Staunchly, vol. 98: The Spring Fiction Super Bloom



Mad as shit that your rights are under attack? Here’s what to do about it.

Donate to local organizations:

If you’re looking to contribute to grassroots organizations that are fighting these laws at the state level, this Twitter thread by Steph Herold is essential. Here are some great ones doing the lord’s work (my lord at least) in the Problem States: the Yellowhammer Fund (Alabama), Access Reproductive Care (for the Southeast region), Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund, Feminist Women’s Health Center (Georgia), Gateway Women’s Access Fund (Missouri).

Donate to national organizations:

Planned Parenthood! NARAL! The ACLU! Keep the big orgs flush with cash so they can continue to provide critical health care services and advocacy for reproductive rights around the country and fight these bans in the courts.

Donate to abortion funds:

Want to provide financial assistance to women seeking abortions in your area? Enter: the National Network of Abortion Funds. Search your ZIP code on their website to find a fund near you.

Donate to organizations that prioritize care for women of color, who are disproportionately affected by abortion bans:

Sister Song, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity (URGE) are great places to start.

Remember that not only cis-women have abortions:

Donate to local LGBTQ-organizations that focus on lifting barriers to healthcare for trans and non-binary people and creating safe spaces for these communities in states where their rights are under constant attack. Two examples: National Center for Transgender Equality and the Magic City Acceptance Center in Alabama.

Volunteer as a clinic escort:

The Cut has a great how-to guide here.

Know your facts, know your rights, know everything:

The Guttmacher Institute keeps tabs on the status of abortion restrictions in every state. A great resource if you want to understand the intricate maze of laws conservative lawmakers have crafted to limit our rights post-Roe.

Demand more from men:  

Remember: It is not our responsibility to perform all the emotional labor in these moments when our rights are in jeopardy. If you want to share your abortion story, great! If you don’t, great! You don’t owe anyone intimate details of your most personal moments in the effort to prove that women are human. Demand that male politicians and any cis men in your life share the workload, speak out, stand up for your rights, write op-eds, and donate to the organizations listed above. Men benefit hugely from legal abortion. Make them fight for it, too.

Help turn state legislatures a bright, gay, extra feminist, ultramarine blue:

We need to get more pro-choice Democrats in office at the state-level to stop this bullshit from ever happening again. Volunteer with the Sister District Project to help flip vulnerable Republican seats in state legislatures.

Run for office:



Today’s reads have a theme gee I wonder what it is. Here are a few articles I read in the wake of the abortion bans in Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri that helped me make sense of the pain of this moment. Strong writing that cuts through the bullshit is a balm in a time like this.  

Abortion Is Morally Good by Sarah Jones (NY Mag)

A truly excellent case against mealy-mouthed Democrats, a “big tent” approach to reproductive rights, and ceding any ground on the abortion debate. Required reading.

“There is no compromise, not on the personhood of women.”

Recent abortion bans will impact poor people and people of color most by Renee Bracey Sherman (Vox)

The new abortion bans were passed by groups of predominantly white men so surprise surprise it’s poor people and women of color who will be disproportionately punished. It’s if...that was….the whole….point...all along...Fun fact: a group of two or more white men is called a “mistake.”

“If abortion — and potentially, by extension, miscarriage — is criminalized, we already know who will be harmed first: The same communities already being jailed for living in our nation without the right immigration papers, the pregnant asylum seekers being shackled by US Marshals, the black and brown bodies scrutinized by police in our neighborhoods, and the same communities chastised by politicians for having too many children. The US criminal justice system has always unjustly penalized communities of color for crimes that wealthier white communities receive slight or no punishment for.”

The Real Origins of the Religious Right by Randall Balmer (Politico)

If it looks like a racist, walks like a racist, quacks like a racist, it’s a racist. Similarly, if the evangelical, anti-abortion movement seems uh, morally fishy, to you, it’s because it is: it’s rooted in the fight to preserve segregation.

Alabama governor Kay Ivey is just the latest white woman to advance American misogyny by Annalisa Merelli (Quartz)

My fellow white women: acknowledge your innate privilege in the abortion debate and fight against the complicity that ensnares other white women into forfeiting their own rights. Do not allow yourself to be drafted, even unconsciously, into the “the patriarchy’s female army.” The Alabama law was written by a white woman and signed into law by a white woman. The responsibility to fight for vital, uncompromising, inclusive, and intersectional reproductive freedoms is doubly ours.

Abortion Is Still Legal in All 50 States by A.A. Newton (Lifehacker)

Lastly, an important thing to remember: no matter what state you live in, you still have a constitutional right to an abortion. The earliest of these laws goes into effect July 2019, but until that date (and long after) organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU will be fighting to block these bans in the courts.


Be Natural, the new Alice Guy-Blaché documentary, was playing in Los Feliz last week and I went to see it. As a doc, it’s just okay, but it’s an important (and infuriating) look at the life and work of a pioneer of early cinema history has long forgotten. Guy-Blaché was by all measures the first female filmmaker—she directed her debut film in 1896 at the age of 23—but much of her work has been lost to shoddy preservation methods or credited to male subordinates. While the doc itself made strange choices (weird graphics; completely dispensable interviews with intermittently incredulous and fawning celebrities), I still appreciate it as a long-overdue ode to a creative visionary and a testament to the ephemerality of any art we don’t staunchly, vigorously protect. To quote Tyrion on Game of Thrones: Stories.

You can watch a few of Guy-Blaché’s movies on Kanopy, the free (!!) online streaming service that connects to your library card and opens up a world of interesting and educational cinema—highly, highly recommend signing up for it. Silent films are so transportive and idk about you but I’m hankering for some transportation out of real life right now. I’m going to dig into movies like A House Divided, Canned Harmony, and Falling Leaves myself this week.


This week’s Saturday Staunch was my take on the 10 beauty products you “need” for the warmer months. Don’t worry, I unpack that—you don’t actually need anything, and sorry but you’re going to look melty and sweaty no matter what you put on your face.

Here were two of my skincare picks. To get the full list, subscribe to my Patreon for $4 a month (cheaper than a pair of glittery weed novelty sunglasses, which is how I evaluate cost-to-value).  


SUPERGOOP! Superscreen Daily Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 40 PA+++

This is a great hybrid sunscreen-moisturizer to layer over a really active serum (like Vintner’s Daughter) because it doesn’t do anything wild or crazy that might react with the serum and irritate your skin—it just wants to be your special sunscreen friend! Easy, dewy application and formula. Be warned: it has the texture of full-fat mayonnaise.

Omorovicza Moor Mud Cleanser

Hungary: politically batshit and trending deeply into fascism right now, but damn they know their mud! I love this cleanser during the summer because the mud + essential oils combo cleans off grime without stripping the skin and gives this very refreshing, cooling sensation (thanks to the peppermint and eucalyptus). It’s expensive ($80), but a nice treat if you’re willing to drop some coin on a cream cleanser and you’ve already donated to Planned Parenthood this month.

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My friend Maddie reads more than basically anyone I know. Her taste is diverse, fluid, and perfect. We talked about her writing a spring book guide for Staunchly and settled on a celebration of books that are Popular but Good: mid-culture, glossily-hardcovered, celebrity book club books. The equivalent, essentially, of a super bloom pic on Instagram: pretty, not particularly earth-shattering, but wow that looks like a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Florals for spring? Not groundbreaking. But what a delight. - CS

Hello, Maddie here.

When it comes to my reading habits this year, I’m trying to make conscious divestitures in snobbery. I’ve been thinking a lot about the kinds of books that fall into the genres of chick lit, genre fiction, airplane books, beach reads, the “domestic”—any and all synonyms applicable for popular women’s fiction—and specifically the shame that surrounds them. The devil works hard but the misogynistic marketing structures in publishing work harder, and the shame we feel for loving a popular novel is not an accident. The implication of inherent superficiality due to author and audience gender is really starting to piss. me. off!!!

(Up front disclaimer: I don’t mean saying goodbye to discernment, or becoming especially porous. The old adage holds true: if a guy says his favorite novel is by David Foster Wallace, RUN).

It’s taken me more than a New York minute to process that snobbery doesn’t make someone more interesting. In light of the educational-privilege that plays into our reading choices, and the notion that books serve as identity and cultural signifiers, I have now lost track of the money misspent on books I bought because I thought I should read them; the emotional time wasted in a bout of shame after devouring a book that was marketed as a beach read, or purchased at an airport, or praised as “easy reading.” Books reviewed as “easy reading” deserve better. “Easy reading” is a patriarchal smear invented to devalue books that appeal to masses, and more often than not, the written work of women... I will die on this hill.

I am done proving my intellectual worth and I think you are too. Below is a list of books that are popular, sure, but good. Damn good. Books I am giving you license here and now to read without shame, guilt, or that nagging feeling in your stomach that you should be reading something cooler, something without a hulking gold sticker from a celebrity book club, something you can’t buy at an airport.  

If it’s good enough for Reese Witherspoon, it’s good enough for me.

Here are my recommendations:


1. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney    

Rachel Syme put it best: “How rude of Sally Rooney to be able to perfectly capture every human emotion in writing before she even turns thirty.” We’re at peak Sally Rooney now (even Taylor Swift loves her), and I’m here to push us all over the edge. If Sally Rooney fandom is a cult, then may I offer you some Kool-Aid or a pair of black-and-white Nike Decades? Too soon? Conversations with Friends, Rooney’s first book, follows two young women as they navigate love and friendship. Rooney welds her love of Jane Austen novels with a modern investigation into power and intimacy. The result is a truly singular coming-of-age story.

For enthusiasts of: parsing text messages and emails, Irish accents, having the wind knocked out of you, James Blake, first loves.

2. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

As an Australian myself, it’s my responsibility to spread the good word of Liane Moriarty. Obviously we’re all aware of the Big Little Lies fanfair (because we’ve all mocked Nicole Kidman’s wig in HBO’s adaptation), but this woman is a treasure trove of juicy novels that offer profound observations on the concept of the modern tribe. Nine Perfect Strangers tackles this theme by following, you guessed it, nine strangers during their stay at an exclusive health resort in bum-fuck-nowhere, Australia. Like literally anything Australian, Moriarty has some questionable views on bodily health and romance that creep through, but in her defense the hole in the ozone layer has been above Australia for so long that no one is coming out of that country with all their brain cells.

For enthusiasts of: shitting on Goop, shopping at Goop, conspiracy theories, Australian accents, German skincare, Picnic at Hanging Rock, cults.

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3. The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe

This book has somehow gotten lost since its sensational debut in 1958, but it’s an OG Basic But Good read—even Don Draper found the time to read this between committing identity fraud and gaslighting his wife into a nervous disorder (you have as many hours in the day as Don Draper, ladies!). It follows the lives of four young women navigating the magazine world of 1950s NYC, their world deftly illustrated through incredible one-liners and devastating observations on 20th century womanhood. Our heroes refuse to conform to the societal norms, in a quest to achieve the best of everything (see what Jaffe did there??). We can all find versions of ourselves in each of the book’s protagonists: personally, I am an April with a Caroline rising and a Gregg moon. The film adaptation of this novel, starring Joan Crawford, is even messier than the book and a great palate cleanser post-read.

For enthusiasts of: Mad Men, Nora Ephron’s Scribble Scrabble, clear liquor, driving gloves, New York in the summer, Gracious Living.

4. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

If you’ve ever written Fleetwood Mac fan fiction, then do I have the novel for you! Taylor Jenkins Reid’s most recent novel reads like a he said/she said, Behind The Music episode in book form—the rise and fall of one of America’s most successful bands is retold through each member’s memory. Much like her previous novel—the Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (read if you love You Must Remember This and the movie Carol)—Reid’s sharp criticism of an industry’s misogyny creeps up on the reader through her sentimental storytelling of women who refused to live conventionally in male-dominated landscapes.

For enthusiasts of: Stevie Nicks, the anti-muse, Almost Famous, the Chateau Marmont, Mom Rock (trademark pending), uppers, downers, unironic champagne cocktails.


5. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

There’s not a lot more to say about Little Fires Everywhere that hasn’t already been said. Ng tackles a variety of nuanced and Big Picture themes: race, class divides, Midwestern passive aggression, etc. Two families become deeply intertwined and a sleepy town comes to terms with the realities of its socioeconomic barriers, as a contentious adoption envelopes every resident. In her NYT review of the novel, Eleanor Henderson stated, “witnessing these two families as they commingle and clash is an utterly engrossing, often heartbreaking, deeply empathetic experience, not unlike watching a neighbor’s house burn”.

For enthusiasts of: watching rich people squirm, small town drama, the past lives of our parents, malls, Tracy Flick.


6. Troubling Love by Elena Ferrante

Ferrante’s psychological mystery follows grieving Delia as she uncovers the truths and lingering mysteries of her mother’s life and romantic affairs after her death. I am assuming that most Staunchly readers can attest to the fact that Ferrante’s Neapolitan series slaps (I’m so sorry), as Ferrante fever came for us all and I, for one, did not recover. Troubling Love is a truly underrated novel that exemplifies the simmering rage, tension, and capricious nature of the women that fill Ferrante’s literary world.

For enthusiasts of: Tana French, Sophia Loren’s bust, opaque humidity before a storm, silk lingerie, sensory overload, slow burns.

7. The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll

This novel is honestly what I imagine Andy Cohen hopes will happen in any of his Real Housewives franchises. Knoll takes us behind the scenes of the fictional reality show Goal Diggers (I’m not kidding), and follows the downfall and untimely death of one of its original stars. Sisterhood, familial and other, as well as faux-feminism and the Girl Boss “movement“ are brilliantly examined and eviscerated in this addictive novel. It’s messy as hell but that’s honestly the reason to love it.

For enthusiasts of: Sense and Sensibility, Soul Cycle, mocking Forbes 30 under 30 lists, Twitter feuds, the Hamptons, that gif of Dorinda Medley yelling Not Well, Bitch!

8. The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

Another exploration into American reality TV culture! The Book of Essie follows the youngest daughter of an ultra-conservative, reality TV family (think 19 Kids and Counting but even more religious, and if their matriarch was season one Bree Van de Kamp) after she discovers she’s pregnant. Read it for the takedown of mega churches, stay for the meditations on fame and celebrity. Essie’s grit and the author’s subtle thesis on audience complicity, in addition to a truly insane plot twist, will have you finishing this book faster than you can say Fuck Televangelists!  

For enthusiasts of: Educated, Christian mommy blogs, Easy A, clean lines on white pant suits, burner phones, irreparable family trauma, the comment section of Real Housewives blogs.


9. Sex and Rage by Eve Babitz

Eve Babitz’s fictionalization of her early Hollywood years takes form in protagonist Jacaranda, as she attempts to find love and success despite herself and the “stylish monsters” she associates with. Babitz is LA’s biggest fan and that love is illuminated yet again in this book. Not unlike the author, Jacaranda is really hard to like much of the time, but her quick wit and acute observations on some of LA’s most defining decades compensate for her more questionable assertions. Babitz is at her best as a memorist, so Sex and Rage is not her strongest work, but it’s a stylish read on a glamorous misspent youth that will seduce you till the end.

For enthusiasts of: Musso and Frank’s, new money, Venice before Silicon Beach, Marcel Duchamp, an underdog that wears Pucci.

10. Run, River by Joan Didion

My spiciest take is that Run, River is actually one of Didion’s best books. I am the only person who thinks this and that’s fine! Didion herself doesn’t *love* Run, River, but the nostalgia and romance of this book have carved out a permanent place in my heart. Her debut novel follows the world’s most depressing married couple in Old Money Sacramento and it reads like a soap opera. Didion’s ability to turn the minutiae of everyday life into a thriller is taken quite literally here. This book is for those of us who love California’s history and the myths that surround it.

For enthusiasts of: Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, vintage lace, driving through the farmland between LA and San Francisco, golden hour (both the literal time and the Kacey Musgraves song).


11. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Stephanie Danler’s best seller recounts the story of Tess, a 20-something fleeing to NYC post-9/11 to make something of herself (who can relate!). In doing so, she joins the waitstaff of a prestigious restaurant (modeled after Union Square Cafe) and the internal dynamics and relationships of the job take over her world. This is one of the most sensory books I have ever read—Danler’s prose is like poetry and the beauty of her descriptions will overcome you.

For enthusiasts of: Ada Limón, Bon Appetit, mentorship gone wrong, LCD Soundsystem, combat boots + denim jackets, Holden Caulfield (despite your better judgment).

12. Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

Dolly Alderton relives her early twenties so we don’t have to (thank god). In her homage to Nora Ephron and Candace Bushnell, Alderton breaks down the biggest lessons she learned about life through the various love stories that have colored her world. This is a memoir, not a novel, but I cannot be tamed and it reads as quickly as a work of fiction. A heartwarming book that feels like talking with your best friend over homemade dinner and glasses of Crémant.

For enthusiasts of: Fear of Flying by Erica Jong, English middle-class suburbia, The High Low podcast, Rod Stewart, dating apps, unabashedly championing your girlfriends.


13. The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

Calling this book a plain old thriller does it a disservice (DARK. so unbelievably DARK). Slimani’s killer-nanny novel will stun you with its plot and prose: inspired by the 2012 NYC murders of two young kids by their babysitter, the Perfect Nanny opens with a mother at the crime scene of her dead son and daughter. Knowing the outcome of this family as we go back through the origin of their relationship with their nanny, Louise, makes the novel all the more fraught and tense. There is an anti-working-mom element to this book that I do not fuck with, but I don’t believe Slimani herself has said that was her intention and I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt because I am truly afraid of this woman!

For enthusiasts of: that weird nanny arc in season 5 of One Tree Hill, Paris in the rain, Ottessa Moshfegh, Mildred Pierce, Sharp Objects.

14. My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Head Staunch Woman In Charge, Carolyn Seuthe, touched on this novel in previous issues of Staunchly, so if you haven’t read it already, what’re you doing? Protagonist Kayode is constantly cleaning up after her sister...literally cleaning up...her crime scenes. Braithwaite’s searing commentary on social media was my favorite part of this short but sweet thriller.

For enthusiasts of: Keeping Up With the Kardashians, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Snapchat filters, season one of Grey’s Anatomy, watching fuck boys die.

15. The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

Another OG Basic but Good read to close us out. Elaine Dundy’s loosely-biographical novel follows the carbonated and iconoclast herione Sally, as she sheds her bourgeoisie, American ways for lA bOnNe ViE: fresh red hair and fledgling romances through Paris in the 1950s. Dundy has received spurts of revival (is it just me or was everyone reading this book in 2012?) but she is still deeply undervalued, and I must right this wrong! If drowning your sorrows in oysters and self-deprecation isn’t your thing (who hurt you? Or who didn’t hurt you?), then her biography on Elvis Presley or her memoir, Life Itself!, will aptly ingratiate you into the honest, heartbreaking, and hilarious world of Elaine Dundy.  

For enthusiasts of: Greta Gerwig, wearing evening gowns during the day, shitting on Freedom Fries, Holly Golightly, “a Left Bank magazine called Anything Gauche,” dry martinis.

Happy Reading!

- Maddie