Book Review: Readings
Reviewed by Laura Donnelly, Fri., April 27, 2001
Turning on the Girlsby Cheryl Benard
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 336 pp., $23
In Turning on the Girls, Cheryl Benard asks us to suspend our disbelief about how and when the Revolution to a futuristic, Amazonian culture of women deities and presidents occurred, but using artistic license and a superior imagination, she gets away with the ambiguous opening by expertly painting a "brave new world" for women. There, rapists and other threatening types are corralled into an area called Zone 6, reminiscent of Huxley's prison for "savages." The story focuses on Lisa, whose position at the Ministry of Thought has her regulating and revising women's sexual fantasies. She reads Henry Miller, Anaïs Nin, really anything erotic. But despite Lisa's primacy as a cog in "the restoration of the goddess," she is feeling lackluster. When an assignment to spy on an emerging counter-movement called Harmony is proposed, Lisa and her assistant Justin accept without realizing the dangers that are involved. Turning on the Girls is an ardent commentary on sexism in both its most benign and ugliest forms. Benard dishes it to us intelligently and often humorously, marvelously proposing all the idiosyncrasies of an estrogen-drenched culture.