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.
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.
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!
I’m always happy to promote queer punk YA novels. This one is kind of great; takes place in the year 2000, lets us into the life of high school senior Katherine. Her beloved grandma’s just died, her BFF is ignoring her, her parents are absentee and she’s pretty depressed.
Enter loud, opinionated, gay, straight-edge Marie, who immediately welcomes Katherine into her social circle (girls who start bands and go to punk shows).
It’s a classic YA problem novel in the sense that there’s all kids of drama and mess-ups and there’s kind of a lesson at the end and certain relationships never heal. As an adult reader I was constantly having waves of thankgoodness life’s not like that any more…
There are music references and band interactions that could have been taken out of my personal history. You should check it out.
About 25% into this book, I started to think Oh man, this book is hilarious but is gonna seriously ruffle some feathers.
(upon checking out the 1-stars on Amazon, the answer is yes! it did!)
The premise, alone, made people uncomfortable– and I’ll admit, is the reason why I waited for this book from the library instead of buying hot off the shelves of the store. Adam, a “typical” privileged hetero teenage boy from the ‘burbs in the Bay Area spends a Summer with his queer big sister in NYC. It turns out that her peers think he’s trans, so he plays it that way in order to get action with the older queer girls (and it works). It turns out that (even though this book definitely treads some dangerous terrain in the trans and queer department, and what the characters say and do isn’t always politically correct or right) I could’ve bought the book and been ok about it.
If you’re a person who’s ever thought about internal and external queer politics and you can read through the description without getting upset, I recommend reading Adam. I didn’t always fall in love with the characters, their motives, or their actions– but they were a really good backdrop for Schrag’s smartly pointed critiques of elements of our queer culture, different layers of privilege, sometimes superficiality, and deeper “queer insider” knowledge (it’s written by a queer insider through the gaze of an outsider discovering it for the first time). Her writing is hilarious and interesting– in addition to great pointed critiques, there are also a lot of really great cringe-worthy moments that sometimes feel kind of universal.
Elisha Lim draws attractive comics of cute queers, and often pairs them with poignant hand written text. Their style is super-distinct; if you’re like me, you’ll look at the pages and realize ohhhhhh that’s who does does drawings i’ve been seeing around…
I didn’t read 100 Crushes straight-through, I instead read it in chunks between other bits of reading. It’s a nice combination of heavy, light, and random.
I kinda bought this one on impulse when I went on vacation and read though the book I brought faster than expected. Glad that happened!
If you like postmodern/experimental lit or queer lit or feminist lit or lit in general you should check this one out. There are two distinct parts and they’re about the same person but they’re both really different. The narrator is not always reliable, and don’t expect to ever fully touch down in the plot. But. What the author has done with language and feeling is really awesome, and was enough to keep me reading and fascinated. The idea of re-reading a book generally makes me feel a little sick inside (I will never be that person who says they’ve read Jkjsdfghkjl x many times because they love it so much), especially when we have so many choices– but I’m kinda tempted, now that I’ve got the plot down, to go back through this one and savor the language and style a little more.
Yay, this book is great. It’s co-authored by two classic contemporary queer writers/performance artists, and just came out this year. It’s based on a live show that the two did together, yet it totally reads like a book (i.e. you won’t be plagued by the persistent feeling that maybe something’s gone wrong and this isn’t supposed to be a book). If you’ve read lots of queer and trans coming-of-age, social critique, and memoir stuff, this book covers familiar ground. Yet it’s still totally fresh in the directions that it takes you. The format it also nice– it’s a vaguely continuous series of vignettes that switches back and forth between the two authors. So Good!
The book itself is 255 pages long, and I read the entire thing in a 30 minute BART ride + a 90 minute plane flight + 20 minutes of the light rail train away from the airport in Seattle. Whoa! Super engaging! The writing ranges from factual to heartbreaking to tender, and is quite good. I don’t really want to give anything away, so just check it out! Or buy it.
Yayyy for queer comics! Pregnant Butch chronicles our butch protagonist Teek through the journey of realizing she’d like to have a kid, acquiring sperm, being pregnant, and later giving birth. Both humorous and tender, this graphic novel simultaneously critiques both the birthing industry and our society’s weirdness with gender, in whole.
This anthology was the most enjoyable 360 pages that I’ve read in a long while. At some other point I’ve reviewed Truckface zines on this blog (you can use the little search box up top to find them); I totally dug them then, and my “digging” continues. The anthology includes Truckfaces #7 – #11, and it will make you really happy if you like TMI perzines that are all about, you know, life and growing up and stuff (through a pretty much anarcha-queer, feminst, gender fucking lens).
The content follows LB from working shitty retail and food jobs, all the way up to working in a high school. I could totally relate, as I’ve worked lots of shitty retail and food jobs– and I’ve recently moved up to jobs in high schools and public libraries. It was written in real-time, so there’s all kinds of good messiness. But it’s also really well-written, and you won’t be like “Whaaa, where’d the rest of that sentence go.” Some of the sentences are like, whoa.
A++. Buy a copy from Mend My Dress Press. It’s $19 and totally worth it. But if you can’t handle the $19, you can also get #16 for $3 from Antiquated Future, and probably some of the other ones from other places.
I first read this one years ago, back when queer lit for me was merely a tool for obtaining the facts of (queer) life. Tumblr wasn’t even a zygote. Re-read as a more stable adult (or something), I still like it, maybe for different reasons. The first time around I missed how great Myles is at bringing together concepts/ideas that you really didn’t think were connected, and it’s basically a long rambling story that you actually want to listen to. There’s memory, lineage, institutions of various types, work, gender, family…
This isn’t really a review; just more of a reminder that this book exists, is quite engaging, and does some neat stuff with structure and language. I think it’s out of print, but maybe a library near you has a copy, and it seems that you can buy a used copy on amazon, or maybe even from a real live local bookstore.
Totally worth it!
So Lo’s a teenage girl who skates with the dudes in some NorCal suburb in the 90’s.
Everything around her is pretty boring and her family life kinda sucks, and in the midst of it all a crazy reciprocated crush starts happening with a girl from school. They become total BFF’s, but in the meantime something totally nuts happens in the family realm, some other things happen, and Lo ends up going on a wild runaway adventure and tons of interesting stuff happens.
This book is often poetic, and always a little magical. Argo’s capture of the onset of first crushes and queer identity and discovery of identity-shaping things is ridiculously spot-on. She nails how it works in your (ok, my) head. There’s drugs, action, sex, music, ADVENTURE, and a solid story line that keeps you reading until the last page (apparently there’s a sequel in the works, and this is a good thing). Though under 300 pages, the story is dense and you’ll definitely probably take a couple of days to read it.
This book is super enjoyable and well written. BUY a copy here cuz it’s self published and you’ll probably want it for your bookshelf anyway.
Just a heads-up that this kinda awesome graphic novel exists. It somewhat poetically tells the story of two queer high school students (a tough girl and a soft boy) who find each other as friends, go on coming-of-age adventures and get into conflicts, etc. The feel is pretty passionate and teenage (lots of song lyrics and drama), and the art totally wins. Check out the “Look Inside” section on the amazon page to see some samples. There’s not really a beginning-middle-end to the story– it’s more of a snapshot in time.
Hey, this book exists and its kind of great. It tells the story of what happens during an impressionable era in the life of Click, a genderqueer kid in Portland, Oregon. If you ever spent any time as a broke young queer punk in a broke young queer punk social scene, this novel may provoke some nostalgia that just kinda settles in a fine layer atop your skin, often lovely, sometimes cringe-worthy. There are bad relationships and hormones and power dynamics and rat pets and living together and more. Lots of us have been there.
The ending didn’t quite exist. I’m assuming there will be a sequel?
After “It Gets Better” got co-opted into a generic non-LGBT-specific anti-bullying campaign, there was this magical cloud over everything that started to imply that the problems of queer kids all over America are due to bullying by their peers– not due to the institutionalized homophobia of the entire society that they live in. Suddenly there was this notion that simple things like purple tshirts and signing online anti-bullying pledges, and carefully-planned interviews on national talk shows had ended homophobia forever, and that queer kids no longer had anything to worry about.
Not the case.
Granted, purple tshirts and signing online anti-bullying pledges, and carefully-planned interviews on national talk shows help make things better. And some things really have “gotten better.” But the system is still broken. Queer kids are still killing themselves because they’re queer.
It really does get better if you can figure out a way to strategically make it better– but it’s not like some equation just goes *zing* and gets magically solved when you turn 18, and suddenly everything that’s been holding you down for your whole life dissipates. We gotta show people how to do the math.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan is pretty great. Written from the perspective of the ghosts of gay “ancestors” who lived amongst the 80’s and AIDS, it describes a few days in the lives of 5, sometimes 6 teenage gay boys. Two are working on beating the record for the longest same sex kiss, two are starting a new relationship, one is fleeing his abusive family, and another is observing the kiss while still reeling from a recent homophobic attack. There’s tons of details, it’s David Levithan so the writing’s totally lyrical, and you’ll probably read it in one or two sittings. A+, this is definitely one I’ll be recommending.
Really, I’ve only read one book since August 15th? Kind of tragic, considering it only took a couple days to read. What was I doing, starting a new school semester and having a life or something?
August 16th was my ten-year anniversary in San Francisco. After stalking the place over the period of a few years in a number of ill-planned (but exhilarating) teenage trips here, I finally arrived with a couple suitcases, $300 of student loan money, and a chunk of credit card debt at age 20. When I arrived the air was thinner and colder that where I came from but I felt like I could fully breathe for the first time in my life.
Back then, in 2003, we didn’t have as much of an internet yet. You learned about a place through visits, hearsay, and literature– not the google. Shortly after arriving I used fake ID to go to a $10 benefit at 12 Galaxies I think for Tom Ammiano who was running for Mayor at the time. I learned about it on the Queer Things To Do In San Francisco website, which I leaned about from the Kill Rock Stars site (which if I recall, was purple and hella 1990’s at the time). I took Muni for like an hour and stood alone up on the balcony and watched all these people who I’d been reading books and articles by and about, listening to their cds for years. So much of the obscure stuff that I’d loved as a teenager came together on that stage that night (and apparently all the time around the city, I was thrilled to gradually learn). It wasn’t the sea lions and the golden gate bridge– it was this kind of energy, what these people (artists/queers) were doing and saying– the possibility and energy and politix that their work/art was creating that drew me in.
Compared to San Francisco’s present day circumstance of a jockish yuppie invasion, laughably high rents (fingers crossed my rent control continues), and so many wonderful memories getting replaced with high-end restaurants (that “gentrification” has reached such a point of ubiquity that it seems trite to complain about)– such magic/art/possibility was in the air then. I could feel it.
But, see, recently I read works by by ex/San Franciscans maybe 10 or 12 years my senior, and it turns out that 10 years ago (when I was all full of wonder) they felt the exact same way as I do now. For them, even then, it had gotten too gentrified and fake and yuppie compared to what they started off with. So I think a big part of it is perception. So many of us come to San Francisco to save ourselves. I did. And maybe after we’ve done the basic work of resuscitating, learning to breathe again, making memories in the process– we have time to look around and realize that things are actually fucked up? I’m not sure yet, I guess I’m still figuring it out.
What I’ve gotten so far is that it’s important to support the things that you think are important, if you can (book stores, independent businesses, arts). What I’m starting to get is that new things can be amazing, too. Not the bourgie yuppie crap that’s implanting itself on every corner these days– but new arts spaces, new writers, new organizations, new events. It’s so easy to get caught in a cycle of dwelling on how all the good things in the past are gone. Sure, lots of them are– but awesome things remain and are being born every day– and also, you can make them too.
I guess this was supposed to be a book review for The End of San Francisco. Maybe in some kind of slanted way, it is. I bought this book at Modern Times (which has moved into a smaller space on 24th street, and is currently contemplating whether it has a future or not). It’s a stream of conscious-y memoir about activism, abuse, queer family, San Francisco. It flows back and forth through time, sometimes on the same page without warning, which is fine. People and places are given their real names, and those with pseudonyms are easy to decipher. The book ends but I’m not sure that the story’s over.
I totally bought this one because I typically really like Michelle Tea’s writing and I’d heard that pigeons were involved.
I’m happy with my purchase. The book itself is beautifully bound (in that classic McSweeney’s way, but with lots of pigeons too embossed on the cover too), and the story itself is comprised of the awesome writing style that Tea is known for (she can write a nasty old creek from a forgettable sludge pit up to a fucking rockstar of dangerous mystery and intrigue), as well as a story with elements that I haven’t read anywhere else.
The general shape of the story is outcast girl in a no-good town finds out that she’s sorta magical and just might have to save humanity or something. There’s a lot of this these days (yay for strong young female characters, you know), but Tea takes it to a totally different level. There’s Polish-ness and teenage hijinks and androgyny and a dirty town and general dirtiness and PIGEONS. That Talk. Furthermore, the magic in Mermaid in Chelsea Creek is unlike the magic in other YA girl-saves-humanity-type books. The end is a bit of a cliffhanger, and I’m bummed that I have to wait until next year for the sequel. . .
I feel like a little bit of a jerk for so rarely giving comics and zines their own posts. But the thing is, I tend to read them between and along side bigger books, and so they kinda pile up on my table after I’m done, and I have a hard time getting around to writing reviews for them because I’m already reading something else and too lazy… Maybe that’s a crappy excuse. But I want it on the record that I think that comics and zines are just as important as books. Sometimes even more important because they’re saying stuff that isn’t always marketable to mass audiences.
Truckface #14 and Truckface #16 by LB
I’ve only read 3 Truckfaces (see other mention here), and they’re hard to find online and it’s sad because I totally want more. Truckface is a fantastic fat little perzine that LB writes about teaching in public high school in Chicago. Ack, they’re packed full of good though provoking descriptions of teacher strikes and issues of the real world reflected in classrooms, and how fucked up implementations like “no child left behind” are. Not interested in teaching at this moment? It doesn’t matter. LB will make you see how it and the education system all tie into the wider world.
Find them both (along with lots of other awesome stuff that I want) at Ms Valerie Park Distro while they last!
Invasion of the Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel
Omg, I had forgotten how totally great this comic was. When I was a teen, the strip was in the lesbian weekly (which I devoured), and the books were some of the only non-erotica queer books by women that could be found at the local gay-friendly indie book store I devoured it, and the characters were a decently sized fraction of the queer culture that I was absorbing. Bechdel recently got more famous for her memoirs (Are You My Mother and Fun Home), but I want to remind my few readers and accidental Googlers that Dykes To Watch Out For is a freaking awesome comic that confronts all sorts of stuff in a really awesome way: corporate america, politix, gender roles, unintentional hypocrisy, human habits, relationship un/conventions and more (and duh, is fun to read).
Find a copy at your library, or ask for it at your local indie book store (if you don’t buy things there but can technically at least kind of afford to, then you’re not doing anything to stave off its inevitable demise… I realized this recently and bought a bunch of stuff at Dog Eared Books)
Like, really long.
I first heard her read at some event here in san francisco, and have since been very allured to what might just be her signature blend of punch you in the stomach poeticness, honestly, familiar self-loathing, really really good observations and fairly enormous humor. I read her writing like some kind of a secret (but maybe it was spoken a little too loud and those involved forgot to wonder if anyone else could hear).
I guess that this is a really crappy book review for a rather nice book: It was full of stuff I like reading about like queers and gender and a dog and some sex and some addiction and gambling and travel. The story, itself, did not follow certain conventions that I found myself expecting it to follow (a pleasant and disarming surprise). There weren’t typos, and for the most part, the timing was good. I was not disappointed by the writing. The end.
I’m trying to better feed my local economy and small industry and stuff that I care about, but this time around I totally crapped out and bought the book on amazon. See, there were these seriously awesome shoes that were discounted to $20. and I needed to add at least $5 to my bill to get the free shipping. And this book. I already knew that I was going to buy it. It’s a process.
I really like Nicole J Georges’ work, and Calling Dr Laura is no exception. Read it! It’s gigantic (260 pages), tells a solid story, and has awesome art (lots of detail).
The narrative contains all kinds of goodness: queerness, lying parents, stress, relationships, chickens, histories, Portland Oregon, fortune telling, dogs, veganism. . . If you like her other work, you’ll like this book. If you like any of the topics I just mentioned, you’ll probably like this book.
I was looking at the amazon reviews of this book, and it looks like a lot of the crappier reviews were from people who got the book for free from the Vine program. I guess that’s what happens when you give a kind of niche (queer, vegan, artistic) book to a flatly mainstream audience that doesn’t really have any interest in it?
Her etsy shop’s on vacation right now til mid-march, but here’s the link
Find the book at a library near you
This graphic memoir is actually pretty great. If you’ve read Christy C Road’s other stuff or are familiar with her art, then you kind of already know what you’re getting into. Sorta. Except for that Spit and Passion tackles adolescence this time around. And it’s a good thing.
Framed by her discovery of the band Green Day, Spit chronicles Road’s journey toward identity. She really quite flawlessly nails down how fucking powerful music can be when you’re that certain age, and how music really IS, in a lot of ways, identity. She details stuff that I hadn’t really thought about in a long time, like how band members can become superheroes/narrative players in the adolescent mind, how obsessing over a band can be a great mask for queerness, how band members can be unknowingly wrangled in as templates for adolescent futures. It’s personal– but, you know– universal.
Find a copy here
Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love, & Fashion
I really like feminist anthologies. This one was not an exception! Hot & Heavy contains a bunch of essays by a broad spectrum of people, who have a wide variety of takes on fatness in life as a girl/woman. The essays are a grand tie-dye of personal, political, sexy, academic, fun, and powerful. Though each essay does center on the theme of fatness, each expresses different angles and takes on it– so there’s not a narrow central agenda.
Paralleling how I feel about all anthologies that I read, I found some pieces to be stronger or more captivating than others– but none were bad reading (and who’s to say that you or someone else won’t love those particular pieces?). Also, the anthology is well balanced and assembled– nothing feels out of place.
Recommended for anyone with a body.
find a copy here
Lately I find myself wanting to subscribe to magazines the same way that I often want to slink through the aisles of Thrift Town or pour through the Google results repeatedly for “vegan fair-trade shoes.” These drives may be shallow, but they pass the time.
At work I linger on the pages of Vogue Paris, Interview, Interior Design and Domus. I save subscription cards and imagine the thick, glossy pages heaping toward me as I unlock my mailbox. I imagine the bulk of them slick under my arm as I carry them up the stairs to my apartment, and the smell from between the pages as I remove them from their plastic wrappers.
I would be lying if I said that I didn’t consider going to fashion school when i was nearing the end of high school. I even took an all-about-fashion elective class when completing my 12th grade credits. But i would also be lying if I said that I felt comfortable attending the FIDM prospective student faire/fashion show when I was seventeen. Aside from a girl with a wild gauzy skirt, dark eyemake-up, and a jungle of brownish red curls (who i could not stop staring at), I was one of the only ones there who was not clad in the Clothestime fads of the time.
This blog is an attempt to chronicle what has happened since then, and how being a vegan, feminist, fair-trade-lovin’, broke-ass queer student geek translates into the world of paying attention to and appreciating things happening in fashion– both mainstream and gutter. I plan to post recipes, art ideas, stuff I made, dessert i baked, and things that I like.