Natasha Brown’s Powerful Debut Novel + Feminist Philanthropy News

Well, hello my donor activist friends! Welcome to another week of exciting feminist philanthropy news, as well as my weekly discussion of happenings related to gender equality at large.

Natasha Brown is the author of Assembly, a fascinating novel about working in the c-suite of financial services in London. (Image credit: Elise Brown)

This week I took a deep excursion into literary culture and read Assembly by Natasha Brown. This novel caught my eye because it was by an author who had a background in financial services and math, yet when I picked up the book and read a few lines, I felt a deep sense of kinship with the words.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers about this book because it’s really a wonderful process to absorb the story without any preconceptions in mind. The story takes a narrative path that I can only describe as an anti-romance, and yet it felt strangely rich and satisfying to me as a reader.

Natasha Brown’s writing is incredibly spare and hard-hitting, a combination that means you are immersed in a complex story that goes from start to finish in exactly 100 pages. During that time, I was transported into a world by language that both affirmed reality and shaved off much of the unnecessary clutter of the real world.

Assembly is Natasha Brown’s first novel, and it deserves significant attention for its rare style and distinctive boldness. The novel feels ripe for adaptation into a film since the story is so evocative and the language that set the scenes and gives us the characters in dialogue is so carefully chosen.

The book also resonated with me as a feminist writer trying to navigate the worlds of philanthropy and journalism, coming up against a lot of outright hostility, hypocritical behavior, and performative activism instead of real action for change. The narrator casts a sharp eye on harassment in her financial c-suite office as well as contradictions in her boyfriend’s virtue-signaling but guarded British family. One of my favorite lines from the book: “Banks — I understood what they were. Ruthless, efficient money-machines with a byproduct of social mobility.” The narrator goes on to say that, unlike her boyfriend, she didn’t have any “prerequisite connections or money to venture into politics,” so she “traded in my life for a sliver of middle-class comfort.”

Powerful stuff, eh?

Natasha Brown’s storyline innovates even as it deconstructs the toxic culture surrounding the narrator. I highly recommend Assembly as a way to enjoy a good read and also think deeply about women’s place in the world and how women are defending their freedom and equality on many different levels in society.

And Now, On to the Top 10 Feminist Giving News Stories of the Week

feminist giving news

1: Don’t Put a Ring On It: Since COVID, experts estimate that 13 million more underage girls have been married off, on top of the 12 million girls that are already married off annually worldwide. VOW for Girls is working with philanthropies like Ford, Open Society Foundation, and #Startsmall, as well as business brands and (surprisingly) the wedding industry to fund efforts to prevent child marriage. Now when couples get married, they can have their guests contribute to Vow for Girls as an innovative way to combine mission with celebration. Learn more about Vow for Girls here.

2. Over 230 Nigerian Women’s Groups Storm Government: Collectively calling themselves Women of Nigeria, the groups came to protest Nigeria’s National Assembly for voting against proposed gender bills and denying women the opportunity of inclusion and representation in governance. More on that story here.

3. Skin Care Brand Aura Cacia Surpasses $1 million in Giving for Women and Girls: Aura Cacia announced six recipients receiving a total of $145,000 in grants from the Aura Cacia Positive Change Project. With this year’s grants, the fund surpasses $1 million in donations to organizations serving and supporting women and girls. More about the recipients here.

4: Reimagine Main Street Makes $2 Million in Grants to Black Women Business Owners: Reimagine Main Street announced 200+ Black women-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs have won Backing Black Business cash grants, ranging from $5,000-$50,000. Some of the top winning entrepreneurs included April Richardson, DC Sweet Potato Cake, Baltimore, MD; Camilla Banks, The Muted Home, Atlanta, GA; Crishon Lampley, Love Cork Screw, Chicago, IL; Kimberly Shamsiddin, Al Shams Abayas, Maplewood, NJ; and Zakiya Bryant, WeSUB Teach, Atlanta, GA.

5. New Artlist Women Creator Fund: Artlist, a creative technology company, announced its new Artlist Women Creator Fund. From March 3 until March 22, The Artlist Women Creator Fund invites women to submit plans for video projects. Three winning projects will receive an estimated $15,000 worth of filmmaking gear, cash grants, and Artlist subscriptions. Artlist will also partner grantees with professional mentors. Learn more here.

6. Dr. Julie Gerberding Named Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health: Gender lens leadership at the top of big health institutions can make a critical difference to our country. Dr. Julie Gerberding, who is deeply experienced with disease including the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, may help herald in a new era for our health leadership nationally as she becomes CEO of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. More on this here.

7. Anthem Foundation Commits Over $14.5 Million to Maternal Health: The Anthem Foundation announced more than $14.5 million in grant commitments to address maternal health. With a goal to reach 100,000 women, the new grants will work to reduce preterm birth rate, maternal morbidity and mortality, and primary cesarean rates. These grants are part of a $30 million plan from the Foundation to improve maternal outcomes over the next three years.

New Role Model dolls from Barbie.

8. Barbie Introduces New Role Model Dolls for International Women’s Day: Barbie seems to be getting very global. By featuring twelve women role models, Barbie is shining a light on women who all over the world who are leaders in their respective industries of tech, wellness, STEM, education and more. The global lineup of role models includes: Shonda Rhimes, Founder of American Television Production Company Shondaland; Ari Horie (United States/Japan), Founder & CEO, Women’s Startup Lab and Women’s Startup Lab Impact Foundation; Adriana Azuara (Mexico), Founder of All4Spas; Doani Emanuela Bertain (Brazil), Teacher and Founder of Sala 8, and many more. Full press release here.

9. Olena Zelenska, wife of President Zelenska Salutes Women of Ukraine with Photo Series: Wrote Olena Zelenska in a tribute post on Instagram: “Our current resistance has a particularly female face. My admiration and bow to you, incredible compatriots.”

10. World Woman Foundation Unveils Digital Series Spotlighting 60 Female Leaders of Change: In 60 minutes, this series features 60 women who are rocking the world with their leadership. Check out the full story here.


LaTosha Brown: The Time is Now to Fund Black Women and Girls

New World Possibilities with Gender Lens Giving Strategies

A Novel About a Feminist Foundation: How Interesting is That?

Author: Kiersten Marek

Kiersten Marek, LICSW, is the founder of Philanthropy Women. She practices clinical social work and writes about how women donors and their allies are advancing social change.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.