Link Round Up: August 24 – 30

funhomemusical   aboutagirl   cherokeerose   undertheudalatree   leavingnormal

Alison Bechdel‘s Fun Home was included on a summer reading list at Duke University and several students refused to read it for “moral reasons”. The original article is at The Duke Chronicle and several other outlets have covered it, including Slate, Jezebel and Book Riot.

About a Girl by Sarah McCarry was reviewed at Afterwritten.

The Cherokee Rose: A Novel of Garden and Ghost by Tiya Miles was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta was reviewed at Women and Words.

Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender by Rae Theodore was reviewed at Autostraddle.

This post, and all posts at the Lesbrary, have the covers linked to their Amazon pages. If you click through and buy something, I might get a small referral fee. For even  more links, check out the Lesbrary’s twitterWe’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and Tumblr.

Thank you to the Lesbrary’s Patreon supporters! Special thanks to Jennifer Holly, Martha Hansen, and Carol DeniseSupport the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a lesbian/queer women book every month!

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Rachel reviews Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Orangesarenottheonlyfruit

Published in 1985 by Jeanette Winterson, the classic novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit hits home on a young girl coming of age and beginning to question her sexuality.

The protagonist, Jeanette, has been adopted by stringent Pentecostal evangelists. As she grows up, she is expected to one day be a missionary. Her mother in particular pushes Jeanette to pursue this dream. Together, the family listens on the radio to missionaries converting unbelievers, attend church for intense sermons, and learn as much from the Bible as they can. Jeanette is an outcast at school because her beliefs set her apart from the other kids; her only true friend is Elsie, an elderly woman who encourages Jeanette in her work. One day however, Jeanette meets Melanie, and begins to feel the first stirrings of attraction. This causes uproar in her family and community, leading Jeanette to make her own decisions about her future.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a mixture of humor and sadness as the story follows Jeanette in her journey to awakening. And the journey is full of ignorance and a lack of understanding. Jeanette loves God and Melanie, but her pastor tells her she cannot love them both. She is surrounded by people who do not understand her; her mother and community believe she has allowed the devil to take her with “unnatural passions.” It was heartbreaking at times to read of how Jeanette was treated by people she had known her whole life. The homophobic remarks were infuriating. People fear what they do not understand, and the characters in this book were no exception.

Winterson brilliantly captured Jeanette’s struggles to find her own place while reconciling her attraction to women. As the novel progresses, Jeanette begins to question her beliefs and challenge her society’s rules. The reader can see her getting more independent with every page. Her growth from a young girl to a mature woman exploring the world around her was liberating in a way.

Throughout the book, there are stories interwoven with the main plot. These stories hold a message relevant to what Jeanette is going through. Every chapter of Oranges is marked by the name of a Bible story, starting with Genesis and ending with Ruth. My favorite chapter was Deuteronomy. Though short, in it Jeanette ponders questions about history and how easily people change it to match their beliefs.

Lesbianism is not the main subject touched on in the novel; religion and questioning are at the forefront. It’s no surprise; Jeanette’s beliefs are important to her and she built a lot of her dreams and plans on it. She works hard to make sense of her faith and the world around her. That makes her the strongest character of the book in my opinion, and more endearing.

I can see why Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a classic; the novel prompts readers to question society, religion, and prejudice. Some may find the subjects too heavy, but this book has important messages, and should be read by everyone, gay or straight.

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Link Round Up: August 17 – 23

infiniteloop   PriceofSalt   fortheloveofcake   onethatgotaway   wartimelove

Autostraddle posted Lez Liberty Lit #79: Books on Books on Books.

Lambda Literary posted Watch the Trailer for ‘Carol’ the Film Adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s ‘The Price of Salt’.

“At the Verses Festival of Words, Tomboy Survival Guide [with Ivan Coyote] pushes gender norms” was discussed at The Georgia Straight.

The Infinite Loop (issues 1-4) by Pierrick Colinet was reviewed at Okazu.

For the Love of Cake by Erin Dutton was reviewed at The Book Dyke.

Caron High News by Annabelle Jay was reviewed at QUEERcentric Books.

A Wartime Love by Shiralyn Lee was reviewed by Shira Glassman.

This post, and all posts at the Lesbrary, have the covers linked to their Amazon pages. If you click through and buy something, I might get a small referral fee. For even  more links, check out the Lesbrary’s twitterWe’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and Tumblr.

Thank you to the Lesbrary’s Patreon supporters! Special thanks to Jennifer Holly, Martha Hansen, and Carol DeniseSupport the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a lesbian/queer women book every month!

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Megan Casey reviews Wanted by T.I. Alvarado

 

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Bird Blacker—who has one of the oddest names in lesbian mystery fiction—is an ex-police officer now working as a bounty hunter, probably the first bounty hunter in the genre. Comparisons beg to be made between Bird and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, and there are a few. Both women are tenacious and funny, both have male partners, and both have family that are active in the plot. But Bird is a closeted lesbian and lives on the other side of the country from Stephanie. The better comparison might be between Bird and Domino Harvey, a real-life bounty hunter. Domino , who died in 2005—the year before this book was published—was about the same age as Bird and lived in Los Angeles.

Wanted is a quick read and an enjoyable one. In fact, 95 percent of it is hilarious. It is a true comic novel, even more humorous than the novels of Mabel Maney or Deborah Powell. Bird was flushed from her nest as a police officer when she had an affair with her male partner’s wife, and had to take a job as a “fugitive recovery agent.” Her new boss, Vicky Da Vinci, not only owns the bail bonding agency, but is a painter as well. Bird’s arch-rival is a gigantic, bald, and heavily muscled bounty hunter named Mochabean, a man so unpleasant that he pretends to have friends by forcing his handcuffed skips to have a drink with him in his favorite bar before he turns them over to the police. To boot, Bird’s partner in hunting is a pacifist who refuses to put bullets in his gun.

But the real star of the book is Bird’s younger sister Ruby. A 20-year-old college dropout, Ruby makes Bird’s life a living hell from the minute she shows up for a visit. The sisters agree on absolutely nothing, and Bird’s dangerous job leaves her no time to babysit. Ruby, on the other hand, wants to help Bird catch fugitives. But when the mob gets involved and Ruby is kidnapped by Bird’s ex-girlfriend (whose similarity to Lacey Montgomery, in Tonya Muir’s Breaking Away is duly noted), Bird has to risk everything to save her.

But that’s really only the surface of things. Most of the story is a madcap romp through LA—the kind of a book that Butch Fatale tried to be but failed. Ignore any of the bad reviews you see for this first novel—I suspect that the readers just didn’t get it—it’s written well enough for me to suspect that Alvarado is the pseudonym for a more experienced author. The basic plot has Bird finding a man who has skipped bail and turning him in. Trouble is, the man is the son of the local mob boss, who does everything he can to recover his son and to make Bird—and her sister—pay for their interference.

But remember when I said in the second paragraph that the book was 95 percent hilarious? Well, the other 5 percent consists of tough, fist-in-your-teeth violence. Although I don’t like violence in literature, I’m sure there’s a place for it. My objection here is that it is so out of tone with the rest of the writing that it almost could have been lifted from another novel altogether: Hemingway’s Islands in the Stream, maybe, or Palahniuk’s Fight Club. And most of this violence comes in the first couple of chapters. An incredibly off-putting beginning to what becomes a very enjoyable novel. It probably cost the author the better part of a star. Still, I’ll give it somewhere around a 3.8 and sigh at what the novel could have been.

For other reviews by Megan Casey, see her website at http://sites.google.com/site/theartofthelesbianmysterynovel/  or join her Goodreads Lesbian Mystery group at http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/116660-lesbian-mysteries

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Link Round Up: August 10 – 16

daughtersoffrankenstein   mohawk-trail   whatitfeelslikeforagirl   onethatgotaway   aboutagirl

Daughters of Frankenstein: Lesbian Mad Scientists edited by Steve Berman was reviewed at QUEERcentric Books.

Mohawk Trail by Beth Brant was reviewed by Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian.

What It Feels Like for a Girl by Jennica Harper was reviewed at Autostraddle.

About a Girl by Sarah McCarry was reviewed at things mean a lot.

The One That Got Away by Carol Rosenfeld was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

Because this week is a slow news week, I thought I’d share with you something I just discovered if you buy through Amazon and want to support the Lesbrary. As you may know, all the covers on the Lesbrary are linked to their Amazon pages including the Lesbrary affiliate link, which means anything you buy after clicking through that link, I get a small referral fee. (Even if it’s not related to the link you originally clicked on!)

If you buy from Amazon a lot, though, and want to support the Lesbrary without having to click through from the main site every time, you can install an add-on to Chrome, Firefox, or Safari so that the Lesbrary affiliate code is automatically added every time you shop at Amazon! Just enter “thelesb-20” into the Amazon.com Affiliate ID slot and I’ll automatically get a small referral fee on anything you purchase! Thank you so much for keeping the Lesbrary running!

For even  more links, check out the Lesbrary’s twitterWe’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and Tumblr.

Thank you to the Lesbrary’s Patreon supporters! Special thanks to Jennifer Holly, Martha Hansen, and Carol DeniseSupport the Lesbrary on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a lesbian/queer women book every month!

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Amanda Clay reviews What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

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“Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark, 
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken…”

If only.

Toni and Gretchen have been in love from the moment they met, dancing with each other’s dates at the Junior Homecoming Dance. They don’t differ, don’t disagree, don’t want to do anything but be together. Even after they graduate,   they’ve got it figured out: Toni to Harvard, Gretchen to BU and there will only be a few subway stops between them. Then Gretchen accepts a last-minute admission to NYU and suddenly everything changes. It’s not that she doesn’t love Toni, she just needs to find out who she is, who she can be on her own. And once Toni gets to Harvard and hooks up with the Trans* group, she starts to wonder who she is as well.   It’s a year of change, a year of discovery, love and loss. Who will they be when it’s all over? What will they be to each other?

What We Left Behind is a very good read. The story of Toni and Gretchen–  their actions and reactions, thoughts and feelings–  is not one we’ve read before. All the characters, main and supporting, are so well-imagined and well-presented the reader is at once drawn in to their world; the dialogue so realistically rendered it speaks in the ear.  You want to root for the girls, for their relationship, and for the people they are realizing themselves to be. The disconnect breaks your heart even as it breaks theirs. The only criticisms I have are small~ Toni’s quest for a gender identity label can sometimes seem a bit like a list of every gender expression tumblr has to offer, and in no part of Great Britain is Guinness ‘the ultimate British drink’, but these are minor quibbles and easily overlooked in a major work.  Beautifully done.

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Elinor reviews Too Late…I Love You by Kiki Archer

toolateiloveyou

Remember how I was just wishing I could read some romance involving lesbian parents? My wish came true in Kiki Archer’s new book, Too Late…I Love You! It features one out lesbian single mom, a few characters who surprise you, and some truly fun romance. Too Late…I Love You begins with the story of Connie, a young woman living with her boyfriend, Karl, and their three-year-old son, Noah, in London. Connie and Karl had only known each other a few months when Connie got pregnant and they’ve spent the years since then trying to do what they think is best for their child, even though they’ve never really been in love with one another. Karl works long hours and Connie stays home parenting and has recently started writing a romance that weaves its way through the novel. Karl and Connie aren’t terrible to each other, but they’re not happy together either. Connie’s okay plodding along because she adores her son and spends a lot of time with her best friend, Ryan, who’s gay and understands Connie in a way her boyfriend doesn’t. This seems like enough for Connie until she meets Maria, an out lesbian who has always been a single parent. Maria’s daughter, Alice, is just weeks older than Noah, and when the kids meet at playgroup, the children become fast friends. Their mothers bond and discover that they have similar senses of humor, values, and that they love talking to each other and flirting. Their friendship deepens as Connie’s unhappy partnership dissolves, and the characters wind their way to a happy ending–with a couple of surprising twists.

This was one of the most fun romances I’ve read in a long time. The premise sounds like angst might be on the horizon but Archer deftly avoids unnecessary drama. Karl and Connie act like mostly decent if imperfect people, even as they realize they’d do better apart. I appreciated that Karl and Connie’s decisions about their relationship are kept mostly separate from Connie’s growing friendship with Maria, and that they’d already separated before Connie and Maria edge toward anything more than friendship. Maria and Connie’s connection is illustrated through Archer’s excellent dialogue and it’s easy to see why they like being together. Though they get close fast, it makes sense. Both have been hungry for the company of another parent who gets them, and when they find each other, they’re delighted. Ryan and Connie can be judgmental and snarky, especially at the beginning, but they calm down quite a bit, especially once kind, self-assured Maria enters the scene. A novel within a novel can be hard to pull off, but here it’s used to great effect to show Connie’s inner world, the thoughts and feelings she isn’t always ready to admit even to herself.

Another thing I loved about this novel? There’s a minor bisexual character and multiple characters actually use the word “bisexual” to describe her–she even uses the word herself! When Connie wonders if bisexuals are “real,” Maria insists that of course they are. Since Maria is ten years older than Connie and Connie respects her and views her as sophisticated, this pronouncement carries a lot of weight. This book manages to steer clear of most bisexual tropes and that alone is quite possibly a reason to read it.

I also liked how Connie’s feelings and identity progressed in a natural way. She doesn’t have an identity crisis when she realizes that her friendly crush might just be a regular crush, but she does think about whether or not the word “straight” fits her anymore. Her language for herself changes over time. She handles her feelings like a modern young woman who has an out gay best friend, so the novel avoids coming out cliches. Connie also considers the other differences between herself and Maria that might prevent a relationship. For one thing, Maria’s older, more mature and worldly. For another, Maria’s from a family of successful restaurateurs and owns a cafe. Though Maria has stayed home with Alice, she has some work responsibilities, and she has a very different class background than Connie. She also has more sexual experience than Connie. Connie worries more about their real differences and her ability to be a satisfying partner to Maria than she does about her own sexual orientation. I thought this read as very realistic and, more importantly, like the characters were adults.

I cannot emphasize enough how much the characters in this book seemed like grown-ups. The characters’ motivations are understandable. You’re happy when Connie and Karl break up but he isn’t a monster, even if he’s sometimes a jerk. Connie’s concerns make sense and fit her personality. Even things I personally disagreed with–like Maria’s description of what “real” lesbian sex is like–were consistent with and true to the characters. When the final twist is revealed, a character’s previously unexpected actions make sense.

Without giving anything away, there are a couple of big surprises near the end. Some seemed like huge coincidences, but the foreshadowing was decent and I personally thought they were fun twists. In the end, the theme that family is chosen rather than just about biology stays strong, and that’s exactly what I want in a book about queer families.

Plus this book is hilarious. The dialogue and the goofy physical comedy shine. I cared about the characters and had a great time reading about them. I highly recommend this to fans of lesbian romance and anyone looking for fun light reading.

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