Paula Kamen

paulakamen

speaking topics:

Girls gone Wild?: Young Women’s Changing Sexual Attitudes, Pressures and Empowerments

Beyond the ‘F’ Word: The Next Generations’ Visions for the Future of the Women’s Movement


Ideal Use: Women’s History Month, gender issues, sexuality, women’s movement programs


Paula Kamen, 42, was 23 when she wrote Feminist Fatale: Voices from the Twentysomething Generation Explore the Future of the Women’s Movement (Penguin, 1991), which was noted as the first Third Wave feminist book.

Since then she has written three other books, including Her Way: Young Women Remake the Sexual Revolution and All in My Head, a book about women and chronic pain. In spring of 2008, she was a guest blogger for the New York Times online, writing about migraine and women: http://migraine.blogs.nytimes.com/author/pkamen/

Her writing has also appeared in salon.com, In These Times, the Chicago Tribune and many other publications. A Chicago-based journalist, she has also been a visiting scholar in Gender Studies at Northwestern University since 1994.

Her most recent book is Finding Iris Chang: Friendship, Ambition and the Loss of An Extraordinary Mind, which came out in paperback in early 2009 (Da Capo). The book is about Kamen’s real-life search to connect the dots about the mysterious 2004 suicide of her long-time friend, bestselling Chinese-American writer Iris Chang, the author of the Rape of Nanking. Meanwhile, it profiles her glorious life — and the tremendous burdens — she had in becoming a superhuman symbol of activism and social justice to the Asian community. The book seeks to clear up rampant misunderstandings about the bipolar disorder, combined with hormonal events, that claimed her life. It also explores how journalists can survive in the long-term covering dark topics, without being harmed by the toxic effects of their subjects. The Chicago Tribune named it as one of its “favorite books of 2007,” and it was also a Booksense pick for that year.

Her book, All in My Head: An Epic Quest to Cure an Unrelenting, Totally Unreasonable, and Only Slightly Enlightening Headache, released in paperback by Da Capo in 2006, is a memoir and journalistic report about chronic pain in America. Salon.com says it “connects the dots on this issue of women and chronic pain in a way nobody else has done.” The Women’s Review of Books describes the book as “exhaustively researched, comprehensive in its cultural analysis, effectively organized, engagingly written, and, well, a riot.” She recently was interviewed about it on NPR’s Talk of the Nation and Australian Public Radio.

She is also the author of Her Way: Young Women Remake the Sexual Revolution, (NYU Press, 2000, Broadway Books, 2002), which was noted as the first comprehensive “big picture” journalistic report of Generation X women’s changing and enhanced sexual attitudes and choices. In 2002, the book was also released in Japan by Kodansha.

Based on more than a hundred lively, unfiltered, and honest in-depth interviews with women from across the country (along with academic research and pop culture studies), Her Way cuts through the sensationalism and speculation that characterizes popular discussions about young women and sex. The book was praised in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Ms., Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and many other publications. The paperback appeared in features in USA Today and on several television programs, including “Good Morning, America ” and PBS’s “To the Contrary.”

Feminist Fatale is also based on interviews with a diversity of young women, and explores a central conflict about feminism: resistance to the label of “feminist,” but then support of the ideals of the women’s movement. Praised by Susan Faludi and Naomi Wolf, the book was widely covered and reviewed, in such publications as the Washington Post, Elle, and Time. Feminist scholar bell hooks calls the book “one of the most well researched and thoughtful discussions of the factors that shape responses to feminist thinking among younger women.” The LA Times wrote: “Interesting, surprising, a thoughtful book by a promising, provocative writer. Paula Kamen has done her homework and has had the courage to back up her point of view.” School Library Journal described it as “lively, well written and provocative.” Like Her Way, Feminist Fatale has been used as a textbook at colleges.

In theater work, she has had three plays produced. This includes Jane: Abortion and the Underground — about the legendary pre-Roe feminist abortion service, which has been read and produced throughout the country on many college campuses. Writing in the Chicago Reader, critic Kim Wilson said, “Everyone — but women especially — should hear this story.” The original interview and archival research that Kamen conducted in the course of writing this play was used by the makers of the documentary Jane: An Abortion Service and is on file with the Special Collections Department of the Northwestern University Library.

Kamen, who holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism, is a 1989 graduate of the University of Illinois . Her “papers” from her books and articles, including transcripts of the interviews used for these projects, are housed at the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture at Duke University. In the past 15 years, she has spoken at more than 70 universities, including the University of Texas-Austin , Virginia Tech, Bates College, Trinity College , Colgate University , and Williams College . She was born in Chicago and grew up in Flossmoor, Illinois.

For media interviews and book reviews, see paulakamen.com

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