Review | the Fictional Woman by Tara Moss

Sunday, 26 July 2015

I am thoroughly enjoying the influx of intelligent, successful women producing memoirs and essay collections over the last few years. I probably shouldn't have been surprised, though, by the release of the Fictional Woman by best-selling author Tara Moss. An insightful, considered collection of autobiographical essays, this book is a fantastic read for anyone.
The premise of the collection is the array of labels that Moss has had assigned to her throughout her lifetime by the media, other authors, reviewers, even family and friends. She discusses how women facing this torrent of judgement on a regular basis are expected to live up to an image of this fictional perfect woman which simply doesn't exist. Ultimately, the collection aims to deconstruct these ideas and get to the root of what pushes people to perpetuate these labels.

What I really loved about this book was Moss's range of experiences. She lost her mother when she was very young and then flew into an international modelling career. At 25 she decided to move on, pursuing a writing career in which she's also seen international success. She's been married three times, moved from Canada to Australia, is a UNICEF ambassador, and is now a mother completing her PhD at the University of Sydney. To have packed all of this in before hitting 45 is astounding and already had my attention before I even started reading.

I remember lamenting to a friend of mine about how every feminist book I read includes a chapter about the author's rape or sexual assault experience. I hate that these stories are so common but Moss's eloquence in sharing her experiences is wonderful. There is no exaggeration or fear-mongering and, what's more, she backs up the commonality of her experiences with cold, hard, well-researched facts. This turns her stories not into an isolated, personal instance, but a reflection of a wider problem that we should all be paying attention to.

Moss uses her autobiography to share her life and perspective with an audience but also to draw attention to sexism, feminism, intersectionality, stereotypes, social constructions, the list goes on. Her essays are on-point examinations of the modern society we operate within and her strong opinions and conclusions are supported by ample evidence from a range of sources. Her skill, though, lies in weaving prose into the information to steer her book away from a research paper or textbook, into just a very good read.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever thought about unfair gender roles, or the role of the media in consumerist culture, or just wants to know a bit more about powerhouse Tara Moss!

xx Julia

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