The Complexity of Being a Queer Refugee: From Here by Luma Mufleh

the cover of From Here Affiliate Link

Trigger warnings for this book: suicide attempts and ideation, homophobia, violence

Like a lot of Westerners, when I hear about countries with laws against homosexuality, I respond with instinctual aversion: “What a terrible place! I hope any queer people there can leave!” I imagine impediments like the law and its enforcers, economic hardship, language barriers, internalized homophobia.

Luma Mufleh’s memoir, From Here, was humbling. It showed how correct some of my assumptions were, but also how shallow and unempathetic.

Mufleh doesn’t shy away from depicting the homophobia she experienced growing up in Jordan. She shows how it could be terrifying, violent, and isolating. She shows how it made her vulnerable in so many ways. In one anecdote, she recounts learning as a teenager that there were words for people like her.

She refuses to allow that to define either her or her country. Instead, Jordan is her home, defined by her big, loud, loving family. A recurring love for her grandmother’s kibbeh struck me right in the heart. I’m sure many readers will recognize the heart and home of cooking with an older relative. For me, it also brought up memories of my first bite of kibbeh, eaten in the open-air market in Tel Aviv from a stall I identified by picking out letters I had memorized off a postcard.

Maybe some comparable experiences predisposed me to connect with this book, but I believe it can appeal to just about anyone. Who doesn’t understand having a hopeless crush, annoying sibling, or piercing teenage dream? The intimacy of the book humanizes Jordan and Mufleh, and her choice to leave never seems easy. Instead, it’s a wrench, tragically necessary decision that severs her from her sense of safety and immeasurable love.

The book is also a portrait of a woman seeking belonging. It can be and often is heartbreaking, how lost she felt, and how much she shut herself down just to survive. It touches briefly on how little the United States is culturally sensitive to, even aware of people from the Middle East. It can also be hilarious, like her attempt to bribe a cop and mild bewilderment at heavy Boston accents.

One thing surprised me: Mufleh makes little mention of her married life. This is her own tale of identity. Though she mentions her wife and children, though she clearly adores them, they are not centered: this is Mufleh’s story of identity. Often, media portrayals of queerness seem outwardly focused—if you don’t have a girlfriend or a wife or at least a one-night stand, are you even queer? (Yes. Yes you are.) It’s a simplistic, deeply heteronormative idea that queerness exists only as action. Instead, Muflleh’s personal story of her internal queer identity depicts yearning, isolation, and belonging in a way that feel so close it must be universal.

Jordan reviews A Pirate’s Heart by Catherine Friend


Pirates are one of those passions that tend to capture people in a phase, like your teenage mutant ninja turtle phase. And just like how I will always love those pizza pounding turtles, there will always be some part of me that jumps at anything about pirates; particularly when I can come across stuff about female pirates. That’s probably why I scooped up A Pirate’s Heart before knowing anything other than it involved pirates and ladies in love.

This particular pirate tale follows two sets of ladies: Emma with Randi, and Tommy with Rebekah. Emma the librarian and Randi the private investigator are in modern times, and unravel the mysteries of the great pirate Tommy Farris with only bits and pieces of the journals and letters that survived for over two hundred years, including the search for a treasure map!

Meanwhile Tommy Farris and Rebekah Brown are caught in the turmoil of discovering they may love each other while handling a terrible situation involving another jilted pirate, Avery Shaw. After all, the last thing Tommy expected to be her downfall was a scorned conquest from her past. But ever since Shaw became a pirate he’s been a thorn in her side.

The uniqueness in this entire novel happens to be the way the two stories were weaved together, through means of jumping between past and present to tell some of the story with third person narrative following Tommy, and then switching to first person with Emma Boyd. The biggest stick for this was the total jarring kick in the face when you are reading the novel and then suddenly you move to another chapter and the second story is just thrown at you.

The first change in perspective comes at such a random moment, a couple of chapters in, and exactly when you wanted to start reading more about Tommy Farris that it can definitely throw you off at first. I almost thought it was some interruption in the story for the author to talk about how she researched Tommy Farris, but as I kept reading I realized it was when Emma and Randi came in.

Despite the initial hiccup, once you are ready for the breaks in the story to be occurring they actually happen at perfect frustrating moments, to where you can almost feel the agony Emma went through of continually wanting to jump Randi’s bones and not being able to, in the form of always getting to a good moment in the story and then you have to jump to the next story!

Still the way these two stories were formed and put together was absolutely perfect. You completely get resolution with both of the stories, which I have to say is a heck of an accomplishment when many novels struggle to just finish the one main story line it has, this one had two main story-lines and a number of side plots mixed in that are all finished off in the one book. And while the breaks can be frustrating it is only so because the entire plot is so well done and the characters interesting enough that you wanted to keep reading about them.

This has to be one of the better pirate books I’ve read, but that could be that for once it was a pirate book about women! You really don’t get to see as many of those. Even knowledge on the different women pirates is pretty rare, let alone fictional stories about female pirates. So this is definitely one of those stories you should grab if like me, you were craving some more women pirate stories. Oh, and did I mention that it has a number of non-white female main characters in it? Total bonus there. Although I should mention that since it stays true to period there are some phrases and words some people might not like to see, particularly around the black characters.

Other than that the story is worth it, and unique; especially for the little supernatural surprise at the end of the book which just gave it a worth-while ending.

Oh, and always remember: While I breathe, I hope.



Jordan reviews Nevada by Imogen Binnie


If there is anything we need more of, it is trans* literature, or pretty much any books falling under that such umbrella term. But as the years go on we start to see more and more. Even so, books like Nevada or Luna, are still quite literally a rare treat, because I can actually count on my fingers and toes how many fiction books have trans* characters as a protagonist, or main character focus. And some of those were self-published.

Because of this rare treat experience, it didn’t matter what people said about it, I had to get around to reading Nevada by Imogen Binnie. It is not the first fiction book with a trans* main character, but it is the first to not only receive a bunch of hype around it. And better yet it tells the story of a trans-girl who actually dates other girls, which is actually a first, fictionally anyway.

But enough about the theory. Nevada focuses on the story of Maria and her search to find herself, sort of. And despite the fact that the opening of the novel goes through a real time situation of lesbian bed death, it doesn’t stay with clichés like that. In fact it works to break down a lot of the television identity that many trans* people get, including showing Maria struggling with that issue.

However, with the breakdown we do get a writing style that some people may hate, and others (lovers of fairy tales) will likely enjoy. The style is a lot like someone standing in the room with you and telling you a story verbally. I could honestly see Imogen actually talking like the writing in the book, which infused a bit of herself in the work. In normal cases of fiction, I’d say that’s not a good thing. But when you have a fictional work that could possibly be akin to what Jeanette Winterson did with Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, by infusing a bit of personal experiences and fiction, you get something that is touching and personal to people.

Of course, with a story about a person finding themselves, you can imagine there isn’t exactly an ending to this. The ending in fact was the weakest, mostly because there wasn’t one. You’re reading through it and you turn the page to get to the next chapter and it’s done. I would normally say that it wasn’t finished at that point, but it is a literary novel, which seriously never have an ending. In fact I’m almost sure one of the possible definitions of literary novel is: Protagonist doesn’t overcome the challenge they were trying to face, or doesn’t find what they were searching for.

But that is a personal issue for me with literary novels. I like to have endings, especially when they aren’t happily ever after. Still, there are some gems in this book that is worth it for anyone. In fact, this book is definitely one of those books that makes you think about things you might not have. About life, relationships, gender, sexuality.

The biggest strength for this book though, were the characters. There wasn’t just Maria who had been on hormones for four years. There was Steph who has a pretty queer femme identity going on, and Kieran who goes with male pronouns but isn’t necessarily male or female, and later in the book we also get James who is one of those budding individuals who wants to do traditionally female things but doesn’t want to suffer the consequences, and a whole collection of other minor characters who are as diverse as a rainbow unicorn.

You really get a mix of different kinds of people, which made it feel so much like this could have been something that happened in your town. It was these diverse and real life characters that actually make the book enjoyable and something you could connect with and take away from it. That and some of the random humor, or my personal favorite were the monologues about how trans* people aren’t sex addicts, but are internet addicts. But isn’t everyone an internet addict these days? Who doesn’t like a space where you can be yourself. There’s somewhere for everyone to be themselves on the internet.

Overall, I do think this book is a worthwhile read for everyone. Those who are trans*, questioning queers, straight as a pen, doesn’t really matter, you’ll all find something you can connect with or relate to or even just get a new perspective on something that you probably didn’t really know about.

No matter what, it is one of those literary novels that gets you thinking. But hopefully, because of this book, I want to see more trans* and lesbian/queer trans-girl books!


Jordan reviews Fairy Tales for Princesses who love Dames by Rene von Bonaparte


Where ever I go fairy tales always follow me. Although, particularly I’ve been scavenging for fairy tales of the queer variety lately, which means I’ve picked up quite a bit of Sarah Diemer’s work, and I’ve done some reviews on some older ones like Kissing the Witch. But I wanted to try something more recent and from a different author (as much as I do love Sarah’s work). So I’ve picked up a collection of fairy tales re-written by Rene von Bonaparte to make them modern and lesbian.

The collection got titled Fairy Tales for Princesses who love Dames and I really love the introduction that the author started with, essentially telling a story before the fairy tales about why they wanted to re-invent some fairy tales to be focused toward lesbians. Other than that though, I’ve run across a lot of digital copies of books lately that haven’t formatted the book very well, and this one runs into a few issues, but makes up for it with having really amazing opening titles for each of the stories and a little quote to go with each of them.

To kick things off, the first story was a re-design of the “Princess and the Pea”, this one being “The Princess and the USB” instead. Personally, I’ve always had issues with this story, considering it set the belief that only certain people could become important (like a princess) and that it all depended on genetics. This re-telling, unfortunately didn’t work around or change that issue. Instead it had a business woman who wanted a very specific person as their lover, and the staff of her home end up testing this one poor girl by sticking a USB under the mattress, this undoubtedly caused the girl to not be able to sleep. In the end, you can imagine, she passed the test and everyone was happy and the two got married.

It wasn’t a terrible story, it was just bogged down by a lot of the original fairy tale, as well as some cliché lines that I see repeated in some of the other stories. The worst of all was the use of ‘a dark and stormy night’. Still, the ending was poetic and amusing.

The next story in the line was a re-telling of a story I actually don’t know, though if I had to place it, it would be “Swan Lake” (yes the ballet) or the “Swan Wife”. The cool thing about this one is it brought in racially diverse characters, especially for the white and beautiful swan, who happened to be Oki, and her evil sister Oni (ogre/demon in Japanese). This one was a bit heart-breaking with its ending, but overall a really well done story compared to the previous one.

It follows a ranger who falls in love with the swan-woman, and the ranger wants to break the curse placed on the swan-woman, so she goes to profess her love, and accidentally professes to the evil twin sister. As you can probably imagine, it doesn’t end well.

The third story was a re-design of “Cinderella”, which is quite honestly probably one of the most retold fairy tales around. Regardless, this one was amazing. Ella, is essentially the only house keeper for an entire five star hotel and she ends up meeting a Lesbian rock star at a concert and dances with her, after she received help from her ‘fairy godbrother’ which is a brand of a fashion store and the owner of it gives her an outfit to wear. It goes along the lines of “Cinderella” really well, while also being its own little story, it changed things up in the right areas to keep it modern and that made it more fun to read too.

Compared to the first story, this one was so much better for following the lines of the fairy tale so close, plus it showed a lot of creativity that wasn’t always there in the other previous stories.

Our fourth story is a re-imagining of “Beauty and the Beast”, which is another story I was never incredibly fond of, because of the ideal that if you kidnap someone and force them to live in your home, eventually they will come to love you. This version called “Baker and the Beast”, somewhat escapes that ideal, but at the same time loses some of the flair of the original story. It follows Baker, both her name and occupation as far as I could tell and her delivery to a castle that results in her staying the night (and then multiple nights since she can’t leave).

This story didn’t manage to show much in the way of the romance with the two characters, except when the Baker made some cupcakes for the duchess (the beast). At the same time, the beast realizes what she is doing to this woman, and lets her go, even though the curse over the castle will cause everyone in it to die when the baker leaves (not explained just like the original). This difference is about the only thing I could mark toward the story, besides it being about a female beast.

It may have just been my slanted view of not liking “Beauty and the Beast” already, but this one was a bit boring unfortunately, though the author showed enough description that I could also picture the story well enough.

The fifth and sixth stories focused on retellings of “Sleeping Beauty” (which thankfully was nothing like the original), and “The Frog Prince”. And strangely enough these two were actually my first and third favorites of the collection. Not only was sleeping beauty completely in the opposite direction of the original, but it had some dream elements in it that were awesome and way better than just a bunch of thorns growing around “Sleeping Beauty”. I also enjoyed the girl who risked her life to save her friend, as she realized she also wanted to kiss her friend. For once, sleeping beauty actually felt like a romantic story and modern too, and it still makes me smile thinking of it.

As for the “Frog Prince”, if the frog had still been male I think I would have just been incredibly frustrated with this one, as the frog is very… give me this and let me do that. Plus, it followed a tradition in fairy tales of doing things in threes (which is my favorite fairy tale tradition). But instead the frog was not only female, but an Indian woman who had been cursed until someone does something kind for her.

Of course my only issue was that, apparently that kind thing had to be throwing the frog against the wall. Which I know one of the other “Frog Prince” versions got rid of the curse that way, but it still was really bizarre, since I think it was trying to combine both the being kind aspect to lift the curse and the throwing against the wall one, which just didn’t really fit. I don’t know about you, but if someone throws me against a wall, I don’t consider that kind.

Overall, the collection wasn’t bad. It was clear the author hasn’t done that much writing, but that means they will also grow with their own writing over time and further stories along will be way better. And even with that considered, “Sleeping Seamstress” and “Cindered Ella” were well done and fun to read, and definitely worth it for at least those. It was also clear the author knew all of these fairy tales well, with the little details they managed to add when it came to making the stories in modern times.

I hope to see more fairy tales redone for lesbians from this author later on.

[Also check out Katie and Alyssa‘s reviews of this book!]

Carol reviews The Real Folktale Blues, Book 1 of Beyond Ever After by Random Jordan


The Real Folktale Blues, Book 1 of Beyond Ever After by Random Jordan

Publisher: Create Space Independent Publishing Platform

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

Overview from Amazon:

Gnidori has not always been a bounty hunter; in fact her first job was as a simple delivery girl wearing her trademark hooded red cloak. However, after her choice surrender of her former position as a Faerie Godmother, she was left with a young girl she had very nearly married to Prince Charming, and an entirely new life filled with simple quietness. That is, after she sealed away her magical talents. Why was her magic sealed away? Well, as she would put it: nothing is ever simple when magic is involved. Years with her magic stripped from her, and Gnidori is drawn into a plot spurred on by Prince Charming once more. She finds herself seeking the Big Bad Wolf, who has returned from death and comes to realize there is more to what is going on than she was told. Before long she encounters a tower fuming yellow smoke and a baby fox born from a human heart. But that’s only the beginning. Can Gnidori survive pirates, faeries, dragons, mirror spirits, time spells, gnomes; and even the most sinister of all: Bluebeard’s Tower? And all without access to her magic?… or maybe she does have it? Beyond Ever After is a series following the chronicles of Red Riding Hood with countless other Faerie and Folktale characters long after or even before their happily ever after. This is not a faerie tale retelling; it asks the great question: What happens beyond the happily ever after?

Review: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

It’s been a long time since I have found myself smiling through an entire book but that is exactly what I found myself doing while reading this one.  This is the debut book from Random Jordan and she weaves an interesting tale full of childhood fairytale characters.  Now don’t run off thinking this is a children’s book or even a fairytale.  The reader is introduced to the person behind the legend and it’s fairly clear that the legend is not the person.  Rather a small aspect of that person.  In some ways it reminded me of the labels we tend to affix to people and how that label becomes the defining characteristic for that person, whether it’s accurate of not.

The story itself is fairly complex and introduces the reader through a variety of characters while Gnidori is trying to determine who has stolen her cloak and seems intent on killing her.  There are a couple of places in the story that get a bit confusing because there is an element of time travel.  However, I found that it was cleared up fairly quickly.  I’ll be interested to see what happens next for Gnidori, Ash, Etti and the rest of the crew.  Overall I found this story intriguing and fun to read.

Jordan reviews Gay Pride and Prejudice by Kate Christie (and Jane Austen)


Along my bookshelf, the possibility of seeing a classical book is actually really slim. About the only things I have are Little Women, a bunch of fairy tales, and a couple of somewhat old lesbian books. But the classics, like Melville and Pride and Prejudice are not something you’d find in my stuff, mostly because when I tried or had to read them around college, I nearly stabbed my eyes out so I wouldn’t have to read them. This isn’t to say that classics like those aren’t brilliant books, in fact I can recognize a lot of great things from them in other stuff, but the way books were written over even thirty years ago is vastly different from the majority of books written today.

That said, I will admit I enjoyed reading Gay Pride and Prejudice by Kate Christie (and Jane Austen) way more than I could say for Pride and Prejudice and I can point out exactly why. The whole reason I kept hanging on to getting through this book was because of the lesbian tones that Kate had weaved into the book, which particularly focus around Lizzie and Caroline. The original story, I managed to get through the first couple chapters before I gave up on it, because I’m a reader from the age of movies, to where if you don’t grasp me in the first chapter chances are I am not going to hang on very long to finish the book.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t know what happens in the normal Pride and Prejudice though, I actually know it quite well since I enjoyed watching things like ‘Lost in Austen’ and even ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’. So I wasn’t going into this book totally blind in what was changed, in fact I could recognize a lot of the changes, such as the father of the Bennet girls inner monologues quite a bit about his own tendencies toward men, and that he only hopes his favorite daughter Lizzie, with her preference to her own sex can find some kind of same happiness too. And this is just one of the many things that changed for this book and really what made this book shine to me.

So, for consistency sake, I think I do need to talk about what the plot is, as I’m sure there are others out there who don’t know the whole plot of Pride and Prejudice either. The story still focuses on the daughters of Mr Bennet, with most of it being directed around Lizzie and Jane, the two eldest daughters. The whole story starts with a new man moving into town though, Bingley, which sparks the events and introduces Jane to Bingley and Lizzie to Darcy… or in this case… to Darcy and Bingley’s sister: Caroline.

Much like any romance specific story, Lizzie is at first revolted or turned away from Caroline, much in the same way she was Darcy, in fact, the author did an amazing job with realizing that a lot of the same reasons she doesn’t like Darcy in the normal book, could be said for Caroline too. And really this whole book shines because of how well the author was able to interweave the gay elements into a story that wasn’t even remotely gay and in different ways too. Charlotte and Lizzie weren’t just childhood friends they were also the first lovers for each other, but they also had drastically different views for their futures. The whole reason the Bingley’s had moved to the area where the Bennet’s were? Because Caroline was found out by the husband of a woman she was having an affair with so they left.

Really, I think the whole reason I loved reading this, was because it was essentially well crafted fan fiction, using non-gay characters and making them gay. So, for the story I don’t want to give away a lot, because the whole reason I kept sticking around was because I wanted to know HOW Caroline and Lizzie would end up together facing a society that doesn’t condone such a thing at all. And while the ending was technically expected, it was only to a degree that I had expected it. So there’s a bit of a few twists in the end that I found all the more interesting in terms of diversity, since I was thinking of the Bingley’s and Charlotte as Asian and a few characters as black, thanks to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries.

Overall, I have to say the story was decent, at least the areas that Kate Christie had manipulated. They were fun and kept me actually yelling at my kindle at one point as to why Lizzie and Caroline didn’t kiss. (Don’t worry it’s resolved later). But when it comes down to it, if you didn’t enjoy reading Pride and Prejudice then you probably aren’t going to like this one either, unless you can pretty much read anything lesbian, then the gay plots will probably pull you through it. In the same vein, if you loved Pride and Prejudice but don’t much care for gay romance plots, then it’s again something you’d want to avoid. But how could you not love gay romance plots?!

Either way, it was a fun read that unfortunately took me forever to get through, though that may not be the case with everyone and at least it wasn’t Gay Moby Dick… I don’t think I could have taken that.


Jordan reviews Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue

Kissing the Witch

Far too many people often forget the power of a story. Stories change worlds, or particularly they shape worlds, and people. If you don’t believe me, just look at how much Disney has managed to shape the mentality around romance and love for many people of the current generation. And luckily it isn’t only Disney that understands this concept. Emma Donoghue, and her collection of thirteen fairy tales Kissing the Witch, understands the power of a story, such as the one that is weaved through these tales.

It all starts with the Tale of a Shoe and Cinderella and ends with the Tale of a Kiss and a Witch, but these aren’t just thirteen separate fairy tales with a touch of real and positive female relationships. Each one of these tales, from the shoe to the kiss, is threaded together by the women in the stories. In a way this novel actually reminds me of a method that the L Word had used for its third season, interlocking various women through the past and present by bringing up a story at the beginning of each episode and moving from one woman (or guy) to the next. But Kissing the Witch does it with stories instead of events and does it in a way that proves there is always another chapter beyond the happily ever after.

We start this story with a young girl being whisked to a ball after she asked to go. And although she dances with the prince and expects to go with him, things change and instead she finds herself tossing her shoes aside and finding the woman who had brought her to the ball. It doesn’t end there, though: as they are going off together, we are led right into another story and this one is about the godmother before she was off bringing girls to balls. And each story continues one after another, based on one of the characters in the previous one. It eventually got to the point, half way through that I was turning it into a game trying to figure out who would be the next person to tell their story and what tale it might be, especially since it isn’t always clear which tale is a retelling of what!

Like most fairy tale retellings, though, you’d be able to recognize many of these stories if you knew another version of the tale. You’ll find Beauty and Beast, Donkeyskin, Rapunzel, Snow White, and even the Little Mermaid. Now you might also be surprised to find that not all of the stories in this book are lesbian retellings, but they do all have a common mentality.

They are simply stories focused on the power of relationships between women: all relationships. One is the friendship shown between two women (The Tale of the Skin), another focuses on a step mother and her step daughter (The Tale of the Apple), or even a keeper who becomes someone else for the girl she keeps (The Tale of the Hair). Regardless each one of these stories, sensual or supportive, shows the positive sides of relationships that women can share, and if this doesn’t seem like such an interesting and revolutionary idea, then you haven’t read enough fairy tales.

Often times the tales of old try to pit women against women, with the classic step mother and step sisters always being terrible to the girl in cinders, or the witch and queen that curses the young and fair girl that happens to be more beautiful. It is a common occurrence and one of the more unfortunate themes rampant in fairy tales. Instead, Emma Donoghue put the power back in women’s hands with these stories. Each one was not only interesting in the method of not focusing on the prince or husband but in some cases exciting to find out what happens next even though they were already known tales.

It’s usually hard for me to pick favorites with fairy tales, because I find many of them amusing, but in this case I think the ‘Tale of the Hair’ won out finally, due to some blind elements and an interesting narration that focused more on sounds that really got me thinking, and such a well done spin involving the prince in the story.

However, that is just from the retellings, my absolute favorite from this set was actually the last one, told by a witch narrator we know by no other name, ‘The Tale of the Kiss’. As far as I can tell, this was not a fairy tale retelling, but I could be wrong and if I am, I would love to see the original story it was based on. Regardless, this one had a bit more power behind it, possibly because it was original from the author, but it had an interesting focus on the power that people give to each other and to themselves, and most of all it had an open ending. What do I mean?

Well, the thirteen stories don’t just end with The Tale of the Kiss. Much in the same way all the previous stories before it led to a new tale being discussed by one of the characters, this one ends with a direct slant toward the reader continuing the story, essentially indirectly asking the reader what they will do with the knowledge of the stories they just read. I found it a brilliant ending for a collection of interlinked pieces and it really gives me an idea about creating a challenge to have everyone continue the ‘Kissing the Witch’ by creating the next story and the next, and the next.

Anyway, the interconnectivity of this novel was really what set this one majorly apart from other ones I’ve read and gave each tale a little more power. Of course, not all of the pieces were perfect, I actually didn’t particularly care for ‘The Tale of the Bird’ and I had trouble keeping up with ‘The Tale of the Cottage’ because of the narrator’s voice through it, but overall I still enjoyed those stories, they just fell lower on my memorability of them than the others.

Other than that, there really isn’t much of anything to say bad about these fairy tales. The writing style was wonderful and makes me glad I wrote my fairy tale rewritings in first person narrative too and the stories most of all had something to say. You could almost say there was a hidden lesson in each of them, with the last one having a not-so-hidden lesson. Regardless, this is one novel I’d recommend to really anyone, with a particular focus on showing people how it is very possible to portray women with meaningful and positive relationships (and not drama filled ones), lesbian or not, and still have a story to tell.