Link Round Up: May 4 – 10


kynship
There’s so much to like about this book. It’s just phenomenal fantasy from a queer and Indigenous (Cherokee) perspective. If you like fantasy, you really cannot go wrong with Kynship. Although it’s published by a small Native press in Ontario, I found the whole series at the public library in Vancouver, so it’s not even hard to get a hold of! It’s the imaginative world-building, action, and suspense you can usually expect from fantasy, except with queer people, women, and (implicitly) Native folks at the forefront. There are also two-spirit / non-binary trans characters that straddle the gender worlds. What is not to love, I ask you?

– Review of Daniel Heath Justice’s Kynship: The Queer, Indigenous, Feminist Fantasy Novel You Never Knew You Wanted So Bad by Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian

Casey has been reading all queer authors of colour this year, and I’ve been discovering such great books through her recommendations! This fantasy novel with a bisexual Native woman protagonist definitely shot to the top of my TBR after this review.

Booktube needs more queer voices. This is a subset of the bookish internet that is just starting to get noticed, and it’s growing. It needs a greater variety of voices, and one aspect of that is definitely queer readers. . . . So join the booktube party, and give queer books a louder voice!

– Booktube Needs You! at Gay YA

Gay YA has been doing a month of guest posts from bloggers, authors, and other interesting people on the topic of YA. There’s a lot of great stuff there with more on the way, and I was able to contribute! I talked about why I fell in love with Booktube (bookish Youtube) and why it needs more queer voices.

bodymap   lieswetellourselves   funhomemusical   thenormalstateofmind

Autostraddle posted Read A F*cking Book Review: Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is Living Her Truths in “Bodymap” and “Fun Home” the Musical is Messy, Hilarious, Nostalgic, and Totally Worth It.

Gay YA posted Have You Ever Considered Writing About Straight People? by Robin Talley.

Lambda Literary posted New in May: Christopher Bollen, Neil Smith, Hilary McCollum, Maggie Nelson, and Clive Barker.

Women and Words posted

sapphireandthetooth   underthelights   caphenon   PathsOfMarriage

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler was reviewed at LGBT YA Reviews.

The Sapphire and the Tooth by Ellis Avery was reviewed at C-Spot Reviews.

The Devastation by Melissa Buzzeo was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

The Caphenon (Chronicles of Alsea) by Fletcher DeLancey was reviewed at The Rainbow Hub.

Shadows & Dreams by Alexis Hall was reviewed at Diverse Media.

The Paths of Marriage by Mala Kumar was reviewed at Lesbian Reading Room.

Deceptions by Lauren Maddison was reviewed at Curve Mag.

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.

Posted in Lesbrary Links, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Audrey reviews My Real Children by Jo Walton

myrealchildren

My Real Children is terrifically problematic in the best possible way. Patricia in 2015 is at the end of her life, relegated to a nursing home, left mostly alone by her family–but until she opens her eyes and sees the colors of the curtains and which side of the hallway the bathroom is on that day, she doesn’t know which family. Because after a certain specific point, Patricia’s life bifurcates, and she has two complete sets of memories. She’s lived two separate lives. In two separate worlds, with two separate histories (in one, JFK survived; in one, nuclear bombs have been dropped; in both, there are research bases on the moon).

Which one is real? Which one does she want to be real? Does want have anything to do with it? It’s not as simple as choosing the life in which she was happier. In one life, she had a miserable marriage to, and divorce from, Mark. They had four living children and number of babies who were stillborn. The world in general was a pretty open and accepting place, and Patricia (in this life, Trish) found a great deal of personal satisfaction in civic involvement and in enjoying the achievements of her children. Trish didn’t get the solid connection and commitment of the deep romantic love that so many people long for, but she contributed consistently to the betterment of the greater world. And it was a pretty good world.

In the other life, Patricia (Pat) found personal fulfillment in her career and in her loving relationship with Bee. They had three children, but had to be furtive about parenting, because this world moved into darker, less accepting times, and co-parenting lesbians were in constant danger of being reported to social services. Pat found great personal loves–she fell in love with Italy and found a way to make this soul-feeding appreciation the basis of her career. She found Bee, the love of a lifetime. Pat’s efforts contributed consistently to the betterment of her family’s world. The world at large–well, that wasn’t so great.

Trish’s focus was outward; Pat’s was insular. This is the most stark case of “What if it’s not all about you?” you may ever read: Patricia thinks, at one point, what if the salvation of the world comes at the expense of her own happiness? Well, what if? “What if?” is the jumping-off point of the best stories, and the most heartbreaking; and I’ve spent a good amount of time trying to work this out, trying to find crossover points, trying to make it work, but there are no easy answers. On the one hand, that makes this book great for book club meetings. Yes, you should sacrifice your own happiness for the sake of humanity! Or, no! Let humanity fend for itself, because love is a rare and beautiful thing, and when it’s found, it needs to be nurtured and cherished.

My Real Children is fascinating in a number of ways, but be warned, it will affect you. I spent the last chunk of it sobbing. (I am not the only one. Cory Doctorow apparently did the same thing, and couldn’t even face writing his review after he finished reading the book. He needed to take a breather.) One of the best things Jo Walton does with her main character is this: it’s clear that although Patricia makes a choice at one point that splits her world’s fate, both Pat and Trish behave in ways that are faithful to the core of the person Patricia. No matter what is thrown at her, the fundamental makeup of the character is the same. I loved that faith in the fundamental Patricia-ness of the main character, the vote of confidence in our basic nature being fixed, no matter the context. I also loved the “Please, we’re so past that” attitude toward homophobia in the latter part of Trish’s world’s 20th century.

What I didn’t love, because it wasn’t fun to think about, is Walton did a painfully effective job of pointing up the dangers of insularity. You don’t get to take a lifetime off. External engagement is necessary. Walton gives us extremes. Here are both sides of the spectrum: What can we do with that? Is there a balance? Unhelpfully, we get to see these stark examples, but not any ideas of how to…how to have it all. Can you? I think, yes. This is one of those books I read at the right time, while debating these things in my own life, wishing I could stay in my happy little enclave with my happy little family and my happy little job for the rest of my happy little existence.

Yeah, no. And don’t think that by being in a loving, supportive relationship you’re putting enough good karma out into the universe to let you off easy. According to My Real Children, you aren’t. So: engagement with your world, both your home world and the world at large. Get on it, please, because the universe could fall apart if you don’t get all that under control. Also, try this as a gateway drug on people who think they don’t like science fiction.

Posted in Lesbrary Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amanda Clay reviews The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi

thesummeriwasntme

Here’s a confession: I don’t do Jesus.  I don’t like queer books with religious themes, I don’t like books about conversion camps, I don’t like gay Christian apologist books with their interminable, inevitable scenes where one character quotes the Bible and the other character dismantles the hate with explanations of what surely this REALLY means (when actually the word ‘abomination’ is pretty clear). I think these books, these conversations, are boring and I have no sympathy for people who’ve bought into these ridiculous, misogynistic mythologies.  Having said that, Jessica Verdi’s The Summer I Wasn’t Me is still a very good book.

Lexi’s always known she likes girls. She also knows that this is information best kept to herself, especially after the death of her father and its devastating effects on her mother. So Lexi keeps her crush hidden in a secret notebook. Unfortunately she forgets to hide the notebook. When her mother finds it, all of Lexi’s secrets are exposed and she is forced to spend the summer at New Horizons, a camp that promises to cure her of these feelings.

At first it’s not too bad. Lexi really wants to change, to help reconnect with her mother, and she meets sympathetic friends among her fellow campers.  She also meets Carolyn, a beautiful girl whose sadness and struggle surpasses even Lexi’s pain. Soon she and Carolyn are involved much more deeply than camp rules allow, and keeping this new love a secret only exposes the much more sinister secrets of New Horizons. But by this time, Lexi knows that there’s nothing wrong with her, and nothing she won’t do to protect the people she cares about.

What sets this book apart from other books about queer Christians and conversion is the extreme lack of church.  I also think it is this aspect which makes the book most interesting and readable. Instead of pages of Biblical debate, we have time to get to know the characters and care about their connections and journeys and growth throughout the story.  Lexi is a good protagonist, strong and sure of herself, though vulnerable enough for sympathy and an interesting story arc. Carolyn is a worthy crush, relatably flawed,  and theirs is a romance worth rooting for.  The rest of the supporting cast is well drawn, too, from their friend Matthew, the voice of resistance, to the deeply creepy camp founder/director, whose true colors come through all too easily.  This book may not have the most groundbreaking theme, nor the most innovative storyline, but it is a good, realistic and ultimately hopeful read. Something for which we can all be thankful!

TRIGGER WARNINGS: physical abuse, religious bigotry

Posted in Lesbrary Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kalyanii reviews Pissing in a River by Lorrie Sprecher

pissinginariver

Throughout my reading of Lorrie Sprecher’s latest release, there was no denying the frustration — in fact, near torment — I endured in witnessing the chasm between what Pissing in a River is and what it could have been. One might equate the experience to an encounter with a woman who inspires boundless passion and devotion given qualities so rare that one wouldn’t think to pass up the opportunity to get to know her better and the realization that this same woman also possesses flaws so glaring that they are right up there with anyone’s top deal breakers. Oh, the agony of deciding whether to let yourself fall for what stands before you, as imperfect as it may be, or to walk away disillusioned, jaded that the potential recognized at the outset will never be fulfilled!

Amanda, the quintessential anglophile and aspiring expat, ventures to England initially as a student and years later on a tourist visa in order to track down the two women whose voices speak to her within her own head. Having been given diagnoses with varying degrees of validity over the years by mental health professionals who she believes were operating in accordance with their own agendas and biases, Amanda finds her symptoms abating as she encounters the physical manifestations of the voices she hears, Dr. Melissa Jones and a girl named Nick, with whom she becomes acquainted after intervening when Nick is raped in a dark alley late one night.

Thrust together in the aftermath of that trauma, the three women grow to find sanctuary within their friendship, providing support and understanding when they need it most. Whereas both Melissa and Nick are haunted by their experiences of sexual assault, Amanda grapples with messages internalized over years as a consumer within the mental health system. As is the case with many who struggle with psychiatric disorders, Amanda is sensitive to the emotions of others and thus endures feelings of guilt and shame, not only for arriving too late to prevent Nick’s rape, but also for injustices carried out around the globe. Without question, Amanda gleans a great deal of her identity from her appreciation of punk music as well as political activism and social advocacy.

I was impressed with the way the book addresses the often overlooked challenges to healing in the aftermath of an assault as well as the daunting task of navigating the internal and external obstacles presented by a mental illness. Pissing in a River boldly broadens the accepted definition of rape and promotes mental health parity, reducing stigma and improving access to treatment while allowing for greater compassion and acceptance. Lest I neglect to mention, Sprecher writes with sensitivity to the potential for fluidity within one’s sexual orientation, which I took to be empathic as well as astute.

Indeed, Pissing in a River has all the makings of an extremely influential, entertaining and thought-provoking work; however, it is also laden with less desirable elements that, for me, proved impossible to ignore. Many of the events, especially within the ass-kicking scenes, are not at all believable; and, primarily early on, so much attention is placed upon irrelevant details that the momentum and interest generated with regard to Amanda’s internal landscape are forever compromised. That being said, it was the multitudinous references to what band merchandise the characters are wearing and the incessant quoting of lyrics that did me in. (T-shirts/Sweatshirts are referenced 97 times.) The importance of punk music and culture to Amanda’s self-concept is abundantly clear without these tedious elements which halt all movement within the story. Even if it were intended as a reflection of Amanda’s OCD, there are certainly more effective means of communicating the impact of the disorder upon the various aspects of her life.

What prevents Pissing in the River from realizing its potential as a groundbreaking work are a lack of consideration for the integrity of the writing itself and the need of a heavier hand in editing. Not only does the novel, as it currently stands, serve as a disappointment to the reader who invests herself in the telling of Amanda’s tale, but there remains a profound sense that the characters themselves are slighted for their truth appears to be ruthlessly sacrificed for the sake of the author’s own. I can only hope that this work will see a second printing with revisions that allow it to live up to its most extraordinary potential.

Posted in Lesbrary Reviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Link Round Up: April 27 – May 3

supermutantmagicacademy   shespeakspoetry   rabbitsoftheapocalypse

Autostraddle posted

The Lesbian Review posted Top 10 Lesbian Book Beginnings.

she   OneHundredDaysofRain   baddyke

Alison Bechdel‘s musical adaptation of Fun Home was reviewed at She Wired, and was discussed at New Republic: “Broadway Is More Welcoming to Gay Men Than Lesbians. Will ‘Fun Home’ Change That?”

Sarah Waters was interviewed at Huffington Post.

“25 Queer Authors You Absolutely Should Be Reading If You’re Not Already” was posted at Bustle.

One Hundred Days of Rain by Carellin Brooks was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

The Caphenon by Fletcher DeLancey was reviewed at Curve.

Bad Dyke: Salacious Stories from a Queer Life by Allison Moon was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

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.

Posted in Lesbrary Links | Leave a comment

Danika reviews My Education by Susan Choi

myeducation

 

I have a weakness for media about a certain kind of relationship. The passionate, destructive, almost-certainly-doomed kind. (This probably doesn’t say anything good about me.) My Education fits neatly into this category, and it definitely delivered the kind of drama that I was looking for.

Regina, a university grad student, can’t resist the urge to take a class with a professor notorious for sleeping with this students. She finds herself drawn to him and his wife, and soon her life is absorbed in this love affair. I could relate all too well to Regina’s inability to extricate herself from an obviously damaging situation. She is convinced that this kind of love takes precedent over anything else, and when the inevitable moment arrives when it all comes crashing down, she is shocked. My Education deals equally with this relationship and the fallout, even more than a decade afterwards.

This was well-written and evocative, but I suspect that you’ll have to be a certain kind of reader to enjoy it. All the characters are insufferable in their own ways, but they’re understandable. They make the mistakes we wish we didn’t also make. Susan Choi effectively draws you into Regina’s emotions and perspective even when you know that she’s mistaken.

I found it funny that while listening to the audiobook, I found myself constantly thinking Of course you think that, you’re so young. This is a story about being young and feeling everything intensely. But Regina is 21, and I’m only a few years past that myself! I wouldn’t be surprised if some teenagers read this and had the same reaction, though. Maybe it’s less to do with age and more to do with having one’s first all-consuming love.

I really enjoyed this one, keeping in mind that all the characters are flawed and I disagreed with some of the things they would say. I thought this worked well as an audiobook, too. If you’re intrigued by catastrophic love stories, give My Education a shot–dip your toes into literary fiction with a generous helping of soap opera.

Posted in Lesbrary Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Danika reviews Babyji by Abha Dawesar

babyji

I don’t know what to think about Babyji. This is going be less of a review and more of an unpacking of my emotions. It’s one of the most uncomfortable reading experiences I have had. I assume that is purposeful, but it means that I can’t seem to get a handle on my own emotional reaction. Anamika is sixteen, and the narrative focuses on her three simultaneous love affairs: two with older women, one with a female classmate. If this was a heterosexual book, I would immediately see her as a victim and the older characters as perpetrators, regardless of context, I’m sure. So I should feel the same way about a same-sex relationship, presumably… but I don’t, exactly. The power dynamics are complicated: one of her relationships is with her servant, which makes me uncomfortable in the opposite way. Anamika has such power over her that it seems like a manipulative relationship no matter Anamika’s intentions (and they’re not always good). Her relationship with the woman she calls “India” should be more straightforward. India is a woman that Anamika hardly knows before she arrives on her doorstep and invites herself into the woman’s bed. India should have refused her, and there are moments where her age asserts itself and makes it clear that the relationship is unbalanced, but frankly it doesn’t disturb me as much as her other love affairs. Anamika is manipulative and demanding, frequently pushing into areas of questionable consent with all three of her partners. Maybe it’s as simple as saying that Anamika functions as both victim and perpetrator in this book, often at the same time. And maybe that’s a reality that I don’t want to face, that it’s possible to be both, and that the question of who’s in the right is not so easy to answer.

The relationships are the focus of the novel, and it was interesting to see how they could both empower her and overwhelm her. Anamika is swept up into a sexual world that she sometimes embraces wholeheartedly and sometimes shrinks away from. Once she begins to pursue India, it seems like she gets advances from every direction, and those moments where she seems to be drowning in this new environment were gut-wrenching. Her thought processes, her unpredictable moods, her erratic priorities all felt very true to being a teenager and discovering yourself. Her philosophical tangents may not have been earthshattering, but they did feel familiar to where I was at that time period. In fact, the whole novel seems messily realistic. It didn’t seem to follow an arc to me, and it concludes abruptly, but it just felt like being abruptly dropped into her life.

One aspect that I found interesting is that I’m not sure how Anamika would identify. She is attracted to women, that’s for sure, but she also identifies with men quite a bit. In her fantasies she often sees herself as a man–usually a man that was power over women. She reads Lolita at some point and compares herself to Humbert Humbert multiple times, which she doesn’t seem to find worrying at all. It’s hard to say whether she identifies with men in a personal identity way, or just aspires to the power that these men have over women.

I finished the book feeling unsettled. I wasn’t sure not only how I felt about the characters and their actions, but even how the author intended them to be received. Everything felt murky and troubling. If you’ve read this, I’d love to get your thoughts, because I don’t know how to arrange mine on the subject.

 

Posted in Lesbrary Reviews | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments