WHM Reflection: To Read and Watch and Teach

In reflecting on this year’s Women’s History Month, we have invited some Mennonite/Mennonear (near to Mennonite) women to share with us how they honor women. Today, we’re joined by Martina Cucchiara, professor of history at Bluffton College and co-editor of The Evil That Surrounds Us: The WWII Memoir of Erna Becker-Kohen, Regina Shands Stoltzfus, professor of Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies at Goshen College and co-author of Set Free: A Journey Toward Solidarity Against Racism, and Rachel Epp Buller, professor of visual art and design at Bethel Collge and the author or editor of Reconciling Art and Mothering; Mothering Mennonite; and Alice Lex-Nerlinger: Fotomonteurin und Malerin / Photomontage Artist and Painter. They share with us what they have been reading and watching and teaching that honors women.

Martina Cucchiara: In honor of Women’s History month, I revisited my favorite women authors and discovered new ones.

Recently in one of my classes, we watched the 2009 BBC production of Emily Brontë’s 1847 incandescent, exasperating, and, at the time, scandalous novel Wuthering Heights. One of the many reasons I love Wuthering Heights is because Brontë so far overstepped the literary and social boundaries deemed acceptable in her time, one critic recommended that readers burn the novel.

Personally, I am reading Rania Abouzeid’s  No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria (W.W. Norton, 2018). An award-winning journalist, Abouzeid has been covering the Syrian war at great personal cost since 2011. In her excellent book, she takes the reader deep into this complex conflict, as she exposes the extent of human suffering and resilience in war.

Regina Shands Stoltzfus: Personally, I gathered and posted to social media about women and women’s issues at least once a day.  I did the same thing during Black History Month (February).  For Women’s History Month, I focused mostly on lifting up women of color, African American women specifically.  Every January, over Martin Luther King holiday weekend, I teach a class called Conversations on Race.  This year, students read Ida B. Wells, Michelle Alexander, and Bree Newsome.

This year I am, for the fifth time, performing in a local production called Michiana Monologues.  Inspired 10 years ago by Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues, this production invites local women to anonymously submit their stories, which are then turned into a script to be performed by other local women.  The proceeds from tickets to the shows and a silent auction are distributed to local organizations that support women, girls, and non-binary people in our region.  I’m also excited that students on our campus are producing the Goshen Monologues for the fourth year in a row.

Books that I’m currently reading: Womanist Midrash: A Reintroduction to The Women of the Torah and the Throne by Wil C. Gafney and The Obelisk Gate, the second book in N.K. Jemison’s Broken Earth Series.  I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but a good friend recommended the series, and I love it.  I will be seeking out more sci fi by African American women.  Next on my book list is Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy by Elizabeth Gillespie McCrae.

Rachel Epp Buller: Over the past year, I’ve been reading quite a bit of feminist science fiction, speculative narratives that envision alternate ways of being in possible futures. Octavia Butler’s Earthseed books, Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time, Charlotte Perkins Gilmans’ Herland, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale—all of these, whether utopian or dystopian, push us to reconsider our expectations for and assumptions about human and more-than-human relations—the ways that we exist, operate, and care for ourselves, each other, and our world in these precarious times.

As part of my current creative practice, I’ve also been reading a variety of epistolary histories. Much of what we know about women’s histories from different time periods has come to us through letters and diaries; some of what I’m reading also discusses the ways that women navigated boundaries between public and private spheres through letter-writing. And in a book on feminist correspondences from the 1970s, In Love and Struggle, Margaretta Jolly looks at the ways that feminist writers turned to letters as an ethical form of writing that might embody both care and resistance in their struggle for liberation.

Above, the covers of books our friends are recommending.



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