When was the last time you were taught lessons in feminism that was easy breezy, devoid of angst and presented with hilarity? I don’t think ever. It’s rather unfortunate that feminism has to be schooled. Also, this isn’t any kind of shade on all those glorious women who have taught feminism with an angry diatribe. Because clearly the world hasn’t been kind to women since time immemorial. And we get a sneak peak into this unjust scheme of things through the book’s main protagonist Elizabeth Zott. The story is about this fierce woman scientist who is never taken seriously because of her gender. Set in the 1950s America, the book takes a hard look at the subordinate and often demeaning outlook of the society towards women then. Elizabeth is passionate about chemistry and struggles to make herself seen in the overwhelming and dismissive world of men. Adversities and inappropriate men force her to switch her career quite reluctantly. From a scientist she soon becomes a television cooking show host. Despite her rather unconventional approach to anchoring, she becomes very popular and women all across America can’t seem to get enough of her show. Because hers is a first show of its kind wherein women are tutored to think they matter; they are important and they are equal. All this whilst cooking up a storm and diligently doling out chemical equations and reactions.
To say this book is unbridled joy would be an understatement. Elizabeth Zott defies all the societal conventions and expectations and still remains an embodiment of womanhood. Her bold choices which if you examine carefully, were just about what mattered to her and what was convenient; can actually trigger the chauvinists and misogynists. Her decision to have a child without being married, to have a live-in partner, to be an atheist, to question authority are just some amongst many reasons which make Elizabeth Zott unique and her own person. She epitomises freedom, equality, independence, intelligence and her actions can inspire women all across the globe to stand up for themselves, to speak up for other women, and to support one other in solidarity.
Bonnie Garmus, the ingenious author and who’s debut book this is, gives us a taut and crisp story that never falters, never slackens its pace and delves deep into feminism while serving a healthy dose of uncanny, straight-faced humour. The author deftly handles complicated and emotional topics of sexual abuse, rape, patriarchy, and childhood trauma. Garmus gives us this iconic character of Elizabeth Zott, who strives for rationality every step of the way. Not just Elizabeth, the book is peppered with various other notable characters. Be it Mad Zott, her daughter who questions the necessity for the hoopla surrounding her status as ‘a child born out of wedlock’; and Harriet the neighbour who forges a rather quirky friendship with Elizabeth and later the same relationship turns out to be a force of strength for both of them. But the most delightful character of them all, has to be the dog, Six Thirty. Bonnie Garmus humanises the dog giving it the most cheeky one liners.
Lessons in chemistry is one of those rare books that will shock you one moment and make you guffaw the next. The fact that women are equal and should be treated with respect, irrespective of their status and stature shouldn’t be taught, rather it should be a no brainer. But here we are, even in 2023, subjecting them to inequality, disrespect and trauma. This book from Garmus is a necessity, rather a compulsory read for everyone to know these invaluable lessons in humanity.
(Psst..can’t wait for Brie Larson as Elizabeth Zott!)
~ JUST A GAY BOY. 📚 🧪