Book Review: Rebecca Traister’s Good And Mad

Lately, I’ve been on a nonfiction kick. I’ve been reading a lot of history books with some current events or memoir-type books sprinkled in.

I found Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger at the Oxford Exchange bookstore a while back. The cover looked familiar to me — not sure from where, probably twitter — and the red block letters stood out. The book was a bit on the expensive side at $27, but I went for it because I felt so drawn to it.

Photo of the cover of Rebecca Traister's Good And Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger
Photo taken from this interview with the author.

Worth It

Having read the book, I definitely think it’s worth the money. It is dense and academic, but also very readable. Rebecca Traister managed to weave history and contemporary politics together in a streamlined narrative that bridges centuries political and societal turmoil.

A Volume on Social Change and Turbulence

In some ways, Good and Mad is a commentary on the 2016 presidential election. Traister certainly analyzes the contradictory nature of anger in male versus female candidates, discussing how anger works for men like Trump and Bernie Sanders and against women, like Hillary Clinton.

However, for the most part, the 2016 election is a place marker in time. Traister discusses, in large part, the origins of feminism and its metamorphosis that took strong hold after November 8. Interestingly, Traister provides some interesting analysis regarding the role of white women in electing Trump and the divide between the way married and unmarried women vote (see page 122).

Photo of Rebecca Traister's Good And Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger

With this feminist lens, though, Traister does not neglect the intersection of race and gender. She intertwines the racial issues that, forever present, percolated throughout the Obama administration.

“In the wake of a challenge to white supremacy, in the form of two Obama administrations, racism won. Over the threat of a potential female leader, brutal masculinity won.”

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, by Rebecca Traister, page 26

It’s Not All Politics

As with the intersection of race and gender, Traister weaves the political and social events of the recent past together in a natural and nuanced fashion. Politics and social issues are never far off from one another. Regardless, Traister does spend a lot of time in the two separate circles of government and social.

From the early chapters dissection of the 2016 election, Traister moves on to the #MeToo movement and the swell of female rage. In Part III of the book — “The Season of the Witch” — Traister dissects the Harvey Weinstein scandal. This book has a particularly interesting perspective on this scandal, since Traister previously worked at a Weinstein-owned magazine. As an insider, Traister provides a new perspective, discussing the code of silence that surrounded the “gossip” regarding “hushed rumors of hotel rooms, nudity, and then of whispered payoffs” (see page 137).

As a Whole

Good and Mad bridges the gap between academic analysis and the contemporary zeitgeist. The book jumps back in time, discussing such historical figures and events as the the French Revolution, the Salem Witch Trials, Susan B. Anthony, and Fredrick Douglass. It then jumps forward again to the past few years with ease.

Overall, Good and Mad provides novel social commentary. This is combined with an intricate historical analysis that left me feeling like my own anger was valid. The greatest success of this book, in my opinion, is the clarity in which it grapples with recent and current events. Without the lenses of hindsight — you know, more than two or three years — it can be difficult to recognize correlations. Here, though, Traister creates a digestible perspective, accounting for different waves of feminism, the role of race in America, and how to harness female anger.

Good and Mad is available now at Amazon, Barnes & Nobels, iBooks, and Audible.