Friday Reads: Rose: Love in Violent Times by Inga Muscio

I won’t lie: Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, Inga Muscio’s first book, changed my life. In fact, when I got Rose: Love in Violent Times in the mail last week, it made me want to pick up Cunt, and I started talking about it even as I was reading Rose. Kristen picked up Cunt this week (can you believe she’s never read it? I would have gifted her a copy two years and four months ago had I known that, I just assume everyone has) and has enjoyed reading it on her morning subway commute (and then I get to hear the stories later—love that).

While Kristen has been reading it this week, she remarked on how dated it seems, and I realized that it was published 13 years ago. Not only that, but it’s a very western American perspective, which struck me from reading Rose, how western Muscio’s voice and perspective is. It makes me a bit nostalgic, to be honest, and homesick, missing the culture on the west coast.

Rose is a bit different. Just released by Seven Stories Press, they describe the book with this question: “Rose breaks new ground in answering a fundamental question in most feminist and antiracist writing: how do we identify, witness, and then recover from trauma—as individuals, as families, as communities, and as a country?” I love this, it is fascinating and deep and hits on many of the things that I’m interested in exploring, especially around queer and gender stuff, but Muscio tackles larger (primarily US-focused) questions of war, rape, and abuse. I found it hard to read, because it was so direct and descriptive in the wrong-doings that surround us in this (western, US) culture. Of course, that’s also precisely the point, so though it was difficult to read, it was also quite successful.

I wish I could say that those questions of witnessing and recovering from trauma were addressed, though I think the “love” section of this book was a bit lacking. Maybe I just read it too quickly, maybe I wasn’t taking it to heart the same way I took in the “violence” section. I do think it’s important to participate in the healing process, not just for myself but for the culture, and Rose did a great job of inspiring more hard work towards those lofty goals, which I appreciate.

I’d be less inclined to pick it up again, however. Not like I am inspired to pick up Cunt or even Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil, Muscio’s second book. Still, all of her books are worth reading, and I adore her style and tone. But Cunt is the one I go back to again and again. As soon as Kristen’s done with it, I may just re-read it myself, it’s been a few years.

Rose: Love in Violent Times by Inga Muscio was sent to me by Seven Stories Press to review. Pick it up at your local independent queer feminist activist bookstore, or directly from the publisher, or order it online from Amazon, if you must.

Published by Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is "the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queers" (AfterEllen), who "is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places" (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and they are the current editor of the Best Lesbian Erotica series. They identify as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor, and an introvert, and they live outside Seattle as an uninvited settler on traditional, ancestral, & unceded Snoqualmie land.

4 thoughts on “Friday Reads: Rose: Love in Violent Times by Inga Muscio”

  1. Shelly says:

    I adore Inga. “Cunt” is one of those books that should be required reading. It truly altered my worldview when I read it a few years back.

    She did an intimate reading here in Chicago at Women & Children First while promoting “Autobiography of A Blue-Eyed Devil”. Her energy and charisma are off the charts.

    Thanks for giving her a shout-out. She’s a treasure.

  2. Lena says:

    I stumbled across “Cunt” in my then-boyfriends bookshelf. If I recall correctly, he in turn had stumbled across the book somewhere and the title caught his attention and he took it home, expecting some juicy stories. Years later, I picked it up from its place, where it had been patiently waiting for a reader.

    I honestly don’t get the enthusiasm about the book. I mean, it’s been four years, maybe I’d have a different outlook on it, if I read it again now. But back then… well I liked the messages of empowerment and encouragement to women to explore their sexuality and to be positive about their bodies. But I was mostly very irritated by what seemed to me hints at everything male being somehow… aggressive, oppressive, and somehow less powerful in a positive sense than everything female. Also, I remember frequently shaking my head at what sounded to me like utter nonsense… like:

    “As a dick is a finite structure, with a visible beginning and end, so too is the potential for a male orgasm.
    As a cunt is infinite – how many bloody mysteries and future generations are hiding up there, somewhere? – so too is the potential for female orgasm.”

    …I feel she’s got a talent for bringing concepts together in one sentence that even in a metaphoric sense don’t have any meaningful relation, at least not to me. Seriously – a cunt is just as finite as a dick, and the potential for orgasm is completely unrelated of the mysteriousness of the involved body parts. What on earth is she trying to accomplish by lumping it all together?

    This might be a language that is inspiring, appealing and even maybe sensible to others, but it’s certainly not a style I want people to use when talking to me. Maybe it’s in part that it’s a very American perspective and as a German, I don’t really have the same background. But I actually think it’s mostly that I’m just more into precise. Or into poetic that doesn’t present as quasi-factual.

    I’d be really interested to know what makes you so enthusiastic about the book…

  3. My roommate (she’s quite a bit younger) had never read Cunt, and she’s in the middle of it currently before passing it onto another young friends who needs to do so! Definitely was one of the first books to really did damage to my “bubble” and helped me see some of the outside world for a change. I’m so glad Kristen got a chance to read it finally!

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