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Book Review: How to Grow Up: A Memoir by Michelle Tea

How to grow up : a memoir

I’ve been thinking a lot about growing up lately. My 30’s have been entered. My mindset and lifestyle might be a figurative punk house, but I have the kind of jobs that grownups get, there’s some money in my savings account, and my hair is dyed a single color and cut relatively symmetrically. I shop from the grownups section of the thrift store and I own practical “work” shoes that had triple-digit price tags (before I got them on sale! ha!)

My late teens and early and mid-twenties were speckled with Michelle Tea’s plethora of writing and literary events around San Francisco. She was writing about lives like mine ( but in a really smart and creative way that made things like being dead broke or having mice seem a little romantic even when it was the worst), and was also cultivating this crazy extensive movement of writers in similar boats in the turbulent waters of unlikely to be published in the mainstream. I learned about so many awesome artists and writers! Thanks dude! My life is so much richer with all your work!

So I was really excited when I learned that How to Grow Up was coming out. It’s her first on a mainstream publisher, so I was really interested to see what this meant for an otherwise mostly indie and small press kind of author. I went to the book release event, bought the book, read it. Some of the chapters are ridiculously awesomely written! They are hilarious and relevant and poignant and all that. The book it “worth” the $ for those alone. My impression is that other chapters (none are bad, but some I wouldn’t consider “required reading”) might be a result of some weird thing with the publisher or the editor or something who was like “write me a whole chapter about XXXXXX” (even if there maybe needn’t be a whole chapter). Or “give me X more pages in this section!” There was also a weird inconsistency between the chapters re: how openly queer they were. It’s hard not to see everyone’s business in a small place like San Francisco, so I knew who many of her pseudonymous characters were standing in for– and Tea has the right to write a memoir however she wants to– but I had the distinct feeling that there may have been some editor action making sections seem way more hetero than they were originally intended to be– in an attempt to make the book more broadly appealing. I’m sure this happens all the time in publishing, but.

But over all, it was good! Check it out!

Book Review: Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

Gracefully Grayson

I found this cutie in the kids’ new books section at the library. Basically, 12 year-old Grayson was born a boy but feels like a girl on the inside. In this 243 page children’s novel, Grayson deals with various life crises, blossoms in new ways, and faces some hard truths about the world.

I’m all for children’s books that navigate the tricky paths of gender identity and difficult social situations. This one not only does so (ahem) gracefully enough, but also ends on an uplifting, hopeful note that will be desirable to its audience of 10-13 year old kids. If a queer kid (or future queer kid) happens to come upon this book, he or she will probably feel both relieved and empowered. I would have.

Check it out!

Book Reviews! – Keith Knight old and new!

The complete K chronicles

Omg, omg, omg Keith Knight is totally awesome.

I got into his comics a few years back (let’s be honest, it was more than a few. It was the Bush (#2) era), bought a couple of his books at the Anarchist Book Fair and a library reading, read them and reveled in their awesomeness, and then, naturally, got distracted.

The Complete K Chronicles is a compilation of a few books and weighs in at 510 pages and contains strips from 1993 – 2004. Knight Takes Queen is a single book and was published in 2014. They’re both so good!

Knight has a really exciting and unusual ability to mix politics, potty humor, and pure heart– for example, he’ll be writing about violent racist cops in one panel, and the joy of yummy food in the next. Oh, and you’re laughing for both (even though sometimes it’s an LOL!, and other times it’s a resigned, head-shaking omg he’s so right, ain’t that tragic kind of laugh.

We should totally support rad cartoonists; of course check your library (and check the items out! Shelf-sitters (i.e. books that don’t get checked out) often get weeded when library shelf space is limited! Do your part to keep good stuff in the libraries)– but also buy his books and art! You can most easily do this on his website (which also has more comics!).

Book Review: The First Bad Man by Miranda July

The first bad man : a novel

There are reviews all over the place for this book. Some are great, some are terrible, some are floundering in the mish-mash in-between. I think that the bad reviewers are making the mistake of believing that Cheryl, our protagonist, is supposed to be as flawless. Really what we need is a review that says: IF YOU’VE APPRECIATED MIRANDA JULY’S WEIRDER WORK BEFORE– AND/OR IF YOU ARE OK WITH (or intrigued by) BEING MADE UNCOMFORTABLE FOR ART’S SAKE– CHECK THIS ONE OUT.

I’m into it. But I also meet both of the conditions above.

I read it: Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost Of Cheap Fashion

Overdressed : the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion

I read this maybe a month ago and my memory has faded– so I won’t be going into too much detail. But here’s the thing. I think a lot about clothing, fashion, and style. I regularly troll the clothes sections of thrift stores, sew and alter garments, read fashion industry blogs, remember people’s shoes before their names or faces, and covet-covet-covet clothing and shoes that I find exciting. It creeps me out a little (particularly since I’ve noticed this interest had expanded since I’ve started making a little more money)– but I’m still super into it.

As a result, Overdressed is rare nonfiction that didn’t bore me to sleep. It begins with an open discussion of excessive American consumerism (I too am part of it– I now, for example, have too many shirts to fit on my shirt shelf). Cline¬† then discusses American manufacturing, fast fashion (e.g. Forever 21, H&M), the tragedy of the clothing recycling industry, the growing industry and wage demands in China, and what some innovative people are doing today to subvert their lives from the whole mess.

Super interesting and not boring! Check it out!

Book Review: Beau, Lee, The Bomb, & Me

Beau, Lee, the Bomb, & me

Just a quickie (even though I think this book deserves more) :

If you’re looking for a super-smart teen protagonist, good (both rich and witty) dialogue, and lots of feelings, check out Beau, Lee, The Bomb, and Me. Our protagonist Rylee is super-smart, but fat and an outcast at school– she ends up going on a surprise road trip to San Francisco with Beau, a bullied gay kid at her school, and Leonie, her bff (of circumstance) who’s basically the class ho with a heart of gold (and as it turns out, lots of really good qualities).

While I didn’t find the entirety of the story 100% believable, lots of the different parts are really heartfelt, interesting, and awesome. Read it. You’ll get through it in about a day, and you’ll totally be googling the author to see if there is more. check it outtttt! Or buy it. It’s on sale for under $7.

Book Review: Leap by Z Egloff

Leap

Yay! Another queer indie! Leap is pretty good. The year is 1979 and our protagonist Rowan has just finished high school in her small town and is spending her last summer before college working at the local burger joint. There’s lots of stuff going on (as there always is when you’re 18 and on the cusp of life), but the main thing is that there’s a new girl in town and Rowan’s about to get in her first relationship…

The writing is quite good– the 223 pages give you LOTS of information. There are lots of parallel side plots, the character development is good, and certain things are left unexplained in just the right way. I’ll be looking for more from this writer.

ch ch check it out from the library or buy it from the publisher!

Hello 2015! Last year’s literary highlights

A couple weeks ago I decided that I wanted to make it to 100 books before the end of the year (2014). It was a last-minute decision, I got distracted, and totally failed. But I did make it to 89, which isn’t too shabby considering how busy I’ve been.

I’ve decided to recap some of the ones I still think about from 2014:

1.Jane JANE by April Lindner

2. Photo on 3-25-14 at 8.22 PM #2It’s Alright. A Truckface Anthology. Vol 1 by LB Briggs

3. My year of meats My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki

4. The revolution of Evelyn Serrano The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Monzano

5. What purpose did I serve in your life What Purpose Did I Serve in your Life by Marie Calloway

6. The opposite of loneliness : essays and storiesThe Opposite of Loneliness of Marina Keegan

 

Book Review: Just Girls by Rachel Gold

Just girls

I found this whole cache of small-press LGBT teen books at the library that totally weren’t getting checked out. So I checked a bunch out to save them (In libraryland, the general rule we follow with teen books is that if something sits on the shelf without getting checked out for a year (and it doesn’t have specific local interest and it’s not bound to become a “Classic”) it gets weeded or sent to community redistribution).

Who: Tucker and Ella. Tucker’s a kinda butch lesbian and Ella’s a femme trans girl

What: Both entering their freshman year of college, they become suitemates and friends due to some terrible transphobic stuff that is happening on campus. All kinds of stuff happens, ranging from live action RPGs to protests to sex to lots of political conversations.

When: Modern era

Where: Some university in a far away non-urban place

Hot damn, this is one full book. If I don’t hang myself up on the idea that maybe too much was trying to be accomplished in a single book, I can say that this book is actually quite good. Lots of stuff happens, yet there’s a clean and tidy ending. It’s one of the few books I’ve read with a trans girl narrator, and I think it covers so much ground (see the tags) because there aren’t a lot of books with the same agenda/circumstance.

As a person who majored in women&gender studies in college and who resides in both academic and queer communities, I can say that the author and I are definitely on the same wavelength, and she makes a lot of really good points about how problematic institutions can be. If some of the right teens actually come into the library and pull this one off the shelf, it’s gonna rock their worlds. In a good way.

Get a copy at the library– or hey, support the author.

 

Book Review: Far From Xanadu by Julie Anne Peters

Far from Xanadu

Who: Closeted teenage lesbian weightlifter/plumber/softballer Mike

What: While dealing with her dad’s death, her messed up family, and her “blossoming” sexuality, a new “big city” badgirl named Xanadu moves to town and rocks Mike’s world.

When: present day in an old-fashioned place

Where: A small town far, far away from the West Coast

A totally legit, multi-layered book. Sometimes I only believed in the characters 90%, but that might be because I’m at least 10 years older than the intended audience. But. There’s dimension and it’s well-written and things don’t all come together perfectly–¬† and you really do get a lot in the 282 pages that you’re given.

 

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