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Katherine Cooper
Power Glass
This book primarily focuses on my personal experiences as an engineering student and as an engineer in the nuclear industry. From the lens of those experiences and my own readings on similar topics, I begin a discussion on power. Many aspects of power are discussed, from personal power to the literal power that is generated in a nuclear power plant. This book contains some disturbing content and may be triggering to some. It is a book of catharsis.
Cooper’s frank, illuminating essays take on the twin themes of power and fragility, with an eye toward how the first is distributed, measured, and exercised in a world so often hostile to women. An engineer in the nuclear energy industry, Cooper feels passionately about calling out, and remedying, the under-representation of women in STEM fields, an issue some of these essays address in detail. Other essays in Power Glass—which is divided into four sections with overarching themes of sex, service, society, and self—take on pressing matters related to that intersection of power and fragility, such as sexism in the nuclear energy industry, body image issues, and an account of Cooper being raped in college—an act about power, she notes, rather than sex. This is written with hard-earned perspective and a call for women to advocate for each other and “show solidarity for unfair treatment of other women.”

Cooper presents power in contemporary society as one long succession of glass ceilings that must be patiently chipped away at, and that’s precisely the work she proceeds to do in the book. Her outrage is primarily directed toward a patriarchal system that serves them, a system that has for millenia “tortured, demeaned, raped” women and shown them “in no uncertain terms that their brains aren’t worth recognizing.” Cooper connects historic and contemporary injustices into a clear, coherent case: from infanticide against young girls to ensure a male heir, to men’s continued treating mensuration as unclean, to the pervasive fear of being “found out” or not good enough that women are inculcated to feel in the workplace.

Cooper faces all this with strength, analytical insight, and productive outrage, while writing throughout with clarity, sensitivity, and wit. (She relishes letting men know, in an aside, that sending women explicit photos of their genitalia is absolutely not a turn-on.) Lovers of tell-it-like-it-is truth telling, stories of catharsis and growth, and the possibilities of enacting societal change will enjoy this book.

Takeaway: Illuminating essays about power, fragility, and breaking glass ceilings.

Great for fans of: Melissa Broder’s So Sad Today, Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A