Spinster by Kate Bolick

Back in April 2015, I was about to suspend my gym membership for a few months. Every summer, I push myself to head outdoors for any physical activity, both for the Midwestern-deprived Vitamin D I so desperately needed, and to get as close to nature as possible. (The Lakefront trail isn’t a bad place to get started).

Physical activity gives me a chance to listen to my book podcasts, and April was no different from any other month. On a cool April day, I listened to a segment of the New York Times Book Review podcast  (scroll to April 19th, 2015 segment). This episode featured not only Jon Ronson (who I had the pleasure of meeting at the McNally Jackson Bookstore in Soho when this book came out), but also Ms. Kate Bolick.

Where had I heard that name before? Ah yes, The Atlantic!

Kate Bolick Atlantic cover
From Slate.com

Her cover story, called “All the Single Ladies” caught my attention when I was living in New York City, trying to dabble in more content-based magazines than my usual fashion and fitness-focused reads.

I was preparing to launch back to Chicago from New York City, where I was studying to get my Master’s in Social Work. Part of this was to reunite with my boyfriend of 5 years (now, my fiancé!). I struggled with a lot of questions. Was I moving back just to be with him? Even if I was, would that be a bad thing? I lived a comfortable existence being on my own. Was this my destiny, or just a preference for solitude?

Even though I was coupled, Bolick’s article resonated with me with that Atlantic article. So did her work in Spinster.

Kate Bolick.png

The first part of Spinster is a history of Bolick’s beginning interests in “spinsterhood”, and her desire to find a places of solitude (after all, it is often our own lives that influence our research). Probably my favorite vignettes are pieces from her teenage diaries, where she longs for a kind of “Spinster Sunday”- a day languishing alone with books and quiet.

What comes next are chapters dedicated to the history of five “spinsters,” juxtaposed with Bolick’s own life (dating, college, editing Domino magazine [swoon!], and her beginnings in book reviewing). One part history and one part memoir, the book is a smart read. I walked away from the book feeling inspired, knowing that in 2016, marriage doesn’t mean that I need to abandon my passions, and I can tap into the same desires for career advancement as the five women mentioned (six, including Bolick herself).

On the day that I read the bulk of this book, my fiancé was sleeping in, while my typical Lark-self was getting ready to head to the coffee shop on a Saturday morning. I gently nudged him to see if he wanted to wake up and come with. He responded by saying “I’ll let you enjoy the time by yourself.” He wasn’t offering me permission, rather acknowledging that he appreciates my need for alone time.

post its spinster
Creating my own index…with Post-Its

Although Bolick includes a Works Cited page, I would’ve loved an index with page numbers to reference. The Works Cited page alone is enough for a semester’s worth of a Feminism in Literature class, perhaps the makings of a Goodreads Reading Challenge.

I can’t wait to help make “spinster” an empowering word, and I can’t wait to embrace my own Spinster Sundays (or Saturdays, or Mondays, etc.). I hope the author conducts another book tour when the book comes out in paperback, so that I can tell her how much I loved the book in-person.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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