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Express Book Review: Rebels by Accident by Patricia Dunn

Rebels by accident

Epic YA fiction! American Teenage Mariam is sent against her will to live for a while with her grandmother in Egypt. She is initially pretty bummed to leave the only life she knows (her peers at school have given her lots of crap about being Egyptian-American, so she carries a heavy dose of self- and cultural distaste). It turns out her grandmother isn’t bad and there’s lots of stuff to do (as well as some time for self-discovery, first love, first adultish independence, etc). But shit kind of hits of the fan due to the revolution going on (as well as some other stuff), and lots of growing has to be done. Amidst a great story, the book also subtly does lots of good work to dispel stereotypes about the Middle East and Arabs and Islam.

I haven’t seen one quite like this before; you should Check it out!

Express Book Review: Girl Meets Boy: The Myth of Iphis by Ali Smith

Girl meets boy : the myth of Iphis

There’s a lot going on in this short novel– and if I were Ovid-obsessed (it’s based on the myth of Iphis), I would probably even understand so much more! So there’s these 2 modern sisters, they work for a creative agency that’s promoting all kinds of capitalist corporate stuff, including bottled water (one sister’s serious, the other didn’t even want the job). There’s a protester, there’s a relationship, there’s slips of reality, all kinds of political commentary, and plot that is not quite linear. There’s the most beautifully written non-sex passages in one of the sex scenes, omg.

It’s weird but kinda genius and you should check it out.

Express Book Review: The Most Beautiful Rot by Ocean Capewell

This book deserves more than an “express entry.” But time. You know.

This is a totally awesome independently published book. A punk house is its framework, and the residents are its substance. As a reader you spend some time in the shoes of each resident, each similar enough to live together– but still quite different from one another. You will like this book if you like things like: zines, art, DIY, poetry, dirt, sex, and more… It’s really kind of epic.

You should buy a copy.

Express Book Review: The Potential Hazards of Hester Day by Mercedes Helnwein

Welcome to a new mini series: the Express Book Review!

This mini series may also be known as: I read a bunch of books but also got really busy and didn’t have time to give them proper reviews, but also though people should know about them…

The potential hazards of Hester Day

The Potential Hazards of Hester Day was nuts. I chose-a-book-by-its-cover on a mad dash on my way to catch a train, and it turned out totally awesome. Our protagonist is bizarre, quirky, and smart– in a  relatable, but not always entirely admirable way. The plot and characters are kind of absurd– yet at the same time, they’re not. There is a marriage, public libraries, marriage, accidental-on-purpose child abduction, a first crush/love. All kinds of good stuff.

Check it out!

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.

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