Review of The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid

The Feminist Agenda of Jemima Kincaid
by Kate Hattemer
High School    Knopf    293 pp.    g
2/20    978-1-9848-4912-0    $17.99
Library ed.  978-1-9848-4913-7    $20.99
e-book ed.  978-1-9848-4914-4    $10.99

Jemima serves with the Senior Triumvirate at her tradition-steeped prep school, and though she’s invested in her role, she’s also eager to shake up some of the school’s more outdated customs. Promposals create a power imbalance, so she devises a dating app–like system to replace them. A well-connected student is running unopposed for next year’s school chairperson position, so she tries to rustle up an opponent. But her failure to notice a perfect (non-white, non-male) candidate, and then a major mishap with the prom date–matching system, lead the self-professed “feminist before it was trendy” Jemima to see some of her own failings. The witty first-person narration’s frankness extends from Jemima’s thoughts on the people around her (“Everyone qualified as Old and White and Dude”) to honest description of sexual encounters (“I hate it when movies fade out…They make you think you’ll feel different during the whatevering, like the light will get soft and your sensations will too, but you’re still a body, you know?”). Via its flawed protagonist’s growth, this entertaining, thoughtful, smash-the-patriarchy comedy sheds light on some of the ways feminism, and feminists, can be complicated.

From the July/August 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She is a current member of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award committee, and has served on the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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