This group (two memoirs and a collection of academic essays) speaks to me regarding a personal research interest: female sexual dysfunction and, on a more general level, the complicated nature of how female sexuality is viewed in contemporary American culture.
Susanna Kaysen's The Camera My Mother Gave Me is a quick and fascinating read. In its 158 pages, the memoir chronicles her struggle with an indefinable (and, at the time, undiagnosable) vaginal condition that causes sex, and any other vaginal contact, to be excruciatingly painful. In her quest to figure out what is wrong, she bounces around from gynecologists to general practitioners to attempts with alternative medicines. The prose is simple yet biting in its commentary on how the American medical system (and American culture) treat and medicate women's conditions. Kaysen is also the author of the critically acclaimed and best-selling memoir Girl, Interrupted, a fact that makes me wonder why The Camera My Mother Gave Me didn't get more press and attention.
Joyce Maynard's At Home in the World covers much of her adolescence and young adulthood but focuses mainly on the affair she had (beginning at the age of 18) with J. D. Salinger (then 53). While vaginal problems aren't the main issue here, Maynard does deal with vaginismus, a condition that prevents her and J. D. Salinger from consummating their affair. Her case seems to stem from the very nature of their relationship, with Salinger portrayed as an emotionally abusive, controlling partner. Maynard struggles throughout the narrative to come to terms with how their relationship began and ended, going so far as to confront Salinger years later at his New Hampshire home. This memoir starts off slow at the beginning but is a must read. It's useful for thinking not only about our own romantic relationships but also for considering how we deal with (and remember) highly-problematic male figures in the literary community.
Leonore Tiefer's Sex is Not a Natural Act is a series of various articles and essays considering one main question/theme: how we have been taught (wrongly) as a society to think that sex is essential, natural, and all-or-nothing. Tiefer explores the medicalization of sex along with men and women's bodies, moving from the Viagra Boom to the current-day search for medicines to help/aid with women's arousal. Orgasm Inc. can be viewed as a companion piece.