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The Book: The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by emily m. danforth.

The Banhammer: Profanity. http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Del-School-Removes-Book-from-Summer-Reading-Faces-Controversy-266669021.html

My Reaction: The Miseducation of Cameron Post follows the titular girl through her coming of age in Montana. In the opening pages of the book, Cameron kisses her best friend Irene and loses both her parents in a car accident, then comes under the guardianship of her conservative Christian Aunt Ruth and her old-fashioned grandmother. Quite understandably, she suppresses all her lesbian interests and tries to move on with her life, until Coley Taylor comes to town and undoes all of that. After news of Cam's sexuality comes out, Ruth sends her to a conversion therapy school.

This is a hard book to read, guys, particularly if you are queer. Homophobia is rife, and the entire last half of the book takes place in a school dedicated to conversion therapy-- although I should point out that Cameron does not suffer the more extreme forms of conversion therapy. Promise (the school in question) does not practice physical abuse; what she undergoes is far more insidious than that, but it is not physically harmful to her. And Cameron manages to hold on to herself to a large degree, which I really appreciate. It was hard to read, yes. It was important to read, I think especially if you are straight. Queer kids already know that people hate us, but straight people should read this. it gives you a really good look into the mind of a young queer girl being absolutely despised for something that she has no choice in being.

If I had a criticism, it would be that the book kind of just... ends. It feels as if Cameron has come full circle, yes, but she isn't quite safe yet, and I would have liked to see her somewhere safe. That said, it's well done, and her emotional arc is definitely complete.

Do I Buy Its Banning? Nope. Profanity? Please. They banned this because it's about a queer girl.

Would I Recommend It? Yes, but with conditions. Queer kids; this is about a queer girl and she does get a semi-happy ending, but it's hard to read, and if you've undergone conversion therapy at any point, no. Straight people? Read it. Please. This is what we live with. Read this, and understand that.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/408626.html. Please comment over there if possible.

Nov. 30th, 2016

FUCK YEAH NANO WINNER

now I'm going to sleep forever.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/408536.html. Please comment over there if possible.

State of the Me

So, yeah.

That's been a few weeks.

I don't have a lot to say. Last week in particular was just awful; we lost a couple of people I knew at the beginning and it got steadily worse. It's over now, anyway. Next week might be better.

I have the feeling I'm going to be writing that a lot.

Anyway. The Fuck Them, Be Happy meme is still open. It'll be open for a long time. If there's anything I can do for you, please don't hesitate to ask, here or there.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/408141.html. Please comment over there if possible.
Guys, Princeless has a spin-off! With my favorite character Raven the pirate princess, no less!

Jeremy Whitley and Rosy Higgins have taken Raven, a major character from the third volume of Princeless, and given her a series following her attempts to get revenge on her brothers for stealing all of her shit. Raven the Pirate Princess is aimed a bit older than Princeless: it's darker, and there's more explicit references to sex and sexuality than in Princeless. It still continues Princeless's theme of women being strong in all sorts of ways, taking their lives and their worlds into their own hands and forging bonds with each other that stand the test of dumping fresh blood over your head and your very nice dress.

ALSO Raven is queer and engaged in a very well-done love triangle that consists of entirely women. I am actually happy about a love triangle, guys.

Book one, Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew, follows Raven as she recruits a whole group of women to join her in her quest. The women are of varying ages, colors, interests, body shapes, sexualities... they're all real women, with real lives, and I love it a lot?? Just in the main cast we have Raven Xingtao, queen of pirates, Katie, tall and blonde and punchy, Sunshine, half-elven and sneaky and gorgeous, Jay, cranky teenage alchemist/wizard, and Ximena, long-time best friend turned enemy turned cartographer and grudging friend. We also get Katie's D&D group, who fill out the rest of the crew. It's fantastic, guys. Also Ximena dumps a bucket of fresh blood over her head to get Jay and Raven out of a fix, and if that's not true love/friendship, I don't know what is.

Book two, Free Women, follows our newly formed crew as they make their way to the Island of Free Women, Raven's ancestral home and wretched hive of scum and villainy. This one's mostly plot, as Raven's brothers take central stage as the series' villains, and even construct a Bond-esque death trap complete with alligators. As much as I love it, and I do, I think I liked the first volume a scootch better? But I did really enjoy the one young lady who was told to take out as many pirates as she could, ran out, and decided to catch up on her reading, and let's be real, I will read all of this series forever.

I love this, guys. Maybe even better than Princeless, because QUEER WOMEN FUCK YEAH.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/407841.html. Please comment over there if possible.

Banned Books: Habibi, Craig Thompson

First of all, I'd like to apologize for taking so long to continue with Banned Books Month (since it's not even October anymore). Unfortunately, it took me a LONG time to get my hands on Habibi. It should proceed as regularly scheduled now.

The Book: Habibi, by Craig Thompson.

The Banhammer: "nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group." http://www.ala.org/

My Reaction: Okay, I'm actually kind of excited about this, because I really didn't like Habibi but I refuse to advocate for its banning, because a) no and b) if for some reason you WANT to read it, you should be able to. Fight me, world.

Ahem. So. Habibi follows two refugee child slaves, Dodola and Zam, as they grow up together and then fight to return to each other. There's also a lot of discussion of the Qur'an, Islamic and Arabic fairy tales, and the power of storytelling, which is my Kryptonite. The art is beautiful (I mean, really gorgeous) and there are some genuinely poignant and heartbreaking moments. So why didn't I like this?

Well, to begin with, there is a LOT of sexual and sexualized violence. Dodola is naked almost every other page, which wouldn't be as much of a problem if we ever saw a naked man in the book (we basically don't). Instead, we get Dodola nude and sexualized, constantly; she is depicted with pubic hair once, and she is always portrayed as very sexually attractive, except when she's pregnant. When she's being raped (which is often), it's still drawn to be very sexually appealing. Even more than that, a lot of the rape takes place when she is underage (often VERY underage). In the entire 700-page book, she has consensual sex once.

There is also a LOT of Orientalism. Thompson has said that he wanted this to take place in a fairy-tale land where he could show the collision of the old world and the new, but if that's so, why did he so heavily incorporate the Qur'an and Islamic folklore? He irreversibly tied his narrative to actual Islamic (largely Arabic) stereotypes. For example, at one point Dodola is kept in a sultan's harem. I was at the time reading a book about how harems actually worked (more on that excellent book later). Suffice to say that harems are not a sultan's sexual playground: they are the private quarters of the women of the royal family, some of whom are concubines, but more of whom are directly related to the sultan. Thompson's bizarre, fetishized, and sexualized portrayal of a harem as a keeping-ground for sex slaves is only the tip of the Orientalist iceberg.

THERE IS ALSO some really gross and fucked-up stuff about transgender folks that I get incoherently furious about, so be aware that it's there when reading.

Do I Buy Its Banning? Not really. They say it's unsuited for its age group, but it's clearly aimed at adults. I suspect this book was banned because people keep failing to realize that not all animation and graphic novels are for children. This one especially isn't.

Would I Recommend It? No. I think it's exploitative and gross, with a story I found hard to follow and way too much sexual violence for me to ever be comfortable with. The art is good and I liked the bits about the Qur'an and Islamic folklore, but everything else-- ew.

That said, I'd never ban it. Just let it rot on a library shelf.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/407674.html. Please comment over there if possible.

The Martian, Andy Weir

Hi guys! I just read this (I know, FINALLY) and I cried a little bit? A lot. I cried a lot, which is surprising for a book that is essentially about Science with a capital S.

The Martian is probably one of the more famous books this year. Andy Weir won the Campbell Award for it (and the screenplay won the Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form Hugo), it was made into a movie this year (which according to my father is very good), and Neil DeGrasse Tyson himself said the science was extremely accurate (the interpersonal relations, on the other hand...). It's hard science fiction, which is not usually to my taste, and most of the book is Watney sciencing his way out of things that should have killed him.

That's actually a really good summary of the book: "man tries to not die."

Anyway. The thing that kept me going about this book? Watney's voice. The man is hilarious. Perhaps not super professional, but he's trapped in a horrible situation and his coping mechanism is explicitly stated to be jokes. Plus, most of him talking is in a private log that he believes will never be read, so that's fair. He's just funny as hell, and I really enjoyed walking along with him. Actually, everyone is funny as hell. There are so many dry asides and random funny comments and juvenile humor! And the human interaction is really kind of heartbreaking when it isn't hilarious. The crew care so much for each other, and the way that the whole planet just comes together to try and pull this one guy off Mars... it may not be realistic, but it's very hopeful, and it's a kind of hope I think we need right now.

Plus, the Science is specifically written to be understandable to the layest of the laypeople like myself.

Heartily recommended. If hard SF is your thing, recommended harder.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/407484.html. Please comment over there if possible.

Bristol

BUCKLE UP, GUYS, THIS IS A WEIRD ONE.

I'm just going to state ahead of time that I'm going to spoil the plot, because you cannot properly appreciate how bananas this book is unless you know the ending. If you don't want to be spoiled and would rather discover the batshittery for yourself, don't read past the cut. Got it? Awesome.

Bristol House, by Beverly Swerling, bills itself as a supernatural thriller/historical fiction. It follows two narratives. The first is that of Annie Kendall, a modern-day architectural historian (! Cool!) in London trying to trace a Tudor-era fellow called the Jew of Holborn, as well as several pieces of ancient Judaica. Problem: she's seeing the ghost of a Carthusian monk. Problem two: she meets the monk's doppelganger, Geoffrey Harris, a semi-famous investigative reporter who's looking into the man who set her on her quest, Philip Weinraub. The second narrative follows the monk in question as he navigates Tudor England at the very beginning of Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. We also get to meet Annie's Jew of Holborn and his daughter, Rebecca, who may be the only character in the entire book that I liked.

With me so far? Good, because this is where things go off the rails.

Seriously guys, this is BANANASCollapse )

Apart from that nonsense, the characters are pretty cardboard. Rebecca actually has a personality, a life, and goals, but everyone else seemed like they were paper dolls being moved about at the whim of the plot. Which, have I mentioned, is batshit bananas. Furthermore, Annie is a recovering alcoholic and Geoff lost his wife to a car accident but those felt really... tacked on qualities? Like, they didn't affect the plot at all, they just sort of added random character pieces that didn't really matter in any way. Which annoyed me. And the plot was BANANAS. BANANAS.

This is a weird, weird book, guys. Read at your own risk.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/407055.html. Please comment over there if possible.
Well. This, to quote a favorite podcast of mine, was a book.*

The Bridges of Madison County is apparently a classic? It's the story of Robert Kincaid, famous photographer, and Francesca Johnson, Iowa farm wife, who meet and carry on a searing four-day affair before parting, never to meet again.

No, really, that's it. Also there's a lot of monologuing. A lot of monologuing. Mostly by Robert, mostly about how "his kind" of man is dying out. And by Francesca, about how important her responsibilities to her family are. And a very strange short story by Robert about his love for Francesca, I think? Oh, and a lot of monologuing about how men and women are primarily different.

It's strange, is what I'm saying. That's not to say it doesn't have its upsides. It's very short, and the description is quite good. But it's... well, I don't know, I wasn't expecting that much monologing from one of the most famous romances of the twentieth century. Read a romance novel instead. Much more fun, much less monologuing, much better characters, and much better sex scenes.


*The Worst Bestsellers, http://www.frowl.org/worstbestsellers/ . Check it out. I'll wait.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/406802.html. Please comment over there if possible.

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Thing Explainer, Randall Munroe

Thing Explainer is Randall Munroe's latest project, after xkcd and What If?, both of which I am a fan of. And I quite enjoyed Thing Explainer as well!

The conceit of the book is that it takes complicated things, like the solar system, car engines, and microwaves, and explains them using only the thousand most commonly used words in the English language. This is perhaps most famously demonstrated in the xkcd comic Up Goer Five, also included in the book. Munroe also included an appendix talking about the words he used and how he chose them, which I for one appreciated.

It's quite fun to read! I do have a couple of caveats about it. The first is this: don't read it all in one gulp, or try to. It's much more fun if you read it a couple of pages at a time. Second, it can be a little difficult when you can't figure out what, exactly, he means. Half the fun of this book is learning things, and the other half is interpreting things you already know. So it can be frustrating sometimes.

However, and this is important to me, in the solar system one Munroe talks about the Special Space Boat. This is the spacecraft Dawn, which my father had rather a large part in building. So my dad is in Thing Explainer and everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.

This entry is crossposted at http://bookblather.dreamwidth.org/406639.html. Please comment over there if possible.

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