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5 Books with Slay Belle

Slay Belle is another Persephone veteran, she’s been a reader since the first day, and our beloved comment moderator since shortly after. Slay has long been one of my favorite online people, and I think you’ll really enjoy her answers to 5 Books. 

1.  Which book would you give to a potential significant other?

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. I know this probably seems like an odd pick for a romantic partner and it’s not really about liking sci-fi (which I do). A friend of mine recommended the book to me almost a decade ago. I adored it and insisted that my father read it, and then my brother, and my husband, and my daughter. It’s the one novel we’re all crazy about; we call it the Family Book. It’s to the point where it’s become a sort of shorthand for us. When one my dad’s girlfriends not only disliked the novel but vehemently hated it, the kids joked around that she wasn’t long for our lives. And she wasn’t! Not that Snow Crash was the breaking point of their relationship or anything, but still.

2. Which book would you give to a high school senior?

My youngest sister is graduating high school this year and I’ve already bought her a copy of The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. I know that people like to give aspirational titles for this answer, but I look of this as a bit of a practical gift. The premise of the book is that we (women, in particular) are taught to disregard our gut instincts, to do what is “nice” or “polite,” to let people down “easy.” Our minds process minute clues and analyze situations faster than we can consciously track them, so that what we call ‘gut reactions’ are hundreds or millions of pieces of information we’ve already sifted through in our brains. But we don’t listen to our guts because it’s too woo-woo for us, and sometimes we end up blundering right into the situations we were wary about to begin with.

To me, the chapter of the book that most rang true was about “letting people down easy.” de Becker argues that the best way to cut off bad relationships (of any stripe, not just romantic ones) is to just cut them off. Don’t linger over the emotions, don’t be the nice gal who meets up for a last dinner, don’t explain your reasons over and over again. Just be done with it. Every action past that just feeds into the other person’s desire to keep the relationship going, even if it becomes a negative or contentious one. You don’t end up extricating yourself and  the situation keeps spiraling. The just cut them off was some of the best advice I’d ever read and I’ve recommended that course of action to a number of people (and have used it myself, personally). It might come off as cruel, but sometimes your own emotional health and safety needs to come first. It’s advice I wish someone had given me before I went off to college and I hope it’s a book she’ll get a lot from.

3. Which book would you give to your political representatives?

Hmm. I really wrestled with this question. I think I might give a copy of The Politics of Women’s Biology by Ruth Hubbard. Hubbard’s book breaks down the idea that science is neutral and talks about the socio and political influences on not just what science studies, but what is deemed worth of study, and how results are interpreted. She also argues that these biases have been detrimental to women both in the field, by limiting and discounting female scientists and their contributions, and to women’s health at large. Considering these retrogressive arguments about birth control and abortion, not to mention the fight over what health insurance should cover, I think it’s important to talk about how these arguments are framed.

4. Which book would you give to a former teacher?

OK, this answer might reveal me to be unbelievably petty, but I had an experience in high school that remains a sore spot so many years later. I had two English teachers who disliked me so much, they conspired together to keep me out of honors track English, and actually demoted me down the tracks to screw with my high school statistics (and therefor my college application). I had complained about what was going on, but it wasn’t until my junior year that anyone believed me. The teachers admitted to rigging my grades (and the grades of one other student) — nothing was done to them, nothing was done to fix my transcript, and they said, essentially, that they just flat out didn’t like me.

So, yeah, I would like nothing more than to slap a copy of a published novel of mine down on their desks just to spite them.

Conversely, I would like to nicely mail a copy of a published novel to the teachers who helped uncover this and who were outraged on my behalf. I’m still in contact with several of them today and they are lovely, wonderful educators.

5. Which book would you give to your best friend?

I just passed along the collected works of Shirley Jackson to one of my good friends. I’m a big Shirley Jackson fan. Most people are only familiar with her short story “The Lottery,” but she has several novels and some ‘slightly fictionalized’ books about raising her family in New England that are very funny. I’d recommend We Have Always Lived in the Castle, The Haunting of Hill House, or Life Among the Savages for anyone wanting to give her a shot. Library of America put out a nice collected edition of her short stories and two novels a couple of years back — that’s a good place to start.

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

6 replies on “5 Books with Slay Belle”

YES SHIRLEY JACKSON. I am a huge fan. And by the way, your story of what happened to you in high school is horrible! I can’t imagine how anyone let that happen. You should definitely bring those jerkfaces copies of your novel. Do you have a novel published? If yes, what is it called, because I like you and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

If I had a newsletter I would call it ‘Professional Grade Bitchface’.

I’ve had a number of pieces published over the years but no novels. That’s still in my wishing and hoping phase. But one day!

As a side note to that story, my daughter is now attending the same high school and I anxiously combed over the faculty list — those two teachers are no longer there, but several of the ones who supported me are. So that was nice to find out.

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