REVIEW: Dead Girls, Alice Bolin

Monday, 8 July 2019

A collection of poignant, perceptive essays that expertly blends the personal and political in an exploration of American culture through the lens of our obsession with dead women.
In her debut collection, Alice Bolin turns a critical eye to literature and pop culture, the way media consumption reflects American society, and her own place within it. From essays on Joan Didion and James Baldwin to Twin Peaks, Britney Spears, and Serial, Bolin illuminates our widespread obsession with women who are abused, killed, and disenfranchised, and whose bodies (dead and alive) are used as props to bolster a man’s story.
From chronicling life in Los Angeles to dissecting the “Dead Girl Show” to analyzing literary witches and werewolves, this collection challenges the narratives we create and tell ourselves, delving into the hazards of toxic masculinity and those of white womanhood. Beginning with the problem of dead women in fiction, it expands to the larger problems of living women—both the persistent injustices they suffer and the oppression that white women help perpetrate.

If this book would have stayed on the topic, then it would have almost certainly been a much-adored and often-recommended read. But a collection about the obsession of popular culture to position dead women and young girls as the driving-force for television and movie narratives, this is not.
Instead, Alice Bolin seemed to near-endlessly meander through a plethora of only tangibly related topics that ranged from her father’s suspected Autism Spectrum Disorder, to life in Los Angeles, and the wonders of Joan Didion. Which, however interesting they may have been in the correct context, had absolutely nothing to do with either the utilisation of dead women to tell white men’s stories, or anything even related to wider female exploitation.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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