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Book Review: Era of Ignition by Amber Tamblyn…

Posted on November 5, 2020, by Jean East CoL

By Becca Krasky, Loretto Volunteer and Jean East, Co-member, an intergenerational conversation

In the height of the Me Too movement, many women wrote about their experiences. One was Amber Tamblyn who is an actress. Her book, Era of Ignition was published in 2019. The book is a personal exploration of sexual bias and feminism in these times. To present a cross generational review, the Loretto Feminist Network Coordinating Committee asked Becca Krasky, 25, and Jean East, 70, to write about their reactions to the book.

Becca begins by summarizing the book

In Era of Ignition, Amber Tamblyn melds personal memoir with political and social critique.

The first half of the book is autobiographical, covering Tamblyn’s experience dealing with the sexism of Hollywood as a child and adult actress. She discusses her transition from acting to directing a film, and also touches on the experience of pregnancy and becoming a mother. Throughout the book, she traces her relationship and marriage to comedian David Cross, sometimes having to hold her husband accountable for his own internalized sexism. I was slightly familiar with Tamblyn’s acting through the teen film Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005), and recognized many of the celebrities she names in the book, actors like America Ferrera (Ugly Betty), Ryan Reynolds, Quentin Tarantino, and her dad, Russ Tamblyn (West Side Story, 1961).

Jean begins with

I picked up this book as I was browsing through the feminist section of a locally owned bookstore in Denver. A review written by one of the staff caught my attention – a young man who said the book influenced him to think in new ways. That intrigued me as I work to better understand how those younger than me experience and understand feminism. I had never heard of Amber Tamblyn. I was a little on edge as I read the first part of the book as I have mixed feelings about the money spent in the entertainment business…. However, where Tamblyn takes the reader as she goes along is a passionate example of the personal is political.

What is the era of ignition?

Tamblyn describes it as this… “I see a nation deep in the terror of its own retooling, stuck between a past it can’t outrun and the trajectory of a future it must outgrow” (p.10).

How does this statement relate to Loretto and other communities today?

Jean’s response:
Tamblyn’s definition of the era of ignition speaks to me. This era of retooling is a journey filled with questions. As we are reminded in Loretto, it is an emerging journey. We cannot change the past or ignore it; we can honor the parts we love and continue to learn from the parts that are challenging. The future is emerging if we are willing to live into it and I believe this will require the risk of bold decisions based on core values.

Becca’s response:
Replace “nation” in that quote with religious community, nonprofit, church, business, educational institution: right now, it seems everything is in the midst of this “terror”. I think it’s crucial that we not confuse terror with fear. There seems to be so much to be afraid of today, from COVID-19 to climate change to gun violence and nuclear war. Living in fear will only maintain the present systems and the present structures of power. I believe that this Era of Ignition expands beyond the entertainment industry and sexism to encompass everything. Our choice is to be ignited by hope or to be smothered by fear.

Becca summarizes the second half of the book

The second half of Tamblyn’s book gets more political, in which she engages issues around the 2016 election, her role in founding Time’s Up (a legal fund for survivors in the entertainment business), her own survivorship stories, the Harvey Weinstein investigation, and sex abuse throughout American society. In addition, she introduces intersectionality into her thinking- any struggle for justice must engage with every other struggle for justice: racism, sexism, homophobia, environmental issues, immigration justice, disability justice, etc. She talks about her own white privilege and the role of white women, acknowledging the huge amount of harm done by feminism centering white cis women (women assigned “female” at birth). She includes an essay by a friend/college professor/black woman Airea D. Matthews’, “In Response to Sister Solidarity”, and has a chapter length conversation/dialogue with Meredith Talusan, nonbinary trans filipinx author and journalist.

Jean writes:
I appreciated the second half of Tamblyn’s book – she describes feelings – her devastation at Hillary Clinton’s loss and her fears of being a new mother. She makes the “personal is political”, an early principle of feminism, real. She clearly challenges her privilege as a white cisgender woman, and incorporates the voices of persons that represent marginalized groups in the discussions of sexual violence. She brings forth the changing face of feminism.

Jean and Becca reflect on their own generational perspectives:

Becca:
Growing up in the “Era of Ignition” and the fourth wave of feminism, I grew up hearing critiques of feminism, mainly that it has failed at being inclusive of all affected by sexism. I’ve hesitated to call myself a feminist because of that- I’m a white, cis-woman and hyperaware of my privileges. My generation is impatient. We have crippling student debt and we already see how the climate crisis is affecting our futures. We see how sexism and racism divide us, and I think we’re ready for massive change because we understand that it’s either change or be obliterated.

Jean:
I grew up in the second wave of feminism …. It was about access for women to new opportunities, the ERA and finding alternatives, like the book Our Bodies, Ourselves. I embraced a movement to end sexism in its many expressions. I read Ms magazine cover to cover, sang Helen Reddy’s I am Woman and listened to Gloria Steinem speak. The future was endless possibilities.

Jean East CoL

Jean East CoL

Jean has been a Loretto Co-member since 1983 and recently retired as a professor of social work at the University of Denver, Graduate School of Social Work. She currently is a coordinator of the Loretto’s Women’s Network and supports local efforts in Denver for immigrants and refugees.