- Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnston
Each chapter in the book focuses on a different aspect of the relationship between women and alcohol. There is a really interesting look on how the alcohol industry took very calculated steps to bring their product to a female audience, a previously neglected market sector. Marketing efforts gradually brought women into the fold, moving them from alcopops (flavored drinks that mask the taste) through several steps to straight shots (including circumstances that find women drinking harder alcohol than their male companions). Some of the most emotional and hard-to-rad sections (from a subject standpoint, the text is always quite readable) look at alcohol and young women, heck, young girls. She makes a very direct link between early (think age 8 or so) alcoholism and sexual abuse, a tie that starts out as a causal relationship and become a vicious cycle as drinking (and drug use) make women more vulnerable to assault/abuse and women turn more to alcohol to mentally/emotionally escape trauma. Other issues: women's physical response to alcohol, alcohol and motherhood, drinking culture on college campuses, alcohol and romance, alcohol and relationships, and the recovery process.
I found this book very readable and very interesting. The information on marketing and the general role of the industry in the rise of female drinking weren't necessarily surprising, but it wasn't a story I'd heard before. I appreciated the personal stories, including Johnston's own story as a professional success story with a long-held secret, although there's definitely a tendency towards shock value (particularly the several stories involving very early drinking). I believe there is an often-underappreciated value in personal stories as evidence...it is probably also a style very much tied to women's studies in general.
Overall, this is an issue that I hadn't heard much about (with the exception of some of the issues involving college-age women and the "drunkorexia" topic) and one that needs to be discussed. Notably, every medical provider who noticed the book (my life involves many waiting rooms...bringing the book wasn't a special effort, it was just what I happened to be reading) commented on it and nodded when I mentioned the rise in alcoholism in women. Female alcoholism will only become more prevalent without focused attention and it will impact every facet of society. This is a worthwhile look at a social/medical/economic/etc. issue that needs to be talked about and Drink is a worthwhile introduction to the topic. Recommended for people interested in social issues, women's health, and a story-centered approach. Might frustrate those who prefer a focus on "harder" facts.
Four of five stars.