

Check out the blog.

Help support women writers by contributing to this event.

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For my other upcoming events, check out my appearances page. If you’re interested in booking me for a reading or hiring me to lead a writing workshop, you can contact me at snikolop {@} alumna.scrippscollege.edu.

Happy 92nd Birthday, Jack Kerouac!

12 Mar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAphoto I took two years ago at Kerouac’s birth home when I attended Lowell Celebrates Kerouac

On a Sunday in winter, Jean-Louis Kerouac was born to Leo and Gabrielle Kerouac in Lowell, Massachusetts. He was the baby of the family, the youngest of three, and his French-speaking family called him Ti Jean, or Little John.

It was March 12, 1922. Warren G. Harding, a Republican, was president and had just introduced radio to the White House the month before. Women had received the right to vote two years prior to that, but even the month before Kerouac was born the Nineteenth Amendment was still being challenged in court — a fact important to understanding the gender politics in which Kerouac grew up.

James Joyce’s Ulysses was first published that year by Sylvia Beach in Paris, and the experimental novel would impact Kerouac’s own writing. Kerouac himself would grow up to become the voice of his generation, the Beat Generation, a generation that had been born around the time of the Great Depression, that had seen the destruction of World War II and lost many friends and loved ones, that had faced a repressive government. Kerouac remains a startlingly refreshing voice even today, reminding readers to observe the sparkles in the sidewalk, to embrace life over possessions, to blaze their own paths.

KerouacCakephoto I took at Kerouac’s birthday bash last year at the Northport Historical Society

Clip: Scripps Magazine Features “Burning Furiously Beautiful”

27 Feb


If you flip — or scroll! — to page 40 of Scripps Magazine you’ll see me featured in their regular column of alumnae authors, “ManuScripps.”

The column talks about how Scripps, the women’s college of the Claremont Colleges, fostered my education in the Beat Generation. …Which just goes to show you that feminists can like the Beats!

Special thanks to the Scripps Magazine and the Scripps College Alumnae Association for their support of my writing.

And if you missed it, here’s a post on the New York chapter of the Scripps book club reading Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”