As a fan of Transparent, I was excited to score an uncorrected proof of Jill Soloway’s (they, them, theirs) new book She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy from NetGalley. Soloway is also an alum of University of Wisconsin-Madison and queer, so I have always been curious about them. I was quickly hooked after the first few pages of reading about their childhood, their family, and their feminist awakening via a crush on a particular UW women’s studies professor who was a “k.d. lang-lookalike.” I couldn’t wait to hear Soloway’s words of wisdom about toppling the patriarchy.
From the start, I found the book to be smart, sharp, and witty; Soloway would be someone to go have a drink with, to be sure. I laughed out loud a number of times. About getting older, Soloway relates the universal truth of parenthood: you have some kids, you never sleep, your kids bring home germs, and
Then one day you will realize that you have been sick for six weeks and then six months, and that the feeling that used to feel like a “light cold” is now just what it feels like to be alive. This will keep happening until you are old, actually old, and then you will die.
I enjoyed reading about Soloway’s kids, their career and the fight to get Transparent made, as well as the journeys Soloway and their parent went through regarding their gender identities. I also appreciated Soloway’s candor and bravery in sharing these stories as well as those concerning their own learning processes.
Having Lady J on the staff transformed things. It was impossible to believe that we had written the show for an entire year without any transfeminine gaze in the room. I realized how awful it was that we hadn’t put in more effort sooner. With Lady J there, Maura’s story line started to come alive.
Unfortunately, I was left a bit unfulfilled waiting for Soloway’s inspirational calls to action on fighting the patriarchy. Soloway explains the “Topple Principles” that were created to guide the development of Transparent. These included, “Our revolution must be intersectional,” and “Be brave.” They describe the formation of #TimesUp but with a generous sprinkling of name-droppings. Soloway tackles traditional gender roles and feeling as though they had fallen short of being the good mother, the good wife, the good daughter. These moments of vulnerability are powerful but too few.
Soloway carefully confronts the sexual harassment allegations some trans co-stars made against Transparent lead Jeffrey Tambor. While candid about Tambor’s moodiness and downright aggression on set, Soloway relays the sexual harassment situation with an arm’s-length treatment that surprised and disappointed me.
But in his own self-assessment, Jeffrey separated the culture of occasional sex jokes from his anger and displays of immense moodiness. His rages. His power. He didn’t see how, when layered together, that he became someone that some people were afraid of.
The main title, She Wants It, is spot-on as the major theme throughout the book is Soloway’s persistent quest for creative (and commercial) success. But based on the subtitle of the book, I wanted a deeper examination of the patriarchy from Soloway’s perspective as a (albeit white, privileged, and famous) nonbinary queer person in the entertainment industry. While I found the book intriguing as an entertainment memoir, it fell short as a manifesto on toppling the patriarchy. And this is okay – to be fair, Soloway never calls this a manifesto and they have more than enough juicy stories to fill a memoir as a heavy-hitter in Hollywood – but I wanted more. I was left wishing that Soloway had imparted more of their thoughts about how the reader can join the fray against the patriarchy.
A quick read, the book is enjoyable overall. I would recommend this book to fans of Transparent or Jill Soloway’s other works; I could see how those who haven’t watched Transparent may not get as much out of the book. It’s also recommended for those who enjoy celebrity memoirs or those who crave reading nonbinary voices.
Title: She Wants It: Desire, Power, and Toppling the Patriarchy
Author: Jill Soloway
Publisher: Crown Archetype
Pages: 256 pages
Publication Date: October 16, 2018
Tags: Trans, queer, entertainment, #OwnVoices, memoir
My Rating: Recommended
For further reading:
Can Jill Soloway Do Justice to the Trans Movement? by Taffy Brodesser-Akner for NY Times, Aug. 29, 2014.
Gender and Privilege With ‘Transparent’ Creator Jill Soloway: The TV showrunner joins to discuss gender identity. Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air, Oct 11, 2018. Podcast.
Jill Soloway on Identifying as Gender Nonbinary: ‘It Feels Like a Relief to Me’. By Ann Friedman for Glamour, Sept. 14, 2017.
Jill Soloway Wonders What the Word ‘Woman’ Is For and Revisits an Old Debate (With Jenji Kohan) by E. Alex Jung for Vulture, Sept. 26, 2017.
Publishers Weekly review.
They Live in Public: Jill Soloway is building a gender-free empire. By Penelope Green for NY Times, Oct. 13, 2018.
What ‘Transparent’ Still Gets Wrong In Its Second Season by AJ McKenna for Bustle, Jan. 19 2016.
This post contains affiliate links; I write what I like.
Thanks to NetGalley, Jill Soloway, and Crown Archetype for the complimentary copy.
Quotes are based on the uncorrected proof and may or may not reflect the final text.