Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

22 Apr 2014, 22:12 p.m.

Necessary Dreams - Content and Cover

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2014 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

My household has donated a few books to the Hacker School library. RESTful Web APIs - easy. I also donated four interrelated books:

  1. Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing
  2. Women Don't Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation--and Positive Strategies for Change
  3. Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want
  4. Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women's Changing Lives
Geek feminist reading lists often mention the first three. I ran across Necessary Dreams in a thrift store several years ago and it changed my life, so I wanted to include it. The review Slate published in 2004, when the book came out in 2004, summarizes it pretty well; see also the Broad Universe review.

Author Dr. Anna Fels points out that the childhood or adolescent desire for fame is often a precursor to a more nuanced ambition, combining the urge to master some domain or skill with the desire for the recognition of one's peers or community. She also notes that women, especially, feel the need to hide that wish for fame instead of developing it into a healthy passion to guide our careers. This book blew my mind in the best way when I read it, and massively helped me guide my career development. It now informs my emphasis on explicit encouragement and mentorship of new open source volunteers, and my willingness to openly toot my own horn here on this blog.

The hardcover on my bookshelf (this edition or so) has a text-on-white cover. In contrast, check out the cover for the paperback edition I just bought: it portrays a businesswoman with an infant, and cuts off the woman's head with the title.

Fels, incidentally, discusses the visual language mass media use to discuss white-collar women:

"...women shuttle back and forth between two dissimilar cultural contexts. Articles on professional women often visually represent the incongruity of their dual roles by photographing them in formal work attire -- a suit, a crisp blouse, pumps, stockings, jewelry, a briefcase -- awkwardly clutching a drooling, sprawling toddler."
-p. 190 (paperback)

Did Anchor (the publisher) use this as a spec for the graphic designer?