The first week of October seems like the perfect time for teacher, artist, podcaster, entrepreneur and author Amelia Hruby, PhD to release her brand new book, Fifty Feminist Mantras. The illustrated journal is the culmination of a years-long practice that started with weekly Instagram posts and grew into what it is today—a guided journal for cultivating feminist consciousness.
Hruby made her very first Feminist Mantra Monday Instagram post on Halloween 2016 and kept posting every Monday for a year. When the year was over, she collaborated with artist Emily James on a cover and self-published the book through CreateSpace Kindle Direct Publishing. Hruby navigated the publishing process herself, shipping copies a hundred at a time through her website. She also hosted launch events in Chicago and Brooklyn in 2018, but by the following year had stopped selling the book. In the meantime, Hruby was busy working on her podcast Fifty Feminist States, a storytelling and “roadtripping” adventure in its fifth season. It was through her podcast work that her current editor Charlie Upchurch found her while pursuing authors to collaborate with.
Today’s version of Fifty Feminist Mantras is very different from the original. It has been revised and updated to include illustrations and spaces for journaling, making the book something you can work through over the course of a year. “The idea behind the book is similar to the original Feminist Mantra Monday campaigns to have a weekly check-in with yourself, your value system and your feminist consciousness,” says Hruby. “People often think of that consciousness as something you have to get right, but the goal with this new book is to help people rework the value system of their lives, which is something you can’t do overnight. The idea is that you’d do it over the course of a year and recognize the value of process over progress as you revisit themes and mantras that reflect the seasonality of our lives.”
Years before the pandemic caused virtual events and communities to become standard, Hruby was cultivating online presence. Her work is rooted in the power of the collective and focuses on gathering people to deconstruct the value systems we live under. She says that realizing feminist consciousness is difficult work, and something that should be shared with others. Hruby and collaborator Kaitlin Stewart shared their “Wear Your Weird Shit” challenge on Instagram at the start of the stay-at-home era as a way to shift perspective and encourage people to experiment with their closets. Hruby says she’s working on weaving together her interest in daily practices, diet culture and social media using the borrowed tagline, “feminist practices for the radical present.”
“My feminist practice is something that’s always evolving,” says Hruby. “I have a dream of doing a feminist book in the vein of ‘The Book of Awakening’ where every day there’s a lesson for an entire year.” Part of that continued practice includes reading the work of others, and Hruby offered a few recent favorites and go-to standards she’s digging into this fall.
“Thick: And Other Essays” by Tressie McMillan Cottom
A 2019 collection of essays covering topics like Black womanhood, body image and McMillan Cottom’s experience as a Southern Black woman academic. Thick was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award.
“Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds” by Adrienne Maree Brown
Inspired by science fiction writer Octavia Butler’s explorations of our relationship to change, specifically the Earthseed verses in her “Parable” series, Maree Brown’s book is radical self-help, society-help and planet-help designed to shape the futures we want to live.
“The Body is Not an Apology: The Power of Radical Self-Love” by Sonya Renee Taylor
Activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor invites us to reconnect with the radical origins of our minds and bodies and celebrate our collective, enduring strength.
“Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation” by Anne Helen Petersen
BuzzFeed culture writer and former academic Anne Helen Petersen argues that burnout is a definitional condition for the millennial generation, born out of distrust in the institutions that have failed us, the unrealistic expectations of the modern workplace, and a sharp uptick in anxiety and hopelessness made worse by the constant pressure to “perform” our lives online.
“Fall is an incredibly busy publishing season, especially now since so many books slated for spring were pushed back,” says Hruby. “It’s been exciting to see how many authors are selling books right now and feel like they can really put their work out there. I think renaissance is too strong a word, but there’s definitely a renewed interest.”