TIME Books

Here’s Your First Look at Marvel’s Female ‘Thor’ Cover Art

Thor No. 1
Marvel

Thor No. 1 is out this October

Like the mighty Thor himself (or herself, now), Marvel shocked the comic book world last July when it announced on The View that a woman would be picking up the avenging Asgardian’s hammer. TIME got a sneak peek at the cover art for the issue in which the passing of the hammer goes down, Thor #1, out October 1.

We also had a chat with the book’s writer, Jason Aaron, about the new female Thor and the strong mixed reactions that came from Marvel’s announcement. Many welcomed the news as a sign of a largely male-dominated culture making moves to appeal to female fans, but others saw it as either a cheap play in that direction — or seemingly couldn’t handle the idea of the most macho of Marvel’s muscled men becoming a woman (even though a female Thor makes total sense).

“It was pleasantly surprising that it’s become such a big story,” said Aaron. “I would be worried if I didn’t feel strongly about the story that we had, if it was all just about a press release and creating a lot of buzz beforehand. But I don’t feel nervous because everything that we’re doing started with the story, the story that I’ve been telling with Thor and this new story that I want to tell.”

The only “disappointing” thing for Aaron, he said, is that “there has been some grumbling that seems to mostly revolve around the fact that it’s a female character we’re replacing Thor with. I think if we just said somebody else is going to pick up the hammer of Thor — it’s just this other dude — I don’t think we would’ve gotten quite the same response.”

“But for me, that part’s a little washed out by the response on the flip side, where you’ve got tons of people who are excited about the idea of a female character at the head of this book, and who are excited to pick the book up who haven’t been reading it before.”

Marvel Thor #1

When asked if having a female Thor was an effort by Marvel to diversify its characters — and then, hopefully, its fanbase — Aaron said that while Marvel was “behind [the plan] from the get-go,” the initial idea to make the switch was his.

“That said, you can say that Marvel is more conscious of diversifying the lead characters in their books by way of diversifying its audience, then in turn diversifying the creators who work on that book,” Aaron added. “It’s generally something everybody is more aware of, it’s something that’s in the zeitgeist these days. But it’s not like the changes that we’re doing to Thor were motivated purely by that, that’s more the reason that Marvel got behind it in such a big way . . . it’s certainly more than just a press release or a sales gimmick.”

Aaron was clearly excited not just about the new female Thor he’s created, but also the story he’s building around her. And the first issue — no spoilers — is a doozy, leaving behind plenty more questions than it answers. We’ll say this, though: The way in which the transformation happens fits in perfectly with the mythos around Thor — and his hammer, Mjolnir.

“To me, it’s not just about the idea of ‘let’s change Thor into a woman and figure it out as we go,'” said Aaron. “It’s about who is that character underneath the mask and what’s her story. So that’s the part I’m excited by. If I didn’t have that part, this would be pretty hollow, and I’d be worried about where we were going. But everything started with that story, so really the surprise of this happening, the surprise of somebody else picking up the hammer and the mystery of who that person is underneath that mask, that’s really just the beginning, that’s really just the introduction. Once we find out who she really is, the real story begins.”

Want more? You can preorder Thor #1 here.

TIME Books

See Thor’s Various Incarnations Over The Years

From architect to alien, take a look back at those who were worthy to hold the hammer Mjolnir and wield the powers of Thor

TIME Media

Diane, Katie and Catfights: The Problem With Claws-Out Depictions of Women

News reporters Christiane Amanpour, Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, and Diane Sawyer tape an interview at "Good Morning America" at the ABC Times Square Studios in New York City, Oct. 3, 2011.
News reporters Christiane Amanpour, Barbara Walters, Katie Couric, and Diane Sawyer tape an interview at "Good Morning America" at the ABC Times Square Studios in New York City, Oct. 3, 2011. Ray Tamarra—Getty Images

Sheila Weller is the author of The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour—and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News, out next week.

Plenty of the anecdotes in The News Sorority deal with in-fighting among men. Why does everyone love to focus on battles between women?

Aggressive, talented opponents in intensely high-stakes jobs tend to get, well, competitive with one another. To take the passive road is both career suicide and company malpractice. Proof? TV news, the topic of my new book, The News Sorority. But when certain columnists plucked zippy items from the book about competition, in-fighting and high-stakes rivalries, they used only tidbits about squabbling women, including a snarky, obviously non-literal, mildly off-color quip Katie Couric made about Diane Sawyer when they were morning-show rivals, and an obviously hyperbolic eyewitness report of Sawyer and Barbara Walters trying to “literally wipe each other off the face of the earth.” The negative items went viral, appearing in outlets from the Drudge Report to Us Weekly. And the headlines often included the word “catfight.”

What about some so-called dogfights? Back in the 1990s, Dan Rather “wanted to kill Peter [Jennings] and Tom [Brokaw],” one of his fellow CBS newsmen told me. Figuratively, of course—and Brokaw and Jennings felt that way about him; the quality of their shows benefited from the rivalry. In the ’80s, when rising star Sawyer was Rather’s substitute anchor, Rather would cancel family vacations at zero hour just to keep Sawyer from displaying her talent in his anchor chair. Along with competitiveness goes self-regard and, sometimes, bombast. So it’s not surprising that Rather’s predecessor, the revered Walter Cronkite, possessed “an ego as big as an elephant,” his producer Sandy Socolow told me. Other sources for The News Sorority recalled how ABC news icons Ted Koppel and the late Jennings—despite being close friends—were “nasty and competitive with each other. Koppel would be wailing on Peter, putting him down,” said a producer. Even when the well-liked Bob Schieffer, currently host of CBS’s Face The Nation, was Dan Rather’s loyal #2 (so loyal, Schieffer was nicknamed “Deputy Dog”), “Bob took it upon himself to talk against Dan,” said an earwitness, while Rather was mired in his misreporting of George W. Bush’s National Guard service. Schieffer was thus poised to finally ascend to Rather’s chair. (And briefly did.) An ABC colleague remembered how anchor and morning-show host Charlie Gibson chose the all-hands-on-deck period of 9/11 to complain that his Good Morning, America co-host Sawyer was reading more cold opens than he was. (Gibson was duly appeased and awarded all the cold opens; Sawyer didn’t mind.)

And yet, none of these anecdotes about men—all reported in the book—made notice. Just the catfights.

The News Sorority, by Sheila Weller

I remember Erica Jong complaining about the catfight trope when she was in her Fear of Flying prime over 40 years ago. Not long after, Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman were propelled into a famous recent feud of letters when, on Dick Cavett’s TV show, McCarthy acidly opined that “every word [Hellman] writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’” Hellman promptly sued McCarthy for $2.25 million dollars. Flash forward to present-day: entertainment websites scoring hundreds of thousands of clicks with news of catfights between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, or Martha Stewart and Gwyneth Paltrow. (Stewart’s quote, “She just needs to be quiet… If she were confident in her acting, she wouldn’t be trying to be Martha Stewart,” was picked up by tabloids around the world.)

It’s odd and telling when a slang concept doesn’t quickly evaporate. Will we be straight-facing “selfie” year after next? Would any but the laziest writer still use “metrosexual” or “Valley Girl”? Yet the catfight—and the broader idea that women competing or disagreeing with each is more indicative of negative character than men doing so—has stubbornly endured.

In a 2013 experiment co-conducted by psychologist Leah Sheppard, Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia, 152 participants were asked to give their opinion of three scripted workplace conflicts: male v. male; male v. female; female v. female. The participants judged the female v. female conflict as having more negative implications for the workplace than the other two. Ah, but! The three scripts were absolutely identical.

Even the way some management academics study top workplace women may betray a bias. There is the supposed Queen Bee Syndrome, by which some women at the top of male-dominated fields may designate themselves as unique “and don’t want to let other women in,” says Sheppard, now on the faculty of the University of Washington. “But,” Sheppard notes, “No one has done a study on a King Bee Syndrome. If you had a scenario where there were mainly women in a group and there was a lone man and he was therefore able to bring something unique to the table, I would be very shocked if the man didn’t show resistance to having another man hired.”

Women know that our assertiveness, competitiveness, and strong decisions are viewed negatively. We know the ethical bar is higher and the approval bar is lower. We’ve internalized the catfight and its wider connotations, and we may overcompensate with sisterhood scrutiny.

A female executive of an international corporation whom I interviewed recently chose, strictly on the merits (and after painful deliberation) to promote a male candidate over a female candidate for an important position. It was her duty to select the best candidate, and she did. The woman who was passed over felt hurt and betrayed, and made her feelings known to the executive. The executive felt anguish at the reaction. But a male executive would likely not have been seized by guilt that he’d betrayed his gender-mates.

And what b-school academics call a “leaky pipeline” ferries masses of superiorly-trained women to what turn out to be shockingly few top placements. Since 1982, more U.S. women have earned bachelors degrees than their male counterparts. Since 1987, more U.S. women have earned masters degrees than their male counterparts. And since 2006, more U.S. women have earned PhDs than men.

But women’s advances in competitive business careers don’t reflect these statistics. There’s been a less than 5% rise in female Fortune 500 company CEOs from 1990 (when that number was zero) to today, and a modest 7% rise in female Fortune 500 company board members since 1995. Only 51 women helm this year’s Fortune 1000 companies—that’s 5% total. The same disparity between training and top-level advancement exists in the media. In TV, women constitute 40% of the workforce, but only 20% of U.S. TV station general managers are women.

“Women are ‘easy to get along with’— that’s pre-scripted,” says Alice Eagley, Ph.D., professor of psychology and member of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. “Being competitive, agentic, aggressive, self-promoting: when women do that in a definite, clear way, people get all uncomfortable. When men do it, people are okay with it.”

“Do women agonize about the burdens of competing with other women, when collaboration is historically our survival mechanism? I think yes, though not everyone is self-aware enough to call it that way,” says Gloria Feldt, who founded Take The Lead with the goal of helping women reach an equal share of leadership positions by 2025. “Women want to be liked, to be seen as ‘nice,’ which our mothers told us to be and is what we were rewarded for as girls.”

Case study in self-promotion: Katie Couric. When she—having singlehandedly rescued the Today show in 1991 and become TV’s biggest morning star—signed a record-breaking three-year contract in December 2001, she proudly let the details be known. It was not just an achievement for her but, she felt, an inspiration for other women in TV. Yet the revelation of that contract meant “it was over for her,” veteran executive producer Paul Friedman (who worked for Jennings, Sawyer and Couric) told me, in pointedly sexist language. “When people knew that she was going to make as much as $65 million, she was no longer the girl next door but a rich, recently bereaved, skirt-up-to-her-crotch, hair-changing woman. It can offend you all you want for me to put it that way, but it is a fact.”

Also dinged for being “self-promoting” was Christiane Amanpour: In 2007, when she returned to CNN New York after 15 years abroad as the most hardworking, courageous, conflict-zone reporter in TV history, she was taken aback that that resume did not earn her the premiere anchor position at the network she’d been with (and helped to put on the map) for 20 years. When, in frustration, she’d remind CNN executives, “You know, I’m the most well-known foreign correspondent in the world,” those factual words struck her bosses as arrogant and conceited. But if an identically credentialed man, similarly peeved at being undervalued, had uttered them, they would have elicited executives’ worry.

So when you take this prejudice against forceful, non-self-effacing women and multiply it by two, adding conflict or rivalry with another woman, you have situations destined to go viral. Still, in five years of researching highly determined women in TV news, I learned how female-on-female competition does not have to be (and actually rarely is) a negative cliché.

First of all, women can refuse to subscribe to the notion. When longtime Today co-host Jane Pauley was losing her job to newcomer Deborah Norville in 1989, their supposed “catfight” was splashed over all the tabloids. (“It’s not like there wasn’t any other news to cover; the Soviet Union was coming apart,” Pauley wryly reminded me.) The two women knew that the construction was false. “Debbie did not push herself in,” Pauley told me, resolutely. “Debbie was pushed in. It wasn’t Debbie’s fault.” Pauley and Norville rejected the catfight construct and stayed collegial throughout NBC’s disastrous replacement scenario.

It helps to use humor and collaboration. Legendary CBS producer Susan Zirinsky first worked with Sawyer when Sawyer, fresh from eight years with Nixon, had to prove herself against a highly skeptical DC press corps. Zirinsky and Sawyer pulled all-nighters over the bizarre People’s Temple mass suicides and other stories. Later, when Zirinsky was trying to get a very reluctant (and often drunk) Boris Yeltsin to agree to an exclusive interview with CBS, she used Diane’s attractiveness to seal the deal—”This is who is going to be interviewing you,” Zirinsky said, slapping Sawyer’s photo in the rising Soviet leader’s reddened face, whereupon his eyes widened and he quickly consented. It was a coup for Zirinsky and Sawyer—a one-two punch of self-serving sexism for two women’s mutual professional advantage. Some years after that, Sawyer, by then at ABC, called Zirinsky, still at CBS, and cheekily asked for Yeltsin’s private phone number for a piece she wanted to do. Zirinsky shot back, “F*ck, no!” Both women laughed.

When the person who is trying to keep a woman from succeeding happens to be another woman, the situation doesn’t have to ring a gendered alarm. When Christiane Amanpour came to CNN Atlanta in 1983, she was obstructed by her first boss, a female producer who clearly did not like her. Amanpour has spoken of this woman; several others told me about the tension. The two women argued, and people heard them. Yet—maybe because Amanpour could be, as a friend of hers says, so un-self-consciously “in your face” when she disagreed with someone (and almost giddily amused when that brazen tactic worked)—no one called it a catfight. Amanpour later decided to fully commit to war reporting after her time in Bosnia, when her mentor, the war-zone camerawoman Margaret Moth, was gravely injured and Christiane felt morally compelled to “do Margaret’s work for her.” An unpleasant experience with the early female boss did not keep Amanpour from respect- and trust-filled collaborations with other women.

So, in real work life, among the most professionally aggressive women, catfights do not fit their silly, played-out description. In the meantime, we might consider joining instead of clawing.

Sheila Weller is a contributor to Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review, and Glamour, and the author of the New York Times bestseller Girls Like Us. Her book, The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour—and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News, is out this month.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Books

R.L. Stine: Twitter Is “Really Good For My Ego”

St. Martin's Griffin

The prolific YA author known for scaring kids senseless throughout the '90s is back with a brand new 'Fear Street' novel: Party Games

It’s a safe bet that anyone who grew up in the ’90s has been frightened by R.L. Stine at one point or another. The mastermind behind the hugely successful Fear Street series, which sold more than 80 million copies during its run, as well as the iconic Goosebumps series, was responsible for introducing a generation of kids to horror novels.

Now, Stine is back and resurrecting the Fear Street franchise with an all new book Party Games (out Sept. 30), in order to scare a whole new generation of teens (as well as some now-grown long-time fans). TIME spoke with Stine about the original series, spending time on Twitter and why it’s okay for adults to read YA.

TIME: When you started writing Fear Street books back in 1989, what was your motivation for writing a horror series about teenagers?

R.L. Stine: I had been funny up until then. I never really planned to write horror. I had done one horror novel for teenagers called Blind Date and it was number one on Publisher’s Weekly best-seller list. I thought, Wait a minute, what’s going on here? Because I had never been close to that list before! I thought, Wait, I think I’ve stumbled onto something here that kids really like. And that’s when we decided we’d try to do a monthly series.

Horror has a lot of sub-genres. How would you classify Fear Street’s brand of horror?

It was teens in terror. And in the beginning, we didn’t even kill anyone. We started off kinda slow but then I discovered that everyone loves to see teenagers get killed. They love that!

But I would say about half the Fear Streets were supernatural. Or they would just be horrible dilemmas. One of the very early ones I remember was called Missing, [where] these two teenagers come home from school and their parents never come home. They’ve vanished. At first they think it’s great, but after a night or two they get really worried. And they call where their parents work and they’ve never heard of them their. So they realize something really bizarre is going on. There are a lot of stories like that.

And then there was this whole historical aspect of Fear Street. We did the first trilogy of the Fear Street saga — those were three of the best books, I think. They were the most popular. It went back in history, all the way back to the colonial days and how Fear Street became Fear Street, this cursed place. There were the two families, the Fears and the Goodes, and this horrible wicked feud they had over generation after generation. And so we had this real back-story.

Why did you stop the series? And what made you decide to bring Fear Street back?

Well, I thought I had killed off enough teenagers. I did about 80 of them and we had a spin-off series and the sagas. I just wanted to do something new. I’d sort of run out of stories. And now I see horror is popular again in many ways. I always think that in scary times horror becomes popular.

Why do you think that is?

I think it’s just a way that people [deal] with anxiety about the real world. I think now, well, it’s not a great time. There’s not a lot of good news. I think it’s led to the real resurgence in horror.

Also, I’m on Twitter and everyone on Twitter, they’re all in their twenties and thirties, and they’ve been begging me to bring Fear Street back.

What do they say?

Oh, “we loved your books when we were kids” or “I wouldn’t be a writer today if it wasn’t for you” — I mean, wonderful things! That’s why I’m there. It’s really good for my ego. And I had all these people asking me for Fear Street. So one night on I just decided to be honest and I said, “You know, I thank you for all your interest in Fear Street but after all this time I really don’t think any publisher would be interested.”

And then I got this tweet from Kat [Brzozowski] from [Thomas Dunne, an imprint of] St. Martin’s Press who said, “Well, I’d be interested. Why don’t we talk?” Like 10 minutes later! We had lunch and I said I would love to do a bunch of them. And now it’s happening — all because of Twitter.

Your new book Party Games has been described as Fear Street for the 21st century. What does that mean?

People aren’t walking around with Walkmans or something. I try to keep up with things, you know. [But] I think horror doesn’t change. I always say the fears don’t change at all. It’s just the technology changes and the way we talk to people changes. But the fears — being afraid of the dark, being afraid that someone is lurking under your bed or in the closet — those things never change. So in that way, it’s the same old Fear Street I think.

What kind of horror do you like to read? Who are your horror idols?

I think Stephen King is a great storyteller and I think he’s written a couple of horror novels that are just amazing. Pet Semetary is just a favorite of mine. I think I’ve stolen that plot at least four or five times! And Misery, that’s an amazing book, I think.

Then there’s a Ray Bradbury book that I always recommend to kids. I think it’s an amazingly underrated horror novel and it’s called Something Wicked This Way Comes. It’s very creepy. It’s about this boy in the Midwest — and I grew up in the Midwest, I’m from Ohio — and this boy sneaks out of his house late at night and goes down to this empty lot where a carnival is setting up. He’s just so excited to see this carnival being set up and he doesn’t realize it’s maybe the most evil place on Earth and he’s being drawn into it. It’s wonderful.

YA has also had a resurgence and a newfound popularity with adults. But then you have some naysayers who believe adults shouldn’t be reading books for teenagers. What do you think of that?

Well it started with Harry Potter, didn’t it? I think like 40% of the Harry Potter readers were adults and a huge percentage of the Twilight readers were adult women. I think it’s for a couple of reasons. They’re plot-driven and you get right into the story without all this extra stuff. I think a lot of adults don’t have a lot of time to read or don’t choose to spend a lot of time reading and these books get right to it. I think that’s a big part of it. I wouldn’t say don’t read them. I really don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think it’s a bad thing if kids aren’t reading them. But there are just a lot of talented people in YA fiction these days.

There’s also a tremendous urge not to grow up. It goes back to the world being a scary place. Most adults don’t want to be adults. It’s a way of prolonging childhood. This is very deep for me!

I like it! Do you ever get the feeling that by writing YA you can revel in youth?

In some ways. Writing is sort of a game for me. It’s a challenge to see how many surprises I can get into a book and, at this point, how I can do stories and not repeat myself. And every one of my chapters ends in a cliffhanger, so how to come up with new chapter endings that I haven’t done before.

So there will still be cliffhangers in the new books?

Yes. A lot of writers think it’s a cheap gimmick, but I think it’s a really good way to get kids to keep reading. That’s the whole point of these books — to get people to enjoy reading. That’s really all I care about. It’s all about just discovering how much fun reading can be.

 

TIME Books

A Gone Girl Reading List: What to Pick Up After Finishing the Book (Or Movie)

Six more books to satisfy your craving for Flynn's indescribable smash

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl — first a novel, now a buzzy movie starring Ben Affleck, in theaters Oct. 3 — is not easy to describe: You’ll start with, “It’s about a husband whose wife goes missing,” and end up with, “It’s an acid-tongued exploration of modern American intimacy, and the fictions we create between one another to support that.” Part thriller, part meta-thriller and part domestic drama, Gone Girl is hard to shake — even after you’ve resolved its many mysteries.

Flynn’s got two other novels under her belt — both worthy works — but neither that are anything near her breakthrough. For that, we recommend these:

  • Tana French, In the Woods

    In the Woods
    Penguin Group

    French’s universe of related murder mysteries, all set in Dublin, first appeared between the pages of 2007’s In the Woods, about two different murders in the same place, two decades apart. The story’s solution should be simple, or something like obvious: One of the detectives investigating the new case is also the only surviving witness to the first murder, 20 years before. But everything is tangled together, and French, like Flynn, has a gift for luring readers into the dark while chasing for the truth.

  • Ruth Rendell, 13 Steps Down

    13 Steps Down
    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

    Rendell has been writing novels for more than 40 years with an unflagging psychological acuity and a serpent’s sense of the dark humor to be mined beneath society’s façades. In 13 Steps Down, Rendell sets a socially isolated and violent young man against his equally isolated and nosy old landlady. What unites them — and haunts them — are the ghosts of the men and women who they worship to the brink and beyond.

     

  • Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None

    And Then There Were None
    HarperCollins Publishers

    Perhaps Christie’s most acclaimed mystery, And Then There Were None is as tick-tock precise as a Rube Goldberg machine. It gathers 10 mysterious strangers on an island before, one by one, they are just as mysteriously murdered. Christie has never been bloodthirstier, or more righteous.

  • Claire Messud, The Woman Upstairs

    The Woman Upstairs
    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

    The most famous passage in Flynn’s Gone Girl explains its main character’s disdain for “cool girls,” those women who appear endlessly appealing and appeasing by going along with whatever the men are doing and saying. It’s a passage that’s nothing less than savage in its truth-telling. Messud’s The Woman Upstairs extends it for more than 300 pages. Starring 42-year-old teacher Nora Eldridge, the novel is no conventional thriller. But it swallows Gone Girls’ gender-minded anger and wit like a spark, roaring back out a flame.

  • Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

    Where'd You Go, Bernadette
    Little, Brown and Company

    The epistolary hit of 2012, Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette? seems as light as Gone Girl is dark — a fond tweak of West Coast neuroses. But that’s not all: As the book traces a daughter’s search for her mother, Semple draws us in deeper to the frighteningly large risks and rewards of motherhood, marriage and — best of all — storytelling.

TIME Books

Lena Dunham: A Generation’s Gutsy, Ambitious Voice

Lena Dunham, author of 'Not That Kind of Girl'
Lena Dunham, author of 'Not That Kind of Girl' Autumn de Wilde

Roxane Gay is the author of Bad Feminist, a new collection of essays.

The Girls star takes on Hollywood, friendship, rape culture, and more—with humor and tenderness—in her new memoir

During the first season of her critically acclaimed HBO series, Girls, Lena Dunham’s character Hannah Horvath, high on opium, tells her parents, “I don’t want to freak you out, but I think that I may be the voice of my generation—or at least a voice of a generation.” The line made waves as people conflated the fictional character with her creator, perhaps not wrongly. How dare a young woman make such a bold claim? All too often our culture tells young women their voices don’t matter or deserve to be heard.

In her debut essay collection, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned,” Dunham demonstrates her 28-year-old voice’s admirable range. While some celebrity essay collections and memoirs are lackluster, even embarrassing to read, Not That Kind of Girl suffers few missteps. Dunham’s cinematic flair translates to the page with vigor and clarity—not unlike the late Nora Ephron, to whom she is often compared and to whom the book is dedicated (along with Dunham’s family and her boyfriend Jack Antonoff of the indie-rock band fun.). Instead of tossing pithy, pseudo-motivational observations at the reader, Dunham has crafted warm, intelligent writing that is both deeply personal and engaging, clustered in five topical sections: “Love & Sex,” “Body,” “Friendship,” “Work” and “Big Picture.”

Each of the 29 pieces—essays mixed with lists, like “18 Unlikely Things I’ve Said Flirtatiously”—is confident and assured, sidestepping self-deprecation and instead offering intense self-examination. Dunham’s self-awareness can almost overwhelm with truthiness, as in “Barry,” her glancing, tragicomic account of being raped by a “mustachioed campus Republican” who, among other nonconsensual acts, removes his condom without her permission or knowledge. “A sexual encounter that no one can classify properly” sounds precisely like a voice of her generation, one struggling to come to terms with rape culture. (And yet, “I feel like there are fifty ways it’s my fault … But I also know that at no moment did I consent to being handled that way” sounds like a voice of every generation of women.)

Unlike Hannah Horvath, Dunham in her self-awareness does not come across as self-obsessed. When she is absurd, she acknowledges that absurdity. “13 Things I’ve Learned Are Not Okay to Say to Friends” is among the most drolly enlightened of the lists, made up of ostensible real-life Dunham quotes like “No, please don’t apologize. If I had your mother I’d be a nightmare, too” and “There’s nothing about you in my book.”

She reveals her vulnerabilities in a deadpan manner, showing us how she loves and has been loved, how she has wronged and been wronged. But it’s not all laughing around the hard stuff. At the end of “Barry” comes a teary phone call with Antonoff, in which she tells him what happened with the hipster rapist; here the narrative turns deeply confidential, allowing the reader into what you realize is Dunham’s truest interior life, as fragile and authentic as yours or anyone’s.

Not That Kind of Girl is evidently what she has learned thus far, and Dunham is far from an autocratic memoirist, even warning us, “I’m an unreliable narrator. Because I add an invented detail to almost every story I tell about my mother. Because my sister claims every memory we ‘share’ has been fabricated by me to impress a crowd.”

Dunham has received a great deal of criticism from critics, including me, over the lack of racial diversity on Girls. That assessment is well but narrowly placed. The lack of diversity is a fault of Hollywood more than of Dunham. Thankfully, this essay collection translates far beyond the white, urban demographic of Girls.

Some things, like our humanity, are universal. We all examine our families’ bonds and oddities. We all experience the insecurity of becoming an adult and navigating the world in an imperfect, human body. In Dunham’s case, body image and family are inextricably linked. She believes her penchant for exhibitionism and onscreen nudity came from her mother, the artist Laurie Simmons, who took nude ur-selfies with a Nikon back in the day. We all love, and hate, and nurture ambitions and nurse failings. We all worry about death and cancer—“I’m not scared enough to do any 10K walks, but I’m pretty scared,” Dunham jokes in “My Top 10 Health Concerns” (which include tonsil stones and infertility). Her privilege is undeniable in her television work and even in these pages, but by revealing so much of herself in such an intelligent manner, she allows us to see past that privilege and into her person.

And what is a voice of a generation, really? The phrase offers a seductive rhetorical flourish that speaks, at its core, to a yearning. We are forever in search of someone who will speak not only to us but for us. In the introduction, Dunham writes, “There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman.” Not That Kind of Girl is from that kind of girl: gutsy, audacious, willing to stand up and shout. And that is why Dunham is not only a voice who deserves to be heard but also one who will inspire other important voices to tell their stories too.

Roxane Gay is the author of Bad Feminist, a new collection of essays.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME

40 Classic Children’s Books Even Adults Love

The most formative books may be those of your childhood: Dozens of Real Simple readers remember beloved children’s books that turned them on to reading. They reveal why in their own words. Visit RealSimple.com to read the full list.

Here are the first five books:

 

  • 1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

    The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
    Harper & Row

    As a child I loved the simple story and it has resonated with me more and more as an adult. —Samantha Sadler Layman

    To buy: Ages 1 to 8; $17, amazon.com.

    (More from Real Simple: 6 Funny Movies to Watch This Weekend)

  • 2. Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

    The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
    Grosset & Dunlap

    My dad read it to me as a baby girl recovering in the hospital. We read together until his grandsons were born. And then we read to them. “Just quietly under the cork tree.” —Cindy Lee Claplanhoo

    To buy: Ages 3 to 5; $4, amazon.com.

  • 3. The Saggy Baggy Elephant by Kathryn Jackson and Byron Jackson

    The Saggy Baggy Elephant Book
    Little Golden Book

    My grandma would read that to me when I was little. I was so proud when I could finally read it by myself. —Charmin Garst Savage

    To buy: Ages 3 to 7; $4, amazon.com.

    (More from Real Simple: Banishing Life’s Little Annoyances)

  • 4. Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

    Are You My Mother?
    Random House Books for Young Readers

    Are You My Mother? showed love and opportunities were everywhere. —Denise Thompson

    To buy: Ages 3 to 7; $9, amazon.com.

    (More from Real Simple: 50 Great Books That Will Change Your Life)

  • 5. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

    Harold and the Purple Crayon
    HarperCollins

    I was so inspired by Harold’s imagination and realized that books could take me anyplace I wanted to go, just like Harold. —Leslie Fischer

    To buy: Ages 3 to 7; $7, amazon.com.

    (More from Real Simple: 5 Ways to Stay Cool Under Pressure)

    Read the full list HERE.

TIME Theater

Death and the Maiden: Meryl Streep’s Tribute to Philip Roth

Meryl Streep and the Takacs String Quartet
Meryl Streep and the Takacs String Quartet applaud Philip Roth, in the audience at an event presented by Princeton University Concerts. Denise Applewhite—Princeton University Office of Communications

A one-time performance honors the now-retired novelist's Everyman

“The first time I saw Brenda she asked me to hold her glasses.”

With that opening sentence of Goodbye, Columbus, Philip Roth stepped into his writing career in 1959 at the age of 26. So it had the feeling of a bookend this past Friday night when, with the 81-year-old Roth sitting smiling in the audience, Meryl Streep walked onto the stage of Alexander Hall on the Princeton University campus.

Wearing a serious expression and serious attire (black wrap dress, high heels, hoop earrings), Streep took her chair next to a string quartet, crossed her bare legs, and pushed her black glasses to the bridge of her nose. With blonde hair pulled into a ponytail, she looked both sophisticated at the same time. She might as well be Brenda Patimkin of Goodbye, Columbus–glasses and all—the first of the alluring shiksas who have served as lust objects for Roth’s males over the years. Streep did in fact grow up in Summit, New Jersey, just five miles up the road from Brenda’s fictional house in Short Hills.

Streep is here to do a one-time performance, reading selections from Roth’s meditation-on-death novella, Everyman, accompanied by a string quartet and a star-struck audience of 900. This is the only the second-ever performance of this reading. The actor Philip Seymour Hoffman did the first, but he died earlier this year. Death is everywhere tonight.

Streep begins to read, and immediately we are transported to a funeral somewhere in New Jersey—an open grave, eulogies from an ex-wife, then an older brother. The musicians watch her quietly, as Roth listens attentively from his seat in the orchestra.

The project was born a few years ago when Ed Dusinberre, the British-born first violinist of the Takács String Quartet, was reading Everyman, Roth’s indictment of death, against old age, against the loss of erotic energy that is the source of life. One of its cheerier lines: “Old age isn’t a battle; old age is a massacre.” But Dusinberre, who has a reputation for innovative programming, wondered if Everyman could be excerpted and performed with music—specifically, with Franz Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden”, written shortly before the composer died of syphilis at age 31.

“Schubert used music as a dialogue with the terrified maiden,” Dusinberre explains. “Roth’s novel shows us how youth becomes an important theme as we approach death. And it has leitmotifs, scenes in the cemetery that suit a musical treatment.”

Dusinberre knew that Roth had heard his group play in the past, “so that gave me the courage to approach him.” To Dusinberre’s astonishment, Roth said yes. The program was originally performed at Carnegie Hall in 2007 with Hoffman reading. But after Hoffman’s sudden death — an event eerily in keeping with Everyman‘s dark themes—the program returned to the stage last weekend for a single performance at Princeton. Roth had suggested Streep to replace Hoffman — and she accepted out of friendship and admiration, despite going into rehearsals for her next movie.

Roth made the trip from his home in suburban Connecticut, moving slowly these days and wielding a cane, as if to ward off the ravages of age, and relying on friends to help him in and out of the car. But he brightens on arrival, smiling and answering questions about when he last taught at Princeton (“That was in 1962!”). He is no longer writing new work — but protests that he never “announced” his retirement from writing but simply stopped. For that matter, he no longer keeps up with new literary fiction.

Streep reads in a mellifluous voice, starting with the novel’s matter-of-fact opening paragraphs, then building emotion as she flourishes her virtuoso accents — an angry relative from New Jersey chastising his wife at the gravesite, a black gravedigger from the South describing the careful craft of digging a grave. Her readings are punctuated by melancholic musical selections from the contemporary composer Arvo Pärt. The Schubert quartet is played in its entirety after the intermission.

The humor of Portnoy’s Complaint is hard to find in Everyman. All of the readings are from scenes set at a rundown cemetery near Roth’s old home in Newark. As his narrator describes it, “By now the place has become the butt end of the airport and what you’re hearing from a few miles away is the steady din of the New Jersey Turnpike.”

Roth marvels at how accurately Streep interprets “everything I intended when I wrote it.” Before the concert, answering a questioner who wonders if his protagonist is “not so average,” Roth jokes, “Perhaps you would rather that I called the book Every Other Man.”

Suddenly, after finishing Roth’s euphoric reminiscence of a childhood day of swimming at the Jersey Shore, Streep falls silent. Death has arrived for Everyman, when he least expected it. A hushed silence. The lights come up. Standing ovation. Streep throws both hands out in the direction of the darkened seats in at center orchestra. And Philip Roth grins and gives a broad, sweeping wave of his straightened arm to everyone present.

Landon Jones is a former managing editor of People and Money magazines and the author of Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation. Pia de Jong is a literary novelist who moved to the US two years ago. She publishes a weekly column in the Amsterdam newspaper NRC Handelsblad about her life in America.

TIME Parenting

‘Time-Outs’ Are Hurting Your Child

No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind
No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind Courtesy Random House

Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., is clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, the founding co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, and executive director of the Mindsight institute.

Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D., is the co-author (with Siegel) of the best-selling The Whole-Brain Child.

In a brain scan, relational pain—that caused by isolation during punishment—can look the same as physical abuse. Is alone in the corner the best place for your child?

Time-out is the most popular discipline technique used by parents and the one most often recommended by pediatricians and child development experts. But is it good for kids? Is it effective? Not according to the implications of the latest research on relationships and the developing brain.

Studies in neuroplasticity—the brain’s adaptability—have proved that repeated experiences actually change the physical structure of the brain. Since discipline-related interactions between children and caregivers comprise a large amount of childhood experiences, it becomes vital that parents thoughtfully consider how they respond when kids misbehave. Discipline is about teaching – not about punishment – and finding ways to teach children appropriate behavior is essential for healthy development.

So what about time-outs? In most cases, the primary experience a time-out offers a child is isolation. Even when presented in a patient and loving manner, time-outs teach them that when they make a mistake, or when they are having a hard time, they will be forced to be by themselves—a lesson that is often experienced, particularly by young children, as rejection. Further, it communicates to kids, “I’m only interested in being with you and being there for you when you’ve got it all together.”

The problem is, children have a profound need for connection. Decades of research in attachment demonstrate that particularly in times of distress, we need to be near and be soothed by the people who care for us. But when children lose emotional control, parents often put them in their room or by themselves in the “naughty chair,” meaning that in this moment of emotional distress they have to suffer alone.

When children are overtaxed emotionally, they sometimes misbehave; their intense emotions and the demands of the situation trump their internal resources. The expression of a need or a big feeling therefore results in aggressive, disrespectful, or uncooperative behavior—which is simply proof that children haven’t built certain self-regulation skills yet. Misbehavior is often a cry for help calming down, and a bid for connection.

When the parental response is to isolate the child, an instinctual psychological need of the child goes unmet. In fact, brain imaging shows that the experience of relational pain—like that caused by rejection—looks very similar to the experience of physical pain in terms of brain activity.

On top of everything, time-outs are usually ineffective in accomplishing the goals of discipline: to change behavior and build skills. Parents may think that time-outs cause children to calm down and reflect on their behavior. But instead, time-outs frequently make children angrier and more dysregulated, leaving them even less able to control themselves or think about what they’ve done, and more focused on how mean their parents are to have punished them.

When children concentrate on their horrible luck to have such a mean, unfair mom or dad, they miss out on an opportunity to build insight, empathy, and problem-solving skills. Putting them in time-out deprives them of an opportunity to build skills that other types of discipline could focus on. Setting clear limits while emphasizing collaboration, conversation, and respect gives kids a chance to practice being active, empathic decision makers who are empowered to figure things out on their own.

Next time the need for discipline arises, parents might consider a “time-in”: forging a loving connection, such as sitting with the child and talking or comforting. Some time to calm down can be extremely valuable for children, teaching them how to pause and reflect on their behavior. Especially for younger children, such reflection is created in relationship, not in isolation. And all of this will make parenting a whole lot more effective and rewarding in the long run.

 

Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., co-author with Bryson of the new book No-Drama Discipline: The Whole-Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, is clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, the founding co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, and executive director of the Mindsight institute. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Dr. Siegel is the author of several books, including the New York Times bestseller, Brainstorm, together with the bestsellers Mindsight, Parenting from the Inside Out (with Mary Hartzell) and The Whole-Brain Child (with Bryson).

Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D., is the co-author (with Siegel) of the best-selling The Whole-Brain Child, which has been translated into eighteen languages. She is a pediatric and adolescent psychotherapist, the Director of Parenting for the Mindsight Institute, and the Child Development Specialist at Saint Mark’s School in Altadena, CA.

 

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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