Shana reviews The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend is my Girlfriend by Maddy Court

My Ex-Girlfriend is my Girlfriend cover

Amazon Affiliate Link | Bookshop.org Affiliate Link

If you love reading advice columns but wish they were less straight, you may enjoy The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend is my Girlfriend as much as I did. This is a warm and witty book about queer love and relationships. Each thematically organized chapter offers short, straightforward answers to queries that are both universal, like how to come out, and specific, like what do when you’re a Capricorn working in the restaurant industry and your wealthy girlfriend refuses to use her inheritance to pay the rent for three years. Oh, lesbian drama, I love you so. 

The book primarily draws from the author’s own life experiences, occasionally weaving in wisdom from her panel of queer experts. The answers from Mey Rude, a fat trans Latina writer, were particularly affirming, and humourist Samantha Irby was predictably hilarious.

The questions are fascinating and diverse, and the responses frequently surprised me by pointing out nuances in the questioner’s situation that I’d missed. For example, the answer to a twist on “Why don’t my girlfriend and I have sex anymore,” first asked the questioner to examine why she was pushing her partner for sex, after she’d already said no; later pivoting to prurient interest in the failed threesome the writer had mentioned as an aside.  

Drawing strongly on the author’s personal experiences is both a strength and weakness here. There were a few times when Court’s personal stories felt tangential, and the questions were left barely addressed. For example, I was hoping for an insightful response to a question about how to deal with low self-esteem issues when your body is fatter than your thin, ripped girlfriend. Instead of utilizing resources on body positivity and fat liberation or the perspectives of her fat guest panelists, the book included a long story about Court’s history with hating her body that seemed to miss the point.

Many of the questions reflect common themes in queer women’s lives—falling in love, figuring out your identity, navigating queer society as a marginalized person, having tough conversations with lovers and fam. At it’s best, this book felt like chatting with a friend who cares deeply about you, but also isn’t afraid to call you on your bullshit. 

Since many questions focus on firsts, like trying an open relationship, or learning to date long distance, most of the people featured are in their twenties. Still, every section includes questions from people 30+ as well. As a solidly middle-aged queer, I felt much of the advice was still relevant. Or at a minimum, highly entertaining. 
I picked up this book thinking it would be fun to read aloud on a dyke road trip. Because the tone vacillates from poignant to lightly snarky, it’s not as consistently funny as I expected. But I was struck by how much of the book focuses on kindness, on how we can care for one another, and for ourselves. I recommend The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend is my Girlfriend for readers looking for a life guidance, or a reminder the joys and absurdities of queer community.

Meagan Kimberly reviews Advice I Ignored: Stories and Wisdom From a Formerly Depressed Teenager by Ruby Walker

Ruby Walker’s Advice I Ignored offers exactly that: good advice that so often gets ignored. It didn’t happen only to her. She recognizes it happens to all of us. I’m personally not much of a self-help book type of reader, so I entered this one with some hesitance. But I found I rather enjoyed Walker’s brand of sarcasm, wit, and heartwarming compassion.

There’s nothing revelatory about the advice Walker gives. It’s all practical. It’s all practicable. And it’s all been said before. What makes her approach different is how she makes it relatable and teaches you how to practice it. That latter part is often the missing piece of the formula when well-intentioned people dole out good advice.

She structures the book like this: advice, personal anecdote, tips to get started. The pattern never breaks throughout the chapters. This consistency is part of Walker’s strategy in offering her wisdom. No matter what the advice, a key component is to keep practicing it. Practice is repetition. Structuring her book like this makes it a brilliant example of how to take the advice and run with it.

Walker’s attention to detail stands out when she describes her relationship with her body and her body’s relationship to nature around her. She speaks a great deal about the physical difficulties that depression causes, and how she eventually gets herself out of those slumps. It doesn’t come without its strife, but she ensures the reader they are not alone, and that it’s possible to come out the other side.

Certain lines illustrate with spectacular accuracy the way the mind works, like this on about trying to listen to music while running:

“My mind just felt crowded when I tried playing some aloud.”

This description of the inability to focus on the sounds coming from one’s headphones or earbuds while engaging in exercise speaks to a greater issue: the inability to be alone with one’s thoughts. She addresses this issue in different ways throughout the book, and of course some solid advice on how to deal with it.

Walker delves into the danger of self-deprecating humor. She recognizes this “fatalistic streak” brand of humor is synonymous with certain generations. There’s a fine line between self-deprecating jokes and bullying one’s self. Walker takes the reader through that gray area, as some people often blur the two.

Throughout Advice I Ignored, Walker includes sketches and drawings to coincide with the topic. Sometimes they add a sense of levity and shine a light on her sardonic humor. Other times they illustrate what words alone cannot convey for the heaviest emotions. No matter what, they add another dimension to her voice that compliments the written content.

While as a whole the advice and wisdom in the book are nothing new, at certain points, Walker hits a note so right that it feels like a revelation, like when she talks about how people change:

“Lasting recovery means changing a little bit every moment you’re alive.”

This statement speaks to how change doesn’t happen like in the movies. There isn’t necessarily a dramatic, defining moment that becomes a turning point. Rather, it’s a winding path of quieter moments that turn into gradual change.

Some moments Walker could take the easy way out and write about mental health from a “general” point of view. But she doesn’t. She acknowledges a great deal of what influences mental health stems from systemic issues in society that cause harm to marginalized communities. Walker writes to her experiences as a lesbian woman, but she knows she doesn’t speak for all individuals that come from oppressed communities.

So many different aspects of the book spark a great deal of thought. The biggest message to take away is that change is possible, and it happens one step at a time. Most importantly, showing compassion and patience with yourself is key when you don’t get it right the first time.

Guest Lesbrarian: allis

Same Sex In The City (So Your Prince Charming Is Really A Cinderella) by Lauren Levin and Lauren Blizter

The book is divided in theme chapters and inside those chapters it is divided in two parts. First there is a few comments on the title name. For example in “Coming out” the authors give general ideas and advice about what it’s all about. Then there are the personal stories of the authors and what seems to be friends of the authors.

The first parts of the chapters are in my opinion useless. It felt like they were stating the obvious or telling stereotypes at best and at times trying too hard to be funny. Luckily those parts are really short and can be overlooked. It won’t change anything about the reading of the second parts and you won’t miss anything interesting.

The second parts of the chapters are much more interesting because they are personal stories. They are not especially well written or anything but it is nice to read about the experiences of other people and to be able to relate to them. Plus all the authors have a happy positive attitude about their lives. Even when you read about the sad, difficult times it doesn’t seem that bad because the authors have overcome those times and give you a happy view of their lives now. I really enjoyed that point about the book, because in a way it encourages the readers to look at their lives with a positive attitude too and it shows them that problems can be overcome and that in spite of difficulties it is possible to live happily.

My only negative comments on those parts is the lack of diversity. All the girls that wrote the texts seemed to be really wealthy, Jewish (if not all, a lot of them) and from New York. They all seemed to be coming from a similar background which made for some repetitiveness at times. I think it would have been better for the book to gather experiences from a more diverse group of people, showing that there is not just one way of living and experiencing things and that anyone can be happy. It would have balanced the book better and open it to a wider audience.

In short it is a well-intentioned book but lacking in diversity to feel more complete. It is a quick, enjoyable read. I wouldn’t recommend buying it, but if your local library have it I would recommend to check it for the personal happy stories. It’s always nice to read about happy stories when you’re feeling down.

I have this book! It’ll be interesting to compare notes once I read it. Thanks so much for this guest review, allis! Check out allis’s livejournal here.