Kalyanii reviews Solitaire by Kelley Eskridge

 

 

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With the turn of the new year, I decided it was high-time I broaden my literary horizons. After all, I came of age in the ‘80’s and attended a university that deemed literary fiction (often times penned by male authors of western European descent) to be the be-all-and-end-all of that worthy of one’s attention, much less scholarship and acclaim. Fortunately, over my decades of exploration since, I’ve encountered the diversity I sought as a student. However, up to this point, I had yet to venture into the realm of genre fiction and was admittedly more than a bit intimidated by Sci-Fi. Could I suspend my disbelief long enough to allow for the building of a future world? Would I be just as satisfied with a plot-driven work as one rooted within the characters’ internal landscape? Would there be anything of substance that I might take away?

After a bit of online research, I felt that my best introduction lay in Kelley Eskridge’s Solitaire. I was drawn to the idea of a lesbian protagonist (as always), and several reader reviews alluded to well-drawn characters. In addition, Solitaire has received numerous recognitions. The forthcoming film, OtherLife, is noted as being loosely based on the novel.

As it turns out, it was, indeed, the perfect place for my first foray.

Ren “Jackal” Segura was held from the time of her birth as the Hope of Ko, a designation assigned to the first child of her corporate nation-state born in the first second upon the establishment of a one world government. As a Hope, she was given the most special of treatment, from respect and opportunity to outright adoration. Indeed, Jackal was blessed with a charmed life, until her extremely competitive and jealous mother let it slip in a fit of rage, “They give you everything and you don’t deserve it, you’re no more a Hope than I am!” Thus, Jackal unwittingly found herself privy, mere weeks before her investiture, to the unfortunate truth that, though her birth was calculated, she did not arrive into the world until several minutes past midnight.

When news of the cover-up comes to light after an accident in which Jackal is involved, killing 437 people, including an Earth Congress senator, her webmates and dozens of children, Jackal is given the choice of securing her own defense or pleading guilty in order to save her family from punishment. Choosing to protect her family, she is sentenced to 40 years in prison and later given the opportunity to fulfill that sentence within a mere eight years (10 months in real-time) by participating in a virtual confinement program that condenses the experience of real-life solitary confinement into a fraction of the time.

To my relief, the narrative was accessible right from the start, and the world built by Eskridge made logistical sense, even to a novice such as myself. Most of the characters were as well-developed as I anticipated them to be, especially Scully, a “solo” himself, trying to navigate life post-virtual confinement in the best way he knows how. Unfortunately, the least convincing character proves to be Jackal’s partner, Snow, though I’m quite sure this is due to the somewhat improbable interactions between Jackal and her partner rather than anything within the presentation of Snow, herself.

For me, the most compelling points of the story resided within the detailed experiences endured during Jackal’s virtual confinement, penned akin to a diary, revealing a progression from resolve, grief, fear, near-madness and dissociation to self-destiny, as well as the early days of her integration back into society, though one with which she was utterly unfamiliar. Within these chapters, the reader is able to witness Jackal’s internal evolution and the coping strategies she implements in order to keep herself from breaking beyond repair.

More profoundly, Jackal’s journey toward healing and reintegration became my journey, giving me pause within each step of the process. As the reader, I was provided the opportunity to witness, objectively, the benefits and pitfalls of each strategy and reflect upon my own application of it.

The apparent acceptance of a corporatized governmental system left me at something of a loss, however. Although its manipulative omnipresence was haunting throughout, Jackal continues to seek its validation, often expressing her desire to once again belong to Ko. Perhaps the author’s intent was to encourage readers to find ways in which to utilize the system for the public good, but, jaded as I am, I simply couldn’t buy into such a tidy line of thought.

Nevertheless, after a healthy dose of reflection, I continue to take comfort in Jackal’s resilience, the subtly underground communities that support those of us on the fringe and the value of offering hope to those who need it most.

Shira Glassman reviews The Dyke and the Dybbuk by Ellen Galford

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Ellen Galford’s The Dyke and the Dybbuk is, for only being eighteen years old, fairly iconic and hallowed in the tiny subgenre in which I spend most of my writing time. In other words, it may very well be the first great piece of sapphic Jewish fantasy. If I’m wrong, I’d love to know about more! In any case, it was a pleasure to read–sarcastic, sardonic, hopeful, enthusiastic, both a love story to our culture and a sharp criticism of some of its more tiresome features.

The initial premise stems from a trope some people may find painful, but is all too realistic thanks to the way society overwhelmingly pressures cis women to marry cis men. Namely, two young women in historical Jewish Eastern Europe are in love, until one of them leaves to marry a man. The jilted woman (herself somewhat of an outcast for her mixed parentage) responds by cursing the bride with demon possession. Thus enter our “what if Loki was a lesbian” demon, the hilarious–and also sapphic–dybbuk of the title. But she winds up imprisoned in a tree instead of being able to haunt the married woman and her daughters and granddaughters per the curse’s instructions, so it isn’t until the ninth generation of offspring that she gets a chance to escape and begin her assignment.

And this ninth generation is a British lesbian film critic who drives a taxi for her day job.

Rainbow Rosenbloom’s more at odds with her Judaism than I am, but, firstly, the book was written in an earlier generation, and secondly, there are pretty much twice as many ways to be Jewish as there are actual Jews in the world. I am confident that her experiences accurately reflect many other people’s relationship with their Jewishness. She’s surrounded by paternal aunts and she’s over-aware of the ways her preference for women—as well as her self-chosen first name, and also eating treyf–puts her in direct opposition to the way they want her to live.

The dybbuk decides that Rainbow’s already weird enough and has already maxed out ‘acting out’, so she can’t possibly make her look any weirder by ordinary possession. Therefore, she decides as her project she’s going to give Rainbow a massive crush on–Riva, a married Orthodox woman with six children! So suddenly, she’s super interested in her faith in a way she never was before (the irony being that it’s only because of a demon’s influence.) In comes an intense crush that I totally recognized from various straight girls I’ve crushed on.

Now, I have a soft spot for pious women, so like the sucker I am, I did fall hook line and sinker for the Rainbow/Riva ‘ship in this book. Spoiler warning: the author went somewhere else, but that’s okay. The book does deliver happy f/f endings, and even the demon herself gets to have some fun.

As far as the issue of how the book made me feel as a bisexual woman — the line “trendy bisexual” was used at one point in dialogue, but I do feel like any criticism of bi women’s choices was intended as unreliable narrator because from what I can remember it’s followed up with a reminder that they don’t actually know if the olden-days bride was bi or if she just married a man to appease cultural traditions which is extremely possible, given the circumstances. I beg of those reading this review to please be gentle with me if your experiences lead you to feel differently, because the week after I read the book my spouse ended our thirteen year relationship and so 1. I am not particularly able to hold my own in discourse at the moment and 2. I am writing this a month after reading the book and after a considerable amount of pain, so my memory isn’t perfect.

Either way, if you’re a Jewish woman who likes women, it’s worth checking out even if you aren’t a fan of spec fic. The speculative elements are lighthearted and easy to process–among themselves, the demons’ society is a parody of modern corporate culture and office politics. It’s out of print right now but worldcat.org has it listed in libraries all over the place, and I had no trouble getting a hold of it through interlibrary loan, so if you don’t mind using the system—and plenty of librarians told me that using a library actually helps libraries and isn’t a strain on them at all—it should be relatively easy. Besides, used copies are not hard to find.

Content warning: I have vague memories of there being the g-slur (for Rromani) in there someplace.

olive-conspiracyThank you for taking the time to read my review! I write more of them at http://shiraglassman.wordpress.com and on Goodreads, or check out my latest book, The Olive Conspiracy, Jewish fantasy about a young lesbian queen who must work together with her found-family, including her wife, a dragon, a witch, and a warrior woman, to save their country from an international sabotage plot.

Megan Casey reviews Megan Casey reviews Command of Silence, by Paulette Callen

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After reading only a few chapters of this book, I wondered why it was not a best seller. It has all the trappings of one. Think of the play Elephant Man: it is a less-than-wonderfully-written play, but the subject matter guarantees it a wide audience just as a train wreck guarantees a gaggle of rubberneckers. Command of Silence has that unique subject matter without being poorly executed. What a concept—a detective with multiple personalities. And it would have been so easy for the author to completely screw it up. She didn’t; instead, we see a wide range of emotions flitting through at least 10 completely different identities: a wisecracker, a caretaker, a monster, an artist, a child, an evil twin; hey are all part of Shiloh, and she needs all of them in order to succeed in her investigations. Or even just to get through a normal day.

I mean, when have you ever looked forward to the sleuth interrogating the suspects one by boring one? Well, I certainly did in Command of Silence. Shiloh is just so interesting that you look forward to seeing how the interviewees react to her.

And Shiloh is incredibly clever. The way she works out the solution to the mystery (which involves two abducted children) is superb, creative, and very exciting. All of the characters are well drawn and believable.

But toward the end of the book I found out the answer to the question I posed in the first paragraph. To be a best seller, or even to interest a major publisher, the final interrogations of the suspects would have to be more believable. As it is, the criminals simply break down in the face of Shiloh’s questioning, which to tell the truth, is less special than her earlier interviews. Nor is it in any way legal. In life, neither of the guilty parties would have been convicted. I feel that this is another example of an author getting a fine idea, then wondering how to work herself out of the corner she finds herself in at closing time.

So far, this book is not part of a series, and I hope this remains true. I feel that Callen has created something special that would tend to get old with more than one novel; that the personalities would just do the same type of bickering we were treated to in this one. I would far rather the author spend some time working on the dénouements to this one. To make it the terrific book that it could, with only a little rethinking, be.

Note: This book is actually only on the borderline of lesbian literature. Shiloh’s therapist is a lesbian, and I suspect at least one of Shiloh’s multiple personalities is, too. However, it was a finalist for the Lambda Award, and that’s good enough for me.

For more than 250 other Lesbian Mystery 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

Julie Thompson reviews The Liberators of Willow Run by Marianne K. Martin

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***A little bit of spoilers ahead***

Can you use an electric mixer? If so, you can learn to operate a drill.

During World War II, the United States “enlisted” women to help with the war effort on the homefront. At the Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Audrey Draper is securing her independence with each B-24 Liberator heavy bomber her crew assembles. The women tax their minds and limbs as they build plane after plane after plane. The demand is incessant, so for the most part no one cares about their co-workers’ personal lives unless it interferes with the work at hand.

In another world not many miles away in Jackson, Michigan, Ruth Evans is shipped off to The Crittenton Home, a place for families to hide pregnant, unwed relations. The deep friendships that Ruth develops with some of the women give her strength to overcome the limitations of her environment. These relationships will determine the course her life and the lives of those around her, takes.

Most of the women employed at the bomber plant are married or engaged or otherwise involved; Audrey and Nona are exceptions. For the world at large, Audrey has a boyfriend stationed overseas with the US Army. She isn’t comfortable with the lies her sexuality necessitates, but she does what she has to in order to protect her autonomy. Between 1943 and 1946, she has a steady job and folks don’t complain (much) about the slacks she wears or lack of rouge on her cheeks. It is what comes after the war that she worries about. Can she secure a meaningful career, one that doesn’t require too many personal compromises? While the novel wraps up all loose ends rather quickly at the end, the conclusion is not implausible. It resonates with the hopeful tone that permeates the story.

The tale initially alternates between Audrey and Ruth, converging a quarter way into the book when the two women meet and bond over scoops of ice cream. Their burgeoning friendship is impeded by guilt and insecurity. The Liberators of Willow Run follows a familiar push-and-pull romance, with the heroines discovering more about themselves and the women they will become as they help other people and each other. It’s a quick read; I devoured it on New Year’s Day.

The leads and supporting cast possess admirable qualities: they lift each other up, instead of trampling each other underfoot. Certain aspects of the story are a bit surprising. Nona’s ready acceptance of a secret Audrey shares at the start of their friendship, for example. Not to say that some folks aren’t unflappable; perhaps the two women’s status as “other” makes this acceptance possible. At times, the world of Willow Run feels like a sky with minimal clouds. This isn’t to say that the women don’t experience misogyny, sexual harassment, racism, and limited career options. They do, but those moments never feel insurmountable or harrowing. The novel could have easily gotten stuck telling too many stories at once or seeming to tack on certain narratives without infusing them with genuine feeling.

Secondary characters showcase a range of attitudes regarding women and African-Americans in the workplace. Up until the divergent narratives merge, I thought that Nona would play a larger role in the novel. She is a self-aware woman who is unwilling to sacrifice her educational and career goals. Unlike her white counterparts, she must contend with both sexism and racism. She is also generous in her friendships and confident when facing barriers. Jack and Lucy, a married couple who work at Willow Run and give Audrey rides to work, take a pragmatic view of life and seek a level playing field for folks who do the best they can. When riots near the church Nona is staying at prevent her from getting to work on time, Jack speaks up on her behalf because the foreman isn’t willing to listen to women. Myopic views on social roles are found in characters like the crew foreman, who constantly groans about women at the plant, and in June, a reluctant wage earner who believes a woman’s only place is in the home, raising children. She also ignores Nona, and speaks over Bennie, an easy going co-worker who stutters when he speaks.

The Liberators of Willow Run gives readers a world in which the family you choose enables endless possibilities.It brims with hope in the face of limited choices and half-truths. The women are keenly aware of their limitations, though their friends more readily see the good, the potential, that lie in their hearts. While I would have enjoyed more details placing me solidly in the United States during the 1940s, it was an overall enjoyable lazy day read.

Women on the Warpath (1943) – Inside the Willow Run B-24 Plant: https://youtu.be/HQKvBPjxMo4

Building The B-24 Bomber During WWII “Story Of Willow Run” 74182
https://archive.org/details/74182StoryOfWillowRun

You can read more of Julie’s reviews on her blog, Omnivore Bibliosaur (jthompsonian.wordpress.com)

Stephanie reviews Her Sigh: A Lesbian Anthology by Victoria Zagar

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As most of you know, I LOVE short story collections, so when I came across Her Sigh: A Lesbian Anthology by Victoria Zagar, I thought I’d give it a go.  Short stories don’t get a lot of love in lesbian literature, (most folks want to read romance novels), so I’m always excited when I see that a new collection has been released.

To start, Her Sigh isn’t quite what I expected. Silly me, when I saw that it was an anthology, I thought it was a multi-author collection; it’s not. All fourteen stories are by Zagar, and they mostly have a similar theme: love. Zagar also works hard at creating dystopian/fantasy settings where love seems to conquer all, and in a few of the stories, it does.

For example, both “Sophie’s Song” and “Expiration Date” focus on post-nuclear war society, although neither story gives us much information on the wars, or how far into the future the stories are set. “Expiration Date” is a rather interesting take on family in an era where population control is paramount to society’s existence. In order to quell married couples’ desire for children, the government has come up with a novel solution, the Realichild, where couples are allowed to raise a child for limited period of time. Revealing anything more might spoil the story, but I really liked the way that Zagar normalizes the lesbian couple, but problematizes the ways in which the nuclear family (no pun intended) is still central to a happy family.

A few of the other stories read a bit like fairy tales or fables: a princess must decide whether or not to marry a prince when her true love is a female knight; a young woman seeks an arranged marriage to save her family, but is in love with the village seamstress, and another young woman realizes that she is the reincarnation of an ancient creature’s lover.

Overall, the collection is a solid read although there were a few times when I just rolled my eyes. How many cabins in the woods can there be in lesbian la-la land?  How many old world villages? Additionally, a couple of the stories felt a bit rushed. Short stories are difficult to write, so I understand that everything can’t fit, but I do think that if you’re going to create dystopian societies, space colonies, or old world villages, then make sure that they don’t all feel the same, otherwise your readers might become bored.  Although this wasn’t really my cup of tea, if you like lesbian romance with a flair for the otherworldly thrown in, this may be the collection for you.

Susan reviews Mahou Josei Chimaka by Kaiju

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Mahou Josei Chimaka by Kaiju is a graphic novel riffing on all of the magical girl stories you know and love: as a teenage magical girl, Chimaka collected all of the artifacts she needed to save the world, went to battle her Destined Foe… And lost. Badly. After that, she broke up with her Destined Boyfriend From Their Past Life, failed most of her classes, and now Chimaka works as a Somewhat Bitter chemical engineer – at least until her Destined Foe wakes up again, and she is called upon to try to reclaim the magical powers she had as a teenager.

The core of the story revolves around Chimaka and her best friend/coworker, Pip; Chimaka confesses that she’s a magical girl to Pip (in a scene that made me laugh quite a lot) that she was a magical girl and now can’t access her magic, which Pip takes as a challenge to introduce Chimaka to the magic in the life that she is living right now. It’s really sweet and becomes a slow building romance of Pip putting so much thought and effort into impressing Chimaka, and Chimaka realising how much she appreciates Pip and her efforts. It’s really cute and sweet, and I enjoyed how it progressed!

To be perfectly honest with you, this is what I wanted from Sailor Moon: a consideration of how a character’s past life does not necessarily affect who they are in their present one. Plus, it explicitly engages with the idea of fulfilling a destiny and whether that is something that works for the character. It was so nice to read! (Although, without spoilers: I’m not sure how I feel about the creator’s use of a real world religion in the ending, even though I do enjoy the trope that they use when it’s in the context of a fantasy religion. Your mileage may vary!)

A quick word on the art – I quite liked it! The best parts for me were probably the costumes (very cute) and the facial expressions, because this comic has such a great sense of humour, and a lot of that is carried off visually. Chimaka makes exactly the right right faces for having to get her reports done and deal with the end of the world.

In summary: I think that this is a really cool take on magical girl tropes and on the question of “What do you do after you’ve saved the world?”, with a sweet queer romance holding it all together. Definitely recommended.

I read the paperback version of this, but it can also be read for free online. My copy had a misprint that lost page 26 from chapter one; if you end up in the same boat, it can be found here.)

Susan is a library assistant who uses her insider access to keep her shelves and to-read list permanently overflowing. She can usually be found writing for Hugo-nominated media blog Lady Business or bringing the tweets and shouting on twitter.

Danika reviews Goldie Vance Vol. 1 by Hope Larson (Author) and Brittney Williams (illustrator)

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Aahh, it’s been a long time since I’ve read a book with surprise queer content. It’s such a great surprise.

Goldie Vance is an all-ages comic that has been described as Lumberjanes meets Nancy Drew, which I think is a pretty solid assessment. It also gave me hints of Veronia Mars, but that may just be because I haven’t been exposed to many girl detective characters. Goldie works at a hotel with her father, but she also attempts to act as a detective on the side.

For some reason, I kept being surprised that the main character of this is a teenager. I shouldn’t have been: she acts as a valet, so she’s clearly old enough to drive. I think it’s because teenagers are usually drawn in comics as if they were twenty-somethings, so I assumed that this teenager was a preteen.

I really love the art in this volume. The colours are vibrant, and the character designs are distinctive and engaging, and the cast is diverse. The plot lost me a for a little while, just because I was expecting it to be aimed at a younger audience and wasn’t thinking about it having any sort of political aspect.

But, of course, what stuck with me was the queer content. This is an all-ages comic with a girl who likes girls at the centre of it! She meets Diane and is immediately enamored with this girl rocking the James Dean look. It’s not subtextual. It’s not treated any differently than any other romance in the text. But I’m so unused to queer characters in a book for young people that I could hardly believe what I was reading. Was I wearing queer goggles? Was I projecting?

I’m so glad that with comics like this and Lumberjanes, and with shows like Steven Universe, we’re getting queer representation in kids’ media, too. It’s so important, both for queer kids and for making society in general more accepting. This is a really fun comic, and it would make a great gift for fans of Lumberjanes and similar comics.

Lauren reviews Fearless by Shira Glassman

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Lana is a divorcee and mother of two who has been out of the closet for less than a year. Although her lesbian social circle and dating life are dry as a desert, she finds purpose in other areas of life, including her role as a supportive band mom.

The story opens at her teenage daughter’s (Robin) All-State rehearsal, which takes place at a large convention hotel. Robin is a talented clarinetist whose affinity for music was clearly inspired by her mom. Lana loves the violin but hasn’t played in many years. She has limited herself to the vicarious excitement of her daughter’s talent and fellow band mates.

Though the atmosphere inside is swarming with students and the sounds of instruments, the weather is relentless. It seems like a typical, snowed-in day until Mel Feinberg steps into the picture. Ms. Feinberg is an orchestra director that immediately piques Lana’s attention.

Mel is attractive and self-assured, and she stealthy leads Lana to address her desires and fears. After all, Mel may be the oasis that Lana has been waiting for.

My only issue with the story is the relationship between Lana and her ex-husband. Though the reasons behind their marriage and behaviors are completely understandable (I’m avoiding a spoiler here), the fact that both Lana and Steve parted for the same reason seems a little far reaching. Lana acknowledged that he was doing much better with his new social life than her. Though this hints at male privilege, it wasn’t addressed in the story.

Fearless will transport you to a world of high school bands and tireless teenagers. I especially enjoyed the mini adventure between Lana and Mel near the closing. In the end, Fearless reminds us that dashes of courage and new tides often come at the most unexpected moments.

Lauren Cherelle uses her time and talents to traverse imaginary and professional worlds. She recently penned her sophomore novel, The Dawn of Nia (Resolute Publishing, 2016). Outside of reading and writing, she enjoys new adventures with her partner of thirteen years. You can find Lauren online at Twitter, www.lcherelle.com, and Goodreads.

Danika reviews The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

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I have to start this with my Goodreads status update from 5 pages in:

I literally cannot handle how much I like this book. I can’t get through a page without cackling or exclaiming. The art! The narration! The surreal worldbuilding! The f/f couple in the middle of it!!! The feminism! The cleverness! Like, I actually can’t handle it. I have to read it a couple pages at a time or I get overwhelmed. I don’t think this has ever happened??

I don’t think I’ve ever been so giddy from the first pages of a book. I was already hooked from the premise: a graphic novel retelling of the Arabian Nights featuring a woman who has fallen in love with her maid. Once I had it in my hands, I was stunned by the cover alone. It looks even more gorgeous in person, with the text in shining gold letters. And best of all, the two women reaching for each other: no attempt to disguise the queer content.

I’m a sucker for experiments in story telling, and I love how this book is structured. From the page layouts to the narration, the design and writing of this book perfectly fits its story, even when it deviates from the norm. A book that starts with a creation story of “In the beginning there was the world / And it was weird” is going to immediately jump in my estimation. I haven’t read the previous book, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, but this book stands on its own–while dropping enough hints that I want to pick up the earlier book to get an even richer understanding of this story.

The framing device here is that Cherry’s husband has made a bet with another man, Manfred, that he can’t seduce Cherry in 100 nights. In order to save Cherry from being forced into this arrangement, Hero (her lover and maid) tells Manfred stories over the course of these nights, with the promise that once he seduces Cherry, the stories will end. These stories are engaging in themselves, and resemble folk tales. They revolve around women, often sisters, and as those characters tell their own narratives, the nesting story structure grows.

Although there’s a timeless, folk lore feel to the story, there’s also some moments of great, clever humor thrown in, including the narrator cutting in for commentary, and Hero and Cherry using vocabulary I was not expecting! Mostly the humor is dry, feminist wit.

And, of course, there’s the romance. The unapologetic, unshakable love between Cherry and Hero. The moment that really made me trust this story was when it describes the two women getting into bed together and then cuts to after, with the narrator interjecting “No! Of course I’m not going to show what happened then! What kind of a book do you think this is?” It was setting up for a voyeuristic look into two women’s sex life, then makes a hard left and questions the reader’s expectations.

This a beautiful, epic love story that centres on two women. That fundamentally respects women and their love. This is a story that respects storytelling, that believes that stories can change the world.

This is the queer feminist mythology we deserve.

Jess van Netten reviews Secret Diaries Past & Present: Q&A with Helena Whitbread & Natasha Holme

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In understanding my consumption of the diary of Anne Frank, my devouring the entirety of Anne of Green Gables, Susan Howatch’s Cashelmara, Bryce Courteney’s Jessica and later in life pouring through Ruth Maier’s diary in one sitting, you could say I have a fascination with the personal details of others; particularly women. As such, I found great delight in reading about the writing of such personal details in the recent conversation between Helena Whitbread (Anne Lister’s editor and reader) and Natasha Holme (lesbian diarist).
Published as Secret Diaries Past & Present. Q&A with Helena Whitbread & Natasha Holme, you as the reader are the proverbial fly on the wall while diaries separated by generations are casually, critically compared. To my surprise, I had never heard of Anne Lister or Natasha Holme’s diaries prior to this encounter and just one chapter in, I commit to buying all related materials.
The account of the interview between the editor and the diarist flicks possession throughout with both asking questions lending themselves to personal and professional reflection. Even without any earlier knowledge, a picture of both women (and the third, omnipresent diarist Anne Lister) forms fully and intimately in my mind. In the same way that reading a diary creates a relationship between you and the author, so too do I feel privately connected to all three protagonists in different ways. Both Anne and Natasha struggle with religion, sexuality and self acceptance and express their feelings with the written word. Further, editor and historian Helena’s own developed interest in revealing history and understanding through learning strike a chord with my sense of self.
Almost inextricably, while reading about these three women, I find myself feeling contemplative and self-reflective; both challenged and embraced. The interview is easy to read and gaps are filled with actual entries from the different diaries mentioned to further contextualize the comparisons. I also wonder about prolific and current diarist Natasha’s experience during these conversations. As she mentions, she diaries obsessively – often every detail within the day is recorded – and I can’t help but wonder about her keeping note of these conversations and interviews about her own diaries within her own diaries. Even more meta, to consider her reading this review about her writing in her diary about me reading the interview and writing a review of it. As they say, does life imitate art or does art imitate life!
Secret Diaries Past & Present. Q&A with Helena Whitbread & Natasha Holme is recommended for lovers of history, diaries and all those who enjoy a good conversation between educated and interesting women. With or without any other information, the interaction is intriguing and well developed; an easy entry read for someone just dabbling in both stories or a fulfilling connection for the well-read reader.