hername

There is a good chance that any woman who has experienced the sense that hers is not the life she was destined to live will find something of a kindred spirit in Madison Andrews, the protagonist of Alicia Joseph’s novella, Her Name. Especially for those of us who have heard the not-so-distant ticking of the biological clock, quiet moments may have a way of calling forth feelings of yearning, disappointment or bewilderment as we contemplate the multifarious forces that brought us to this place in time. Yet, are our lives really destined to turn out the way they do or do we have a greater influence over our circumstances than we realize?

Teetering toward forty, Madison doesn’t lack for a social life, has enjoyed her share of romantic entanglements and maintains gainful employment; but, it just isn’t the life she envisioned for herself. Longing for a loving marriage and family, Madison is admittedly lonely and rather desperate for a meaningful relationship. She can only wonder why the fulfillment of her most heartfelt desire has eluded her. Where is the beautiful, blue-eyed woman of her dreams?

In her dreams, of course.

Night after night, Madison closes her eyes, entering into a dream world that feels far more vivid, far more right than her waking life. In fact, the events that take place in her dreams point directly to those that have taken place during her waking hours, the only difference being that the love of her life is there with her through it all. Indeed, the woman she encounters as she sleeps treasures her in a manner that she has never before known; yet, in spite of reciprocating such deep caring, Madison awakens each morning with a knot of disappointment in her stomach as she finds herself alone in bed. Merely tolerating her days, she awaits the moment that she can slip back between the covers and into her lover’s arms.

Madison’s enthusiasm for her dream world is not shared by others, however. When she tells her best friend, Shelly, about the life she shares with the blue-eyed woman, she finds none of the validation or understanding she seeks; rather, she is mercilessly teased until, ultimately, her sanity is called into question. In an attempt to appease, Madison tells those who express concern that she is seeing a therapist, which is not true for she is certain that the life she knows with the woman is quite real and refuses to risk someone stripping her of her happiness.

It was the genuinely heartfelt style of Ms. Joseph’s writing that kept me reading from the first page straight through to the last; and, I remain utterly in awe of how fully the author captured as transcendent a connection as that between Madison and the woman who meets her on the other side of wakefulness. The interactions between the two women were so natural and believable that I didn’t for a moment question the existence of the blue-eyed woman or the love they share. Without a doubt, Her Name felt to be more of a dear friend’s diary than a work of fiction.

That being said, I found the climax to be handled in a manner that was a bit awkward. I was so completely surrendered to Madison’s experience that it was jarring to witness an unfamiliar dynamic between her and her lover. The tone also shifted in such a way that I felt myself thrust out of the story, which frustrated and pained me given how wide open my heart had grown; yet, I had invested so much of myself into the experience that I made a conscious decision to let this go. It wasn’t worth sacrificing what had resonated so clearly with me up to that point.

Her Name is far more than a love story, though I’ll admit that it is one of the most touching romances I’ve encountered as it offers a sense of hope and a framework for making sense of Madison’s experience as well as our own. Given how essential the concept of interdependent co-arising becomes to an exploration of this book, it’s quite clear that Ms. Joseph has challenged us to broaden our perception of destiny and to acknowledge our part in it.

If truth be told, there will likely never again be a night that I don’t turn down the covers, anticipating the presence of my true love — though I don’t think I’ll be holding my breath. One thing is for certain, however. I will make a concerted effort to approach each moment as fully present as I’m able so as to prevent my very destiny from slipping away.

heydollface   dragkingdreams   lumberjanes9

The Advocate posted Transgender Pioneer and Stone Butch Blues Author Leslie Feinberg Has Died (an obituary by Leslie’s partner, Minnie Bruce Platt).

Autostraddle posted

Hey, Dollface by Deborah Hautzig was reviewed at Gay YA.

The Whip by Karen Kondazian was reviewed at That’s All I Read.

movingforwardslikeacrab   payingguests   forgivemeifivetoldyouthisbefore

Moving Forwards Sideways Like a Crab by Shani Mootoo was reviewed by Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian.

New York 1, Tel Aviv 0 by Shelly Oria was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before by Karelia Stetz-Waters was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

Deserted Echo by Linda Kay Silva was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters was reviewed at things mean a lot.

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.

tributaries

I am conflicted about Tributaries. It’s one of those books where some aspects I absolutely loved, and some I didn’t like at all. First of all, I have to point out that gorgeous cover. I just want to stare at it for a while. Okay, onto to the book itself. We’re first introduced to Nyx, a young woman who is also a cat shapeshifter. In the prologue, we get a glimpse of her attempted suicide as background to her life in the beginning of the novel. She is struggling, stealing small amounts of food in order to survive. When she’s discovered by villagers and chased, Nyx finds herself unexpectedly rescued by a passing warrior woman, Elmiryn. Now in her debt, Elmiryn asks Nyx to accompany her on her quest to slay a demon (that may or may not exist).

As you can probably tell by that description, Tributaries starts off pretty grim. Nyx is in a very dark place in her life, having lost almost everything and everyone from her past. She is introspective and is suspicious of other people. It’s with the introduction of Elmiryn that I started to get into the novel. Elmiryn brings some much needed humor and lightness to the narrative, though we quickly discover that she is dealing with her own issues. She also brings some purpose to Nyx’s life, with the proposition of this quest. With the travelling duo, a warrior woman and a smaller companion, I immediately latched onto the Xena vibe. The characters themselves don’t resemble Xena or Gabrielle very much, but just that comparison was an immediate plus for me.

I feel like the strength of the novel is in the interaction between Elmiryn and Nyx. They have completely different personalities, and it’s fascinating to watch their friendship (and eventual romance) slowly build. What I appreciated the most was that despite the apparent power difference, by the end of the book they both seem like equals. They have very different strengths, and they use those to take care of each other. Nyx may be smaller and less trained in combat, but she helps Elmiryn to stay rooted in reality, and is there to be a voice of reason.

The romance was also adorable. Elmiryn is an incorrigible flirt, and Nyx greets this with blushes and avoidance, but for the most part Elle’s flirting is light and harmless, not an attempt to persuade Nyx so much as a form of communication she would probably use with any friend. And one of my favourite parts of the book was watching Nyx find herself more attracted to Elle–and, as a reader, realizing that Nyx’s avoidance had more to do with deference and a misguided adherence to politeness than it did with her own feelings. This slow build creates a compelling, believable romantic subplot.

Where the book lost me was when it came to the plot and setting. The worldbuilding felt pretty sketchily defined for the most part. While Ailurean (cat shapeshifter) society got quite a bit of detail, the world outside of that didn’t seem to be fully realized. It also seemed to be unevenly plotted. There were moments in the book where I was ignoring things I should be doing in order to read just one more chapter, and then other stretches where I was reluctant to pick the book up again. Similarly, the tone seems to jump around throughout the book. When it’s at its best, it balances dark topics with Elmiryn’s humour, but when we lose that lightness from Elle, Tributaries seems to lose its footing.

The problem for me is that for a Fantasy book–and I’ll admit that I’ve read very few Fantasy books, so I’m not very familiar with the genre–most of the conflict happens inside people’s heads. Nyx’s main conflict is that her bestial side is not just an aspect of her personality, but what seems to be a fully-formed individual, one who is violent and fighting for control of their shared body. There are even scenes that take place inside Nyx’s mental landscape, in a battle for who will be contained and who will dominate. Elmiryn’s main conflict is also a mental one. When she first tries to explain her curse to Nyx, my note in my copy was “Ah, so she has the curse of existentialism!” And it’s true that this curse is fairly philosophical. Elle has difficulties in determining what is reality, in keeping contact with her own memories, even in identifying her body as an extension of herself. It really seems like a constant state of existential crisis. Both characters, in addition to their complex psychological states, also have mysterious tragic back stories that are alluded to. One or the other would be fine, but both felt like there was too much to fit into one novel. Even the antagonist, the demon, is mostly mental. [mild spoilers, highlight to read] He communicates through music, and even the physical space the climax of the story takes place in seems more like a mental space. [end spoilers]

As a whole, the plot didn’t quite come together for me. I do understand that it’s the first book in the series, and likely the worldbuilding will be fleshed out more in the next books, and hopefully there will be more space to address topics introduced in depth. In this book, though, it felt like there were too many concepts being juggled without having a solid plot to root it. (The climax of the book felt muddled to me.) One aspect, Tobias’s book that Nyx excerpts throughout, I didn’t really understand the point of, and ending with the epilogue being a chapter from this book was unsatisfying.

At the same time, there are so many things I really enjoyed about the book. Both main characters are fascinating and three dimensional, and I loved seeing them interact. Though I felt like having both overburdened the book, I am intrigued by both Elmiryn and Nyx’s mental struggles and want to see how they play out. Plus, Tributaries does set up an interesting quest narrative for the next book, which I enjoy. So as much as I felt like some parts of this book were difficult to get through, the good parts were good enough that I would like to continue with the series, because I have high hopes that it will improve from here.

Also, as a side note, I first head about this book from the author’s blog post about a review, and I have to say, I don’t see how anyone could read this relationship as straight. Elmiryn is a huge flirt. In the first couple chapters, she says, “Hey, wait a minute. You think I’m unsettling? As in, ‘Gee, I hope she makes a go for my pants’ Or as in, ‘I think this crazy wench is going to shiv my hide’?” How do you read that as straight?? Amazing.

lieswetellourselves

 

This is a powerful book. Lies We Tell Ourselves is about Sarah, one of the first black kids to integrate into a formally all-white school in Virginia, 1959. The other main character is Linda, the daughter of a staunchly segregationist public figure. The two find themselves inexorably drawn to each other.

The premise alone was enough to make me immediately want to pick this one up: an interracial teen lesbian romance in the 1950s? That is not something I’ve read about before, and I’m glad that we’ve gotten to the point where it’s something that can be traditionally published. Immediately the book throws us into the reality of Sarah’s experience. It begins with the ten black students attempting to fight their way through a screaming mob of white protesters to enter the high school, an unending litany of racial slurs, insults, chants, and threats. Sarah attempts to keep her head up during this daily assault by white students and faculty, enduring countless humiliations while trying to get an education.

One of her tormentors is Linda, and I was unpleasantly surprised to have the narration switch to her perspective less than 100 pages into the book. Linda is an interesting character, because though she may not be immediately likeable, she does feel realistic. It’s a look into the mind of, well, a racist of the 1950s. She parrots what her father espouses, despite the fact that she fears and resents her father. And throughout the book, her views do change, but they are excruciatingly small steps in the right direction, still firmly in racist territory.

My immediate thoughts during Sarah and Linda’s growing to each other was How could Sarah like this girl?? Though Linda may not have been the one throwing rocks, she still actively participated in Sarah and other black students’ torments. While they meet in secret after being assigned to a school project together, Sarah and Linda get into passionate debates about integration and other issues around race. Sarah doesn’t bat an eyelash at Linda’s regurgitation of racist beliefs. But at the same time, I realized that it actually does make some sense. For one thing, Sarah feels completely isolated. She is the only black female senior in the school, and that means that there’s no one going through her exact situation that she can talk to. Her parents don’t seem to grasp just how bad things are at school, and her white classmates won’t even sit within two desks of her, nevermind talk to her. Having someone she can be herself with, can say exactly what’s on her mind to, would be a relief, even if that person didn’t understand. I also, of course, have to take into account that Sarah is still a teenager, falling for someone for the first time. She’s not the first person to see her love interest with rose-coloured glasses and think that she’s capable of change. Add to that the confusions of falling for a girl in 1950s America and it actually seems pretty realistic.

Linda seems like an ambiguous character by the end of the book. Are we supposed to like her? Are we supposed to sympathize with her? She makes progress, but it’s only a small bit of progress. She makes sacrifices, but are they really enough to counteract the damage she’s done? Her attitudes and actions may be understandable (given her upbringing), but that doesn’t make them excusable. As much as I cringed reading Linda’s thoughts, I do think I appreciate her inclusion in the book as a representative of the opposition of integration, and of the people on the other side of the battle for civil rights. Because Talley represents her as not a one-dimensional caricature or a monster, but a flawed person. And I think that’s important because it shows how important it is to be aware of your own position in terms of power, privilege, and oppression. It’s easy to be complacent, to go along quietly with the status quo.

I did have one major issue with the book, however. [spoilers, highlight to read] The violence against a black boy, Chuck, seems to be used just as a plot point in Sarah and Linda’s relationship. Specifically, the moment when Linda announced angrily, complete with racial slur, in front of a large group of people, that Chuck had been with a white girl–something she did spitefully just because he insulted her singing, was the moment where I couldn’t imagine how Linda could ever come back from that. I don’t believe that she was so naive that she didn’t know how a crowd of white people would react to that. In fact, it seems like that’s exactly why she said it. And to say something in anger that could get him lynched? I don’t know how Sarah could ever forgive her for that. I couldn’t, as a reader. And the fact that her corresponding action to make up for it was to write a newspaper article saying “I still don’t support integration, but maybe a crowd of white boys shouldn’t beat a black boy nearly to death just for being black? I think that’s wrong.” does not come close to making that okay. The violence done against Chuck just seemed to be a point of drama between Linda and Sarah, instead of its own horror. And especially given the ongoing legacy of this violence that we can see today, I was disappointed with how it was handled in text. There was even an undertone of “Well, he should have known better to get involved with a white girl, and it was bound to happen even if Linda didn’t say anything.” This element dropped the book from getting a five star rating to four stars for me. [end spoilers]

This was a fantastic read. It manages to tackle a lot of big issues without seeming like there were too many balls in the air, and it adds a lot of nuance to the topics presented. For instance, I appreciated Sarah’s struggle with her religious beliefs, and how her Christianity acted as both a source of strength and also a source of anxiety for her. I also thought it was interesting how though Sarah believed completely in the cause, she began to feel as if her and her black classmates were being used as pawns in this civil rights battle fought by her parents, especially in relation to Linda being a pawn of her father. Sarah and her younger sister, Ruth, also have different experiences at the school and handle it differently.

The most powerful part for me was the “Lies We Tell Ourselves” motif throughout the book. Each chapter is titled “Lie #_: ____” For example, Sarah’s first lie is “There’s no need to be afraid” and Linda’s first lie is “None of this has anything to do with me.” Generally my eyes skip right over chapter titles, but these were so interesting that I made sure to make note of them. They serve multiple purposes: Why does each girl tell themselves this, and how does it help or hurt them? How is it a lie? How does it apply to the other girl? They were also so relateable, though obviously I’ve never gone through anything comparable to Sarah’s experience. But some of them apply to being queer and coming to terms with it, and some are lies that I think all of us have told ourselves at some point, for one purpose or another. This is definitely a book that I would recommend, though it’s not an easy read. I found myself having to put down the book for a while when my stomach was in knots reading some parts. It also has racial slurs on almost every page. If you can get through that, however, I think Lies We Tell Ourselves is well worth the read, and a fantastic addition to the YA genre.

dontbangthebarista

Kate is a twenty-something lesbian in Vancouver, still recovering from her last break up (which happened a year ago), and hopelessly crushing on her barista. The title is her friend Cass’s number one rule of coffee shop dating, but Kate thinks it might be worth breaking. Don’t Bang the Barista! follows Kate as she tries to figure out who she really has feelings for, and whether she’s truly over her ex.

I expected this book to be a bit of a guilty pleasure fun read. The back cover blurb begins with “Drawing on the classics of lesbian pulp fiction,” and I can definitely see the influence here. (Quick aside: don’t read any further in the blurb, because it gives away everything that happens in the first half of the book.) But for the most part, the tone is different than I’d expect. Kate is introspective and often seems to verge on being depressed. She is still dealing with a lot of issues from her last relationship and finds reaching out difficult. I also appreciated the detail given to secondary characters in the story. Kate’s group of friends all have their own distinct personalities and priorities, and they are all dealing with issues that are only tangentially related to her. They feel like real people in their own right, not just props in her narrative. There are a lot of details included that elevate Don’t Bang the Barista! from a modern lesbian pulp, making it seem realistic–like the ongoing inclusion of Kate’s dog Jupiter, and references to Kate’s work life, and even discussion of biphobia in the lesbian community. On a personal level, I also really enjoyed reading a book set so close to where I live. The west coast queer politics alluded to felt very familiar to me, and it was fun to recognize some landmarks while I was reading.

But this level of detail and nuance also raised my expectations for the novel. Sometimes the tone seemed to change, and what felt realistic would suddenly verge into the soap operatic. I could forgive that because it meant to be inspired by pulp, but it did feel inconsistent. Most of all, though, I was disappointed with the main romance of the novel. I could understand the attraction, but the love interest behaved pretty terribly throughout the book and by the end that seems to be forgotten in a way that genuinely confused me. Kate was initially angry, and then seemed to change her mind and blame herself. Because this is a romance at heart, this aspect really affected my enjoyment of the novel. The characters and detail were really enjoyable, but the romance I just couldn’t get on board with.

[spoilers below]

To be specific, I don’t understand why Kate (and everyone else, the end) blamed herself for Cass’s behaviour. Yes, I get that Cass is not used to serious relationships, and it’s not that her behaviour isn’t understandable, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. First she forcibly kisses Kate while she’s on a date with another woman (and might I add that Cass has never told Kate that she was interested before this point), then she has the gall to laugh it off when Kate confronts her on it? She acted like a complete asshole. And then Kate is the one who reaches out to her when she goes AWOL, and only then gives a half-assed apology. Then they go camping and Cass storms off in a huff because she heard that Kate talked to a hot girl. Then she holds hands with Kate, says it’s the happiest moment of her life, notices that she’s still wearing her ex’s ring, and then storms off again and goes and tracks down previously mentioned hot woman and sleeps with her, ignoring Kate the whole time, still not actually voicing that she likes her. Oh, and abandoning Kate with people she doesn’t even know. So after Kate finds her own way back, she runs into Cass while going out with her ex, and Cass’s first words to her are “Dude. What the fuck,” still with no apology for ditching her, and then gets pissed at Kate for getting back with ex and storms off again. (Side note, I also couldn’t believe that Kate didn’t get that Cass liked her at this point. She said holding hands with you was the happiest moment of her life and you don’t get the hint? She’s been acting like a jealous asshole 24/7?) At this point, Kate is like “Even if she likes me, this relationship could never work, since she can’t communicate at all” (paraphrase), which is completely accurate. Then Cass sees Kate and her ex at a coffee shop together and again storms off in a huff without saying anything. Kate still tries to seek Cass out, unsuccessfully, and then Kate emails her another half-assed apology and says “BTW I’m moving to Amsterdam BYE” (paraphrase). This is the point where Kate starts blaming herself, saying she pushed Cass away, and how could she do that when she now realizes that this is who she loves?? She waited too long! Kate again tries to seek out Cass, but she’s already moved out of her apartment. So she stakes out the airport to try to convince Cass to stay, but Cass brushes her off and won’t let her finish a sentence. Kate thinks “I could see how much I’d hurt her and I hated myself for it.” Because you got together with your ex when Cass had a) never voiced her feelings for you and b) just slept with another woman and ditched you to do so? You’re supposed to feel guilty about that? It might not have been a good decision, but it’s not because it hurt Cass’s feelings. If she wanted to get together with you, she should have stopped being an asshole and also asked you out. And then Kate’s friends tell her she should have told Cass how she felt earlier and Kate just wallows in guilt, apparently having completely forgotten that Cass has consistently been pretty much nothing but jerkish this entire book.

Sorry for the description of basically the entire plot between Cass and Kate, but I had to go back and make sure I wasn’t remembering things wrong. Where was I supposed to root for Cass? Why is Kate supposed to feel guilty? Why is it that them getting together is supposed to be the happy ending? And, might I add, they only get together because YET AGAIN Kate seeks Cass out on another continent this time. Like I said, I liked most of this book, but the romance is so baffling to me that I ended up rating it 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. Not a Cass fan, and I don’t understand how I’m expected to be, given how she acts the entire novel.

annieonmymind

Fans of lesbian young adult literature should really pick up Annie On My Mind, by Nancy Garden. First published in 1982, Annie was one of the first lesbian fiction novels to have a happy ending. Garden put so much care and love into her story, and it really shows.

The story is told in the voice of Liza Winthrop, a seventeen year old high school senior looking to get into MIT. At a museum in New York City, she meets Annie Kenyon, also a high school senior, who is kind and musical. The two become good friends, and together they explore their city and get to know each other well. Soon, their tender feelings turn into love, and Liza grapples with the idea of being gay. She and Annie harbor their secret romance, and when Liza is discovered by her friends and family, she must decide whether to continue her relationship with Annie.

This novel is written in a kind of dreamlike quality that makes it beautiful. The characters of Liza and Annie are wonderful with each other. They have their faults, dreams, fears and insecurities. Annie especially sees the world in an imaginative way, which shows in her talks with Liza about the future and things in the present. She and down-to-earth, level-headed Liza, balance each other out really well.

The supporting characters were great too. I especially loved Liza’s art teacher, Ms. Stevenson. She has a strong sense of justice and is not afraid to say so. The headmistress at Liza’s private school, Mrs. Poindexter, is prim and proper, while Annie’s grandmother, Nana, provides some laughs with her easy going manner. In all, each character in the book enhanced the storyline and added to the plot nicely.

Garden also sent powerful messages about homophobia, intolerance, and same-sex love. When Liza is outed, the reactions around her range from disbelief and disgust to sadness and questioning. Most infuriating was Ms. Baxter, the headmistress’s aide, who was very judgmental to Liza, Annie, and other gay characters. Anyone reading Annie can easily recognize the homophobia and hatred that homosexuals still face today. The best of all messages, though, was that same-sex love is not a bad thing. That love is love. “Don’t let ignorance win, let love”, one of the novel’s quotes, really sums up the idea of love.

On a personal note, Annie is a very special book for me. This was the first lesbian novel I ever read. Sadly, Nancy Garden passed away in June, but she left a legacy of love and acceptance. A wonderful writer and advocate for gay rights, she and Annie On My Mind will forever hold a special place in my heart.

StoneButchBlues   fireside   payingguests

AfterEllen posted “Stone Butch Blues” author Leslie Feinberg passes away.

Autostraddle posted Lez Liberty Lit #59: Luminous Misandry and
Jacqueline Woodson, Ursula LeGuin Reign Triumphant at the 65th National Book Awards.

Lambda Literary posted Transgender Pioneer, Activist, and Author Leslie Feinberg, 65, Has Died and
Losing our Hero, Rest in Power Leslie Feinberg.

We Need Diverse Books posted the extended #SupportWNDB LGBTIA+ chat storify.

Women and Words posted Coming Attractions, December 2014 and Hot off the Press, November 2014.

Andi Marquette posted In Memoriam: Cate Culpepper and In Memoriam: Leslie Feinberg.

Sarah Waters was intereviewed at The Guardian.

Nevada   justgirls   womenwhoborrowed

Nevada by Imogen Binnie was reviewed at Pop Culture Catchall.

Miracle Girls by MB Caschetta was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

Being Emily by Rachel Gold was reviewed at Gay YA.

Just Girls by Rachel Gold was reviewed at James C. Femmer.

The Woman Who Borrowed Memories by Tove Jansson was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

fairplay   fingersmith-bookcover   thereturn

Fair Play by Tove Jansson was reviewed at things mean a lot.

The Return by Ana Matics was reviewed at The Rainbow Hub.

Blue Horses by Mary Oliver was reviewed at Lambda Literary.

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters was reviewed at Musings of a Bookish Kitty.

Everything by Carole Wolf was reviewed at Lesbian Reading Room.

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 twitter pageWe’re also on FacebookGoodreadsYoutube and tumblr.

domesticationhandbook
I’m not sure exactly how to review Domestication Handbook, because I’m not sure I fully understand what it is. It seems to blend together fiction, memoir, and book of poetry. The book is divided into three sections: “Part 1: A basic guide to farming”, “Part II: How to write a suburban memoir”, and “Part III: positive reinforcement for pets and other animals”. Like The Story of Ruth and Eliza, each section is comprised of small, titled segments which are often in verse.

Each segment provides just a glimpse at a certain time, usually from childhood. They seem like a collection of enigmatic snapshots, not quite forming a coherent narrative, but enough to establish an emotional progression. The book often avoids names, calling the siblings “little animals” and switching tense from third to second person throughout, making it difficult to tell if we’re even following the same person the entire story.

Domestication Handbook seems to be mostly a story about growing up, which includes furtively reading Best Lesbian Erotica as well as playing Little House In the Big Woods.

I enjoyed this one, but not as much as The Story of Ruth and Eliza. I felt like I couldn’t quite get a grasp on what was happening, and although Kristen Stone is obviously skilled with language and I was intrigued, it left me feeling disconnected. If you’re a poetry fan, I would still recommend this one, as long as you’re not expecting a linear storyline.

heroworship

I don’t think I’ve ever had a book that was simultaneously so good and so painful to read, which is appropriate for Hero Worship. The book follows Valerie, a twenty-something who’s had a string of bad relationships and is still trying to figure herself out. In the first part of the story, she is writing letters to her ex-girlfriend, trying to deal with how much she misses her, though she’s not sure how much the girlfriend ever even liked her. Valerie’s desperate desire for love and attention was uncomfortably relateable, making me flinch sympathetically almost every other page.

Throughout Hero Worship, we get to see some of Valerie’s childhood and her previous relationships, which all show pieces of the intangible quality she keeps seeking out, what she seems to be missing in her life. She latches onto various people, alternately admitting her obsession to its object or attempting to disguise it. This felt like one of the most realistic novels I’ve ever read, which may reveal more about myself than I would like. It captures the aimless, insecure twenty-something experience.

I also just love Matthews’s writing style. It seems casual and effortless, but is able to evoke scenes and emotions with subtle details. I found myself torn between wanting to just keep reading and having to put down the book frequently because I empathized too much with Valerie. I would recommend this to anyone who’s felt like they’ve needed someone too much, or anyone looking for a short submersion in someone else’s sense of self. This is one of my favourite reads of this year.

WingedDiemer

WINGED THINGS is a bewitching collection of young adult short stories, ranging from paranormal to fantasy, all featuring a lesbian heroine. This collection is part of Project Unicorn, a fiction project that seeks to address the near nonexistence of lesbian main characters in young adult fiction by giving them their own stories.

Winged Things, as the blurb suggests, is part of an awesome project by Sarah and Jennifer Diemer to expand the cast of lesbian protagonists in YA fiction. Project Unicorn is currently on hiatus, but a current total of 51 free short stories are available online. Winged Things is the sixth in a series of e-zines collecting the stories of Project Unicorn, with two new stories not available online.

Generally speaking, I really enjoyed this collection. It’s the sort of thing I wish I’d been able to read growing up, where there are no tragic lesbians and everything ends on a hopeful note. There’s a lightness to the stories, no doubt helped by the motif of flying running through the collection. The protagonists are young girls growing and expanding into new and lovely creatures. (Or people, depending on the story).

On an individual basis, a few stories really stood out for me. (Some spoiler-y quotes to follow)

In “When We Flew,” our heroine Ola lives in a tiny village where everyone is born with wings, but they’re considered shameful appendages, fit only to be removed at 17. I was struck by some really gorgeous turns of phrase:

“And on the scheduled day of Removing, I removed myself. I flew on wings that had been destined for dust but grazed the stars instead.”

This particular quote is fairly typical of the narrative style, so if you prefer very precise, concrete prose, the writing might not be for you.

Both “Aphrodite Has A Daughter” and “Flower Constancy” are two stories that I would love to see expanded, whether just into a longer form or into a full novel. “Aphrodite” is a short retelling of the meeting of Eros and Psyche, where Eros is the jaded daughter of Aphrodite, the embodiment of “love-in-action.” I would absolutely love to see a lesbian retelling of the full story of Eros and Psyche, particularly in Diemer’s style. “Flower Constancy” is a historical that actually ends happily for two young women in England. I didn’t get a firm sense of what time period it was set in, but the descriptions of the house and the butterfly garden make me think Victorian.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Winged Things if you enjoy speculative and fantasy short stories, and it’s definitely suitable for young teens and up.

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